United adding European destinations ahead of summer travel rebound


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Chicago-based United Airlines is adding five new transatlantic destinations in Spring 2022 as it prepares for a potential bounce back in summer travel between the United States and Europe next year.

The expansion would be the largest transatlantic expansion in the company’s history and includes destinations in Spain, Portugal, Norway, the Spanish Canary Islands and Jordan.

“Given our big expectations for a rebound in travel to Europe for summer, this is the right time to leverage our leading global network in new, exciting ways,” Patrick Quayle, senior vice president of international network and alliances at United, said in a Thursday news release. 

United will be the first North American carrier to fly to the five new destinations.  

  • Bergen, Norway: Starting May 20, United will offer flights three times a week between New York/Newark and Bergen on a Boeing 757-200. 
  • Azores, Portugal: Flights between New York/Newark and Ponta Delgada in the Azores begin May 13 with a new Boeing 737 MAX 8. This will be United’s third Portuguese destination, along with flights to Porto (which return in March) and Lisbon (which are being operated from New York and are set to resume from Washington, D.C. next summer).
  • Palma de Mallorca, Spain: Travelers can fly from New York/Newark to the beach destination in the Balearic Islands in a Boeing 767-300ER starting June 2. United will offer flights three times a week. 
  • Tenerife in the Spanish Canary Islands: United is set to launch a new flight from New York/Newark to the Tenerife on June 9, offering service three times a week via a Boeing 757-200. 
  • Amman, Jordan: Flights from Washington, D.C. to Amman begin May 5 with service three-times-weekly with a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. 

Tickets for Bergen, Azores, Palma de Mallorca and Tenerife go on sale Thursday, and Amman tickets should follow soon after. 

The airline is also adding new flights to five European destinations (Berlin, Dublin, Milan, Munich and Rome) “in anticipation of a resurgence in visitors” and relaunching seven routes that had been paused during the pandemic to Bangalore, Frankfurt, Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, Nice and Zurich, all of which are subject to government approval. 

► US travel ban: US to drop travel ban for vaccinated international travelers starting in early November

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The expansion would follow the launch of a new air travel system in the U.S. in early November that will ease travel restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign nations.

While international flight capacity saw gains this year, it has a ways to go before catching up to pre-pandemic levels. International passenger demand dropped 76% between 2019 and 2020, the sharpest traffic decline in aviation history according to the International Air Transport Association.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz





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US Health Agency Urges Americans to Refrain From Travelling to 4 More European Countries


American citizens have been advised to refrain from travelling to four European countries – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Belarus, Moldova – since they have registered an increase in COVID-19 infection cases.

According to the latest update of the Travel Advisory, which is reviewed every week based on other countries’ epidemiologic situations, the US Department of State has changed the travel advice against travel to the countries mentioned above from ‘Level Three: Reconsider Travel’ to ‘Level Four: Do Not Travel’.

This categorisation is the highest advisory level, meaning that persons travelling to one of these areas have a greater likelihood of being infected with the COVID-19 disease, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

Consequently, the US health agency advises that everyone who must travel to one of the four countries is fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 disease with one of the vaccines that have been authorised for use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to lower the risk of getting infected and developing symptoms.

Until now, FDA has approved only Pfizer/BioNTech (Comirnaty), Moderna (Spikevax), and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccines.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for Bosnia and Herzegovina due to COVID-19, indicating a very high level of COVID-19 in the country. Your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorised vaccine,” the Department of State noted. The exact same advisory was issued for the three other countries too.

Figures provided by World Health Organization (WHO) show that since the beginning of the pandemic, Bosnia and Herzegovina has registered a total of 241,227 infection cases, 275 of them being reported only during the last 24 hours.

Belarus has identified 559,715 in total, of which 1,943 were reported during the last 24 hours, whereas Moldova has registered a total of 307,182 cases.

In contrast, Romania has registered 16,743 new cases during the last 24 hours, which is the highest number among all four countries, bringing the total number to 1,382,531.

Except for the four European countries, the same travel advisory has also been issued for Cambodia and Saint Vincent and The Grenadines.

In addition, last week, the Department of State revealed that Americans are now also urged to refrain from travelling to Austria, Croatia, and Latvia since the countries have a ‘Do Not Travel’ alert.

On the other hand, the Department of State has revealed that the COVID-19 situation has improved in Spain as the country has been moved from Level Four to Level Three. The Czech Republic, the Faroe Islands, Gabon, South Korea, and Uganda have also moved to Level Three from Level Two.

Previously, SchengenVisaInfo.com reported that the US would permit entry for Europeans vaccinated with WHO-approved vaccines. This means that except for the vaccines that the US currently recognises, travellers from the EU vaccinated with AstraZeneca, including Covishield, Sinopharm, and Sinovac, will be permitted to enter the US territory once the entry ban is lifted.



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Three eastern European countries deemed ‘very high’ risk for travel, but Spain now less risky


By Marnie Hunter, CNN

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania and Belarus were deemed “very high” risk travel destinations on Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean also moved into the “Level 4: Very high level of Covid-19” category on the agency’s regularly updated list of travel advisories.

