Friday, March 7, 2014

Spotlight: Golden Odyssey

Originally named Drie Gezusters (Three Sisters), and launched in 1926 for a Dutch captain with three daughters, Golden Odyssey spent her working life carrying cargo to all parts of Europe. At what seemed like the end of her career she was bought by a yachtsman who admired her fine lines and high quality construction. The painstaking conversion that followed was guided by the twin watch-words of quality and taste. Thus the re-born barge yacht has conserved her lines, but all else is new with just one exception...

Whilst many guests will simply take the main engine and associated systems for granted, for others it is the subject of deep appreciation. Industry diesel motors are legendary among the older generations of barge captains and Golden Odyssey's has been totally re-built to ensure that she still benefits from the technology developed to serve these craft when they were at their zenith. As to the other systems it will take a more dedicated engineer to maintain his interest. Suffice to say that from generator to plumbing and electrical systems, firefighting, laundry and galley, all is new and built to the highest standards.

The Spa Pool is typical of the high standards aboard. It is a generous 2 meters by 4 meters and is equipped with water heating and chilling systems, a 10 bar jet pump, ozone purification and underwater lighting. Similarly the air conditioning system is designed to exceed the yacht's requirements. It can warm or chill and distributes air through 7 independently controlled air-handlers allowing each guest to control the temperature of their cabin individually. Although discreetly housed, Golden Odyssey has a full range of modern communication and entertainment systems. Communications ashore are maintained thanks to both cellular and satellite networks. There are private telephones in all cabins and fax and email in the office. There is a full stereo system, video and Bang & Olufsen TV.
To learn more, please visit: , or call U.S. toll-free 1-866-498-3920.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A-Rosa Stella

Its time to treat yourself to French savoir vivre- (“knowing how to live”) on a trip through France’s Provence and Camargue countryside, all the way to the Mediterranean coast. This is Europe’s most beautiful countryside, and guests will experience not being able to take enough pictures of the beautiful scenery. Pass through world-famous wine-growing regions such as the Cote d’Or, discover unique landscapes such as Burgundy, or the coastal vistas of the Cote d’Azure. But, you won’t just love the views: on the A-Rosa, the culinary treats on board perfectly compliment the visual feast, which ensures you and your fellow guests will experience optimal luxury and optimum relaxation.

Everyday, guests will be able to enjoy the new culinary surprises of the A-Rosa buffet, with its live cooking station and copious amounts of food- guests will never leave a meal without a full and happy belly. Relax during a variety of activities on or below deck, or, enjoy stimulating conversations with new friends you make onboard! To really capture the soul of a country, you must fully let yourself go. On the riverside, cities and nature give its best. Impressive castles and canyons, breathtaking landscapes and cities line up along the shore. You not only feel that you have spent a few hours here and there, but that you have really lived there a little too. We strive to provide authentic and truly memorable experiences for our guests.

Whatever you’re looking for on vacation—you will find it on board the A-Rosa river vessel Stella, as she sails on the Rhone & Saone Rivers. Those seeking privacy and relaxation must visit the peaceful ambiance of the SPA-AROSA. On the Sun Deck, there is an outdoor pool, shuffleboard and putting green, perfect for guests to kick back and relax, all the while taking in the French countryside. Leaving our daily lives and stress that sometimes comes with everyday life can be difficult, however we strive to make you forget your worries and enjoy your times with us. We want your time with France Cruises to be the best time. The casual and friendly atmosphere onboard, along with the beautiful countryside around every bend of the river hastens your desire to let go and just enjoy.

To learn more about the A-Rosa Stella, visit our website here:, or call U.S. toll-free 1-866-498-3920.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What a Trip: Following in his uncle’s wartime footsteps through France and Belgium

Who: Tom (the author) and Elaine Reale and their friend Bert Iaderosa, all of Anchorage.
Where, when, why: We traveled from Sept. 21 to Oct. 22, 2013, following the route through France and Belgium that my uncle, Joe Cicchinelli, took as a paratrooper in World War II. He parachuted into southern France in 1944, and his outfit — the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion — liberated several villages and towns from the Germans before going on to the Battle of the Bulge.
Highlights and high points: We visited the site where my uncle and two other soldiers captured the first German general taken alive in Europe and saw memorials to his unit as well as to him and to some of his fellow soldiers. We saw a Nazi flag from the museum in Draguignan, France, that he captured and donated to the village, and we visited the vineyard that he parachuted into. In Belgium, we were shown the spot where he was taken prisoner: He was sent to a German stalag that he escaped from as the war was winding down.
Cultural connection or disconnect: We saw several plaques with my uncle’s name on them, saw his photo displayed in several locations and met people with whom he has maintained relationships over the years. The extent to which WWII is still relevant to the people there came as a real surprise. People are still finding remnants of battles fought, including unexploded ordnance, on a regular basis. People maintain private museums of wartime mementos and photographs, and the official museums are almost too numerous to mention.
Biggest laugh or cry: It was very moving to have people thanking us for my uncle’s service and making sure that we conveyed their thanks and appreciation to him.
How unexpected: The extent to which older people are trying to convey to the next generations just how important it was that the Allies saved Europe from Nazi domination. There are even WWII battle re-enactors there, much as we have Civil War re-enactors here.
Fondest memento or memory: The most powerful memory is of walking through farmlands and pastures where my uncle fought and trying to visualize what it must have been like to have been there in the winter of 1944-45, seeing German tanks coming through the countryside and trying to stay alive in extremely difficult situations.
*Story originally published in the Washington Post, to see the full article, click here.

