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Advice for first time in Europe

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We are a couple in our 60's. I have sadly never been to Europe. My husband, after his army years, lived and traveled there in the late 60s, early 70s. We want to visit and enjoy Europe while we are reasonably physically fit to do so. I survived cancer, lymphoma, twice in the past seven years and I don't want to put off dreams anymore. I have been reading these forums for a while and love that everyone is so friendly and helpful. We would like to take 3 weeks (please consider we will have to be quite budget minded) and would love to visit England where we would be visiting friends; Maastricht, where husband lived 40+ years ago; and Italy where I have always dreamed of visiting (northern Italy, maybe Venice or Lake Como) Husband also suggested Bavaria. Which country should we fly to and from? Best order of countries and means of travel? We are open for new experiences and prefer to find local gems rather than "touristy" spots. We like seeing the countryside, museums and good authentic-to-the-region food. We would prefer to stay in smaller accommodations rather than large hotels. I appreciate all advice and experience you can share and I thank you all in advance.

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