Royal City Carlson Wagonlit Travel's Blog

It was a fabled event in military history and has become etched into popular culture, the subject of movies, documentaries, novels and real stories shared by veterans returning to their homes.

2019 marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day. With every passing year, there are fewer and fewer veterans alive who landed on Canada's Juno Beach, Britain's Sword and Gold Beaches, and America's Omaha and Utah Beaches in the desperate effort to gain a foothold and begin liberating Occupied Europe. 

Their sacrifices and success have become legend, and we can still pay tribute to the power of people and nations banding together to achieve a noble goal. 


HELP THE LANDING BEACHES ACHIEVE UNESCO STATUS


The initiative to list Normandy’s D-Day Landing Beaches as a UNESCO World Heritage Site aims to preserve the Beaches and the stories of the people who fought for freedom and shared values of humanity.

You can join tens of thousands of people who have signed the petition at

normandiepourlapaix.fr/en/liberte-jinscris-ton-nom


The online form asks (in French) for you to add your
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Email
  • Country
  • Age
  • City
  • Check that ‘you’re not a robot’, then
  • Click the ‘Valider’ blue button
to register your support.

 

VISIT THE D-DAY LANDING BEACHES


For countless families across Canada and the United States whose fathers, brothers, grandfathers and uncles fought on D-Day or in any battle of World War 2, as well as students, new citizens, community groups and military and veterans' groups, the Landing Beaches in Normandy, France are an essential travel destination to honor, first-hand, the monumental task and tremendous sacrifices of D-Day, and walk in the very footsteps of the soldiers who landed there.

The Landing Beaches are easy to reach for any traveler to Northern Europe. Ask your travel advisor to help you find the perfect pilgrimage Here are some of the options that take you to American Landing Beaches and Canada's Juno Beach Centre.

Independent travelers can take rental car, private tour or train (especially if you get a rail pass) and public transportation from all major Northern European cities including Paris, London, Amsterdam and more.

Or you can join a land tour, shore excursion from a river cruise, or even from an ocean cruise calling in a northern French port.

  • Globus, Collette, Trafalgar and Insight Vacations land tours include the Landing Beaches as part of general-interest tours of France or Northern Europe, as well as war memorial or battlefields tours of the region;

  • Avalon Waterways, AmaWaterways and Uniworld Seine River cruises from Paris offer shore excursions to the Landing Beaches; and

  • Oceania Cruises and Princess Cruises calling in Le Havre offer shore excursions including American and Canadian Landing Beaches.

We often look for meaningful acts of Remembrance. Supporting the UNESCO listing of the D-Day Landing Beaches, and making a once-in-a-lifetime trip to our Landing Beaches in Normandy help keep the history of D-Day alive for us all.


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River Cruising has Changed Forever - The AmaMagna Sets Sail
A new river cruise ship has embarked on the Danube, and it's unlike anything else on the rivers of Europe. The word 'revolutionized' gets overused, but AmaWaterways' AmaMagna has overturned how we have come to think of river cruising.

It's all about size. If you've ever taken a European river cruise, you've seen your own cruise ship, plus ships from other companies docked side by side in port. Except for paint and branding, they're all pretty comparable.

To borrow a trailer park turn of phrase – maybe not elegant, but it completely paints the picture for you – the AmaMagna is a 'double-wide'. 

River cruise ships are all designed to fit into Europe's system of river locks. That limits the length, and until now, that has made all the ships more or less the same.

AmaMagna is twice the width of traditional river cruise ships, a genius innovation just in design and engineering. 
 
But it also changes the shipboard experience. Even though the AmaMagna is 200% wider than other ships, with 98 staterooms, it accommodates only 20% more guests. The public and personal space is vastly changed. Over half of the rooms are suites – from 355 all the way up to an – until now on river cruise ships – unheard of 710 square feet! 

 
Design and aesthetics follow suit with other AmaWaterways ships and still with a signature style for the AmaMagna. The plus décor is highlighted in staterooms and suites with natural wood accents. suites feature full outside balconies, open seating areas and spacious bathrooms, complete with double sinks and walk-in showers. Grand Suites ( there are 6 on the AmaMagna, and they measure 474 sq. ft.) and the one Owner’s Suite (at a whopping 710 sq. ft.) take the new space available and put it to good use with separate seating areas and spa-like bathtubs in the bathrooms.

 
The extra space is put to good use in public areas, too. There's an onboard cinema! And a multi-level lounge and multiple dining venues (river cruise ships generally have no more than two). Guests can choose the Main Restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows, The Chef's Table, the Al Fresco Restaurant and Jimmy's (named after an AmaWaterways founder).



