My Favorite Destinations in Western Europe
Here are my favorite destinations in Western Europe:
England - Some of the greatest travelers in history are English, such as James Cook, Charles Darwin, and any of the English pirates. London has fabulous museums such as the British and the Naval Museums that houses much of the treasures and other booty that they hauled off from their worldwide empire.
See the Royal Crown Jewels stored in the Tower of London. Or the location "Leaky Cauldron" in the Harry Potter books.
See the inventions such as the chronometer in Greenwich, England, that solved the problem of latitude and made England a world power. See the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
Visit the center of the cricket world at Lord's Cricket Club. Devour a true English fish and chips. Marvel at the size of an English breakfast
Drinking a pint of the bitter in a dark, smoky English pub is for me one of the great joys of travel in north part of Western Europe.
Wales - Wales is surprisingly beautiful, filled with endless sandy beaches, mysterious forests and striking mountains wrapped in fog.
Its people stubbornly hold on to their Celtic traditions in a thousand-year-old struggle with England. Its language is undecipherable, but its traditions are magic.
From Cardiff to Conwy and many castles in between, some of the most impressive fortresses ever built in the middle ages were created to subdue the Welsh.
The Welsh are tough, yet generous, hard working people. Their mining skills are legendary. Their engineering prowess was the backbone of most gold and coal mining operations around the world.
Visit Wales in North Western Europe and meet some of the most interesting people on earth enjoy their unique landscape and culture.
Ireland - Ireland is eye-popping green for a reason; it rains here a lot. Its history and search for independence is legendary. Its people are beautiful. Its traditional music and Celtic language are alive and well in its tiny villages and countless pubs, located in North Western Europe.
Its history of violence in the last century seems to have ended. It looks to the future at the forefront of technology, yet holds onto its past fierce determination.
Long, windy roads, hiking trails and seaside walks reveal spectacular scenery interspersed with rain and wind. Dress warmly, and buy one of those comfy woolen sweaters that the Irish are so famous for.
I once stayed in a tiny Irish pub/hotel located far into the countryside on the east coast of Ireland. After checking in, I take a walk in the windswept country side. I pass a small stream, and in the stream I spot a brown trout swimming in a small pool.
The year before I had taken a survival class and learned how to fish with the simplest of tools. I have a piece of string with me and tie a small twig to it that acts like a hook.
I sneak up on my wild fish and toss in my line. Much to my surprise the fish swallows the twig, and it sticks in his throat. I pull the fish out onto the bank of the stream.
It flops around vigorously as I desperately try to grab it. I bring my trout back into the pub, where they cook it to perfection for a small fee. No questions asked.
After all, do I have a fishing license? No. It didn't seem to matter.
Remember, this is Ireland located in North Western Europe, and the Irish are not known for obeying all the rules.
Scotland - Scotland is a world of its own. It can be freezing cold and windy. Some of the toughest camping I've ever done, I did there in my summer tent. And I wouldn't miss it for the world.
Scotland is part of Britain with its own culture and opinions. People and the nightlife are legendary. The land is open, windswept, and stark. Scottish Highlands have some of the wildest wilderness in North Western Europe.
I climbed Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in British islands near Fort William, Scotland in North Western Europe.
There's a staircase-like trail that makes it much easier to hike up the mountain. It takes me four hours to make it to the 1,344 meters (4,409 Ft) summit. It's very strenuous. During the summer, there are races to summit and back. The record time is 1:25, up and down. I can't see how they could do it. It would kill me.
The problem is, when I got to the top, I'm high up in the clouds and can't see a thing. It makes it very dangerous to climb back down.
Despite that, I reach the bottom the mountain, crawl to the nearest pub. To my delight a show is in progress featuring the best of Scottish music and dance. I swap stories with another hiker I meet later in the same pub.
My feet were so sore that I could not walk very far for days after that.
France - France has always frightened me. They seem to be better at everything that I'm not. Food, wine, joy, and, yes, life. I avoided France as much as I could in my early travels. What a mistake!
So one winter's night back in America, I decide to purchase the video/audio language study called "French in Action." With its concept of total immersion in French I finally learn to speak French. Once I learn to listen and speak the way the French do, the language became easy. Or should I say, easier.
I returned to France in Western Europe, Paris in particular and fell in love with everything French. Napoleon's Tomb (above) is intriguing. French girls are beyond enticing. The French jokes are astoundingly funny. (It really is a French thing, the French culture.)
