Top 10 Useful Packing Tips

As published on International Vacation Home Exchange (IVHE.com) on Sun. Jan 17, 2016
So it’s a new year and you’re excited about your 2016 home exchange vacation plans but you dread the task of packing.  I’m with you on this.  I love the idea of exploring someplace new but the thought of having to pack for it…not so much.  I’ve put together a list of packing tips that have been the most useful to me over the years.  I hope they make preparing for your next adventure a little bit easier.
Store Your Charging Cords in an Eyeglass Case
Eyeglass cases make the perfect container to hold cords for your iPhone, Kindle,iPad etc.  It keeps them all neatly in one place. 
Put Shoes in Shower Caps
Keep everything in your suitcase clean by putting shoes in shower caps.  It will protect your suitcase as well.
Roll Don’t Fold
Save space by rolling your clothes instead of folding.  This also cuts down on wrinkles once you unpack.

Straws For Necklaces

Keep necklaces untangled by putting one end through a straw. 
Keep Jewelry In Between Press and Seal Wrap
Another great way to keep jewelry from tangling is to put it in between two pieces of Press and Seal Wrap.  It keeps all your pieces right where you put them until needed.
Put Cling Wrap Over Bottles
Avoid spills by putting a piece of Cling Wrap over the bottle opening before putting the cap back on to avoid spills in your luggage.  I learned this one the hard way. 
Put Small Items in Shoes
Make good use of space by packing smaller items inside shoes

Roll Clothes in Tissue Paper

Rolling or folding clothes in tissue paper or dry cleaner bags will help eliminate wrinkles when you unpack
Pack a Small Bag in Your Carry On for Essentials
Pack a small zipper bag in your carry on case with things you may need on your flight.  Things like earbuds, lip balm, reading glasses, tissues, aspirin, gum or anything else that you think you will use.   This allows you to put your carry on in the overhead compartment while keeping things you need close at hand.
Always Make a Packing List
The two key points to packing is being organized and planning ahead.  Procrastination is the traveler’s enemy.  Make a well-organized list way ahead of your departure date.  Jot down items as your think of them.  Put aside items on your list as they come to mind.  If you wait to put them aside chances are you will forget something. 
Don’t waste precious vacation time shopping for all the things you forgot to pack, detangling your jewelry or ironing out wrinkles.  With a little planning and organizing you can be well prepared for your get-away and use your vacation time to sightsee and relax.  After all that’s what vacation is all about.
What are some of your favorite packing tips that make your life easier? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.  Now if there were only a travel tip that would get my kids to remember their shoes when they get off a plane.
A new year means new travel goals.  International Vacation Home Exchange has luxury properties in every corner of the world.  What’s on you Bucket List? Contact one of the IVHE Personal Trade Coordinators today and start planning your 2016 adventures.

The Rocky Island City of Mont Saint-Michel


As published on International Vacation Home Exchange (IVHE.com)  on Sat Feb. 27, 2016
Perched on a rocky inlet, just off the coast of Northern France, lies a tiny medieval city with an ancient Gothic abbey as its focal point.  It’s known as Mont Saint-Michel and it dates back over 1000 years.  At a friend’s suggestion we made a stop there after touring the nearby Beaches of Normandy.  My friend had recently taken the same trip and couldn’t get over how much this monument had impressed her. We were equally as impressed, if not more, as we strolled along the narrow streets and were transported back to medieval times.
According to legend, the archangel Michel appeared to St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches in the year

708.  He instructed the bishop to build a church on the rocks just off the coast.  St. Aubert ignored the angel’s instructions.  Saint Michel decided to let St. Aubert know he was serious and proceeded to burn a hole in the bishop’s skull with his finger.  Well, that seemed to do the trick and soon plans began to get underway.

