Tuesday, November 19, 2013

May we introduce you to British Cuisine?

Nothing screams more Great Britain than a 5 o'clock tea in London. Enjoy the famous British pastries such as scones with cream and jam or finger sandwiches. From high-class hotels like the Ritz to The Savoy, you will find the top afternoon tea addresses here

Since Great Britain is with 395 people per sq km the most crowded country in Europe, followed by Netherlands and Belgium, the British cuisine has multi-cultural influences from all over the world. You will find a lot of so-called hybrid dishes such as chicken tikka masala or goulash on British restaurant menus.

British cuisine has traditionally been limited in its international recognition to famous fish and chips, and the Christmas dinner including the traditional Christmas pudding. Other famous British dishes include Sunday roast, steak and kidney pie, shepherd'spie, and bangers and mash (bangers and mash are potatoes that have been mashed up). British cuisine has many regional varieties within the broader categories of English, Scottish and Welsh cuisine. Each have developed their own regional or local dishes, many of which are geographically indicated foods such as Cornish pasties, Yorkshire pudding, Arbroath Smokie, and Welsh cakes.

Although some traditional dishes remain popular, there has been a significant shift in eating habits in Britain. Rice and pasta have accounted for the decrease in potato consumption and the consumption of meat has also fallen. Roast beef is still the national culinary pride. It is called a "joint," and is served at midday on Sunday with roasted potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, two vegetables, a good strong horseradish, gravy, and mustard.

"And then to breakfast, with what appetite you have." 
William Shakespeare

The great British breakfast is famous (or notorious) throughout the world. The typical English breakfast is a 19th century invention, when the majority of English people adopted the copious meal of porridge, fish, bacon and eggs, toast and marmalade, that has now appeared on English breakfast tables for 100 years.
The annual consumption in the United Kingdom is 450,000 tonnes of bacon, 5,000 tonnes of sausages and millions of eggs. It has retained its popularity as one of the country's favorite meals, and survived a whole series of eating trends and food fads.

VIP Shadow Tour release today, November 7

The Belcanto Enchanting Europe Tour 2014 is designed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the travelers and naturally Mr. Koliha, as his big farewell performance tour from Monte Vista High School. 

In addition to the singers, many people have expressed interest in a companion tour, which Incantato's sister company Inside Europe was more than happy to organize. 
This parallel and so-called VIP Shadow tour is designed more with the family and friends in mind that are traveling with the choir but are not necessarily singers. It will include upgraded accommodations such as central 4 superior hotels as well as additional special activities services not otherwise included in the itinerary, such as specialty tastings, more free time to explore, etc. 

This companion tour may be an attractive option for those not wishing to complete the same itinerary as the performing choir, for those who prefer more convenient hotels, or those simply wishing to have additional free time and less scheduled activities. An expert Inside Europe host is with the shadow group 24/7 to coordinate individual activities, make special reservations etc. The companion tour is operated parallel to the performance tour and participants will have the opportunity to be at all performances. Travelers have the possibility to change from the classic tour to the VIP shadow tour. 

For more information, please email us to info@incantatotours.com. Inside Europe's website is www.inside-europe.com

Please also have a look below at the tour brochure:

Incantato Introduces You to London's Churches

London's magnificent churches create the city's unique skyline and tell the story of the capital's history. One of the oldest of these is the cathedral church of St. Saviour and St. Mary Overy, originally founded in 606 AD. It was in this cathedral that John Harvard was baptized in in 1607, which is why there is the Harvard Chapel. On the north bank is where you will find some of the most famous churches, including Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral. However, with such monumental buildings, it is easy to overlook some of the other churches, such as St. Margaret, the church of the House of Commons. It was founded in the 12th century; the current building dates back to 1523 and is particularly noteworthy for the 15th-century stained glass in the east window. Just a footpath away from Westminster Abbey, this is where Winston Churchill was married. 
Westminster Abbey itself is, of course, no to be overlooked either. Steeped in more than a thousand years of history, Benedictine monks first came to the site in the middle of the 10th century and established a tradition of daily worship which continues to this day. Begun in 1245, it is one of the most important Gothic buildings in the country. The Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066 and is also the final resting place of 17 monarchs. 
Equally imposing is St. Paul's Cathedral. The current building is the fifth to stand on the site since 604 and it was built between 1675 and 1710 after the previous building had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London. Throughout its long history, there have been several commemorating events, such as Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee celebrated here in 1897. Catherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur were married here in 1501, as well as the famous wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana in 1981. Most recently, Queen Elizabeth II also celebrated her 80th birthday here in 2006 and her own diamond jubilee in 2012. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

