Steenie Harvey

Author Image for Steenie Harvey

Steenie Harvey has been writing for International Living for the past 15 years. As IL’s Roving Europe Editor, she travels most months—not just to Europe, but also further afield. She has been on the crafts trail in Ecuador, the Viking trail in Iceland, and investigated real estate in the Philippines, Malaysia, Italy, Spain, and France. When she’s not on the road, Steenie lives in County Roscommon, Ireland. She is the author of Live Well in Ireland, and Adapter Kit – Ireland and Adapter Kit – A Guide to European Vacation Rentals.



Turn Your Travel Experiences Into an Income

Someone once asked me the most ridiculous thing I ever did as a travel writer. The list is long—very long—but the notion that I could communicate in Chinese was pretty ridiculous. The day’s plan was to explore the 1,000-year-old town of Yangmei, not far from Nanning. It sounded fascinating—a place of temples, lotus ponds, and architecture dating back to the Ming dynasty. The hotel in Nanning arranged a taxi to get me there and back, so it didn’t matter that I’d left the phrase book in my room.


Buy in France’s Valley of the Kings For $95,000

I’m at Fontevraud Abbey in France’s Loire Valley, gazing at the face of a man who left this world over 800 years ago. Fontevraud was the final resting place of Richard the Lionheart—or at least most of him. Arguably the most famous of England’s Plantagenet rulers, the crusader king died in 1199. If his reclining effigy is a true likeness, he was a handsome brute.


Your Own Cottage in Romantic Ireland From $55,000

If you’re considering a home in the Emerald Isle, now is a great time to buy. After years of price falls and stagnation, the property market is starting to come out of the doldrums. And for North American buyers, the currency exchange rate means that your dollars now go further than they have in a decade.


The Best Curiosity Shop in Paris

Tripping over a tiger is a first for me. Thankfully, it didn’t seem perturbed. If you’ve been in Paris and done the same, I know where you were—up the stairs at Deyrolle. On Rue du Bac in the 7th arrondissement, this store—if store is quite the word—is extraordinary. In business since 1831, Deyrolle is a cabinet of curiosities on the grand and gothic scale. Bats hang from the ceiling. Exotic beasts stare at you from every nook and cranny. An ape perches nonchalantly on a desk.


Affordable Homes in France’s Valley of the Kings

Imagine a land like something from a fairy tale. Magnificent châteaux have spiky black turrets resembling witches’ hats. Immaculate Renaissance gardens prove that horticulture is indeed an art form. Riverbank towns with timber-framed houses, ancient arched bridges, and openair markets dot the landscape. Vineyards give way to wheat fields studded with scarlet poppies and scarecrows that are far too prettily dressed to be outside scaring crows.


Rent For $390 a Month in a Poetry-Filled Spa Town

Trailing in the footsteps of tragic poets is one of my favorite pastimes. So after reading the words of a letter sent by Spain’s best-known poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, I had to visit Lanjaron. Lorca and a host of writers, musicians, and intellectuals spent the summers of the 1920s in this Andalusian spa town.


Own on Ireland’s Romantic West Coast From $50,000

Though the evenings come sooner and the cold is beginning to bite, there’s still enough sunlight in an Irish September to enjoy the splendor of the countryside. Summer leaves are fading to shades of brown, amber, and fiery orange. On the telegraph wires, swallows gather in preparation for their annual migration to southern Africa. I enjoy all four seasons in Ireland, from the first winter snowdrops to the summer strawberries. But it’s days like today, the last vestiges of fading summer warmth before winter arrives in earnest, that you really appreciate walks in the countryside.


Romantic Europe for Under $150,000

A cobbled square, an outdoor café, a sky full of stars. Vincent van Gogh’s Café Terrace At Night is laden with the romance of place—I always want to step into the picture and sit at one of the tables…drink a glass or two of wine…join the patrons in idle conversation. Van Gogh painted the picture during his time in Arles—a small city in Provence in the sunny south of France.


Fountains of Wine and Folklore in Spain’s Sierra Nevada

Climbing ever higher up the Poqueira Gorge, three of the loveliest Alpujarran villages are Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira. They’re designated as a Site of Historical and Artistic Heritage, so for those day-tripping from Granada city, the trio make a good Alpujarran taster. Although they’re tourist-oriented, there’s nothing tacky about delights such as freshly-baked almond pastries, weaving studios, and jams made from mountain raspberries.

The Loire Valley

In Pictures: The Loire Valley, France

A flower-bedecked cobbled street winding down to the river. A heron lazily flapping towards its nest at sunset. The reflection of yet another fairytale chateau shimmering on the water. Forming a geographical border between northern and southern France, the Loire river transports you on a journey through one of the country’s most fascinating regions.


