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Howard Lewis

Beverly Hills, California Travel Agent

Independent and Rail Travel in Europe

I love suggesting ways for independent travelers to go beyond usual tourist circuits. Many of the best experiences in Europe are places and activities most people have never heard of: a manor house in the British countryside where you can take a falconry class and hold a hawk on your arm or a historic café or a pub where can you linger and watch the world go by. 

Amsterdam is a city of canals. However, instead of a typical tourist boat ride around the city, I can arrange for you to explore the city on a small private canal boat, stopping at one restaurant for an appetizer, stopping for an entrée at a second restaurant, and then motoring to a third for dessert. 

In England, Belmond British Pullman offers genteel train trips where the English countryside glides by as you enjoy gourmet cuisine with formal white-glove service that harkens back to the Orient Express. You can dress up and enjoy a wonderful lunch or tea, a murder mystery, or a day trip to a castle or one of England’s alluring towns such as Bath or Canterbury

Trains can be a luxurious way to travel between cities. Because they go from one city center to the next and travel at super-high speeds, they are often faster than flying. A European would never think of flying from Paris to London, for example; they would take the Eurostar. High-speed trains also make it possible to make your home base in a city and take day trips to visit other towns, eliminating the need to change hotels. 

To get out of the cities, you’ll probably want to rent a car. In England, Scotland, and Ireland, most of the best country hotels are located just outside the villages and only accessible by car. Here, you can stay in a former manor home or castle where time seems to have stood still. After a day of traditional activities like horseback riding, archery or walking to the village, you can dress for a formal dinner.  

Another area best explored by car is Germany’s Black Forest region. The scenery is glorious, and there are small inns in the middle of the forest with surprisingly sophisticated dining. The highlight for me was the elegant spa town of Baden-Baden, with its turn-of-the-century architecture and phenomenal service. 

While some immersive experiences require a princely budget, many are free or nearly free. For example, a program called London Walks--and its sister program in Paris--offers very personal two-hour walks designed and guided by politicians, journalists, doctors, and others who want to share a personal view of their cities. The cost is only about $12 per person.  

I would love to chart out a detailed itinerary based on your interests. When I travel, I look for wow experiences to share—and I would love nothing better than to help you discover your Europe, your way!

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