Thursday, July 24, 2014

Château Vaux-le-Vicomte a top destination not just for Belcanto travelers

The long anticipated 2014 Enchanting Europe Tour with Belcanto directed by Mr. Bruce Koliha came to an end.
The group arrived safely back home in California, visited vibrant European capital cities such as LondonParis and Rome and made wonderful experiences along the way.

One of their top destinations during their tour with Incantato Tour was the privately owned legendary Château Vaux-le-Vicomte located in Maincy, France where they had a wonderful concert on Saturday July 5, 2014 in the stunning Grand Hall. This surely was a royal experience. If you are interested in the wonderful acoustics the château has to offer, please have a look at one of the Belcanto performances here on our Facebook page.

The baroque château was built from 1658 to 1661 for Nicolas Fouquet, Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV. It was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th-century Europe. 
At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the "Louis XIV style" combining architecture, interior and landscape design. 

It is no wonder why every year many visitors travel to the château, which is located 1.5 hours outside of Paris, or why celebrities travel here for their destination weddings. When you step onto its grounds, you get an immediate royal feeling. It is almost like you are the living character of a fairytale. Where ever you look there is something interesting and incredibly beautiful to discover.
Even high-end magazines such as the Jetset Magazine, which is the number one affluent lifestyle print and online resource writes an article about this magnificent place as you can see here.

Incantato Tours recommends everyone who is traveling France to take the time and visit Château Vaux-le-Vicomte. You will not regret it!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wishing all of you flying on Sunday a safe and smooth journey - Welcome to the tour start in London on Monday

Dear Belcanto Travelers,
we wish you a safe and smooth flight tomorrow and hope you look very much forward to this journey. Below are some pictures from Saturday's final meeting at the Château Vaux Le Vicomte.
More impression and live coverage of the journey, please visit our facebook pages.
Bon voyage, auf Wiedersehen, your Incantato and Inside Europe Tours team.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Let's have a look at the weather forecast...

Since the Enchanting Europe Tour is going to start this week on Sunday, June 29, 2014, we thought it would be a good idea to have a look at your weather forecast for London, Paris and Rome. It might increase your anticipation and also helps you to figure out what to pack in your suitcase.
In case you have not seen it yet, please have a look at our blog entry regarding what to pack and how to pack for your tour.

LONDON - Weather forecast: UK's capital city welcomes you with plenty of sun, highs in the low 70s and lows in the low 50s. On Wednesday, July 2, 2014 there is some sun with a few showers possible (only a 30% chance of rain). Temperatures are very nice, highs in the mid 70s and lows in the mid 50s.

PARIS has steady temperatures in the 70s and welcomes you with lots of sun. And ROME has temperatures in the mid 80s and a mix of sunshine and some light showers.

Incantato Tours will also post pictures, videos and updates during the tour on our Facebook page, so please tell you family members and friends at home to have a look there.

How to display travel mementos?

It is summer time and vacation time and it always seems like a great idea to purchase souvenirs on your vacation, until you are home and do not know how to display them properly.
Unpacking from a trip often includes trying to find places to store or display random keepsakes you have picked up along the way. If you are a sentimental traveler, you may be trying to find a way to keep your trip memories alive in your home with the ideas below:

A shadow box is a great way to show off those mementos in an clean and classy way. All you need is a 12x12 Shadow box which you can purchase at Ikea, Hobby Lobby, Target etc., a selection of keepsakes, double sided tape, craft supplies such as clothespins, masking tape, decorative labels, hot glue gun etc. Source: Design Aglow

Or put your favorite souvenirs into pretty glass jars. Display these memory jars on your mantel and treat it as a living arrangement — continue to update or rearrange items as you see fit. Source: Martha Stewart

If you are interested in other ways to display your holiday keepsakes, please have a look here

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Travel Tip: Frequently asked questions and answers

What is the size limit and number of items for a carry-on?
You may have 1 carry-on bag - it must be able to fit either under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin. We highly recommend something simple and easier to use such as a backpack. 

What are the airline carry-on container regulations?
No containers holding more that 3ozs of liquid are allowed in the carry-on luggage. They also must be in a plastic zip-lock or another transparent bag. Please also have a close look at the 311 rules by TSA (Transportation Security Administration).

Do I need to carry my passport with me all the time?
Ideally, your passport should be with you at all times because you are generally required to have some form of identity with you at all times. Please be “street-smart” and take care of pickpockets. Photocopies of the passport should be packed in your suitcase, available in your e-mail and Incantato Tours should also have a copy.