Pilgrimage to Ireland’s Holiest Mountain

Every Reek Sunday, the last Sunday in July, as many as 50,000 pilgrims clamber up Croagh Patrick’s stony slopes to a tiny oratory on the summit. Twenty years on, my feet still remember the day I joined them and reached the top of Ireland’s holiest mountain. Looming 2,507 feet over the coastal village of Murrisk in County Mayo, Croagh Patrick is affectionately known as “the Reek.” Legend tells that after fasting and praying on its summit for 40 days and nights, St. Patrick supposedly cast out Ireland’s snakes from this spot.


Apulia: Where Italians Go To Enjoy the Dolce Vita

If you thought Italy was beyond your means, this part of the sun-drenched south will prove you wrong. Whether it’s a cone-shaped trullo house in the olive groves or a city apartment, there are properties for every budget: $120,000 delivers a lot of options.


Beach Life in Italy

When I imagine the perfect beach, I picture sunny Italy. There are plenty of options to choose from. Besides the multitude of sandy Mediterranean coves and the glorious sweep of Adriatic beaches you’ll see in glossy brochures, there are numerous white and golden beaches along Italy’s Ionian coast.


Fall in Love in the Heel of Italy

There aren’t many places that can hold a candle to the romance of Italian life. Each time I go back to Italy, there’s somewhere new to fall in love with. But my most recent visit rekindled an old love—the region of Puglia, in the country’s deep south. I first came to Puglia in the early 1980s, before anybody outside of Italy, bar a lucky few, had even heard of it. With much lower costs than northern and central Italy, prices in Puglia will astound you. I found bars with coffee for 50 cents…pizzerias where you can sit down and tuck into a full-size pizza for $5. And if you thought that a fabulous fish dinner with wine for $20 was the stuff of imagination, think again.


Poetry, Wineries, and Other Passion-Driven Incomes

A couple of years ago, I visited Cassis—a harbour town on the French Riviera’s lesser-known western end. Fishing boats and the crystal-blue Mediterranean, yes. Langoustines and palest pink rose wine, yes. But the last thing I expected to find was a poetry shop. Handwritten on marbled paper, the poet had hundreds of musings on love, life, and friendship to choose from. And his little shop was busy. Maybe the French have a deeper romantic streak than other nationalities, but I think he was tapping into nostalgia. In an age of computers, anything handwritten now has rarity value.

Myth and Majesty in Spain’s Sierra Nevada

As I savor coffee on a honeysuckle-scented terrace, it strikes me that Lanjarón doesn’t look at all weird. South of Granada, on the edge of Spain’s Sierra Nevada mountains, this beguiling little spa town overlooks the ruins of an old Moorish castle. Its spring-fed fountains are tiled with snippets of Federico García Lorca’s poetry. Its whitewashed houses have saintly wall shrines and balconies hung with geraniums. Its long main street is a sun-splashed jumble of florists, tapas bars, and old-fashioned stores stocked with locally produced hams and honey.


Bargain Buys in Apulia, Italy’s Sun-Kissed South

What’s the first place you think of when Italy is mentioned? Chances are it’s not Apulia (Puglia, in Italian), the region that forms the heel of the Italian boot. But after visiting the region last year, I want to sing its praises from the rooftops of so many places. Ostuni…Gallipoli…Martina Franca. As for lovely Lecce, with its baroque buildings of creamy golden stone and gloriously flamboyant carvings, I didn’t want to leave. Singing from the rooftops of Apulia’s fairytale trulli homes would be physically difficult—these beehive-shaped rural houses are topped by peculiar conical domes—but you get what I mean.


Granada: How to Enjoy Spain’s City of Indulgence

It’s a day for dreaming of Andalucia. So I’m letting Spanish composer Manuel de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain take me on a musical journey back to Granada—back to the lament of flamenco guitars, orange trees, and jasmine-scented patios with pattering fountains. On my last visit to Spain, I added a Granada side trip. Sheer indulgence as I’d been before, but it’s a city made for indulgence. De Falla’s old garden, just above the Realejo neighborhood, is laden with roses. Gardens have a long history in Spain. For the Moors, a garden symbolized an inner paradise and a reflection of heaven.


Lakeland Living In Ireland For Less Than $150,000

Some things haven’t changed at all since I moved to Ireland. Friday night’s throb of bodhran drums in Cryan’s bar. The shy Sitka deer flitting out of the woods like shadow creatures from a Celtic twilight. The swans that come to over-winter on the loughs (lakes). The man with the van selling home-grown potatoes… Others things have changed. The house prices that soared ever upwards during the boom years have come now down, down, down. In Lakeland counties and villages along Ireland’s longest river—the Shannon—numerous properties are on the market for under $150,000.


