- Travel and Places
What things should I see and do in Europe?
Australians wandering Europe
The high Aussie dollar makes travelling in Europe far cheaper now than it has been for many years.
Six months long service leave gave us the opportunity to travel to London and catch the vibe of the Olympics before setting off around England and Wales, flying to France and using our Eurail Pass to travel around Italy, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic before returning to England and flying home.
Armed with a return ticket to London and a Eurail Pass, we set off not knowing if we'd be able to afford to travel for six months as we had planned but we managed to see much more than we had hoped by learning some savvy tricks for saving money along the way.
First, we rented our house - which generated enough rent to pay the domestic bills at home - allowing us to travel using our wages and not needing to dip into savings or maxing out the credit card.
My following hubs will provide practical advice for travellers going to Europe - how to get there, what to see, how to save money on everything from air and rail tickets to food and accommodation.
Six months of continuous travel is a rare privilege and allowed us to learn a lot about how to travel well and cheaply, getting to know many local people and living in places rather than always feeling like tourists.
UK and France map
Liverpool, Manchester and the Lakes District
We visited Liverpool, Manchester, the Lakes District, Bath, Wales and the Island of Jersey in the Channel Islands.
A highlight in Liverpool was the Beatles museum where an old dock warehouse building that has been remodelled into an extensive museum telling the story of the four boys from Liverpool who took the world by storm with their music in the 1960s.
In Manchester we visited the BBCs new Broadcasting Centre at Salford and the War Memorial - tracing not only the first and second World Wars but also the wars which have continued in various countries until the present day.
The museum has military and social history displays and is very moving. It inspired my husband to compose a seven movement choral work over the following few months, using poems written by soldiers on the battlefields.
The Lakes District is justifiably famous as a holiday destination. Friends who took us there have been returning every year for forty years to drink in the spectacular scenery, climb the fells, shop at the boutique craft shops and relax at the many historic pubs.
The heritage-listed city of Bath is a treasure-trove of history, from its Roman baths and Pump Room to the spectacular Bath Abbey.
From Bath, easy day trips can be taken to ride on the canals, drive to Worcester, (including Elgar’s birthplace at Broadheath), Hereford, Tintern Abbey, Wells, Dyrham Park, Corsham, Lacock (where the town was used for filming Cranford and the local Abbey was used for filming the Harry Potter films), and many other places.
In Wales we hired a car and drove ourselves to see castles, villages and to walk the beautiful coastal paths with their captivating scenery.
See my other hubs for articles on these adventures as well as our travels in France, Italy, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.
Cruising the canals in the gracious Lady Lena.
See my other articles on English destinations here:
Gerald Durrell grew up on the island of Corfu. When he returned to England he established a wildlife park to provide a natural environment for threatened exotic species of birds and animals.
This is one of England's most interesting castles. Stone steps lead from the entrance to the top of the artillery platform and turrets, bringing its fascinating history alive.
The city of Cambridge is famous for its exceptional academic history and traditions and the scientific discoveries made here. Through the turbulence of the past centuries flows the calm River Cam.
Dyrham Park is a 17th century mansion built over an old farm house by William Blathwayt. The extensive formal gardens, a deer park and an attached church are all cared for by the National Trust.
After seeing Midsomer Murders for a few years, so many of the locals had been despatched that it was surprising to find there are still residents living in the idyllic villages of Oxfordshire.
Bath Abbey was founded more than 1000 years ago as an Anglo-Saxon church. The current Victorian Gothic interior was added in the 1800s.
Mont Orgeuil Castle, Jersey
In France we'll land at St Malo and go on a hair-raising wrong-side-of-the-road driving trip to Rouen and explore some fascinating medieval French villages, abbeys and cities.
Then onto the TGV for a quick train ride to Paris and a week exploring the historic centre of Paris, Saint Chapelle, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Palace of Versailles. Along the way we'll sip coffee al fresco and picnic by the Seine at dusk.
The Palace of Versailles
See my other articles on France here:
From Paris we'll take the TGV, sleeper train and Trenitalia to Naples and on down to Sicily to look around the relics of the great Greek and Roman civilisations. Here we'll climb an active volcano: Mount Etna, see the ancient fortified city of Taormina, the 2500 year old temples in the famous Valley of the Temples and take in the great city of the Greeks and Romans, Syracuse
Back on the mainland we'll go to the spectacular Amalfi Coast, see the newly-revealed Vesuvian town of Herculaneum, buried on the same day in AD79 as Pompeii, to Pompeii and then head north to the main tourist spots in Rome. Here we'll see St Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Colosseum. Then we travel north by train to my favourite Italian city of Florence and then to Milan and Lake Como.
Vatican Museum, Rome
See my other articles on Italy and Sicily here:
Taormina is built on a spectacular rocky plateau 250 metres above the surrounding countryside on the east coast of the island of Sicily.
Looking up towards the city from the east coast, the city appears incongruous, with sheer cliffs rising to a crowd of stone buildings perched on the top.
The modern bustling city of Syracuse on the south coast of Sicily was founded more than 2700 years ago.
Sicily has many priceless relics. The Valley of the Temples, dating from 500 BC is one of the most famous because of its near-intact ancient temples. It attracts more than 500,000 visitors a year.
Feeling the raw power of this enormous active volcano was a highlight of our trip to Sicily. Come with us to the cold, barren, windswept summit . . .
Stepping inside the main doors of St Peter’s Basilica, noisy hoards of tourists are stunned into silence, looking up and dropping their bottom jaw as they contemplate the sheer size and grandeur of this building.
The eyes are drawn from the huge, ornate marble pillars upwards to the soaring barrel-shaped ceiling that is heavily decorated with gold.
The Colosseum is the world’s largest amphitheatre and one of the most recognisable buildings. It attracts millions of visitors a year to the old city of Rome.
A visit to the chapel which displays Michelangelo’s masterpiece, Vatican City, Rome, Italy
Coming soon . . . travel stories from Germany
From Italy, we'll take the train northwards through Switzerland to Germany to experience the cultural hotspot of Karlsruhe and take a day trip to Strasbourg in France, and explore the town and castle in Coburg.
Travel gear from Amazon
Coming soon . . . travel stories from Austria
In Austria we'll stay in the enchanting old city of Salzburg and walk the cobbled streets to see the various 'Mozart' houses, the Duomo (Cathedral) where Mozart was Music Director, take the fenicula railway up the hill to the magnificent castle on top, spend a day out on a romantic 'Sound of Music Tour', attend a concert at Mirabella Palace where Mozart first performed his later string quartets and discover some wonderful Austrian restaurants.