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Europe

Five Great Places for CoffeeCoffee, one of the world’s most universally beloved drinks, offers a taste of local culture with every sip, in whatever form it’s served (small but strong, organic and Fair Trade Certified, topped with whipped cream, or spiked with whiskey). Inspired by cool fall temperatures and a recent #TTOT (that’s Travel Talk on Twitter, a hashtag travelers should definitely check out if they’re not familiar with it), here we spill the beans on five destinations where caffeine-craving travelers can get their fix.

Vienna: The coffeehouse, or Kaffeehaus, is as much a staple of Viennese culture as the waltz and opera. In recent years, the number of traditional coffeehouses has dwindled as owners face competition from modern chains (yes, Starbucks has several locations here) and increasing real estate costs, but enjoying a cup is still a must-do during a visit. From decades-old institutions with soaring ceilings and immaculately dressed waiters to boho-hip joints that draw a young crowd, you can find the perfect spot for any sipping style.

Can’t-miss spots include Café Sperl, a gorgeous architectural gem that has been around since 1880; Café Sacher, known for its decadent Sacher-Torte; and Café Landtmann, with live music, a celebrity clientele, and live music.

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This year Eurail added Turkey to its list of European countries covered by its Global Pass. That means the pass now covers travel in 24 different countries – from Norway to Portugal to Bulgaria. Imagine lugging around paper timetables for all of those.

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Savannah MansionWhat could be more fun than a daytrip through Area 51? Or a road trip through Dracula’s hometown? On the eve of the season’s spookiest holiday, we’re looking back on our recent travel stories that made us go “Aah!” (or, at the very least, contained awesome photos of electric guitar-playing skeletons and UFOs). Now, grab your passport – and a flashlight – and read on! Read more

Romania Peles CastleUpon first setting out for a 5-day road trip through southern Transylvania, your first thoughts will probably be focused on the country’s best-known cultural export, Dracula-ah, ah, ah. And, well, who can blame you? After countless movies, TV shows, and even a Marvel comic book series, the word “Transylvania” has been iron-branded onto our collective consciousness as the grim, blustery, far-far-away native land of the original Vampire.

But that is precisely why a 5-day road trip through central Romania is so necessary: it helps show that the mythical, Hollywood-ized land is a real, live place, with people (not vampires) and cars (not horse-drawn carriages, though you’ll see a few of those, too) and bustling city centers (as opposed to whatever Bram Stoker would have us believe). Which isn’t to say we base our opinion of a place by how many bright-lit shops and cafes line its streets; in the case of Transylvania, however, those modern establishments throw the country’s exceptional history, not to mention its stunning, centuries-old architecture, into sharp relief.

Below, an itinerary for your 5-day trek through Transylvania, including where to sleep, eat, church-hop, and plenty of off-road sightseeing stops along the way! Read more

Money-Saving CruisesThere is generally one main factor at play when it comes to cruise prices during the holiday season: the strength of the cruise industry. If it’s been a gangbuster year, don’t expect the cruise lines to wave you aboard for a pittance. Conversely, if sales have been lagging over the past ten months, they’re more likely to roll out holiday deals in a bid to shore up fourth quarter revenues. Value offers will vary by line, so consumers will benefit from some comparison shopping.

Though 2013 brought some challenges to the cruise market – remember the Carnival Triumph power loss in February? – deals seem to be on the  scarce side this season. Nevertheless, we found a few decent ones floating around: Read more

Shoulder Season Spots in EuropeHere we are in September, and though certain parts of Europe tend to cool down faster than others (Vienna is already in the low 60s, while Sicily is keeping things at a balmy 75 degrees) summer season has for the most part come and gone. But don’t let that end your fun – or derail a possible vacation. Between now and Thanksgiving, there’s a special window of opportunity for savvy travelers known as shoulder season.

Flights aren’t necessarily cheaper compared to the rest of the year, and yes, temperatures can fluctuate quite a bit (you may luck out weather-wise, but it’s never guaranteed), there is one sure benefit to traveling at this time of year: fewer tourists.

This in-between season offers a calmer, less hectic way to enjoy Europe’s traditionally touristy destinations like Rome and the Greek islands. With the dip in foot traffic comes shorter lines, greater flexibility in organizing tours, and easier access to in-demand restaurants and hotels – in short, a better vacation. Here, we offer suggestions for the activities you’ll want to add to your itineraries for a visit to Europe in the next month or two. Read more

Robert Tatin Museum FranceWhen I visited France last summer, my family from the Mayenne region made sure to put the Robert Tatin Museum, near Cossé-le-Vivien, on the itinerary, and it became the highlight of my visit. Although it is  located around three hours outside of Paris, it’s worth the trip. Robert Tatin, who died in 1983 at the age of 81, was an eccentric environmental artist who sculpted his home and the surrounding fields into an unique museum. Read more