 
There's an expansive Wellness Studio that includes an exercise area spacious enough for group classes. A professionally-trained Wellness Host leads stretching, cardio, core strengthening and spin classes. There's also a juice bar and two massage rooms as well as the usual mani/pedi and hair services. Even a large boutique much more like you would find on an ocean ship.

 
Outdoors, the double width of space on the top deck seems extravagant! The sundeck has a large heated pool, a whirlpool and a sky bar. And another innovation: a pop-up elevator that serves all four public decks of the ship.
 
If you're a seasoned river cruise traveler, you won't want to miss experiencing this incredible new ship. If you've never taken a river cruise, we might suggest you try another AmaWaterways cruise first, as a trip on the AmaMagna might spoil you for standard-sized river cruise ships!
 
The AmaMagna sails the Danube, on itineraries including the Romantic Danube, Melodies of the Danube and Christmas Markets on the Danube.
 

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Images: AmaWaterways
 
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Why Travelers in the Know are Booking A Douro River Cruise in Portugal
Have you taken a river cruise in Europe yet? The 'Big Three' river cruises are the Rhine, the Danube and the Rhone/Saone. You may have heard about cruising on the Seine, even Main and Moselle cruises.

But for a little 'off the beaten track' river cruising in Europe, Portugal's Douro river is enjoying its day in the sun. Warm-weather Portugal, in the heart of the Porto wine region's, scenic villages, history and picture-perfect vineyards, is an idyllic spring, summer and fall river cruising destination.

Here's why we love river cruising on the Douro:

The Route:

 
The Douro river flows from Spain in the east, across northern Portugal to the western city of Porto on the Atlantic coast. Bookended by two UNESCO World Heritage cities, a river cruise on the scenic Douro Valley passes through mainly rural landscapes with historic villages, dramatic cliffs, famous vineyards, and for many people, the heart of Portugal's Latin culture.

 
(Image: Getty/Pietro Faccioli)

Even early and late in the season, the weather in Portugal is warmer and drier than in other popular river cruising destinations in Northern Europe, so if basking in pleasant summer weather is how you picture a river cruise, the Douro is for you.
 

The Highlights:

 
At the eastern end of the Douro: Spain. Most itineraries include nearby, renowned Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage city, with a 13th century university where Christopher Columbus once studied, and whose signature golden sandstone architecture glows in the summer sun.
 
At the western end of the route, the port city of Porto (pictured top; image: Getty/Mirifada) is the second largest in Portugal (behind Lisbon), and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If its famous bridge reminds you of the Eiffel Tower, you are not crazy; its architect studied under Eiffel. It was a small world, even in the 19th century.
 
A river cruise on the Douro is even more charming passing through the undisturbed countryside between the ports at either end. The Douro is far less traveled than the major European river cruise routes. You may rarely even see other river cruise boats or guests in the small villages where you can wander in a truly local, authentic, un-hurried rhythm and un-touristy environment. 
 

The Wine:

 
The name of the city of Porto suggests its long-lasting claim to fame. This is the home of port wine as you may have guessed, and also other delectable Portuguese wines like Muscatel. It's one of the world's oldest wine producing regions, with two millennia of viticulture traditions. 
 
When it comes to port wine, a Douro river cruise brings you to the doorstep of some of the region's best places to experience a rich and storied wine that has become less commonly served. (These days, it's mostly in British costume dramas where we see men retreating to their studies and clubs for 'port and cigars').
 
You can sip your way along the Douro river with expert, hosted wine tastings in famous and out of the way wineries, including the UNESCO World Heritage Vinhateiro wine region, the scenic Varosa Valley, the beautiful vineyards of Regua that produce the best range of port wine in the country, Casa de Mateus, the castle made famous on the labels of Portugal’s renowned Mateus wine, and other viticulture treats.
 

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If you're like me, Spring can never come too soon. And nothing says Spring like new flower blossoms.

This year, treat yourself to an abundance of Spring in one of these famous floral travel destinations.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Host/Producer, BestTrip TV
 

Tulips in the Netherlands

Where: Keukenhof Gardens and surrounding tulip fields
When: April

It's the world's largest spring flower garden. The Keukenhof Gardens are a showcase for the Netherlands' biggest agricultural export: flowers and bulbs. The tulip is the ultimate symbol of a Dutch spring, and there are an astounding 7 million bulbs – tulips and other spring flowers - bursting into bloom on the 80 acres of castle grounds at Keukenhof. Open just a few weeks every spring, Keukenhof is a gardener's dream: themed garden plots and pavilions, an windmill you can climb for a viewpoint over acres of surrounding tulip fields in bloom, boat rides in canals lined with never-ending blossoms.

