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Trick or... Travel: Top Hallowe'en-Inspired Trips
Supernatural and macabre films, TV series, and novels feed our gathered-round-the-fire love of a scary story. But there’s nothing like the real-life thrill of visiting in person places around the world whose histories of hauntings, bone-chilling tales and ghostly sightings get our primal senses tingling while we’re standing right there!

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite spook-tacular trips:

London, England


London’s long history of royal intrigues and political skulduggery – as well as its wealth of ancient towers, dungeons, prisons and places of execution – make most historic places ripe for ghastly tales.

Evan Evans conducts London tours with guides expert in ghoulish history specifically for you to immerse yourself in the city’s spine-chilling history at Hallowe’en.

Its London Dungeon Tour brings the dark, bloody history of London to life walking through The London Dungeon. The immersive theatrical storytelling tour with live actors, lavish sets and special effects is a fantastic way to explore the darker side of London’s history and get in the mood for Halloween.

 
Guests will experience the full wrath of King Henry VIII, and join Anne Boleyn on her final journey along the River Thames to the infamous Tower of London (image via Getty).
 
Or take its Jack the Ripper Tour (top image, Getty) to walk in the footsteps of London’s most infamous serial killer on a tour conducted in the evening for maximum thrills. You’ll travel back to Victorian London as you visit the real-life murder locations and hear the gruesome stories behind Jack the Ripper’s vicitims’ deaths.
 

Ireland

 
Ireland is equally scary. A Royal Irish Tours “Emerald Adventure” driving holiday takes you into the heart of a number of Ireland’s most spooky places.
 
You’ll be booked to spend the night in a luxurious, but haunted, castle. Ballygally Castle north of Belfast is home of the ghost of Lady Isabella Shaw, believed to have been thrown from a castle-top window by the cruel Lord Shaw. Over the years many guests have reported strange experiences and have felt a presence in their rooms. There are also endless stories of an eerie green mist over the castle. For the very brave, during your stay you can even visit the room of Lady Isabella at the top of the spiral staircase.
 
During your two-day stay in Dublin, you can travel back in time and learn about “Ghosts, Ghouls and Goodie Glover Day” at EPIC Ireland, the world’s first fully digital museum that tells the story of Irish emigration. Learn more about The Dullahan (“dark man”), a malevolent harbinger of death who served as the inspiration for the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow, or how the local practice of burying corpses with a stake through the heart influenced the writings of Irish emigrant Bram Stoker, author of Dracula.


Uncover the tragic story of ‘Goody Annie Glover’ the Irish woman who became the last person hanged for witchcraft in Boston in 1688, and how the influx of Irish immigrants, who brought their traditions and folktales, helped shape the story of jack-o’-lanterns in America (image via Getty).
 

Sicily

 
The history of Sicily’s capital city already has a bloody history, through its ties to the Sicilian mafia. If you’re looking for a more traditional eerie happening, though, Exodus Tours recommends its ‘Street Food and Sunshine in Sicily” tour for its tour of Palermo whose Teatro Massimo is said to be haunted by the ghost of a nun, known as ‘La Monachella’.

 
The controversial project to build the Teatro Massimo (picture courtesy Exodus Tours) involved the destruction of four churches and two convents. It’s said that the building work desecrated the grave of a former Mother Superior, and her spirit haunts the theatre to this day. During the 23 years it took to construct the opera house, many of the original backers died, including the architect– could the curse of La Monachella be the reason? You’ll have to decide for yourself – if you have the fortune to see the spirit of the Mother Superior herself.
 

Egypt

 
Egypt has given us so many Hallowe’en themes as the country where bandage-wrapped ancient myths and legends originate. On Exodus Tours’ 'Pyramids and Pharaohs in Egypt” tour, you can get up close to the real thing – and contemplate a cautionary tale tied to ancient Egypt.
 

The artefact of the “Unlucky Mummy” (picture courtesy of Exodus Tours) can now be found in the British Museum, but its story begins in 1860s Egypt, where four British university students decided to pick up a souvenir of their visit, in the form of the coffin lid of a priestess of Amen-Ra. On the return trip, two of the graduates died, and a third accidentally shot himself in the arm, resulting in an amputation. The fourth lost his entire fortune (twice), a photographer and porter trying to take a photograph of it died, as did the man translating its hieroglyphs. Throughout the years since, many more people associated with the coffin lid were plagued with bad luck.
 
 

South of France

 
River cruising can sail you right up into the heart of off-the-beaten path historic towns with rich and eerie pasts.

 
On an Avalon Waterways river cruise on the Rhone river in the south of France, you can take one of their Active & Discovery shore excursions: a ghost walk by moonlight through the winding, bending cobblestone alleyways of Viviers (picture via Getty) – a hilltop, stone-walled medieval village – that brings the ancient ghosts, legends and tales of this quiet – is it too quiet? - little town to life.
 

