France has a rich history, an impressive infrastructure and a tourism industry trying valiantly to cope with its big crowds. Travelers who plan ahead enjoy big rewards.
Paris' most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower, has a new look. A glass wall now rings its base for security reasons, with one access point at each side, meaning you can no ...Read more
Like many travelers, last spring I visited Barcelona dreaming of seeing Antoni Gaudi's breathtaking Sagrada Familia church. When I got there, the ticket office was closed, with a posted sign: "No more tickets today. Buy your ticket for another day online." Thankfully, I knew to book tickets in advance.
Along with Sagrada Familia, Spain's other ...Read more
Recently, I was on a massive cruise ship with 3,000 passengers blitzing the great ports of the Mediterranean -- and having lots of fun. No, I'm not suddenly abandoning my independent travel principles and becoming a huge proponent of cruising. But I am impressed by the economy, efficiency and popularity of this kind of travel ... and, to be ...Read more
I've been inspired over the years by female colleagues and friends who happily and safely travel solo overseas. There are challenges, but also many rewards awaiting women who venture out on their own.
Whether it's due to concerns about loneliness or safety, many women put off their travel dreams because they don't want to do it by themselves. ...Read more
Scotland's islands may be distant fringes, but those who venture to them are richly rewarded with dramatic landscapes, a rich heritage, and a warm welcome. Among Scotland's countless islands, the favorite among travelers is the scenic Isle of Skye, with its narrow, twisty roads winding around the island in the shadows of craggy, bald mountains, ...Read more
In my early days as a guidebook writer, Europe's undiscovered nooks and undeveloped crannies held the most appeal for me -- and they still do. But with ever more sophisticated travelers armed with enough time and money to see the Europe of their dreams, places I "discovered" a few decades ago are now suffering from Back Door congestion.
Given ...Read more
As it is in so many places, Christmas in France is all about family, friends and food. While it's generally a low-key affair marked by gatherings of relatives and treats for children, it also has the culinary high point of the year: Le Reveillon de Noel (Christmas Eve dinner).
The season officially starts on December 6...Read more
One thing I enjoy about my work is getting my outdated impressions back up to date. Europe is always changing -- and recently I discovered that Sicily's capital of Palermo has become a whole new city since my last visit. It's cleaner, safer and more efficient than it was in years past. But it still retains its colorful edge -- and that's why I ...Read more
When I arrive in a new city, I book a private guide straightaway -- someone who can bring the architecture, history and culture to life. Lately, in the spirit of experiential sightseeing, I've been taking specialized tours that highlight unique, local experiences or historical themes. Particularly in big cities, I've found all kinds of focused ...Read more
When my travel dreams drift off to Spain, they often include visions of Andalucía, the southern part of the country that feels so quintessentially Spanish. With a string of whitewashed hill towns, sunny skies, vibrant festivals and tempting tapas, Andalucía is the soul of Spain -- almost stereotypically so.
Most tourists hit Andalucía's ...Read more
England's best city within easy striking distance of London is Bath -- just a 90-minute train ride from the city center. Bath is popular and expensive, but it's a joy to visit. And rather than deal with London's intensity right off the bat, I like to take the train from the airport to London's Paddington Station and then hop on a connection to ...Read more
November 11 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I -- "the war to end all wars," which cost an estimated 40 million lives. While there are no more survivors to tell us their stories, WWI sights and memorials scattered across Europe do their best to keep the devastation from fading from memory.
Perhaps the most ...Read more
Eating in Germany is a big part of the fun of traveling there. Ingredients are wonderful (especially if you eat with the season), traditions are prized, "modern German cuisine" is giving old dishes tasty and entertaining new twists, and small, creative foodie places are thriving in every city. And here's even more good news: Eating well in ...Read more
Northern Italy's seductively beautiful lakes district -- in the shadow of the Alps -- seems heaven-sent for communing with nature. Though just an hour north of Milan, this area feels a world away from the business and bustle of Italy's second city.
In this romantic region, wistful 19th-century villas are overgrown with old vines that seem to ...Read more
As a traveler, I find myself visiting the homes of lots of dead people. Some are over the top (Louis XIV's Versailles near Paris); some are haunting (Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam); others inspire you to write a poem (William Wordsworth's Dove Cottage in England's Lake District).
Many of my favorites are the home studios of artists -- ...Read more
I used to travel with absolutely no hotel reservations. Europe 30 years ago was relatively ramshackle, things were cheaper and because fewer people could afford to travel for fun, there was much less competition for budget rooms. I could make decisions on the go, show up in a new town and improvise my accommodations. But the tourism boom and ...Read more