This secluded little city has a population of 44 inhabitants and even has its own mayor.  As you walk the narrow, hilly streets and climb the 900 steps leading up to the famous abbey you will pass many quaint shops and restaurants all along the way.  Once you find your way to the massive Benedictine abbey you can wonder its small rooms with its tiny staircases while taking in the breathtaking views of the bay which surrounds it. 
Up until just a few years back the abbey was only accessible via an ancient causeway.  Recently a new updated bridge was constructed featuring a path for pedestrians as well as a road for shuttles to transport visitors back and forth to the car park.  Attempting any other way to approach the abbey is not advised as deep mud and quicksand surround the island making it quite treacherous.  There have been several incidences of tourists attempting to walk to the abbey at low tide and drowning in the process!
You may remember seeing Mont Saint-Michel on the news fairly recently as it gained worldwide attention in 2015.  In March of last year a massive “Supertide” made the site a true island for a period of time by completely surrounding it by water on all sides.  This incident occurs only once every 18 years and thousands of spectators gathered to watch.  The site will gain media attention again this summer as Mont Saint-Michel will host the start of the Tour de France Cycle Race in July of 2016. 
International Vacation Home Exchange has several luxury properties located in France.  Be sure to add a day trip to Mont Saint-Michel to your itinerary but please, by all means, remember to use the bridge to get there.

My Liebster Award Post

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I was just given the Liebster Award by @familytravelon! Many thanks!! What is a Liebster Award??? It’s an award given to new bloggers as a way to support fellow bloggers.   Liebser is a German term of endearment meaning valued, dearest, beloved….so sweet, right?  Below is my “interview” :

What got you into blogging?

I’ve recently moved back to the US after living in London for over 5 years with my husband and children.  During our time abroad we took full advantage of the travel opportunities and explored a new country or city every month or so.  Upon returning I was given an opportunity to write for a luxury home exchange company based in London called International Vacation Home Exchange IVHE.com.  I currently blog for their website and submit articles about travel destinations, tips and other travel related content.

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert?

I’m never quite sure how to answer that question.  As much as I love going to big social events (even if I don’t know a soul there) and being the last one to leave,  I also enjoy a quiet night at home reading a good book.  I once came across the term “ambivert” which was defined as someone who is a little of both.  I’m not 100% sure it’s recognized by Webster’s but I’ll go with it as my “write-in candidate”.  Ambivert.

How many posts do you create in a given week?

A fraction of the amount that I  set out to complete – I know that much.

What is your biggest blogging challenge?

Not being able to stop editing and to just pull the trigger on the “send” button.  I edit to death, then reedit, then I decide the original was better…and the cycle begins again.  Never pick out paint colors with me…

What social media platform is your favorite to promote your blog?

I’d say Twitter – I like reading about different marketing tactics to get your tweets noticed.  I love trying out something new that I read about and getting a few RTs as a result.  It’s like winning on a scratch ticket.

Do you have a 5 year plan?

I often feel like I live in a perpetual 5 year plan as I haven’t  lived anywhere in more than 5 years in a looooong time.  So I’m sure in 5 years time I’ll be living somewhere new – just not sure where yet but I’m always up for a new adventure.

Where would your dream vacation be?

Currently topping my “Wanderlust List” is Myanmar (Burma).  A friend recently visited there and I’m obsessed with the culture, people, topography, temples, balloons…everything about it and would hope to explore that part of the world at some point.

Who is your biggest blogging hero?

Any of the amazing writers out there who come up with creative content on a regular basis –  regardless of the genre.

How long have you been blogging?

In a way, since 2009 as I journaled my travels after moving abroad with the plan of writing a “blog-style” book.  I still plan on finishing that book but the focus has changed direction a bit so it’s a work in progress at the moment –  but please be sure to keep on the lookout!

How happy are you with how your blog is going so far?

Like most people, I’m my own worst critic.  I guess there’s always room for improvement and something to learn no matter what you are doing but I’m enjoying learning along the way.

My Nominees:

globalmary.com

acesandstars.com

travelbloggers.ca

findingae.com

whatclairedidnext.com

takeme-withyou.com

triplikeidoblog.wordpress.com

girlastray.wordpress.com

whereourroadgoes.com

ohiogirltravels.com

Questions for my Nominees:

1) Tell us about the target audience of your blog?

2) Which one was your personal favorite blog and why?

3) What type of vacation would you say is your favorite and why?

4) Why did you decide to start blogging?

5) Who do you usually travel with?

6) How long have you been blogging?

7) What is the one thing you’d like to improve upon in regards to your blog?

8) What is the one (non-tech)  item  you can’t live without on vacation?

9) Where are you traveling to next?