People should avoid traveling to locations designated with a “Level 4” notice, the CDC recommends. Anyone who must travel should be fully vaccinated first, the agency advises. Nearly 90 destinations are now listed as Level 4.

All the destinations that moved to Level 4 this week were previously listed as “Level 3: Covid-19 High.” The Level 3 category applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.

These are the destinations added to Level 4 on October 12:

• Belarus
• Bosnia and Herzegovina
• Romania
• Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

New Level 3 locations

Six destinations moved to Level 3 on October 12:

• Gabon
• South Korea
• Spain
• Czech Republic
• Faroe Islands
• Uganda

Spain’s situation improved, according to CDC criteria, moving down from Level 4. The other five locations — Gabon, South Korea, Czech Republic, the Faroe Islands and Uganda — moved up from Level 2.

Destinations carrying the “Level 2: Covid-19 Moderate” designation have seen 50 to 99 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.

In “Level 1: Covid-19 Low” destinations, fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents have been logged over the past 28 days.

You can view the CDC’s risk levels for global destinations on its travel recommendations page.

In its broader travel guidance, the CDC has recommended avoiding all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.

“Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread Covid-19. However, international travel poses additional risks, and even fully vaccinated travelers might be at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading some Covid-19 variants,” the agency said.

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Top image: The deserted “Old Bridge” of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina is seen from an empty restaurant terrace on May 8, 2020. (Photo by Elvis Barukcic/AFP via Getty Images)



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Three eastern European countries deemed ‘very high’ risk for travel, but Spain now less risky


By Marnie Hunter, CNN

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania and Belarus were deemed “very high” risk travel destinations on Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean also moved into the “Level 4: Very high level of Covid-19” category on the agency’s regularly updated list of travel advisories.

People should avoid traveling to locations designated with a “Level 4” notice, the CDC recommends. Anyone who must travel should be fully vaccinated first, the agency advises. Nearly 90 destinations are now listed as Level 4.

All the destinations that moved to Level 4 this week were previously listed as “Level 3: Covid-19 High.” The Level 3 category applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.

These are the destinations added to Level 4 on October 12:

• Belarus
• Bosnia and Herzegovina
• Romania
• Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

New Level 3 locations

Six destinations moved to Level 3 on October 12:

• Gabon
• South Korea
• Spain
• Czech Republic
• Faroe Islands
• Uganda

Spain’s situation improved, according to CDC criteria, moving down from Level 4. The other five locations — Gabon, South Korea, Czech Republic, the Faroe Islands and Uganda — moved up from Level 2.

Destinations carrying the “Level 2: Covid-19 Moderate” designation have seen 50 to 99 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.

In “Level 1: Covid-19 Low” destinations, fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents have been logged over the past 28 days.

You can view the CDC’s risk levels for global destinations on its travel recommendations page.

In its broader travel guidance, the CDC has recommended avoiding all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.

“Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread Covid-19. However, international travel poses additional risks, and even fully vaccinated travelers might be at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading some Covid-19 variants,” the agency said.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Top image: The abandoned Imperial Baths at Baile Herculane, southwestern Romania, in 2018. (Daniel Mihailescu/AFP via Getty Images)



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9 Best European Islands To Visit


When islands in Europe are mentioned, especially when it comes to vacation hotspots, then the Greek Islands win every time. Followed, usually, by the Balearics, the Canaries, and a few Italian islands, such as Sardinia or Capri. Admittedly, these are all gorgeous islands, and extremely popular with travelers, but not only does their popularity take away from their appeal, but also there are so many more beautiful European islands that are worth a visit. And, best of all, they are not overrun with tourists and allow you to discover parts of Europe you might not have considered before.

Being a dedicated island fan, I have selected a few in this roundup that might just spark your interest and entice you away from the crowds. Here are islands that have that little something different, are off the beaten path, or are popular, but not at the time I recommend visiting.

Ready for some island hopping?

Jerbourg Point, the southeastern point of the Ballwich of Guernsey in the English Channel.
Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com

1. Guernsey, English Channel

The bailiwick of Guernsey is part of the Channel Islands, and although a British Crown Dependency, the island is a delightful mix of all things French and English, lying some 30 miles off the coast of Normandy and 70 miles off the coast of England. The small island with a grand total of 65,000 inhabitants is perfect for hiking, with a coastal path spanning 110 miles of varied terrain. The island is historic, with a beautiful natural landscape that has inspired painters and writers. It has cute small villages and towns full of restaurants serving the freshest seafood, but most of all, it invites you to slow down and explore at a more relaxed pace.

Pro Tip: Rent a car at the airport and explore the island first, before enjoying the rest on foot. 

Chalk Cliffs in Rügen National Park, Rügen, Germany
Pitufo22 / Shutterstock.com

2. Rügen, Germany

Do you know the painting Chalk Cliffs on Rügen by German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich? The artist is an ancestor of mine, and I was taken to see it at a museum when I was young. To me, it sums up the island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea perfectly. Beautiful white cliffs, lush countryside, all surrounded by the sea, which is lovely and warm in summer, not too salty, and often freezes over in winter. A former society sea bath resort, the island is dotted with old grand hotels, and one of the prettiest piers in the world, the Sellin Pier, which has a white restaurant on a platform reached by a short wooden pier. While the island has perfect beaches for swimming in summer, this is an all-year destination that invites visitors to don comfortable shoes, grab a map and go out exploring.

