Don’t Miss the Grand Marnier Slush at Epcot

Disney Recipe: Grand Marnier Slush from France Kiosk in Epcot

One of my favorite things at Walt Disney World is the Grand Marnier Slush from the France kiosk in Epcot. This is one tasty treat you won’t want to miss … if you are of age. Please be careful though is this is one of those drinks where the booze is hard to detect and it’s VERY delicious.

You can make this at home too. Here is the recipe for you …

Ingredients

  • 1 part Grey Goose Vodka
  • 1 part Grand Marnier
  • 1 part simple syrup
  • 2 parts Quickway sweet and sour mix
  • Ice

Directions

1.) Mix all ingredients in a blender until completely smooth. You can be a little more lenient with some of the alcohol to get it to your liking.

2.) To get the orange coloring such as seen at Epcot, simply add orange food coloring to the blend.

Now indulge!

Under the Sea … is the ride for me!

Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite rides. I really enjoy the movie and I also don’t do the fast/scary rides any more.  This ride just makes me smile and has such great music. You get to go on an adventure “Under the Sea” and you don’t even get wet. If you like the characters and music in this Disney classic you will love Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid.

How to Handle an Unexpected Turn Abroad

How to Handle an Unexpected Turn Abroad

You’ve spent months anticipating your perfect trip and then something out of your control happens and the plan takes an unexpected turn.France Rental CarThis happened to my husband and I when we traveled to France a few years ago.

Our plan was to stay in Paris for 6 days and then travel by train to Nice for a 5-day stay. While in Paris a transportation strike began that affected train and air travel throughout France. Our train to Nice was cancelled, so we quickly had to make alternative plans. We were really looking forward to a relaxing train ride through the country. Since the airlines were also affected we had no choice but to drive.

We found a little bookstore near our hotel and spent our last day in Paris researching a road trip through France. We purchased a road map of France and studied the travel guide that we had brought along with us. We discovered that a 5-hour ride on the train would be a 12-hour road trip. There are also numerous highway tolls that needed to be paid in Euro coins so we had to be sure to have the correct currency.

We reserved a car and after studying the road map we felt as prepared as we could be. In the morning we went to the train station and picked up our car. The Auto Europe agent did a good job explaining how to get out of the city so we got in the car, took a deep breath and began our journey. My husband was the driver and I was the navigator. The traffic was terrible, the road signs confusing and split second decisions had to be made. One wrong turn and there is no going back. Luckily, we veered onto the correct auto route out of the city.

Once out of Paris the drive was wonderful! We listened to French radio and enjoyed the countryside with castles and vineyards dotting the landscape. We arrived in Nice after dark and checked into our hotel.

Once in Nice we decided to keep the car for the duration of the trip as it gave us the freedom to explore the area on our own. One day we drove to Monaco along the Mediterranean coastline and spent the afternoon in Monte Carlo. Another day we drove into the foothills of the French Alps and discovered the charming village of Sainte-Agnes. This village was one of the highlights of our trip!

Here’s what I learned from this experience, if the unexpected happens:

  • Don’t panic
  • Stay calm
  • Regroup
  • Research
  • Be flexible

Your trip could become the wonderful adventure you never expected.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Client Review of Tauck River Cruise on Rhine and Moselle

It was wonderful. Our weather was not too bad for May with a few rainy days.

Tauck River Cruise Rhine and MoselleTauck was fantastic and we would look at using them again. The Tour Directors were very good; 1 was fantastic. The General Manager was awesome. The local guides were all excellent and very knowledgeable. The evening entertainment was only a bit better than Uniworld. They can’t seem to get good venues but that was expected. The “Schloss” event was poor (bad service and mediocre food). The local dancers were awful. Local violinists were excellent.

Join Tauck River Cruises

Join Tauck River Cruises

The food was regionalized very well. The wines were excellent and regionalized as well. We were in Riesling country so I was in hog heaven. Cabin was well appointed.

