Travel Expressions Ltd.'s Blog

France's largest port town, on the magical Mediterranean, has been transformed in recent years. 

You'll still find the charms of its Old Port, the oldest neighborhood in France, the maritime culture... but there's been a wave of revitalization and stunning builds that make this seaside city spectacular. 

On our latest visit, we fell in love with Marseille, and here are at least 3 reasons we think you'll love it too.

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What to Order at the Bar in... Mediterranean Travel Destinations

When you imagine an escape to the sunny, sensuous Mediterranean, what drink are you ordering at the bar? 

Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.TV's producer/ host, shares her favorites.

I once traveled with a cameraman who spent our entire 3-week, 10+ city film shoot in the Mediterranean trying to teach bartenders how to make a White Russian. The confusion – and often disdain - on their faces was priceless. On one occasion, the rest of the crew was blissfully sipping delicious local wine at a table under umbrellas on Barcelona's Las Ramblas pedestrian thoroughfare, soaking in the ambiance and enjoying a rare break. He spent half an hour trying to explain to the waiter how to make a White Russian. Finally the waiter exclaimed, 'But sir! In Spain, only children drink milk!'

Don’t be that guy. When you're looking to switch it up from the regional wine or beer or straight-up spirits, here's a list of cocktails you can confidently order like a local.

Kir Royale:

My first love affair with a cocktail began when I lived in France. It's still the first thing I do whenever I arrive anywhere in France, from Normandy to Nice: go to an elegant bar, ideally with a view, and order a Kir Royale to toast my return to one of my most beloved travel destinations. Kir Royale is made from crème de cassis (black currant liqueur – there's no cream, crème de… refers to any sweetened cordial) and champagne. You can also order a Kir, which is the same cocktail but with white wine instead of champagne (royale in a cocktail refers to champagne) or, as I discovered in a restaurant in the Beaujolais region, a Cardinal, made with red wine instead of white.

Tastes like the South of France! Lynn Elmhirst, Pastis, c BestTrip.TV

Tastes like the South of France! Lynn with her Pastis. c BestTrip.TV

Pastis:

In the south of France, particularly in Marseille, locals are most likely to be ordering Pastis at a café. Pastis barely qualifies as a 'cocktail'. It isn't even mixed by the bartender. Generally, you are given your own bottle of anise-flavored liqueur and a carafe of (often iced) water; you mix them together to your own taste. The moment you add water, your cocktail becomes cloudy. Don’t worry, it's supposed to look like that. Ah, but you don't like black licorice or anything anise-flavored, right? Trust me, in the blistering Mediterranean summer sun, nothing tastes more perfect. Or trust French good taste: they are said to drink 130 million litres every year.

Ouzo:

The French are not alone in developing an anise-based liqueur. It's a common theme in traditional spirits in the Mediterranean. The version distilled in Greece is Ouzo. Good Ouzos are complex, containing numerous botanicals in addition to anise. That means there are nearly as many versions as there are distillers of Ouzo. And like pastis in Marseille and Provence, it's drunk mixed with water, perfect for a dry throat on a hot Mediterranean day.

Enjoy a Bellini on the Westin Europa and Regina's terrace and watch Venice sail by on the Grand Canal. C BestTrip.TV

Bellini:

It's hard to say you've been to Venice if you haven't had a Bellini. The original was developed in the 1930's by the owner of Harry's Bar, and you can still order one there in Venice today. This cocktail features prosecco (Italian sparkling white wine) paired in a perfect flavor combination with white peach puree, served (like a kir royale) in a champagne flute. The ideal foreground to any photo of life on the Grand Canal in Venice.

One more before you go; the Aperol Spritz Bar at the Venice Airport c BestTrip.TV

Aperol Spritz:

If the Bellini is a bit too 'ladies' brunch' for you, give the much more savory Aperol Spritz a try. A 'spritz' is a wine-based cocktail with a bitter, botanical liqueur and a splash of soda. The Aperol Spritz has become the go-to version especially in Northern Italy. There are a reputed 300,000 consumed daily in the Veneto region alone! Aperol's vivid coral color, and flavor combining bitter oranges, rhubarb and gentian root, make it both festive and refreshing.

