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Where next? UK, Greece, Germany, or Spain?


Aug 25th, 2014, 11:27 AM
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Where next? UK, Greece, Germany, or Spain?

I just returned from a month exploring Italy, along with a long weekend in Paris. This was my first trip to Europe. Italy was perfect and magical, so it's a challenge to force myself to go somewhere else next time. I rented a car and explored Italy at my leisure. Here are some things I enjoyed, and the things I didn’t. I also don't care about the price or cost of anything. If it's worth it, I'll pay it.

Friendly Italians
Hill towns
Old Churches
The wine
Restaurants without English
Authentic Experiences
Getting lost in Paris neighborhoods away from crowds
Florence neighborhoods

Glad I went (wouldn’t go again)
The Amalfi Coast

Absolutely hated:
Versailles (THE CROWDS)
Anywhere that caters to tourists
Cheap souvenir crap

Would Greece or Spain be similar to my Italian experience? I'm also considering the U.K, because I haven’t been before. Thanks in advance! I appreciate your input.

rivenator84 is offline  
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Aug 25th, 2014, 12:21 PM
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I've been to all of those you're considering and I'd say that Spain-particularly Andalusia and the area around Madrid-- would be closer to your experience in Italy. The Spanish--at least the older Spanish--are more reserved, however, in my experience.

If you enjoyed getting lost in Paris, you'll love getting lost in Toledo and Sevilla where it is just about impossible not to. Lots of old churches--some of the most impressive we've seen anywhere, including some in smaller towns that don't get a mention in travel books.

Wine in general is not as good as Italian or French, IMO (but what is?) but it was still good. The food in Spain can be weird; we had some of the best meals and some of the worst that we've had in our travels, the latter being caused by our unfamiliarity with food terms. However, Italian food can't be beat and French is not far behind.

You'll have "authentic experiences" anywhere if you keep open to them.

As to the other three, each is a big step down in food and wine from Italy.

BUT, I wouldn't choose a travel destination based on any of this. What I'd do is to get a good but relatively thin travel guide on each country you're considering and read about what there is to do in each and then make a decision based on your interests.

E.g. I loved Greece, have been there twice, but I am a huge archaeology, classics and history buff and I doubt that I would enjoy Greece much if I weren't. OTOH, the UK would be great no matter what your interests, as long as the sole purpose of your trip is not food and drink. You might also consider France outside of Paris.

Be aware, however, that most of the places that are worth seeing are going to cater to tourists; you just to have put up with it and try to get to places quite early before the tour busses arrive or stay late enough so that they will have left. And you don't have to buy any cheap souvenir crap if you don't want to.

No matter which you choose, however, you should enjoy it. Europe is wonderful, each country is unique and each worth seeing in its own way.
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Aug 25th, 2014, 01:59 PM
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I have really really liked all the southern european countries I have been to (I'm including France in these tho not sure that is technically correct). I love the food and wine, the pace of life (outdoor cafes), the variety of sights. Anyways my next pick for you would be Spain - I think the food is "weird" only if you are not prepared (and I will admit on my first visit, I had a similar reaction - too much fatty meat) But once you know some of the different options, I think it is as good as Italy. And there is such a variety of regions. Spain is going to be alot easier to get around as opposed to Greece since the train system is very good in Spain or you can drive from region to region.

I did love Greece - had some wonderful food there too. Ferries were easy but not quite as convenient as the train so that would be my second choice of your options. UK and Germany have never "sung" to me. I found the locals in Spain and Greece very pleasant - we had friends in Spain so that was a big plus. With a little research you should be able to dodge the big crowds and no one is going to make you buy that cheap tourist crap altho I found some lovely "fun" jewelry in Greece for super bargain prices.
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Aug 26th, 2014, 06:27 AM
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Shame about Versailles - though I completely understand your frustration at the summer crowds of tourists. We went in early December on a crisp, cold winter day - fantastic, hardly anyone there.
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Aug 26th, 2014, 07:37 AM
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Versailles was SO crowded, I was in a rivers of humans. Literally shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people walking at once.

We ended up bailing, finding crepes, and watching a documentary on Youtube about the palace
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Aug 26th, 2014, 10:18 AM
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If you hate places that cater to tourists avoid the coastal resorts in Spain and Greece where foreign tourists outnumber the locals but you wouldn't have to go far away to find a more authentic local experience
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Aug 26th, 2014, 10:21 AM
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......as long as the sole purpose of your trip is not food and drink.