Do you have recommendations or suggestions on the type of power adapter needed and what voltage?
Electricity in Europe comes out of the wall socket at 220 volts alternating at a 50 cycles per second. In the US, electricity comes out of the wall socket at 110 volts, alternating at 60 cycles per second. Not only the voltages and frequencies, but the sockets themselves are different. Adapters and converters may be found at Target, Walmart and radio shack etc. Please also have a look at our blog entry regarding this matter.

Is tap water safe to drink in Europe?

Most European Union countries have implemented the EU Drinking Water Directive which makes it among the safest drinking water in the world. If you are unsure and want to be real safe, we would recommend to buy bottled water.

What is the average meal cost? How much money should you bring? 
As long as you are wise about your choices, meals can easily be 15 EUR or less. You don’t have to go to sit down at restaurants to find good food. But when you do want to sit down, you should check the menu outside to see if they have a "menu special" - you can get an entrée, dessert and a drink for a set price. 

What has the best exchange rate, using a debit card to pull money out or exchanging US currency?
By far, the best way to deal with money abroad is to use your debit or credit card. Most banks only charge around $2 per withdraw and they also take care of the exchange rate for you. Keep in mind that you need a 4 digit pin and also let your bank know in advance that you are travelling abroad. 
We do not recommend to bring Traveler's Checks with you. Please also have a look at our blog entry regarding money matters here

Do you know what the transaction fee is for withdrawing euros on my debit card at the ATM's?

This varies by debit card and cash machine used. Therefore we recommend to talk to your bank in advance.

What is the approximate exchange rate right now? 

It’s about $1.35 to 1 EUR (June 2014) 

Should I use a major credit card for all purchases in London or do I need a separate debit card for pounds?
You can withdraw pounds in England and Euro in France and Italy, so just one debit card will be fine. For major purchases a credit card will be best. Please note that you will be charged foreign transaction fees unless you have a card that covers those fees. Have a look at our blog entry regarding money matters here.

What happens if someone gets injured while in tour? Medical care and cost wise?Do they need a medical consent form for treatment?
It is mandatory to purchase travel insurance as indicated on your registration form. You can select any insurance provider you may like. However, due to good experiences in the past we recommend Travel Guard. Please find our blog entry regarding travel insurance here

Is there a dress code for non-singers/members of the tour for entrance into Notre Dame and the Vatican? 
A conservative dress code is just fine. We recommend to cover shoulders and knees and modest cleavage. We also dissuade to wear flip-flops.

What is your shoe recommendation for the tour?
We recommend no flip flops, closed toe is our personal recommendation, some light weight sneakers even or good sturdy sandals. Please have a look at our blog entry regarding packing tips here

Friday, June 6, 2014

Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli your venue in Rome, Italy

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, better known by its shorter name Santa Maria degli Angeli, is a unique Renaissance church in Rome.
It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to the angels, and to Christian slaves who died building the baths.

In 1541, a Sicilian priest had a vision of angels in the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian. As a result, Pope Pius IV ordered that a church be built within the Baths. The church was designed by Michelangelo, who began work in 1563 but died a year later in 1564. His design was completed by Jacopo Lo Duca, a student of Michelangelo.

The exterior has a unique appearance for a church, since its outer walls consist in part of the brick of the Baths of Diocletian. Although the interior has changed considerably and the floor has been raised a few feet, Santa Maria degli Angeli is one of the places where you can best appreciate the size and splendor of the Roman imperial baths.
Like most churches in Rome, Santa Maria degli Angeli is filled with art and monumental tombs and also has some holy relics.

The Choir is going perform a highlight concert at this magnificent venue on July 7, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Travel Tip: Luggage Size

Since the 2014 Enchanting Europe Tour starts this month, many of our travelers asked about the suitcase dimensions and how heavy it is allowed to be. Please find the regulations for the two airlines below:

Air Canada:
  • Check one bag at no charge
  • Max. weight per bag: 50lb, maximum linear dimensions per bag: 62 inches 
  • Plus one small/normal size carry-on (measurements: 9 in x 15.5 in x 21.5 in, maximum weight 22 lb, including handles and wheels)
Here is an interesting link to double check the information provided above.

United Airlines:
  • Check one bag at no charge
  • Up to 62 linear inches L + W + H and 50lbs per bag
  • Plus one small/normal size carry-on (measurements: 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches, including handles and wheels)
Here is an interesting link to double check the information provided above.

Please keep in mind that if you max this allowance out already on the way over, then there is no room for souvenirs on the way back.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Ciao and welcome to Verona and Romeo and Juliet!

