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Vacation in Europe like a European
Old 05-31-2014, 07:03 PM   #1
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Vacation in Europe like a European

When I was young I went to Europe alot, back in the far away 1980's. One thing I remember from those trips is that Americans would usually hit all the famous sites, going from one big city to another, making sure to see the usual suspects, the Eifel Tower, the Colosseum, famous Cathedrals etc. etc.
However, looking back I can say that while I did enjoy seeing those things, I also enjoyed going to nice places that Americans usually don't go to. By this I mean beautiful but not famous must see places. Several wonderful lakes spring to mind, Tegern See in Bavaria, Worthersee in Austria, Traunsee in Austria, and several regions such as Istria in Croatia, cities such as Budapest (I visited in 1989 and would imagine its more visited now). All of these places would have European visitors, but not many Americans.
Some of this is understandable as Americans might not get back to Europe, and have limited time, but if and when we go back to Europe I believe we'll be looking for the more restful places where one can enjoy walks throught the forests, spend all day at a lake, explore the Adriatic etc, instead of trying to complete the dreaded American checklist, of Rome, Paris, Florence, Venice, London and back home again. In the summertime visiting these cities was often more chore than pleasure, and it was in the quiet small towns of Austria, Germany, and elsewhere that I have fonder memories.
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Old 05-31-2014, 07:12 PM   #2
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Sounds like a good plan. We do go to the big sights, but one way that we try to avoid the madness is to stay in one place for an entire week. This April, we spent an entire week just in Venice. Last year was a week in Rome. The year before, a week in Florence and so on. By staying put, we don't waste time traveling and we can see things at more comfortable pace. We also have the time to get off the beaten path and discover the things that many do not. I would stay longer, but we are at the mercy of the school vacation calendar.
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Old 05-31-2014, 07:13 PM   #3
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I spent a summer in Innsbruck and I'd consider that very "restful". You might decide to go on a hike in the alps, or hang out in a park next to the Inn (which, by the way is plenty cold enough to chill your beer). And if you get a wild hare, you can jump a train to somewhere that the Americans congregate.
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Old 05-31-2014, 08:21 PM   #4
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Like Gumby - we do 1 week (or longer) stays. Usually renting an apartment. I think we were the only Americans when we went to Sicily a few years ago - but boy howdy there were a lot of Germans, Dutch, French, etc.
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Old 05-31-2014, 08:39 PM   #5
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The place we went that had the least number of Americans was Madeira. Plenty of Germans, English and French, but no Americans. We spent a very pleasant week there.
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Old 05-31-2014, 10:20 PM   #6
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The place we went that had the least number of Americans was Madeira. Plenty of Germans, English and French, but no Americans. We spent a very pleasant week there.
+1 on Madeira, we had a great week there in 2011. Fantastic rugged, high cliff coastlines means that there are also very few families with small kids looking for sandy beaches.

We also stay at least a week, and these days usually seek out the less common places in Europe.
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Old 05-31-2014, 10:32 PM   #7
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When European friends came to the USA for the first time many years ago, they want to see Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, and Disneyworld. In a weekend. On short notice

We have been lucky to see parts of the world with residents who traveled with us. It's really hard to know what is off those beaten paths without reading guidebooks that everyone else is reading.
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Old 05-31-2014, 10:35 PM   #8
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We almost opted for a five week trip to Spain this summer. We were eyeing somewhere a little quieter than the big cities, and thought about somewhere in Andalucia, probably Granada and Seville. The goal wasn't to get totally off the tourist track, but to go somewhere a little more low key than, say, London or Paris. We would have rented a house or apartment for a couple of weeks in probably 2 different cities and maybe enjoy a stopover somewhere else on the way to/from the US.

The last thing we would want to do is hop from big city to big city in Europe and only stay for a few days at a time. Checking off the big tourist attractions sounds like a stressful scavenger hunt to me. Other than may of the big sights being notable and well known, there are so many less popular sights that are just as amazing and not swamped with tourists (or that's been our experience everywhere else in the world so far).

We also noticed the cost of living in Andalucia was comparable to our home city in the SE United States, and prices doubled as you cross the border into France or in London. Since we are gentle folk of independent but small means, costs do enter the equation for a five week trip.
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Old 05-31-2014, 10:38 PM   #9
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When European friends came to the USA for the first time many years ago, they want to see Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, and Disneyworld. In a weekend. On short notice
My wife (born overseas but resident in the US 30 years now) asked a similar question. She wanted to "stop by" Nashville on the return trip from Niagara Falls heading back to Raleigh (14 hr detour??). The Grand Canyon would have only been a bit more of a detour.
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Old 06-01-2014, 04:08 AM   #10
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I'm a big fan of Salzburg and have been going back for vacations in the area every couple years. The lakes area around it are full of resorts and breathtaking scenery. You can opt for very high end or, with some scouting, very reasonable accommodations.
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Old 06-01-2014, 05:39 AM   #11
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It's really hard to know what is off those beaten paths without reading guidebooks that everyone else is reading.
We have made our very best discoveries just by wandering around and purposely moving away from the crowded areas.
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Old 06-01-2014, 06:20 AM   #12
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We have made our very best discoveries just by wandering around and purposely moving away from the crowded areas.
Part of a post I submitted last evening on another site:

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It's not where you travel, but how you travel........we don't care for hotels, so we rent cheap studios/rooms with kitchen facilities through sites such as HouseTrip & Wimdu, often in 'non-touristy' sections; we're not 'restaurant people' and prefer preparing our own meals, (which gives us exposure to local markets)........we like to amble around cities and look at neighborhoods and the exteriors of old buildings, (we avoid 'entry fees' whenever possible).......sometimes we'll buy a transit pass and ride around, getting off and on, and checking out various areas.
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Old 06-01-2014, 06:43 AM   #13
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When European friends came to the USA for the first time many years ago, they want to see Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, and Disneyworld. In a weekend. On short notice
First-timers to the US often don't appreciate the distances.

Looking at a map, one of our friends from Norway thought they'd be able to fly into Chicago and drive "an hour or so" to Boston.
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Old 06-01-2014, 06:52 AM   #14
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First-timers to the US often don't appreciate the distances.
Heh, that particular quirk isn't limited to international travelers. We had a group of visitors touring our facilities in San Antonio one morning who wanted to know if we could give them a tour of our Dallas and Houston operations "after lunch". They were from New Jersey.
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Old 06-01-2014, 07:02 AM   #15
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Heh, that particular quirk isn't limited to international travelers. We had a group of visitors touring our facilities in San Antonio one morning who wanted to know if we could give them a tour of our Dallas and Houston operations "after lunch". They were from New Jersey.
Nor is it limited to the US geography. My company had a technical problem one day in Singapore. One of our managers called our office in Japan as asked if they could "shoot down this afternoon" to check it out. He was reminded that Singapore is a seven hour flight from Japan......
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Old 06-01-2014, 07:53 AM   #16
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We have been lucky to see parts of the world with residents who traveled with us. It's really hard to know what is off those beaten paths without reading guidebooks that everyone else is reading.
One thing we've done that has really helped on this front is to rent a car and drive between a few locations. Trains are usually the way to go, but there is no substitute for wandering through small towns along the way.

One of our best experiences was stopping for lunch in a small town in Germany that happened to be having a community festival. It was obvious that few in the town had ever seen an American. We managed to communicate with our little German and their little English and they treated us like long lost relatives.

We still try to see some of the tourist sites (they are popular for a reason), but always take some time to wander around with no specific destination in mind. What you just happen upon can be amazing.
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Old 06-01-2014, 01:05 PM   #17
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Heh, that particular quirk isn't limited to international travelers. We had a group of visitors touring our facilities in San Antonio one morning who wanted to know if we could give them a tour of our Dallas and Houston operations "after lunch". They were from New Jersey.
Texas - the Long Drive state?
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Old 06-01-2014, 01:30 PM   #18
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Nor is it limited to the US geography. My company had a technical problem one day in Singapore. One of our managers called our office in Japan as asked if they could "shoot down this afternoon" to check it out. He was reminded that Singapore is a seven hour flight from Japan......
When the big Good Friday earthquake hit Alaska many years ago, the big TV networks lost all communications with their affiliates in Alaska. One called their Seattle station and asked if they could get a reporter up their that afternoon. "How do we get there", they asked. The response: "Can't you take a cab?"
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Old 06-01-2014, 03:31 PM   #19
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While I can't say we always keep "off the beaten path," when we are on the beaten path we like to enjoy it fully. DW and I love to tell the story of how one of the most amazing things in St. Paul's Cathedral (which we were savoring on our independent itinerary) was seeing the tour groups march in, do a quick lap, and dutifully march out, all the while following their guides who were holding up various icons to keep their charges together. Just amazing.

Similarly, we were in Carlsbad Caverns and slowly ambling through when I discovered that if one pauses every so often and looks behind oneself on the trail, there is an entirely different "cavern" available to view. All the while we had power walkers storming past us.

I guess some folks have a checklist of places to put their bodies in at least once in life, but they seem to have forgotten how to enjoy being there.
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Old 06-01-2014, 05:20 PM   #20
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Heh, that particular quirk isn't limited to international travelers. We had a group of visitors touring our facilities in San Antonio one morning who wanted to know if we could give them a tour of our Dallas and Houston operations "after lunch". They were from New Jersey.
A couple of years ago we were in Dallas for a long weekend. I drove to Houston, attended a baby shower, and drove back to Dallas after the shower. The Texans thought that was a perfectly normal thing to do.

Good point, Gumby, to literally leave the beaten path and see what is a few blocks away from the monuments (although I dearly love the monuments). And Willers, our best trips were driving in Germany and Austria alone. We still relive the getting lost stories. Returning the rental cars to remote locations were adventures of their own, and we would never have spent a couple of days in Bregenz, Austria otherwise.
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