Much of what we hear about Europe in the news these days is similar to what’s going on in the U.S.: currency fluctuation, fears of economic default, political battles. And yet, take a vacation in Europe, and you’d hardly know these troubles exist. Because their cultures have survived far worse events historically than the devaluation of the Euro, most Europeans take such economic turmoil in their stride. The fountains still bubble. Bread is still baked. Wine is still made. Life goes on as it has for decades, and even centuries, in Europe’s cities, towns, and villages, and it’s easy to get lost in the sights, sounds, and flavors of each new country you visit.
And that’s the best part about Europe: if you have a week or two of vacation, you can visit a lot of countries. Think about it: after a short bus trip–say, the equivalent of going from Boston to New York or Philadelphia–you can be in a completely different country, with its own culture, cuisine, language, and traditions. (And no, we don’t just mean the cultural difference between being a Yankees or a Red Sox fan.) In seven days, you can have seven wildly different experiences: you can savor an afternoon of la dolce vita in Italy; sip Bordeaux at a cafe on a French boulevard; pose for a photo by the Manneken Pis statue in Belgium; marvel at tulip fields in the Netherlands; have a mug of pilsener at a German biergarten; sing your favorite songs from “The Sound of Music” in Salzburg; and stash away what money you have left from your trip at a bank in Zurich.
To try and list all the attractions and enticements of Europe in a few paragraphs is impossible. That’s why this week, we are featuring a few of our favorite European travel blogs. Because after all, who knows a place better than someone who has lived there?
La Belle in France www.labelleinfrance.com
Even though she isn’t in France at the moment (she is moving there for graduate school very soon) blogger and Francophile Stephanie writes bewitching prose about her former adventures in France, and most specifically, Provence, where she taught English for a year. Her beautiful, crisp photos of her travels are swoon-worthy, and will make you want to add the south of France to your next travel itinerary. Take a little time to see France through her eyes, and you won’t be able to wait to buy your plane ticket.
Living in Florence by Melinda Gallo www.melindagallo.com/blog/
Imagine being sad to visit…Paris. In her blog about life in Florence, Melinda Gallo personifies the gorgeous Tuscan city in such a way that we feel her pain about having to leave it, even for short amounts of time, and even for somewhere as fabulous as Paris. In her contemplative explorations of Florence–often during walks or her habitual morning runs, or simply living her life–you will get a palpable sense of the extraordinary beauty, age, and grace of this lovely city on the Arno. But be prepared–with her stories of the palazzos and iconic works of art that are just steps outside her door, it may leave you quite jealous.
Clogs and Tulips www.clogsandtulips.blogspot.com
Life in the Netherlands isn’t all clogs and tulips. But it is incredibly interesting, funny, and, let’s just say…culturally educational. Blogger Tiffany from Maryland gives us the skinny on life in the Lowlands as an American, and is the “go to” for expats in the area for topics as varied as taking the NT2 (Dutch as a Second Language Exam) to the trials of finding a good Dutch hairdresser. Our personal favorite? Her post on the idiosyncrasies of the Dutch toilet. But also be prepared for the lovely surprises and rich history she outlines about her new homeland. (Just don’t call it “Holland,” at least around the locals.)
The German Way Expat Blog http://german-way.com/blog/#axzz1TyiJOMRs
A confederation of expat bloggers contribute to the cultural commentary featured on this brilliant site, which will give you an insider’s perspective on topics such as how to find a job in Germany, German health care, athletics, family life, drinking culture, real estate, and more. There aren’t many photos on the blog, but you won’t miss them–the insights bloggers Ruth, Jane, Sarah and their guests provide about life in Deutschland more than make up for it. You’ll feel like a local in no time!
Czech Mates http://parosparadise.com/CzechMates/
Oh, to be able to move to Prague for a few months, and delight in the beauty of its architecture and surrounding landscape! That is exactly what lucky bloggers Michael and Karin experienced in 2010–and plan to do again later this year. In the meantime, they are busy filling their blog with stories about a fascinating city–its museums, neighborhoods, artists, events, and food–so friends, family, and general readers like us can live vicariously through them. If you can’t get to Prague this winter for yourself, then it’s the next best thing.
Sadly, we all don’t have the resources to move to a gorgeous European city for a few months or years. But you can get a taste of Europe with one of TakeTours’ many flexible multi-day tours. Just choose your departure city: Brussels, Frankfurt, Cologne, Paris, or Amsterdam, and the numbers of days you’d like to travel (from 2 to 14), and get your own customized European experience! Just don’t forget your camera and a notebook to record your memories in…because who knows? You may be writing a blog of your own one day!