For some time, I’ve been wanting to return to the Algarve, in southern Portugal, my favorite stretch of Iberian coastline. Warm and dry, the south coast stretches for some 100 miles, with beach resorts along the water’s edge and, farther inland, rolling green hills dotted with orchards. The coastline varies from lagoon estuaries in the east (the town of Tavira), to sandy beach resorts in the center (from Faro to Lagos), to rugged cliffs in the west (Sagres).
The Algarve was once known as Europe’s last undiscovered tourist frontier. But it’s well discovered now, and if you go to the places featured in most tour brochures, you’ll find it paved, packed, and pretty stressful.
Driving in Europe can be scary--a video game for keeps, and you only get one quarter. European drivers can be aggressive. They drive fast and tailgate as if it were required. They pass where Americans are taught not to--on blind corners and just before tunnels.
For Americans stressed out about driving in Europe, expressways and toll roads are the answer. I favor them because they’re safer, cheaper (saving time and gas even if there is a toll), and less nerve-wracking than smaller roads. Sure, you'll need to take back roads to find some Back Door destinations, but usually superhighways are the fastest way to get from point A to point B. Here are some tips on what to expect.
I was in the Italian town of Orvieto, doing my best to stay in my hotel room and finish some writing. But there was a Pentecost festival going on outside--I could hear it out my window. I couldn’t resist, so I joined the multitude that had gathered on the square in front of the cathedral--just as the citizens of Orvieto have done for generations.
The energy was building. Suddenly, a dove in a little plastic tube rocketed down a zipline and into a nest of fireworks at the front of the church, setting it all ablaze. After the fireworks blew off, a firefighter climbed up the little tower to see if the dove was OK. It was. And that was great news, as it meant good luck for the town and fertility to the last couple married in
Two hundred and fifty years ago, Bath was the Hollywood of Britain. Today, this former trendsetter of Georgian England invites you to take a 90-minute train ride from London and sample its aristocratic charms.
The entire city, built of the creamy limestone called "Bath stone," beams in its cover-girl complexion. Proud locals remind visitors that the town is routinely banned from the Britain in Bloom contest to give other towns a chance to win.
Tourists have been enjoying Bath for thousands of years. When the Romans came to Britain in the first century A.D., they discovered Bath’s hot springs and promptly built a resort around them.
The medieval Belgian town of Bruges attracts hordes of day-trippers--but don't let that keep you away. While the ultimate sight is the quaint town itself, the city also entertains with an infectious passion for good living. It hides some sweet surprises.
The Flemish who live in this part of Belgium call this city “Brugge,” but the French half of the country (and English speakers) call it “Bruges.” Either way, the name comes from the Viking word for “wharf.” In other words, it’s been a trading center for a long time.
Oslo recently overtook Tokyo as the most expensive city in the world. That doesn't surprise me in the least. The last time I was in Oslo, a plain cup of coffee cost $4. Beer, while very good, was $8 a glass.
Whether you’re in an outlandishly expensive country or just want to save money, there are plenty of strategies for stretching your food budget in Europe. Here are some tips:
Ethnic Eateries: These places usually offer the cheapest hot meals in town. Almost every night I was in Oslo, I found myself walking down a street called Gronland into the immigrant district for food that was both spicy and affordable. Throughout wealthy northern Europe, immigrant