An Incantato Favorite: Florence

Located in Tuscany, the city of Florence is one of the greatest artistic capitals in the world. It is a monument to the Renaissance and the artistic and cultural reawakening of the 15th century. 
The city began as a Roman colony in 59 BC and grew to a trading hub and independent city. In time, power passed to leading noble families of the city, the most influential of which were the Medici, a hugely wealthy banking dynasty. Both Florence and Tuscany remained under the family's rule for three centuries until 1737, and the mark they left can be seen throughout the city even today. It was during this time that Florence was at the cultural and intellectual heart of Europe. 

There are so many sights to see in one of Italy's most visited cities, that it is impossible to present them all here. Therefore, just a few highlights are mentioned, and the rest is left to own exploration. 
The historic part of Florence is a compact area, and the river Arno bisects the city. The oldest surviving bridge in the city that crosses the Arno is the Ponte Vecchio, built in 1345. It is almost exclusively jewelers and goldsmiths that offer items for sale in the shops that line the bridge, a tradition that started back in the 16th century. The Ponte Vecchio is also the only bridge in the city that escaped any destruction during World War II. 

Perhaps the most famous of Florence's landmarks and historical buildings is the richly decorated Duomo, the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore with its orange-tiled dome. The city's geographical and historical focus, the Duomo rises above the heart of Florence and to this day remains the city's tallest building. It has become Florence's most famous symbol and the cathedral is Europe's fourth largest church. The dome was finished by Brunelleschi in 1463 and was the largest of its time to be built without scaffolding. 

The Academy of Fine Arts, the Galleria dell'Accademia, was established in 1563. It was the first school in Europe specifically to teach the techniques of drawing, painting, and sculpture. The art collection displayed here today was formed in 1784. Its most famous work is Michelangelo's David, a colossal nude of the biblical hero who killed the giant Goliath. Created in 1504, it established Michelangelo as the foremost sculptor of his time at the age of 29. Another one of Michelangelo's masterpieces found here is the Quattro Prigioni, the Four Prisoners, a sculpture created between 1521 and 1523 and intended to adorn the tomb of Pope Julius II. 

Built from 1560 to 1580 to house offices, the Uffizi are now one of Italy's leading art galleries. Originally, the upper story was used as a gallery to display the Medici art treasures. Today, it houses the world's greatest collection of Italian Renaissance art and a priceless collection of paintings, including the Birth of Venues, painted by Botticelli in 1485. 
Across the river Arno, the vast Pitti Palace is second only to the Uffizi in its art collection. It was constructed in 1457 and in 1550, it became the main residence of the Medici family and subsequently all rulers of the city of Florence lived here. The Palace's richly decorated rooms exhibit countless treasures from the Medici collections and contain galleries with works by great Renaissance artists including Raphael and Titian. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Incantato Tour Materials

Dear Belcanto Travelers,

Your most important tour information can be found in your tour brochure. In order to sign up for the tour, you must fill out and submit the original registration form to Incantato Tours (you can find our mailing address on your brochure).

If you would like to download any of the tour materials, we have made both of these available to you as PDFs from our Dropbox account:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Vatican City: an Incantato Favorite

Vatican City, officially the State of the Vatican City, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, the capital city of Italy. It has an area of approximately 44 hectares, and a population of just over 800.

Vatican City is a city-state that came into existence in 1929. It is distinct from the Holy See, which dates back to early Christianity and is the main Episcopal see of 1.147 billion Latin and Eastern Catholic adherents around the globe.

