The Christmas Season Begins!

The Christmas season begins in Aachen, Germany, with Weihnachtsmarkt – the annual Christmas Market.The Christmas Season Begins

Visiting this ancient town during Weihnactsmarkt is the perfect way to get into the Christmas Spirit!

This year, a quiet walk through town before crowds arrive for the market provides a peaceful visit to some parts of town previously unseen or possibly overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the the shops. The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

 

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

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The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

One of my favorite ancient towns in a lovely part of Europe, Aachen is the westernmost city of Germany, located along its borders with Belgium and the Netherlands. It was a favoured residence of Charlemagne, is associated with first emperors of the Holy Roman Empire (of the German Nation)and was later the place of coronation of the German kings.

Aachen’s charming historic old town provides the perfect backdrop to the German Christmas market (Weihnachtsmarkt) which is concentrated on the large public squares around the cathedral (Dom) and Rathaus in the old town area.

The Christmas Season Begins

Special thanks to my friend, Agnes, who takes me back to this special place and helps begin the Christmas season with her photos and visits to this delightful market.

Other photo credits: http://aachenweihnachtsmarkt.de

 

 

 

 

Castle in the Trees

Tree Top Tree House Castle

Castle in the Trees

Castle in the Trees

Always a symbol of creativity and imagination, Tree Houses are traditionally a few planks of wood secured in the branches of a tree. Now, they are being elevated to new heights of luxurious accommodations and designed as Castles.

Castle in the Trees

These delightful Tree House Castles, are complete with turrets and towers, suspension bridges, secret trap doors  and climbing walls.

Castle in the Trees

Castle in the Trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castle in the Trees

 

 

A Castle in the Trees offer a place where you can enjoy the freedom of space and proximity to nature without sacrificing the comforts of home –a luxurious home!

 

Castle in the Trees

Castle in the Trees

BlueForest Tree House and Design is leading the way creating fantasy play areas, romantic hideaways, exclusive accommodations for hotels, and inspiring eco-classrooms. You can have one built or find one for a vacation stay! Contact BlueForest

Sleep under the Northern Lights!

More beauty from the North – Aurora Borealis – the Northern Lights

Sleep Under the Northern LightsYou can view the Northern Lights from the comfort of a bed in a rented Glass Igloo at Kakslauttanen, Finland.

The Northern Lights are one of the most magnificent natural phenomena and are visible in the night sky between late August and late April.Sleep Under the Northern Lights

An Arctic Resort in the wilderness of Lapland Finland, Kakslauttanen is a family hotel offers unique accommodations such as the Glass Igloos, as well as Snow Igloos, Log Cabins, Gold Diggers Cabin, a Traditional House and even Santa’s Home!

Sleep Under the Northern Lights

In addition to viewing the Northern Lights at Kakslauttanen, a variety of other experiences include winter and summer activities such as reindeer safaris, husky safaris, ice fishing, gold panning, mountain biking and skiing and snow boarding.

Located about 250 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, Kakslauttanen is easy to reach. It is only a 30 minute bus ride from the nearest airport at Ivalo, Finland  and not far from northern Norway or Murmansk, Russia.

 

 

Images from Kakslauttanen

 

Happy New Year from Russia

Russians welcome the New Year by saying

“S Novim Godom!”

Happy New Year from Russia

Happy New Year from Russia

 Most Russians consider the New Year as their main holiday of the year 

and celebrate it in a BIG way!

My friend, Lyudmila K., from Moscow, enjoys observing her country’s traditional New Years celebration of late dinners, family fun, and gift giving, with other family members and friends from Russia even after being here in the United States about 15 years.

Family and friends gather for late night dinners, sparkling wine, and fireworks at midnight. Games are played, gifts are exchanged, and toasts are made. Festivities also include decorated fir trees, and visits and gifts from Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost -the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus) who is sometimes accompanied by his granddaughter, Snegurochka (The Snow Girl or Snow Maiden).

