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Smart Travels - Europe with Rudy Maxa

Smart Travels - Europe with Rudy Maxa

SMART TRAVELS - EUROPE WITH RUDY MAXA delivers Europe's premier destinations - from the grand plazas and sparkling fountains of Madrid and Barcelona to the castles and sweeping vineyards dotting France's Dordogne River Valley.

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Hot-spiced cider and strains of "O Tannenbaum" warm our hearts as we head to Europe for Christmas. Switzerland has a special glow this time of year and we find plenty of good cheer in the bright Christmas markets and toasty ski lodges. We begin in the magical atmosphere of Zurich, with its glittering trees and festive music. Then we veer off the beaten path to the medieval town of Bremgarten for a visit with St. Nicholas. Finally, we discover a winter paradise in glamorous St. Moritz, the famous ski resort with the "dry, sparkling champagne climate".

As more travelers return to Europe for multiple visits, many are on the lookout for another dimension in travel. Occasionally they want to skip historical sights and museums in favor of a trip-or a day- just for fun. They're ready for absolute R&R; looking to break up serious sightseeing with hot-air-balloon trips, mountain luge rides, country hikes or days at an amusement park. They're seeking new adventures in Europe-flights of fancy-spiced with great meals and local libations of course. This time, Rudy shares his personal picks of Europe Just for Fun.

A Mediterranean marvel, Barcelona simmers with beautiful beaches, medieval mazes, eye popping art and hypnotic architecture. From tapas bars, to surrealist art, to Modernist structures, we'll feast on Barcelona's delights. Rambles along La Rambla, Gaudi's treasures, a neighborhood festival, designer shopping and waterfront fun are some of the highlights. For the best in beaches we head north to the coves of the Costa Brava. Tips on tapas and nightlife.

Friendly and feisty, Scotland makes us feel right at home. In Edinburgh, we climb the ramparts of this city's famous castle, shop for kilts, visit mysterious Rosslyn chapel and thrill to a spooky ghost tour. Then we head to historic St. Andrew's to practice our swing on the world's most famous golf course. In the Scottish highlands, we try our hand at skeet shooting and falconry, and tour the Dewar's whisky distillery. Then it's off to historic Stirling to stroll the battlefields of Braveheart before setting sail on legendary Loch Lomand. Tips on golf and Scotch whisky.

Known the world over for its wheels of golden cheese, its sweet prosciutto and divine vinegar, this slice of Northern Italy is a feast. From our base in Bologna we eat our way across the region, taking in the glorious art and culture along the way: cheese and mosaics in Parma, Balsamic vinegar and racecars in Modena, ham, pasta and university life in Bologna. An excursion to the mountainous Apennines, a trip to Ravenna's brilliant 6th century mosaics and a beach resort at Rimini round out the adventure. Tips on sampling the region's delicacies and agri-tourism hotels.

The world's finest wines, sweeping vineyards and fine food couple with a river valley dotted with castles. We sample the best Bordeaux then cruise the lovely Dordogne and Lot rivers with stops at chateaux, ancient watermills, and perched villages. Cooking classes and an underground adventure to see pre-historic cave paintings round out the trip. Tips on wine tasting and walking paths.

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