Ordinances of Vatican City are published in Italian; official documents of the Holy See are issued mainly in Latin. The two entities even have distinct passports: the Holy See, not being a country, only issues diplomatic and service passports; the state of Vatican City issues normal passports. In both cases the passports issued are very few.

Vatican City is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state, ruled by the bishop of Rome - the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergymen of various nationalities. It is the sovereign territory of the Holy See (Sancta Sedes) and the location of the Pope's residence, referred to as the Apostolic Palace. The Popes have resided in the area, that in 1929 became Vatican City, since the return from Avignon in 1377.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Incantato Welcomes You to St. Peter's

The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter is located within the Vatican City. St. Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world, holding 60,000 people. It is the symbolic "Mother Church" of the Catholic Church and is regarded as one of the holiest Christian sites in the world. It has been described as "holding a unique position in the Christian world" and as "the greatest of all churches of Christendom".

In Catholic tradition, it is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to tradition, first Bishop of Rome and therefore first in the line of the papal succession. Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter's tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St. Peter's since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the 4th century. Construction of the present basilica, over the old Constantine basilica, began on April 18, 1506 and was completed on November 18, 1626.

St. Peter's is a famous place of pilgrimage, for its liturgical functions and for its historical associations. It is associated with the papacy, with the Counter-reformation and numerous artists, most significantly Michelangelo diLodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564), an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer. Michelangelo took over a building site at which four piers, enormous beyond any constructed since the days of Ancient Rome, were rising behind the remaining nave of the old basilica. He also inherited the numerous schemes designed and redesigned by some of the greatest architectural and engineering brains of the 16th century.

Incidentally, there are over 100 tombs within St. Peter's Basilica, many located in the Vatican grotto, beneath the Basilica. These include 91 popes, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, and the composer GiovanniPierluigi da Palestrina. Exiled Catholic British royalty James Francis EdwardStuart and his two sons, Charles Edward Stuart and Henry Benedict Stuart, are buried here, having been granted asylum by Pope Clement XI. The most recent interment was Pope John Paul II, on April 8, 2005.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Welcome to Paris with Incantato Tours

Paris is the capital and the largest city in France. Situated on the River Seine in Northern France, Paris boasts a population of more than two million. 

The city has been ranked among the three most influential cities in the world, among the Financial Times’ first three “European cities of the future,” and one of the world’s top ten most livable cities. Paris’ influences in business, culture, politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and art contribute to its status as one of the world’s most global cities. Paris ranks among the projected top ten wealthiest cities of the next ten years.
Paris reigns as the sixth largest economy in the world, hosting 38 Fortune Global 500 companies. Paris also hosts many international organizations such as UNESCO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the International Chamber of Commerce.

Paris is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The Paris region receives approximately 45 million tourists annually, 27 million of whom are foreign visitors. This can be attributed to the region’s numerous iconic landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, as well as its many world-famous institutions and popular parks. 

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Discover London with Incantato Tours

London is the capital of England and the United Kingdom. It is the UK's largest and most populous metropolitan area and the largest urban zone in the European Union.

  • A major settlement for two millennia, its history goes back to its founding by the Romans, who called it Londinium.
  • London is a leading global city being one of the world's largest financial centres.
  • London's influence in politics, finance, education, entertainment, media, fashion, the arts and culture in general contributes to its global position.
  • London hosted the 1908,1948 and 2012 Summer Olympics 
  • London contains four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; the historic settlement of Greenwich; the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; and the site comprising the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret's Church.
  • Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the British monarch. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is a setting for state occasions and royal hospitality. It has been a rallying point for the British people at times of national rejoicing and crisis.
  • London has a diverse range of peoples, cultures and religions, and more than 300 languages are spoken within its boundaries.
  • In July 2007 it had an official population of 7,556,900 within the boundaries of Greater London, making it the most populous municipality in the European Union.
  • The London Underground network, administered by Transport for London, is the oldest and most extensive underground railway network in the world.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Did You Know? Incantato's Fun Facts about England

London is the largest city in Europe. There are over twelve million people living within the greater London area. 

London is one of the cities with the highest cultural diversity in the world. About 25% of the  inhabitants of London were born outside of England.