Start your Spook-tacular Trip!



Images credits as noted

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Another River Cruise Line to Begin Sailing on the Douro in Portugal
 
 
Beginning in 2024, Avalon Waterways will be the latest river cruise line to embark on this increasingly popular route, joining Uniworld, Tauck, AmaWaterways, Scenic, Emerald Cruises and others on this western-most European river cruise route.
 
Calling its new itinerary “a new view on the Old World,” Avalon Waterways says the new route will provide guests with “the grandest views in cruising and whim-powered itineraries to Southwestern Europe.” 
 
Avalon's new river cruise roundtrip from Porto brings guests into the heart of hillside vineyards and historic villages in this famous wine region all the way to the glorious sandstone architecture of Salamanca, Spain, just across the border.  
 
From medieval castles to cinematic scenery – plus all the vinho, fresh-baked rustic bread, locally grown olives and locally-produced cheese your soul desires – a Douro River cruise earns an entry on your European river cruising bucket list. 
 
Plus, Avalon Waterways has three styles of shore excursions that allow you to customize your Portuguese river cruise. In addition to ‘Classic’ tours, guests can choose from ‘Active’ and ‘Discovery’ tours that give you new perspectives on destinations, plus a chance to break a light sweat and even get your hands a bit dirty! The river cruise line says ‘Active’ and ‘Discovery’ tours on its new Douro River itinerary will include things like rock art or baking traditional ‘florinhas’ pastries, painting iconic Portuguese tiles, to riding bikes from Porto to the sea. 
 
Of course, all guests will enjoy visiting farms and vineyards, wine- and food-tastings, scenic sailings and historic city exploration, with overnights in some towns along the way.
 

A Ship Named 'Happiness'

Douro River dimensions require customized vessels, and Avalon’s purpose-built ship for its Portugal river cruises is the Avalon Alegria, debuting in 2024. 
 
The Alegria – which means ‘happiness’ in Portuguese – will accommodate just a hundred guests on two decks, so you’ll be able to get to know and have shared experiences with the small group of people on your Portuguese river journey. 
 
 
Like other Avalon Waterways ships, the Alegria will orient beds to face the windows, so you can open your floor-to-ceiling sliding windows and your whole room becomes an ‘open-air balcony’ facing the views sailing along the Douro. 
Guests will also enjoy a pool on the Sky Deck to bask in the warm Portuguese sun and take in the scenery during daytime sailings from a new, poolside perspective.
 

Start your Douro River Cruise Trip!

 
Top Image: Getty
Bottom Image: Avalon Waterways
 
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The Safest Countries for Solo Women Travelers - Plus Other Top Tips
Never before have more women been traveling solo! Singletons of all ages and stages in life: never-been-married, divorced, widowed… all kinds of women are deciding not to wait to be paired up or until a friend can be a travel companion to embark on dream journeys.

They’re making plans to travel now. Does that sound like you? If so, you’re part of one of the top travel trends, and the great news is that the world has never been more accessible to solo travelers, especially solo women travelers.

Here are three of the most burning questions women often ask before committing to travel on their own, and my tips for solo travel:

1. Is it safe?

Let’s face it – everyone’s daily commute has risks. But the idea of traveling alone in an unfamiliar location makes many savvy women newly thoughtful about their personal safety.

To help you decide where you might want to try solo travel, here are the results of a recent study that ranked three dozen popular tourist countries for their safety for solo women travelers. 
 
The ranking was based on seven measurements about things like the percentage of women in a country who report experiencing violence, who feel safe walking home or at night, of how a society feels about domestic violence or violence against women, and the strength of local laws protecting women. The data came from organizations like the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the World Bank.

Only one of the countries that made the top ten list of the safest destinations for solo women travelers was outside of Europe.

Ireland topped the safe list with a score of 7.88/10, with Austria, Norway, Slovenia and Switzerland rounding out the top five.

The only non-European nation that made the top 10 was Canada, which ranked 8th, with Spain and Portugal ranked slightly higher and the Netherlands and Poland completing the top 10. One other non-European nation, Japan, barely missed the top 10, coming in at 11th in the rankings.

Tip for Staying Safe:
Also, don’t forget the old mantra “There’s safety in numbers.” Traveling solo doesn’t mean you have to travel alone – group travel is a great way to travel solo – and stay safe.

2. Is it more expensive?

Travel often prices trips for ‘double occupancy.’ That is: two people to a room. And that can put solo travelers at a financial disadvantage. If you don’t want or don’t have anyone to share with, it can leave you on the hook for double the price.

