Nomad by Trade

A travel blog for the kid at heart.

Tag: Europe (Page 1 of 4)

Lost luggage disaster with Air France and Lufthansa

Our Nightmare Lost Luggage Saga with Air France and Lufthansa

This Christmas, we decided to take a once-in-a-lifetime family trip to Europe for the holidays. We had a great time – don’t get me wrong. We saw all kinds of cool places, but the vacation was overshadowed by a horrendous experience with Air France and Lufthansa and both airlines’ refusal to offer any semblance of customer service. We’ve been home for over a month now and are still fighting with both airlines to receive the customer service that we deserve. Here’s the sad, infuriating saga of my family’s luggage-less vacation.

The seven people on the trip came over in three separate waves. My mom and sister came a week earlier. I flew solo and met them in Milan. My dad, brother, and brother’s girlfriend, Jill, flew over together last. They were scheduled (and had confirmed seats together) to fly from Windsor to Toronto to Paris to Munich. When they got to the Windsor airport, they were told that they didn’t have seats on the first flight. They spent nearly two hours at the Air Canada desk while a customer service agent moved mountains to get them onto the full flight. He told them that he could see that the segment had been cancelled by someone from Lufthansa, but had no way of knowing how or why it had happened. Eventually, all three of them made it on the plane and got to Toronto.

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Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Venice, Italy

The Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Venice

Located just a short walk from the most popular tourist spots in Venice, the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum is an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours of hands-on fun. Da Vinci invented so many incredible things – like ball bearings that are still used in machinery today – and this museum brings them to life with wooden recreations that you can operate yourself.

The first floor of the museum contains several replicas of da Vinci’s most famous works of art with descriptions and information about their significance. You can also see some of his handwritten manuscripts. I passed through these displays pretty quickly because I was anxious to get up to the hands-on portion of things.

Manuscript at the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Venice, Italy

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Colosseum tour in Rome

Touring the Top of the Colosseum

Visiting the Colosseum in Rome had been on my bucket list since before I ever heard the term “bucket list.” When I first caught sight of it on the bus to my hotel, my jaw actually dropped in amazement. It’s amazing to think that such an enormous structure was built using only manual and animal strength.

While I was planning my trip, I discovered that the top level of the Colosseum had recently been reopened to visitors for the first time since the 1960s. I knew I had to experience that. As it was the thing I was most looking forward to in Rome, I decided that it was worth splurging on a tour to get the full experience. I ended up taking a 3.5-hour guided tour with City Wonders.

View from the fifth level of the Colosseum

It’s also possible to visit the top level of the Colosseum with a ticket purchased straight from the official website, but I gave up on that because with only two weeks left in December, they still hadn’t started selling January dates and I had plans to make.

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Visiting Fortress Hohensalzburg in Salzburg, Austria

Fortress Hohensalzburg: Salzburg’s Top Attraction

While visiting Salzburg, it’s impossible to miss the imposing fortress Hohensalzburg high atop the hill looming over the city. It offers lots of great history, plus a killer view, so touring the fort should be on everyone’s itinerary when visiting Salzburg.

Salzburg, Austria at twilight

Things to do at the fort

First things first, let’s talk about that view. When you exit the inclined railway, head left to go to the “balcony” overlooking Salzburg. You’ll get the perfect panoramic view of the Salzach River winding its way through the city with the surrounding mountains in the background. It was gorgeous in the summer, and when we visited in the winter, the twilight view looked like it belonged on a Christmas card.

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What to see at the Musei Capitolini

What to See at the Musei Capitolini in Rome

The Musei Capitolini offers a fantastic gallery of artwork and artifacts right in the heart of ancient Rome. If the collection isn’t enough to amaze you, the buildings themselves are worthy of exploration, as they’re intricately detailed and certain areas show off the blend between ancient Rome and more modern construction as old ruins were uncovered during excavations to expand the galleries.

If that’s not enough to convince you to visit, the museum has a significant historical significance: it’s considered to be one of the oldest museums in the world, having been gifted to the people of Rome by the Pope in 1471. The layout of the unusually-shaped square was designed by Michaelangelo (the artist, not the Ninja Turtle), who also contributed one of the most famous works of art nearby – The Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.