Windsor Castle is the oldest royal residence in the world still being used by a royal family.

The famous Big Ben is not the name of the clock tower, but is actually the name of the bell inside the tower of St. Stephen's. 

The world's first public zoo first opened in 1829 in London. 

There are over 300 languages spoken in England. From 1066 to 1362, French was actually the official language in England.

The English drink more tea than any other nation (over twenty times more than Americans)

England's first Fish'n'Chips restaurant was started in 1860.

London's tube system is the first and the largest underground system in the world.

The 409 escalators in the London subway cover a distance every week which is approximately equivalent to several trips around the globe.

The river Thames, which flows through London, has over 200 bridges and 20 tunnels. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Electricity in the United Kingdom

Electricity in Ireland is supplied at standard European voltage, 230V 50Hz, but the plugs used are not the same as continental Europe. Ireland uses IS401 (BS1363) plugs which are identical to those used in the United Kingdom. Visitors from the US using 110 volt supplies need to purchase voltage adaptors, or ensure that their equipment can be used on 230V 50Hz. Adapters and converters may be found at Target, Walmart and Radio Shack etc.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Incantato Welcomes You to Bella Italia

Italy has been, since antiquity, the centre of history, culture and art. The museums, collections and archaeological sites reveal countless tokens of the past and the many civilizations that have passed across this country, evidence of which is still inextricably woven into the present day landscape.

Artistic wonders can be found everywhere, and every corner of the country holds countless and wonderful surprises. The artistic and cultural heritage is one of the most valuable in the world. Italy has more cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country. Rome, Florence, Assisi, Venice, Siena, Pisa, and Naples are its most renowned cities of art, but the whole country can boast towns of breathtaking beauty, as these numbers demonstrate: 95,000 monumental churches, 40,000 forts and castles, 30,000 historical residences with 4,000 gardens, 36,000 archives and libraries, 20,000 historical cities and towns, 5,600 museums and archaeological sites, and 1,500 convents.

Tourists can explore and discover the private residences of ancient and noble families; visit world famous museums such as the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Capitoline Museums in Rome, or the Brera Art Gallery in Milan; explore impressive archaeological sites, such as Pompeii and Herculaneum, to immerse themselves in an exciting, grandiose past. That is by no means all - there are numerous cultural, artistic, and musical events that animate Italian life.

Italy offers a rich combination of masterpieces from different areas, blending landscape and culture, history and art, architecture and city planning - it offers an exciting journey through time, from the Ancient Greeks and Romans to the present day, which is also filled by a wealth of art and culture.

Information courtesy of http://www.italia.it/

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Welcome to Rome with Incantato Tours

  • Rome's early history is shrouded in legend. According to Roman tradition, the city was founded by the twin Romulus and Remus on April 21st, 753 BC.
  • Due to its centrality on many levels, the city has been nicknamed "Caput Mundi" (Latin for "Capital of the World") and "The Eternal City".
  • Its rich artistic heritage and vast amount of ancient, notably architectural and archaeological sites, contribute to the city's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Rome is the third most visited tourist destination in the European Union.
  • The city is also an important worldwide hub of the cinematic and filming industry, home to the important and large Cinecitta Studios, which saw the filming of several internationally acclaimed movies, as well as television programs.
  • The Rome metropolitan area is the world's 35th richest city be purchasing power.
  • Rome is an important center for music, and it has an intense musical scene, including several prestigious music conservatories and theaters. It hosts the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (founded in 1585), for which new concert halls have been built in the new Parco della Musica, one of the largest musical venues in the world.
  • A Jewish influence in the Italian dishes can be seen, as Jews have lived in Rome since the 1st Century BC. Examples of these include "Saltimbocca alla Romana," a veal cutlet, Roman-style, topped with raw ham and sage and simmered with white wine and butter, as well as "Carciofi alla giudia" - artichokes fried in olive oil, typical of Roman Jewish cooking.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Protecting Yourself and Your Investment: Travel Insurance

Dear Belcanto Travelers, 
As indicated on your registration form, it is mandatory for all tour participants to obtain travel insurance to protect your investment in case you have to cancel for a medical situation, loss of luggage or various other reasons.
Our recommended insurance option is described below along with an online link to Travel Guard. We highly recommend this company based on a long and excellent relationship. 
TravelGuard has a variety of policies including a family plan.
In order for us to keep track of travel insurance for your group, please sign up through these links connected with Incantato Tours.
Click here to get a Travel Guard Insurance quote.

