Thursday, June 28, 2018

Burgundy at its Best

There is almost nothing more satisfying than a slow barge cruise through the beautiful scenery of Burgundy, France.   The slow pace of the river, the unspoiled landscapes, and the unchanged medieval villages transport you back in time.  This area is blessed with some of the most beautiful countryside (and wine) in Europe.  This is a destination that everyone should visit at least once in their life. One of the best ways to do this is from the deck of a luxurious barge that only accommodates a small group of passengers that has been specially chartered by Tours of Distinction.


Imagine cruising along the bucolic canals of Burgundy, a journey that offers a diversity of sights from bustling outdoor markets and wine tastings to very special excursions such as a visit to the Royal Saltworks.  This attraction is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that consists of a complex of buildings that once housed the salt workers. After touring this amazing site, built at the wish of King Louis XV, take time to stroll through the garden before returning to the barge.

Saltworks
Another excursion, perfect for feline lovers, is the "Trail of the Perched Cat."  Dole is a small town in the Jura region of France known as "the little Venice."  It was once the capital of the County of Burgundy before it became part of the French kingdom in 1678.  Today, visitors enjoy this town's rich cultural heritage and history.  One of the best ways to explore Dole is to look for the pavement plaques of a "perched cat" and follow them through this charming medieval village.  The Perched Cat is a reference to Marcel Ayme, the author of the tales about the Perched Cat who spent his childhood in Dole. This trail is so much fun because it takes you on a tour of the most scenic and appealing parts of this town.

The Perched Cat!

Dole was also home to another famous man, Louis Pasteur who is best known for his discovery of the rabies vaccine.  A visit to his home reveals that he also worked in a number of very different areas from the study of crystals and diseases in silkworms, to the fermentation of beer and wine.  A visit to his home offers the chance to view his legacy as a benefactor to humankind.


No barge cruise is complete without a visit to Saint Jean de Losne, a bustling town that is at the crossroads of waterways along the Saone River that was once a mecca for riverboats. Attractions in this quaint town include Saint John Baptist Church built in a whimsical mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles that houses gorgeous stained glass windows and a magnificent organ.  Don't miss a chance to pop into the Sailors House, one of the oldest in town that recounts the history of navigation.


The cruise from Saint Jean de Losne to Petit Ouges is breathtaking because of the gorgeous landscapes of the Saone Valley that go as far as the eye can see. Imagine quaint chateaus interspersed with sloping hills that are punctuated by beautifully tended vineyards and honey-coloured villages mellowed by time.  This fairytale landscape is mesmerizing. As the landscape slips by, you cannot but help think...yes, this is the real Burgundy, and then, you sit back and relax, and take in even more of France's most sublime scenery.
Chateau Clos De Vougeot 

A highlight of any trip to Burgundy is a visit to Dijon.  A must see here is a visit to the iconic Chateau Clos De Vougeot that was built in the 12th century by monks and still houses medieval presses and vat houses, a Cistercian cellar and even original kitchens.  In addition to wine, another famous product is mustard! Don't miss a stop at the Maille mustard shop that has been in business since 1747.  The secret here is that the mustard seeds are macerated in wine, not vinegar.

Palace of the Dukes

Dijon was the capital of the Duchy of Burgundy in the 14th and 15th centuries who made the city a center for arts and architecture.  Visitors today wander down quaint cobblestone streets that lead to sumptuous palaces, gardens, museums, gated townhouses, shops, and restaurants. The centerpiece of this city is the Palace of the Dukes that is home to the Fine Arts Museum located near Liberation Square.   The owl is Dijon's city symbol and there are three owl trails that lead visitors on a tour of the most historic areas of the city.  When you pass by the owl located by the Notre-Dame Cathedral, built in the 13th century, don't forget to rub it for good luck with your left hand, and make a wish!

Owl by the Notre Dame Catherdral, Dijion

About the Tour

This tour departs August 28 and returns September 6 and includes all transfers, international round-trip air, 1 pre-night hotel accommodation in Paris and one post-cruise hotel accommodation in Dijon.  There will be 20 meals (5 lunches and six dinners) and unlimited beverages including beer, wine, soft drinks and specialty coffee.  The six-night cruise also offers shore excursions, unlimited bike usage,  free wi-fi plus port charges and taxes.  



