Euro Trip 2006

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Before settling into her cubicle at Traveler, intern Allison Busacca took a three-week, six-city backpacking tour through Europe. She reports:

Wanting desperately to flex our art history muscles, my three friends and I originally planned on doing a European mega-museum tour. However, we found that most paintings faded into the background as we experienced the many other forms of art around us.

 

Ireland’s rolling hills: To truly experience Ireland, get out of the city. One (uncharacteristically) sunny Dublin day, we took a Wild Wicklow Tour that, though touristy, allowed us to peruse the grounds of a sixth-century monastery and stand on the cliffs of Sally Gap, a filming location for Braveheart. The highlight was our guide, Ida, who provided us with the perfect combination of intelligent historical information and classic Irish wit. The craic (a Gaelic word for good times and good company) was topped off the typical Irish way: with a complimentary shot of good ol’ Jameson Whiskey.

Portugal’s beaches: Though Lisbon lies on the coast, finding a beach with suitable swimming water was a challenge. Based on a suggestion from a local, we took the hour-long trip consisting of a ferry from Terreiro do Paço terminal (which can be reached easily by metro) to Cacilhas and then a bus to Costa de Caparica. The stretch of pristine sand, which was hardly littered with seashells or tourists, was well worth the effort.

Spain’s parks and plazas: Madrid’s Parque del Buen Retiro is home to a perfect combination of old and new Spanish culture. Street performers

mingled with the statues from the former 17th-century palace grounds, parents toted children on their shoulders, and a couple posed for wedding photos. The park was as alive as the people of Madrid. Bordered by the spiraled towers of a neo-Renaissance government house, Seville’s Plaza de España looks like a miniature Venice, with tiled bridges crossing canals created by a gigantic, ornate fountain in the center. If you don’t need a siesta, the plaza is an excellent place to spend an afternoon.

England’s theater: If you are traveling to foggy London town anytime soon, check out We Will Rock You, a musical with songs by Queen.

Onstage at the Dominion Theatre, the show’s bright stage lights and thunderous music make it seem more like a rock concert. Add that to booming vocals (almost all 31 Queen songs are included), fans of all ages singing along, and glowsticks, and you have a not-so-typical, but amazing, theatrical experience.

France’s Impressionists: Paris was the one city where we couldn’t overlook the museums, specifically the Musée d’Orsay, across the river from the Louvre, whose top floor is home to works by Manet, Degas, Monet, and van Gogh.

Because of the texture of the paint and the vividness of the colors, pictures in textbooks don’t even come close to the experience of seeing the paintings in person. To beat the lines, get there early or get a Paris Museum Pass, which includes priority admission to most of the must-see sites in Paris.