Springtime is a fabulous time to come to Europe. Sure, you might get a little rain, but there are medieval arcades to walk under and churches to duck into, like the one above. Otherwise, the air is often crisply clear for photography, the spring vegetables are special, the wildflowers profuse, and you'll read about all that in our illustrated guide to Europe in Spring.
The problem comes when I read an article about spending some part of the off season in Europe. I'm always a bit miffed at the incredible narrowness of focus. It's always about saving money--and virtually nothing else. Excuse me, but if you simply want to save money, stay home, eat cheap food, work hard, pat the dog, buy toilet paper derivatives. I'm not kidding. Well, I am about the toilet paper derivatives--and I really shouldn't encourage the overpaid financial institution louts who discovered a way make gambling instruments out of people's mortgages and things that end up crashing economies that we'll be paying for for years but...ahem, but, in any case, here are the bullet points MSNBC slings at the potential tourist in 5 reasons to visit Europe in spring:
- Airfares are cheaper
- Hotels are cheaper
- Rental cars are easier to reserve at bargain prices.
- Museum are not crowded (why aren't they cheaper?)
- And last but not least, the Europeans are home. (What? Of course they are. There are no tourists clogging their streets and their favorite restaurants and now's the time they can eat and play in peace--and it's cheaper.)
It's all true, of course. Perhaps spring is the right time to vacation in Europe if you're one of those intelligent people who aren't all that keen on traipsing from museum to museum at a time when the mercury is threatening to burst through the top of the thermometer. If you were and you went anyway, you'd notice the museums are all crowded. Yes, with sweaty tourists, The least daft among them wondering why they chose the summer season to get acquainted with Renoir's brush strokes when the whole of the host country's population has had the good sense to leave town by puttering zippily in their tiny cars en mass to the beach. Any beach.
Let me assure you that there are actual benefits to traveling in the Spring season. Flowers for one. You've heard of them. Perhaps you've even bought them for your sweet honey when a date you were supposed to remember passed like a freight train in the night (if so I'm guessing then that you're male).
Europeans, though, raise the humble flower to a whole new level. In fact, between 1634-1637 diseased tulips with unique properties sat at the peak of a speculative bubble (you could trade a single bulb for an entire estate) which eventually crashed the Dutch economy for many years. Better to dabble in toilet paper derivatives.
Today, every ten years the Dutch celebrate their flower growing prowess with a big show called Floriade, there are geraniums in just about every window in Italy, and France awards communities that have flowered their villages profusely; you'll notice the signs indicating: Ville Fleuri.
But you likely didn't come for flowers in a row or in pots. Perhaps you've come for the wildflowers. We'll discuss that next.