London (Southampton), England
London is one of the world's greatest cities. Diverse, ethnically and linguistically, it offers an intoxicating mix of grandeur, history, style and culture. From ancient streets, leafy parks and grand architecture to iconic landmarks, neon lights, world class shopping and a cool arts scene, there's nowhere in the world quite like this thriving metropolis. Visitors typically spend most of their time in and around the West End, where London's main attractions -- Piccadilly Circus, Charing Cross Road's book shops, Covent Garden, Soho, Regent and Oxford Streets, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Carnaby Street -- are located. Farther west are the pricier neighborhoods of Belgravia, Kensington (Kensington Palace, Albert Memorial, Royal Albert Hall), South Kensington (Science Museum, Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum), Knightsbridge (Harrods, Harvey Nichols), Mayfair, Chelsea (Kings Road) and Notting Hill (Portobello Road).
The City of London's financial district (home to St. Paul's Cathedral, Fleet Street, Tower of London) is a must for history lovers. In medieval times, the City constituted most of London, but over the years, urban areas sprawled far beyond. As the City's boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, it is now only a tiny part of the metropolis, though holds city status in its own right.
St. Peter Port (Guernsey), United Kingdom
As the capital of Guernsey, St. Peter Port is charming with its beautiful harbor, cobbled streets, steep rugged coast and historic gardens. Visit Castle Cornet that has stood guard over the town for over 800 years and today stages theater productions and musical events plus inside there are five museums to explore. At the top of the town is Candie Gardens, once the formal gardens of a private home, they are now open for the public to enjoy. See where French writer, Victor Hugo, lived between 1856 and 1870 at the Hauteville House with its amazing collection of furniture and artifacts.
With its proximity to the British Isles, Brest is steeped in Celtic hertitage and the region even has its own Celtic language - Breton. Due to its strategic location on the western tip of the Breton Peninsula, this port has a rich military history. Among its landmarks are the heavily fortified Chateau de Brest and the rotund 14th century Tour Tanguy tower. It contains a fascinating museum with dioramas depicting Brest on the eve of World War II. The city's Oceanopolis aquarium, one of Europe's largest marine complexes, presents more than 1,000 different species. Brest is also known for its National Botanical Reserve, which focuses on endangered plants rarely found elsewhere.
La Rochelle, France
Known for its white limestone cliffs, La Rochelle features a bustling Vieux Port (Old Harbor) with exceptional shops and restaurants. Three medieval towers once protected the port and are now symbols of the waterfront. The imposing Four Sergeants Tower was formerly a prison, and you can see where the Corsairs scrawled graffiti on the walls. The city aquarium holds thousands of species living in re-creations of their natural habitats. You will also appreciate La Rochelle's pedestrian-friendly streets, especially in the city center, which is graced by 17th and 18th century architecture.
Bordeaux is France’s second largest city and fronts the La Garonne River and is located some 35 miles inland from the ocean. The river has very turbulent tides, which rise and drop some 18 to 20 feet with each tidal change. Bordeaux is also the epicenter of the Bordeaux region that is made up of some of the best vineyards and wineries in the world.
One could easily spend an entire day taking in Bordeaux’s sights on foot. Its pedestrian streets, numerous cathedrals museums, monuments, small parks and shopping areas are enough for anyone to amuse himself or herself. Add in Bordeaux’s wonderful sidewalk cafes and restaurants and you have the perfect blend for a day well spent in a wonderful city. However, around the entire circumference of Bordeaux lies one of the most prolific wine producing regions in the world. Dating back well over ten centuries, the villages in the wine regions are simply wonderful.
Lisbon is Portugal’s capital and is the country’s largest city. It dates back some two centuries BC. While Lisbon has modern areas with long wide boulevards shaded with large trees, gardens and lavish residential areas, it also offers a wonderful old section that is built on its terraced hillsides. Lisbon is both ancient and modern and offers superb shopping and sightseeing.
This port city is home of numerous wine shops offering the best in Portuguese port and other wines, as well as some excellent Italian wines also. Women and men’s fashions are everywhere as are shoe stores and other leather products. Prices in Portugal are much lower than in France for the same products and many of the same stores that are in France have locations in Lisbon. If you are going to be clothes shopping, Lisbon is the place to do it.
A hike up to the remnants of St. George's Castle is well worth the investment of energy and time as the views of Lisbon are spectacular. If you have been to Lisbon before try heading out to the villages on the Atlantic Ocean. Sinta is especially beautiful and offers incredible beauty among its narrow and winding medieval streets with lots of charming shops and boutiques.
Seville (Cadiz), Spain
Located in southern Spain, Cadiz sits on a sliver of land jutting out into the bay. Almost entirely surrounded by water, Cadiz is believed to be the oldest city in Europe. Formidable walls still stand, protecting and providing Cadiz with a skyline like no other. The old quarter is composed of picturesque buildings, parks, and gardens intertwined with narrow cobblestone streets and squares.
A relaxed and easygoing city, Cadiz is easy and fun to explore. Museums, restaurants and quaint shops are plentiful. In the spring, the normally quiet city erupts with a carnival celebration considered to be the liveliest and most important in Spain. For 10 days the streets are filled with people singing, dancing and celebrating in colorful costumes.
Beyond Cadiz, is the beautiful countryside of Andalucia and Jerez. The legendary Bodegas of Jerez produce some of the finest Sherry wine in the world and the city is also known for its magnificent horses. To the north of Cadiz is Seville, considered one of the most beautiful cities in all of Spain. This historic city is rich in architectural masterpieces. Magnificent churches, plazas, and meandering alleyways grace this spirited city.
Lying on Spain's radiant Costa Blanca, Alicante exudes a rare beauty. Lovely Baroque buildings cluster around the historic central district. Marble plazas grace its broad waterfront boulevard, the illustrious Explanada de Espana
. Pristine beaches like San Juan hug the shoreline. It's no surprise that Alicante is popular year-round. Venture to the grand Castle of Santa Barbara overlooking the city and walk from its high towers down into the dungeon. Stop for a glass of refreshing sangria in the Old Quarter. Behold the masterpieces hanging in the Gravina Museum of Fine Arts, a former 18th century palace.
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia as well as Spain’s second largest city. Dominated by Montjuic, Vallvidrera and the Tibidabo Hills, sophisticated Barcelona is rich in ancient and modern architectural and artistic treasures. Many talented artists, sculptors and architects lived here, including Picasso, Miró, Mares and Barcelona’s best-known architect, Antonio Gaudí.
Barcelona’s beginnings as a major port can be found already in Roman times. However, the most significant period was during the Middle Ages when the city's wealth equaled that of the whole Catalunya province. Splendid buildings from the Middle Ages and a unique ambiance still make Barcelona one of the most attractive cities in Europe, drawing scores of visitors to see and enjoy the sights. In addition to its medieval setting and narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter, there are magnificent avenues through the modern part of the city, which are particularly noted for their landmark buildings of Gaudí’s design.