See the Old World in a New Way

A continent blessed with natural wonders and millennia of history and culture, Europe has been a popular destination for many years, and a place you want to revisit time and time again.  But there’s more to the continent than the most recognizable cities and landmarks.  Venture beyond the hubs and find the more perfectly preserved Europe of old.

The coast of Portugal is graced with a pleasant, sunny climate throughout the year, and in the Algarve region, you will find some of the most enticing beaches.  Deserted soft sands at Praia da Marinha are hidden between towering cliffs, where you can swim in the warm waters.

Follow the Arade River to the balmy city of Silves. For an impressive view of the city, climb one of 11 red-brick turrets still guarding the castle. Learn how the cork oak trees framing the surrounding countryside are stripped of their bark and sun-dried, before inserting the cork into the brandy and wines of the Portuguese.  Sample these with local producers who hand-distill unique blends. 

Nestled between Brittany and Normandy in the north of France, the town of Saint-Malo inhabits an inlet of the English Channel. Cross a foot bridge that leads to the iconic Normandy community of Mont Saint-Michel, a Gothic church appearing to be surrounded by water on an inlet.  From its spire-topped abbey, you can hear a private performance of chamber music by Benedictine monks.  Back on the Brittany side, you can don rubber boots to hunt for oysters alongside a local fisherman, in the wide bay of Cancale.

The red cliffs framing the Gulf of Porto in Corsica look like a scene out of the American Southwest.  Over 2,200 acres of volcano-sculpted landscape and 2,400 acres of blue sea are protected within the Scandola Nature Reserve.  Inside an 18th Century church surrounded by old stone residences in the village of Piana, you can hear the voices of the a cappella choir resonating with unforgettable melodies all the way up to the Baroque bell tower . 

The Baltic Sea is home to some of Europe’s most magnetic maritime destinations, including the Polish port of Gdansk.  This port city plays a significant role in history as the site of the first battle in World War II. You’ll find the Amber Museum which displays centuries-old crafts made from old fossilized tree resin.  Enjoy a bottle of locally produced vodka accompanied by Polish cuisine found nowhere else in the country – infused with a variety of seafood, giving dishes a distinctively coastal flair.

The Orkney Islands in northern mainland of Scotland are full of legends and fables.  The Neolithic stone circle, the Ring of Brodgar, traces back to 2000 BC, older than the ancient monument at Stonehenge.  Stroll through the capital city of Kirkwall where the medieval St. Magnus Cathedral was erected in multi-colored sandstone by a Viking king.  You can dive into the sheltered Scapa Flor amidst the scuttled ships of a German warship fleet, sunk in this spot in 1919. 

If you think you’ve seen the best of Europe, ask us for more!

Sue Shimkus and her team of travel experts can be reached at 847.438.5552 or to help area families plan out-of-the-ordinary trips to Europe and beyond..