Contest: Where should we go for our first vacation?

My husband is probably going to kill me for this.  He’s left it up to me to choose where we take our first vacation, and I am at a loss.  The problem?  I’ve never been to Europe, and I want to go EVERYWHERE. How the hell am I supposed to narrow it down to one place?  Where should we go first?  Hence…

THE CONTEST.  Tell me where we should go and why, and what we should see and do while we’re there.  Is it a vacation that you’ve been on and enjoyed?  Is it a dream vacation you’ve always wanted to take?  Is there a festival that we absolutely must attend?

DETAILS: We’re going for about 7 days, around the end of May, early June.  We like art and architecture, food, wine, history, and the outdoors.  I’ve never been to Europe before moving to Finland.  Hubster lived in Germany for a spell, and has traveled some, including Paris and Rome.

THE PRIZE:  A nice little gift from wherever we go.  Do you collect anything – snow globes, shot glasses, ornaments?  Is there something in particular you want from the area – soap, textiles?  A pretty piece of handmade jewelry?  Let me know if you want something in particular!  (Don’t tell me in the comments – I’ll contact the winner to find out what you want.)

Leave your suggestions in the comments below by 4pm GMT, Wednesday February 29th.  (That’s 11am EST.)

(FYI – currently on the Want To Travel To List, in no particular order:  UK, Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, Poland, Budapest, Prague, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and more.  You can see my issue about trying to determine where to go first!)

Ready.  Set.  GO!

Categories: Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “Contest: Where should we go for our first vacation?

  1. Melody Jane

    Iceland is really popular at the moment, but if you have wine on your list, hmm… Portugal, Cyprus, Spain or the south of France?
    I noticed a historic town called Guimaraes in Portugal was reviewed in a local magazine recently for being the most beautiful town of Europe 2012. I’d love to go there and paint some time!

    But a South coast of France wine tasting tour might suit you better?

  2. Beth Collins

    I say go to Venice, on the Adriatic Sea – it is a city for lovers afterall. Ride in a dragon-plowed black Gondola (they have velvet seats and Persian rugs for your riding comfort – see Murano glass and lace making. Buy a carnival mask. The city is one of the only ones in Europe where there are no cars – traffic is by boat or on foot. The food must be wonderful – the museums, the wine, the Gothic architecture, the history and uniqueness of it all. A snippet from a travel site on Venice:

    “Browse through street markets; encounter stray cats; buy a cone of gelato and stroll along the broad Giudecca Canal; peer through iron gates into back gardens; take a boat out to the Islands of the Venetian Lagoon. In the end, it’s the sheer Venice-ness of Venice you’ll find—and remember forever. ”
    It sounds magical – please take me. (I love reading your blog – and miss you!)

    Read more:

  3. Mary Gordon

    On my way to the World Interhash 2004, we did a coach tour of England and Ireland. Out of England I remember really enjoying York which has a wall around the city. They also used to boast to have over 365 pubs. They say you can go to a different pub everyday for a year. I also enjoyed, Bath. I’ve never been to Rome and it kind of reminded me a little of what I think Rome is like. In Ireland, Dublin was cool, but I really liked Galway. It was on the West coast and it was beautiful. There was some kind of art festival when we went. If I remember right it was at the end of July or beginning of August though. Then again, you can always take a coach tour. They highlight a lot of the hot spots and even let you out and explore for a limited time. Of course if you don’t get to see all you want, you have to miss out because the coach will leave you. Good luck on picking a place. I still have Australia, Italy and New Zealand on my bucket list. Take lots of pictures so we can live vicariously through you.

  4. Florence, Italy – Ranked #2 by US News Travel Report for Best European Romantic Get Away – has always been on the top of my list for a vacation. This little city, tucked amid the Tuscan hills, casts a long shadow through history. The wellspring of the Renaissance, Firenze (or Florence) sheltered the powerful Medici family and inspired artists like Michelangelo (David) and Brunelleschi (the Duomo). If it weren’t for the fashionable Italians and chic shops lining Via Tornabuoni, you might think you had traveled back in time to the14th century. But Renaissance art is not the only reason to come: You also visit Florence for its gorgeous sunsets, its Italian cooking and its unbeatable romantic charm.

    The attractions largely center on art — from the works hung in the Uffizi and the Galleria dell’Accademia to the architecture of the Duomo and the Palazzo Pitti. But all the beauty hasn’t been captured in stone and canvas; make a retreat to the verdant Boboli Gardens and wander in the lush ambience, take a walk along the Arno and over the Ponte Vecchio or eat your through Firenze’s cafés, gelato shops and ristorantes. There are plenty of spots to wine, dine and pamper yourselves. I’m sure you’d be drenched in Italian intrigue and amore.

    The best time to visit Florence is between May and September when warm weather ushers in art festivals, open-air dining and the kind of Italian sunshine that inspired the Renaissance painters. End of May, early June being optimal!

    Florence was practically made for walking — except, perhaps, for women fond of heels. The ancient city’s cobbled walks will de-heel pumps faster than you can say Arriverderci. Wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes and explore this intimate city’s slender streets — and all the Renaissance architecture, quaint shoe shops and tasty Tuscan restaurants along the way.

