Endless stretches of crystal Mediterranean coastline. Sun-drenched cities just ripe for exploring. Long hazy nights that have you up dancing till dawn. This is the dream of the great European summer.
But what you don’t dream about, nor read about, are the endless queues to visit the Europe blockbusters, nor the smells of a city bursting to capacity, nor the inflated prices of traveling in peak season. Now don’t get us wrong, we live for that sweet European summer (mainly because we know where to go to avoid all of the above), but we also understand the joys of traveling Europe not only in winter, but in shoulder season (September – November, and February – April). And what are these joys? We’re glad you asked…
Seeing the continent in a different colour
The beauty of travelling to a continent that has 4 very specific seasons, is that you get to experience a rainbow of colour. Autumn offers up Pinterest inspired reds, browns, yellows, even purples, whilst winter’s pallet is strictly nudes. Come spring, Mother Nature comes alive again, with daffodils, tulips, daisies, bougainvillea, and so many other colourful flora and fauna raising their heads again for the summer ahead. In terms of life experiences, waking up to a crisp autumn day or a budding spring morning, stepping outside and seeing how the weather inspires literally everyone, is pretty priceless.
Having a true, authentic experience
The travel dream is to visit a new destination and immediately get a feel for the local way of life. Yet in the summer, with crowds of tourists everywhere, this can often be difficult. In July/August the majority of locals living in European cities or popular coastlines tend to make a hasty exit to lesser populated areas, making it difficult to get a true picture of what local life entails. Come shoulder season or winter, it’s business as usual, and with the crowds gone, it’s so much easier to explore at your own pace, really getting a feel for the vibe of the place you’re in.
Tasting a whole new side of the cuisine
The majority of European food is based on local ingredients and what’s available in a particular season, so there’s a noticeable shift in what’s served up in winter in comparison to summer. Of course you get all the classics – Italy ain’t gonna stop serving gelato just because it’s raining – but the food is very much more about warmth, comfort, and cosiness. Snuggling up by the fire in a classic English pub whilst tucking into a roast, or devouring a cheese laden tartiflette whilst pit stopping on the mountain – now that’s what winter dreams are made of.
Getting to embrace all your winter style dreams
So Australia has a winter of sorts, but it’s nothing compared to some places in Europe. Germany, Iceland, Austria, Switzerland, the Scandi’s –that’s some serious winter right there. But the benefit of freezing your tits of weather? Winter style baby! (Fake) fur, giant scarves, cute bobble hats or fedoras, beautiful boots, and mandatory sunnies for those clear sunny days will have you living out all your chilly fashion dreams. So what if you blow your budget on a winter wardrobe…at least you’ll look hot doing it.
As someone who grew up in the UK, snow is just a winter staple, so the idea of never having seen the white stuff is completely alien. Yet this is a very real scenario for so many, to which I can only say – get yourselves to some snow, stat! As you get older those sudden surges of unadulterated excitement somehow become less and less, mainly because you’ve lived and seen so many experiences already. Christmas doesn’t quite feel the same, and birthdays come in with a tinge of gloom (can I really be another year closer to 30??). But then it snows. As soon as those little white flakes fall from the sky, you’re brain throws a happiness themed party. Maybe it’s the prospect of a snow-day from work (still waiting for this one), but more it’s hailing back to those childhood memories or dreams of playing in the snow. Snow ball fights, crunching through a freshly fallen blanket, friggin’ snow angles…there’s nothing like it, and that’s coming from a self-confessed sun junkie.
So how about, is a Europe winter adventure hollering your name? If so, pop on over to Contiki, Europe Winter 16/17 trips on sale now.