My favorite visits were on the Moselle as it was more sedate and less busy river. The small German towns were as I remembered them. We choose Luzerne for our final day over Basel. It turned out to be a good choice as there were issues getting to Basel with locks and traffic. Something that was interesting was the location of the Basel airport. It is actually in France. So of course the French were on slow downs and strikes while we were there so we were delayed on our return flight to Amsterdam. We had to run to get the AMS to ATL connection. It just reinforces that I will never fly to Paris if I can help it.

Map of River Cruise with TauckThe other clientele were very friendly. Many of the other guests had been on Tauck numerous times and were very complimentary overall.

Thanks for all your help to make this a memorable trip.

If you are interested in this trip, contact your agent and check out the details here.

http://www.tauck.com/tours/europe-tours/central-and-eastern-europe-tours/rhine-moselle-south-river-cruise-rms-2017.aspx

 

 

 

 

Michelle is finding the love for Paris… Again!

Aaah, Paris. The city of lights and love. This has always been and always will be one of the greatest places in the world for ALL of your senses to be aroused. From having a cup of coffee and taking in the view of the Eiffel Tower, at Printemps Department Store’s rooftop café, to enjoying an evening of Burgundy wine and a full-course meal at Le Cinq, the premier restaurant at the Four Seasons George V, Paris, the smells and tastes of this city would whet anyone’s appetite for all it has to offer. Theater buffs will want to visit the Moulin Rouge for a Cabaret show while architecture buffs can marvel at the Neoclassical structure of the Arc de Triomphe and many other famous buildings. If you like art, the Louvre Museum, home to the famous Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo da Vinci, awaits. Lastly, don’t forget to take in some of Paris’s best scenery with a leisurely stroll along the River Siene to get the true feel of this lovely place.

Some of the popular food and wine festivals around Paris include:

From late January to early February, Loire Valley wine tastings La Renaissance de Appellations, Les Vins Anonymes, and La Dive Bouteille.

February 11th to 14, Taste of Paris returns to the Grand Palais. This festival features more than 18 chefs and 60 different dishes.

February 23rd to 26th, the Salon du Fromage will feature 165 producers, farmers and cheesemongers from 13 countries for a celebration of all things dairy.

March 6th to 8th, Omnivore, the food festival devoted to “young cuisine”. The city of Montreal will be this year’s guest of honor.

March 20th. Jour du Macaron, to celebrate macarons and raise money for charity.

June, Salon de Vin RDF will  welcome hundreds of winemakers to the Palais de Bronginiart for 2 days of tasting.

Late September, La Fete de la Gastronomie, a 3 day celebration of the Gallic gastronomy, including markets, tastings, cooking classes, picnics and fashion shows.

Late September, Street Food Temple, featuring trucks and stalls in and around Le Carreau du Temple.

With all of this and so much more to experience, there is a certain irresistible feeling of this city that has never really been diminished.

I can help you make your visit to Paris what you would like it to be from educational guided tours that offer time to explore on your own, to a completely crafted vacation of your lifetime with all the things included that you wish to do!

Let me know if you want to go!

Paris Restaurant

Missy’s European River cruise in the south of France!

From Côtes du Rhône to Crêpes Suzette and sun-glazed fields to Van Gogh’s Arles—this is a journey of exquisite pleasure for all your senses. Follow in the footsteps of Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Gauguin on this exquisite journey through southern France. The same beautiful countryside and culture that inspired the masters will equally inspire you as you cruise the Rhône and Saône rivers, discovering treasures along the way, from the magnificent Palace of the Popes to a millennia-old Roman amphitheater still in use. And, of course, Uniworld’s Epicurean Adventurer Program™ shines a spotlight on the region’s incomparable wine and cuisine.

Provence, once an independent country, has retained a unique identity shaped by the Rhône delta, the welcoming Mediterranean coast, and a hospitable climate. Discover a Roman amphitheater still in use after millennia. Ramble through markets erected on the cobbled squares of delightful villages, and visit the magnificent Palace of the Popes. Spend a morning in Beaune, the wine capital of the region, exploring a palatial Medieval hospital where world-famous wine auctions have taken place for hundreds of years. Discover the many hidden treasures of Lyon, the culinary capital of France. Cruise the Rhône and Saône rivers on Uniworld’s new Super Ship, S.S. Catherine , exploring two regions of France where tradition is as deeply rooted as the historic grapevines on the hills.

