Two European Cities with Exceptional Music Traditions

Two iconic European cities, Budapest and Vienna, host exceptional traditions of classical music, operas, unique folk music, and modern club scenes. This amalgamation of music traditions are showcased throughout the cities in glorious buildings such as the Vienna State Opera. Walk along streets that Mozart once traversed, and satisfy your ears with the some of the most renowned musicians in the world.


After visiting iconic sights of Budapest (like the Chain Bridge and Parliament) you turn your eyes—or ears, rather—to the music cultures present in modern city. Here, you will find a tantalizing mixture of classical, opera, jazz, and folk music intermingling with the booming of modern electronic and club music of today. You have a unique chance to experience all ends of the musical spectrum in Budapest.

young dancing women in traditional folk dress on wedding feast ceremony.

Take a step back into history as the melodies of traditional Hungarian music spill out into the streets. The folk music in Hungary is a unique mixture of the influence of different cultures, though scholars do not agree on all of its conjectured origins. Elements of Mongol and Russian traditions mix with standards of Western music, and even hold nods to an array of other Eastern elements, creating a unique flavor of Hungarian tradition. It is one that connects Western culture to the East. The notes change as time, and music, march on.

1876: There’s a strong presence of a musical culture in Budapest, with classical and operas at full height, operettes gaining in popularity, and folk music (called “verbunkos”) still in people’s hearts. Composers and musicians who make it to the world’s stage are abound, and gather large followings around Europe. In this year, the energy in the musical community is high: Franz Liszt, perhaps Hungary’s most well-known contribution to music, has returned to the country for a position at the the Royal Academy for Music at Budapest. Alternating his time between Budapest, Rome, and Weimer, Liszt is an important figure, and donor, to the musical arts in Hungary. His mastery of the piano and composition has inspired countless other students to pursue the musical arts.

Now, you move from one section of the city to another, between different genres of music. Leaving the melodies and the inspiring sounds of the orchestra’s strings, you enter the deep drones of the bass of electronic music so prevalent in the city. You hear stories of underground rock and roll in the 1980s, and realize that Budapest is home to a wide variety of musical cultures, and constantly evolving traditions, playing side by side in this city split in two by the Danube.

Chain Bridge when sunrise, Budapest, Hungary


You take a walk along the streets of Vienna, the scent of delicious food wafting from stands, cafes, and restaurants. Years ago, some of the world’s most famous composers like Beethoven, Mozart, and Strauss walked along these same streets, and many called Vienna their home. “The City of Music” is true to its name: advertisements, ticket booths, concert halls, and street vendors fill the area. You continue your search for an authentic sampling of Vienna’s musical dominance.

Perhaps the most well-known staple of Vienna rises up ahead of you: the Wiener Staatsoper, or the Vienna State Opera. This magnificent building, with its impressive facades and frescoes depicting famous scenes of The Magic Flute, was built from 1861 to 1869 and has an interesting history over the course of the World Wars. The Opera House is world-renowned for its distinguished operas and connection to the Vienna Philharmonic, as the orchestra members are recruited from the State Opera. It is a source of national pride for Austrians.

Details of Viena Opera house, horizontal shot

1869: Mozart’s Don Giovanni opens the anticipated Wiener Hofoper, as it was originally called. An audience accumulates to see the glorious building and the intricate design, while energy intensifies for the first note of the opera.

An intake of breath—a moment of complete silence—the attack of the first note—

The Wiener Hofoper plunges into a whirlwind of distinguished music and sophisticated culture as the opera house climbs to a forte of international prominence.

The music pauses in 1945.

It had been happening in the years prior during the turbulent period of Nazi administration: moments when musicians lay their instruments down or singers quiet their voices for years—not seconds or minutes—of rests and when the crescendos fade to decrescendos, costumes and props collecting a fine layer of dust. Nazi rule takes a toll on the opera house, as many of its members are driven out or killed, and many works forbidden.

Then, towards the end of World War II Vienna and the opera house is bombed, leaving only the main facade, grand staircase, and Schwind Foyer standing. It is an unprecedented intermission, splitting the opera house’s legacy into two acts. Performances move to other locations in the city, but they do not do justice to the glory of the Wiener Staatsoper.

Ten years later, however, the rebuilt Wiener Staatsoper reopens, capturing the essence of the magnificent history and status of this symbol. Crowds gather as Beethoven’s Fidelio drives the Wiener Staatsoper into a brilliant new era.