  5. Pam Jahner

    I am a little partial but Stockholms summer water festival was a blast. Runs all summer and the whole town p retty much stops and vacations to celebrate warmer weather and loooooog days. Lots to see-palaces, museums all in a small area like Manhattan. And of course easy transit system.

  6. my first time to europe i went to germany (central), switzerland, and austria. we went in april and it was lovely. i couldn’t imagine more beautiful places than the alps. and fantastic food all around.

    the second time i went to europe we visited Paris, Brugges (Belgium), Amsterdam and then back to the Normandy region of France. I couldn’t imagine more beautiful beaches (Bayeux/Normandy), better examples of exquisite architecture, art, culture, food (Paris!), a more charming small city buildings and history (Brugges), or a more friendly city with beautiful parks/interesting cultural trends (Amsterdam).

    the last time we went to europe we visited Budapest & Prague. Again, i was just blown away by the sheer beauty of the old buildings, how everything was so walkable, the city parks, the friendly people and all the history that goes with the areas. Plus the food in Budapest was amazing!

    so i guess what i’m saying is that i think no matter where you go is going to be awesome. you really can’t lose. that being said, if i could go back today to any of the places i’ve already visited – i would go back to Paris. i have a deep love for all things French and it was simply a marvelous place to visit. it has everything you’ve listed: art (hello! the louvre!), architecture (Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Versailles, etc etc), food & wine (well that’s just a given), outdoors (tons of parks and maybe a day trip to Versailles to walk through the most amazing gardens).

    how fun to be in europe and planning this. no 11 hour plan ride for you!

  7. So, I might have already emailed ya 🙂 But thought you needed a comment too. Barcelona was AMAZING when we went at Christmas. Didn’t know what to expect, but loved it. People were so friendly, the food was great, the wine even better….haha. Ireland was a lot of fun too. Again, the same as above, just replace wine with beer. But, my all time favorite place in Europe. Greece!! Esp the Greek Islands. I visited there and then worked on a sail boat that went around the Cyclades and fell in love. Really a great place. So exciting that you can start thinking about fun summery places to go!!

  8. Pam Bilger

    Hi, Sara: Do you miss me? I’m so glad to be away from the snow and ice! Tom said Rauma got more snow today, so I’m really glad I left Sunday! Brussels is nice! I know you like your chocolate, and I’ve gotten some amazing chocolate here! In two days I’ve managed to take a city bus tour, visit the Museum of Fine Arts, the Magritte Museum, the Musical Instruments Museum, walk at least 50 miles, go to the top of the Atomium, shop, eat chocolate, eat Belgian frites, drink Belgian beer, and marvel at the beautiful sights.

    But for your first European vacay, I would recommend Paris. More great food, wine and chocolate, do the walking tours offered by Paris Walks, visit the Louvre and my favorite, the Musee D’Orsay, go to Versailles, take a day trip to Giverney and another to Epernay/Reims. I never get tired of Paris, and you should see it at least once.


  9. Pam

    Oh! I’ve read this too late. I would vote for Italy – Rome for the art and museums and where in the country don’t you find good wine? But I’ll read your blog eagerly for wherever you go on this and every trip.

  10. Kathleen

    I’m late on leaving my suggestion but one of the best vacation’s I’ve been on was a walking tour of Ireland! None of that guided tour bus crap!! This tour was walking/hiking 8-12 miles a day with a local tour guide who knows the history and lay of the land. We stayed at a guesthouse the whole time and every morning they feed us breakfast and then we all packed a brown bag lunch to eat during the hike. At the end of the day we ALWAYS ended up at a little pub, conveniently enough, for a pint or an Irish coffee. The guesthouse owner would pick us up in the shuttle van and whisk us back to the guesthouse for showers before dinner was served! One of the best parts was meeting our fellow walkers/hikers – I’m still good friends with an Englishwoman I met on that trip! Highly recommend. I can dig out the name of the tour group if you’re interested.

    Good luck with your decision – whatever you choose will be awesome!!

  11. Catie

    I know I’m late but just wanted to add my 2-cents. Prague is one of my favorite cities in the world (at least of the ones I’ve been to)! Barcelona is great too! Have fun wherever you go!

  12. Pingback: Walking on water | Embrace Life. Be Inspired. In Finland.

  13. I am now living in Finland now with my wife and family. Before moving here we usually did a stopover trip in central Europe almost each time we flew to Finland from the United States. Two people have mentioned Paris and Venice. While they are great cities I would probably skip them for now. Venice is just so stuffy and crowded and it is hard to just walk around. I like Paris a bit more than Venice, but it is very large and overwhelming and not too relaxing. For the best combination of nature, food, wine and art I would probably recommend either Tuscany or Umbria in Italy. You can pick a city as base such as Siena in Tuscany or Perugia in neighboring Umbria. Then you can rent a car and make day trips to other cities such as Florence or Pisa. The beauty is that after a day in a wonderful city like Florence you can head back to the countryside and stay in a nice hotel or even farm house. I think this would make the best vacation in Italy and you can have the best of both worlds. Good luck!

  14. Pingback: And the contest winner is… | Embrace Life. Be Inspired. In Finland.

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