Before Covid, I was fortunate enough to get my German citizenship. While at this point I have no intention of moving to Europe, the immediate benefit is not being subject to normal visa rules for Americans visiting Europe. So this will end up being my longest Europe trip, at three and a half months. (That said, as Ireland is not part of the Schengen zone, the visa rules are moot, but it’s still nice not to worry.)
As with last year’s trip to Germany and surrounds, for the sake of The Royal Tour, I’m going to divide this one up. Each section of the trip will have its own more detailed itinerary coming up as it begins, and I invite you all to follow along. Content here on The Royal Tour will be delayed, probably by at least a month, since I need time to write.
Part One: Isle of Man and Ireland
Ostensibly, Ireland is the first major portion of the trip, but immediately after I fly into Dublin, I’m headed back out to a place I’ve been curious about ever since discovering their amazing flag: the Isle of Man. (Seriously, check out the flag online.) I’m spending two nights in the capital, Douglas, for a single full day on the island. Not a lot of time, but enough to tell a couple stories about the island’s history and political status as a pseudo UK state and pseudo totally independent country. It’s fascinating and I can’t wait to share!
After hopping back to Dublin, I’m meeting my aunt for a few days exploring the Irish capital before we take a guided tour of Ireland and Northern Ireland together. We head from Dublin up to Belfast, then to Derry, and down the west coast all the way to the Cliffs of Moher.
I’ve never been to Ireland or Northern Ireland, and am excited to talk about both the older and more modern histories, as well as some of the natural beauty of the island. I’ll get into more specifics in the upcoming itinerary post. In all, this first section of the trip will be about three weeks.
Part Two: Italy
Each of my Europe trips seems to have a focus country, where most of my time is spent. This year, that country is Italy. I’ve been to Italy a couple times, but really never seen much, as both trips were part of fast-paced organized vacations, one a cruise and the other a bus tour. So I count this as my real introduction to the country.
I will be starting in Rome, for a total of four weeks. (Italian law doesn’t allow me to stay at a single address longer than that without registering.) I spent a single day in Rome in 2009, so this will be an amazing opportunity to get to know the city. Obviously my focuses will be on Ancient Rome and the Vatican, but I also want to talk about Italian unification, Mussolini, Italian coffee culture, and more. It will be a packed month, since my list of things I want to see is the longest I’ve ever had. We will see what I get through.
While in Rome, I’ll also be taking a long weekend side trip down to Naples, to see both the city (which I hated in a day there prior) and Pompeii. And lots of pizza.
Next I head to Florence for about three and a half weeks. (It would have been four but for not wanting to travel on Yom Kippur.) This will be my first time there, and I can’t wait to talk about the birthplace of the Renaissance. There will also be day trips to Pisa and Siena, plus a long weekend in San Marino, my last of Europe’s micro countries to visit.
Finally, I’ll head to Milan for about a week and a half. I’m less excited about Milan, though I’ve heard good things, so I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised.
Part Three: European Jetsetting
After two months in Italy at a fairly relaxed pace, this part will be rushed, as I’m using the opportunity of being in Europe to see a bunch of people. First, I’m flying to meet TRT writer Mandy in Copenhagen. We will be exploring the Danish capital through food, the works of Hans Christian Andersen, and history, even taking a side trip to an older Viking capital.
Then I’m back in a plane and off to meet TRT writer Dan in Istanbul. While the focus will be on the older parts of the city and the major sights, I also want to get a bit further out to get a feel for some of modern Turkey.
I’ll then fly to Brussels to meet my awesome sister in law for several days of beer, waffles, and chocolate, plus a side trip to Bruges. Look for some stories about Flanders, the EU, and of course food and beer.
After a couple days in Antwerp, I’ll take the train to Maastricht to stay with TRT writer Hedy. We will explore her hometown and visit Aachen to discuss Charlemagne. Then it’s back to Brussels to fly home.
It’s a busy trip, but one I’m excited for, both from a personal standpoint and a writing one. I can’t wait to share it all with you!