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Aug 26th, 2014, 12:08 PM
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Glad you enjoyed Italy and Paris - good for you! To avoid crowds, perhaps you'd like vacationing during the off season - my husband and I enjoy the lower rates and cooler weather, though hotel rooms without individual thermostats can be chilly.

I see that you are through with Italy but having been there many times over many years, I definitely recommend Venice - the most beautiful city I've ever seen (no cars allowed) - do consider seeing it before it sinks!

Like other posters here, I enjoy Great Britain, Spain and Greece (including the Greek islands) but the foods of these countries are not, IMO, the greatest. The South of France is marvelous, with delightful cuisine.

It's a shame that Mexico has a poor reputation because, in the 90s, we were so pleasantly surprised that we never wanted to leave. We returned multiple times - great food (fusion of East and West, nothing like the TexMex served in the USA). Although there are lots of souvenir stands, some of the stuff is pretty sweet - especially the rosaries and images of The Virgin of Guadeloupe. Mexico is stunning and colorful; music seems to flow out of the rocks; the archaeological sites are top-notch. Mexico is my 2d favorite destination after Italy but I wouldn't drive around by myself.
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Aug 26th, 2014, 12:33 PM
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Havana128--why is this comment ridiculous?

Although British food has improved quite a bit, especially in London, I can't see it as a gastronomic destination, at least as long as Italy and France are still around.

Some of the people who post here (not the OP) seem to travel for food and wine.
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Aug 26th, 2014, 12:49 PM
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Will you once again have a month?

Based on your description of your likes and dislikes I suggest Portugal and the UK together. Two weeks in each.
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Aug 27th, 2014, 11:11 AM
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Only two weeks this time (sad). A huge portion of my trip is to eat and drink. I really love authentic/local/delicious food.

Thank you for all the responses.
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Aug 27th, 2014, 12:11 PM
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I like the wine in Spain better than Italy. While Italian food may be better than Andalucian fare, nothing compares to modern Spanish gastronomy.
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Aug 27th, 2014, 01:13 PM
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San Sebastian really is foodie heaven - we did a 2 week trip to Lisbon, took night train to SS and left from Barcelona. We really liked the food in Portugal too and of course Barcelona has many options. That whole trip is on my "do again" bucket list.
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Aug 27th, 2014, 01:41 PM
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OTOH, the UK would be great no matter what your interests, as long as the sole purpose of your trip is not food and drink. >>

I agree with Havana that this is a pretty daft comment - there is wonderful food and wine now in most if not all of the UK if you know where to look.

but i think that to see the best of the UK is too short for a two week trip. I too would recommend Spain - which bit would depend on the time of year but it would be difficult to go very wrong so long as you avoid the tourist resorts on some of the costas.
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Aug 27th, 2014, 07:52 PM
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Well since you have listed entire countries its tricky.. since within each country there are place I consider wonderful and some less then wonderful.

I loved Greece., but thought food there was the least impressive. The islands we visited were a dream come true.. but Athens I would never return to except as a transit spot.

I love loved Spain.. but hated Barcelona.. the food and wine were superior to me compared to Italy.The people are lovely.. the food in smaller towns great.. the wine , cheap and good.

Loved the history of Rome and Florence,, Venice was a novelty ( been to all these places twice) but likely will not return to Rome for many years now.. and was not thrilled with food in Italy in general.

I never thought I would like the UK.. too much like home I though.. but have been back 5 times now.. loved the museums in London.. the people in Dublin.. but sorry.. food is still less then stellar , unless of course you can afford a Gordon Ramsey restaurant.. lol
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Aug 27th, 2014, 07:53 PM
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Ps .. love Paris.. my favorite place in the world except where I live.. but then I love historical sites.. love the food and wine.. and no longer bother with the main tourist sites having been to most of them dozens of times over the decades( mind you a few are worth returning to year after year)
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Aug 28th, 2014, 01:16 AM
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"OTOH, the UK would be great no matter what your interests, as long as the sole purpose of your trip is not food and drink. >>"

...is close to 100% accurate.

Britain's pubs are close to unique (only "close to" because their near clones in the Irish Republic aren't in the UK) , and if the sole purpose of someone's holidays is drinking, the UK would be a terrific choice - though possibly not to everyone's liking.