Pro Tip: There are easy train connections from Hamburg or Berlin, that take you to the island in three to four hours.

Aerial view of Saint-Martin-de-Ré, France
Saint-Martin-de-Ré, France (Photo Credit: Trabantos / Shutterstock.com)

3. Ile de Ré, France

Probably my favorite island in Europe, the Île de Ré, oozes French charm at every turn. Just a bridge away from the medieval city of La Rochelle with its quaint harbor, it seems a million miles away from anywhere. Endless beaches, towns with tiny harbors full of colorful traditional fishing boats, good food, houses with shutters in pastel colors, and even its own breed of donkey, the Poitou donkey, that looks very shaggy with its dreadlocks. Quite often you see them wearing trousers, which is not a gimmick but protects them from mosquitoes.

Rent a bike and explore the lighthouse, the windmills, the salt flats, and don’t forget to buy some of the famous Île de Ré coarse sea salt.

Pro Tip: As much as I love this island, the French love it even more, and come in August when you can barely step for people. However, visit in September and all the tourists with kids have disappeared, yet all the restaurants are still open, and the beaches empty.

Coastline of Bosphorus, Princes Islands, Turkey
 Ann Stryzhekin / Shutterstock.com

4. The Princes Islands, Istanbul, Turkey

I love that when on a city break, you can take a short excursion and land somewhere completely different for a day. The Princes Islands are made up of nine small islands in the Sea of Marmara, four of which I believe are open to the public. The Islands are a mere 1.5-hour ferry ride from the heart of Istanbul. Arrive on the main island and you’ll notice straight away how quiet it is. No cars, just the clippety-clop of horse-drawn carriages, and the hum of electric trams and buses. The islands are wooded, and quite hilly, crammed full of prime real estate, and narrow beaches, always packed with locals on the weekend. There is not much to do in the way of sightseeing, but they offer such a contrast to bustling Istanbul, and the ferry ride is just lovely, that they are well worth searching out.

Pro Tip: If you are unsure which ferry to take or which island to choose, try a guided day trip from Istanbul, with a tour and lunch on the main island.

The lighthouse and sand dunes on Texel, Netherlands.
Sara Winter / Shutterstock.com

5. Texel, Netherlands

Texel is the largest of the Dutch North Sea islands, one of the Frisian or Wadden Islands which stretch from the Netherlands to Germany and up to Denmark. These islands lie in the large mudflat area called the Wadden Sea, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site because of its unique ecosystem. They vary in size, with Texel being large in comparison, at 15 miles long and 5.5 miles wide. Basically sand dunes overgrown with grass, the islands are a haven for wildlife, especially birds and seals, and the beaches are beautiful. That said, the tide goes out a long way, and when it comes back in, it comes in fast, so when out Wadden walking, always take care. Texel has several small communities but with lots to offer, from cheese sampling to wine tasting (yes, this island in the North Sea has a vineyard!) and there are some good restaurants, offering, not surprisingly, great fresh seafood.

Pro Tip: Stay at the Strandhotel Noordzee, right in the sand dunes and with great views.

Rocks on the shore with turquoise waters, Formentera, Spain.
lunamarina / Shutterstock.com

6. Formentera, Spain

When everybody heads off to Mallorca or Ibiza, may I suggest instead visiting Formentera, the smallest of the Balearic Islands? Reached by a rather scenic ferry ride from neighboring Ibiza, little Formentera is not half as busy as its more popular neighbors but instead has empty beaches with turquoise waters, lighthouses, great walks, and superb scuba diving. San Francesc is the largest community on the island with its 3,000 inhabitants but has a surprising number of good restaurants, cafes, and shops, catering to incoming day-trippers and yachts arriving from across the Mediterranean Sea.

Pro Tip: This island is a perfect size to be explored by bicycle or scooter. Just don’t forget to pack a picnic and a beach towel.

Rocky islands in Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden.
Igor Grochev / Shutterstock.com

7. Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

Some 30,000 islands make up the Stockholm archipelago, some only large enough for a small beach hut, others sporting villages and ferry ports. Each one though is charming and offers the sort of getaway you don’t get in many places. Many Swedes own a beach house on one of the many islands off the Swedish coast and use them at weekends or over the summer months. Most are basic, without electricity or amenities, and you have to get there by paddle boat, bringing your supplies with you — and taking the leftovers off the island when you leave. But when it comes to peacefulness, then it doesn’t get much better.

Pro Tip: You can take day trips to various islands from Stockholm which will give you an idea of just how lovely this part of Sweden is. But even better, why not rent a tiny house on one of the islands and do as the locals do? 

Aerial view of Comino island, Malta with boats in the water.
Karina Movsesyan / Shutterstock.com

8. Comino Island, Malta

While Malta is a large island with a stunning, historic capital, Malta is also an archipelago, with only three of the islands inhabited: Malta, Gozo, and Comino. Although at last count, Comino only had a reported population of three. A popular day-tripping spot from the two larger islands, little Comino is a nature reserve and famous for its Blue Lagoon, and so popular because in Malta itself good beach bathing is at a premium due to the rocky coast.

