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Experiences to remember

Steve Jack, 07 February, 2019
Our travel experts are always busy scouting out new destinations – or visiting existing holidays to check they're every bit as good as they should be. Here they share some of their favourite travel memories...
 

Here they share some of their favourite travel memories, which we hope will whet your appetite for the spring and summer to come, and help inspire your holiday planning...
TRAVERSING THE ALPS
“I’m a bit of a history buff, so, for me, the train ride through the Brenner Pass on our journey Across the Alps was about more than just the gorgeous scenery – though there was plenty of that, too! As I passed from Austria to Italy, and from northern to southern Europe, I was mindful of the fact that we were following the route of the old Austro-Hungarian Brenner Railway, the first to traverse this mighty mountain range, and one of Europe’s great train journeys. Having ascended to an altitude of 1,371 metres at the pass itself, I sought out the elegant restaurant car where I could enjoy lunch while gradually descending into Italy, skirting the shores of Lake Garda en route to Verona.”
Alison Temple (expert for central Europe & northern Italy)

See for yourself: this iconic train ride is just one of the highlights of Across the Alps, our 8-night cultural journey by rail. When you’re not admiring the beautiful scenery outside your carriage window, there are four fascinating cities to explore: Munich, Innsbruck, Verona and Venice.
A SWEET & SOULFUL LAMENT
“Wandering into a tiny house in the upcoming Lisbon suburb of Mouraria, it was remarkable to think that we were entering the former home of local prostitute, Maria Severa – the city's first fadista , whose melodic tones enthralled the aristocrat Count Vimioso in the 1820s and led to a passionate, illicit affair. Now beautifully restored, this birthplace of fado  has fittingly become a 'fado house', where you can enjoy authentic performances with a side order of traditional Portuguese food. By 10pm, we're beginning to wonder if we've picked the wrong night, when two young men get up from their table, stroll to the chairs set to one side of the room, pick up their guitars and begin to play. The gentle, intricate fretwork casts a spell over the room, where diners are now in darkness and where everyone’s attention is focussed on the music. Soon, a woman stands up from the table next to us, walks over to the guitarists, picks up a microphone, and begins to sing. A sweet, soulful lament begins, her soft voice sailing above the tidal ebb of the guitars, the woman's body swaying gently to the rhythm. Gradually, the music begins to crescendo, the guitarists pressing the frets with such speed and precision their fingers become a blur. The soulful voice rises, its power belying the diminutive beauty of its bearer, the sweet pain of the song scribing its lyrics across her face. The audience is spellbound, as if we're watching the climax to a tragic scene in which the beautiful young prostitute with the rapturous voice dies in the arms of her aristocratic lover...”
Andy Montgomery (writer, buzztrips.co.uk)

See for yourself: our 4-night short break to Lisbon and Sintra provides numerous opportunities to delve into Portugal’s rich cultural legacy – from stirring fado  performances to fairy-tale palaces. Lisbon also features on our 10-night cultural journey by rail, which begins in the Douro Valley and makes it way to Lisbon and Sintra via the historic cities of Porto and Coimbra.
FEAST OF THE FOREST
“The Black Forest was everything I had hoped for – and more. Yes, I found a mystical swathe of bewitchingly beautiful woodland, plus an extensive network of well-maintained walking trails. I also came across cosy wooden inns, cloaked in dark eaves that seem to scrape the forest floor, sitting amid peaceful glades while sending curls of smoke up through an ever-shifting, evergreen canopy. But what I did not  expect to find was such sublimely delicious food. At one such inn, the Waldhotel Fehrenbach, we dined on venison cooked in straw, trout fillet laced with juniper, and chocolate mousse with lavender – top-notch dishes infused with the scents and flavours of the forest, conjured up by owner and chef/wizard Josef Fehrenbach from his doorstep pantry of plenty.”
Jack Montgomery (routefinder & photographer)

See for yourself: the Black Forest is much loved by Germans for its extensive network of walking trails, heavenly scenery and storybook charm. The three hotels which feature on our 6-night walking holiday here are also highly gastronomic, providing yet another reason to visit this captivating region.
GROTTOES & GAMBERI
“I recall cycling through Puglia, around the ‘heel’ of Italy – as though it were a dream: rich, red-earthed landscapes criss-crossed by drystone walls; sleepy but exquisite villages, drowsing in the afternoon sun; and endless golden beaches, lapped by an aquamarine sea. Yet one memory – from our ride south alongside the Adriatic – remains vividly real: having locked up our bikes, we followed an innocuous-looking concrete path around to a hidden cove, then up stone steps to reach the yawning mouth of Grotta Zinzulusa – a jaw-dropping cave system whose cavernous and cooling interior provided a welcome interlude during our hot day in the saddle. Another treat was to come: we spotted a shady roof terrace at the restaurant next door, where we enjoyed super-fresh seafood linguini with the juiciest prawns imaginable.”
Steve Jack (writer & occasional cyclist)

See for yourself: to enjoy your own dreamlike exploration of Puglia on two wheels, choose our 8-night cycling holiday, Pedalling in Puglia. We also have a longer, 10-night version of this holiday, continuing to the luxurious Masseria Montenapoleone and including a ride to see the unique trulli (iconic cone-roofed houses) of Alberobello.
STILLNESS & CALM
“It was while walking in Alsace that, quite unexpectedly, I experienced something approaching the original, Romantic notion of ‘the sublime’. The Taennchel plateau in the Vosges mountains above Bergheim is renowned for its outcrop of weirdly eroded rocks (each with its own pet name and some offering up fairy songs to those who press their ear to the rock); its so-called ‘pagan wall’ (a moss-covered dry-stone wall that snakes for over two kilometres along its crest and flank); mysterious cup marks and indecipherable inscriptions; and its supposed spiritual nature. This derives from measurable telluric waves (meaning ‘from the earth’) – magnetic currents whose effect, similar to ley lines, is experienced as magical and energising by some visitors. In truth we did not feel them while we were there, but we were certainly enraptured by a sense of stillness, and by the conviction that we had encountered somewhere very special.”
Peter Lockwood (routefinder & voluntary National Park ranger)

See for yourself: the tranquil woodland trails of Alsace are the perfect place to get away from the crowds. Discover these – as well as the area’s famous flower-festooned villages, fine gastronomy and world-class wines – on our week-long walking holiday, Castles, Vines & Forests of Alsace.
Last fetch time is : 7/22/2019 10:49:58 AM