Endless escalator rides in and out of Tube stations along the Bakerloo, Picadilly, and Jubilee lines. Fish and chips, and afternoon tea. A friendly painter in Parliament Square. Double decker buses, Union Jack flags, Harry Potter, and Big Ben. This is London.
A place where cats roam free along the stone alleyways of the Old Town. The orange and brown rooftops of a city that rebuilt itself. A stop along the gleaming coast. A place to be experienced from all angles. This is Dubrovnik.
Two cities in one. Full of basilicas and temples and bathhouses and a lot of paprika. Full of tales of distraught princes, stone lions without tongues, and daring architects. Where one of the oldest metro systems rattles along the old tracks beneath the city. Where the sight of the Parliament building shimmers in the Danube. This is Budapest.
Prague, the Czech Republic
A clock that tells so much more than the time. A bridge with more life than some small towns. A skyline dotted with towers and turrets. A history as colorful as the buildings that line Old Town Square. A place touched by World War II that returned more vibrant than ever. This is Prague.
The Eiffel Tower sparkles at the beginning of each hour. Pastry shops sell macarons by the thousands. Tourists gather around the Mona Lisa, the Thinker, Monet’s Water Lilies. People buzz in and out of a bookstore once frequented by the most famous writers of a generation. Artists paint by the river in the City of Love. This is Paris.
Worn, but loved. It can be seen in the winding, narrow streets in Alfama. In the way Tram 28 chugs through the city and the tuk-tuks putter up and down the hills. In the geometric tiles that mark the oldest buildings in the city. In the fado singers and ceramic souvenirs and the way the sun sets over the city. This is Lisbon.
The heat hangs in the air. Stray cats lay in between the muted-red walls. People zip by on motorcycles. Snake charmers and drummers and henna artists and vendors crowd the main square. It’s hazy like an illusion, yet all too real at the same time. This is Marrakech.
Bologna has porticoes, a half-finished — but still beautiful — church, and a pair of leaning towers. Venice has gondolas, fragile glass miniatures, masks for Carnival, and a maze of alleyways. The Amalfi Coast shines like a mirage, and Capri is a place for heroes, so blue it’s hard to believe it's real. Rome has the history and the Cinque Terre has the colors. Florence is yellow in every sense of the word. This country has everything. This is Italy.
You need to drive here, even though it’s not easy on the other side of the road. You need to linger in the pubs until the musicians are done playing. You need to see the fields and mountains and beaches and lakes and cliffs. You need to forget about your map. You need to see the green and realize that it’s more than just a color. This is Ireland.
A country with a dramatic history to match its landscape. Where the words and names are too hard to even try to pronounce. Where a single road circles the entire island. Where the sunsets last forever and there are probably more waterfalls than people. Where trolls, vikings, and elves are all as real as you and I. This is Iceland.