Pro Tip: Best reached by boat from Malta, an organized boat trip also gives you the chance of seeing some other coves and beaches on the island.

Harbor and village Porto Azzurro at sunset, Elba island, Italy.
Balate Dorin / Shutterstock.com

9. Elba, Italy

The island of Elba officially belongs to Tuscany in Italy. Need I say more? The third-largest island of Italy, and famous for playing host to Emperor Napoleon during his exile in 1814 from France. Elba is historic, with plenty to see, surrounded by the beautiful Tyrrhenian Sea, offering plenty of watersports. Elba is large enough to give you a chance of a road trip and explore before settling down in a more relaxed seaside resort. The best thing is, while the Italians know about this place, foreign tourists usually head to the better-known islands, making Elba a little quieter.

Pro Tip: While on your Tuscan Road Trip, take the roughly 1-hour ferry ride to Elba from Piombino, and add a couple or three days of R&R on Elba.

Other European adventures to explore:



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7 European Towns That Are Better In The Winter Than The Summer


I don’t know what it is about winter, but not only is it probably my favorite season, but it also suits certain cities so much better than summer. I admit that this view might be subjective, as all the cities listed in this round-up are also great places to visit during other seasons. But, somehow, the best season to visit, in my mind at least, is winter.

Maybe it has something to do with the season I first visited and got to know each place, and looking at the list again, this is true for quite a few of them, but not all. Whatever the reason, these cities just are much more atmospheric in winter: They are either adorned with snow or are dressed up for the festive season, or they are perfect for walking around while wrapped in a warm coat.  

Why don’t you go and have a look to see if you agree?

Winter in Tallinn, Estonia
Alex Stemmers / Shutterstock.com

1. Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is like a time-stood-still fairy tale city. The old center is snuggled within a sturdy medieval city wall, complete with lookout towers with red pointed roofs, and the cobbled lanes are hemmed with ancient buildings, some half-timbered, others painted in pastel shades. The market square sits alongside the old town hall, which dates to 1404, making it the oldest in the Baltic States. There are shops selling the loveliest local arts and crafts, with those little big-nosed gnomes, also called tomte or tonttu, which originate from Norse folklore, making the cutest addition to your mantlepiece back home.

Now add snow, add cafes and restaurants with large open fires and serving either mulled wine, or glöggi, and decadent hot chocolate, add an ice rink set against a row of colorful old houses, and people warmly dressed simply enjoying being out at the market square filled with stalls during the Christmas season, and you have the perfect winter atmosphere.

Pro Tip: Stay at the Hotel Telegraaf in the heart of the old town. A gorgeous old building, modern amenities, huge open fire, and a great restaurant.

A canal in Strasbourg, France
cge2010 / Shutterstock.com

2. Strasbourg, France

Choosing Strasbourg for this list was a no-brainer because it is the Christmas setting personified. I have never seen a city more decorated at Christmas than Strasbourg. Not one shop window or street is without twinkling lights, window decorations, or market stalls. You can barely take it all in, there is so much to see. Don’t get me wrong, I have visited in summer and enjoyed sitting out by the river, and loving the atmosphere of the old town, but if you only get to visit once, make it December, and take in Christmas in Strasbourg. It has to be seen to be believed. And don’t think that it is too much or tacky. Not at all. It is simply perfect.

Pro Tip: While there are big Christmas markets around the cathedral and on the main square, concentrate on the smaller ones in Petite France, the really old part of the old town, where half-timbered houses, covered bridges, and tiny squares add that extra-special ambiance.

A square in Stockholm, Sweden, decorated for Christmas
dimbar76 / Shutterstock.com

3. Stockholm, Sweden

This is definitely a case of first impressions made in the snow and loved ever since. The first time I visited Stockholm I arrived on a ferry from Germany that had just made its way across the frozen Baltic Sea, landing in Stockholm after it had just snowed. The Gamla Stan, the old town, the palaces in and around the city, the parks, the streets, the roofs, everything was covered in a thick layer of perfectly white snow, making the already lovely setting of countless islands, canals, bridges, and harbors even more special. While Stockholm is great in summer, with its people enjoying the light, warmth, and the chance to enjoy the water, I have always preferred it in the winter. Maybe because the city is set up for winter, and knows how to make the most of it, while also offering creature comforts and making every place snuggly and warm?

Pro Tip: If you are lucky enough to be there when fresh snow has fallen, head straight out to Drottningholm Palace which is particularly picturesque in the snow.

A harbor in Helsinki, Finland
canadastock / Shutterstock.com

 4. Helsinki, Finland

Another northern winter winner delight is Helsinki, and do you know why? Because I fell in love with one particular café/restaurant called Kappeli, which is decked out in countless twinkling lights that light up the entire Esplanade in winter’s dark nights. Walking around the old harbor, visiting the covered market, the arts and crafts huts alongside the harbor, and then turning into the wide Esplanade, the historic Kappeli restaurant — one side lovely café, another side very nice restaurant — stands there like a special Christmas decoration, and it does serve rather good food, too.