To take your own tour through some of Eastern Europe’s best musical traditions on the Danube Express luxury train from Golden Eagle. Tours on the Venice Simplon Orient Express also make a stop in Budapest and other cities in Eastern Europe. For more information or to book your tour, contact Palace Tours at or 609-683-5018. Follow us around social media for more updates: Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest YouTube Linkedin

3 Sites that Bring Inca History to Life

Peru’s identity is rooted in the history of the Inca Empire, which once stretched along the west coast of South America from modern-day Ecuador, through Peru, Chile, and into Bolivia and Argentina. Tours in Peru take you to iconic and lesser-known sites prove the might of the once-powerful Inca Empire, bringing this history to life around you.

The Salt Ponds of Maras

Worker in salt basins on the Peruvian Andes

The salt ponds, partitioned shallow squares of varying shades of whites and tans, climb up the sloping hill and make for a unique and stunning sight. Built on descending tiers, the salt ponds of Maras are located north of Cusco, and present a unique resource for the people in the area. Local community members harvest the salt in the ponds, which are filled with saltwater from a nearby stream. The intricate network of thousands of ponds and interconnecting water channels took many generations and much ingenuity to master. At the top of the terraces is  a controlled outlet where a small but steady stream of water flows down, filling the sprawling ponds. Once they are filled, the flow of water is turned off to let the water evaporate.

The shallow pools of water in the ponds evaporate in the dry, blaring sun. Once the salt precipitates into varying sizes of crystals, the workers scrape the salt with wooden batons into baskets, where it will drain. The cooperative practice of salt harvesting has roots back before the Incas, to the Chanapata Culture’s time in the years 200 AD-900 AD. This site has always been isolated and difficult to reach, but it was an invaluable resource in Inca times nonetheless. Although the area is much less active today, visitors can understand the significance of this practice reaching back thousands of years. The site is a testament to inventiveness and enduring traditions.

Ruins Near Cusco: Ollantaytambo

From Cusco, historically the capital of the Inca Empire, travel to the impressive ruins of Ollantaytambo, nestled in the Sacred Valley. At the start of the hike “The Inca Trail,” the still-inhabited buildings and cobbled streets draw numbers of tourists hoping to relive the majesty of the Inca Empire. The site once served as a temple and fortress, and was the location of the victory of Manco Inca over the Spanish in 1536. Manco Inca was the leader of the resistance against the Spanish conquistadors during their conquest through the region, and Ollantaytambo served as a temporary Inca capital after Cusco fell to the Spanish. Though the Spanish later returned with stronger forces and chased Manco Inca to the jungle, this victory was important to the Inca resistance. The ceremonial center of the complex includes the Sun Temple, which features the Wall of the Six Monoliths.

Now, find old, agricultural terraces and pieces of the immense walls of the temple scattered in the setting. Inhabited continuously from Inca times, the town retains much of its historical roots. It’s easy to wonder if the city has changed much in the past few hundred years, with “the fountain of the princesses” and other waterworks still trickling and voices filling the streets.

Ollantaytambo Ruins

The Glory and Might of Machu Picchu

Finally, visit the most well-known site of the Inca Empire: Machu Picchu. The citadel was nearly lost until the American explorer, Hiram Bingham, rediscovered the site in 1911 with the help of locals who were familiar with rumors of Inca ruins in the area.

Now, anyone can discover the famed Machu Picchu. With an impressive backdrop of mountain peaks stretching into the clouds, the citadel’s ruins hold secrets of a once-powerful Empire stretching thousands of miles through the Andes. Take time to revel in the moment and breathe in the fresh air, imagining what the complex looked like hundreds of years ago. The crumbling ruins rise and form complete structures: roofs lay over upright Panorama view of Machu Picchu sacred lost city of Incas in  Peruwalls, people dressed in typical Inca clothing appear, overgrown flora recedes and in its place grow rows of planted vegetation. Networks of residences, religious buildings, and other structure sit on the upper terraces of the city, while the farming plots constitute the lower section. Views of this citadel are iconic, beautiful, and awe-inspiring.

To truly get a unique experience, take a day trip on the luxury Hiram Bingham or Vistadome trains, which take you through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu from Cusco. Take unique rides through the stunning scenery, where large, panoramic windows unite the interior of the train with nature. Snacks from local foods and cultural entertainment and traditions ensure that the trip is enriching as well as beautiful.


