The Holiday Season is almost Here!
Christmas Market, Budapest Hungry
Photo Anne Schrader
The holiday season is almost here!
by Anne Schrader
There's no nip in the air, no snow flurries and definitely no reason to break out the sweaters. So, besides the fact that the calendar tells me that fall has arrived, I've been aware since for months, since the Christmas decorations went out for sale around June 18 here in Pearland!
Many of you have made holiday travel plans for this year. You've already scheduled visits with family and friends, whether at your home or theirs. Some of you have booked a holiday getaway. (And, happily, I'm here to tell you there are still many options available, should you decide you'd like do something different this year, just give us a call or put your "wish list" on the new form "Tell Us About Your Travel Ideas" at www.dreamdestinations.com.
I wanted to take the opportunity, not for a "sales pitch", but to share our holiday plans. They're not over any specific holiday, but since we'll be traveling during the "season", they definitely fit the bill, as holiday travel. And, coincidentally, since we did a very similar trip last year, almost to the date, it looks like we have established a tradition. Agreeable, not nearly so much a TRADITION, as March-ons, or the Army vs. Navy game, but for 2 people who have not really followed their own calendar for 25+ years, doing the same thing 2 years in a row, in our opinion, fits the bill.
We're heading, again, for a wonderful 2 week-trip to Europe, starting in Budapest, Hungary for a Danube River cruise aboard the AMA Waterways' brand-new ship, AMACerto. This will be our third river cruise with AMA. I'd say they will provide you with a trip of a lifetime, but sailing with them is so great, once in a lifetime is definitely not enough! Not to mention that they sail on several rivers!
What makes this trip so special? Well two things actually.
First, this new ship is revolutionary, as it has "real" balconies. As Hank has written, the ships on a river cruise, unlike an ocean cruise, are limited in size, due to the size locks (a gated section of a canal or river that "enables boats to pass to a higher or lower part of the waterway") on the river. Most of the ships have what is called a "French Balcony". In reality these are double sliding glass doors, with a railing, that open, allowing the passengers to have "access" to the outdoors. On the new AMACerto, there are "twin balconies". One is the traditional French Balcony, and the other balcony is a glassed-in enclosure, with a table and two chairs, so you are actually sitting outside.
Now, I will admit, our stateroom doesn't have a "twin balcony". Since we have sailed the Danube before, we know what to expect with the beautiful scenery. But, you can rest assured; we'll do our investigating of the ship, in order to let you know about all the new bells and whistles! (You've heard it before . . . it's a dirty job, but someone has to take one for the team!)
And, secondly, but not in any way less of a great reason, why we made river cruising our new "annual "holiday trip". . . the Christmas markets!
If just the thought of decorating for Christmas; shopping for handmade gifts; eating traditional holiday foods puts the icing on the sugarplums baking in your head and you need a new "kick with the old Santa's boot" to make your holidays brighter then start thinking about a trip to Europe next year! You will definitely want to experience this absolutely stunningly beautiful, joyous tradition! Just imagine a nip in the air, possible with snow floating around you, hundreds of booths all decorated with lights, selling items that families have worked on during the year. The smell of roasting chestnuts (yep, for those of us living in the warmer part of the US, these DO exist), sampling the multitudes of bakery items (especially gingerbread) candied nuts, and drinking the famous Glühwein (mulled wine). The sounds, sight and smells will ring every jingle bell of your senses!
I've become very attached to the cups that are used for the Glühwein and know we'll use them for our spiced apple cider. Each town's Christmas market has multiple places to purchase a cup of Glühwein. You pay a refundable deposit (approximately 5€) plus an additional 2.50€ per cup. You can sip the hot wine while strolling through the market. Drop the cup off at a different spot, reclaim your deposit (or pay for a refill and drop off later). But here's a hint: if you decide you want to keep the cup, just don't get a refund. However, make sure you ask for a cup with the year on it when you order and you'll have a wonderful souvenir after enjoying the traditional beverage! One note here . . . in Budapest, the best mulled wine came in a Styrofoam cup, there's really no need to bring that one back!
I could go on for pages about our experiences last year. The Christmas markets were just setting up in several of the towns we visited, but the spirit was still there. And, of course, we didn't get to experience but a few at night, when you really get the full effect. Even though the markets are busy, the people are so polite, no shoving, no pushing; and, listening to the live music, whether choirs or local entertainers; inhaling the scents of traditional roasted meats and spices of the baked goods, all while staying warm with the aid of a hot drink make the life-long stories and fairy tales about the Christmas season in Europe come alive.
Watch for photos of our trip on the website, www.dreamdestinations.com and our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/visitdreamdestinations or our pinterest page www.pinterest.com/visitdd .
It's not a dirty job, it's a labor of love and we're very happy to take this one for our Dream Team!
Thank you to each and every one who has supported us in our business and personal life. Although we definitely enjoy traveling, we know that without you, we might not pay the attention to detail, that allows us to offer you first-hand information about the countries, traditions and people of Europe!