And the square in front of the Helsinki Cathedral, just off the Esplanade steps from Kappeli, is another lovely sight, with a huge Christmas tree in front of the white cathedral.

Pro Tip: Finland is known as the land with 5.3 million people and 3.3 million saunas, and while the Finns love them year round, they are even better in winter. Book yourself in and get warm.

Winter at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France
Ekaterina Pokrovsky / Shutterstock.com

5. Paris, France

I have always maintained that winter was my favorite season in Paris, much to the horror of Parisians, who easily get a chill. But not only is Paris more void of people in winter but also, it is possible to walk along the beautiful architecture without the leaves of the trees being in the way of appreciating the scene. Not that I do not like the trees in Paris, it is lovely for the city to be so green, but when you walk along looking up, you often miss the details of the buildings for trees.

And should you get snow that stays on the ground, then head straight for the Eiffel Tower. That might sound like unnecessary advice but trust me. Once it snows properly, all the metros and buses go on reduced service, and no one heads out. I had the entire Champ de Mars to myself, with four other people, managing to take wonderful pictures of a snowy Eiffel Tower without people. Just imagine.  

Pro Tip: Every winter there are lots of ice rinks popping up in Paris, and whether you join in or not, try and go to the Grand Palais. The setting is wonderful, and it serves warm drinks as well as chilled champagne, and you can just watch others fall over.

A view from Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland
ABO PHOTOGRAPHY / Shutterstock.com

6. Edinburgh, Scotland

The capital of Scotland is truly lovely in all seasons, and even if it rains, it still has a certain charm. But Edinburgh pulls out all the stops not just for Christmas, with the steep lanes up to the castle looking particularly lovely, but especially over the New Year. This is the time to come and watch how the Scots party and celebrate Hogmanay. Come prepared and get a torch ready for the torchlight procession down the Royal Mile, and learn the words to “Auld Lang Syne,” which everybody bursts into at midnight.  

Pro Tip: On January 2, when the party is over and the hangover has abated, head to the Botanical Gardens for the last visiting time slots for the light trail. The lights are so pretty.

Decorations on a canal in Hamburg, Germany
Scirocco340 / Shutterstock.com

7. Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg is my hometown and I love all seasons there, in summer the canals and lakes are full of boats and paddlers, and the parks full of picnickers, and it is lovely to have a break from the famous schmuddelwetter, meaning the dirty weather, i.e., the rain that dominates spring and fall. In winter, there is usually another break from the rain, when it turns to snow. And if luck has it, it gets cold enough for the two lakes that dominate the city center to freeze over. When that happens, all of Hamburg gets on the ice — walking, skating, setting up sausage and mulled wine stands, and people basically picnicking on the ice.

Then there are the Christmas concerts, best enjoyed in the modern Elbphilharmonie with its great views, or the truly iconic Hamburg setting of the St. Michaelis Church, the “Michel” as locals call it.

Add to that the great Christmas markets, especially the one in front of the historic town hall, and you will get the idea why this city is just perfect in wintertime.

Pro Tip: Head to Konditorei Lindtner in the Eppendorf neighborhood. This is a traditional old café that embodies the Germans’ famous love of cake. Try the Lübecker Marzipantorte, a cream cake with a layer of marzipan on top. Very decadent, but in winter you burn more calories, so this doesn’t count.

Wintertime in Europe also means Christmas markets:



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European Union travel restrictions: E.U. recommends new rules for unvaccinated Americans


Airlines for Europe, the largest E.U. airline association, urged policymakers to rethink the decision, arguing that the rampant community spread on both sides of the Atlantic shows that air travel is not fueling new virus cases. The restrictions, the group said in a Monday statement, are “extremely disappointing for Europe’s airlines and our ailing tourism sector.”



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7 Best European Canal Boat Trips


Slow travel is the only way to really appreciate a destination. Because we rush around too much in our daily life, when we finally are “Out of Office,” “Gone Fishing,” or simply away, we should relax. Not only is slowly exploring a region much more sustainable, but it is also good for the soul.

As the old wisdom goes, we need to allow our souls to catch up with our bodies sometimes. In today’s world, our body can travel so much faster than our soul, so that often we have already returned home before our soul has a chance to catch up with us — let alone enjoy the break. Slow and soulful are the buzzwords when it comes to canal or riverboat trips.

Europe is crisscrossed with magical waterways and perfectly set up to hire a boat and travel through a canal, enjoying the sights along the way, hopping off occasionally to explore, or otherwise, sit back with a book and allow the world to slowly move by. Whether you take the helm yourself or opt for a small cruising boat where others play captain, really doesn’t matter, because a canal boat trip is guaranteed to allow you to exhale and breathe deeply.

I have selected a few of my personal favorites in France, the UK, Germany, and Italy. Each one has a special appeal to me, and no two are the same, so I hope you will find one or two that inspire you for your next Europe trip.

