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.
Last month I visited the historic Gangi in Sicily, a 14th-century hamlet voted ‘Most Beautiful Village in Italy” this year. I was there to scout out undervalued real estate—and you can’t get more affordable than what Gangi offers. I’d heard that Gangi was pretty special—besides being home to an incredible real estate opportunity, it’s a hidden gem whose beauty and historic significance has been overlooked by all but the savviest vacationers.
Imagine sleeping to the gentle bob of the tide or of a river current, then waking up to cast off the moor lines and set out for adventure. Or, more often, to stay at anchor, enjoying the lull of the water while having a fixed address and access to onshore services. That’s the life that houseboat living offers.
This morning, I awoke to bright blue skies, crisp autumn air, and the slow, muted clanking sounds of cows wearing big metal cowbells and moving down the street just outside my window. You see, today I am living in a small town in the Swiss Alps. It’s October, which means the farmers are bringing their cows down from the high altitudes and into the low fields and warm barns for the winter. The air smells faintly of fields and campfires. And aside from the bells, all is quiet.
At 5.45 a.m., the Paris Metro is nearly deserted and we have our pick of open seats. Across from me, Marisa is hunched over, her forehead teetering on the top of her tripod. Sleepily, she lifts her head and opens one eye to survey me in my bright red, 1960s prom dress. “One more stop,” I say, and she goes back to napping on her tripod. She’s not a morning person. But she knows this is going to be good.
Owning a French vineyard is the ultimate dream for many expats—and it’s easy to see why. From Burgundy to Bordeaux, France’s vineyards lie in some of the most beautiful areas of the country and have produced extraordinary wines coveted throughout the world. To live in such an idyllic setting, drinking wine from your own grapes and playing some small role in wine’s ancient story, is a concept that’s both thrilling and gratifying.
“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself,” said the poet Maya Angelou. I suppose she’s right…we all aspire to a certain comfort in our own skin. I’ve always felt travel encouraged it, in fact.
Douz, in south Tunisia, hosts the International Festival of the Sahara on October 1. Taking place at the gateway to the great desert, the event was founded as a camelracing festival in 1910. But you can expect horse races, poetry contests, and Bedouin weddings, as well.
Paris may be the darling of pretty much everyone, everywhere, but many French people aren’t quite as impressed. In a number of polls, the French have said “non” to Paris as their favorite city. Instead, they point to Lyon, an absolute stunner of a city in the Rhône-Alps region, as the best place to live in France.
Certain images are fixed in my mind of the French town of Montpellier. When I think of it, I remember cobblestone streets filled with students and a cheerful energy. I remember riding a sleek tramway entirely painted with bright, intertwined flowers. And I remember eating one of the most extraordinary meals of my life there at the charming Lozèrois restaurant, Cellier & Morel.
More and more baby boomers are taking their retirements overseas, report experts at InternationalLiving.com, who say they’re seeing a significant increase in demand for their research and services. Today more than half-a-million retirees receive their Social Security benefits abroad. According to International Living editor Dan Prescher, that likely under-represents the actual number of Americans retired overseas.
For more than 150 years, well-heeled Parisians have descended upon the golden shores of Deauville each summer, earning it the nickname “the 21st arrondissement” of Paris. And who could blame them? The small town is a mere two-hour train ride from the City of Light, on lower Normandy’s lovely Côte Fleurie (Flower Coast). And the natural, open beauty of Deauville’s beach effortlessly holds its own against the prettiness of beaches in France’s south.
Are you passionate about traveling and sharing your experience with others? Perhaps you already have a smartphone or camera…and you frequently share images and perhaps even a short video with people on Facebook and email. Well, what if you could make money doing it?
It’s a quiet day in late June on the beach in Deauville. As I walk along the water’s edge, golden sand crunching beneath my toes, it almost feels as if the mile-long beach is all mine. Tranquility reigns right now, but a change is coming. Near the boardwalk, row after row of multi-colored beach parasols, elegant as Ralph Lauren models, are standing as ready as soldiers.
Like so many from the U.S., when I daydream about traveling through Europe, I always imagine myself on a train: speeding quietly through the countryside, over the mountain passes, past charming, ancient towns, or along the shores of a massive glacial lake. Other forms of transportation—with their two-hour pre-flight check-ins, their bumpy, uncomfortable buses, and their too-close-for-comfort seating arrangements—always feel like a hassle.
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.
Every day in my travel research I come across the terms “hidden gem,” “off the beaten path,” “unspoiled, authentic, undiscovered…” The Dordogne region of France is the only place I have been to date where it is actually true. Castles sit like crown jewels along the river banks. My family and I often found ourselves beating our own path through the oak forests toward the river bank.
Although retirement is still a good 20 years away for me, whenever I travel throughout France these days, I find myself thinking: “Now this place might be a great place to retire!” I thought it when I was relaxing on a sun-soaked café terrace in Aix-en-Provence a few months ago. And I thought it again as I strolled along a golden sand beach in Trouville, a seaside town in lower Normandy, a few days ago.
“I love the stimulation. Every time I take someone on a tour I learn something new about places I’ve seen hundreds of times before.” So says Helene Kahn who has loved Mexico since she was 10 years old. Now she lives in the artistic hub of San Miguel de Allende and gets paid for something she loves doing: showing people around her adopted country.
Do you have any regrets? That’s a question I often ask my friends who are living overseas. And I’d venture that 99.9 percent of the time I get the same answer. “I wish I’d done it sooner,” they say. “If I’d only known back then what I know now…”
“Paris thrives on its glamorous reputation, but discounts and deals are available here just as they are everywhere else,” reports Barbara Diggs, InternationalLiving.com’s France correspondent. “With a little inside knowledge you can enjoy the best of Paris for far less money than you’d think.” Diggs reveals the best places to eat and shop in the City of Light, as well as detailing cultural attractions from museums to the theater, all at a fraction of the price a tourist would expect to pay in a city like Paris.