10) Describe yourself in one sentence.

Liebster Rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you
  2. Share the award on your blog and social media pages
  3. Answer the 10 questions you were asked by your nominator
  4. Nominate 10 other new bloggers that you admire
  5. Notify your nominees via social media

New England: A Year-Round Destination


As published on International Vacation Home Exchange (IVHE.com) on Feb 6, 2016
Having grown up in New England, summer vacations always consisted of road trips to see all the natural beauty that was offered right in our own backyard.  I remember piling in the station wagon, AAA Trip-Tik maps at hand, a quick stop to pick up a few canisters of film and extra flash cubes, and off we were to enjoy the beauty of one of our bordering states. On a road trip in that part of America you would barely finish your first article in Tiger Beat Magazine and you’d already be crossing state line.
Since then I’ve not only married and had a family of my own but have lived abroad for a number of years.  My family and I have traveled across several continents and I was always amazed at how many people around the world have New England on their Bucket List.  I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised but to me it’s always just been home.  We were traveling in Tallinn, Estonia a few years back and I started chatting with a woman sitting next to me at lunch.  She mentioned that she has always dreamed of visiting Vermont to see the fall foliage and hoped to vacation on Cape Cod one summer.  “Now, is Boston a city or is that a state?”  I would get asked that a lot.  Not only in foreign countries but I was asked that a few times while living in the Midwest.  That’s actually not a joke.
If New England isn’t on your Bucket List you’ll definitely want to include it after reading all the splendor that exists there.  Search the luxury homes offered through International Vacation Home Exchange and plan to spend your next home swap exploring New England.
Maine
Maine offers so much to see and do especially for the outdoor enthusiast.  Acadia National Park is a breathtaking national treasure on the coast of Maine.  Throughout the state there are so many quaint towns and lighthouse attractions to visit.  Offering both great skiing, hiking/biking trails and shoreline communities, there always plenty to enjoy no matter the season.  We all know Maine is known for having“wicked” good lobster but did you know that Portland has been making quite a name for itself for all types of cuisine?  The Food Network recently named Portland as one of the top 3 culinary destinations in the entire US.  That might be reason enough to plan a visit.
Massachusetts is home to beautiful Cape Cod, probably my favorite places on Earth.  Each Cape Cod town offers its own unique charm.  Whether you walk, bike or relax on the beach, it will be a vacation you won’t forget.  Be sure to add a ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket to your itinerary.  Visiting the historic sights of Boston is only a short drive away.  Venture a few hours west and you’ll be enjoying all the charm that the Berkshires have to offer.  There’s so much to see and do in this great state.
Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquarium are top attractions in this New England state.  There you can learn about maritime history and visit the whales, sea lions and penguins on display.  Connecticut offers a few casino options with Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods as well as museums and shoreline attractions.  This small state is packed with something for everyone.
There’s a mere 18 miles of shoreline offered in this state but you’ll find it full of rich, natural beauty.  Mount Washington offers every outdoor activity imaginable for you to enjoy.  The 71 square miles of Lake Winnipesaukee, located at the foothills of the White Mountains, offer something year round for everyone to enjoy.
Tour the mansions to see how the other half lives, visit the beaches or take a walk around Newport. Don’t miss a ferry ride to spend the day exploring Block Island.  There are so many attractions offered in the Ocean State.
Vermont
Last but certainly not least of the New England States is Vermont.  Home to the amazing slopes of Killington, Sugarbush and Stowe among others.  It’s of course, known for its beyond breathtaking leaf peeping opportunities, and there are numerous lakes to enjoy.  There is no such thing as “off-season” in Vermont.  It doesn’t matter when you visit this beautiful state there is always something magical to experience. 
Well, that’s my “How I Spent My Summer Vacation, circa 1976” story.  That reminds me, I need to call my Mom.  Book one of IVHE’s luxury properties today and start making your own unforgettable New England memories.
Thank you travel blogger Lisa Medeiros.  Follow her on Twitter @lisamedeiros_