Sunset over Tousouse, France
Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey

1. Canal Du Midi, France

The Canal du Midi is not only a scenic canal but also a historic engineering marvel. Commissioned in 1666 by the progressive King Louis XIV, the Sun King of France, an overall 225 miles of waterways connect the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. Strictly speaking, the Canal du Midi is only the part between the Mediterranean and Toulouse but is often used for the entire stretch.

It is probably the most popular canal to self-navigate, despite its 328 structures, comprising bridges, locks, aqueducts, and tunnels, and is superbly set up for visitors either hiring a narrow boat themselves or choosing one with a captain. The difficult thing is to decide whether you are going to sail the entire stretch, which direction to take, and how much time to spend because in addition to Toulouse, there are countless beautiful rural villages and historic sites to explore along the canal.

Pro Tip: The true Canal du Midi is my personal favorite, boating between Toulouse, past cute Bram, imposing Carcassonne, and ending up in the stunning Camargue region, from where you can extend your vacation to Montpellier, Avignon, and Provence.

Canal Saint-Martin in Paris, France
Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfry

2. Canal Saint-Martin, Paris, France

Not all canal trips meander through quiet countryside, some even take place right in the center of a bustling city, in this case, Paris. This four-day, part-on, part off-board trip through the Canal St.-Martin, the Villette Basin, and Canal St.-Denis allows you to see Paris from a whole new perspective. You probably know that there are canals right in the center of Paris, formerly used to transport cargo, and today lined with trendy cafes, restaurants, and houseboats, but the chance of actually traveling along them, through the locks, under the bridges, and even through the tunnel linking the Seine with Bastille, is very rare, indeed. Backwater Cruises offer various cruises in France, but only this one-off special, rare opportunity of cruising through the canals of Paris, in September 2022.

Pro Tip: You will not only sail through Paris, but also have half-day excursions and sightseeing trips around the city, so this is a great opportunity for both, those knowing Paris well already but wanting something a little different, as well as newcomers.

Barge on the Thames in London
Photo Credit: Barge Lady Cruises

3. The River Thames, England

You start your Thames barge vacation with afternoon tea in London, stepping aboard a luxury canal boat complete with a crew of four looking after you, and then sail down the Thames. Stops along the way include visits to the palaces and castles of Hampton Court and Windsor, taking chauffeur-driven cars to historic sites such as Cliveden and Oxford, and ending up at Henley-on-Thames. These are four days spent in luxury, enjoying English history, beautiful waterways, gourmet dining on board, and being pampered all the way.

Pro Tip: The Magna Carta barge has four cabins, making it perfect for a barge vacation with friends, taking over the entire boat rather than sharing it with other parties. That said, the boat’s amenities are superb, the lounge large, and day trips take place in private cars, so it is more like a floating luxury hotel than a cramped narrow boat, even if you don’t know your fellow travelers.

Photo Credit: Nick Smith / The Great West Way

4. Kennet And Avon Canal, England

If you liked the Thames route, and the trip whetted your appetite for navigating along a canal yourself, then why not continue westward along the Kennet and Avon Canal? The canal connects the river Kennet, which in turn joins the Thames, with the River Avon and meanders through the gorgeous southwest English countryside following the rough route of the Great West Way between London and Bristol. Narrow boat hire is so popular here, that you can either go the entire 87 miles or choose your favorite shorter distance route for a day or two, such as between Devizes and Bath Spa.

Pro Tip: You can also walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal, along the towpath, so you could opt to take a boat trip one way and walk back the other. My favorite route is between Bath and Bradford on Avon, which takes around three hours of walking, but longer if you stop at the pubs along the way. Do plan those pubs into your itinerary, be it from the boat or while on foot because they are fabulous, especially the Cross Guns Avoncliff with its beer garden overlooking the weir.

Spree River and the Berliner Dom
Spree River in Berlin (F. Krawen / Shutterstock.com)

5. Canals In And Around Berlin, Germany

The region of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommen stretching between Germany’s capital city Berlin and the Baltic Sea in the north is not only beautiful but also honeycombed with lakes, rivers, and canals. It is simply crying out to be explored by boat. Hiring not a narrow canal boat, but instead, a rather sleek but not too overwhelming motor yacht, you can take your time exploring the lakes, the historic towns such as Potsdam and Furstenberg along the way, mooring alongside lake shores for a coffee, or simply sail in and out of canals and rivers, finding quiet spots to moor and read a book.

Pro Tip: This company also hires out small, license-free boats all across Europe. Have a look at the brochure for further inspiration.

The Northern Italian canal cruise
Photo Credit: Barge Lady Cruises

6. River Po And The Bianco Canal, Italy

Please forgive me for including a canal boat trip that is more like a small cruise, but the route taken is so nice that I wanted to include it. Picture Italy at its finest: starting off in Venice, then being welcomed with Prosecco on board the Bella Vita, the Good Life, and staying overnight on board for a bit more Venice in the morning. Then you’ll be sailing off past small historic fishing villages, taking in the odd wine cellar, looking at Renaissance art in Ferrara, also famous for its marble. You’ll be sailing along the River Po and the scenic Bianco Canal, also known as the Tartaro-Canalbianco-Po di Levante, before being transferred back to Venice after five days. Bella Vita indeed!