Based in Paris and Venice, Thello operates daily night trains from/ to Paris or Dijon and the major cities of North Italy such as Milano, Brescia, Verona, Vicenza and Padova.
The Belcanto Monte Vista HS travelers will arrive in the early morning at the Verona Porta Nuova Station, in the heart of the city where Rome and Juliet took place. During your night in the train, you crossed the Alps and the Po valley without any stress due to crowded airports and roads.

Take your dinner in the dining car and enjoy a pleasant and warm atmosphere.  The catering teams offer menus which suit every budget and taste. A selection of warm and cold dishes, tasty French and Italian Cuisine and a range of carefully selected wines are available. In the morning of your arrival, after you woke up, you can also buy fresh baked pastries and coffee to start your day.

Picture courtsey of

Have you ever crossed a channel with a train?

Eurostar is a high-speed railway service connecting London (St. Pancras) with Paris (Gare du Nord) and Brussels (Midi/Zuid). All its trains use the Channel Tunnel between the United Kingdom and France, owned and operated separately by Eurotunnel. The service is operated by eighteen-coach trains which run at up to 186 mph on a network of high-speed lines.

Eurostar has been hailed as having set new standards in international rail travel and has won praise several times over, recognising its high standards. The company won the Train Operator of the Year award in the HSBC Rail Awards and it was declared the Best Train Company in the joint Guardian/Observer Travel Awards.

Food and travel are important to Eurostar therefore every travel class has a special menu included. For the standard class for example, the company teamed up with Waitrose, UK’s favorite supermarket, to bring its travelers a fresh menu of delicious food such as sandwiches, salads, hot dishes and sweet treats.

If you are curious and would like to see a video of the Eurostar. Then have a look below:

Safe travels wishes Incantato Tours!

What to see and do in London in your free time?

Many of you might already have an exact plan of what to do during your leisure time at your 2014 Enchanting Europe Performance Tour with Incantato Tours. You will be able to see many of London's famous sights on your half day sightseeing tour on Tuesday, July 1, 2014 such as the Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

The recommendations below are only suggestions and include things you might not think about and therefore we would like to bring it to your attention.

1. City of London Festival 2014
The annual City of London summer festival returns with a host of events in some of the capital's grandest settings. This year's program promises something to please every taste, from acclaimed comedy by the hilarious Richard Herring and Katherine Ryan to classical performances by the sensational London Symphony Orchestra, from jazz by Clare Teal and Julian Joseph to a whole host of free family-friendly outdoor performances which will be taking over the city streets from June 22, 2014 to July 17, 2014.

2. Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships 2014
The world of tennis descends on Wimbledon in South West London every summer for two weeks of tennis, strawberries and cream, and good-natured queuing. Wimbledon is one of four famous annual Grand Slam tennis tournaments held around the world. It's the world's longest-running and most prestigious tennis tournament. Games are still played on the original playing surface, grass, and there's a strict white-only dress code for players.

3. The Bowler Hat
See a series of comedy, theatre and cabaret performances within the quirky Bowler Hat venue in Paternoster Square. This unique venue in the heart of London hosts children's theatre, stand-up comedy, circus and cabaret events over three and a half fun-filled weeks.

4. London Eye
This giant ferris wheel is definitely worth a spin. Once you've boarded your glass-sided capsule (each capsule holds 25 people) it will be a half hour before you get back down. London Eye is a very slow ride but from the top of the 443-foot wheel you will be rewarded with gloriously views over London.

5. London Musicals
Why not enjoying an afternoon or night at one of London's great musicals? You can select between the award-winning adaptation of Disney's The Lion King, Andrew Lloyd Webber's epic musical Phantom of the Opera, the tribute to the music of Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 named Thriller etc.

Dining with French politicians at Independence Day only at Chez Françoise

What a wonderful way to celebrate Independence Day. Your dinner on Friday, July 4, 2014 will be at Chez Françoise restaurant in Paris. It is located at Les Invalides in the 7th arrondissement and has been a Paris institution since it was founded right after the World War II.

Air France commissioned an elegant meeting place for its travelers, but with the politicians just across the street in the embassy, Chez Françoise rapidly became the canteen of parliamentarians, as well, and so it remains today.

