France is a cultural bouillabaisse that surprises travelers with its varied, complex flavors. To experience the tasty and fragrant wonders of its edible diversity, head to a street market. No single "sightseeing" activity better connects you to the French preoccupation with fresh products and their strong ties to the soil.
Markets combine ...Read more
Serene Sorrento, wedged on a ledge under the mountains and over the sea, is a great springboard for sightseeing along Italy's Amalfi Coast. Just an hour south of wild and crazy Naples, calm and genteel Sorrento makes an ideal home base for day-tripping around the region (Pompeii, Positano, and Capri are well within reach). And every night, you ...Read more
In Europe, getting from Point A to Point B is a snap. The train system shrinks what is already a small continent, making a whirlwind or far-reaching tour a reasonable possibility for anyone. For me, trains remain the quintessentially European way to go, and the best option for romantics. However, ...Read more
Last year in Munich, I joined the planet's biggest kegger -- Oktoberfest. With my fellow revelers, we swayed our beer steins and toasted to "Gemuetlichkeit" (the cozy and convivial atmosphere). At the "whop" sound signaling the tapping of a classic old wooden keg, everyone knew they were in for a good fresh mug -- and another ...Read more
England's scenic landscapes hold a mix of historic wonders and legends that go back to Camelot and beyond. Two of the best places to contemplate the country's mythic past -- Glastonbury and Wells -- are in southwest England. Both market towns were once stops for religious pilgrims a day's walk apart, and together make a great day-trip from Bath ...Read more
Romania is full of surprises and wonderful people. And as you leave the capital of Bucharest, it gets even better. In the countryside, the history and traditional culture survive vividly.
A hard-fought past is evident in the fortress-like churches scattered through the Transylvania region in central Romania. In medieval times, big towns were ...Read more
Going up the Eiffel Tower is one of the great travel thrills in Europe. Sure, it's crowded and expensive, and there are probably better views in Paris. But once you make the eye-popping ascent -- and ear-popping descent -- you'll be in the exclusive society of some 250 million people who have made the Eiffel Tower one of the most visited ...Read more
A fundamental part of enjoying travel in Europe is finding places that I call "back doors." When I first started traveling, back doors to me were Europe's undiscovered corners and untrampled towns that had, for various reasons, missed the modern parade (like Dingle in Ireland or Salema in Portugal). But now, with more sophisticated travelers, ...Read more
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With each trip I take, I look for cultural souvenirs -- experiences and memories are the gold nuggets of travel. Shopping is never my priority, but I find the best souvenirs come from local entrepreneurs and craftspeople. These days, Europe's modern shopping arenas are also fun spots to witness a slice of contemporary life. In moderation, it can...Read more
The French province of Alsace stands like a flower-child referee between Germany and France. Bounded by the Rhine River on the east and the Vosges Mountains on the west, this is a green region of Hansel-and-Gretel villages, ambitious vineyards, and vibrant cities. Food and wine are the primary industry, topic of conversation, and perfect excuse ...Read more
I'll never forget my first trip to Europe. I was a gangly 14-year-old, dragged to the old country by a conspiracy of grandparents and parents solely to visit Norwegian relatives. I didn't want to go. It just didn't make sense.
Jet lag wasn't the problem. It was teen culture-shock: No Fanta. No hamburgers. But after a few days I was wild about ...Read more
The grandeur of a big European city can get drowned out quickly by the hubbub of humanity and cacophony of cars. Happily, you'll find places to stroll, bike, and people-watch in parks and gardens all over Europe. Here are a few of my favorite urban spaces in Paris, London, and Barcelona.
PARIS: On my trip to Paris this summer, I was struck by ...Read more
Several years ago at Versailles, just outside of Paris, I was unable to avoid lumbering through the palace on one of the most crowded days of the year -- a Tuesday in July. A steady crush of visitors shuffled through the muggy one-way route leading to the payoff: the magnificent Hall of Mirrors. Sights like these are a thrill and worth every ...Read more
The Alps, Europe's highest mountain range, arc from Vienna, Austria to Marseilles, France. They include stretches in eight countries, each with a unique taste of alpine culture.
Of the 750 miles of peaks, the Swiss Alps are a traveler's alpine dream come true. With majestic snow-capped summits, waterfall-laced cliffs, and picturesque lakes, ...Read more
British royalty has been calling Windsor Castle home since the days of William the Conqueror -- almost a thousand years ago -- and it's still a favored castle of the current Queen Elizabeth. And while commoners can't stay at her digs, the town of Windsor is a cozy spot for a peaceful and charming last night in England before flying out of London...Read more
In the gorgeously preserved Tuscan hill town of Siena, Italy, the Middle Ages seem to survive in the architecture and in the civic spirit. The city is known both for its pride and for its independent attitude. And twice a year, that spirit shows itself in a crazy horse race, as it has for five centuries.
That world-famous race, the Palio di ...Read more
Horror stories about driving in Europe abound. They're fun to tell, but driving is really only a problem for those who make it one. If you know what to expect, your drive can be a highlight rather than harrowing. Here are a few tips to know before you get behind the wheel.
RESEARCH YOUR RENTAL. Most European rental cars use stick shift (...Read more
For a chance to experience the mystery of the medieval church through statues, glass, and relics, France's Chartres Cathedral, just an hour from Paris by train, is ideal. The towering Gothic cathedral, marking the center of the town of Chartres, somehow captures the spirit of the 13th century -- the so-called Age of Faith -- in the 21st century....Read more