Pro Tip: There are some options to get off the boat to delve into the surroundings by bicycle, maybe working off some of the calories provided by the scrumptious Italian gourmet food on board.

Canal de l'Aisne a la Marne in Reims
Canal de l’Aisne a la Marne in Reims (Sergey Novikov / Shutterstock.com)

7. Champagne Region, France

Yes, France again. But really, you can’t go wrong with France, right? Especially not with a luxury canal boat tour through the French Champagne region, quite literally from champagne house to champagne house. Setting off from Châlons-en-Champagne, for six days and five nights, you putter through the Marne Valley, visiting the two main centers of Champagne, and champagne, Reims and Epernay, while in between visiting vineyards, exploring the nicely flat countryside by bicycle if you so wish, and always returning to the luxury boat Hirondelle, the Swallow, for gourmet food, a glass — or two or three — of champagne on the shiny teak deck, while allowing the French countryside to slowly move past you. This is a luxury boat trip, curated by Belmond, with four cabins on board, available for private hire, or per cabin.

Pro Tip: This boat trip includes transfers from and back to Paris, so you could easily combine it with the Paris Canal St.-Martin tour.

River cruises are an excellent way to explore destinations:



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7 Best European Cities To Visit In October (2021)


Europe loves a good festival, and during the summer months festivities usually involve music, be it modern or classical. But come October, many a local fete embraces all things food related. From onions to truffles, wine to saffron, all mixed with a hint of art and culture, Europe in October tempts with a great variety of occasions that add a bit of something special to your long-overdue visit to gorgeous European cities.

Yes, the weather can be temperamental at times in this month, but generally, the temperatures are still good, perfect for sightseeing at any rate, and the odd shower of rain can always be ignored in a nice museum or restaurant.

Here are my favorite places to visit in October 2021, chosen because not only are the destinations worth a visit at any time but also because some previously canceled events are back in full swing, waiting for visitors to come and join in.

The famous traditional October onion market "Zwiebelmarkt" holiday in Germany with tourists stopping to look at boths.
“Zwiebelmarkt” (Shamsiya Saydalieva / Shutterstock.com)

1. Weimar, Germany 

Weimar, a city in central Germany, is not only famous for its political history but was also home to two of Germany’s most revered writers and poets: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. In addition to that, architect Walter Gropius brought to life the Bauhaus School of Design in the city, and composer Johann Sebastian Bach, as well as philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, called Weimar home at some point. It follows that Weimar is generally regarded as the home of Germany’s — and indeed Europe’s — intellectual past and as a cultural center. 

Always worth a visit with its old town center and beautiful architecture, in October, the lovely old Market Square gets taken over by the Zwiebelmarkt, which translates to Onion Market. These festivities embrace a concept of selling fresh produce together with cultural performances and much merriment, all of which date back to 1653 and have been celebrated every second weekend in October since then. 

Library of Duchess Anna Amalia from outside / City of Weimar in East Germany.
marako85 / Shutterstock.com

Pro Tip: As if you needed any more convincing that Weimar is a superbly intellectual city, along comes one of the most beautiful libraries in the world: the Duchess Anna Amalia Library where the modern library is just as stunning as the original Rococo Room dating from 1766, and both of which make any book lover’s heartbeat that much faster. 

Inside the Munch Museum of the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch in Oslo. Hall with art works, pictures on the walls, visitors.
Aleksandra Suzi / Shutterstock.com

2. Oslo, Norway 

A visit to Oslo not only involves Vikings, dragons, and good food, but also The Scream. One of the most famous pictures by Edward Munch, there are in fact, four versions of The Scream, and when in Oslo, posing in front of one of them is a must-do for any visitor. There is one version at the National Gallery (currently closed until June 2022), and, when I went, there were two versions at the Munch Museum. Alas, only one was on display. And that is also the reason behind the opening of the new Munch Museum, fittingly called MUNCH, opening on October 22, 2021. The old museum simply did not have sufficient exhibition space for the 28,000-odd pictures in its collection. This one claims to have, if not all, but many more pictures on display.

Leaves changing color at The Vigeland Park, Oslo, Norway on October 21, 2017.
Jakapong Paoprapat / Shutterstock.com

Pro Tip: Even if it is a little colder than in the summer months, going for a fjord cruise brings its own delights in fall: The trees along the coastline and on the islands burst into amazing orange and red hues. Another good spot for foliage viewing is the Vigeland Sculpture Park.  

Panoramic view to cosy tuscany town Certaldo with cypress and bright blue sky, Italy.
Serega_tm / Shutterstock.com

3. Certaldo, Italy 

The town of Certaldo lies roughly central in the triangle made up of Florence, Pisa, and Siena, in the heart of Tuscany. The picture-perfect medieval walled part of the city, Certaldo Alto, is worth including in any Tuscany Road Trip itinerary. But if you find yourself nearby at the beginning of October (date to be announced), don’t miss Boccaccesca, when the narrow streets of Certaldo fill with stalls celebrating the best of Tuscan cuisine and wine. From fresh produce to street food, to local restaurants selling samples of their specialties outside on the streets, this is a must for food (and wine) lovers. Don’t miss the roasted chestnuts, the chianti, and the special, flat local onions only grown here.

