Tuesday, March 5

TRAVEL TUESDAY: The 10 Coolest Small Towns in Europe

Paris, London, Rome…the big cities require no introductions. But have you heard of the foodie haven of Tremolat, France or the pristine Alpine hamlet of Binn, Switzerland? Well....I'm not here to knock big city travel, hey, NYC is one of my favorite places to visit. But in our travels, we've discovered that some of our favorite places have also been the most divine smallest of towns. Locals are laid back, friendlier and more tolerant of travelers. You really get to experience the true backbone of a country when you take the road less traveled. Here are just a few advantages to small town travel.
  • The pace is slower. It’s extraordinary how much of a difference this makes. The energy of a small town is quite different than that of a big city and it’s good for the soul. It’s relaxing. 
  • Easy to get around. It’s easy to learn the lay of the land of a small town and they are usually very walkable making everything accessible.
  • The people are friendly. Go into the local greasy spoon or tavern and you can meet locals, learn the local history and find out what home-grown entertainment is happening while you’re there.
  • Enjoy local events. Whether it’s a pancake breakfast, a tomato harvest festival or the annual running of the bulls, small towns have events that are not on the scale of city events.....and that’s a good thing.
  • Easy to get out of town. Because the town is small, outside the town is close making it easy to go hiking, fishing or swimming, whatever is near by.
  • Slip into the local culture. Local vendors, whether at the market or a store, are great for sharing the best local restaurants or letting you know if there is a local specialty food.
  • Get adopted. Everyone in a small town knows everyone else. You, the traveler, will stand out. And, by standing out, being friendly and curious, you could be adopted by locals, and invited to share their dinner or apple harvest. An experience NOT to be missed!
Let me introduce you to ten small villages in 
Europe that should be on your T0-See List!

ENJOY the mental travel!


One of the oldest villages in the Czech Republic, Cesky Krumlov is set in a valley in Bohemia south of the Blansko Forest and circled by the Vltava River. The village grew up around the 13th-century Gothic castle of the Lords of Krumlov, which has 40 buildings and palaces, gardens, and turrets and today is a major performing arts location. The cobblestone streets of Cesky Krumlov's Old Town are lined with Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance buildings housing art galleries, cafes, and quaint B&Bs. One of the best ways to experience the town is to take a ride down the Vltava on a wooden raft.
How to get there: Prague, about 110 miles away, is connected to Cesky Krumlov by a three-hour bus ride, $10 each way.
For more information:  Cesky Krumlov


Founded in 1593 as a stronghold of the Venetian Republic, this UNESCO World Heritage town was built in a unique, 18-sided octadecagon shape. When viewed from above, the fortress community looks like a delicately made paper snowflake, with streets radiating out of the structure like sunbeams. Tucked into a valley with a lagoon running into the Adriatic Sea, the land surrounding Palmanova yields high-quality Chardonnay, while the local waters are stocked with mullet, sea bass, and other delicious fish. In town, look out for the symbol of a leafy bough, or a frasca, hanging outside of restaurants to pinpoint ones serving regionally sourced food, such as the classic Venetian dish baccalà, made with dry-salted cod. At night, the city's earth-and-stone defensive works are lit up like a movie set. BEAUTIFUL.
How to get there: Palmanova sits between Venice and Trieste in northeastern Italy. It's accessible by car along the A4 and A23 motorways and Highway 352. Venice is 75 miles to the southwest, while Trieste is 34 miles to the southeast. The town also sits close to the Cervignano del Friuli station and is serviced by the Udine railway.
For more information: Palmanova, Italy