8 Reasons to Book a Trip Today


As published on International Vacation Home Exchange (IVHE.com) on Fri. Feb 12, 2016
“Once a year go someplace you’ve never been before” the Dalai Lama is quoted as saying and if he’s priced airfare lately he’d know that now is the time to go.  Travel experts are currently seeing the lowest airfare in years!  According to Airline Research Firm, Hopper, a combination of low fuel prices and an increase in competition has pushed airline prices to the lowest they have been in 4 years.  If that’s not reason enough to persuade you to start booking your next IVHE.com home exchange then here are a few more reasons that will have you booking your new adventure today. 
Good For Your Health
Studies show that vacationing is known to lower the risk of heart disease, help with depression and promote brain health.  With health benefits like that there’s no need to feel guilty about never actually running in that marathon you’ve always talked about.
Makes You Smarter
Traveling and experiencing new cultures is known to increase intelligence.  Do you come in last at every Pub Quiz Night you attend?  Maybe a week on the Amalfi Coast or a Caribbean island will change that.  It can’t hurt.
Learn Something New
Why read about history in a book or watch a documentary when you can experience it for yourself.  There’s no better way to learn and retain information than with a first hand experience.
Healthier Relationships
According to the US Travel Association, couples who often travel together have been found to have happier and healthier relationships.  While it may not make your husband any more willing to ask for directions, couples who often face the challenges of traveling to foreign countries are found to have stronger relationships. 
Gain A Fresh Perspective
Getting away from the day-to-day grind will help you better deal with life’s hurdles.  People often find that they return from a get-away with a clear head and fresh solutions to the struggles they may be dealing with in their lives
Lifetime Memories
You’ll have experiences that will last a lifetime and stories to tell for years to come.  Not to mention, all those fabulous photos to improve your Instagram feed.
Meet New People
One of my favorite things about traveling is meeting new people.  People are much more open to chatting and sharing their experience while on vacation than in regular day-to-day life.  There is something to learn from everyone you meet especially fellow travelers.
Learn A New Language
Parlez-vous Francais?  Parli Italiano? Traveling to a new country is a great opportunity to learn a new language or at least a handful of words and phrases.  Not only is it interesting to study a foreign language but it’s also the proper traveling etiquette when a guest in another country. 
International Vacation Home Exchange offers luxury homes in 70 countries around the world.  Whether your travel interests are golfing, skiing, beaching or any other type of vacation, IVHE has the perfect property for your home away from home.  Call the IVHE travel coordinator team today to start making your travel plans.  What exotic destination will you be jetting off to?
Thank you to travel blogger Lisa Medeiros.  Follow her on Twitter @lisamedeiros_

5 Travel Mistakes to Avoid


As published on International Vacation Home Exchange (IVHE.com) on Wed Feb 17, 2016
When it comes to home exchangetravel, you want to keep your regrets to eating too much, staying out too late and tanning unevenly not failing to do enough travel research.   Don’t be one of the many uniformed travelers each year who end up with a disappointing holiday or cancelled travel plans.   Here are 5 common travel mistakes people often fall victim to. 
Not Obtaining the Required Visa
There are certain countries that require a special visa before being granted entry into their country.  Don’t be one of the many travelers who find this out at the ticket counter and are denied boarding. 
Not Knowing The Local Law
Chewing gum in Singapore and spitting it out on the sidewalk could have much higher consequences than getting stuck on somebody’s shoe.  There are many different cultural laws around the world that would surprise you so be sure to find out if any apply to your destination.
Not Informing Your Credit Card Company
Forgetting to contact your credit card company about your travel plans could result in a freeze on your account.  Who wants to waste vacation time on the phone answering security questions with customer service while you try to remember if your first pet’s name was Sadie or Oliver?  Always contact your bank before you travel. 
Traveling Too Close to Your Passport Expiration Date
Some countries require up to a  6 month expiration time on your passport in order to board the plane.  As of this year several new countries have been added to that list.  Always look into the passport requirements for the country you plan to travel to and don’t assume your passport is valid right up until the expiration date.  If you are a US passport holder and you are up for renewal this year, be advised that 2016 is expected to be their busiest year for renewal.  Don’t put off renewing and risk experiencing long delays.
Exchanging Currency At The Airport
What a great convenience it is to exchange currency while you are right at the airport.  Convenient, yes, but best rate?  Airports tend to have the highest exchange rate.  Do a little research before you decide where to exchange your funds.  I have found using an ATM once I arrive at my destination to usually be the best choice.
You’re now ready to book your next IVHE.com home swap a little better informed.  Whether it’s Thailand , Tenerife or somewhere in-between these tips will save you some travel troubles so your holiday is memorable for the right reasons. 
Thank you to travel blogger Lisa Medeiros.  Follow her on Twitter @lisamedeiros_