Spotlight: Roi Soleil

The Roi Soleil has more to do with luxury yachting than barging. Her lines and mahogany and brass trim are inspired by the classic motor yachts of the 1920’s while her interior brings you the best of contemporary design and comfort. Roi Soleil combines the best of yachts and barges. Enjoy a personalized cruise for up to 6 passengers, attended by 4 crew members, for a cruise high on luxurious comfort and mouth watering delights. Make discoveries in an authentic region rich in history and ancient architecture, unspoiled nature, whine, food and crafts. The fully air conditioned Roi Soleil features 3 spacious, bright and airy staterooms, perfect for luxuriating and soaking up France in.

The come with opening skylights, each with queen-sized or single beds and en-suite bathrooms. The main deck boasts optimal area and panoramic views from saloon, to bar, to dining. It features a spa pool, Bose sound system, iPod dock, 3G Internet, DVD library, bicycles, even a fireplace. The shaded aft teak deck comes with inbuilt seating, dining and spa. In addition, innovative gourmet cuisine with cooking demonstrations in an open plan bar/kitchen is part of the fabulous experience aboard the vessel. Choose the romantic 17th century Canal du Midi cruise, now on the UNESCO World Heritage List, or the vibrant Provence and Camargue cruise.

The stylish Salon/Dining room with its fireplace, bar and panoramic views through no less than 20 windows, offers guests a level of comfort equivalent to that of luxury motor yachts. Drenched in natural light and bright colors, its interior is warm and inviting, a charming place to pass time on board. In the salon, guests are welcome to browse the DVD library and watch their selections on the TV; they may also enjoy a drink next to the fireplace. There is a separate Sun Deck area at the forefront of the barge, which is perfect for sunbathing or greeting each new landscape. Truly an extraordinary cruise for those who enjoy a luxurious retreat, furnished with all the modern conveniences.

To learn more, please visit:, or call U.S. toll-free 1-866-498-3920.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Spotlight: Prosperite

Prosperite is one of the top barges in France. In 2003, Prosperite was created by an American hotelier and represents a successful new approach to barge cruising. Original ideas such as the demonstration kitchen and the “open refrigerator” with drinks, snacks and desserts available 24 hours a day, reflect modern living and entertaining. Time seems to stand still as Prosperite slowly motors by quaint stone churches and well-kept houses, periodically pausing at moss-covered locks, as it makes its leisurely way from one town to the next. Catch up on your reading on deck, enjoy a delicious, gourmet meal from your private chef’s kitchen, and simply relax to the gentle sounds of water lapping against the hull.

Enjoy the quite sensation that comes with unplugging yourself from the world on a luxury barge cruise. This cruise is ideal for the person who wants to escape to a quite and peaceful deck, slowly winding through the French countryside. During the seven days and six nights, the 128-foot long Properite will serve as your floating home away from home. She is designed and constructed to meet the expectations of upscale travelers desiring to experience the luxury of five-start travel, where no expense has been spared. Our goal is to provide guests with the ultimate in luxury and accommodations while they travel with us.

A Prosperite cruise offerssome of the largest rooms and highest level of amenities you will find on any of the barges in France. Enjoy the space and comfort of luxury accommodations; you truly won’t want to return home after a week in one of our staterooms. If you’re feeling more adventurous, the Prosperite barge cruise features daily excursions in our accompanying Mercedes bus into the surrounding countryside. You will explore the local chateaux or sip the fruits of one of the many local vineyards. Whether your goal is to unwind on the decks and enjoy the scenery, or get out and experience the surroundings first hand, we have something for you! To learn more, please visit the France Cruises website at, or call U.S. toll-free 1-866-498-3920.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Louvre

One of the world’s largest museums and a historic monument is a central landmark of Paris, France, and located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement. Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square meters. With more than 8 million visitors each year, the Louvre is the world’s most visited museum. The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as a fortress in the alte 12th century under Phillip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Verailles for his household, leaving the Lourve primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. In 1692, the building was occupied by the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres and the Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, which in 1699 held the first series of salons. The Academie remained at the Louvre for 100 years. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nations masterpieces.

The museum opened on August 10, 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The collection was increased under Napoleon and the museum renamed the Musee Napoleon. After the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire,  the museum gained 20,000 pieces. Holdings have grown steadily through donations and gifts since the Third Republic. As of 2008, the collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.

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