French wine labels can be confusing. This is mainly because of the lack of varietal (type of grape) labelling. Most of us are used to seeing the name of the wine farm and the grape varietal on the label rather than only the region of origin (known as ‘terroir’ in French).
Why would they put the region on the bottle and not the grape varietal? Because the place of origin is what gives the wine its true character. Wines are different because of the are in which the grapes are grown. So most French people know which varietals grow in which areas.
Another thing to note is that French wines are very often blends rather than varietals. For this reason, the ‘terroir’ labelling system also works pretty well.
For example, red Bordeaux wines are generally blends of Merlot and Cabernet. Plenty of red blends also come from Southern France, primarily from the Languedoc region, where blends of grapes like Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan are popular.
Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhône wines are the three primary French red wine regions of interest that we’ll explore in this post.
To help you further decipher, here are a couple of hints from Food & Wine on which area mainly produces which varietal so you’ll find choosing your favourite wine a bit easier.
White Wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Muscadelle
Red Wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec
White Wines: Chardonnay
Red Wines: Pinot Noir, Gamay (in Beaujolais)
White Wines: Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier
Red Wines: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre
So, as you start familiarising yourself with the wine-producing regions, the first thing to note when deciding on a bottle of French wine is the terroir where the wine was made – this is the best way to determine which grapes are in the bottle.
And there you have it. We hope the next time you travel to France, choosing a good French wine will be a cinch!
Ever heard of the ‘Flamenco’? And no, it’s not a bird.
Referred to as Spanish art, the Flamenco originated in the southern regions of Spain and is made up of three parts: guitar playing (“guitarra”), song (“cante”), and dance (“baile”). Even though it originated in the southern regions of Spain, some believe it has influences from Latin America, Cuba, and Jewish traditions.
Traditional Flamenco dancers rarely received any formal training as it’s more a case of it being passed down from friends, relatives, and those in the community.
What does it entail? The Flamenco can be quite dramatic, seeing as dancers try to express their deepest emotions by using body movements and facial expressions. They often clap their hands or kick their feet and many also use ‘castanets’ to add to the performance.
When you travel to Spain, the Flamenco is something you’re bound to come across.
Bullfights happen throughout Spain. The fiestas of San Fermin are celebrated in Irunea/Pamplona, a small city in Spain’s northern region of Navarra. These fiestas take place during summer from 6-14 July and have become internationally known because of the running of the bulls.
Even though it’s synonymous with parties drinking, dancing and singing in the streets, the annual running of the bulls through the city is actually part of a religious festival to honour St. Fermin, the patron saint of the city.
You may have seen them in the shape of ponies, flowers, or even unicorns, and while the history of the piñata has a religious and spiritual significance, today piñatas are associated with celebrations in Spain.
The traditional piñata is usually in the shape of a six-point star and the first piñatas in Spain were made completely of clay – decorations and bright colours were only added later on.
15 is an important age for girls in Spain. When a girl reaches the age of 15, it signifies her ‘coming of age’, so to speak. This is when she passes from ‘girlhood’ to ‘womanhood’ and for Spanish families, this is a cause for big celebrations.
The birthday girl usually struts a formal dress and receives real princess-like gifts such as tiaras, bracelets and earrings from family members.
Quinceañera includes all things festive such as a religious service, followed by a dedication mass whereafter there’s sure to be music, and dance, and lots of food!
Amsterdam is a city built for bicycles almost more than it is built for cars. It is a well-known fact that the city is ruled by cyclists of every shape and form. In fact, 60% of traffic is attributed to cyclists. Some walk their dogs by bike, others transport kids or furniture, and still, others simply make their way to work by bike whilst eating an apple and texting at the same time!
There are roughly 850,000 people living within the city limits of Amsterdam, and it is estimated that there are more than 850,000 bicycles in the city.
There are 165 canals in Amsterdam – which means there’s clearly a lot of opportunities to fall into the water… Did you know that between 12,000-15,000 bicycles end up in the canals every year?
