Full of Life
Exploring different regions of the world
You can board a ship in an interesting port city such as Rome or Venice, and add on a pre or post-cruise land tour. Rome in particular has much to be explored, including the Vatican, and other religious and historic points of interest.
Since the season for Europe encompasses the summer months, many families have started taking advantage of all there is to see and do there. They bring along the kids so that they can experience first-hand the places and peoples they read about in their history books
And what would a trip to Europe be without sampling the food and wine of the local regions? Many cruise excursions include meals in the various port cities, and it is well worth your while to book these experiences not just for the tour and what it encompasses, but also so that you can taste some of the regional specialities. The Tuscany region, in particular, is one that should not be bypassed without enjoying a fine meal complete with a good Italian wine.
Of course, there are other areas in Europe that can be explored as well. These include the regions of Northern Europe which include Copenhagen, Denmark; Oslo, Norway; Stockholm, Sweden; and St. Petersburg, Russia, among so many others. Some of these cruises are what are considered “re-positioning voyages;” that is where the ship is moved from one region to another. The nice thing about those voyages is that you can often spend some time both pre and post-cruise, exploring a different region of the world.
There are also a host of smaller ships providing European cruises. Many of them offer luxury amenities to their guests, including shore excursions as a part of your cruise fare, an onboard guide who is an expert in the regions being visited, and other special amenities. These ships often don’t carry very many passengers, and so the experience can be personalised to the individual tastes of those onboard any given sailing.
With a population of just under a million people, it is also one of the smallest cities, packing some of the most famous industries and museums under its tiny belt. Climatically, Amsterdam is mild and damp but also very changeable. Temperatures range from 30°F in winter to a high of 72 in summer.
Situated in the west of the country, Amsterdam looks like a series of concentric semi circles fronting the Amstel River. The city is renowned for its canals, diamond industry, museums, tulips, tolerance, culture, nightlife, bicycles, red light district and its liberal attitude to cannabis. Marijuana may be bought over the counter in Amsterdam’s coffee houses, making the city a draw for most of the world’s younger travellers.
Once an important industrial centre, it has had a cultural resurgence in recent years due to the huge success of the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao. It also has lively restaurants and tapas bars, fabulous shopping, and an enchanting Old Quarter.
Temperate and warm, August is the hottest month in Bilbao, with an average temperature of 21°C; the coldest month is January, with an average temperature of 10°C.
If you are cruising to Bilbao as part of your trip, there is a lot to look forward to in this interesting and captivating location.
Although the population now seems to be declining slowly it still has over 130,000 people, making it the seventh largest city in Spain.
Cadiz is a spectacular setting with numerous beaches and city plazas to venture around. You can even visit the colonial parts of Cadiz, which is known as the Old City.
You should make it a priority to stop by one of the beaches of Cadiz as they are stunning. You have a few options; the favourite Cadiz beach is the Caleta. It is also rather famous considering the beach has been used for the filming of various movies including Die Another Day. The elegance of this beach comes from the two castles that are located on it: Santa Catalina and San Sebastian. It is rather convenient to go to if you are passing the day in the Old City, and it is very close to the Barrio de la Viña.
Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city, with a population of 1.75 million. Situated in the north of the country, on the River Elbe, it is one of the most important harbours in Europe and the world. Perhaps surprisingly, it is also considered, by well-travelled locals to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The local climate ranges from a chilly 28°F in winter to a warmer 68 in summer. The climate is recognised as being bracing and locals relish the freshness of it.
Though more of a commercial hub than tourist destination, Hamburg’s burgeoning tourist industry, the fastest growing in the country, has been brought about by its wealth; it is the wealthiest city in Germany, its economic importance, geographic location; it has always been easy to reach from other countries and its political status. Perhaps surprisingly, Hamburg has 2,500 bridges, more than Venice and Amsterdam combined. Indeed it has more bridges within its city limits than any other in the world and then there are its lakes and waterways. Galleries and museums add to the attractions, but it is the harbour, which is the undoubted heart of the city and which everything else focuses around.
A trip to the coast of Normandy in Northern France is something that should not be missed when visiting Europe, especially the small picturesque city of Honfleur. Situated near the ferry ports of Le Havre and Caen, this city is especially convenient for anyone living in the United Kingdom who needs a more provincial change of pace. Whether you prefer the all-inclusive services of a hotel, the homey feel of a Bed & Breakfast, or the convenience of self-catering, all are available in Honfleur.
