Relaxing in France and Italy

There are a few things that Europeans have always just seemed naturally gifted at—producing beautiful art, eating fabulous food, and knowing when to slow down and reflect. It’s this last one that I am always most impressed by whenever I have the opportunity to visit Europe; there is such a focus on savoring leisure time and enjoying time with friends that I feel myself relax the moment my girlfriends and I step off the airplane.

Never is this more true than in France and Italy—the unofficial leisure capitals of the world, it sometimes seems. And our travelers agree, since these two countries are among the most popular of both our river cruise and land tours. It’s one of the reasons we’re adding a new River Cruise Tour—Bordeaux: Vineyards, Vintages & Chateaux—into the fold for 2015, offering you a chance to see (and taste!) the best of Southwest France. Since I’m a wine-lover myself, I’m excited to announce this new vacation to one of my favorite countries. I’m also happy to announce several enhancements to all of our River Cruise vacations for 2015, including complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner, and gratuities included in your 2015 trip cost. To read more, check out Community News & Views.

For years, I have tried to make an annual trip to Italy with my closest girlfriends—it’s a tradition that we hope continues for many years to come. I’m not alone in thinking that this is a great way to keep old friendships strong and enjoy one-of-a-kind travel experiences, and our delightful Traveler Story this month is about a group of dear friends who embarked on our The Seine: Paris to Normandy River Cruise, despite the fact that many of them had visited France before. As they so rightly note, this fascinating country is always changing, and there is always more to discover, from historic Rouen, to Normandy, to a nighttime sail down the Seine.

If you’re a museum buff like me, you must stop in Florence—if for no other reason than to admire Michelangelo’s iconic David statue. In Travel Talk, I share tips on how to pre-reserve tickets to one of Italy’s busiest museums. For more ways to indulge your creative side, consider pulling together a delicious meal from the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, inspired by our The Rivieras: France, Italy & the Isles cruise. Our recipe for civet de sanglier (wild boar ragu) in Global Kitchen is sure to have you dreaming of meals in rustic countryside restaurants.

What destinations do you find most relaxing? Have you ever traveled with a group of friends? I always love to hear your travel tales, so please email me at I look forward to hearing from you!

Harriet Lewis