Visit these sites and many more on luxury tours to Peru from Palace Tours. You will take a deep look into the history of the Inca Empire in Peru, Spanish conquest, and how modern-day Peru has emerged from these influences. Don’t forget to follow Palace Tours around social media for more updates: Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest YouTube Linkedin

Colombia’s History of Inheritance

Before European colonization opened the “New World,” present-day Colombia was made up of Amerindian tribes settled at the intersection of Central and South America. Throughout this region, the Musica, Tairona, and Quimbaya tribes raised crops, produced crafts, and traded in exquisite works of gold. Some villages were highly specialized to produce certain goods at superior quality before sophisticated trade networks brought them to regional marketplaces.

The tribes formed agrarian societies with political structures similar to Europe’s feudal kingdoms. The organization, architecture, and technology of the indigenous Colombians were just as sophisticated as the Inca, Maya, and Aztec empires situated all around them.

Golden mask in the Gold Museum, Bogota, Colombia

By the start of the Age of Exploration in the early 16th century, popular legends surrounding gold began to lure Spain’s conquistadors, or conquerors, deeper into South America. The legend of El Dorado, a city of gold rumored to be possessed by the Musica tribe, was the foundation for exploration and colonization of Spain’s first major colony, Colombia.

The city of Santa Marta was among the first Spanish settlements along Colombia’s north coast, founded in 1525. The popular coastal city of Cartagena was founded a few years later, and today, the two cities are among the oldest in South America. Along with Lima, Peru and Mexico City, Mexico, Colombia’s future capital, Bogota, became a major administrative city for Spain’s colonial holdings in the Americas.

Columbus arrives in America

As the Spanish moved farther inland, they quickly established a large colonial state called the “New Kingdom of Granada,” and later the “Viceroyalty of New Granada.” In the 17th century, increasing numbers of Spaniards and Catholic missionaries began immigrating to the colony, along with imports of African slaves, to subdue the region further as an economic boon for Spain.

However, the administration of Spain’s colonies was not without challenge from other European colonial powers. Spain fought a series of conflicts in the New World with Great Britain in what were truly the original “world wars.” To defend their settlement, the Spanish built the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a massive stone fortress still standing today in Cartagena. Although construction of the fortress began once Spain arrived in Colombia, the colonizers continually expanded and strengthened the complex over the next two centuries. San Felipe proved vital to Spain’s defense of Colombia from invading land forces throughout the Anglo-Spanish Wars.

Castillo San Felipe Barajas, impressive fortress located in Lazaro hill, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Despite keeping its colony intact in the face of other foreign occupiers, by the 19th century, Spain was headlong into the Spanish-American Wars of Independence against its own subjects. It was during this period that Simon Bolivar led the eventual military overthrow of Spanish rule, liberating a colony in northern South America roughly the size of Kazakhstan.

Bolivar established a newly independent state called Gran Colombia, made up of modern-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, with parts of Peru, Guyana, and northwest Brazil. As a successor state to Spain’s New Granada, Gran Colombia was envisioned as an independent federal republic. Internal political divisions ensured that Gran Colombia was a short-lived experiment, yet the legacy of Bolivar remains strong across the region today. In Bogota, the seat of the Colombian government is located in Bolivar Square. Venezuela’s capital, Caracas similarly hosts its federal institutions in Bolivar Plaza in honor of the South American founding father.

Postage stamp Colombia 1969 Simon Bolivar Entering Bogota

Bogota remains a testament to Colombia’s inheritances. The city’s historic quarter, La Candelaria, hosts beautiful Spanish colonial architecture, and the Primary Cathedral of Bogota showcases Colombia’s adoption of Roman Catholicism in terrific splendor. As a modern nation, Colombia’s identity draws its inheritances from Spain, the history of its indigenous population, and the culture of Africans. In Bogota, one gets a great sense of how this unique country strikes its balance between these distinct cultural legacies. Colombia is truly South American melting pot.  

Palace Tours has recently added four tours in Colombia. Call 609-683-5018, or visit our website to experience this country for yourself.

