Letâ€™s listen to Horace Greeleyâ€™s presumed advice and "Go west, young man."
We had thought perhaps we could now follow Part 1 with a broad look at some of the rest of Europe with general impressions that ranged from:
They tend to speak English in Scandinavia less so in the European South. Expect to be gouged in Denmark and Vienna restaurants but British pub lunches are where the locals eat. Be grateful for the meticulous and friendly German National Tourist Office —just don’t expect the same from Italy. France is trying harder to be nice; it needed to. With its overpriced hotels and restaurants Western Europe is expensive, Eastern Europe less so but the tourism infrastructure there needs to grow. Limit your luggage. Bring more money. Learn some local language phrases. And put translation apps on your smart phone. They do work.
Let’s listen to Horace Greeley’s presumed advice and "Go west, young man." We'll start in Western Europe with its only traveling bargain: Portugal
Portugal deserves better from its American visitors. It is said we blow into Madrid, Spain's capital, and immediately head east across the continent, and though we plan to do some stuff on the Iberian Peninsula towards the end of our trip, we never seem to get back in time to achieve that. Portugal suffers also because, despite its monumental maritime success during its 15th and 16th centuries of discovery, it is regarded today as an insignificant European country — for example, Britain is sometimes said to be “living on its glorious days of Empire even as, today, it is as unimportant as Portugal”!
(Photography by the author)
As tourists we have contributed to this situation. About all we know of Portugal we learned on the deck of Uniworld’s Queen Isabel. Some of our articles can be seen here.
How many counties have a city and a wine named after its main port?
Spain: we know better from trips to its capital Madrid, car rentals with AutoEurope, Costa Brava in the Northeast, and country-wide explorations with Insight Vacations of this Land of the Bull.
Madrid we know quite well and we have gone on two trips to both the Corral de la Moreria for its genuine World’s Best Tablao Flamenco Award (and its great cuisine) and the Restaurante Botin, the “oldest restaurant in the world.”
The flamenco dancers get their enthusiasm and their mood from the audience and convey that mood to the musicians, so it’s the audience that has the upper hand and that's why Spaniards so love their flamenco. We enjoy the generosity of Madrid’s famous museums, most of which allow your camera whether you are admiring a Goya or trying to decipher a Hieronymus Bosch.
And if you find Bosch’s art puzzling what will you think when you drive up to the Costa Brava and check out the studio home, garden and art of someone who makes Bosch seem decipherable? Salvador Dali!
To understand the legends of a country you may need to have read a lot of its past or have access to a guide. That may bring you back to Insight Vacations (You will hear more of them when we get to Poland.)
Despite its current situation, marred by unrest and terrorism, France’s very long history entices visitors. It is the most visited country in all of Europe and, along with what used to be Great Britain, one of the two oldest countries on the continent. All of the others did not exist until a smattering of small states united to become nations.
Sure, we’ll always have Paris and it’s hard not to want to see the Eiffel Tour or how I.M. Pei changed the Louvre but, unless you’re avoiding the “tourist season” (whatever that is), Paris is crowded, noisy and expensive. Very expensive. Not as uppity as it used to be -- especially if you drag out your schoolchild French and make an effort to use it. It seems the farther away in time we get from Vichy France’s collaboration with Nazi Germany during World War II and the less we have to read about the insufferable Charles de Gaulle that the Allies were obliged to build up as a hero, the more we can love the French.
The Normandy villages and small towns took a beating as D-Day continued. French civilians and property suffered some but the casualties among the Canadian, British and American military were heart-breaking. The D-Day beachheads have changed little since the end of the war. The impact on France is still visible and remembered in the cemeteries. And Omar Bradley's salute to his men is, as ever, moving.
The north of France has more than memories of World War II. Its fishing villages and small towns have seen action against its usual enemy, England, for centuries. The Flaubert museum of the medical school in Rouen presents a great opportunity for any medical historian.
France has a good train system and equally good roads, if you have a car. What might beckon? In St. Remy the clinic that tried to help Van Gogh face his demons, or deep in the south the delightful one-time fishing village of St.Torpez, now an artist colony, or the medieval market town, now city of Dijon. Dijon still makes mustard but sold its rights to a foreign country and can no longer call its product Dijon Mustard. Such are more the vagaries of the business world rather than examples of how the French continue to puzzle us.
The Andersons, who live in San Diego, are the resident travel & cruise columnists for Physician's Money Digest. Nancy is a former nursing educator, Eric a retired MD. The one-time president of the NH Academy of Family Physicians, Eric is the only physician in the Society of American Travel Writers. He has also written five books, the last called The Man Who Cried Orange: Stories from a Doctor's Life.