The cafés, the side streets, the cathedrals, the bookshops, the bistros and the highlight of my short, undistinguished artistic endeavors included visiting the Museum d'Orsay. This contains the best impressionistic paintings of all time. The Renoirs are to die for.
France, located in Western Europe, is for lovers and people like you.
Spain - Spain is a totally fun place to visit in Western Europe. It's a museum fanatic's paradise. In Barcelona (right) there are gardens designed by Gaudi. In Madrid, the Prado is the world's best art museum, housing fantastic Picassos, Velazquezes, and Goyas. Follow Goya as he changes from a happy painter of country outings to a madman, filled with the pain of the Spanish Civil War, as he paints his "Saturn Eating his Sons." Whoa!
Back in the 1970's I had the privilege of attending a Spanish bullfight with a Spaniard who said he was a former bullfighter. He was studying in Oxford because the Spanish government would send him to prison "to my death" if he lived in Spain. (He was there "incognito" for two days.) Franco, the Spanish leader at the time, didn't mess around when he dealt with real or perceived enemies. Gulp!
Bullfighting, he explained, is not a sport, it is a tradition. Spaniards live on tradition and honor. The emphasis is not placed on the matador; it is placed on the bull. The bull will die. What matters is how the bull faces certain death. With what inner strength, masculinity or honor will the bull fight? The matador is completely controlled by tradition. The bull is completely judged by the honor it upholds.
It was quite a piece of Spanish philosophy to digest. But I got a feeling of what the word honor really means.
From Tapas to Sangria, from palaces to beaches, Spain does not disappoint.
Andalucia Travel Guide - A great site highlighting the best sights in Andalucia - Learn about this great region of Spain and what not to miss! Flights, hotels, shopping, transport, dining, attractions, entertainment and much, much more... Read on to discover places I have seen on my extensive travels through Southern Spain.
Barcelona Travel Tips - Barcelona Travel Tips is focused on one of the most popular cities in the world. For good reason, this city continues to make leaps and bounds in the tourism industry to maintain its prestigious status.
The Tenerife Information Centre - A complete resource on this largest of the Canary Islands, part of Spain yet lying off the west coast of Africa. Packed with information, advice and useful links.
Portugal - Portugal is Western Europe's best-kept secret, inexpensive and inviting. Lisbon, its capital, has a village flavor with large gardens and blue tile work. The city is clean and beautiful with the magnificent Castle de Saint Jorge perched high above for the last two thousand years. Below it is the Alfama, the old fishing section. Here the streets are thin (three feet across.) The tiny street trams can barely fit through.
I met Juan in a café there. He was from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. He's studying medicine and English. Many of the people of Portugal come from its many former colonies from around the world.
He took me a Portuguese bull fight. I never knew there was such a thing. There's no blood! They don't fight the bull, they wrestle it!
Ten guys go running after this bull trying to tackle it. Meanwhile, the bull isn't just standing there; it's butting anything that's in front of it. (Bulls can only notice movement, I found out.) All this means is that bodies are flying everywhere. General chaos rules the day, and surprisingly no one gets hurt, hardly.
Some countries have some mighty strange customs! Let Portugal invite you to their way of life here in Western Europe.
Morocco - Arriving at Morocco is like entering a whole different world. It lies south of Western Europe down in Africa. It's not that dangerous, especially if you bypass Tangier and head south.
One traveler told me that the people here can be very poor, and try to sell you anything so that they can survive. That's why they hassle you. Once you know that you can get used to the hassle and really enjoy a fine country.
The local saying goes:
"To a Moroccan, a guest is a gift from Allah!"
When I reached a Moroccan city, I walked downtown to the "Medina," the old market place. It was great! Young boys appointed themselves my guides and took me around for a tour. I knew we had to give them money for it, but I didn't care. They were great protection from other kids and "dangerous" looking people.
The "streets" (8 feet wide) were so windy and twisting that I would have gotten lost a thousand times. They took me to leather and clothes shops. I figure our guides were getting a kickback from the store owners.
I learned to bargain for everything getting 30% to 80% off the original price. The trick of bargaining is to do it with humor and confidence. Once you show any weakness to buying, your dead meat and the price stops going down. I bought a robe for next to nothing. It took me one hour of bargaining (time is not money in Morocco), and it was FUN!
Don't be afraid. Go ahead and visit Morocco and have a real adventure.
Destinations in Central Europe
Destinations in Eastern Europe
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China and Thailand
Australia and New Zealand
Great Festivals of the World