Chunnel Opens for ToursThirty-five minutes is all it takes to get from the U.K. to France. Considering that a New Yorker can’t even get from Brooklyn Bridge to the Bronx in that amount of time on North America’s largest transportation network, the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is an incredible system. Since it opened in 1994, the Channel Tunnel (the “Chunnel”) has brought 300 million travelers to and from England and France – that’s equivalent to more than four times the population of the U.K. It’s the world’s longest undersea tunnel (23.5 miles of it are underwater), and for the first time, the public will be allowed to see what goes on behind the scenes and underground. Read more

New Train Routes to TehranIran doesn’t have the best reputation for welcoming foreign tourists, yet signs point to that changing – slowly. From 2004 to 2010 tourism to the country grew by 12.7 percent, and while most of these visits were for reasons of religious pilgrimage, a good number made the trip to see Iran’s ancient sites, to hike and ski in the Alborz mountains, and to paraglide (like these unlucky Slovak tourists who have just been released after charges of spying).

The case of the Slovak paragliders suggests that Iran still has a way to go if it wants to shake off foreign travelers’ negative perceptions of its touristic potential, but a brand new private train service may help. Read more

The Best UK Cities for ShoppingWe were just as surprised as you are when we heard that a recent poll by YouGov found that according to public opinion, Britain is the best European shopping destination, beating both Italy and France by more than 10 percent. We were initially puzzled that any place could provide retail therapy like the Champs-Élysées in Paris, but we’ve dug a bit deeper and discovered what Britain really has to offer. From elegant and posh designers to a wide selection of vintage and antique finds, these five British cities boast some of the best shops and markets in Europe. No matter what your taste, there’s bound to be a place that’ll make you want to take out a few more British pounds. Read more

Things to do in HelsinkiUpon arrival at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, you may be tempted to while away your four-hour layover at the airport. It is, after all, the Best Airport in Northern Europe and offers amenities ranging from free Wi-Fi to a book swap, art and design galleries, and a spa. With the city so close, though, it’d be a shame not to get out for a few hours. Here are a few ideas for what to do on a four-hour layover in Helsinki. Read more

ReykjavíkIceland has long been a typical stopover for passengers making the trip between North America and Europe, and Icelandair has now capitalized on Reykjavík’s perfect mid-North Atlantic location by offering passengers on flights from the U.S.A. or Canada free stopovers of up to seven days. If, however, you are on a tight schedule and find yourself with just a few hours’ layover in Iceland’s capital, you still have time to get out of the airport and soak up some of the country’s highlights. Read more

French Towns You Should SeeYou’ve strolled Paris’s cobblestone streets; soaked up the sun (and imbibed your fair share of rosé) in Provence, but France – the world’s most visited destination, welcoming more than 79.5 million international travelers in 2011 – isn’t limited to just these popular destinations. As a resident of Paris, I’ve been lucky to explore hidden corners of the hexagon. I’ve found an incredible diversity of landscapes, culture, and even cuisine. Here are four of my favorite off-the-path places.

Cap d’Ail: Cannes and Saint Tropez get most of the action on the Côte d’Azur with sun-worshipers crowding the beaches during the day, and trading couture swimsuits for designer threads to hit the nightclubs by night. But if you travel east along the French Riviera, you’ll find a series of villages that have retained an air of authenticity because they’re not on the main highway heading to Italy. Abutting Monaco, Cap d’Ail is one of these treasures. It’s still glam (there’s a Philippe Starck-designed restaurant on the water) – but it’s not overrun. Read more

What to do When Airline Goes on StrikeTravel disruptions are, sadly, a fact of life. Veteran travelers will confess that the only certainty in getting from one point to another is that nothing is certain – even the best laid plans can fall apart in an instant. Weather and mechanical failures happen regularly, but strikes tend to be the most disruptive of all. A workforce strike can cripple an airline, an airport, and connections far and wide. With French air traffic control employees planning to strike over the next few days, we wanted to offer up suggestions on how to best deal with such a thing, should it impact you.

Just a few months ago, Iberia (the flag carrier of Spain) decided to strike, causing massive headaches at airports across Europe. Bags were lost, connections were missed, and consumers far and wide were unsure of whether to rebook for a later date or simply take their travel dollars to another airline. Now, an air traffic control dispute in France has airlines across the globe scrambling. Historically, a great deal of strikes have originated in Europe. Read more

Spring Cruise DealsDon’t let the Carnival Cruise Line’s recent newsworthy items deter you from hitting the high seas. There are millions of cruises that sail each year without making the news. They have great customer service, activities for families, couples, and seniors, onboard entertainment, and unique ports around the world. Today we’ve rounded up the best of the best, from exotic international cruises to the always-popular beach destinations. Read more

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