Panorama in the coffee triangle region of Colombia

Ecuador- Where Mother Nature Lives


The Incan Empire was the largest pre-Colombian civilization in South America, spanning  modern Ecuador through northern Chile. As a naturalistic people, the Inca based their spiritual and cultural practices on an observance of the natural environment within the Andes Mountains.

These deeply religious South Americans attached divine significance to any resources they depended on for survival, worshiping many Gods who they believed were intimately involved in all aspects of the natural world. One such deity, who may be likened to Mother Nature, was the goddess Pachamama, wife of Viracocha, creator of the universe.    

Pachamama was a central figure in Incan mythology. Apart from being mother to the moon and sun, Pachamama gave birth to life on earth itself and was said to live beneath the mountains. The Inca routinely sacrificed llamas and other animals to their earth goddess and called upon her for the success of their crops.   


Grunge inca icon. Vector illustration


Despite the eventual collapse of Incan civilization under the weight of Spanish colonization, the rich legacy of Pachamama and the natural mysticism she embodied still persist in contemporary Andean culture. The indigenous people’s great respect for the environment transcends time and national boundaries. In countries like Ecuador, a former home to the Inca, the veneration of nature has even been codified in law.    

In 2008, Ecuador ratified a new and unprecedented constitution to provide for the Rights of Nature. Whereas other countries consider environmental law through the lense of private or public ownership, Ecuador’s government views nature as having its own inherent rights and became the first to provide them through its founding document.

Article 71 of the Ecuadorian constitution says: “Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution… The State will motivate natural and juridical persons as well as collectives to protect nature; it will promote respect towards all the elements that form an ecosystem.”


Galapagos islands

Under the environmental provisions of its constitution, Ecuador establishes the right of nature to replenish itself without undue interference. The government is empowered to restrict any practices which might harm ecosystems, endanger animal populations, or alter natural cycles. Ecuadorians may also petition the government on behalf of nature to further ensure its protection. This unique take on environmental protection stands to reason, given the traditions of Ecuador’s indigenous heritage and the country’s tremendous biodiversity.

What is the relevance of such laws in a modern world? Ecuador, a nation the size of the state of Nevada, hosts twice as many species of birds than the continental United States and more plant species than all of North America. Despite its small size, Ecuador has the most biodiversity per square kilometer of any nation, and is considered one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world for hosting such a wide array of plant and wildlife. According to the World Bank, over 25% of Ecuador’s territory is federally protected, compared with just 13% of U.S. land.




Ecuador also contains several geographically distinct regions. The capital city of Quito is nestled in the ranges of the Northern Andes, where snow-capped mountains and volcanoes compliment the high elevation. The eastern quarter of Ecuador is comprised of the Amazon rainforest, and further southward, open green valleys continually trade off with forestlands. Ecuador also has a drier, lowland region bordering the Pacific Ocean in the south. Furthermore, the Galapagos Islands are a renowned hotbed of biodiversity situated 500 miles west of continental Ecuador. With such a wellspring of natural wonders all inside one country, Ecuador is right to instill the values of the Inca and their devotion to the goddess Pachamama in today’s society.

Touristic Train Trip


Foreign travelers may experience the beauty of Ecuador firsthand on Tren Crucero- a luxury train which traverses the country from Quito to Guayaquil. The train is a source of great national pride, and for the third year running, Tren Crucero won the 2016 World Travel Award as South America’s Leading Luxury Train. Palace Tours is the official U.S. representative of this esteemed train line. Let us show you Ecuador and you may realize your deep respect for Pachamama.      

Legends of the Emerald Isle

Ireland is known for its incredible landscapes, rolling green pastoral views, and vibrant culture. Throughout the journeys on the Belmond Grand Hibernian Luxury Train, enjoy the best snapshots of the Emerald Isle. Along your adventure, destinations such as the Cliffs of Moher and the Giant’s Causeway aren’t just interesting to look at—they also have intriguing myths and legends behind them.

The Blarney Stone

You lay down on the cold stone at Blarney Castle, and lean back through the railing—thankfully your lower half is being held steady as you dip backwards and your lips touch the cold limestone. You don’t feel any different though. There isn’t a rush of magical power or insight, but you decide you will test out the “gift of gab,” on your server tonight at dinner. Maybe you
will get an extra large serving for dessert.