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Italy/Western Mediterranean Cruise

My friends and I spent two nights in Venice before going on a Western Caribbean Cruise on the Splendour of the Seas with Royal Caribbean.  We had a Royal Family Suite which gave us access to the concierge lounge.  The suite had two bedrooms and two bathrooms, one with a tub.  The concierge lounge offered us the concierge service to make dinner reservations,  had a special presentation for shore excursions, and it was a quiet spot to have a continental breakfast, bring your breakfast or lunch from the buffet, and at dinner time, they had d’oeuvres, coffee and drinks.  A very nice perk with a suite.

 

Venice, Italy

We stayed at a great hotel, Best Western Hotel Olimpia.  The water taxis were on strike, so we took a mini-van to the Piazza Roma.  The Hotel Olimpia was directly across the canal from the Piazza.  The hotel had been completely remodeled and it was beautiful.  The breakfast room overlooks the canal and they offered a nice selection of items daily for breakfast.  If you stay at other hotels in an area that cannot be reached by a water taxi, you will have to drag your suitcases.

We visited the Ca Rezzonico Mansion.   This magnificent palace is now a Museum of 18th century Venice on the Grand Canal.  The building was fully completed in 1758 and is owned by the Venice Town Council since 1935.  It was fascinating to see how people used to live.  We continued on to visit St. Mark’s Cathedral, Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, Rialto Bridge and Scala del Bovolo.  The Scala del Bovolo is a small palace in Venice, Italy, best known for the external spiral staircase, with a plethora of arches, known as the Scala Contarini del Bovolo (of the snail).  The palace is located in a less-traveled side-street near the Campo Manin, near the Rialto.

 

Split, Croatia

We took a walking tour in Split with our guide Leo who was an Art Historian.  We walked from the ship into the old walled city where Emperor Diocletian retired.  It was a walled city so the people who lived here were well protected.  The Diocletian Palace had two wells of fresh water which was brought by Roman aqueducts 4 km from the mountains.  People still live in the walled city and the houses are passed down from one generation to the next.  If it is to change hands out of the family, the city must approve it.  Leo was fantastic and very knowledgeable.

 

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii was a one hour drive from the ship.  It was great to walk around and see the different areas and things that they had – amphitheaters, homes, shops and the red light district. I love these historical sites.  The shops in Pompeii had metal tracks for the doors to be rolled open on and they had shops which had round holes with wood burning under them and they would set the pots of food on top, making it one of the first fast food shops.  Pompeii had fresh water brought in by aqueducts and delivered by lead pipes.  They said that the Romans actually died of lead poisoning.   You could actually see the ruts in the stones which were made by the chariots.

 

Sorrento, Italy

After Pompeii, we drove to Sorrento which is beautiful.  With an hour and a half of free time, we had a wood fired pizza for lunch at Ristorante La Lanterna, which was excellent, we then did some shopping before heading back to the bus.

We were supposed to leave Naples port, but were delayed.  It turned out that they had found a bomb from WWII in the port while they were working that day and we had to wait for the authorities to come and disarm it.

We drove to a local farm in the hills where 2-3 women started a cooperative, bought four acres and have now added two more acres on the hillside.  They use every inch of land and grow fruits, nuts, olives, and make mozzarella cheese.  It was very interesting.  They gave us samples of the mozzarella with tomatoes and prosciutto with herbs, wine and lemon cake.  I bought a bottle of lemon crème from them.

 

Rome, Italy

It takes 1.5 hours to go each direction from the ship into Rome.  We took a tour of the Coliseum, Glories of the Gladiators.  It was unbelievable!   It was hard to imagine that the Coliseum was only used 4-6 times a year for special events.  When they discontinued using the facility, people began  taking the building materials to build homes and some actually lived within the walls of the Coliseum.  From there we walked to the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.  Rome is very walkable, but the signage is not easy to follow.

 

Toulon, France

This was a beautiful port.  We took a boat into the city from the ship which took about 15-20 minutes.  We visited the Maritime Museum which offered phones where you choose your language.  You would then enter the number of the display and it explained what you were looking at.  This was an excellent museum.  From there we walked around and visited the St. Louis Church, walked past the Cathedral and ended at the Provencal Market.