You can also order bulbs of the blooms you can see at Keukenhof; they'll be shipped to you ready for planting in the fall.

WATCH VIDEO, TOP: THE WORLD'S LARGEST SPRING FLOWER GARDEN ON AN AVALON RIVER CRUISE
 
Also Find Tulips at:

The Ottawa Tulip Festival, Canada


There's a Dutch connection to this flower festival in Canada's National Capital. During the Second World War, the Dutch Royal Family took refuge in Canada's capital, and a royal baby was even born on Canadian soil, as overseas, Canadian soldiers led the liberation of the Netherlands. In thanks, after the war, the Dutch sent tulips. 100,000 tulips, and tens of thousands more each year since. The mid-May Ottawa Tulip Festival is not only a symbol of Spring, it's a symbol of peace and cooperation between nations.
 

Chelsea Flower Show

Where: London, England
When: 5 Days Late May

(getty/ BethAmber)

This might be the most famous flower and landscaped garden show in the world. Members of the British Royal Family join garden lovers from around the world at the 11-acre site of the Royal Horticultural Society's annual love-in of traditional, trend-setting and even avante-garde flowers and gardening. You'll see glorious displays of beautiful and also rare spring flowers, floral exhibits and cutting edge design as well as traditional English gardening that is loved and imitated the world over. 

The Chelsea Flower Show is the perfect place to buy English gardening tools and gifts for yourself or your friends at home.
 

Japanese Cherry Blossoms

Where: Japan
When: Peak season on Japan's main island is early-mid April

(Getty/ Torsakarin)

The Japanese don't just have a word for cherry blossoms: 'sakura'. The also have a word 'hanami' that means to view the cherry blossoms. It's a tradition that dates back a thousand years or more, originating with the Imperial Family and continuing today for all Japanese. It's one of the most festive times of the year, when Japanese gather with friends, family and colleagues under cherry blossom trees filling parks, surrounding historic castles, temples and shrines, and lining riverbanks, drinking sake and picnicking under the trees long into the twinkling evening hours.

It's not just the stunning beauty of clouds of white and pale pink blossoms hovering overhead; the Japanese also view short-lived cherry blossoms as a poetic symbol of the fleeting nature of life itself.

Also Find Cherry Blossoms in:

Vancouver, British Columbia
An estimated 50,000 blossoming cherry trees line streets and grace parks from February all the way through April, including the city's famous urban Stanley Park.  The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year for most of the month of April.

Washington DC

(Getty/ zrfphoto)

America's capital has a glorious annual reminder of the thousands of cherry blossom trees given by Japan to the US in the early 1900's as a sign of friendship. Famously lining the shore of the Tidal Basin, DC's cherry blossoms are celebrated annually during the National Cherry Blossom Festival from mid-March to mid-April. 
 

Texas Bluebonnets

Where: Throughout the state, especially the City of Ennis and its 'Texas Bluebonnet Trail'
When: April

(Getty / leekris)

This wildflower is the state flower of Texas and believed to be named from its resemblance to a pioneer sunbonnet. Bluebonnets are actually several varieties of lupins. They thrive in lesser soil and so line roadways as well as fill public lands and pastures. 

The city of Ennis, south-east of Dallas-Fort Worth, is the official home of the bluebonnet, with over 40 miles of flower-bedecked roadsides, as well as an annual Festival. The Texas highway department not only delays roadside trimming so people can enjoy the spring bloom, its early officials were instrumental in encouraging these wildflowers to thrive. Today, they still plant about 30,000 pounds of wildflower seed each year, contributing to the preservation of Texas' native vegetation.
 
Also Find Lupins:

In Canada's maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

 (Getty / bilbowden)

The lupins you'll find growing wild in Canada's eastern provinces are a larger variety than Texas bluebonnets, and although they're more purple-y blue as well as pink and white, they're an equally cheerful sign of spring. Well, actually early summer. The cooler climate means peak lupin season here is late June – early July.
 
 

Azaleas in America's South-East

Where: Gardens throughout the region and especially: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, South Carolina
When: Throughout April

(Getty/MargaretW)
 
Azalea shrubs originated in Asia and were successfully taken to many places in the world. But in America's south-east, they've gained a special place as an iconic garden favorite and symbol of gracious Southern living. Unlike other spring blooms, they're quite long lasting, spreading joy for weeks of the season.

