By Susan Farewell
Is it the art? The architecture? The history? The food and wine? The lifestyle? The ancestors? With Europe, more North Americans than ever are checking “all of the above.”
I did a little informal poll among my Facebook friends and colleagues and found out that many of them are hoping, if not actually planning, to travel to Europe as soon as they can--volcanic ash or no volcanic ash, economic worries or no economic worries.
Europe does that to people. Whether we’ve been there dozens of times (even lived there) or never stepped foot in the UK or on the Continent, it has a way of pulling us over.
Why? Here's what I learned.
Photo by Bradley Olman
It’s About Time
For Ann Shepphird, an editor who lives in Santa Monica, her dream trip to Italy is long overdue. “I took two years of Italian in college and somehow I haven’t managed to get there yet,” she says. The plan, while she was at UCLA, was to study for a year in Italy. “I decided against it and it’s one of my biggest regrets.” Now she dreams of Rome, the Amalfi Coast and the hills of Tuscany. Professionally (she specializes in garden and food writing), she’s very interested in experiencing the food scene. “But who doesn’t have the dream of renting a farmhouse in Tuscany?” she asks.
Spain is the main country upon which Stacy Small (pictured left) focuses her dream travels. Stacy can indulge; it helps that she owns a luxury travel firm in Los Angeles. “I’ve been to Barcelona and Madrid multiple times and just love the Spanish culture, the people, the food, the style,” she says.
But she’s going to new places en Espana this summer: to Marbella on the Costa del Sol and to the sunny Balearic isle of Mallorca. She’ll make a stop in Barcelona, “one of my favorite cities in the world.” This 2010 dream trip will actually go beyond Spain, to glamorous St. Tropez and to the Lake District of Italy and Switzerland.
First Time to Istanbul
Poland and Turkey top the list of European destinations writer/photographer Karen Torme Olson wants to see soon. She travels from her home in Olympia Fields, IL to Europe as often as she can. “I’d especially like to go to Turkey because it’s close to Kosovo [well…within 524 miles], where my son is a diplomat with USAid. As for Poland, I’d like to go because that’s where my ancestors are from, she explains.”
Always Wants Paris
Libby York, a jazz singer based in Oak Park, IL, is not dreaming of any place new. Reading Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik (a friend) made her want desperately to return. “The book captured all that I love about Paris – the architecture, the cafes, the sense of life as art.” This month, she and her partner, Greg (a drummer) will go to celebrate their 10th anniversary as couple. “ I want to embrace on the beautiful bridges and be lovers in the City of Light,” she says. “A little romantic fantasy. ”
She adds that “Everyone thinks of the song April in Paris, but Yves Montand wrote another song about how May in Paris is the best.” It pays to know all the old songs.
To Be a Dubliner
Books are also inspiring a European trip for Reynolds Potter, a Portland, OR resident who is retired from the real estate and finance games.
This summer, he and his wife, Sharon Mueller, will be traveling to London for a graduation. Afterward, they’re contemplating a trip to Ireland. “I’ve read a lot of authors from Ireland such as Joyce and Beckett,” he says.
“I’m also very interested in how the country plays such a prominent part in religious history. I’ve been studying Catholicism, just out of personal interest.” He adds, however, “We’re not locked into anything. Who knows? There’s always a chance we may decide to go to Florence, instead.”
The Human Touch
With European countries so close together, it’s easy to plan a trip that involves visiting more than one. That’s what appeals to Mario Lorentz, an artist who lives in Denver. Planning to use up his airline miles, he’s heading over later this year. “I’m not going to plan too much in advance,” he says.
Mario has, however, decided to start in Croatia: “I really want to go back because I love the coast there. The The neat little villages, the food, the lifestyle. There’s more human interaction because people don’t live in their cars. I also love that you can take boats to small islands and explore.”
After that, he’ll keep it loose; maybe take a ferry across the Adriatic to Italy, where his grandfather is from, and which Mario has yet to see.
But Can We Bike It?
Croatia is also on the wish list for Leslie Gauff, a real-estate broker in Stowe, VT. “I hear the cycling is great there.” Leslie and her husband, Bruce Bell, have taken their bikes to Europe before. “We love cycling in Provence, especially,” she says. “We’ve also cycled in the Pyrenees.”
Last year, Leslie spent 18 days in Europe, first attending a family wedding in Essex, England and then traveling to St. Tropez, where she has relatives.
Friends, Then Castles
Janet Riccio, a Manhattan-based advertising professional, has a trip to Germany on her calendar. She is going to visit her goddaughter and her family in Bad Soden, a suburb of Frankfurt. While there, she says, “I’m hoping to take a trip up the Rhone and explore the castles along the way.”
Feed Young Minds
Elaine Clayton, a Westport, CT-based artist and her husband, Simon Boughton, a NYC publisher, love traveling to Europe with their two young sons, Jonah and Alistair, because of the educational value. “We like to make connections with what we’ve all read.” Last September, they combined a visit with her husband’s family in Kent, with sightseeing in England’s South West.
“One of the highlights was Tintagel in Cornwall. It’s the legendary site of King Arthur’s Round Table and is spectacular—situated on top of a sheer cliff.” She adds, “We also went to Stonehenge, which I had always wanted to see. Before going, the boys had never heard of it. But, it’s funny, since we’ve been back, they are always seeing references to it.”
The educational benefits of visiting Europe range from learning about Druids to discovering new sauces. Nathan King (left), from Cornwall Bridge, CT, had the unusual (and thrilling) experience of flying to England with his Kent School football team (American football, not soccer) and defeating Bristol’s Filton College. “ I hope to go again soon,” he says. “This time to Rome because I love the Roman history and Italian culture. Also, I study Latin. “
His brother, Nicholas (right) , a freshman and aspiring musician at Gordon College in Wenham, MA, hasn’t been across the Atlantic yet, but hopes to study abroad there (Nathan said he does, too), preferably in England.
“I am very interested in what remains of the local music scene there, after the fallout of the indie bands in the recent decade. I was very inspired by Britpop bands like Oasis, the Stone Roses, Blur, Kasabian, the Arctic Monkeys and others.”
The Lands I Love
For me, it’s all about returning to the countries I love and seeing as much as them as possible. That would include Greece, where I studied while in college. And also Prague, where I found myself shortly after the Iron Curtain was lifted; I’d like to see how it’s changed.
I’m also crazy about all the Nordic countries, and there are many places there I have yet to experience. One day, I’d like to cross-country ski near the fjords in Norway. I am also dreaming of a return to Iceland (for the third time) to drive the entire 830-mile distance of its otherworldly Ring Road.
The thing with Europe, I find, is that no matter how often you’ve gone, and how many countries you’ve visited, there’s always something pulling you back. I don’t know anybody who can say “Been there, done that” about Europe.
This article was reprinted (in part) from Visit Europe.