The Market was about 3-4 of our city blocks and had everything for sale.  The sights and scents were wonderful and very fascinating.

This was a fabulous trip.  My favorite places were Split and Pompeii/Sorrento.

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Avalon River Cruise Through France

In the summer of 2012 the Ol’ Man (Dave Jr.) and I went on an Avalon River Cruise along the Seine River through France. We started the trip by staying in a hotel the first few nights in the heart of Paris. There was so much to do, we couldn’t get to it all. Some of the highlights were the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Lourve Museum, a show at the world-renowed Moulin Rouge, and just the overall culture of the city. We also made the trip to the Palace of Versailles, just outside of Paris, where the famous Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Hall of Mirrors.

Eventually, we boarded the Avalon ship and made our way North, stopping at various small towns to take guided tours each day. Without a doubt, however, the best part of the trip was the last destination: Normandy. Being able to stand on the same beach the Americans stormed on D-Day was astonishing and I would recommened it to everyone. It was truly breathtaking to see the remains of that part of the War basically untouched. Not to mention that we were traveling with a Veteran who had actually stormed the beach himself that day, which as you can imagine, made it all the more special. Seeing the American Cemetary there in Normandy along with the WWII Museum was also special and definitely worth the trip.

If you ever get this opportunity, don’t pass it up. It’s the experience of a lifetime and you will not be disappointed. Contact our specialists for more details. Pictures after the jump.

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C’est la Vie….

There are two things typically involved in European independent trips that involve multiple destinations; train travel and mishaps. The more seasoned traveler has learned to go with the flow and be flexible as changes to plans are bound to happen.  For us, it was a misunderstanding with our front desk hotel attendants that resulted in a missed train reservation from Paris to Torino, Italy. The next train we could hop on was 4 hours later and while the good news was we were able to get on the train, the bad news was all the first class cabins were full putting us in 2nd class. The main difference of train car classes is usually how large and comfortable the seats are, the leg room and the compartment amenities. Both cars have access to beverage and food carts and restrooms, but either way they both get you where you are headed.

Spending time in the train station is like reliving your youth. There is energy in the large stations and it is something so rare to find here in the US. The large trains and constant flow of international tourists, mixed with different languages, cultures and peoples make it exciting to be here.  Our delay meant a not-so-good sandwich and some Heineken as we waited for the next train. On trains, I would always recommend chatting with the other passengers. They usually are kind people with a different background than your own and their local perspective on wherever they come from opens you up to a new world like reading a good book. We have always been chatters, and train rides were no exception.

As common as mishaps are on trips, pleasant surprises are also prevalent. For us, we met two kindly priests that were en route to Rome from a small town in Brazil. While they didn’t speak a word of English, a few collegiate level Spanish classes helped my new husband discuss with the elder of the two. They chatted in broken Spanish about their travels in Europe, other places they have been, etc… Upon parting with a smile, a truly universal language, we exchanged e-mails to virtually translate our future correspondents. And, a wedding gift, a wooden rosary. So, while some things happen and can ruin a day of vacation, you never know what you will find and sometimes these ‘mishaps’ end up with wonderful results and a day that is better than ever expected..

Versailles; c’est magnifique!

The Palace of Versailles is about a 25 minute train ride on the RER line. It is a great part of French history along with the majority of monuments within Paris. It began as a hunting lodge during the Bourbon dynasty that ruled France during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It was transformed by Louis XIV, ‘the Sun King’ into a fabulous palace housing all of the French courtiers when he

moved the entire court from Paris to outlying Versailles.  The Palace, though massive itself, has grounds that span a now national park making it the largest palace in the world. The beautifully manicured and well maintained gardens boast large fountains that still run on certain days, a Grand Canal and gorgeous greenery and flowers at every sight. Outside of the main palace the property has 2 smaller chateaux; the Grand and Petit Trianon which had several different purposes throughout their history: a family home, house of the mistresses, home to spinster sisters of kings that never married and even Napoleon’s office during his reign. There is also the Queen’s Hamlet, quite ironically, where Marie Antoinette played farm girl while the rest of her kingdom starved and eventually rebelled against the monarchy. While the Palace is full of splendor; hand-crafted marble ceilings, ornate tapestries, many precious metals and the long ‘Hall of Mirrors’ that fascinates people from all over the world, the majority of what you see today is thanks to careful restoration and a collection of works gathered from all over France.

