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Top 10 Reasons to Travel to Europe

10. The Art in Amsterdam: Try not to get too distracted by the nightlife in Amsterdam and set aside a little time to visit the iconic museums that the city has to offer like the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House or the Rembrandt House Museum.

Amsterdam Museum

9.  The food in Italy: It’s not simply pasta and pizza all the time. Travel along the coast and you’ll find plenty of unique and inspired seafood such as ricci di mare or sea urchin. Though it’s not all about pasta and pizza, save a little room, because those are delicious, too!

8.  The Wine of France: When it comes to wine in France, the Localvore movement has been flourishing since the Middle Ages and many French residents take a good deal of pride in their local varietal. Whenever possible, we recommend drinking local. Fortunately, when traveling in France you’re likely to have good luck with the regional vin wherever you happen to be.

7.  The Live Music of Ireland: Sure you should try a Guinness while exploring the Emerald Isle, but try to plan your night on the town so that it coincides with traditional music night. That way you can share a pint and shake a leg with the locals.

Dancing House in Prague

6.  The Architecture of the Czech Republic: Both modern and untarnished, historic buildings adorn the streets of Prague and you’ll feel, both, the history and the youth of the city as you tour the Czech Capital. Plus, you’ll never be late because you can hear the bells of the Astronomical Clock throughout the city.

5.  Late Night Snacks in Spain: No need to sacrifice on food quality simply because it’s after 10—That’s just when things start to heat up in Spain. Enjoy a light meal early to tide you over, and when the sun has dipped well below the Mediterranean, let the tapas begin!

4.  The Islands of Croatia: Offering an Eastern European spin on “Island Life”, Croatia boasts some of the most scenic havens on earth. Just ask Condé Nast Traveler magazine, who consistently rates Hvar among the 10 Most Beautiful Islands in the World.

3.  The History of Sicily: Part Greek, part Moorish and wholly Sicilian, this Mediterranean island features fascinating history at every turn. Bring a camera as you ride along its ancient streets and be thankful you’re cycling. It’s much easier to park a bike than it is to park a car on Sicily’s narrow lanes.

Belgian Beer2.  The Beers of Belgium: While the French and the Italians have devoted themselves to wine production, brewing has been elevated to an art form in Belgium. When sampling, just keep in mind that beer can be a bit stronger on the other side of the Atlantic.

And the number 1 reason to visit Europe… VBT has 33 Active Vacations there and would love to be your host!

5 Classic European Monuments that Barely Stood the Test of Time

The Classic European Destinations of Italy and France hold some of the world’s most iconic and historic structures. Yet despite having faced their share of struggles through the years, they have managed to remain intact, helping us to better connect with European history and culture. With that in mind, here are some of our favorite European monuments that have just managed to survive.

Pont du Gard

Travel France, Provence, Pont du Gard

A couple thousand years ago, the Roman Empire was the driving force behind technological innovation and one of their most important claims to fame was the development of the aqueduct. Still, among the sun-drenched, rolling hills of Provence lays a shining example of ancient Roman innovation, and one of our favorite European Monuments, Pont du Gard. It was built in the 1st century and survived the years relatively easily right up to 17th Century when the functioning bridge began to be used as a military passage. Though suitable for hundreds of years’ worth of foot and carriage traffic, apparently the bridge wasn’t quite cut out for the artillery and ammunition of the 1600’s and it quickly fell into disrepair. Luckily, after conflict ceased, Pont du Gard’s Roman roots were enough to draw many admirers, leading the local government to fix things up a bit for the Pont’s pilgrims. Since that time, travelers have continued to flock to the awesome ancient structure and after that one major revamp in the 1800’s, several sporadic restorations have helped Pont du Gard in weathering over two thousand years in the South of France. That certainly gives a little weight to the old adage, “They don’t build ‘em like they used to.” If not for those historic travelers, though, who knows what would have become of the aqueduct?