A Tours of Distinction professional tour guide will accompany all TOD guests on this cruise and the gratuities for the Tour Director, Drivers and Local Guides are also included in the cost.  The only cost that is not included in this tour are the gratuities for the ship staff.

This tour is currently on sale and passengers will save $200 per person on this ten-day tour package. For booking information click here.



The vessel is the newly renovated MS Jeanine that accommodates only 24 passengers.  Jeanine has a spacious salon and bar area with comfortable furnishings, a separate dining room and a sundeck wreathed in flowers with chairs and parasols. On the lower deck, there are 12 comfortable cabins with twin beds, ensuite bathrooms, and large opening windows. A perk of this trip is that guests on board will sample 24 different wines and 18 different kinds of cheese.


About Tours of Distinction
For more than 45 years, Tours of Distinction has understood that your vacation time is precious.  Travel is a way of life for members of our team and we want to share our discoveries and in-depth knowledge with you. Our clients seek authenticity and our team’s expertise and hands-on assistance will ensure that your journey with us is fun, fulfilling and, that it fits your budget.  Our goal is to make sure that every day of your journey with Tours of Distinction is the best that it can be.

For almost a half a century, Tours of Distinction has offered a diverse collection of small escorted group and individual tour itineraries carefully crafted by our Professional Travel Team.  We specialize in everything from carefree day trips and multi-day adventures to 7 - 14-day journeys of a lifetime, nationally and internationally. Whether you are a first-time traveler or a seasoned globetrotter we are here to provide you with expert service because when it comes to travel, service and our years of experience make all the difference.

For Tours of Distinction, travel is not just a “business” it is a lifestyle that inspires a sense of community that spans the globe.  We would like to welcome you… to our “Tours of Distinction” and invite you to enjoy the magic, excitement and exhilarating experiences of travel with us…the world awaits!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Travel Tip Tuesday - Movies to Inspire Travel!

Vacation inspiration can spring up from almost anywhere -- a book or a movie about a destination usually offers up a good dose of wanderlust!  Here are five destinations with links to movies that we hope will inspire a real-life quest of your own with Tours of Distinction.  


Iceland Inspired

This Ben Stiller video about Iceland is sure to put this destination on your bucket list.  In Stiller's recent movie, the  Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a James Thurber classic story follows the daydreams of a character played by Ben Stiller who escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasy, adventure, and romance.  In this movie, follow Walter Mitty to Iceland for a dose of adventure travel and comedy set against the stunning natural scenery of Iceland, and get Iceland inspired!   For trip information about Iceland Inspired click here.



Alaska Fresh and Wild

What is Alaska?  A rugged home of resilient Native Americans and a former Russian colony; a place at the very limits of the American drive to "Go West, young man and grow up with country." It is a place of small towns and, a place of great natural beauty where visitors can experience vast tracks of wilderness.  The movie Mystery Alaska is a fictional tale of a hockey team in a small Alaskan town that gets the chance of a lifetime: to host the New York Rangers for a game on their home turf.  This movie captures small-town life in Alaska and is sure to capture your wanderlust for the natural beauty of our 49th state.  For information about our Alaska Fresh and Wild Tour click here.


Hawaii Cruise & Tour
Aloha!  This wonderous volcanic archipelago has been used as the setting for many films since it became an official U.S. state in 1959.  When watching Jurrasic Park, you are not looking at Costa Rica, you are looking at Hawaii, the same thing goes for Avatar, Tropic Thunder, and countless other films.  The first great film to be set in Hawaii, sure to get you in the aloha mood is From Here to Eternity.  This landmark film is the story of passion and tragedy as a fateful day in December 1941 draws near.  On a lighter note, 150  First Dates is a romantic comedy starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore with loads of gorgeous Hawaiian scenery thrown in the mix.  This film was shot across several locations on Oahu.  For information on our Hawaii Cruise click here.


Burgundy, France - Hidden Canals and Wine

The romance of the French countryside is world renown and, Burgundy is one of France's most famous regions known throughout the world for the richness of its soil and the legendary wines produced in its vineyards.  Today, people from all over the world flock to this region of France to admire the beauty of its countryside and sample the delicious food and wine that have been produced here for centuries. To get into a Burgundy mood, pour yourself a glass and watch the film, Back to Burgundy that is a French family saga that uses the making of wine as a backdrop through four beautiful seasons.  For information about our Hidden Canal Barge Cruise of Burgundy click here.



