The last time I was in the Czech Republic was about 18 years ago. I travelled by train, backpacking through Europe with my sister. We stayed at campgrounds, slept in a tent, and cooked our meals over a camp stove. We wandered endlessly around Prague and fell in love with the city; it made our “Top 10” list of favourite European cities and left me with a longing to return.
I was fortunate enough to have that wish fulfilled. In June I travelled with a group of my colleagues to Prague and throughout the Czech Republic. This time I traveled by motor coach, slept in hotels and had my meals cooked for me and, I fell in love all over again!
I travelled with Transat Holidays on a shortened version of their Unesco Treasures tour. The flight was on Air Transat’s new seasonal service from Toronto to Prague. A direct flight with a stop in Montreal on departure and return, making for a bit of a longer journey but still, it’s always a bonus not to have to change planes.
Prague certainly did not disappoint me the 2nd time around. It remains one of the great cities, steeped in history, and yet alive and bursting with energy. There’s St. Charles Bridge, spanning the Vltava and lined with a procession of saints; silent witnesses to your crossing. The famous Astronomical clock at the Old Town Hall still marks the passage of time, and has since the fifteenth century. Prague is a city for walking and strolling and meandering; and at every turn there is something new, from Gothic cathedrals to baroque palaces, Prague Castle, and a myriad of churches, towers & chapels…. all a feast for the eyes. Finally, at the end of the day your weary feet can take you to the Old Town Square, a great place to sit and watch the world go by and sample some of the world famous local Czech beer!
There is of course much more to the Czech Republic than just Prague, and the Unesco Treasures tour gives you a wonderful look at the rest of the country. Departing the city we travelled throughout visiting several of the World Heritage sites.
Cesky Krumlov- an extremely picturesque and neatly preserved medieval town cradled in a deep valley in southern Bohemia. The town is dominated by Krumlov Castle and filled with tiny shops, outdoor cafes, cobblestone streets and a sleepy market square. A serene and peaceful place to spend the day.
Telc- the perfect example of Renaissance beauty. The town was devastated by fire in 1530 but completely rebuilt by master Italian craftsmen and now features a square lined with pastel coloured houses, built architecturally uniform. A photographer’s delight.
Trebic- known for St. Procopius Basilica; but also for its Jewish quarter. The Jewish community here was completely exterminated at the end of WWII; but over 100 buildings have been preserved. There still lingers the atmosphere of the ghetto, echoes of the past.
The Lednice-Valtice complex- known as the “The Garden of Europe”. A vast park comprised of rare trees, lakes, and a profusion of flowers. The Lichtenstein dynasty created a summer playground here for the nobility; complete with temples, castles and a 60 metre minaret from which you can view the entire landscape.
Kutna Hora- one of the largest producers of silver from the 13th to 18ht centuries, is famous for its cathedral dedicated to the patron saint of miners, St Barbara, and for the Italian Court which housed the royal mint.
Sedlec- the oldest Gothic cathedral in central Europe, the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary can be found here, as part of the Cistercian monastery. Even more fascinating is the ossuary created in the chapel from the monastery’s extensive cemetery. The ossuary is the final resting place for the bones of over forty thousand people; transformed into pyramids, a chandelier, and a coat of arms. The souls of the dead linger in the shadows.
The Czech Republic has much history to offer, but also much beauty. Traversing the countryside you are treated to tracts of wheat fields as far as the eye can see; lakes and streams, fields blooming with white poppies and sunflowers. Moravia is home to vineyards, famous for producing white wines. Southern Bohemia is populated by dense forest, wooded hills, and tiny villages. The beauty of the landscape gives you a feeling of peaceful serenity.
The Unesco Treasures tour was a wonderful chance to re-visit the Czech Republic and see it again for the 1st time. I recommend anyone who is considering future travels to Eastern Europe to include this amazing destination in their itinerary. You will not be disappointed!
Please contact me at 519.245.2201 CWT Blowes Travel Strathroy for assistance in planning your European Adventure.
- Monica Purdon
While you might put travel agent right up there with VCR repair man and video store clerk on the list of jobs that have gone the way of the Yellow Pages, there's a reason you still see them wedged into strip malls between your dry cleaner and the new VaporZone. Turns out that -- even in a world where everybody coordinates their own vacation plans -- travel agents account for about one-third of the travel industry's revenue. Seriously, in 2014. Who knew.
Not only can they do things the internet can't, but they also still collect a lot of their fees from vendors, which means... best part, they don't even charge you! Which is why we've compiled these 10 reasons you might want to go old-school and let a travel agent plan your next trip.
1. They know whether you're actually getting a good deal.
Since 90 percent of the airline tickets you buy are for a domestic flight to see your parents, your knowledge of the relative value of a flight to London is, how shall we say, limited. A travel agent, however, books, like, 74 of those a day and will know immediately if the $600 whatever website told you is a "smoldering price" is actually reasonable.
