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By Mandi Graham /

Why aren’t you in Europe right now?  You are missing out on coastlines, vineyards, wineries, lush valleys, metropolitan cities juxtaposed with Roman Ruins, food and flower markets, cheeses, chocolate, castles, sleepy villages, and century upon century of history and art!

I was graciously invited to attend the annual end-of-season guide dinner in The Netherlands by our European Operations Manager and our European guides this last December (how is it already 2014?).  How could I refuse?  So, off to Europe I went, again.

Transoceanic flights so often tend to be eight to ten hours (or longer) of uncomfortable, sardine-like travel; however, both of my flights proved to be memorable, comic, and touching experiences.  After safely arriving at Schiphol in Amsterdam, retrieving my very heavy luggage, and stepping out of the hurried international airport, I was struck by the sharp winter breeze with notes of the North Sea and was instantly reminded why I love being in Europe.  And why you should, too.

There are a myriad of reasons to love Europe.  Europe is Earth’s second-smallest continent covering only 2% of the World’s surface and is home to 11% of the Earth’s population, but within that small space is a multitude of incredible countries that have to be seen at least once.  You can be in a different country with its own distinctive culture in mere hours.  I live in Montana so the notion of driving one and a half hours and crossing through two, if not three, countries is truly notable.  Being able to immerse myself in multiple cultures in a relatively small area is irresistible.

The coastlines in Europe are remarkable, even if you live in a coastal city and especially if you live in a landlocked area.  From north to south each is worth visiting.  The North Sea along The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Denmark is striking.  It is a rough, grey body of water with light-colored, sandy beaches bordered by natural sand dunes.  The water here appears wild, untamed, with a sense of stubborn independence.  You can feel it while your feet are sinking into sand and intermittent gusts of the prevailing winds sweep through your hair, trust me.  To the south, Croatia boasts the Dalmatian Coast on the eastern Adriatic Sea.  The waters range from clear, aquamarine to deep sapphire blue.  Of course, the Dalmatian Coast has a Mediterranean feel to it with warm waters in the summer and cooler waters in the winter with beaches that range from pebbly to soft beach sand.  The sentiment here is untouched, relaxed, and pampered with a sun-kissed glaze.

Europe is overflowing with history.  Everywhere you look, each step that you make has a million stories behind it.  You can see passage graves in France that were built with rock that has been exposed to the elements since 4850 BC, stand in sheer wonder at Greek and Roman ruins, learn why houses in temperate areas of Europe have had thatched roofs since the Bronze Age, visit villages that look as though they have been untouched for hundreds of thousands of years.  The chateaux, castles, and cathedrals that have withstood time, wars, religious changes, multiple governments and have been host to artists, politicians, murderers, royalty, insanity, and disease are unforgettable.

These are but a few of the reasons that I love Europe and why you should, too.  Europe should not be explored hastily, but leisurely with willingness to experience all that it can share.

I have been to multiple places in North America, Central America, Asia and several countries in Europe.  And Europe is still my favorite.  So, tell me again, why aren’t you in Europe right now?  Oh, right, the usual…work, previous engagements, life.   Why don’t you shake it up a little bit?  Let us share Europe with you on the back of bike in the spring!  I’m game, are you?

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