Preparations begin early in the day on December 31 for their late night feasts of traditional foods such as Russian salads, herring ,cheese and breads, pickles and marinades. Happy New Year from Russia

Russian salads are significantly different from their European counterparts – many of them are made from the boiled vegetables and mayonnaise. The favorite salad of Russians and the main dish on New Year’s table is, of course, Olivier. This salad is made with boiled beef or chicken, with boiled potatoes, carrots, onions, pickles, boiled egg, green peas and mayonnaise. Sometimes sausage or ham are used in place of meat.

Just before midnight, a speech is given by the President of the Russian Federation in which he briefly sums up the results of the year and congratulates the the country with the holiday. Precisely at midnight, all TV channels broadcast the Kremlin chimes heralding the beginning of the New Year at midnight.  Then come the fireworks and the traditional drink of Champagne at Midnight.

 

This ornate giant Christmas ball is part of the Holiday Season decorations in central  Moscow.

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Read more about New Years and Christmas Traditions in Russia

Image Credits: tourspb.com; themoscowtimes.com;

Holiday High Tea

High Tea is fun any time  – and any where.  During the Holidays? Perfect timing! But in the western town of Cheyenne, Wyoming, of all places?  Quite a surprise!!

Holiday High Tea

The location is a fascinating historical site — the Nagle-Warren Mansion — in the Wyoming capital of Cheyenne.

Holiday High Tea

Holiday High Tea

One of the few homes still standing in Cheyenne from the 1880’s, the mansion is located on the edge of Cheyenne’s historic downtown sections on Cattle Baron’s Row. It is currently a bed and breakfast (B&B) with 12 guest rooms decorated in Victorian West style.

Originally the residence of Erasmus Nagle in 1888, the mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and became it’s current position as a B&B in 1997.

 

Holiday High Tea

 Gorgeous on the inside, the mansion is especially elegant with the added Holiday decorations

 

Holiday High TeaHigh tea was as elegant as you can get. The food was very gourmet, and all you-can-eat!  I’ve Never had that at a High Tea!Holiday High Tea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday High Tea

Holiday High TeaHere are is a sampling of the generous 18 items on the menu:

Cream Currant Scones with Lemon Curd Spread

Raspberry Almond Tea Bread with Amaretto Butter
Smoked Trout and Roasted Red Pepper Open-Faced Tea Sandwich
and
– Sugar Plums!
 A Holiday High Tea in the western town of Cheyenne, Wyoming – the home of the Cheyenne Frontier Days – is a delightfully grand affair. The Nagle-Warren Mansion B&B is a perfect venue for taking a step back into history and experiencing an elegant English High Tea!

 

 

 

Beignets & Coffee

Beignets & Coffee at World Famous Cafe du Monde

Are THE BEST in New Orleans

 

Beignets & Coffee Having Beignets & Coffee at Cafe Du Monde is a MUST when in New Orleans! Beignets & Coffee

 A traditional coffee shop in the French Market of New Orleans, the Original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand is World Famous for its Beignets and Cafe’ au Lait…. and in my opinion, they offer the BEST in New Orleans! The Cafe, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week — closing only on Christmas Day and  “on the day an occasional Hurricane passes too close to New Orleans” —Beignets & Coffee also offers the  opportunity to people watch and is a wonderful spot for the entertainment of the iconic street musicians.

Beignets & Coffee

 Beignets are square French-style doughnuts, lavishly covered with powdered sugar. The square pieces of dough are fried then dusted with powdered sugar. Coming from the Southwest, they remind me of Mexican Sopapilla’s served with honey or cinnamon/sugar.

As a youngster, I enjoyed ‘Fry Babies’ as a treat on the days my mother made bread.  Saving aside small pieces of dough, she patted and stretched them into circles, then deep-fried them. But ‘Fry Babies’ were more like the Indian Fry Bread of the Southwest than Mexican Sopapillas or the French Beignets. Sapapillas are more of a ‘quick’ bread using a leavening agent like baking powder rather than yeast. Beignets have a unique flavor of their own and the dough itself is a ‘choux pastry’, containing only butter, water, flour, and eggs. Instead of a raising agent, it employs high moisture content to create steam during cooking to puff the pastry.   

Beignets & CoffeeJust as Sopapillas with honey are sticky eating, the Beignets –buried under a mountain of snowy white powdered sugar– are fun to eat, with the  super fine powder poofing off into the air and getting everywhere!

