Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why I want to go on an eight-day Emerald Waterways river cruise through Europe

Offering small, luxurious ships and ample shore time, European river cruising is rapidly growing in popularity and has earned a spot on my bucket list! Luckily, I've got a chance to set off on this dream experience as newcomer Emerald Waterways is partnering with Johnny Jet to send one blogger on an eight day European river cruise. 

I'm smitten with the romance of Emerald's Highlights of the Netherlands & The Beauty of Belgium river cruise, so if you'll humor me, here's my fantasy itinerary for the trip:

 Day 1 
 Emerald representatives whisk me from the airport to my suite on board their sleek, state of the art "Starship." After settling in, I take a dip in the heated pool (with retractable roof!), then do a little exploring in Amsterdam before the four course welcome dinner--accompanied by a glass or two of complimentary regional wine.

Day 2 
After breakfast, I jump on our Emerald arranged coach to the straight-out-of-a-fairytale Keukenhof Gardens, wander the breathtaking 79 acres of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, take tons of photos, and mentally cross "See tulip fields in The Netherlands" off my bucket list. 

Refreshed by lunch back on the ship, the visual feast continues with a canal cruise and guided walking tour around Amsterdam. If time allows, I'll be soaking it all in and people watching at a cafe near the canals before it's time to return to the ship for a Gala Dinner.

Day 3 
 Arriving in Antwerp in the morning, it's time for Emerald's walking tour of the city center to take in the amazing architecture. A visit to Antwerp wouldn't be complete without sampling some frites, so visiting Conde Nast acclaimed Frituur No 1 is in order. Then I'm off to fit in the Museum Plantin-Moretus and quirky shop The Chocolate Line (tequila chocolate, anyone?) before the special Dutch dinner Emerald has waiting for me.

Day 4 
Waking near Bruges, Emerald has arranged transport into the incredible medieval city. After a guided tour around quaint canals and cobbled streets, its time for yet more chocolate shopping (if I buy enough, maybe there will be some left over to take home!), this time at Dumon Chocolatier. In the afternoon, we move on towards our next destination, and I take the opportunity to watch the scenery go by from the Terrace cafe at the bow of the ship.

Day 5 
Arriving in the small but picturesque town of Veere, Emerald provides a guided tour of the Zeeland Water Works...but I might be tempted to play hooky, spending my shore time exploring the town and poking my head in the little shops. With the afternoon spent sailing towards Arnhem, I'll have plenty of time to enjoy the heated pool and take advantage of free onboard WiFi to share my adventures thus far.

 Day 6 
Finally a late morning! As we continue to sail towards Arnhem, I'll be breakfasting on my balcony. In a Panorama Balcony Suite, the cabin opens to the outside with the touch of a button, and the balcony area is actually inside your room, which means more privacy (read: I can hang out in pajamas and tangled bedhead).

After the relaxing morning, Arnhem is calling with a guided tour, and hopefully a little time to stop at the Wine Museum, followed by sampling the local cookie, Arnhemse meisjes (literally, "Arnhem girls"). Then it's back to the ship for dinner as we glide through the Dutch countryside.

Day 7 
The last full day is packed full of sights, starting with a guided tour of Edam's cheese shops and architecture. I might be tempted to linger amongst the cheese, but will have to keep up as we're heading on to the traditional fishing village of Volendam before lunch. There, I'll have some time to explore and, if I want the ultimate cheesy tourist souvenir, can pay to have my photo taken in traditional dress. 

After lunch on the boat, we'll arrive in Hoorn, where there's a guided walking tour waiting. Then I'm dying to do some shopping, and view the incredible vintage art at the Dutch Poster Museum.

Day 8 
Waking up back in Amsterdam, breakfast is served on the ship. Emerald would be happy to take me to the airport (and some regional flights are included as well!), but...I think I'll hang around in Amsterdam for a couple days.

(all images are linked)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Giveaway | Frank & Gertrude Forester Wallet

This week's giveaway is from Frank & Gertrude, a Netherlands based accessories shop offering classic bags, wallets and more with sleek styling and pops of color. How cool are their feather bag charms?

Frank & Gertrude offers their canvas and linen wallets in a ton of great colors, and I can't help but think how perfect the large wallet would be for traveling!

Does anyone else really want to pet this dark gray leather bag? I can't help myself, I'm constantly stopping to pet leather goods and fuzzy things in department stores, and this bag looks so wonderful!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Springtime Sponsor Love!

Craftcult Etsy Treasury Widget - by ThoughtandSight
Just some of the wonderful items from our lovely sponsors! Click through and check them out!

Japanese Youth in 1964

Dug out the LIFE archives, Michael Rougier's 1964 photos provide a fascinating look at Japanese "Youth in Revolt." While the article must have struck a chord with Americans witnessing cultural upheaval at home, the photos are perhaps more interesting in the context of Japanese culture, with its deeply ingrained emphasis on conformity and obedience to parents.

(photos from LIFE Archives and this article)

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Hanging Gardens Hotel in Ubud, Bali

While searching for hotels with funiculars for the Grand Budapest post, I stumbled across the Hanging Gardens Hotel in Ubud, Bali. It clearly didn't fit the Grand Budapest aesthetic, but is deserving of its own post! This stunning resort hotel is built into a hillside in the Ayung River Valley with its very own funicular to transport guests up and down the steep 45 degree hill. 

The 38 villas, perched on pillar supported platforms to allow for water flow, were built around the existing landscape, so that only one tree needed to be moved for construction. Their acclaimed tiered infinity pool mirrors this design and that of the neighboring terraced rice fields.

It might be impossible to stay stressed in these surroundings. If the private infinity pool or lush river view dining didn't put a grin on my face, I think a couple slightly inebriated rides up and down the hill in the adorable bamboo funicular would seal the deal ;)

The ancient Pura Penataran Dalem Segara temple, which sits across the valley from the hotel.

 (watermarked photos via Travel & Style Magazine; all images are linked)
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