Medieval Blarney Castle in Co. Cork - IrelandThe origin of this story has roots with the goddess Cliodhana and the builder of Blarney Castle, Cormac Laidir McCarthy. He was involved with a lawsuit and prayed to the goddess for help. She told him to kiss the first stone he saw on his way to the court. He followed her instructions and later pleaded his case with impressive eloquence. Thus, the Blarney Stone became known for its ability to provide individuals with “the ability to deceive without offending,” popularly known as “the gift of gab.” McCarthy then chose to bring this stone up to the parapet of the castle. Now, everyone lines up behind you for the opportunity to acquire this great skill of eloquence of speech.

Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher stretch out in front of you, the jagged rock face and crashing waves holding old stories of mermaids, lost cities, and witches. The
legends almost seem possible; these cliffs look like they belong in fantasy.O'Brien's Tower Cliffs of Moher (Aillte an Mhothair) Ireland

Staring out across the water, you imagine a fisherman on a tiny boat, rocking with the waves, and see him come across a mermaid perched upon a rock. Beautiful, intriguing, and mysterious, she catches the fisherman’s attention and he immediately becomes enamored with her. He wants her for his own, and while they are speaking,he steals her cloak that she needs to be able to return to the sea. He runs back to his house and hides it before she reaches him. The mermaid agrees to marry the fisherman, in hopes that one day she will find her cloak. Years pass uneventfully and the pair has two children. One day, however, when the fisherman is out at sea, she discovers her old cloak hidden in the house. Taking it and not turning back, she rejoins the sea and her family never sees her again. The sea, after all, is her only love.

The whirlwind of romance and intrigue continues in the next story you hear about, the perfect tone for these lonely cliffs. In this next story, a hag—or a witch in some accounts—named Mal fell in love with the famed warrior Cu Chulainn and chased him all around Ireland. Disgusted with her advances, he did everything he could to escape her. Finally, she cornered him at the south end of the Cliffs of Moher. However, he used his mighty power and strength to jump from the cliffs to a rocky island. In the hag’s haste and desperation, she tried to follow him, but the wind is not with her and she fell to her demise in the crashing water and jagged rocks below. The area, Malbay, is said to be named after her. There is a cliff face in the area where she fell that resembles the profile of a woman looking wistfully out to sea.

The last story you are told tells the tale of a lost city sitting at the bottom of the sea. The city in this legend has been called many names. Kilstiffen and Cill Stuifin are just two of them. The city sank into the ocean when the chieftain lost the golden key for the city’s castle during a battle. Without the key, the city cannot be saved from the murky depths of the sea. No one knows the key’s true location, but various stories put it in different places. It might be tucked within an ancient gravestone in Slieve Callan, or thrown to the bottom of a lake at the top of a mountain. Regardless of where the key is, the city is said to rise up from the water once every seven years. Anyone who lays eyes on the dripping city will die before the next time it rises.

Here, looking down into the water, you can just make out the tops of trees, clouded in the water. You wonder if there is any truth to the legend, but you hear someone say there was an earthquake and subsequent tidal wave here long ago that might be the cause for the skeletons of land submerged in the sea.

Giant’s Causeway


The cylindrical basalt columns push upwards in front of you, creating a scene so unique and so magical, it seems unreal. Moments and locations beyond reality are becoming a norm on this fantastic trip. Today’s destination is a fitting end to this trip. The Giant’s Causeway is not only a natural phenomenon, but is also steeped in legend and myth. Long ago, the giant Finn MacCool from Ireland was challenged to a fight by Benandonner from Scotland. Finn MacCool originally built the causeway to reach Scotland, but turned back in fear of the large size of Benandonner. The Scottish giant, however, chased him back to Ireland. Finn’s wife may be the real hero of this story: she quickly disguised Finn as a baby, so that when Benandonner arrived he saw the immense size of this supposed child. If the baby was this huge, then its father, Finn, must have been enormous. It was Benandonner’s turn to run in fear, and he destroyed the path of the causeway so Finn could not pursue him. What is left of the causeway are the hexagonal columns at the edge of the water in both Ireland and Scotland. Scientifically, they are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, but as you stand among the columns and notice rock formations that look like a giant’s boots and chimney stacks, imagining giants standing here is much more satisfying.

