Can you feel it? Spring is almost in the air, which means summer vacation planning begins in earnest. I love going to Europe – especially in spring or early summer. Early fall works, too. This morning I’m sharing my best European tips on Breakfast Television, but have uploaded them here in case you missed them. I’ve got all the deets from direct flights to Europe from Calgary, plus info on not to miss events and the one city that’s not as crazy busy in August as others.
Direct flights to Europe from Calgary
First up: You want to get to Europe with the least amount of fuss possible. That means you’ll be looking for direct flights. In recent years, there’s been a steady uptake in direct flights to Europe from Calgary. You know you can get to London and Frankfurt direct on Air Canada anytime of year.
WestJet also has direct flights to London (Gatwick), plus has added Dublin and Paris to its roster. KLM flies direct to Amsterdam and from March to September, Switzerland’s Edelweiss Air offers direct flights to Zurich.
Really, these Edelweiss flights are to get the Swiss to the Rockies, but we can take advantage of this seasonal service, can’t we? You likely know Switzerland is similar in geography to Canada. We’ve both got significant mountains, glaciers, brilliant blue lakes, etc… but Switzerland just packs so much more fairytale charm. Take these pop up bubble hotels above Lake Constance in Thurgau region (see pic below). They’re seriously reasonably priced! And summer in Zurich 2019 is time to visit.
That’s because Switzerland’s largest festival, the Züri Fäscht, takes place from July 5 to 7. This awesome festival only goes off only every three years. If you’re looking for an alternative to the first weekend Stampede, this is it! On my radar are all their swimming holes. Zurich has eleven official outdoor swimming baths. Many are on the lake and Limmat River – both are super clean.
Small ship Greek island cruises
If you’re not into cruising on the Love Boat, there are plenty of small-ship adventures to be had. I think they’re a fantastic alternative to those massive ocean liners. I found a several small ship Greek island cruises. One 8-day cruise on Peregrine Adventures offered excellent value. The ship Peregrine uses is more like a yacht. It holds 50 passengers and is completely carbon-offset with a local crew and food.
Because this small ship Greek island cruise uses a smaller boat, it can dock right in the centre of town. Passengers step off the gangplank into the heart of the action. All the lively restaurants and markets are steps away. You visit must-see islands like Mykonos and Santorini, but you’ll also get to explore more remote islands – tour ancient Greek ruins on islands where only locals walk. Island hoping through Greece – does it get any better than that?
Paris in August
August in Paris is noticeably quieter. I’m not saying it’s low season, but it is lower season. August is when most Parisians go on their holidays, so Paris is less busy with locals. Consequently some restaurants and independent shops are closed, but all the touristy stuff – that’s open for business. If I were to visit Paris in August (as I have before) I’d escape the heat and humidity with a dip in Bassin de la Villette, lovely outdoor pools anchoring the Seine River.
Also of note, this June is 75th anniversary of D-Day landings. There’s loads of events taking place in Normandy to commemorate to Allies storming Normandy’s beaches. This adorable video gives you a glimpse of what you can expect:
If you visit, you can take in military parades, re-enactments, giant picnics, and concerts. Personally, I’d like to be present when they do an air drop, but no word on those dates.
Things to do in Windsor
If it’s your first time going to Europe, I recommend starting out in the U.K. Everyone speaks English, which makes it a lot easier to get around, get info and we have lots of flight options to London from Calgary. There are plenty of things to do in the U.K., but Windsor ought to be on your radar. It’s a pretty town along the Thames (loads of swans), and is a breeze to get to from London.
Windsor Castle is where Queen Victoria and Prince Alberta spent a lot of their time. Consequently, Windsor is a key location for the celebrations throughout 2019 marking Queen Victoria’s 200th birthday. At Windsor Castle, you can visit the state rooms, plus St. George’s chapel, which is where Megan and Harry were married. Windsor even has its own Changing of the Guard. Until April 22the castle is hosting a special exhibition of Princess Eugenie & Jack’s wedding outfits.
What are your tips for visiting Europe in summer?