Visiting Disney amusement parks came late in my life, visiting Europe came much earlier. Like many children I pestered my parents to take me to Walt Disney World during Christmas break. Surprising me they said, “We’re finally taking you to see Sleeping Beauty’s castle.” And they did - the castle in France’s Loire Valley, which inspired Charles Perrault to write “The Sleeping Beauty” fairytale, which in the 20th century became full-length musical Disney animation movies - and 21st century movies. (My parents even saved money traveling to Europe off-season instead of more expensive Walt Disney World, high season.)
If you’ve been to London, Paris, Rome, Lisbon, St. Petersburg, Berlin, New Delhi, Kyoto, Shanghai, Philadelphia, Washington, DC - and even smaller cities such as Edinburgh, Bath, Versailles, Williamsburg, VA, Savannah, you’ve probably already vacationed in a planned city (or a re-planned city) without even realizing it. In addition, there are many fantastic, totally planned cities (from the ground up) sadly unknown even to the most sophisticated travelers, such as Karlsruhe (Germany), Zamosc (Poland), Richelieu (France).
The 18th century should be known as the “Century of the European Palace Opera House.” Since many operas were commissioned by royalty, it’s only logical that they’d be performed in their backyard - or in their backyard theaters - royal palace opera houses. Many tourists spend an entire day in palace towns such as Versailles or Potsdam (near Berlin). Why not spend the evening, too, visiting the palace’s opera house for an evening performance?
Let’s take a quick culinary trip around the world to see the most popular national restaurant on all six continents - and there’s no better month for this tour than March. (Keep reading and you’ll see why.)
In 2001, I created a TV travel series, Location Vacation - filming where movies were filmed around the world. While it’s not yet coming to TV, it’s coming as a segment of my weekly “Been There, HAVEN’T Done That” radio show on the Salem Radio Network. (Yes, it’s based on this eponymous JAX FAX travel column, since 2010.)
Here’s a confession. I love leftovers. Not food, buildings - World’s Fair leftovers. The most famous examples of World’s Fair leftovers aren’t really “buildings” but monuments that have become symbols of their cities: Paris’ Eiffel Tower (1889), Brussels’ Atomium (1958), Seattle’s Space Needle (1962) and the New York’s Unisphere (1964). The less famous leftovers are entire pavilions leftover from other World’s Fairs.
If you’d rather spend time sightseeing than shopping, you can buy the most unique souvenirs you can’t get at home, can’t get online, and can’t get anywhere else in the world than the destination you’re visiting. And the price ranges from $12 to $20. They’re in hundreds of cities on six continents so you don’t even don’t have to waste precious time and money hunting for a store - which is almost on every corner. This souvenir is portable and even found near the departure gate at many airports. It’s very practical - you can use it at every meal. And unlike candy, you can enjoy it without gaining weight.
It makes the perfect gift - especially if your aim in gifting is to show-off where you’ve been. And the “giftee” will know you actually bought it on your trip.
When tourists think of new museums constantly opening, they think of Washington, DC, and the Mall. When they think of Colonial American Cities, they think of Colonial Williamsburg. One city travelers should think of more often is Philadelphia with its four great new 21st-century world-class museums.
The only thing I like less than airport security is shopping.
Here are my painless shopping rules:
While I usually recommend unknown buildings around the world; unknown museums, unknown palaces, unknown churches, even historic restaurants and hotels, now it's my turn to recommend the architectural feature that links them that's there for everyone to see. Unlike other frequently bypassed sites, you don't walk past them everyday, you walk on them, Great Sidewalks.