Negroni:

Where the Aperol Spritz is light, summery and refreshing, the Negroni is the Italian cocktail with bitter liqueur that will 'put hair on your chest' as I once told a friend when I recommended it. In this case, the bitter comes from Campari, less sweet and higher in alcohol than Aperol. Paired with gin and vermouth in an old-fashioned glass over ice with an orange peel, it packs a punch. Order one in Florence, where the Negroni was invented in 1919. The Negroni – and versions of it – have become the 'it' drink in trendy watering holes in North America, so you can show your mastery of cocktail style before your next trip to Italy.

Sangria:

Popular on patios across North America, where imaginations have run wild, producing exotic variations on Spain's original red wine and marinated fruit 'punch', Sangria is still a legitimate local drink in Spain. So even if you regularly make green grape and kiwi sangria for your own pool parties, don't miss trying the original on its home turf. In more traditional places like Madrid, you'll find Sangria that sticks to its roots. The original recipe elevates young (but still drinkable!) Spanish table wine blended with oranges, lemon, and a cinnamon stick, left overnight to blend the flavors, into a truly delectable beverage served at the table from a shared pitcher.

When to drink them:

Western Europeans generally order cocktails like these as aperitifs – afternoon/pre-dinner cocktails, occasionally with light snacks. Dinner later in the evening is usually served with wine (or in Central Europe, beer), and a dessert wine or port accompanies a sweet or cheese course.

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Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Makes 5-Star Award History

Business, leisure luxury hotel brand earns more Forbes 5-Star Ratings in a single year than any other hotel brand. 

2017 is a banner year for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.  It marks the second consecutive year the hotel brand, loved by fans of luxury travel, has topped Forbes Travel Guide ratings with a record number of Five-Star Properties.  How many have you stayed at?

Forbes Travel Guide has awarded a Five-Star rating – its highest honor – to 30 Four Seasons properties worldwide. The recognition marks the largest number of Five-Star ratings awarded to a hotel brand in a single year in the list’s nearly 60-year history.  

Star ratings are awarded by a team of professional inspectors, who anonymously evaluate properties against up to 800 rigorous and objective standards. The guides' goal is to provide consumers like you the insight to make better-informed business and leisure travel decisions.

In the words of Forbes Travel Guide, its inspectors “travel the world to assess hotels, restaurants and spas against up to 800 objective standards.” Star ratings ultimately emphasize quality of service. Five-Star properties are defined as “outstanding, often iconic properties with virtually flawless service and amazing facilities.”

Forbes Travel Guide rates properties in 42 countries throughout the Americas, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, with plans to add the Middle East and Africa for 2018.

4 Four Seasons properties earned their first Five-Star designation this year, including Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay (pictured top of page), Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan (pictured above), Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest (pictured below) and Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel (pictured second from top).

The 30 Four Seasons properties that earned Five Stars in 2017 are:

  • Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta
  • Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay
  • Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan
  • Four Seasons Hotel Boston
  • Four Seasons Hotel Chicago
  • Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
  • Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva
  • Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
  • Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris
  • Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest
  • Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou
  • Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake
  • Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
  • Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
  • Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole
  • Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
  • Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane
  • Four Seasons Hotel Macao, Cotai Strip
  • Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
  • Four Seasons Hotel New York
  • Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach
  • Four Seasons Hotel Pudong, Shanghai
  • Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, Mexico
  • Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco
  • Four Seasons Hotel Seattle
  • Four Seasons Hotel Toronto
  • Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver
  • Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC
  • Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler
  • Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel

Forbes Travel Guide formally bestows the ratings at a Five-Star Awards Ceremony and Banquet in New York City on March 1, 2017.

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Bonjour!

Europe isn't as well-known for it's street eats as some other regions, but there is a ton of variety of traditional anf fusion flavors that you just have to try. 

Here are the street cart smarts you need to navigate through the mixed and marvelous world of European street cuisine. 

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Picnic 
One of the most fun parts about Europe is the many squares, plazas, fountains, parks and other public spaces available that are perfect for setting up a picnic.

Oftentimes there are street vendors stationed nearby; especially in more urbanized areas street vendors continue to be a popular local snack or meal that you can find almost anywhere.

Set up with some chow to people-watch and chat with friends, or add a cheap bottle of wine and you have budget-friendly romantic date.