While a tour of the Palace is definitely recommended, an entire day can be spent wandering the winding and spanning paths of the gardens. The atmosphere is a calming sense compared to the city, and while it is very popular, there is always a quiet place to get away from the other visitors. You can rent a boat on the Grand Canal, find a quiet bench, rent bikes or Segway’s or just enjoy a nice day with spectacular surroundings. They have a café serving beer, wine, coffee and sandwiches and the entrance fees are relatively inexpensive. While morning visitors may find the palace more crowded, I suggest a visit to the gardens first and seeing the castle second. This way, you can almost wander the halls as if you are the only person there.  And, if you visit on a weekday you are more likely to find peace and quiet. Certain days of the week the fountains will run and music is played invisibly from speakers hidden in shrubs creating a regal feel, but these days tend to bring more sight-seers with them, so plan accordingly.

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La Gauche où La Droit?

 Right Bank vs. Left Bank – it’s a rivalry like none other – Hamilton vs. Burr, chocolate vs. vanilla, Coke vs. Pepsi; Right Bank vs. Left Bank. For those of you unfamiliar with French history the original town of Paris was established on a small isle in the middle of the River Seine. Connected to the mainland on either side by its stunning ponts, this central ‘Ile de la Cite’ holds great examples of gothic monuments, such as Notre Dame Cathedral. An inspiration to many other cathedrals of its time and famed for its flying buttresses and gargoyles, this Cathedral was frozen in time and literary history by Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The Right side (or East/North side) of the river is the Right Bank. It holds the Louvre Museum, The Tuileries Gardens, the Opera Garnier (the setting of the Phantom of the Opera), the idyllic and classy Marais district, Montmartre and the Basilica of Sacre Coeur. The ‘Grand Etoile,’ a large roundabout, is proof that only the brave drive in Paris and standing in the middle; the Arc de Triomphe.  While a walk down the Champs Elysées is a must, shopping and dining here can be spendy. But, you’ll find Europe’s most luxurious and chic fashion houses and the experience is grand. For food, I suggest walking a few blocks in any direction which will warrant the same delicacies, typically more affordable and less crowded. However, don’t be alarmed if at any time you find the French to sit nearer to you than further away as we are accustomed to in the US – c’est normal to them.

The Left side (or West/South side) of the river is the Left Bank. It contains the prestigious St Germain des Près district and the Latin Quarter; thus named because all of the students at the Sorbonne spoke Latin predominantly. You can also find the Grand Palais Royale, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Montparnasse, the Musée d’Orsay and the most famous sight; the Eiffel Tower. While many first-comers to Paris will find the climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower a necessity, it is a long line and a long hike if you choose the stairs. There are 2 restaurants here, but again, I prefer to walk a few blocks in any direction to satiate my culinary palate. The wide boulevards were created during the Napoleon era and the metro runs along similar routing underground. It is an easy public transportation system mirroring those in most other major cities. Even if the French language intimidates you, the system is user-friendly and efficient. It becomes easy after using the metro a few times.

Regardless of where you find yourself in Paris there is always be a boulangerie around for your fresh bread; a fromagerie for your cheese; and quaint locally owned and operated cafés and bistros for your coffee, wine and meals. If you prefer, you can always stop for a quick Panini or baguette sandwich along the street and I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the freshness and quality for a pretty price point. In fact, after our day of walking with major jet lag and the time change, a Panini and a beer (yes you can buy that on the street as well) never tasted better than at 2AM! Delish

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The Village Montmartre

Anyone who visits Paris will come away with a favorite café (yes, they are really everywhere), a favorite monument, neighborhood or restaurant. Because Paris has many different, diverse neighborhoods, there really is something for everyone! While there are no right answers, my favorite has always been the windy, quirky pedestrian streets of the Village Montmartre.  Famous as Paris’ art district, the streets here have been walked by almost all of Paris’ artists; architects and painters alike from all of Europe’s corners have congregated here and there is still an air of creativity, diversity, and of course, art all around. The Moulin Rouge and the neighboring Pigalle bring a different crowd and perception to this area, and there are certainly storefronts and streets that should be avoided by PG-seeking tourists in the evenings, but this does not affect the rest of this arrondissement.