Cross Pont du Gard when you Travel to Provence with VBT.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower, Travel Paris, Travel France, Tour Eiffel Tower

For many of us, the Eiffel Tower is the ultimate European monument. Completed in 1889, it has graced Paris’ skyline for well over a century. And today, no vacation in the “City of Light” is complete without a trip to the top to look out on the French capital. However, the Eiffel Tower wasn’t always held in such high esteem. In its early years, many of the city’s residents felt that the modern, lattice tower took away from Paris’ natural beauty. In fact, the French government put serious consideration into removing the Eiffel Tower when its initial lease expired in 1909. Fortunately for all of us, France never went ahead with those plans, but the final decision had little to do with aesthetics. Surprisingly, it was the tower’s integral function in telegraph messaging that ultimately solidified its place in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. It seems safe to say, however, that both Parisians and the rest of the world eventually came around to its visual appeal, too.

Visit the Eiffel Tower on one of VBT’s France Vacations.

Château de Chenonceau

Chateau Chenonceaux, Travel France, Loire Valley, Chenonceaux Castle

Speaking of the importance of travel, the iconic Château de Chenonceau in France’s Loire Valley owes its very survival to it. Originally built in the 11th century, later burnt and rebuilt, the grand chateau certainly has a turbulent past. It’s also seen quite a few owners in the last thousand years. It was passed from King Henry II to his mistress, then from his mistress back to Henry’s wife and eventually taken over by a different line of nobility in the 18th century. Around that time portions of the castle began being sold off, yet commerce came to a halt at the arrival of the French Revolution. Hardly a saving grace for the manor, most prominent symbols of royalty like Château de Chenonceau saw their end during the revolution. This royal residence would have too, had it not been decided by all parties that Chenonceau’s bridge was far too essential for travel to lose. It was spared so that wayfarers could conveniently make their way across the Cher River for years to come. Ironically, today most travelers make their way across that very bridge simply to take in the splendor of Château de Chenonceau itself.

Explore Château de Chenonceau when you bike through the Loire Valley with VBT.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Tower of Pisa, Travel Italy, Leaning Tower of Pisa

Moving along to Italy, we come upon, perhaps, the most obvious monument that barely made it, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It wasn’t just dumb luck that led this tower to lean, either. In fact, it is thought that “Pisa” actually stems from an ancient Greek word meaning “marshy land”. Given its location between the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea, it seems logical that the land would be softer and that the large tower would have a hard time remaining upright. Shortly after construction began in the 12th century, the tower began to lean. However, the project continued until complete, and until the tower had succumbed to a full tilt. Extensive restoration efforts over the years have kept it from toppling completely. However, a recent major restoration almost undid hundreds of years’ of work. On one night in September of 1995, the tower’s famed lean grew just about as much as it normally does in the span of a couple years. In fact, back in the mid-nineties, the tower came as close to falling as it ever has throughout its 900-year history. Thanks to prompt action and modern technology the lean was reduced drastically and quickly. Though it was at odds with the initial goal to keep the lean at its original angle, the tower had to lean just a bit less in order to stay safely upright. Despite the historical discrepancy, most travelers agree they’d rather visit The Leaning Tower of Pisa and not the Laying Tower of Pisa.

Travel to the Po River Valley with VBT and lean up against the Tower of Pisa.

Fontana Pretoria

Travel Sicily, Travel Italy, Palermo

It wasn’t natural disaster or even public opinion that almost prevented our last European monument from lasting. It was simply a case of bad finances. Built in Florence and intended for the garden of Luigi de Toledo, Fontana Pretoria seemed like a sure cinch as far as Renaissance masterpieces were concerned. However, after the sculptures of Fontana Pretoria were completed, the Toledo family flat-out couldn’t afford to pay. But the work was done, and done quite well at that. So the Fontana was put up for auction to pay off the debt and, more importantly, keep the statues from being sold off one by one. Thankfully, the Toledo family found a bidder. The bad news was that it would be leaving mainland Italy, and making its way to Sicily. The Palermo Senate purchased Fontana Pretoria, moved it all the way to Sicily and even commissioned a few locally inspired structures to add to the mix.

Enjoy VBT’s Sicily Vacation and take in the Renaissance Art of Fontana Pretoria.

Make the journey to Europe to stand at the foot of these iconic monuments on one of VBT’s Classic European Vacations.

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