Well, with more 165 canals, one would expect a lot of bridges. Amsterdam is said to have 1281 bridges – almost three times as many as Venice.
Even though it’s a city, parks and public spaces abound in Amsterdam. There are more than 30 parks in the city to pick and choose from, including the Vondelpark, which is said to attract some nine million people each year.
Low-income residents are allowed to take their pet to the vet for free once a year.
We know what you might be thinking… really? Sardines?
Few things beat good an ol’ grilled fish – let alone the Portuguese’s grilled sardines. A perfect, affordable snack and a staple of the country, sardines can also quickly be turned into a full-on meal (think sardines on a fresh Portuguese roll…).
Keeping to the fresh seafood, bacalhau is another must-try when discovering Portugal. Also known as salted, dried codfish, this dish is extremely popular throughout the country. Did you know there are apparently more than 1000 recipes for it?! Bacalhau is usually prepared on the grill (although some do boil or bake it). When a local offers you bacalhau, or when you see it on a menu, don’t think twice – go for it!
Even though this name might sound like everything else but food – don’t let the name fool you. Just imagine: thinly-sliced pork cutlet, marinated in a white wine and garlic mixture, slapped on a fresh, oh-so-soft Portuguese roll. Makes your mouth drool, doesn’t it?
A restaurant that serves grilled chicken in a home-made peri-peri sauce is as common in Portugal as a pizzeria is in Italy. Usually served with rice or fries, it’s a classic Portuguese dish and it’s an absolute must-try.
Made with puff pastry and filled with the most decadent custard in the middle, these tiny custard tarts are more than just tarts. They are actually heaven in your mouth. They are readily available throughout the country, but some of the best ones are found in Lisbon and Alcobaça.
Perhaps one of the coolest Italian traditions is aperitivo – or “pre-dinner drinks and snacks”. For students and budget travellers, it is often a sneaky way to eat on the cheap. For locals, however, it’s truly a way to get ready for or to “open the appetite” for dinner – which is usually only around 9-10pm.
Even though Italy is famous for having particular regional specialities, aperitivo is something you’ll find in almost every single town. The only difference might be the price – Milan, Rome, Venice, and Florence being the most expensive cities. If you travel to Italy without experiencing aperitivo, you’ve certainly missed out on one of the best cultural experiences.
Most bars and restaurants in Italy offer aperitivo between 6-9pm. Usually, you’d pay a set price for a drink and then you’ll either have the green light to help yourself at the buffet snack table, or you’ll be served some snacks with your drink at your table. Most places will put a markup on the drink in order to compensate for the snacks that are included.
The food selection varies from place to place but you could find anything on a buffet table ranging from fresh salads and cheeses to cold meats, bruschetta, a variety of bread, pasta, and pizzas. On a spread served with your drink at your table, you can expect anything from a selection of cheeses, cold cuts, nuts, olives and so forth, or simply some potato crisps and peanuts.
Having evolved from merely pre-dinner drinks and snacks (think chips and peanuts), it seems as though most bars have become so proud of their delectable aperitivo spreads that you have to have a lot of self-control as not to spoil your dinner appetite.
Typical aperitivo drinks include Aperol spritz, Campari spritz, Prosecco, vermut, Negroni, Americano.
In Milan you can expect to pay between €5 and €15, once again depending on the type of bar and snacks on offer. In smaller towns in the Veneto region, for example, you’d pay a mere €2-5 at some places.
Aperitivo is great for many reasons – apart from the obvious ones mentioned above. It’s an easy way to relax and socialise with friends, or to make friends if you’re a solo traveller. It’s also a great way to get to know a town by going ‘aperitivo hopping’ from place to place.
Cinque Terre is, quite simply, that place on the Italian Riviera where people take those magnificent pictures (usually at sunset) of colourful village houses tucked away between the cliffs which makes you want to quit your job and hop on the next plane out.
