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Europe always has an allure for Americans, thanks to lots of history, intriguing culture, unique dining, super shopping, and a different way of life from that found in the United States. And, isn’t that what enjoyable travel really means in any language? From interesting events to lots of sightseeing, Europe will be warmer and more welcoming than ever this summer.

Of course, a shared English language in the United Kingdom makes England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland destination favorites. From London to further afield, the UK can always be a great choice for those who enjoy the mother tongue with a European flair.

London’s lure never fades in England, with the opening last year of The Churchill Museum still providing one of many reasons to visit the city. In 2006, many England visitors will also want to head out of London to nearby Stratford-on-Avon where, beginning in April, the Royal Shakespeare Company is staging its biggest event in its history. Theater companies from around the world will join the RSC for a year-long festival called “The Complete Works.”

Europe’s youngest capital, Cardiff, Wales, has become a contemporary destination, with many modern hotels and attractions to go with historic draws like Cardiff Castle, the National Museum and Gallery (unique in Britain for its arts and science displays), and the fascinating Museum of Welsh Life (in nearby St. Fagans). In addition, the National Eisteddford of Wales, an extraordinary music festival, will be held on the outskirts of Swansea August 5-12.

Up in Scotland, one of Britain’s most important museums will re-open after a massive revamp. Since its opening in 1901, Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has been recognized as internationally significant, holding renowned pieces of arms and armor--as well as an outstanding collection of British and European art. Among the 8,000 exhibits in the reburbished museum will be several new ones, including a Salvador Dali painting, a World War II Spitfire fighter, and a loan of Egyptian treasures from the British Museum.

Over in Ireland, the stunning green countryside can easily be combined with the bright lights of Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Limerick in the Republic of Ireland and Belfast and Londonderry in Northern Ireland. In fact, short distances make it make it easy to enjoy all several of these cities and the famed countryside in one visit.

Across the English Channel on the continent--which is easy to combine with the United Kingdom thanks to convenient flights, trains, or drives-- European favorites like France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and more all await exploration. Smart travelers know that summer crowds (and prices) can easily be avoided with proper planning.

Paris continues as a perennial France favorite, thanks to many monuments, great food, and that perpetual French joie de vivre. Some special possibilities for 2006 include: using the now-popular Paris Museum & Monument Pass for money-saving museum and monument visits; the Paris Jazz Festival (June and July); and another repeat of Paris Plage (an artificial beach along the Seine). From Paris, it’s easy to take a train up to Brussels or Amsterdam to experience two other completely different European cities.

Over in Germany, summertime in Munich and elsewhere means an almost endless schedule of festivals and other events. Some of the possibilities include: World Cup Soccer in 12 German host cities (June 9 to July 9); the opening of BMW World in Munich and the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart; the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth with special concerts and more in Munich, Augsburg, Leipzig, and Wuerzburg; and the 800th anniversary of Dresden. It’s obviously going to be easy to say ja to Germany in 2006!

Down in Italy (where they’re still basking in the success of the Torino Winter Olympic Games), Rome warmly welcomes roaming visitors with enough history to make “when in Rome” mean many days of sightseeing. However, food is still a delicious part of any Roman holiday, with interesting options like the menu at Rossini Restaurant (in Hotel Quirinale)--which chef Nicola Rosata says was inspired by the celebrated composer (and gourmet, who has had more than 100 recipes dedicated to him). The Sole a la Rossini definitely hits high notes in Italian and English. Of course, Venice, Florence, Milan, and more are also easily reached from Rome (always in time for lunch).

Spain is possibly Europe’s most trendy destination, thanks to great cities, lots of history, and unique regional food and culture throughout the large country. Madrid’s new Paseo del Arte (Art Walk) make the capital city’s welcome to art and history lovers warmer than ever, while cities like Valencia, Barcelona, Seville, Cordoba, and Granada are all experiencing tremendous interest from visitors who have learned Spain is truly hot!

Of course, there are many other great travel options in Europe this summer. Thanks to their proximity, it’s quite convenient to add visits to cities and more in Scandinavia, Switzerland, Austria, Eastern Europe, and even further afield. In fact, it would be cold-hearted to head to Europe this summer without visiting several warmly welcoming cities (and countries) in a single trip!