Travel Insurance

Incantato Tours strongly recommends getting Travel Guard travel insurance for your upcoming journey as they have been a very reliable partner and provide excellent services, but we also know that you may have a different preferred supplier or are already covered under another policy. Again, travel insurance with trip cancellation coverage is mandatory for all Incantato Tours travelers. 
Not only are you covered medically should anything happen when traveling, but with TravelGuard's policies, you also protect your investment should you have to cancel or interrupt the trip.There is also coverage for delayed and lost luggage etc.
Here is a direct line to purchase travel insurance online and can you do so with your credit cards and also select the option that is best for you.

In the meantime, have a look at the most comprehensive coverage option The Protect Assist Gold below.

Protect Assist (Gold) -
Comprehensive Travel Protection for the World Traveler
  • Trip Cancellation
  • JUST ADDED! - Trip Cancellation due to employment loss or layoff
    if employed with the same employer 1 year or longer
  • Trip Interruption and Travel Delay
  • Emergency Medical and Emergency Medical Transportation
  • Baggage and Travel Document Protection
  • Baggage Delay and Lost Baggage Tracking
  • NEW - Cancel For Any Reason option now available
  • NEW - Cancel For Work Reasons option now available
  • NEW - Children age 17 and under covered at no additional cost
  • IMPROVED -Trip Cancellation limit increased to $100,000 (from $15,000), 
  • IMPROVED - Trip Interruption coverage increased to 150% of Trip Cost
  • IMPROVED - Travel Delay required hours reduced to 5 hours (from 12)

ProtectAssist special features:
  • Best coverage for Weather Related Cancellations
  • Pre-existing Condition Exclusion Waiver*
  • Default/Bankruptcy Protection*
  • $50,000 Flight Accident Insurance*
  • 24-Hour "LiveTravel" Travel Agency
  • Emergency Cash Transfers
  • Identity Theft Restoration

* These additional benefits apply If you are purchasing within 15 days of making your initial trip deposit or payment, however, coverage may still be purchased at any time up to 24 hours prior to departure.
Increase your coverage with these valuable additions to your Protect Assist Plan:
Cancel For Any Reason – 50% 
reimbursement of nonrefundable expenses if you cancel your trip for any reason, up to 48 hours prior to your departure. Only available when this plan is purchased within 15 days of initial trip payment.

Cancel For Work Reasons – 
Offers additional work-related reasons for cancellation or interruption. Also includes our exclusive “Business Assistant” services if you have work obligations during your travels. Only available when this plan is purchased within 15 days of initial trip payment.

Umbrella Package – Medical Expense limits are doubled and coverage is upgraded to primary. Emergency Medical Transportation limits are doubled and benefits upgraded to take you home or to the hospital of your choice. $25,000 Accidental Death and Dismemberment coverage will be added

Optional coverages cannot be purchased separately. Must be purchased with base ProtectAssist plan.

Comprehensive non-insurance travel services* automatically included with plan!With the ProtectAssist plan, every customer also has access to these valuable travel services when they travel:
· Arrangements for last-minute flight changes
· Hotel finder and reservations
· Rental car reservations
· Emergency medical assistance
· BagTrak® -- lost baggage tracking
· Pre-trip health and safety advisories
· Live e-mail and phone messaging to family and friends
· Cash transfers
· Airport transportation
· Golf course reservations
· Event ticketing
· Floral services
· Identity Theft restoration

Business Assistant* (available when Optional Cancel for Work Reasons coverage is purchased)

*Non-Insurance services are provided by AIG Travel Assist.

Citizenship: All Nationalities
Residency: United States
New York, Oregon, and Washington residence please call to purchase
Some rider options are not available and other restrictions may apply
Destination: Worldwide
Ages: All Ages
Max Trip Length: 365 Days