In late March of this year, I was sitting at the dining table at a friend’s house in Glasgow, Scotland, where I was visiting for a couple of weeks after leaving Costa Rica and enjoying a short four-day stop-over in London.
It’s called the “Old World” for a reason, and despite two world wars and decades of development, history is evident in the architecture of Europe. You can stroll cobbled streets where lords and ladies once rushed to galas, climb castle steps in the footsteps of armored knights, and explore villages preserved for 500 years or more.
As a corporate lawyer, Barbara Diggs jetted from her home in New York to the world’s great capitals living what many would consider the American Dream. But 13 years ago, she realized that the 14-hour days were robbing her of her joi de vivre, and she and her husband decided to settle in the place that put joi de vive on the map… Paris.
For 25 years, I’ve been designing an apartment in Paris—in my mind’s eye. I mentioned it to an acquaintance at a party recently who said, “That’s such a romantic notion.” What she meant was “dream on…it’ll never happen.” This knee-jerk dismissal of the romantic notion as something fundamentally frivolous—or, at the very least, unrealistic—is typical. But at the risk of causing offence, I’d like to say: I think it points to a lack of imagination. To my mind, romantic notions provide the fuel for a life lived rich with adventure.
No city in the world wears a cloak of glamour and sophistication quite the way Paris does. From the cool allure of the Avenue Matignon boutiques to the glittering elegance of the Opera house, Paris is a city that makes you crave the best of everything.
I’m a writer. And in the age of the Internet, that’s a great thing to be. I didn’t plan it that way, of course. In my case it was just dumb luck. After a dozen years as an undergrad searching for something to hold my interest long enough to actually get a degree, I stumbled on journalism.
Exploring the villages of Le Luberon, France, and beyond, it’s hard to ignore the overwhelming sense that the French have it all figured out. Here is my evidence: In Bonnieux a visit to the Musée de la Boulangerie (Bread Museum), followed by a flawlessly executed warm baguette snack perched on a wall overlooking the valley floor, was the perfect way to start the day.
It’s always a bit of a bummer when a vacation comes to an end, even if you live in Paris. I felt this way recently driving back north after spending one fabulous week with my family in sunny Aix-en-Provence in the south of France.
I have never felt spring emerge the way I have in Aix-en-Provence. In April’s infancy, the plane trees were ghostly bare and the shoppers at the outdoor markets were still bowing to the wind, heads down and tucked into their beautiful French scarves.
In the popular imagination, it’s the great capitals of Europe that get the most attention. Tourists flock to Paris, Rome, Madrid, and London for the big-city flair, museums, and monuments. It’s the thing to do. And granted, you should seize any opportunity to stroll the Champs-Élysées on a beautiful spring evening or explore London’s international cuisine and regal parks.
“Gascony’s the real France,” Jean-Jacques said. “Everywhere else—it’s another country.” Jean-Jacques, a local farmer, was leaning from his tractor—behind him, a bright field of sunflowers and the 18th century farmhouse my parents call home. His sun-beaten face squinted down at me. “Gascony is the hidden jewel of France—it’s our best kept secret.”
Vacation rentals are a great way for an investor to create an income overseas but, unless they’re living next door, anyone who owns a vacation rental needs someone to manage it for them. Property management is a business you can start with absolutely no investment. You are simply trading your time and effort.
Can a person make money out of bits of old paper, or are they simply too “ephemeral?” The word ephemera means “something of no lasting significance.” In collecting, however, ephemera is the buzzword for all things interesting made of paper. And for collectors, ephemera have lasting significance, indeed.
For some visitors to France, a fulfilling visit consists of getting a couple of snapshots of the Eiffel Tower, dining in a classic brasserie, and bringing home a piece of France: a case of Châteauneuf du Pape or perhaps a wheel of brie.
Countless people dream of retiring in France—and for good reason. France offers a seductive blend of old-world sensibilities and modern living, all wrapped up in one beautiful package. While it’s true that most people don’t retire to France to save money, life here can nonetheless be surprisingly affordable. So, where in France you should think about retiring? Consider these five prime towns and regions: 1. Bordeaux: A Lower Cost of Living in “Little Paris”… Bordeaux is a beautiful port town of 239,000 people lying along the Gironde river…
InternationalLiving.com’s annual Global Retirement Index reports that France, Uruguay and Malaysia provide the best and most affordable health care in the world. The Health Care category in the Index considers the cost of care and the quality. Also considered are the number of people per doctor, the number of hospital beds per 1,000 people, the percentage of the population with access to safe water, the infant mortality rate, life expectancy, and public-health expenditure as a percentage of a country’s GDP.
In medieval Europe, keeping an eye out for and guarding against invasion—a frequent occurrence in those days—was no easy feat. But one of a nobleman’s greatest defensive weapons was a castle perched on a rocky hilltop near an important mountain pass. The location itself—surrounded by steep cliff—offered protection.
“There are those who adore Paris but could think of nothing worse than living in the city center,” reports InternationalLiving.com’s France correspondent, Barbara Diggs. “Romanticism aside, Paris is a big city—and an intense one, at that. After living here awhile, you start to notice that the streets are endlessly thronged. And most reasonably-priced apartments are about the size of a walk-in closet,” says Diggs, based in Paris.
Health care overseas is more affordable than in the U.S. You will pay less for high-quality health care overseas and these countries are three of the best according to International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2014.