I was fortunate enough to spend nearly two weeks in Western Europe during the holiday season, and, as you might expect, it was an eye-opening experience for me.
I got to see another part of the world that shares many similarities, and also has many differences from the way we live here in the United States.
First off, I’d just like to say that travelling through Europe is not as difficult as some might think. Because of the European Union, an economic and political conglomerate of 28 countries primarily located in Europe, people are free to travel between these countries freely. On top of that, many people in Europe speak English, making it easier for Americans to navigate their way through this foreign land.
There is so much to see and enjoy in France, including Paris, one of the world’s most famous cities that’s home to the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral, along with plenty of great restaurants, and some nagging gypsies too.
France also boasts beautiful countrysides, a mountainous region in the southeastern portion of the country, the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea.
If you’re able to plan a visit, I’d certainly recommend visiting Paris, but if you get the chance, take the train east from Paris to Strasbourg, a city located on the edge of the German border. This town fits the mold of a historic European city. Strasbourg, which has a population of 272,000 people, features some magnificent buildings whose medieval architecture is like something out of an old movie. The Catholic church in Strasbourg, the Cathedral of Our Lady, includes an astronomical clock as well as a written tribute to the American soldiers that helped to liberate the city and its surrounding area from German rule during World War II.
After spending seven days in France, we took the Chunnel from Paris to London, a 2.5-hour train ride that, for a small portion of the trip, travels under the sea floor of the English Channel – pretty amazing when you stop to think about it.
London’s “Canary Wharf” section purportedly rivals Wall Street when it comes to the financial world. There’s also Buckingham Palace, where Queen Elizabeth II lives, Big Ben (a.k.a. Elizabeth Tower), the National History Museum, the National Gallery and roughly eight million people living, working, visiting and eager to grab a pint in one of the many pubs.
Europe offers a more extensive history than we have in the U.S. Our Constitution was ratified in 1789, well after Europe had experienced a number of critical wars as well as the Age of Enlightenment. So much of what we do today was born from knowledge we gained from the Europeans.
For me, one of the most notable differences between life in the U.S. and Western Europe is the public transportation systems. In countries like the U.K. and France, it’s very easy to hop on a train – typically one that travels at very high speeds – and travel great distances in a relatively short period of time.
Though major U.S. cities like New York, Chicago and Boston offer train/subway systems, most Americans don’t have access to such convenient public transportation.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a high-speed rail system connecting Toledo to Detroit, Cleveland or Columbus? On a wider scale, think of the benefits that could arise from high-speed trains connecting places like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis, Los Angeles to Las Vegas and Tampa to Orlando, to name a few.