5 European City Breaks to Book this Year


As published on International Vacation Home Exchange (IVHE.com) on Tues Feb 2, 2016
International Vacation Home Exchange offers many charming European properties located in city center of some of Europe’s most visited cites.  Consider using your IVHE credits to book several short getaways this year and enjoy the rich history and architecture of some of the most popular destinations around the world.

Barcelona

Book one of these exclusive homes in Spain when visiting Barcelona to enjoy all the rich Gaudi architecture this amazing city has to offer.  Visit Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, or just walk the bustling sidewalks of Las Ramblas and wander the cobblestone side streets.  Offering both city life and beach life, it’s no wonder Barcelona is a favorite among travelers. 
Paris
Experience “The City of Light” from one of these great vacation homes in France.  If you haven’t yet had the chance to see the Mona Lisa, Notre Dame or climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower then add Paris to your City Break list. Of course you could never visit this city too many times.
London
If you fancy a castle tour then put London on your must-see list and stay in one of these charming properties across the UK.  Tower of London, Big Ben, Buckingham palace and a flight on the London Eye are just a few of the attractions to experience.  You may even run into one of the Royals as you make your way from one attraction to the next.
Rome
If you’re in need of a little Dolce Vita in your life then select a special vacation homes in Italy, you may not want to leave.  Rome offers so many well know attractions all within a short distance of one another.  Whether you are taking in the history of the Colosseum, throwing a coin over your shoulder into Trevi Fountain or just people watching in Piazza Novona, Rome is a get away you’ll never forget.
Amsterdam
Experience all Amsterdam has to offer and at the end of the day return to one of these fun properties.  If you’ve never had an opportunity to tour the Anne Frank House you’ll want to be sure to add Amsterdam to you travel plans.   Along with its many other museums and active nightlife, this beautiful canal city makes a great stop on your City Break tour.
Wondering what’s the best way to see all that these cities have to offer? You’ll find there are many options available to you.  Walking tours are always a great way to learn history and little known facts about an area.  Almost all European cities offer bike rentals to visitors.  Biking is always a great way to get a real feel for an area.  If you prefer giving your legs a rest, Hop-On-Hop Off Bus Tours are an easy, relaxing way to see all the attractions while offering a great means of transportation.  Don’t rule out getting the true “living like a local” experience by learning the public transportation system and walking to your desired destinations.
IVHE has properties in 70 countries around the world.  That’s a lot of city breaks.  Consider spreading out your accumulated credits with several short trips by staying in some of IVHE’s smaller city properties and watch how quickly your passport will fill up with stamps.
Thank you to travel blogger Lisa Medeiros.  Follow her on Twitter @lisamedeiros_