Honfleur is one of those cities that has a little bit of everything for tourists and casual weekenders to make their time there enjoyable and stress-free. Strolling from the town centre to the beach and taking in the beauty of the English Channel is a lovely thing to do, no matter what time of year it is. If you are there from midsummer to autumn, you’ll find the waters warm enough for a swim. The ‘Naturospace’ tropical butterfly centre provides guests with a nature activity indoors for when the weather is inclement and a little too wet for walking around the beautiful city.
Lisbon, or Lisboa, has been capital of Portugal since 1255 and like Rome and several other cities in the world, was built on seven hills. It is also set on the north banks of the estuary of the River Targus, where it pours into the Atlantic Ocean. Average winter climate is 55°F and average summer 80°F. No matter how hot it gets humidity can be high, but Atlantic breezes cool the air.
With a combination of sea cliffs, beautiful beaches and the lush river valley of Cabo de Roca, Lisbon is Europe’s most western point. The town is also the site of several historic sites and monuments, which include palaces, an impressive castle and fabulous churches, all defining the city’s rich cultural heritage. The blend and variety of neighbourhoods and architecture mark Lisbon out as being a little different from other European cities. You could say that Lisbon has it all.
Located on the Mediterranean coast of France is the unique city of Sete. It was once known as Ceta or Sita and it started out not as part of mainland France, but as part of the island of Mont Saint Clair. The city has always been a sea-faring one and its main export was at one time pickled fish. Through the centuries mud and silt eventually closed off the island’s main ports and connected it to the mainland, until the city of Sete became the port of this French province known as Languedoc.
Sete was used as a base of operations for the French authorities hunting the last of the Mediterranean privateers under Barbe Rousette. In an effort to protect the town from the storms at sea, a jetty was started in 1596 and was completed in 1666. It provided the city with secure anchorage for both commercial vessels and the French royal fleet as well as a sea entrance to the Canal du Midi. Conquered by the British in 1710 and then being almost completely obliterated by the allies in World War II during liberation, Sete didn’t stay down for long and with its rebirth came the new role of principal French fishing port on the Mediterranean.
Vigo is little known outside of Spain, yet it is a vast and quite spectacularly situated city on the north west coast of the country, in the province of Galicia. Being just north of the Portuguese border, Vigo has a population of more than 300,000 people and is the largest non-capital city in the country. It is also the most important economic base in the region. The city is well known for its fishing and boat building industries and is the largest fishing port in Europe. Pescanova, the world’s biggest fishing company is based here.
In terms of area, greater Vigo covers about 110sq. km, with a total population of more than half a million people. The climate is mild, with an average 48°F in the winter months and 66°F in summer. Rainfall is temperate, averaging 2” in summer and 24” in winter.
One of the beautiful Channel Islands, the island of Guernsey is located in the English Channel between the southern shore of the United Kingdom and the northern shore of France. The island chain is actually within the bay of St Malo, 70 miles from Britain and 30 from France.
Even though the island chain is geographically closer to France, the island of Guernsey is still loyal to the United Kingdom. This loyalty goes back to the days of William the Conqueror and the Normans when the Channel Islands were first claimed for Britain. Guernsey is a self-governing and independent island that benefits well from its association with its neighbour. When visiting the island, you will be able to use British pounds there, but the island’s currency is not usable anywhere else. Its economy is primarily fishing, flower growing, and dairy farming, and there are a few light industries, offshore banks, fund managers, and insurance companies also established there.
It is often referred to as Belgium’s ‘jewel in the crown’, because of its pristine beauty and was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. Bruges, which is located in the north west of the country, received its charter in 1128; it is egg shaped and a compact 430 hectares in area. The climate is typically north European, which is cold in winter, down to about 28°F, though mild in summer, with a 73 °F average.
The city has about 50,000 people living in its historic centre, but totalling 120,000 if you include the outer suburbs. The old centre is closed off to motorised vehicles, enabling people to move around easily on foot or explore the canals by boat. Touring the city in a horse drawn carriage is another popular option.
The city is a small complete medieval package in itself, being a mix of romantic canals, narrow cobblestone streets, gabled houses, museums and fabulous architecture, all of the same era. It is like being on a period movie set, except that this is real.