Germany's Romantic Road, which slices north to south through the southern German state of Bavaria, earned its name for its string of stunning castles. But most of the region's bastions are stand-alone tourist attractions, not thriving municipalities. A charming exception is Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a red-walled town set up on a hill above the Tauber River. It has all the pastoral views and scenery of the Romantic Road's other castle stops yet has a strong civic pulse, too. Walt Disney was so taken by the town, in fact, that he used it as inspiration for the village in the movie Pinocchio. An earthquake destroyed the castle's main tower in 1356, but the town's red-roofed medieval and Renaissance houses have endured for centuries and were fully restored after World War II. Visitors can tour the castle's stone towers, protected beneath covered walkways, and stop by its base, where crafts shops sell everything from antique clocks to handmade garden gnomes. Cuisine is king here in a way it isn't in larger German cities. You may come here for the shining armor, but you'll return for the delicious Bavarian comfort foods. More spätzle, anyone?
How to Get There: The closest major tourist city to Rothenburg ob der Tauber is Munich, which sits about 130 miles southeast. Train service runs between the two cities and takes about three hours. You can also drive, the A7 autobahn runs right past town.


Located on the River Coln in hilly west-central England, Bibury was described by 19th-century artist-writer William Morris as "the most beautiful village in England", which is saying something in a country known for its watercolor views. Honey-colored 17th-century stone cottages, the Saxon Church of St. Mary, and a still-working 1902 trout farm are some of the ancient village's must-sees. The most photographed spot is Arlington Row, a collection of 14th-century stone buildings that were converted into weavers' cottages in the 1600s.
How to Get There: Travelling in the Cotswolds is done best by car. The closest train station to Bibury is 12 miles away, in Kemble. Multiple trains make the 80-minute journey from London's Paddington Station. Cirencester, seven miles away, is linked to London by daily buses. There is no public transport directly to Bibury, but taxis are available and local hotels will often arrange transport for guests.
For more information: Bibury


On the banks of the Danube, in the shadow of a castle from the Middle Ages, Dürnstein is one of those impossibly quaint towns where everything, from the red-tiled roofs to the baroque clock tower to the winding cobble-stoned alleys, seems lifted straight from a Brothers Grimm's fairytale. Just an hour downriver from Vienna, Dürnstein is an under-explored retreat and a gateway to the surrounding Wachau valley. To experience the area like a local, take a seat inside a Heuriger, a cozy tavern, and take in all it has to offer. Authentic establishments hang fir branches above their doorways to welcome the thirsty, while traditional Austrian folk music plays from within. Although the Wachau valley is known for its grapes, it is the apricots that sets the region apart. In early April, the valley erupts in pale-pink blossoms, and the fruit begins showing up in strudels, pork dishes, and Marillenknödel, apricot dumplings rolled in butter-toasted bread crumbs. 
How to get there: The town is best reached by car and is only about an hour drive from Vienna on the A1 autobahn. For a more picturesque route, opt for a day trip river cruise on the DDSG Blue Danube MS Admiral Tegetthoff, ddsg-blue-danube.at/eng.
For more information: DÜRNSTEIN, AUSTRIA


Life moves slowly in the village of Binn, and that's by design. Years ago, the residents of this tiny Alpine town, pop. 150, two and a half hours from Bern, decided to stave off development by preserving the surrounding valley as a park. Today, instead of the posh ski resorts and multilane highways in much of southwestern Switzerland, Binn remains a time capsule of village life...and it works beautifully! Gravel lanes wind between neat pine chalets. Flower boxes filled with geraniums hang from every window. The town's 16th-century bridge is traversed by hikers and goats instead of cars. Up the Binna River, visitors will find even smaller hamlets and picture-perfect meadows, where they can spread out a picnic of local wine and raclette cheese and listen to the cowbells ring down from the high pastures. HEAVEN. About a mile from Binn along mountain trails, the riverside Restaurant Imfeld is a timber chalet at 4,983 feet with a terrace overlooking the Alps. Loved by hikers as well as locals, stop in for authentic Swiss fare and entertainment.
How to get there: Because of Binn's remote location, it's not exactly an easy trip to get to the town from major cities. On PostBus Switzerland, you can get from Zurich to Binn in a little over three hours with two bus transfers.
For more information: BINN, SWITZERLAND