Four Great Places to Retire Where It’s Easy To Fit In

When looking at great retirement destinations overseas, low costs and cheap real estate may be well and good, but you need to feel at home. How easy it is for expats to integrate into each country? Do the locals speak good English or do you need to speak the local language? Are the locals welcoming and friendly toward expats, and is there an existing expat community with lots of groups and clubs to join? Whether it’s through shared passions, shared learning experiences or volunteering, the easiest way to become part of a community or acquire a friendship network is to get involved in an outside-the-home activity. This will help tremendously with integrating.


Italy’s 4 Best Food Towns

Italy is home to the Cittaslow movement which combines “Slow Food” with the art of leisurely good living. As delectable dining is one of the great joys of Italy, make time to discover at least one or two of the network’s 70 small towns. Most Cittaslow communities come with historic treasures, but the big attraction is their strong sense of identity and spirit of place. To be accredited, they must have less than 50,000 inhabitants. With an emphasis on regional recipes, traditional agricultural practices and seasonal local produce, it’s an authentic taste of Italy guaranteed to make your tastebuds zing. Here are four inland and coastal gems to whet your appetite.

Lyon, France

Culture and Food in 5 of Europe’s Best Cities

Culture takes in far more than the arts, the architecture and the history of places. Sure, Rome is outstanding for antiquities and churches and Paris has the Louvre. But whether it’s watching an afternoon cricket match on an English village green, going naked in a German sauna, or riding a bike through the Dutch tulip fields, Europe has a multitude of fascinating cultural experiences. And when you can combine city thrills with good food, so much the better. For a different take on “culture” as well as delectable taste sensations, add these five cities to your European wish list.


Culture, Climate, Food: Three Great Reasons to Live in Italy

Have you taken the public ferry that calls into the flower-bedecked lakeside villages around Lake Como? Spent a day shopping for the perfect turquoise leather purse in Milan? Bathed in the thermal pools of Saturnia? Wandered pilgrim paths through the chestnut woods of northern Tuscany? Eaten pumpkin tortellini in Bologna or cuttlefish risotto in Genoa? Lolled under a shady ombrellone on Lido di Metaponto’s golden beach? Enjoyed opera under the stars at Verona? Seen glow-worms lighting the fields at night as you walk back from San Gimignano of the medieval towers?

Wernigerode, Germany

Wine Barrels, Witches, and Hairy Brutes on Harleys

As a 14-year-old schoolgirl, I didn’t know life would turn me into a travel writer and a wine enthusiast. So I didn’t appreciate Bad Dürkheim as much as I should have. When you’re treated to a meal inside the world’s largest wine barrel, you should at least remember what you ate and drank.

Travel writing, Italy

Start Selling Your Travel Expertise

My next trip is Las Vegas. No complaints—I’m one of those sinners who enjoys Sin City. The trip is for an International Living conference where I’ll speak on Italy and its sweet life. I’m not wearing my travel-writing hat for this conference, but I’ve visited Italy so many times—at least 20—I’ve gained a great insight into places unknown to the tourist hordes.

Riots, Escapes and Contraband High on the Moors

I’m on a narrow road that cuts across the bleakest part of Dartmoor. And from here, the view of one of Britain’s most dismally austere buildings is perfect. The road leads to HMP Dartmoor—and HMP is the acronym for Her Majesty’s Prison.


Retirement in France Offers More Than its Fair Share of Pleasures

La vie française. Imagine relaxing in the garden of your own French home, a pretty stone cottage set among orchards, vineyards, and flowery meadows. The sun is shining, there’s not a cloud in the sky. The only sound is the drone of honeybees and the blissful strains of one of Satie’s Gymnopédies playing in the background. You’ve just returned from the market, and now you’re savoring the thought of lunch. It’s such a perfect day, you decide to dine picnic-style, spread out over an old oak table under a shady canopy of trees.

Granada, Spain

Property Bargains in Europe for Less Than $137,000

Pundits are divided on whether Spain’s property market will see further price falls. A huge overhang of unsold homes remains, but for the first time in seven years, sales in Málaga province showed an increase in 2013. Spain will always be a popular retirement destination for northern Europeans, and the number of U.S. citizens registered as living in Spain has increased, too.

A Home on Spain’s Coast from Just $62,500

Steeped in memories of Moorish Al-Andalus, the narrow streets, shady gardens, and stunning architecture of Granada make it one of Spain’s most iconic cities. In the Realejo, the old Jewish quarter, a refurbished 913-square-foot apartment close to Campo del Príncipe (which has some wonderful tapas bars) is reduced from $162,000 to $134,000.

