5 European vacations for your next adventure

By: Doug O'Neill

Getty Images Author: Canadian Living Credits: Getty Images


5 European vacations for your next adventure

By: Doug O'Neill
1. If you want:
- An escorted small tour
- A trip that's high on culture and low on stress

Try this trip: Transat Holidays' City Hopping in Marseille, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, France

What you can expect: If Peter Mayle's novel A Year in Provence awakened your inner Francophile, then bypass the fast pace of Paris and fly directly from Canada to Marseille, named the European Capital of Culture in 2013. There, you'll begin a nine-day trip through the south of France with overnights in three cities, plus day trips to smaller towns. Walk the streets of historic Avignon, park yourself in the 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheatre in Nîmes—the city where denim was created—or quaff award-winning Côtes du Rhône at the Châteauneuf-du-Pape winery in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. While away a morning at an outdoor café in the square of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where the sun shines more than 300 days each year. If you just have to see the City of Light, Paris is a three-hour train ride away. For more, visit

2. If you want:
- A taste of Britain without a stop at Heathrow or the expense of London
- Time to enjoy footie, Beatles nostalgia,fish and chips and a proper cuppa
- The freedom to wander on your own
- A Coronation Street fan tour

Try this trip: City Escape to Manchester, England

What you can expect: Manchester, Britain's largest urban centre apart from London, is an incredibly accessible home base for your holiday. You can book a direct flight from Canada to Manchester, making travel relatively headache-free, and getting from the airport to the city is a cinch. Manchester boasts the Metroshuttle, a free bus service that loops around the city centre on three different routes, but chances are you'll visit much of the city on foot. On the Coronation Street tour, stroll down the cobblestones of Quay Street to take a selfie in front of Rovers Return.

Pubs serving quintessential British grub (mushy peas, anyone?) are ubiquitous, and budget meals are plentiful on Curry Mile, a stretch of Wilmslow Road in South Manchester that's rumoured to have the greatest concentration of South Asian restaurants outside the Indian subcontinent. Sports fans can spend a morning in the National Football Museum (which houses 140,000 soccer-related items), and for shoppers, trips to iconic stores such as Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Belstaff are a must.

Music fans can travel to Liverpool (it's less than an hour away) to immerse themselves in The Beatles, and culture buffs can check out the Imperial War Museum North or the architectural wonder of the Lowry, Manchester's sprawling new art space. If you decide to spend a day in London, just hop the intercity train at Manchester Piccadilly station for the two-hour trip to the big city. For more, visit

3. If you want:
- Adventurous group travel that offers comfort and cost savings
- Company of like-minded compadres to share cultural experiences

Try this trip: Insight Vacations' Northern Spain tour

What you can expect: This bus tour is ideal if you're travelling unaccompanied for the first time. Insight Vacations assigns a knowledgeable guide (with historical facts and currency-exchange locales always at the ready) for the entire trip. On the first night, dinner is a relaxed icebreaker for guests, typically a mix of couples, singles, gal pals and families.
The itinerary consists of visits to Madrid, Santiago de Compostela and lesser-known places like Oviedo (where Woody Allen set his 2008 film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona), plus chic seaside stops including San Sebastián (a foodie haven with 16 Michelin-starred restaurants).

If the scheduled visit to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao doesn't appeal, then grab a map and walk the city equipped with tips from your guide. On designated nights, tour participants are divided into smaller groups to dine at local restaurants. In San Sebastián—or as the locals call it, the Pearl of the Cantabrian Coast—there's no need to brainstorm the day's activity; just head to the beach. For more, visit —Shelley Cameron-McCarron

4. If you want:
- A small cruise with casual style
- The opportunity to sleep in the same room for an entire multi-destination holiday

Try this trip: Emerald Waterways' Danube cruise from Nuremberg, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary

What you can expect: Navigating busy European train stations isn't a worry on this trip. Upon arrival in Nuremberg, guests are transported by coach to the ship and, at the end of the eight-day cruise, escorted to the Budapest Airport for the flight home. And forget what you've seen of cruises on TV: There's never a need to dress up for dinner. In addition to a day in Budapest, the well-orchestrated itinerary offers time in Regensburg and Passau in Germany; Melk, Dürnstein and Vienna (which boasts 27 castles and 150 palaces) in Austria; and Bratislava in Slovakia.

If the land excursions don't appeal, you can simply lounge on the top deck of this 180-passenger boat and watch the countryside pass by. You can also borrow one of the ship's bicycles and head out for a couple of hours when the boat is in port. While docked in Slovakia, you can jump into a van with nine other passengers and visit the small town of Šenkvice, just north of Bratislava. There, you'll visit with a local family who can offer insight into Slovakian culture over coffee, tea and dessert. In Passau, board a coach bus destined for the medieval town of ÄŒeský Krumlov, Czech Republic. For more, visit

5. If you want:

- Activities other than museum-and gallery-hopping
- The opportunity to meet locals and get some outdoor exercise
- A taste of the English countryside

Try this trip: The Carter Company's Cotswold villages and Oxford cycling tour

What you can expect:
On this bike tour, The Carter Company provides an experienced cyclist as your guide or supplies you and your tripmates with bikes, maps, gear, helmets and repair kits. You won't have to worry about making sleeping arrangements or shuttling your luggage to each stop—tour organizers take care of that for you.

This voyage brings cyclists through the slopes and valleys of the Cotswold Hills, past picturesque cottages and crossroads. The terrain of the Cotswolds' lanes and bridle ways makes for a fairly easy ride, but die-hard cyclists can request more challenging routes. The Oxford Canal route includes a visit to Blenheim Palace (the birthplace of Winston Churchill) for afternoon tea.

One morning, you might be cycling through the streets of Oxford, dodging university students, and on another, you could be sharing a country road with a flock of sheep. Accommodations range from basic to luxurious, depending on your budget. Village gastropubs and Michelin-starred restaurants welcome cyclists for lunch, and with all that two-wheeling, you won't need to worry about calories. For more, visit
Ready to travel? Find out how to book hotels and flights for your next adventure.

This story was originally part of "Trip of a Lifetime" in the June 2015 issue.
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5 European vacations for your next adventure