Gone to the Pub – Best of Britain


As published on International Vacation Home Exchange (IVHE.com) on Tues, Dec 15, 2015
The iconic British Pub, short for “Public House” is as much a part of British life as Fish and Chips, the Royal Family and the Union Jack.  Considered to be much more than a local watering hole, the village pub is thought to be a meeting place, a place of entertainment and an extension of one’s own home.  No need for locals to leave their dog behind as it’s commonplace for dog owners to bring their pooch to the pub with them.  You’ll often find folks engaged in a card game with a table of friends while they warm up by the roaring fire.  Make no mistake, though, the beer is definitely the main attraction.  After returning to America after 5 years of living in the UK, the cozy pubs of England are what I miss most about the British culture I left behind.  It’s a pastime nearly impossible to duplicate on this side of the Atlantic. 
There are certain unwritten rules associated with frequenting local pubs.  For starters, know that table service is nonexistent.  Customers need to place their orders at the bar.  I’ve had countless friends tell the tale of overseas visitors who popped into the local pub and stormed out after experiencing what they considered “the worst service ever.”  Those stories were always amusing to me so I can only image the pleasure the bar staff takes when foreigners unfamiliar with the protocol visit their establishment.  When it comes to tipping the bar staff, it is not only not expected but it’s simply not done.  You may offer to buy the barman or barmaid a drink but even that’s not considered common practice. 
There are an abundance of choices available when ordering in a pub so they prefer you don’t show up asking for “a beer.”  Among the top picks are Bitters, Pale Ales, Mild/Brown Ales and Porter/Stouts to name a few.  Ciders are very popular particularly in the southwestern part of the country and are usually made from fermented apple juice.  Wines and spirits are also available to order, along with soft drinks, coffee and, needless to say, tea.  My mother came to visit once and ordered a martini at our local pub.  She was served vodka in a spotted water glass with a few drops of lemon juice.  Martinis are not in their wheelhouse.  Stick with what they know.
If you enjoy something to nibble on with your pint then you’re in luck. In recent years the trend has been to offer pub goers more than the traditional bar snacks offered from years gone by.  Some pubs will offer a menu of British classics while many are now offering a large menu selection of higher quality dishes.  There has also been a trend in recent years towards “Gastropubs.”  These pubs are a more formal dining experience offering a variety of higher-end entrees.
Pub names add to the charm of the experience.  One of the most popular pub names is “The Swan”, a symbol used commonly in coats of arms.  Swans are commonly spotted in the UK.  Each one is owned by the Queen and therefore protected by British law.  Some pubs are named to reflect an experience that is believed to have occurred at the establishment.  Among my favorites is the historic tale of the landlady of a pub who one day found all her ducks dead in the garden.  She didn’t want to waste them so she quickly plucked them to prepare them for cooking.  While finishing up, she noticed the ducks appeared to be coming back to life.  She later discovered a leaking beer barrel surrounded by webbed footprints.  As the story goes, she was so remorseful about plucking their feathers that she knit little jackets for them to wear until their feathers grew back.  The pub is appropriately named “The Drunken Duck.”
I couldn’t leave England without having a pint in the country’s oldest pub.  There is a fair amount of controversy surrounding who is the actual bearer of that title.  There is nothing more prestigious to a bar owner than to be known as “Britain’s Oldest Pub.”  I decided to use Guinness World Records as my tie-breaker and went with “Ye Olde Fighting Cocks”, known by the locals as “The Cocks”…true story.  Located in Hertfordshire, this octagonal-shaped pub was once a pigeon house.  It claims to date back to 973 and has the incredibly low ceilings to prove it.  The name is a reference to the sport of cockfighting which at one time had taken place there.  You won’t be able to catch a show there these days but it’s certainly well worth the field trip.
International Vacation Home Exchange has luxury properties around the world including several charming, character homes all across England.  No matter which one you choose there is sure to be a village pub nearby which  you  can call your local.  Order a pint up at the bar like a local before finding a cozy nook by the crackling fire and know that hundreds of years’ worth of thirsty patrons before you have done just that, right in that very spot. 
Thank you to Travel Blogger Lisa Medeiros, follow her on twitter at @lisamedeiros_