Discover Spain’s Low-Cost Retirement Gems…

If you’ve ever ordered fried anchovies and a glass of nuttily-sweet sherry at 10 a.m., did people stare at you like you’d gone mad? If so, then you should move to Arcos de la Frontera—a small white town clinging to the hills of Andalucia in southern Spain. (If not, you should still think about moving there…)

Pocket-Money Real Estate Bargains in Europe

What’s not to love about cultural riches and cobbled charms? Throughout most of Europe, the property market remains in the doldrums, which means you can find bargains. From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean…from Ireland to Greece, there’s a tempting array of move-into properties that will leave you change from €100,000 ($137,000).


Yes, You Can Afford to Retire in Italy…

Whether it’s for a summer or a lifetime, Italy isn’t only for the wealthy. I first got hooked on la dolce vita when I was young and had very little cash to spare. But as I was in love with the vagabond lifestyle, relative impoverishment was no barrier to doing my own version of a Grand Tour.


Spend a Week as a Guest on a Mediterranean Island

Not everyone looks forward to getting up and going to work. But I’m not complaining. The most difficult task I need to tackle today is to finish packing a suitcase. So I’m having a very leisurely breakfast before heading to the airport for a flight to Barcelona, one of the world’s most electrifying cities. Even though I’ve done it countless times before, I’m really looking forward to…


You’ll Never Get Bored if You Retire to Galway, Ireland

If Ireland tugs at your heartstrings, Galway is a wonderful retirement location. On the west coast, this historic maritime city combines a modern urban lifestyle with scenic beauty, deep-rooted traditions, and a staggering array of activities. Whether your passion is for the outdoors, the arts, traditional music, horse-racing—or a combination of them all—you’ll be spoiled for choice. And Connemara is on the doorstep. Established as a National Park in 1980, this unspoiled region of stone walls…


Now Hiring for the Coolest Job in the World

One advantage of living in Europe is that cheap airfares make the rest of it so accessible. I’ve just got back home to Ireland after an unofficial three-day jaunt to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. This tiny country holds the title for the highest per capita consumption of wine in the world, so there was a good reason to go bar-hopping.


Make it Your Job to Be Outrageous

“Follies are the only things that one never regrets,” said Oscar Wilde. Agreed. But travel writers needn’t look far to find excuses for their follies. After all, writers have a reputation for eccentricity. Whatever bizarre situation you find yourself in—and if any awkward questions arise—you can always blame it on the job. Why were you buying contraband from gypsies in the Czech woods? (“It’s my job.”) How come you spent half the night in a Berlin anarchist squat? (“It’s my job.”)

The Spectral Smugglers Of Cornwall’s Jamaica Inn

The Spectral Smugglers of Cornwall’s Jamaica Inn

“The grey slate inn with its tall chimneys, forbidding and uninhabited though it seemed, was the only dwelling-place on the landscape.” I adore “forbidding” places. Especially those with cobbled courtyards, sloping floors, shadowy corridors, beamed ceilings, and log fires. So I’ve followed author Daphne du Maurier’s footsteps to Cornwall’s bleakly beautiful Bodmin Moor.


The Best of Britain: Rambling Cornwall’s Ancient Coast

Awash in tales of smugglers and wreckers, Cornwall is a favorite with UK vacationers. A peninsula jutting into the Atlantic, its coastline of bays, inlets, cliffs, coves and golden beaches covers almost 300 miles. Inland, a maze of lanes leads to lost-in-time villages anchored by squat granite churches and complete with inns, beer gardens and home-made pub grub such as fish pie and steak-and-kidney pudding.


Living in Ireland: An Insider’s Guide

Maybe it’s the music. Or the breathtaking landscapes. Or the witty humor and long, effortless conversations. Even without a drop of Irish blood in your veins, it’s easy to fall in love with Ireland’s charms, traditions and strong sense of community. The recession that followed the Celtic Tiger boom hasn’t altered the essentials that make the Emerald Isle special. I’m one of those people who prefer a cooler climate with four distinct seasons.


France v. Italy: Round Three

Mon ami, you painted a pretty picture of life in southern Italy. But something is lacking—the sophisticated delights of duck confit, sweet onion preserves, foie gras and garriguette strawberries. You Italians are obviously clueless about food.

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Your Chance to Retire Overseas Now

Sign up for our free daily Postcard e-letter and we'll immediately send you a FREE RESEARCH REPORT on the most desirable —and cheapest— retirement havens available to you today.

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