Pro Tip: If you are not on a road trip but based in Florence, Certaldo is only 50 minutes away by train.

Treiso in Autumn, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy.
pixelshop / Shutterstock.com

4. Alba, Italy 

Just 180 miles further northwest in the Piedmont region, closer to the French border, you’ll find Alba, and Alba is famous for its truffles. The annual truffle fair, celebrating Alba’s white truffles is heaven on earth for truffle enthusiasts, and you don’t even have to rush: The festival begins on October 9, 2021, but lasts through to December 5, 2021.  

White Truffles (Tuber Magnatum Pico) on a trader stall of the Fiera del Tartufo (Truffle Fair) of Alba, Piedmont (Italy).
Alessandro Cristiano / Shutterstock.com

While this is mostly a fair for restauranteurs from around the globe here to buy the precious fungus all fair long, but especially on weekends, you’ll find cooking displays, wine tasting events, food stalls, and all sorts of festivities celebrating the region’s white gold.

Pro Tip: If you are tempted to splurge and buy a truffle, be aware that they only last a maximum of two weeks when stored correctly. If you are not heading home immediately, you may want to shop for dried truffles.

Aerial panoramic cityscape view of Paris, France with the Eiffel tower on a fall day.
Ekaterina Pokrovsky / Shutterstock.com

5. Paris, France

When I lived in Paris, the Fête des Vendanges was always one of my favorite events to attend. Over a long weekend, the lanes of Montmartre just below Sacre Coeur fill with stalls selling food and drink to celebrate the grape harvest. From wines to champagne, but also in recent years cocktails and beer, a nice glass is offered at every corner at decent prices, and the drink stalls are interspersed with food trucks selling anything from tapas-like nibbles to charcuterie to cheesy potatoes, omelets, and sandwiches. It gets crowded, but if you go at around 7 p.m. and leave before 10 p.m., it’s busy but fun. This year, it takes place between 6 and 10 October.

Pro Tip: Once your head is clear again, don’t miss the Botticelli exhibition at the lovely Musée Jacquemart-André, continuing until January 24, 2022.

Streets and Medieval Fair (closed) in Alcala de Henares,dawn during the week of Cervantes (10/06/2016)
peizais / Shuttertock.com

6. Alcalá de Henares, Spain 

If you are coming to Spain in October, you can enjoy not just one but two unusual but spectacular traditional festivals. The first, taking place between October 2 and 10, 2021, celebrates the writer Cervantes, famous for writing Don Quixote, in a week-long extravaganza taking place in Alcalá de Henares a few miles northeast of Madrid. This is where Cervantes was born, and people dress up and reenact his famed tome. There is also a medieval fair, and, of course, plenty of food, drink, and music.

Famous windmills in Consuegra at sunset, province of Toledo, Castile-La Mancha, Spain.
canadastock / Shutterstock.com

Once you are done with that fiesta, head to Consuegra, some 80 miles south of Madrid for the annual Rose of Saffron Festival. Taking place October 23 to 25, 2021, there is again lots of dressing up in traditional costumes and festivities, but most importantly, you will get the best paellas and other local dishes flavored with the region’s mainstay — saffron. And to link the two festivals perfectly, on the hill overlooking Consuegra, there is not only a castle but also Spain’s best-preserved windmills, seven of them. These windmills are said to have been Cervantes’ inspiration when writing Don Quixote

Pro Tip: Read Don Quixote in preparation for your trip. This is Cervantes country and while thick, the book is hugely enjoyable and will make traveling through this part of Spain much more meaningful.

View of the historic city of Tomar in central Santarem, Portugal during Fall.
makasana photo / Shutterstock.com

7. Santarem, Portugal 

Less than 50 miles inland from Lisbon along the river Tagus lies the city of Santarem. It is home to the old kingdom’s strongest fort, making the city second only to Lisbon. The old houses are beautifully decorated with the blue Azulejos tiles and there is much history to be explored. But, in line with so many worthwhile reasons mentioned in this October 2021 lineup, there is one more reason to visit Santarem in October: the National Festival of Gastronomy taking place between October 16 and 25. It consists of 10 days of tasting local produce, enjoying cooking shows and displays, markets, and stalls, and, most importantly, eating out in the many participating restaurants which will serve up the best of Portuguese cuisine, paired with some fine local wines. This festival has been celebrated every year for 40 years, except in 2020, so this year there will be even more reasons to enjoy it.

Couple of unknown pilgrims walk on  a wooden path down the Camino de Santiago trail.
Shcherbyna Nataliia / Shutterstock.com

Pro Tip: October is a good time to embark on the Camino Portugués, the Portuguese pilgrimage path to Camino de Santiago, with the path starting off in Lisbon and Santarem being the first stop on the itinerary. 

Final Tip

Not only were all the above-mentioned dates and events correct at the time of writing, but all the listed countries were also open to U.S. travelers. But during the still ongoing pandemic, things change at a moment’s notice. Please check the events and the travel guidelines before you book, as regulations might well have changed again since this was written.



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