To become apart of these Irish legends, book your trip on the Grand Hibernian Luxury Train at or contact us for more information. Check out our tours in Ireland, and if you like these, you may also be interested in tours in Scotland on the Royal Scotsman. Follow Palace Tours around social media to stay updated: Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest YouTube Linkedin

Chartering Royal Scotsman for Professionals

Say you are a professional businessperson. You understand the importance of impressing your current clients, potential clients, investors, coworkers, and superiors to get ahead. In your field, there is a high premium on quality and attention to detail. Your reputation hinges on providing an experience, or product, that stands apart from the rest, each and every time.

Maybe you need to plan a business trip, or take your exclusive clientele on the excursion of a lifetime as a way of showing thanks. Maybe you wish to do the same for your investors to demonstrate the high standards you set for yourself, and what you expect from others in return.

All the qualities you wish to demonstrate as a professional are also reflected in the experience on board the luxurious Royal Scotsman train. If you really wish to leave a lasting impression for years to come, try chartering this elegant train for a private tour of Scotland.

It’s no secret that businesspeople enjoy their outings on the golf course, so why not bring a cadre of professional colleagues to some of the world’s best rated courses in Scotland? Now, through Palace Tours, you may book the Scottish Golf Tour, for an exclusive five-day excursion on board the Royal Scotsman.

Golf course with amazing clouds

Booking this journey may just be the best decision you make in your career. Apart from all the luxuries and unsurpassed moments you savor along the way, the dividends from this one investment will be huge if you wish to leave others with a strong impression of you.  

Your trip begins in the beautiful Scottish capital of Edinburgh. On the first leg of your journey, the Royal Scotsman is on the move, passing quaint towns before concluding the day in the Scottish Highlands. You and your colleagues will be relieved to find Scotsman stops at night, often in the middle of nowhere, just to provide your party with a sound night’s rest.

Panoramic view of Edinburgh castle from Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Following afternoon tea the next day, your group hits the teeing grounds of Tain Golf Club. After the rounds, you will enjoy lunch over rich mahogany tables in the clubhouse, overlooking the green links course. The next day’s excursion brings you to another established links course at Castle Stuart, where the Scottish Open was hosted from 2011-2013.

At night, your party will enjoy top-notch dining on board the train. Scottish salmon topped with creamy dill sauce, Aberdeen Angus beef with caramelized shallots, and pan- seared scallops are just a few of the fresh, locally sourced items you will relish. With your cocktail in hand, local entertainment lends greater cultural authenticity to the trip as you unwind in the Scotsman’s posh observation car.


As you look out across the comfortable communal space, you realize that your party is fully immersed in this unique experience- everyone thrilled to the utmost to be here. Even your most stern, hard-nosed colleague has traded in his suit for a tailor-made kilt, and is jauntily taking part in the levity of this moment. As good as the trip has been thus far, tomorrow is going to be even better.   

Following breakfast on board the Scotsman, your party arrives at Trump International Golf Club in Aberdeen to play on the championship course. When you spend the day playing at such a renowned golf course, the time is certain not to end up in the rough. By evening, the Scotsman has moved southward to the city of Dundee for dinner, entertainment, and rest.      

The journey concludes with a wrap through the historic eastern county of Fife. Here, the ancient game of golf claims its origins alongside the historic University of St. Andrews. Finally, Scotsman concludes in Edinburgh where the adventure all began. The private party you invited will retain memories of this impressive, luxury journey long after you return home. The culture and sights they have experienced are a refreshing break from the board room at the office. And furthermore, the magnificent sights they drank in at the golf ranges were among the best in the world.  

If golf is not your game however, maybe you wish instead to tour Scotland’s famous whisky distilleries on the 5-day Whisky Tour. Here, the Royal Scotsman tailors your journey in partnership with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Scotland, bringing you to the best distilleries of each region. If you would like more options, Palace Tours is happy to customize a journey to suit any of your needs.  

Mountains of Glencoe in Scotland

In the world of business, attention to quality and authenticity are paramount. Those who are most successful deliver the best service, and examine every minute detail of their product to realize its worth as a whole. The same ideals which ensure fruitful business also deliver the unforgettable journey you take on board the Royal Scotsman. Contact Palace Tours today and arrange your excursion. Call 609-683-5018, or email      

Venice: The City of Many Names

Venice is known as the “City of Canals,” the “City of Masks,” and “La Dominante,” among many other titles. Each name is derived from a cultural or historical tradition still present in the city, and most have roots in early Venetian history.