Beignets and COFFEE

Beignets & Coffee The Original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand has been serving dark roasted coffee with chicory since 1862.  The rich dark coffee is served ‘black ‘ or ‘au Lait’  (mixed half and half with warm milk).

 Nothing goes better with Beignets than cafe’ au lait! And of course, they both taste BEST when eaten IN New Orleans AT Cafe’ du Monde!

Images: Gail H; Vicki L; Great Food Fun Places

Last Stop: Belgium -Cruising Scandinavia

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise

Belgium  – Our Last Stop   

 

Our Scandinavian-Baltic cruise concluded with a stop in Belgium.

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium

 Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium We spent the morning of our final destination, Belgium, visiting Flanders Field, near Eiper (or Ypres in French). This town is so old it was destroyed by the Romans in the 1st century AD. It was again reduced to rubble during WWI. This area was a crucial battle sight between Germany and France. Almost 12,000 soldiers are buried in Tyne Cot (just one of many cemeteries here).

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium

The afternoon was spent in Bruges – probably my favorite of the medieval towns. Even the rainy day couldn’t spoil this treasure! The chocolate we purchased did not make it back home -we knew it would melt!

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium

 

 

 

 

 

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Author: Vicki L

Stockholm, Sweden – Cruising Scandinavia

 

Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic

 Stockholm, Sweden – Water Tour

After the tours over the previous few days, we were tired of seeing museums and churches;  so in Stockholm, Sweden, we enjoyed a leisurely boat cruise through the harbor area and the adjacent lake —  Stockholm, Sweden - Cruising Scandinavia

 — which involved trips through the locks Stockholm, Sweden - Cruising Scandinavia – my first time doing something like that.  Stockholm, Sweden - Cruising Scandinavia
Beautiful waterfront views surrounded the area.
We passed by the Parliament and where the Nobel Prizes are awarded – both right on the water!
Stockholm, Sweden - Cruising Scandinavia
Guest Author: Vicki L

Helsinki, Finland – on the Scandinavia Cruise

Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic

Helsinki, Finland

After St. Petersburg, we went to Helsinki, Finland. What a difference!

We had an opportunity to take a drive around the city of Helsinki and stopped at a beautiful Lutheran church that almost looked Russian.

Helsinki, Finland - on the Scandinavia Cruise

  And another church, built in 1969, was blasted out of solid rock

Helsinki, Finland - on the Scandinavia Cruise

Helsinki, Finland - on the Scandinavia Cruise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took an unusual tour to a Finnish horse farm that’s been in the family for centuries – not just decades!

Helsinki, Finland - on the Scandinavia Cruise

Helsinki, Finland - on the Scandinavia Cruise

Currently, four generations with 26 family members run the farm. We had a lovely lunch in the house (never thought I would enjoy a fish casserole…but I did. Sorry, no pictures).

And we got to see preparations for an international horse and carriage competition.Helsinki, Finland - on the Scandinavia Cruise

Helsinki, Finland - on the Scandinavia Cruise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Author: Vicki L

St Petersburg-Day 2

Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic

St Petersburg Part 3

 

Day 2 in St Petersburg

Our second day in St. Petersburg was spent at the Hermitage –the Winter Palace – Peter and Paul Fortress –
and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral where the tsars are buried.St Petersburg-Day 2 of Scandinavia Cruise

St Petersburg-Day 2 of Scandinavia Cruise

St Petersburg-Day 2 of Scandinavia Cruise

We heard a very different version regarding the deaths of Tsar Nicholas II and his family (the Romanovs) deaths before the Communist takeover. During the Communist era religion was banned. Churches and cathedrals were turned into libraries, offices and even an ice rink or two. Most of the icons and other religious artifacts were stolen or sold off.

Vladamir Putin is from St. Petersburg and has been instrumental in getting many of the buildings renovated (even though I abhor what he has done elsewhere).

St. Petersburg really is the Venice of the North.

St Petersburg-Day 2 of Scandinavia Cruise
St Petersburg-Day 2 of Scandinavia Cruise

Guest Author: Vicki L.