Niagara Falls

The beauty of the iconic Niagara Falls has lured many movie directors to use this stunning waterfall.  To get you in the mood, one of the best known classic films is simply called Niagara.  This film, shot in 1953 launched Marilyn Monroe's career.  On a lighter who can forget the Maid of the Mist scene with Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty!  To check out our Circle of the Lake Tour click here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Travel Tip Tuesday Navigating Foreign Transaction Fees

Travelers that use credit cards when traveling aboard always get hit with a foreign transaction fee on purchases or bank withdrawals.  At the end of the day, credit and debit cards are the best way to exchange money and purchase items, but the hidden transaction fees are annoying.  There are a few ways to navigate the fluctuating and confusing world of foreign transaction fees.  The first thing to be aware of are the two types of fees imposed on foreign transactions.




  • Foreign Transaction Fee that  is called a currency conversion fee and ranges from 1% to 3% of the purchased amount
  • International ATM Fee is when banks and credit unions charge between $1 and $5 for using an ATM in another country as well as a percentage of the amount that you withdraw.  It is notable that when you use an ATM in another country, the bank that owns the ATM may also have its own fee structure in addition to the fees imposed by your bank or credit union.



Credit Cards

When you use a travel rewards credit card outside the U.S., you lose about 3%.  But, the good news is that with some cards, you lose nothing.  In addition to no foreign transaction fee, these credit cards, although pricey, also offer many travel perks that add up. Credit cards that don't charge a fee to process foreign transactions include: Capital One Quick Silver Cash Rewards Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Bank of America Travel Rewards Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, The Platinum Card from American Express, Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card, Citi AAdvantage executive World Elite Mastercard, Premier Rewards Gold Card, American Express, British Airways Visa Signature Card, Mastercard Black Card, and Mastercard Gold Card. For an up to date, list click here.

Most credit card networks like American Express, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa assess a conversion fee of about 1%.  The trouble comes when some U.S. banks add surcharges to foreign transactions - even when the charge is in U.S. dollars. Most often the surcharge is 3% with 2% going to the bank for doing absolutely nothing. There are a range of bank cards now available with no fee or only a 1% network charge.  Check with your bank for what they offer.

ATM and Credit/Debit Cards

Many banks in the U.S. add a $3 to $5 surcharge when using a credit or debit card at a bank that is not their bank, no matter where the bank that you are using is located.  It is best to check with your bank to see if they offer a no-fee foreign ATM withdrawal.

Some banks have partnerships or branches in foreign countries where travelers may be eligible for free services.  Bank of America, for example, belongs to the Global ATM Alliance of banks that don't add withdrawal fees at member bank ATMs.  For more information click here.  It is best to check with your bank on fees and the best way to use your debit/credit card when traveling.




Buy Currency Before You Go

If you don't want to arrive at a local destination without any currency, you can always exchange currency in the U.S.  This can be very expensive and Air WatchDog reported that Bank of America sells Euros for about 5% higher than the bank rate.  Buying currency at a U.S. Departure airport is not a good option either because they mark up the currency by as much as 15%.

Exchange Cash @ the Destination

Whenever you exchange currency according to Nerd wallet, you can expect to lose anywhere from 5% to three times as much! Rates at hotels usually have the worse exchange rates and foreign exchange offices are not much better.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Travel Tip Tuesday - Bubble wrap

Bubble wrap was developed in 1957 when two engineers sealed two shower curtains together creating air bubbles.  Their first idea was to sell this look as wallpaper!  Bubble wallpaper never caught on but the usefulness of this material in regards to packing did.



If you  are a shopper and end up purchasing a lot of souvenirs, make sure you bring along some bubble wrap to protect your purchases.  Using bubble wrap offers much better protection than trying to pack your fragile finds in your clothes.  And, if you bring to much of it, pass it on to the concierge who may give it to the someone that might not have brought this handy item along.  Bubble wrap is also useful for those very fragile treasures that you hand carry in your luggage.

In addition to bringing bubble wrap along, you might also want to pack some duct tape to hold the packaging together.  

If you forget to pack your bubble wrap, the next best thing is to wrap your fragile item in is a newspaper.  After wrapping it in newspaper, cushion your treasure in soft cottony things like tee shirts, socks or towels.   When packing this way, it is best to pack your fragile item in the center of the suitcase and surround it with clothes to cushion it.  In addition, it a good idea to crumple up wads of newspaper around the object in order to better absorb the impact of a dropped or thrown suitcase.