2. Travel agents know where to go in a city, or know someone who does.
If you don't happen to be headed to one of Thrillist's 30 cities, it helps to have a reputable resource available who knows the best restaurants, dive bars, or cockfighting arenas without having to sift through a thousand ridiculous reviews about how the waitress didn't bring the table enough bread. Since they book trips all the time, TA's know this stuff like the back of their hands. And if they don't, they're one call away from getting you an answer.
3. They've got your back when it comes to flight delays/cancellations.
Try calling a website when your flight gets cancelled and the line to rebook stretches through the terminal. Even if you get through to the airline directly, they still don't have a clue who you are. Call your travel agent, though, and they'll get you squared away on another flight while you get squared away at the airport bar.
4. They can actually get you seats together, on the same flight, for the same price.
Rather than spend a week on a group text trying to coordinate your big Splashin' Safari Water Park Summer vacay, only to book your flights separately online and find you're all sitting next to different people who clip their toenails (and paid different fares), a travel agent can get your entire group the same ticket price, with seats together, on the same flight.
5. They can get you VIP status without being a VIP.
Restaurant supposedly booked for months? Yeah, that's no issue for a travel agent. Need a table at the hottest club in Sioux Falls? They've got more promoters on speed dial than a South Beach swimsuit model. Thanks to the relationships they maintain across the tourism industry, they can also score you tix to special tours, private tastings, and other events the Internet doesn't even know about. Or, if it does, has hidden so deep it'll take you hours to find out about them.
6. And speaking of hours on the Internet, TAs do all the research for you.
Websites don't seem to understand that when you say "search nearby airports," it doesn't mean "I'm totally fine with being the guy who asks my roommate for a ride to an airport 75 miles away so I can save $45". Travel Agents know your airport preferences, and won't tease you with cheap flights that involve leaving and returning to airports that're in different states. Unless you want them to.
7. They get better prices, first
That $49 one-way flight your email update indicated was a "fresh new deal" was actually available to your travel agent last week, because they have better relationships with airlines and wholesalers. Which also means their prices are... ready for this... usually better than online. Especially for complicated or premium fares.
8. They do more than book flights.
That African safari looks like a great time, but you do realize it requires a lot more legwork than just pressing "Buy Now" on the roundtrip ticket to Kinshasa, right? In addition to visas, you'll likely require a series of semi-crippling inoculations before you go, too. Unsure where to go for either visas or shots? Well, lo and behold, guess who can set both of those up for you?
9. They have Southwest's prices too.
Fun as it is planning your flight, calculating baggage, seat selection, and water fees, then repeating the whole process on Southwest.com to seeing if it's cheaper, a travel agent can do the comparison shopping for you. And he or she can do it with any other airline that doesn't play the online search engine game.
10. No-hassle 24-hour changes
"Non-refundable" on your online reservation -- be it a flight, hotel reservation, Duck Tour, whatever -- usually means you have 24 hours to make changes without penalty. Most people don't realize this. Yes, even a "non-refundable" airline ticket can be changed. The only catch, you have to actually call and deal directly with the airline. Or, instead of spending hours on hold listening to "all agents are currently busy", you can let your travel agent happily fix the ticket. Your call.
So call one of our award-winning agents today
- like Agnes in Stratford - to plan your next trip!
Because Blowes knows!
Florida is not just a great travel destination for Americans but it is a favorite among tourists from all around the globe. Luxury accommodations are a dime a dozen in the Sunshine State but those that are often considered the best of the best are those that sit on the beaches along its miles of coastline.
Taking a vacation in Florida is a wonderful experience no matter what city you visit and no matter what hotel you stay in. But for those who enjoy the finer things in life, there really is nothing quite like taking up temporary residence in a beautiful beach front resort during your time in Florida.
Fine hotels and resorts aren't just for Miami Beach. The entire state of Florida has some of the most luxurious beach front accommodations that money can buy. And if you have money - enough to plunk down for a room or suite at one of these posh establishments - then you can be sure you are experiencing some of the best that life has to offer.
We start our tour at the Ritz-Carlton Naples. Located near Old Naples and overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, this amazing paradise on earth features marble-floor bathrooms, private balconies for each guest room, a sushi bar, and a full-service spa.
Key West is the quintessential Florida vacation spot and there is arguably no better place to stay while you are there than the Ocean Key Resort and Spa. Each of the resort's 100 rooms features a mini-bar and island-style decor while the resort itself features an ocean-side bar, a rooftop deck, and amazing ocean views.
Just outside the city of Clearwater on Florida's Gulf Coast is the Sandpearl Resort. Each guest rooms are fitted with large flat screen TVs and spacious balconies. The resort has an upscale restaurant, a pool-side grill, and even a children's club for family vacationers.
Any Florida vacation is bound to be filled with lots of fun, excitement, rest, and relaxation. But if you want to take your vacation in the Sunshine State to the next level, you might want to consider booking a room at one of these amazing beach front resorts.
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