Well, the good news is that more and more travel companies are catering to the solo travel crowd. Some serve only singletons or even single women, with no ‘single surcharge’ at all; they’ve negotiated prices for accommodations that don’t penalize their solo women travelers. Others specialize in singletons and pair up solos who are willing to share a room to save.

Other tour companies and cruise lines offer occasional solo travel specials, where they waive the single traveler surcharge. These are terrific deals that give you the full experience without having to share! 


Tip for Maximizing your Solo Travel Budget:
Your expert travel advisor can help you take advantage of solo travel specials whether it’s an ocean or river cruise or a small- or full-sized group land tour that interests you.

More and more travel companies are catering to solo travelers, especially women. There are some companies that serve only women solo travelers! And many, many others who make special accommodations, packages, and pricing arrangements for women seizing the day and hitting the road on their own.

3. Is it worth it?

Solo travel can seem like a lot of effort. But if you’re craving travel, finding the optimal way to travel solo is your dream come true.

And the good news is that solo travel doesn’t have to mean you’re on your own.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Solo Travel:
I mentioned group travel already. Groups provide not just extra safety and an expert local tour guide who knows the lay of the land to make you feel completely secure. The local group tour leader can give you the best local knowledge for you to spend your free time, so you have a built-in support system and source of information.

Groups also people to socialize with, and if you’re a bit intimidated by the idea of a large group, take heart! Tour groups can range from a full coach of 40 people to as small as half a dozen people. You have a wide range of options for the number of people you’ll be sharing your journey with.

Plus, working with a qualified travel advisor means there’s always someone with the full details of your travel plans at home who’s in your corner – and able to help sort out any glitch that may happen while you’re on your solo travel journey.
 

Start your Solo Trip!

 
 
Images: Getty
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A Wine River Cruise that's Close to Home
One of the top reasons many travellers take a European river cruise is for the wine. The banks of many of Europe’s rivers provide the perfect combination of drainage and sun exposure for the cultivation of vines that produce some very famous wines.

But one of the best wine river cruises in the world doesn’t require a long haul flight.

Lynn Elmhirst, Producer and Host of BestTrip TV, explains.


The Pacific Northwest’s increasingly-acclaimed wine regions have a river flowing through them. Oregon and Washington states meet at the Columbia River as it flows westward towards the Pacific Ocean.

Our week-long UnCruise Adventure on the Columbia River tapped into some epic themes and gave us experiences that rival any river cruise in Europe – or the world:

·     We sailed in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark’s historic expedition to the Pacific through the Northwest, on a vintage vessel that’s designed to evoke the American frontier era of exploration; 

·     Our cruise gave us front row seats to take in the spectacular scenery of the Columbia River Gorge and its awe-inspiring transition from temperate rainforest to desert-like landscapes and dramatic cliffs; and

·     And it brought us into towns and communities along the way that have staked a claim to fame as world-class wine and culinary destinations.

Although most UnCruise Adventures emphasize soft adventure experiences like kayaking and other water sports off the ship, and zodiak landings in remote locations for hiking and land exploration, our Rivers of Wine cruise highlighted the region’s exquisite wine and cuisine.

And for good reason.


River of Wine

On both sides of the Columbia river, in both Oregon and Washingtonstates, a critical mass of viticulture is gaining world-wide recognition. 

Oregon has now become one of America’s largest wine producing states, with hundreds of wineries growing dozens of varietals, but mainly in small-batch wineries producing artisan wines from Riesling to Viogniers, Pinot noir to Syrah, with sparkling, rose, and dessert wines that tempted our palates.


On the other side of the river, Washington state is also now one of the top wine producers in the country. While it's a relative newcomer to America’s wine scene, wine has an illustrious pedigree in the state, dating back to 1825 when the Hudson's Bay Company planted the area's first wine grapes at Fort Vancouver.
 
Today’s Washington state viticulture community is growing fast, drawing wine-makers from Europe and New World wine regions to the state's unique terroir and conditions for producing premium white and red wines. Washington's young and internationally-influenced wine culture exhibits some of the latest trends in wine-making that visiting oenophiles – like us! love. Hand-crafting, sustainability, organic and biodynamic wines make visits to this Pacific North West wine region a must for any wine-lover.


 
I can’t think of a more geographically diverse wine river! We visited wineries with the Cascade Mountains’ dramatic Mt. Hood as a backdrop, to other vineyards just a short sail along the river thriving in almost desert conditions.

 
It would be nearly impossible to replicate our wine exploration of the Pacific Northwest along the Columbia River without the expertise of our UnCruise experts and guides, whose knowledge and relationships in the region gave us access to passionate local winemaker entrepreneurs who are drawing on the unique terroir (wine-producing terrain) to cultivate the grapes and craft one-of-a-kind wines – none of which we could get at home.