Farmers’ Markets 
This is one of the best places to find fresh produce, baked goods, drinks and snacks. European produce is high in quality, and since many people do their shopping out of Farmers’ Markets, you’ll have a large selection to choose from.

Throughout Europe you can find Farmers’ Markets that sell pre-maid snacks and meals for discount prices. Ask around locally where you can find them.

Turkish Influences 
Particularly in Germany, the Netherlands, and France, a wave of immigration from Turkey and other countries in the Middle East has brought about an influx of delicious, rich flavors, now a staple in the street cart world.

In Berlin especially, Turks make up the majority of the immigrant population, meaning a plethora of fresh Turkish cuisine to enjoy.

Try the infamous döner, which is kebab meat with yoghurt sauce and fresh greens served in a flatbread like a sandwich. According to local legend it was invented in the 1970s by a business-minded Turkish immigrant at Kottbusser Tor.

Falafel is another popular import. In Amsterdam if you’re looking for a cheap, fresh snack, head over to the Amsterdam Central Station for the little falafel cart outside. For more about falafel in Amsterdam, check out this article.

Drink 
In Italy you can easily find a street-side café or Espresso bar for a quick, pick-me-up espresso.

For places like Prague and Berlin, lift your spirits with some wonderful mulled wine. In Berlin, you can find Glühwein, a hot spiced red wine, usually prepared with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, orange peel and sugar. Sometimes fruit wines, like blueberry and cherry wine, are used instead of grape wine. For an extra kick order it mit rum(with a shot of rum). Glühwein is über popular in Berlin, especially during Christmastime.

In Prague, between the art and craft stands at the Christmas Market in Old Town serves up the most warm and wonderful mulled wine. It’s strong and sweet and unlike anything you’ve ever tried.

Sweets 
Ich bin ein Berliner! Seriously though, if you’re in Berlin, don’t miss out on thepfannkichen, a type of doughnut filled with jam.

In Italy, it’s a gelato dream. In major cities you can find small, bodega-like establishments on pretty much every block. For a few Euros you can cool off with a few scoops of gelato. Stick to places that sell only gelato though. One good rule of thumb for food carts is the fewer the options the better the quality.

If you’re traveling to Belgium, you have to try the waffles. Squeezed between the incredible art and architecture in Brussels are dozens of small stands serving up fresh waffles, covered in fruit, chocolate and whipped cream.

In Paris and other areas of France, crepes are where it’s at. For dessert have one spread with confiture de ait or with salted butter and honey. Or if you’re me, lots and lots of nutella. Crêperies are available on almost every street corner and in addition to dessert-style, you can find Arab versions with feta cheese, spinach, olives and sausage or with grated gruyère cheese, and a softly-fried egg.

Here’s Where to Get the Best Crepes in Paris.

Fried Cheese 
Just stop and think about how good that sounds. One of the most popular and traditional of Czech street foods is syr smazeny, which is breaded and fried cheese, usually of the Edam, Gouda or Swiss variety. It typically comes with tatarska omacka (tartar sauce), along with fried potatoes, and salad or bread.

You can find this treat in Bulgaria too, except it’s made with kashkaval cheese.

Top Picks 
Europe is tricky because it’s a region that encompasses 50 different countries. There are a few top hits though, so we’ll try to point them out (let us know what we missed!)

England is famous for fish n’ chips, seasoned with vinegar and salt served on a paper plate piled high with chips (“french fries”).

Across the Balkans you’ll find the most delicious, hand-formed sausages also known ascevapi or cevaps, served on lepinje, a type of flat bread. On the Dalmatian coast in Croatia, it’s fried seafood and seafood salads, such as lignje na salatu (squid salad).

In Athens, it’s the gyros; Germany has sausage with bread, wurst, kartoffein, and struedel; Bury Market in England serves up the best blackpudding; and Stockholm has cheap knäckis, a sandwich of fried herring, topped with cucumbers and red onions, and served on hard bread.

Speaking of herring, don’t go to Amsterdam without trying the “nieuwe” herring, salted and served on a paper plate with onions and gherkin (pickles). Eat with a toothpick and enjoy the surprisingly mild, savory taste.

More Resources 
Here’s a good, more specialized guide to Eastern European Street Food

Huffpost Travel: The 8 Tastiest Street Foods in Europe