Actually, many people think Cinque Terre (five towns) is one place when, in fact, it’s five different small fishing villages or ‘hamlets’, if you will.
Even though Cinque Terre is a popular tourist attraction, there’s just something different about it.
Perhaps it’s because there are no queues of 100+ people waiting to enter a church tower. Perhaps it’s the crystal-clear ocean water that screams “come jump in!” around every corner as you wind through the cobblestoned streets. Or, perhaps, it’s the nostalgic feeling of an era gone by but still somewhat preserved in these authentic, old towns.
The villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore make up the Cinque Terre.
Monterosso is the biggest of them all and boasts many sandy beaches, rows and rows of beach chairs and beach umbrellas. In comparison to the other four, Monterosso is a chilled spot with way fewer stairs to climb and pebbles to hurt your feet.
Vernazza is special for many reasons. This is where you want to sit at a sea-facing bar in Piazza Marconi with an ice cold glass of wine or spritz and relax as you people-watch and soak in the beauty around you. Remember, this is Italy! When you travel Italy, you have to learn to slow down and relax. Thanks to the horrible floods a couple of years back there is now a small rocky beach. However, many people simply enjoy jumping in the water from the pier.
Corniglia is the smallest of all the Cinque Terre, and that’s probably why it’s so magical. Many people, on their arrival, give the 360+ stairs up to the town from the railway one look, sit down, and wait for the next train to pick them up. But don’t lose heart! There is also a shuttle that operates throughout the day. Even though Corniglia takes some effort (after you’ve climbed the stairs to get to the town, you have to climb down the other side to get to the best swimming spot), the reward is great on the other side. Absolute paradise. There are also beautiful, quaint shops and restaurants in the village.
Manarola is famous for its sweet Sciacchetrà wine which is made from the surrounding vineyards’ grapes. We know, romance in a bottle. This village also boasts a great swimming spot in the small harbour. Sunbathe on the rocks and, if you’re feeling brave, jump in from the high rocks as the water is nice and deep.
This fishing village has a pebble beach as well as a great swimming spot in the small marina that is both lovely for swimming. After a refreshing swim, stroll through the streets with its peeling buildings or stop for a delicious pizza as you enjoy watching how people do life here: men playing cards and women hanging washing and chatting in the streets.
One of the essential things to remember on your visit to Cinque Terre is comfortable shoes so you can enjoy the dreamy ancient footpaths that connect the villages. For those not so keen on walking, don’t stress! There is also a train that runs frequently between the villages as well as boat rides.
The capital of the Veneto region of northern Italy, Venice comprises of over a 100 small islands in the Venetian Lagoon. Knitted together by canals, bridges and walkways, Venice has no roads and when you get there you wouldn’t want to drive anyway. The walkways and waterbuses as well as vaporetto are the means of transport and are perfect ways to get a true experience of Venice.
Here are few things to do in Venice, some of which are included in the Best Europe Tour.
At the entrance of the Grand Canal, you’ll find the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. Outstanding to say the least, it is known for its architecture and dome shape, the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute dates back to the 17th-century
The 17th-century-domed church guards the entrance of the Grand Canal. About 40 kilometres of canals tie over a 100 islands together that stream and join at the Grand Canal. What you’ll find really beautiful and fun is to stroll through the vast web of alleys and side walkaways that connect the islands.
While the walking around and taking in the scenery is enough to take over your entire trip, you cannot visit the Grand Canal without going on a cruise along the streams on a boat called a vaporetto. Other than being the quickest way around the gondola, these boats work like buses in the city whilst offering magnificent views of surrounding buildings.
Arguably the heart of Venice, the Rialto Bridge was built in the 16th century. Since then, the Rialto Bridge was the only way to cross the Grand Canal before the Accademia Bridge, which was built in the 1854.
It is said that approximately 12 000 wooden pilings has supported the bridge for more than 400 years. The structure is built with three walkway diversions, two of which located on the outer balustrades. The central walkway stretches between two rows of shops, which is a perfect opportunity for tourists to find souvenirs.