 
In fact, some of our fellow guests were on the cruise specifically to tap into that expertise to add to their wine collections. That’s a clear benefit of a ‘drive-to’ cruise: they’d driven in some cases cross-country to leave their cars in Portland and embark the ship, ready to drive home with a new collection of vintages – and Pacific Northwest winery contacts - after our round-trip voyage.
 
Others, like us, were thrilled just to taste these uniquely Pacific Northwest wines in charming wineries, surrounded by vineyards, and hear the stories of the winemakers, as well as meet and sample the fruits of the labors of other culinary innovators in small communities along the river. I think all of us were inspired to find room for at least one or two special bottles in our luggage to fly home!
 
The wine tastings and culinary samplings during our trips off the ship were complemented by an outstanding onboard gastronomic experience.
 
Hyper-local ingredients, not just regional, but identified on daily menus right down to the farm and producer, were transformed into one memorable meal after another. A ship that small – with a tiny galley! – even included a pastry chef. And in addition to abundant meals, onboard tastings of local oysters, cheeses and other delicacies had us pacing ourselves, knowing more treats we’d have to try would be coming up next.
 
The onboard sommelier worked lock-step with the chefs to pair an outstanding range of local wines, many from wineries we didn’t get a chance to visit, with each dish at dinner.

 
But maybe our favorite moment was on board when, local wine in hand, we immersed ourselves in the top deck’s hot tub during a late afternoon sailing to watch some of the most dramatic Columbia River Gorge scenery float by as we toasted our cruise along America’s River of Wine.
 

Start Your Wine River Cruise Trip!

 
 
All images copyright BestTrip TV/ Lynn Elmhirst.

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New USPS Stamp Collection Salutes Mississippi River Cruising
They don’t call it the “Mighty Mississippi” for nothing. From Lake Itasca’s trickling overspill in Minnesota, the Mississippi travels the length of the continental U.S., growing as it flows for 2,300 miles until it empties into the Gulf of Mexico with waters added from tributaries in 31 U.S. states.

The Mississippi is at the core of American heritage, and is often also referred to as “America’s backbone.” It’s also the country’s heart and soul, and one of the most epic river routes in the world. No wonder the popularity of Mississippi river cruises continues to grow.
 
In the spring of 2022, the United States Postal Service recognized the continuing allure of America’s greatest waterway and “quintessential highway” in a new stamp collection called the Mighty Mississippi. Each of the 10 photographic stamps in the portfolio represents a state along the course of the river.
 
And one of them – the Iowa stamp - features American Queen Voyages' American Queen steamboat near the city of Bettendorf. The honor also marks American Queen Voyages' 10th anniversary of sailing the Mississippi River.
At the ceremony dedicating the new stamp collection, the master of ceremonies was the cruise director of American Queen voyages, and John Waggoner, founder and chairman of American Queen Voyages joined USPS chief postal inspector, local mayors from along the river, historians and pastors, were also on hand to inaugurate the collection and note its significance.

“Travelers have been captivated by the Mississippi River — romanticizing the steamboats transporting them from Minnesota to Louisiana — throughout history,” said Waggoner. “Our flagship American Queen is an iconic symbol of those mighty paddle-wheelers, and we are honored to have her grace the collection.” 
 
The American Queen may be the perfect existing river cruise ship to symbolize Mississippi river cruising. At 400 feet long and nearly 90 feet wide, it’s the largest paddlewheel steamboat ever built. Her ornate, historic design, complete with bright red paddlewheel, fluted stacks and curlicue woodwork harkens back to the “romanticized” early days of Mississippi riverboat travel. That’s no accident.
 
“What we try to do as philosophy is keep things like it was in the 1900s. This is just how it was when Mark Twain was onboard,” Waggoner has said.
 
“We want you to experience the thump-thump-thump-thump-thump of the paddlewheel. We want you to stand on the stern. We want you to get muddy Mississippi water spraying your face, and we want you to sit in a rocking chair, and watch the river go by and relax.'
 
Other stamps in the collection highlight top destinations – and incredible diversity of travel experiences – along the length of the Mississippi.
River cruises tend to break the immense river into sections. Guests can choose northern, middle or southern itineraries – or even full length cruises of the Mighty Mississippi. From the unmistakeable, mid-century ‘gateway to the West’ skyline of St. Louis in the north, through the rich lands, horse, music and bourbon cultures in Kentucky and Tennessee, to the bayous of the South and the magic of the bright lights in birthplace of jazz and Creole culture, New Orleans, a river cruise on the Mississippi can bring travelers closer to the heart of America than they may have ever imagined.