It is a stylish and fine dining restaurant where the entire staff has a passion for gastronomy and a commitment to excellent service. It is set in the ground floor of the Aérogare des Invalides and boasts bright and relaxed terraces for both winter and summer.

pictures are courtesy of

Explore Paris, Dine at La Crémaillère 1900

Located on the Place Du Terte, in the heart of Montmartre, positioned at a small square behind Sacré Cœur is the restaurant La Crémaillère 1900, which literally means "housewarming party". The uplifting charm of the Belle Epoque lives on in this non-touristy cabaret restaurant.

It welcomes it guests decorated in a room dedicated to the 1900, with Alphonse Mucha style paintings of female dancers and 1900 inspired decor. Alternatively it also offers a private courtyard garden, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Paris, with its cobblestones, chestnut trees and and cast iron Wallace fountain, an iconic symbol of Paris. It specialized on traditional French cuisine and seafood. 

This will be your first dinner in the beautiful city of Paris on Thursday, July 3, 2014.

Have you ever eaten in a botanical garden?

Welcome to your third and last restaurant in UK's capital city London. On Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 6:30 pm you will enjoy your dinner at The Folly restaurant. 

The Folly is a stylish venue offering a variety of food and drink highlighting seasonal produce with a look that’s part industrial and part country living. 
The expansive venue is divided into separate areas including a deli and a flower shop during the day, which explains why you have the feeling of dining in a botanical garden. 
Upstairs, an open kitchen opposite an array of long picnic tables serves sharing platters, gourmet sandwiches, sea- and pub food.
The owners take pride in providing their guests with fresh, seasonal, delicious and beautifully presented meals throughout the day. We hope will you enjoy it!

Pictures are courtesy of

Dining like the knights did in London

This second fun and upgraded Incantato Tours dinner at the Medieval Banquet in London for Belcanto will be together with travelers from the Shadow Tour on Tuesday, July 1, 2014.

The Medieval Banquet is a theatrical dinner experience, situated in the beautiful location of Ivory House in St. Katherine Dock which is named after the hospital sited here 900 years ago. The hospital was dedicated to St. Katharine, a 4th century saint who was martyred by the Roman emperor Maximinus. She was particularly influential in the Middle-ages with her saint day celebrated on 25th November.

The restaurant's setting, decoration and details take you back to the old London where knights still existed and jesters entertained the king and the queen. 

The Medieval Banquet opened its doors 40 years ago, and is one of the most special dining experiences in London.

Pictures are a courtesy of

Belcanto Welcome Dinner in London

Since the 2014 Enchanting Europe Tour departs next month, Incantato Tours would like to share more news with the Belcanto travelers:
We managed to reserve The Counting House exclusively just for the travelers of the main Belcanto Monte Vista HS Tour for their welcome dinner in London on Monday, June 30, 2014 at 7:15 pm.

The impressive restaurant was built in 1893 as a magnificent banking hall, the aptly named Counting House. With chandeliers and high domed ceiling, plus plenty of the old fixtures and fittings still here, it's a stunning place to stop by for dinner, lunch or just a snack. 
The Counting House is famous for its great pie selection, which comes with a choice of mash or chips, including gravy and vegetables but also offers typical London dishes such as fish and chips. What will be on the menu for Belcanto? Join us for the tour meeting on Thursday, May 22 at MVHS in the choir room and you will hear all the details. 

Pictures are a courtesy of

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

2014 Belcanto Flight Schedule

1. Air Canada
Departure for Europe
Sunday, June 29, 2014
Air Canada flight AC758 leaves San Francisco (SFO) for Toronto (YYZ), Canada, at 8:50 am, arrival is at 4:45 pm local time. The group then connects from Toronto (YYZ) at 6:30 pm with Air Canada flight AC856 to London (LHR), England, with an arrival of 6:25 am local time on the next day (Monday, June 30, 2014).

Return to the US
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Air Canada flight AC891 departs Rome (FCO), Italy, at 11:20 am for Toronto (YYZ), Canada, to arrive at 3:00 pm local time. The group then connects from Toronto (YYZ) at 8:20 pm with Air Canada flight AC759 to San Francisco (SFO) with an arrival of 10:54 pm local time on the same day. 

2. United Airlines
Departure for Europe
Sunday, June 29, 2014
United Airlines flight UA930 leaves San Francisco for London (LHR) at 7:40 pm, with an arrival of 2:05 pm local time on Monday, June 30, 2014.

Return to the US
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
United Airlines flight UA041 departs Rome (FCO) at 9:50 am for Newark (EWR), to arrive at 1:45 pm local time. The group then connects from Newark (EWR) at 4:20 pm with United Airlines flight UA1284 to San Francisco (SFO), arrival is at 7:37 pm local time on the same day.