Storybook Charm of Bruges, Belgium

As published on International Vacation Home Exchange (IVHE.com) on Sat. Nov 21, 2015
Visit the medieval city of Bruges and youll step into the pages of the classic fairytale novel, Hansel and Gretel.  Bruges is a magical city with its Gothic architecture and an abundance of ornate arched bridges.  You can easily see why Bruges quickly became one of my favorite European cities. 
Like several other cities in this corner of the world, Bruges is a canal city and considered by many to be the Venice of the North.  Taking a canal tour is a must-do when visiting this quaint town.  These tours will offers you views not otherwise accessible by land and the tour guides always offer an interesting insight into the citys history.  The roadways of Bruges offer their own character and charm with cobblestone streets running all throughout the city.  Take a horse-drawn carriage ride and truly experience the old world quality that this compact city has to offer.  Another great way to explore is to hire a bike or maybe youd prefer to just wonder around on foot getting lost exploring the city side streets, just remember to leave a breadcrumb trail.
However you chose to travel youll be sure to find beauty everywhere you look.  This medieval city is one of the few areas fortunate enough to sustain only minimal damage following the two world wars.  Its considered one of the best preserved cities in Europe.  Its beautiful architecture has remained in tact enabling its beauty to be enjoyed from generation to generation. 
If the sheer beauty of Bruges doesnt entice you to visit then theyve thrown in chocolate, waffles and fries on every street corner to sweeten the deal.  Its not all childs play in Bruges though, best known for its beer selection and variety of pubs and breweries, one could easily pub crawl their way through the cityIve been told.  Bruges is also known worldwide for its luxurious lace.  Youll find many beautiful lace shops scattered around the city if you are looking for that special souvenir. 
The Market Square or Markt, as its referred to, is located in the heart of the city.  Youll find a variety of restaurants to enjoy all the local delicacies, charming shops to browse through and its where the 12th century Belfry of Bruges is located.  Climb the 366 steps to the top of the tower for magnificent views of the surrounding area.  Another top attraction to visit is the Basilica of the Holy Blood.  Though its stained glass and architecture are breathtaking, the Basilica is most famous for housing The Relic of the Precious Blood.  This relic is a glass vial containing a cloth stained with whats believed to be Christs blood.  The cloth is said to have been used to clean Christs body following the crucifixion.  Certain times of the day tourists are allowed to walk onto the Alter to lay their hand on the vial and receive a special blessing.  International Vacation Home Exchange offers properties all over the world and Belgium is no exception.  Click here to view luxury propertieslocated near Bruges but rest assured none of them are the witchs gingerbread house.
Thank you to Lisa Medeiros, Travel Writer/Blogger, for this post on Bruges.  @lisamedeiros_

Europe’s Festive Christmas Markets

As published on International Vacation Home Exchange (IVHE.com) on Thurs. Nov 26, 2015
Known locally as Christkendmarkt, Marche de Noel, Weihnachtsmarkt, Europe’s famous Christmas Markets bring the spirit of the holiday season to millions of visitors every Advent season.  Stroll the cobblestone streets in many of Europe’s Old Town squares and let the aroma of gingerbread and cinnamon fill the air.  Hold a warm cup of hot mulled wine or cocoa as you browse the quaint wooden huts filled with handmade crafts and Christmas ornaments.  Marvel at the beautifully adorned Christmas tree in town square.  Most of these picturesque markets can be found in the shadows of a gothic Cathedral.  These holiday fairs can be found in several cities all across the continent.  The markets of the different countries will vary to reflect the culture of the region and each will offer its own charm and traditions.  Listed below are a few of Europe’s most recognizable markets.
Considered the “Capital of Christmas” Strasburg Market tops the list. It boasts 300 stalls spread out over 12 locations all over Old Town, making it one of the largest and most beautiful markets in Europe.  It’s France’s oldest market dating back to 1570 and was voted “Europe’s Best Christmas Market” in 2014. 
Known as one of the finest of the German Christmas Markets, the Cologne Market is visited by roughly two millions tourists each holiday season.  It’s one of Europe’s most festive markets with its darling huts called “Buden.”  Cologne hosts over 160 stalls where you can experience the magic of Christmas. 
At Vienna’s “Magic of Advent Christmas Market” you’ll shop, eat and stroll around it’s popular square with its iconic City Hall as its backdrop.  Offering 150 or so stalls you are sure to find that special Christmas gift, decoration or sweet.  The trees surrounding City Hall Park are decorated with festive, glistening lights that are sure to put you in the holiday spirit
They are known for not only their beautiful market but for their open air concerts in Old Town Square.  You can warm up from the winter chill with a glass of mulled wine or warm honey liquor while you browse the beautifully adorned huts. 
Located near the popular tourist attraction of the historic Roman Baths and Bath Abbey, The Bath Christmas Market’s 170 chalets full of christmas treasures are sure to please.  Visitors come from all around to savor the warm mulled wine along with freshly baked mince pies
Winter Wonders Market offers a variety of holiday specialties with over 250 charming wooden huts selling crafts, local delicacies and produce.  During the evening you can enjoy a spectacular light and sound show in The Grand Place with its fairground wheel and merry-go-round to add to the holiday festivities. 
International Vacation Home Exchange has exclusive vacation homes located near many of Europe’s most festive Christmas markets.  Browse these properties and turn your next luxury home exchange into a holiday fairytale.
 
Thank you to travel writer Lisa Medieros.