Situated north of Venice in the Venetian Lagoon, the Murano are a group of islands linked by bridges. Murano is well known for glass making, where glass artisans perform at craft shows and festivals. These amazing artisans blow glass baubles, beautiful works of contemporary art.
Lido better known as the Lido di Venezia is popular for hosting tourists as a summer resort. It’s location separates the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. This is a great spot to catch some sun and get away from the urban vibe that is often crowded depending on the time of year.
Amsterdam has many popular attractions to explore. Some of which are significant to history and others worth exploring if you want to dig into the Dutch culture.
With extensive meadows in the background, you are able to see the windmills turning slowly in the distance. A magnificent spectacle, the windmills of Zaanse Schans create a serene scene. The windmills belong to a neighbourhood of Zaandam, Amsterdam. These are the windmills you can see at Zaanse Scahns:
These well-preserved and historic windmills were established in the early 1960’s. The Zaanse Schans is one of the most popular tourist attractions. Zaanse Schans forms part of the European Route of Industrial Heritage. Other than the extraordinary windmills, you can visit the Zaans Museum that is located next to the Zaanse Schans. Visiting the Zaanse Schans is part of C The World’s European Tour
There are many things to do at this little village. First, a stroll along the main harbour strip will lead you to little stalls and a residential area. You’ll find trawlers and fishing boats, which is the lifeblood for many living in surrounding areas. Being that it is a fishing village, be sure to sample from the fresh seafood at the harbour. Some popular attractions in Volendam include:
The Red Light District is located in the city of Amsterdam. Lined with medieval alleyways, the Red Light District is locally known as De Wallen. The area is southeast of the Central Station and is in close proximity to the neon-lit canals of Oudezijds Voorburgwal that run from the Grimburgwal to the Sea Wall. Merging into the Oudezijds Kolk.
At the Heineken Brewery you can expect an informative and interactive experience. With several different brewery tours, either way it’s a guarantee that you’ll have a brilliant time. This is a must to visit when touring Amsterdam, as the Heineken Brewery isn’t your usual brewery museum.
Part of the experience is a walk through on how beer is created. What’s more, after the tour and activities, be sure to make your way to the rooftop to enjoy your Heineken drinks overseeing mesmerising views of the beautiful city.
A self-guide tour, at the Anne Frank’s House will take you back to the devastating past when Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis. The rooms in which the family hid is perfectly preserved and displays the harsh reality of life for Jews during the Holocaust. Just being able to walk in the very rooms where the family lived is moving and offers great insight into the strength and plight of those who were oppressed. Otto Frank did a great job at documenting what the family and those who perished endured. The main feature of course is the diary of Anne Frank, well known for its raw truths. Every single page of her diary is in a glass display for visitors to view.
Ensure that you order your tickets online as you can expect quite a long queue, as queuing visitors only enter after 3 p.m.
Visit this restaurant for what could be the best pizza you’ve tasted, well at least in Amsterdam.
Where: Bosboom Toussainstraat 29
A culinary journey through some classic French dishes in a relaxed setting.
Where: Lijnbaansgracht 190
For fast yet amazingly good food, head over to Café George, which is well known for serving delicious steak fries and risotto.
Where: Leidsegracht 84
Buffet van Odette
As beautiful and lively as the Leidse Pleins is, the Buffer van Odette gives you a break from the hustle and bustle.
Where: Prinsengracht 598
Munich is known for an abundant supply of local beer. After the Oktoberfest, the Hofbräuhaus München claims the title of the most iconic tourist attraction in Munich. While this beer hall is a popular tourist attraction, management reports that half of its visitors are in fact regular customers. Some of these beer lovers are even luckier to store their personal mugs in the padlocked cages on the first floor of the beer house.
