By: Susan Gerle
You have decided to take your sweetheart on a romantic trip overseas to Europe but you only have 2 weeks. Neither of you has ever been before. What are the best places to visit in Europe, to really get a sense of old world history and the romance associated with it? Don’t forget wherever you go to give yourself a day to travel and then a day to relax when you reach your first destination. Remember, this is a romantic journey, not a marathon race around the continent.
Paris, the city of romance and love, is a great place to start. What could be more romantic? The history and architecture and the shopping in the city is a wonderful way to start a vacation. Probably the most difficult decision-making you will have on your trip will be what to see in Paris. Of course the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, which houses the Mona Lisa, are places that shouldn’t be missed.
For accommodation, the Latin Quarter is within walking distance of many of the well-known landmarks, like the Louvre and Notre Dame. It is also close for catching a Hop-On/ Hop-Off double decker bus, which will take you easily to other famous structures like the Eiffel Tower or the Arch De Triumph or the Paris Opera House. A 2-day pass is extremely reasonable and you can use it from early in the morning until after dark.
Accommodation often includes a traditional French breakfast. Coffee or thick hot chocolate, croissants, jam, cheese, and a bit of fruit are part of the main fare. Quaint sidewalk cafes, where you can sit and have a glass of wine and watch the world go by, dot the landscape. Every imaginable type of food is available throughout the area.
The city vibrates at night. Musicians and floating restaurants keep the evening lively and artists selling their wares are found along the riverbanks and across the many bridges.
A trip to Paris isn’t complete without experiencing the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, of course. Whether you walk up the many stairs to the first level or take the elevator to the top, the sight is spectacular!
Another place to visit is Montmartre. The climb up the stairs to the basilica of Sacré-Coeur is well worth the journey. During the 19th and 20th centuries it was the best place to paint in Paris for artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, and Toulouse-Lautrec. It has also remained as a quaint little village and is popular for it’s eateries.
After 3 or 4 days capturing the essence of Paris, make your way to Rome. You can fly cheaply between countries in Europe or take the train if you want to relax and enjoy the countryside.
Once you arrive, Rome is an excellent place for using public transportation. One of the best deals again is the Hop On/Hop Off Bus and it doesn’t have to be booked ahead of time. Take full advantage of the tour by riding around the first day and deciding what is important to you to get off and see another day. You don’t want to miss places like the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, the Pantheon, and Trevi Fountain.
Take at least 5 days to absorb Rome. The grandeur of Italy and the Vatican and the historical monuments can’t be explained on paper. They have to be experienced. You will eventually reach a point of saturation where you are unable to comprehend anymore because it is so grand. That is the time you just sit back and enjoy each other’s company and drink wine and capture the Italian flavours before you move on to your final place!
The island of Santorini, Greece (or Thira – the original name) is a magical island with the housing built mostly on cliffs overlooking a hidden bubbling volcanic caldron. The island is small and a person can actually walk from one end to the other in approximately four hours.
369 steps lead down to the harbour from Fira at one end of the island. If you don’t want to walk back up, you can always rent a donkey. If you choose to make the trek by foot though, prepare to be shoved aside by the occasional “ass.”
From Oia, at the other end of the island, an ancient walkway meanders down the cliffs to a quaint fishing village. A short distance away there is a quiet area to go swimming in the sea. It’s refreshing before taking the walk back up. It’s worth climbing the 1355 steps back to the townsite to enjoy the beautiful sunset experienced at many different points on the island.
The food on the island is fantastic too. You will never look at Greek salad or a pita quite the same way again. There is something special about sitting on a stone curb, watching the tourists make their way through the crooked little alleys while enjoying the local fare seasoned with saffron or Greek olives. And don’t forget to wash it down with Santorini’s own wine. The only problem is yesterday’s vintage may be better, or worse, than today’s. Maybe it has to do with the plastic containers the wine is bottled and sold in? But that’s okay. You can only enjoy it (or not) on Santorini.
There are 3 distinct beaches on the island and it is worth making a trip to each. There is the red sand, the white sand, and the black sand. Bus service from Fira makes it easy to visit the different sites and the water is relaxing and warm most of the year. If you are a little more adventuresome you can rent a quad for the time you are there.
And if you happen to get bored after a couple of days of exploring the island, you can always spend your time shopping. Every colour of gold imaginable catches the sunlight of Santorini. The Greek jewellry designers definitely captured the beauty of ancient Greece.
Then it is time to head home again. You can take a ferry to the mainland if you have a spare day or fly out to make your connections for your trip overseas. Give yourself an extra day once you are home to go over the great experiences you had before returning to everyday life.
About the author:
Susan Gerle has been traveling extensively since the 1990s. She began publishing human interest articles and short stories in 1998. She also co-authored and published “Ingles Facil” a language book for Spanish speakers learning English. Susan has recently started writing for globetales about some of her travel experiences. You can also read some of her non-travel articles on her blog www.sexyboomeradventures.blogspot.com