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I’ll be teaching my popular travel class, “Seeing the Best of Europe Independently on a Budget” twice in May!

Upcoming appearances and classes:

If you’ve missed the last few classes I’ve taught this year, no worries: I’ll be teaching my popular travel class, “Seeing the Best of Europe Independently on a Budget” twice in May!

*Covington, WA Library on Tuesday May 12th, 7-9 PM

*Maple Valley, WA Library on Saturday May 16th, 1-2:30 PM

Come out and enjoy this info-packed 90 minute class with a travel writer and tour guide. I’ll dish the low-down on experiencing Europe’s best destinations in ways that maximize your time and money. I love sharing my hard-won tips on packing light, connecting to the culture, planning smart, spending wisely and getting around easily. You’ll leave ready to plan your own European adventure on your own terms and within your budget.

 

Normandy, France: Where The Echoes of War Remain

My travels in northern France have always provided vivid reminders of the battle for Normandy, which raged from D-Day through the summer of 1944. Though partially healed by the decades, scars still remain in the rolling countryside, picturesque villages, and gentle beaches.

Sixty-nine years ago today, the Allies waded ashore on the beaches of Normandy, France, and began the liberation of Europe from Hitler. A US veteran of the Normandy campaign said recently, “Out of my squad of 13, only 3 survived.” His story was not unique. The fighting was ferocious, and casualties on both sides were severe.

On each of my visits to this beautiful area, I have been struck by the locals’ affection for Americans. The French are not normally known for their liking of the US tourist, but in Normandy, the appreciation for the US sacrifice is strong. Several coastal villages fly American flags and bear plaques in the town square commemorating the day of their liberation by US troops in June of 1944.

Some reminders are particularly evocative for me. For example, I find few sites as poignant as the rusted ports lurking in the waves just off the coast of Arromanches-les-Bains.

Not far from the immaculate rows of gleaming marble headstones of the US cemetery at Omaha Beach, the tiny beach village of Arromanches-les-Bains was chosen to be the main port of the Allies. Still visible in the surf are the ghostly hulks of the prefabricated ports known as “Mulberry Harbors”, designed to move those millions of pounds of Allied men, vehicles, and supplies from ship to shore in the fight against Hitler.

The skeletal iron beasts, now rusted and worn away by decades of tide and salt water, serve as a reminder of the world-changing event that came to Normandy’s shores. And they remind us of the ordinary people—most now passed away—who found themselves swept up in the gale force of history.

The years go on, but the echoes remain.

What to do when you’re low on loot in London

Let’s face it: It’s summer and you’re broke. If you’ve somehow managed to make it to Europe and have some money for food and shelter, you might not have cash for much else. Trust me, I’ve been there. Everyone knows activities in places like London, for example, is pricey. But it’s important to know that there are several fun and interesting things to see and do that are completely free.

With that in mind, this is the first in a series focusing on free sights and activities in some of Europe’s best cities.

Taking the London example, here’s just a short list of free activities that give you a good taste of that amazing city:

-The National Gallery is free, although that may surprise many. Yes, one of the world’s great art museums—hosting works by world-renown masters—does not charge for entry.

-Piccadilly Circus, the gateway to the West End, is a colorful sea of people—especially when the sun goes down and the neon lights wash over the surroundings. Great people watching.

-The Changing of the Guard at the palace is always a sight to behold. The military pomp has been tradition for centuries.

-Regent’s Park includes the city zoo and a wildlife garden. An oasis of leafy tranquility in the heart of the metropolis.

-There’s also St. James’s Park, ringed by some of London’s biggest landmarks (Buckingham Palace and Whitehall) featuring gorgeous greens and a soothing lake when the Tube and the crowds drive you mad.

-Speaking of great urban parks, no list would be complete without mention of Hyde Park. Lots of open air festivals and concerts are held here, especially in summer. Amble on over and enjoy.

-The Tate Modern (free except for certain special exhibitions) hosts a dazzling array of modern art, if you’re into that sort of thing.

-The rightfully revered British Museum is another world-class treasure trove of history that deserves your time. It’s a jaw-droppingly thorough survey of human civilization.

Of course, the best parts of travel, meeting the people and sampling the culture, are always free—but having a list of other free stuff to do certainly helps.