After a commission established that Munich have its own brewery in the late 1500s, the Hofbräuhaus München was soon founded. This brewery has been moved on several occasions over of the years and under the power of different dukes. However, by 1897, the beer hall we know today opened its doors to tourist and locals alike.
The Hofbräuhaus München is renowned by the city of Munich and is operated by Michael and Wolfgang Sperger, whose parents were the previous landlords of the Hofbräuhaus München.
This iconic beer house can host up to 3500 beer drinkers and diners simultaneously. On busy days, it comes as no surprise that the Hofbräuhaus München sees up to 30 000 guests.
Depending on the atmosphere you’re looking for, there is a spot that is sure to suit your every mood. Of course, the Hofbräuhaus München is more than its long history and great beer, if you’re looking to grab a bite or have a casual meal make your way to the main floor. In addition, on the main floor a cool gift shop has awesome souvenirs such as traditional stoneware beer mugs as well as Hofbräuhaus t-shirts and trinkets on sale.
On the second floor, a more refined ambience, most appealing to those travelling from western countries such as the USA.
If you’re looking to join in on festivities the Bavarian way, be sure to go to the top floor, the Festive Hall is where the Bavarian Evening is hosted. Here, a buffet is on offer, including a folklore show. Considering it is Europe after all, the price sure is reasonable bearing in mind how delicious the food is. You’ll get the likes of crisp-skinned roast pork, sausages, grilled chicken, and a Munich traditional dish – apple strudel, all included in the buffet. What’s more, when dining during warmer evenings there is outdoor seating under the tree-shaded beer garden which is able to seat at least 400 people.
One of the most popular beers to be bought at the beer hall is the Hofbrau Original lager or Helles. For a more traditional taste, be sure to try the Dunkles, however, it is slightly stronger than the regular varieties. If you’re enthusiastic about trying new types of beer, be sure to taste the strongest beer, the Oktoberfestbier and Maibock, which has holds approximately 7.2 percent alcohol. If you’re travelling alone, the taproom and beer garden may feel too much as it can get a little crowded. Considering that it is compulsory to share tables, introverts might find this an unpleasant experience. So if this is not for you avoid it and visit the beer hall outside the normal meal hours or after 10pm instead. However, I do feel like this is an awesome way to meet new people particularly if you’re travelling solo.
The Hofbräuhaus München is located a walking distance away from the Marienplatz, central square in the city centre of Munich.
What’s great about this iconic attraction is that it is open daily, which includes major holidays such as Christmas Day. Operating hours are from 9 a.m. to 11.30 p.m.
C The World’s Europe tour includes a visit to the Hofbräuhaus München where you get to spend the evening at this traditional German Beer Keller.
So you’ve decided to venture on a solo journey, as you haven’t found a suitable travel buddy. It’s a scary feeling. Many fear loneliness. Stress no more, here’s a brief guideline to traversing beautiful destinations without a friend to tag along.
Safety can be a huge concern when travelling alone. And while the saying goes “safety in numbers”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’d be at risk. There are many ways you can avoid being singled out. No need to fret as being alone means that you can easily fit into a group without drawing attention to yourself.
One of the biggest fears is the feeling of loneliness. This is probably one of the main reasons why people put off travelling. But when wandering through magnificent destinations such as Europe, you’ll find natural meeting spots, especially during peak season. Here you can meet and interact with people from all around the world.
Eating out is another way to interact with locals. It’s about tasting different foods and exploring a new destination. And so, it’s a great excuse to get out and experience the culture. Even when you’re dining alone, hopping around from restaurant to the next will prove fun.
Keep busy by making it your mission to photograph as much of your trip as possible. By photographing as you tour, you’ll be capturing precious memories. When you return home, you’ll have plenty photos to show family and friends.
Imagine, you watch the luggage carousel rotate and suddenly you realise you can’t locate your luggage. No one wants to spend a few days without clothes, particularly in a foreign country. Here are a few tips to prevent your luggage from going M.I.A.
