December, 2009 browsing by month


Want to visit Spain for 20 Euros a night?

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

A majestic monastery in La Rioja

Spain is a bargain, especially if you choose to stay at any number of monasteries, convents and casas that offer hospitality to all, without religious obligation. These are working monasteries and convents in metropolitan cities and walled towns, whitewashed villages and quaint fishing ports. These monasteries that have withstood the conflicts of the ages and continue to offer hospitality at unbelievably low prices just as they have for centuries. Don’t confuse these unique places with paradors, one-time houses of worship that have been turned into pricey hotels with a smidgen of history left behind.

Spain is an unusual combination of elements – a country of history and architecture combined with cities of great tempo and sophistication. If Moorish architecture with its grand golden domes and romantic gardens or ancient Jewish heritage represented in dozens of quaint medieval towns and villages appeals to your senses, visit Spain. It’s a country that has a significant place in European culture.

Immerse yourself in history and visit Spain’s Castilla-La Mancha region, an area strongly connected to the story of Don Quixote and the windmills made famous by Miguel de Cervantes. Dulcinea, alias Dona Ana Martinez Zarco

, the woman who inspired Cervantes, was born in the town. Her house has been restored to its original 16th century style and attracts many visitors each year. The town is also the locale for the Biblioteca Cervantina, a museum that shelters the masterpiece by Cervantes in eighty different languages.

A beautiful corridor that leads to the guest rooms in a monastery in Castilla-La Mancha

The drive along the plains between El Toboso and Cuidad Real evokes Cervantes’ world of Don Quixote and Sancho. Campo de Criptana is a representative village of whitewashed dwellings sprawled on a hillside topped by windmills. Near Villarrubia de los Ojos, in the heart of what is known as wet La Mancha, is the National Park of Las Tablas de Daimiel. A vast region peppered with inland lagoons, the wetlands are covered with masiegas and reeds and provide wintering and resting places for thousands of migrating water birds. The Lagoons of Ruidera are also nearby. Comprised of fifteen linked waterways, the wetlands are separated from each other by natural barriers broken in places by spectacular waterfalls.

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Beat the Euro… Stay In Beautiful French Monasteries For About $40 a Night

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Do as the Europeans have been doing for centuries. Enjoy the inviting atmosphere of a house devoted to making people feel welcome. Stay at a monastery, convent or maison in many of the charming towns and cities of France and pay a fraction of what it would cost you in any hotel.  Most include breakfast in the nightly charge. Some offer half or full pension as well. Some only ask for a voluntary contribution. There’s no greater bargain to be had anywhere in France. There is no religious obligation and accommodations are open to all.

One of the regions often overlooked by many travelers from the United States is Alsace-Lorraine, a setting of significant beauty, a land of rolling meadows and vineyards bathed in sunshine and mountain forests that grow right up to the banks of the Rhine. Here you will find a patchwork of beautiful landscapes, outstanding architectural heritage and handsome, region-based crafts that have been made for centuries.

Alsace stretches like a narrow ribbon from the Swiss border in the south to the German border north of Strasbourg. The famous Route du Vin winds its way through seventy-five miles of storybook villages past houses with gabled roofs and chimneys topped with stork nests. Influenced by the German language, architecture and cuisine and cradled by the Vosges and the Rhine, it represents an altogether alluring milieu.

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