Eating, though, is a whole nuther story. As, frankly, it is throughout Europe - except, just possibly, in Italy.

London's multi-starred Michelin places are now outstanding, and there's a huge, cosmopolitan, infrastructure of wannabes that add up to far greater interest than anywhere else in Europe. It's now got a booming, and scarcely reported, street and food cart scene unmatched in Europe, an even less reported miniboom in chains of foreign street food packaged for conventional restaurants, and a world-beating range of ethnic cuisines (which, generally, is where most Londoners eat when they eat out). None of these, though, rank high on value for money by, say Portuguese standards.

London's myriads of sandwich-style places serve a purpose, offer far better sandwiches than the plastic-wrapped, preservative-stuffed, junk Parisian convenience stores sell: but they hardly count as high gastronomy.

Outside these three sectors, the thousands of London eating places patronised by tourists foolish enough to avoid Vietnamese, Indian, Ethiopian or whatever vary between slightly better than OK and a great deal worse. Their reputation isn't helped, of course, by insular Americans who recoil at the idea of healthy food like baked beans, kippers or tomatoes for breakfast - preferring to carry on fattening themselves up on the sugar-stuffed muck they gorge on at home.

But it's virtually impossible to find a truly interesting, well-cooked and properly served meal in a London pub, for example.

Outside London, that blob of mediocrity gets, relatively, a great deal more important. As - sadly - it increasingly does in much of provincial France, a huge swathe of Spain and Portugal outside a few centres, and always has done in much of provincial Greece.

Some Britons get irritated at this statement of the blindingly obvious. Downright awful food is almost unknown in Britain any more, and with a bit of effort it's possible to track down (often at a cost) really good food in most of Britain - though rarely to find food as good as most British families now serve at home.

But few people (except a handful of dedicated and well-heeled foodies) tour Britain for its restaurants. Pub food in tourist Yorkshire has improved spectacularly over the past decade - but try finding any non-ethnic restaurant serving edible food after 9 at night in Leeds, its biggest city. Restaurant clusters in Ludlow or Cartmel can't disguise the mediocrity of their hinterland (ever tried eating in Grange Over Sands, Cartmel boosters?). Tuscany isn't losing food-loving visitors to Cornwall, annhig might be horrified to learn, because Penzance isn't Padstow.

And the idea that eating in Oxford is even on the same planet as it is in Bologna is as preposterous as pretending Bologna is still the European intellectual powerhouse it was when St Dominic sent his first monks to Oxford and Bologna to be educated.

British food's OK and it's possible in parts of the country to find better. Its supporters undermine their own credibility by over-reacting to reminders that Britain's still not Italy. Thank God.
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Aug 28th, 2014, 07:44 AM
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Thanks for the support Flanner.

Your comment reminded me of a question we had when in the UK last year--where have all the Chinese restaurants gone? On our first trip to the UK around 25 years ago, we ate a lot at Chinese and South Asian restaurants. The South Asian are still around, but the Chinese seem to have disappeared. And although the food in general has improved, it didn't seem to have improved enough to drive all the Chinese restaurants out of business.

We did have a quite a bit of pub food and ale and enjoyed it. And we did have some "healthy" breakfasts Also, we found the food right at some tourist sites pretty good--Hampton Court, Edinburgh Palace, are the two the stood out.
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Aug 28th, 2014, 07:46 AM
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Oops--Edinburgh Castle.
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Aug 28th, 2014, 09:52 AM
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You wrote:

>> A huge portion of my trip is to eat and drink. I really love authentic/local/delicious food.

With those priorities for me it comes down to olive oil vs. butter & cream (including baked goods). To some extent it also means whether I want fish or meat although the UK has a lot more fish beyond fish & chips that is worth sampling.

I agree wine in Spain is better than wine in Italy but I also think the ambience of Portugal is much more open in many ways than it is in Spain and perhaps the ambience of Italy and its overflowing generosity in its eating culture was part of the magic for you so give Portugla some consideration.

I am not a fan of modern gastronomy if that means molecular and international style and that aspect of eating in Spain doesn't interest me but there are many parts of Spain that ignore it so that is where I would go. But it is harder to get around some of the most delicious parts of Spain without a car.

But if you don't want an olive oil rich experience then consider Belgium as well as the UK. Food and drink in Belgium is outstanding.
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