The City of Water

The couple, on a trip of a lifetime to celebrate their anniversary, watches the Venetian Lagoon pass by their window aboard the luxury Venice Simplon Orient Express. Starting from London, their luxury train journeyed past some of Europe’s most incredible landscapes, and is now stopping in Venice. Even from their cabin’s window, they can see that water is what Venice is known for. Canals, lagoons, and the sea all contribute to the name, the “City of Water.” From this vantage point, the magnificence of Venice rises ahead of them. It is no surprise that Venice is known as the “Queen of the Adriatic,” a name that commends the city’s dominance of the sea in its earlier history.

 The City of Bridges

The couple stepsNight view of Rialto bridge and Grand Canal in Venice. Italy out onto Venice’s streets from Saint Lucia Station, directly across the famed Grand Canal. Already being late afternoon, they choose to simply wander the city, drinking in its glory. Their first destination is the Rialto Bridge, the oldest bridge over the Grand Canal. They take a leisurely stroll through Venice’s streets, passing some of Venice’s other famous sights like the Ponte degli Scalzi bridge. The bridges across the canals are nearly as famous as the water itself, and provide another sample of the uniqueness of Venice’s romance.

The Rialto Bridge is one of the most famous locations in Venice. The couple arrives at the bridge, one side of the ramp stretching up in front of them. This stone bridge was once the only means of crossing the Grand Canal by foot. Even though it is now one of four bridges extending across the Grand Canal, it serves as an icon of this legendary city. They cross the bridge and stop to admire the deep blue of the Grand Canal stretching out in front of them until it disappears around a bend. They wave at gondola riders passing below them. It is a fitting end to an indulgent and relaxing day.

 The Floating CityVenice

The next morning, the couple starts out on a tour of the city. One stop is the Santa Maria della Salute, an impressive church at a prime location in the city: between the Grand Canal and the Guidecca Canal. The guide explains that this church, like the other structures in Venice, was built on wooden platforms that sit on wooden stakes driven into the ground. Over a million wooden stakes were used for this church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The saltwater petrifies the wood over time, making it incredibly strong and sturdy, and contributes to the longevity of this powerful city. In this sense, Venice literally floats.

Beyond being a watery architectural feat, the Santa Maria della Salute Church towers impressively over its onlookers. The design and beauty of this structure is enough to make it a staple of Venice. Venice is also known as “La Dominante.” Even though its days as a huge power of the seas are long over, the city maintains its magnificence in marvels like this church. It is not difficult to image Venice as a dominating factor in early global affairs. The couple, too, sees signs of the first day of the Carnival of Venice. Even in the early morning, the city is full of masked Venetians dressed in elaborate costumes.

The City of Canals

The setting sun is bright on Venice’s Grand Canal, and rainbows of warm pinks, oranges, and gold shimmer on the azure blue of the largest of Venice’s 177 canals. The couple sits in the gondola as the melodies from the musician’s accordion begin to dance in the air. The intricate network of Venice’s canals, splitting 118 separate islands, and Venetian Gothic architecture is the setting for this evening. As the gondola turns down a narrower, winding canal bordered by classic Venetian buildings, the couple is plunged into a quieter, more intimate Venice. In these moments, the couple feels completely at peace in the city. Venice is, after all, called “Serenissima,” or the Most Serene City. A romantic serenade during a gondola ride in Venice is a bucket list evening, and the couple becomes privy to the unique culture of this magnificent city.

The City of Masks


Night falls on Venice as the couple emerges from a delicious meal of traditional Venetian dishes: local seafood, risotto, and some of the region’s world famous desserts like tiramisu. All day the vibrancy of the masks and costumes of the Carnival of Venice had captivated them, but the day cannot compare to the colorful lights and mystery of nighttime Venice. The streets are different­ now: there is an unparalleled tone of mystique that fills the couple, enchanting them. They don masks of their own, a sparkly and regal Volto Larva style and a stern, almost intimidating Bauta mask. All around them are elaborate Renaissance costumes, flashy colors, bright lights, feathers standing tall and reaching for the stars above. It no longer feels like the modern day—history manifests itself tonight—and Venice transforms into a city suspended beyond the constraints of time.


Tours aboard the legendary Venice Simplon Orient Express both depart from and arrive in Venice. For more information, and to be swept up in the romance of Venice and numerous other destinations, visit For more updates, follow Palace Tours around social media: Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest YouTube Linkedin