Smart travellers buy bags that don’t look like the rest. Avoid buying bags that are in plain colours such as black as you won’t be able to easily spot it at the carousel. Instead, go for a colour or even a print that stands out from the rest.
If you already have luggage, simply tie a ribbon on the handle or get colourful handles to easily distinguish your luggage from the others.
Yes, it’s totally human to forget to remove old tags from luggage. Make a mental note to remove old tags from your bags before adding your new tags. It’s possible that your old tags might be confused for your current location. What’s more, always check that the airport code on the new tag is correct.
Checking in your luggage within the right timeframe is essential. If it’s too early there’s a possibility that it would get stashed and forgotten about. If it’s too late, your luggage might not make it onto the plane. Airlines aren’t responsible for getting your luggage on the plane if it misses the flight because it was not checked in the right time frame then that onus falls on you.
As your last line of defence and your luggage actually gets lost, take photos of the inside and outside of your bag. Even after you’ve taken the necessary precautions, there’s a possibility that your luggage could get lost. With the pictures, you can use as a reference when contacting the airline to assist with locating your luggage.
While the Glastonbury Festival usually takes the limelight for festivals in Europe, there are many unusual festivals that few know about. Here’s a list of weird but awesome festivals to join on your next trip to Europe.
A simple village tradition of lighting candles every year has expanded to what we know today as the Notte Delle Luci festival in Italy. This festival has grown into a five-day experience where mind-blowing lights can be seen across the entire city. The festival commences annually on the 5th July. A devotion to saint Santa Domenica who is famous for saving the people from a plague in 1600.
While the festival has come a long way from just lighting candles, the craftsmanship and traditions are as strong as it has ever been.
The luminaire structures are a highlight of the even and it is sure to your breath away. These structures are built with wood and carpets with LED lights. The awe-inspiring beauty of this celebration must be experienced. Immersing yourself in the festivity is the only way to understand and fully appreciate the significance of this celebration.
Better known as Vlaggetjesdag, the festivities that take place at the Flag Day festival is spectacular. One of the biggest festivals in The Hague, the lively music and a variety of flags waving in the wind brings together people from all across the country. On this day, local youth proudly don the unique traditional attire of the Netherlands.
A big part of the festival is celebrating the catch of the new herring of the year, which is better known as the “New Dutch”. The catch is the auctioned between May and June, with the proceeds donated to charity.
North of Scotland, budget travellers and those looking for new and unusual experience should attend the Up-Helly-Aa Viking Festival
Every year on the last Tuesday of January, the Up-Helly-Aa festival takes place. The reason for this fantastic festival is the celebration of Shetland’s history as well as to celebrate the triumphant demonstration of the skills and spirit of the islanders. Expect about fifty helmeted Vikings and a burning Norse galley.
Some of the highlights that you can look forward to are:
On the 21st December, the strange yet exciting Burning the Clocks festival takes place. This unique community event is well known for bringing the entire city together.
At the festival locals create their own paper and willow lanterns, using kits and then finally parading through the city. The lanterns get thrown into the burning bonfire as a token celebrating the end of a year.
At the end of the night, the celebration continues at Patterns, Marine Parade where you should expect the party of the year. Expect live bands to keep you going through the night as you party with locals and tourists alike.
Originated in the 16th century, the Calico Storico festival takes place in Florence annually. The festivities consist of soccer, rugby and wrestling. For each game, there are four teams dedicated to the historical neighbourhoods of the city. The four teams include:
The game is setup at the Piazza Santa Croce where the square is covered in dirt as a way of preserving the original setting during the 16th century. Benches and stands are setup for spectators to enjoy the game as well.
The festival happens every year early June, with the final match hosted on the 24th June.
However, it doesn’t end there. At the end of the day, celebrations end off along the banks of Arno where marvellous fireworks are launched from the Piazzale Michelangelo.
While the cost of tickets varies from year to year, the tickets generally go from 22 to 53 euro. Tickets for the festival can be booked online from as early as May.