One mistake that many travelers make is to pack the item to tight which adds pressure to it.  Packing should be tight but not restrictive.  It is also notable that a hard shell suitcase absorbs the energy that comes from a dropped or thrown suitcase better than a soft suitcase.

At the end of the day, the absolute best way to ensure that your fragile item makes it safely home is to hand carry it in your luggage!


About Tours of Distinction

For more than 45 years, Tours of Distinction has understood that your vacation time is precious.  Travel is a way of life for members of our team and we want to share our discoveries and in-depth knowledge with you. Our clients seek authenticity and our team’s expertise and hands-on assistance will ensure that your journey with us is fun, fulfilling and, that it fits your budget.  Our goal is to make sure that every day of your journey with Tours of Distinction is the best that it can be.


For almost a half a century, Tours of Distinction has offered a diverse collection of small escorted group and individual tour itineraries carefully crafted by our Professional Travel Team.  We specialize in everything from carefree day trips and multi-day adventures to 7 - 14-day journeys of a lifetime, nationally and internationally. Whether you are a first-time traveler or a seasoned globetrotter we are here to provide you with expert service because when it comes to travel, service and our years of experience make all the difference.


For Tours of Distinction, travel is not just a “business” it is a lifestyle that inspires a sense of community that spans the globe.  We would like to welcome you… to our “Tours of Distinction” and invite you to enjoy the magic, excitement and exhilarating experiences of travel with us…the world awaits!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Bucolic and Beautiful - Bar Harbor, Maine

At the turn of the century, Bar Harbor, located on the Eastern Coast of Mount Desert Island was Maine's premier resort for the glitterati of the time - the Rockefellers, Fords, Vanderbilts, and Astors. They visited Bar Harbor in the summer, residing in a cluster of stately Victorian cottages where lavish soirees were held.  In many ways, Bar Harbor was like a "country club" for the highbrows of society and their friends until 1947 when a fire destroyed everything. 


Bar Harbor  Photo Credit: Maine Tourism Office


Today, Bar Harbor still garners its reputation as one of the most popular vacation destinations in New England. Here visitors find the best of two centuries; the gracious 19th and early 20th-century homes set amid the areas unspoiled natural beauty coupled with, top-notch hotels, country inns and B&B's, a lively Main Street brimming with shops that are sure to delight, and restaurants serving up traditional classic dishes (need we say lobster) and much, much more. 


Bar Harbor Photo Credit Maine Office of Tourism

Bar Harbor is the perfect jumping off point to visit Acadia National Park, the crown jewel of the North Atlantic Coast.  This Eastern most National Park, the first created east of the Mississippi River, protects the natural beauty of the highest rocky headlands along the coast; seven peaks soar above 1,000 feet.  For the adventurous, hike on 158 miles of trails, and, explore 45 miles of carriage roads 
created by John D. Rockefeller Jr. that wind through the splendid scenery of the park.  Be on the lookout for the stone bridges, sixteen in all, a perfect backdrop for a photo. 


Stone Bridge Acadia National Park Photo Credit Maine Office of Tourism


 A Trolly Ride through Acadia National Park

One of the best ways to discover the treasures of Acadia is to sit back and relax on a two hour fully narrated tour with Oli's Trolley that meanders through the Park on the network of car-free carriage roads.  Oli's Trolley combines nostalgic charm with modern conveniences; they have large adjustable glass windows and spacious seating that is comfortable.


On a tour with Oli's, visitors get a glimpse of the Island's historic mansions of the rich and famous; and along the way, learn the history of Bar Harbor from 1604 to the great fire of 1947.  Visitors will want to make sure that their cameras are charged up to take memorable photos of the stunning scenery that abounds here on one of the three scheduled 15-minute stops for walks and photos at Cadillac Mountain Summit, Thunder Hole on Ocean Drive and the Jordon Pond area. 




Scenic Must See Stops

Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard and the views are magnificent. It was named after a French explorer who called himself Sieur de la Mothe Cadillac. After leaving Maine, he went on to help found Detroit, where the Cadillac was named after him!