Note: I received free admission to the Musei Capitolini thanks to a 72-hour Roma Pass provided by the tourism board. All opinions are my own. For more information on the Roma Pass or visiting Rome, check out the Tourism Board’s website. You can also contact them on Facebook or via phone at 0039 060608.

What to see at the Musei Capitolini

 

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Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome, Italy

Visiting Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome

Located just a few minutes from the Vatican City – in fact, it’s connected by a walkway the Pope could use to escape attackers – Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome is the perfect place to explore after visiting the Vatican City. Your tour gives you an interesting insight into how the structure has morphed from a mausoleum to a fortress and Papal residence. If the history isn’t enough for you, the view of Rome and the Vatican from the top of the fortress is worth a visit in and of itself.

Note: I received free admission to Castel Sant’Angelo thanks to a 72-hour Roma Pass provided by the tourism board. All opinions are my own. For more information on the Roma Pass or visiting Rome, check out the Tourism Board’s website. You can also contact them on Facebook or via phone at 0039 060608.

Visiting Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome, Italy

What is Castel Sant’Angelo?

If you find yourself in the vicinity, the imposing structure is sure to catch your eye. It stands out from the other architecture in the area with its fortified walls and cylindrical tower. It was originally constructed as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian and his family, and the ashes of subsequent emperors were also placed there. A bridge crossing the Tiber River leads directly to the Castel, and the angel statues lining both sides reminded me a bit of the famous Charles Bridge in Prague.

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Stained glass in Sainte Chappelle

Sainte Chappelle: Paris’ Hidden Gem

Everyone knows about Paris’ greatest hits: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe. But when planning my first ever visit, I came across one site that I’d never heard of: Sainte Chappelle. This hidden gem should be on any Paris Itinerary. Though it’s certainly less well-known than nearby Notre Dame, the inside of Sainte Chappelle is even more beautiful. Famous for its incredible stained glass, visitors are left in awe of this incredible royal chapel dating back to the 1200s.

The chapel, originally founded by Saint Louis (not the city) to house a collection of Catholic relics has survived a lot in its history. It was vandalized during the French Revolution, used for storage, and oiled up to protect it from WWII bombing. After lots of renovations, it’s now open to the public and should not be missed on your visit to Paris.

Sainte Chappelle’s lower level

Lower chapel in Sainte Chappelle

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Notre Dame by the River Seine in Paris, France

Notre Dame: Birds, Gargoyles, and an Incredible View

Everyone knows about the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. It may well be the most famous church in the world, and it is a must-see on most Paris itineraries. It’s every bit as hauntingly beautiful inside as you would expect. Here’s what you need to know for visiting Notre Dame.

Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France

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Salt sculptures in the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland

Exploring the Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is located just outside of one of my favorite cities in the world – Krakow, Poland. It was a working salt mine for over 700 years, and now is one of the top tourist attractions in the area. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site if you’re into that kind of thing. I loved the tour because over the years, miners carved incredible statues out of the rock salt, and other artists have contributed works as well. The tour is much more than just walking through old mine shafts, and I highly recommend visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine when in Krakow.

Touring the Wieliczka Salt Mine

The regular tours at Wieliczka last a couple of hours and involve a lot of walking and some stairs (though it’s possible to book accessible tours in advance). You only visit a fraction of the chambers in the mine – it would take days to explore the whole thing – but it includes the history of the work that was done there as well as info about the tools and machinery used. Foreign language tours are available, and it’s recommended to book them in advance on their website. With the current exchange rate, they cost about $25.

Carvings in the Wieliczka Salt Mine

Our tour started off with a long climb down a series of stairs (at least we weren’t going up!) to enter the first part of the mine. We learned the legend about how the mine came to be there, and about the different methods that were used there.

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Viewing the Northern Lights in Iceland

Top Tips for Viewing the Northern Lights

Viewing the Northern Lights (or Southern!) is high on many bucket lists. One of my main goals on my recent trip to Iceland was to see them for the first time, and we had phenomenal luck, spotting them four out of our six nights there. There’s no sure-fire way to guarantee that you’ll see an aurora, but here are my top tips for spotting the Northern Lights.

Visit somewhere that experiences the Northern Lights regularly

Viewing the northern lights

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