For us, we spent our first day sitting at a sidewalk café; drinking beer and trying some Onion Soup. Bistros do not serve French Onion Soup in France; just Onion Soup or soupe d’oignon. The soup was wonderful on a brisk fall day with fading sunshine. On the weekend the streets were filled with locals and tourists enjoying the views, the people watching, good food and conversation. We wandered the streets in the evening looking for good restaurants that did not offer pictures on the menu (just a travel tip!), lounged on park benches and drank beer in the local Pub while listening to Robbie Williams. We tried Belgian micro-brews that we could not have even found on the other side of the pond. Here you will find my heart in Paris. Here, you will find me in Paris. But, that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone, and it definitely doesn’t mean the rest of Paris is any less worthy of your attention. The next day we walked the entire city, over 12 miles, in horribly uncomfortable shoes (well maybe that was just me) … but it’s worth it and if you bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes; I suggest you do the same.

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Bienvenue à Paris

The ‘City of Lights’ has housed artists of all trades for many generations and continues to welcome more tourists than any other single destination worldwide each year. For some, it is the epitome of their travels to see the Eiffel Tower or walk the Champs-Elysées; for others it’s a haven of beautiful art that is visited and appreciated; and for others it’s a second home. I have told many people about the monuments and the wonders that Paris holds.  However, it’s the lifestyle; the cafes and the pace of life that seem to entice the world to its doorstep via Charles de Gaulle International Airport or one of the many major train stations connecting Paris to the rest of its European neighbors.

My new husband and I landed early in the morning in late September. As most of us that come from the US experience, it is an overnight flight that will land you in Europe early the next day. After an easy sweep to pick up our backpacks, we took the RER B train into the city and got off at the Gare du Nord. From here, it was a short cab ride to the Montmartre neighborhood where our hotel was located. Unfortunately, we had one lost wallet on the way and the morning’s adventures did not turn out as expected, but eventually we were sitting in a café, drinking espresso and eating croissants…. The way it should be; people watching and the hustle and bustle as local Parisians go about their daily business. Relaxation – the wedding was over, work and obligations, family and friends, even our home were miles away… and it was amazing.

The Mercure Montmartre Sacre Coeur is located in the 18th arrondissement in Paris. (If you’re unsure what arrondissement, or district, you are in in Paris, just check the last 2 digits of the zip code). It is a very nice hotel with English speaking attendants, a luggage room for early arrivals/late departures, a bar/restaurant area, a breakfast room and 9 floors of rooms.  Buildings in Paris are capped at a certain height so our room from the 9th floor, which also boasted a king bed, complimentary mini-bar and bathrobes, had a spectacular view with the whitewashed Basilica walls of Sacre Coeur to our left and

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Kelly & Carrie Return From Europe

Hannah,

The trip was an absolute blast.  We loved every second of it.  Our favorite city was definitely Prague because there was something new around every corner. We both loved the itinerary.  If we were to change anything it would be to spend more time in Amsterdam and less time in Paris.  Amsterdam was just such a fun small city.  The other thing that we loved about the itinerary was that we ended in Barcelona.  It was the perfect end to the trip because we were able to rest and relax on the beach of the Mediterranean Sea.

The train travel was great.  We were unable to sleep well on the overnight train, but it was still a great way to kill two birds with one stone.  We would definitely do it again.

We found a couple of free tours in various cities, and they were excellent.  I was hesitant about it at first–I mean how good can something be that is free?  But they were even better than some of the more expensive tours.

Hannah, we want to thank you so much for planning this trip.  We both felt as though you really heard us and worked to create a vacation that we were hoping for.  We the perfect amount of scheduled things and free time, so we never felt as though we were stuck.  We have already passed your name on to other people, and we will continue to do so.  Thank you so much.

Kelly and Carrie

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