When it is high tide and the waves kick up you will understand how Thunder Hole got its name. This small inlet was carved out of natural rocks over thousands of years and when waves rush into the small cavern at the end of the inlet air and water are forced out like a resounding clap of thunder!  This spot is also a great place to catch a panoramic view of Otter Cliff on the right and Sand Beach and Great Head to the left.




When people think of the most idyllic spot in Acadia National Park, most think of Jordan Pond that has been popular with visitors since the 1800s.  Here you can gaze at the pristine calm waters of the pond that are surrounded by majestic mountains in all directions.  There is a 3.5-mile easy hiking loop around the pond that crosses some artfully constructed bridges that go over two major streams that flow into the pond.


Jordon Pond Photo Credit Maine Office of Tourism


All About Lobster 

Let's face it, when most of us think of Maine, one of the first things that come to mind is Lobster!  A trip to Maine isn't complete without a lobster bake and Tours of Distinction is offering a scrumptious feast that is a New England tradition that is older than America itself! 



According to historical lore, the pilgrims first learned about lobster from Native Americans.  They watched them gather lobsters and clams from the sea, dig a sandpit on the beach, then line it with hot rocks and coals. (We know you are getting hungry reading this!)  They added fresh, wet seaweed, and more hot rocks that steamed the lobster and shellfish in fresh seawater.   Foodies know that there is nothing like fresh Maine lobster!



On this tour, you will enjoy a waterfront lobster feast in style at the highly acclaimed and meticulously restored Bar Harbor Club that offers fabulous views, especially at sunset.  This Tudor - style building was constructed by J.P. Morgan in 1930 and used as a retreat for his associates and friends.   Unforgettable views of Frenchman Bay, fresh Maine lobster or steak translate into a good time at this exclusive waterfront oasis.


Wedding Cake & Kennebuckport!

If you love architecture, a stop at the Wedding Cake House is a real treat!  Dreamed up in 1825 by George W. Bourne, a prominent shipbuilder, this house has won the distinction of being the most photographed house in Maine because of it's over the top Gothic-inspired architecture and the romance that surrounds it. And, really, who doesn't "love" a love story!  The house was built by Captain Bourne with his own two hands, as a wedding present for his young bride because he had to ship out to sea shortly after they were married.



The last stop as this tour heads for home is Kennebunkport.  This town exudes the spirit of Americana with its' roadside shacks selling fresh lobster rolls and its pretty beaches with kids building sand castles under the watchful eye of their parents sitting under striped umbrellas.  Kennebunkport has a bustling center that beckons because it is one of the best places to shop for souvenirs.  Here you will find all the usual suspects - hats, shirts, mugs, sweatshirts, tee shirts, and much more - beautiful works of art and unique handcrafted Maine gifts, bookstores, antique shops, old fashion ice cream parlors, and restaurants that line the waterfront. There are endless temptations here for shopaholics!

About the Tour - Escape to Maine
The Escape to Maine, three-day motorcoach tour runs September 5-7 and includes four meals and two nights accommodation at the Acedia Inn that has beautiful grounds and direct trail access to Acadia National Park. Highlights include a guided tour of Acadia National Park, Wedding Cake House, a Lobster Feast, Free Time in Bar Harbor and Kennebuckport, and the services of our TOD Professional Tour Director.  For tour details and to book the trip click here.


About Tours of Distinction

For more than 45 years, Tours of Distinction has understood that your vacation time is precious.  Travel is a way of life for members of our team and we want to share our discoveries and in-depth knowledge with you. Our clients seek authenticity and our team’s expertise and hands-on assistance will ensure that your journey with us is fun, fulfilling and, that it fits your budget.  Our goal is to make sure that every day of your journey with Tours of Distinction is the best that it can be.


For almost a half a century, Tours of Distinction has offered a diverse collection of small escorted group and individual tour itineraries carefully crafted by our Professional Travel Team.  We specialize in everything from carefree day trips and multi-day adventures to 7 - 14-day journeys of a lifetime, nationally and internationally. Whether you are a first-time traveler or a seasoned globetrotter we are here to provide you with expert service because when it comes to travel, service and our years of experience make all the difference.

For Tours of Distinction, travel is not just a “business” it is a lifestyle that inspires a sense of community that spans the globe.  We would like to welcome you… to our “Tours of Distinction” and invite you to enjoy the magic, excitement and exhilarating experiences of travel with us…the world awaits!