Close to Bordeaux, the cluster of market towns known as Périgord Noir offer weekly cottage rentals at nearly half the cost of holiday rentals in Provence, and the small-town experience is no less picturesque. One of the quaintest towns in the area, Trémolat sits on a horseshoe-shaped bend in the Dordogne River and is dominated by a fortresslike Romanesque church that dates back to the 11th century. But the highlight of the town is farm-to-table restaurant Les Truffières. Yanick Le Goff oversees a classic working farm that serves the food it grows. Plates like barbecued duck, garlic-and-goose-fat soup, and house made foie gras  are served family-style with wine for $34, reservations required, 011-33/5-53-27-30-44.  The surrounding area is best known for its dark oak forests, hillside vineyards, medieval châteaux, Stonehenge-like megaliths, and, of course, the prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux with images of bison, horses, and traced human hands.
How to get there: From Paris' Montparnasse station, Tremolat is a five hour and twenty minute ride with one transfer at Bordeaux St. Jean, raileurope.com.
For more information: TRÉMOLAT, FRANCE


The city walls of the seaside resort town of Tenby might have kept attackers out during the Middle Ages, but today they can't quite contain the pastel Georgian buildings spilling right out onto the sand. The view from the harbor is rightfully renowned, but you can get an even better taste of Tenby's medieval past by taking a walk down one of its narrow, winding alleys.....like the quirkily named Lower Frog Street, a canyon of color. The town is always popular with holidaymakers, but it's getting an extra boost this year with the recent opening of the Wales Coast Path, an 870-mile meandering path along the country's edge that includes Tenby on its route. 
How to Get There: Trains from London to Tenby on the National Rail service take roughly five hours, with one change in Swansea, nationalrail.co.uk.
For more information: TENBY, WALES


With its cobble-stoned streets and tiled buildings, Ericeira looks like a quintessential Portuguese fishing village. But north and south of the village center, scalloped cliffs give way to white-sand beaches and, much to surfers' delight, consistent right-hand reef breaks. Thanks to its seaside location, Ericeira is also well-known for its seafood. Though the town's name is said to come from the Portuguese word for sea urchins, the regional specialty here is lobster, which are bred in nurseries along the rocky coast.
How to Get There: Ericeira is a mere 37-minute drive northwest of Lisbon.
For more information: ERICEIRA, PORTUGAL


From their base in the capital city of Reykjavik, most visitors to Iceland will follow the usual tourist circuit of the Blue Lagoon, Gullfoss waterfall and the thermodynamic geysers. The Westman Islands, a wild volcanic island off Iceland's southern coast, feels a world away. The inhabitants on Heimaey, the only inhabited island in the bunch, and the main port town of Vestmannaeyjar are mostly a mix of Norse and Celtic descendants. The principal industry is commercial fishing, and the wharf is lined with unassuming seafood restaurants. The just-caught fish are usually prepared in a traditional European style, sautéed in brown butter. Adventurous travelers can explore the islands by hitching rides with local fishermen. If a professional operation is more your speed, go with Viking Tours, boattours.is, 90-minute island circle tour. The 90-minute ride circles Heimaey, yielding picture-perfect vistas of rugged sheer cliffs, with killer whales splashing offshore, plus a healthy population of puffins. Venture inside Klettshellur, a sea cave formed by crashing waves; a crew member will likely play a tune or two on a saxophone to demonstrate the dramatic acoustics.
How to Get There: The most direct route between Reykjavik and Vestmannaeyjar is a 20-minute flight on Eagle Air, ernir.is, or hop on the Herjólfur ferry. It departs from Landeyjahöfn a few times a day and only takes 30 minutes.
For more information: VESTMANNAEYJAR, ICELAND




TRAVEL TIP: Weekends are the most popular days to fly therefore
Fridays and Sundays are the MOST expensive days to fly on. 
If your schedule is flexible, try to fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.


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