Many public and private gardens have a spectacular spring showing of azaleas, but special mention goes to Charleston's Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. The former rice plantation dates from the 1600's, and is the oldest public gardens in the U.S, opening its doors in 1870 to visitors who wanted to enjoy its thousands of cultivated flowers and plants. The less-formal, 'Romantic' style garden is not only on the list of one of 'America's Most Beautiful Gardens'. Magnolia was also the first garden in the country to plant azaleas outdoors, in the 1840's.
 
Today, hundreds of thousands of azaleas bloom in flame pinks, oranges and reds, lining paths and lakes in a breathtaking spring bloom.

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6 Things You Need to Know About Travel to India's Golden Triangle

It's the 7th largest country by size, with dozens of geographically diverse states, fascinating cities, and over a billion people. India's extraordinarily rich historic and pop culture, landscapes, cuisine and influence have spread from South Asia around the world. India is on many people's travel bucket lists, and if you're reading this, maybe yours too. With so much to see, do and experience, for many travelers, India seems overwhelming.

The answer? A Golden Triangle tour. Even seasoned independent travelers benefit from experienced local guides to help them navigate the vast bustle and ins and outs of first-time travel in India.  

Here are 6 things you need to know about the 'starter' circuit most first-time visitors to India take to introduce them to this colorful nation.

1. Where is the Golden Triangle? It's not an official place on a map. The Golden Triangle refers to the route between 3 landmark destinations in northern India: the Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. It's about a half a day's journey by road between each point, making the route achievable in a week- 10 day- trip. It delivers some of India's 'greatest hits' as well as terrific shopping and markets, culinary and cultural experiences, from ancient artistic techniques to modern-day Bollywood performances.

2. Highlights of Delhi India's modern national capital is the 3rd largest city in the world. And it was also the capital for half a dozen earlier civilizations over 2500 years, each leaving its own historic and cultural mark. You'll visit monuments to the Hindu, Sikh and Muslim (Mughal) communities, including 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Must-see places include the Jama Masjid, which can accommodate 25,000 worshippers, Humayun's Tomb, a 16th century Mughal garden tomb that was a model for the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort (pictured above; photo credit), and Raj Ghat, the memorial to Gandhi.

Don't Miss: the breathtaking, contemporary Ba'hai 'Lotus Temple' made up of 27 marble petals (below; photo credit)

3. Highlights of AgraAgra's claim to fame is the Taj Mahal (pictured top; photo credit). The white marble structure with 28 types of inlaid precious and semi-precious stones was voted #1 of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Its very name evokes the pinnacle of architectural achievement and royal excess. Showcased by landscaped vistas, the Taj Mahal is breathtaking, and many tours plan an arrival so you can experience the royal mausoleum in the mystical atmosphere of sunrise. Some say you haven't visited India if you haven't seen the Taj Mahal, and for many, it is the moment of a Golden Triangle tour they were waiting for.

Don't Miss: The benefits of an experienced local guide. So popular is it that officials have announced some new visiting restrictions to preserve the site. An official local guide is in the best position to help you make the most of your time at the site.

4. Highlights of JaipurIndia's 'Pink City' is the ultra-modern capital of Rajasthan. Its nickname originated in the 19th century, but its history dates back more than a century earlier; a planned city of wide boulevards and dedicated artistic community.

Jaipur is home to 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the Jantar Mantar. Other must-see historic monuments in India are religious, royal or military. The Jantar Mantar (pictured below; photo credit) is uniquely scientific: the largest stone sundial in the world, telling time accurate to a couple of seconds.

Don't miss: The arts and crafts scene. From museums to galleries to shops with among the widest and eye-popping selection of local arts and crafts.

5. When is the best time to go? Most tours run October to March, with most visits in the cooler months of October, November, February and March. 

Don't Miss: The opportunity to view the Taj Mahal at sunrise; from December to mid-January, fog from air pollution can reduce visibility, reducing vistas and even blocking the sunrise view of the Taj Mahal.

6. How you can Visit India's Golden Triangle?Many reputable land tour operators, from luxury and small-group or private, to more economical or independent, offer Golden Triangle tours of India that will allow you to get a sense of one of the world's most fascinating and complex travel desinations.

Don't Miss:  The river cruise option. A Ganges river cruise tour often includes the three magnificent cities of the Golden Triangle by land along with a river cruise that gives you insights into the very different, traditional lifestyle of rural India along the banks of its holy waterway. The best highlights of both sides of India today.

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Local markets are one of the greatest delights of trips to the South of France.  The glorious town of Avignon (perhaps best known for the song about its famous bridge) also has a renowned market.  In addition to exquisite regional foods and food products, the charming locals are out in full force.  Particularly the character behind the chicken counter, who's known for breaking out into the French national anthem while plucking a chicken! 

Whether you visit Avignon by land or on a Rhone river cruise, don't miss the market.  And when you go, say 'bonjour' to the poultry vendor like BestTripTV did on our trip to Avignon... and see if he'll sing you the Marseillaise too!

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A night time market in the grounds of a castle. Fires and torches and twinkling lights, the smell of evergreen boughs, the best German Christmas culinary treats and artisans selling authentic German arts and crafts, Christmas decorations and cozy winter woolens.

Whether you're the person who always knows exactly how many days it is until Christmas, or the 'Bah, Humbug' type... Even a die-hard Scrooge gets into the spirit of Christmas at a traditional Christmas market in Germany. And Regensburg's Romantic Christmas market might be the most magical of them all.

You can explore a number of Germany's best Christmas markets on itineraries of seasonal river cruises as BestTrip.TV did.

Not to mention the delightful Christmas markets in other countries along the Danube like Austria, as well as France, Italy, Spain and the UK.

So it's not just river cruises; escorted tours also offer special Christmas market itineraries. You can get your fill and fill your bags with iconic local Christmas tastes and treats, as well as other local all-season gems. A child will never forget the handmade wooden toy you picked up in Germany. Or the signature Christmas chocolates from the Netherlands. Grown-up loved ones will cherish the hand-made 'santon' ceramic figurines of everyday life in traditional Provence that the French use in their nativity scenes. Or the ever-popular local wine from, well, anywhere in Europe.

We know families who have made a trip to a famous Christmas market a family gift. All members of a family, from grandparents, parents, single aunts and uncles and every kid ever! find joyful memories together at a European Christmas market.

We love the idea of celebrating the season with travel, and Regensburg's Romantic Christmas Market - or any European Christmas market visit will warm anyone's heart.

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The Ship that's Changing River Cruising

How do you revolutionize river cruise ships?


River cruise ships are limited in length by the navigational requirements of rivers... like the sizes of locks. While ships bear their company livery colors and a few unique design features, many river cruise ships appear much the same - at least on the outside.

The design for the AmaMagna, launching in 2019, is game changing. It maintains navigational/ length limitations - but it's twice the width of traditional European river cruise ships.

What makes a double-width river cruise ship a game changer?

The concept has been 'floating' around for a while (pun intended), but AmaWaterways is the first cruise line to pull the trigger on building a double-width river cruise ship.

That opens the doors wide to re-interpret the guests' experience on a river cruise ship. So with the debut of the concept of a double-width ship, AmaWaterways design team has aimed high at maximizing the two times more space available than on a single ship.

The AmaMagna will include:
  • River cruising's first open-water sports platform, complete with zodiac boats, canoes and recreational equipment.
  • Only 194 guests in 97 large staterooms - that's only 30 guests more than single-width ships.
  • Expansive public spaces, including:
  • Dedicated multiple dining spaces including an al fresco, glass-enclosed restaurant.
  • A large heated sundeck swimming pool with whirlpool and sky bar.
  • Expanded spa and fitness area and wellness offerings that will complement AmaWaterways' popular biking and hiking programs.
  • And they're even able to double the ship's width while doubling down on eco-friendly innovation with a more fuel-efficient engine that's also quieter.

Sound familiar? What we're seeing is the best of small-ship/ yacht, luxury ocean cruising... brought to rivers.

The AmaMagna launches in 2019 on Danube itineraries. AmaWaterways is also offering Concierge Cruise + Golf packages for AmaMagna guests to enjoy along the Danube route, as well as wedding/vow renewal packages.

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Video: Meet the Wine Maker in the 'Tuscany of Austria' on the Danube

There's a magical stretch of the Danube river that some call the 'Tuscany of Austria'.


Hills rise in the mist above the Wachau valley, and for 25 miles between fairy tale towns of ornate, pastel colored historic buildings, wineries line the river banks and hillsides.


The 'Wachau Cultural Landscape' - its architectural and agricultural heritage - are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Abbey in the town of Melk, Durnstein, where English King Richard the Lion-Heart was held captive en route from the Crusades, and Krems are unique gems of Austria's countryside.


As these river-side towns historically were connected by and built up from the river that was the best form of transportation at the time, it's a region best visited by river cruise. Our AMAWaterways Danube river cruise on the AMACerto brought us right to the doorstep of this legendary destination. And to one of the famous wineries that attract foodies and wine-lovers from around the world for its signature gruner veltliner wines.


BestTrip.TV disembarks our ship to visit the Winzer Krems vineyard, where the vintner's tour reveals the winery's history, delicious and famous white wines, as well as an exciting new taste for interactive, modern art in an historic setting.


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