Escape Artists offers up a global discourse ranging from great finds close to home to adventures far afield. You'll find weekly travel deals here, too. Share your road wisdom, rave about great finds and rant about roadblocks that get in the way of a great trip.

Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.

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Posts about Europe

Gubbio: Umbria's hidden treasure

Posted by: Bill Ward Updated: April 24, 2014 - 8:50 AM

I can sorta kinda understand the people who decide to “see” Italy via two days apiece in Venice, Florence and Rome — if they know it’s the only time they’ll ever visit the boot-shaped wonderland. But even worse than not being able to do justice to any of those wondrous cities, they’re completely missing out on extraordinary destinations up and down the peninsula.

Like Gubbio.

This jewel of a town in central Umbria could serve as a movie set for a medieval or Renaissance drama or horror movie, with imposing palazzos and steep, winding cobblestone streets that ooze a sense of foreboding around every curve and corner.

There’s even a Fountain of the Mad in the town’s center; running around it three times allegedly bestows it, rather than curing it. The bird-cage-like lift to Monte Ingini is a bit bizarre, too. But the shops selling local Majolica pottery are eminently sane (and spendy, while the fabulous Taverna del Lupo (Via Giovanni Ansidel) serves up fab local fare such as rabbit and what my better half called the best omelet ever.

Sacre bleu! Parisians making nice?

Posted by: Bill Ward Updated: June 21, 2013 - 8:32 AM

I've been to Paris but once, alas, and I found the residents to be quite cordial, if not downright polite. On our first day, at one restaurant with non-English-speaking proprietors two fellow customers saw our befuddlement and helped us navigate the menu. Other acts of kidness ensued over the next week, sullied only by a ripoff-artist cab driver.

But I don't doubt that some of the city's reputation for rudeness came the old-fashioned way, often abetted by tourists who didn't try to speak the language or comport themsleves admirably, either. So I was not surprised to see this story about a concerted effort to promote optimum etiquette.

The 30,000 copies of "Do you speak Touriste?" being dispensed to waiters and sales clerks includes sundry greetings and cultural advice. To wit: While the Chinese are "fervent shoppers," we Amercians want to be reassured about prices.

Nice.

-- Bill Ward

A card that works in Europe and here at home

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: April 26, 2011 - 3:34 PM

A reader asks: can an American get a credit card from a European bank, which would contain the special chip that allows them to be used in ticket machines and other outlets in Europe?

My answer:  Probably, but you don’t need to if you’re simply interested in getting a card with chip technology rather than a card issued by a European bank.
A bit of context for people unfamiliar with the technology: American credit cards use a magnetic strip to exchange information during a financial transaction. In European and other countries, card issuers have turned to EMV chip technology (named for Europay, MasterCard and Visa). Where people are handling the charge, American credit cards often work. Not so at unmanned kiosks, such as those at train stations and gas pumps.
According to Greg McBride of bankrate.com, getting a card from a European bank isn’t impossible, though “banks are understandably reluctant to lend money on an unsecured basis to borrowers in a foreign jurisdiction.” It’s likely you could get one after opening a deposit account with that bank.
Fortunately, you likely don’t need to go through the hassle of opening an account overseas. “Chase has recently rolled out chip-and-pin technology,” McBride said, “and other large national and regional banks will most certainly follow suit.”
Wells Fargo, the largest bank in Minnesota, is one of them. Eric Schindewolf, vice president of product development at Wells Fargo, said the bank is rolling out a pilot program this summer with 15,000 customers who are frequent international travelers. “The pilot program is about understanding what it means to do a smart card program, how will customers use the product, what questions will they have.” The card will have both a magnetic strip and a chip for use here and overseas. Schindewolf said he didn’t know when or if such a card would go into production. Though this might be hard to accept for avid overseas travelers, the company has already identified the customers who will be part of the pilot program.
If you can’t track down a card with a chip through Chase or another bank, there is another option. Travelex, which used to issue traveler’s checks, now offers prepaid currency cards with chip-and-pin technology which you can use just like a debit card.
 

Fly to London, earn free domestic flight

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: April 2, 2011 - 10:54 AM

Book a round-trip flight on Sun Country to London by April 15, and receive a free round-trip flight to anywhere Sun Country flies in the contiguous United States. 

To qualify, you must book the London trip through Sun Country Airlines or a London Package through Sun Country Vacations for travel between May 27 and September 4 (the full duration of the airline's seasonal service to London).

There's loads of fine print (black-out dates, additional taxes and fees, etc.), but still a great deal for anyone planning a trip to London this summer. Sun Country's seasonal flights to London's depart every Friday from MSP and arrive in London-Gatwick on Saturday morning.

Return flights from London depart every Sunday.

For more information, go to Sun Country and click on "royal offer on purchase to London."

 

Q&A: Swedish currency

Posted by: Updated: September 30, 2009 - 10:37 AM

 By Kerri Westenberg

 

Q: What is the official currency of Sweden? I’m traveling to Stockholm this fall and everything is priced in kronor, but having been there before, I’ve noticed that many shopkeepers also use euros. Is there an advantage to using one form of currency over the other?
 A: The Swedish krona is the official currency of Sweden, and the one that will be universally accepted in shops across Stockholm. In fact, a representative I spoke with at Visit Sweden expressed surprise that shopkeepers deal in euros: “Maybe you can use euros at the airport and for taxis from the airport,” but that would be about it, she said. Hmmm, perhaps you’ve been to Sweden more recently than she, who is based in New York, or I could be that you naturally visit places geared toward tourists, which may be inclined to accept euros. Further Web research reflected your experience -- you can sometimes pay in euros in Stockholm. Still, if you pay with euros, you could get kronor for change, and you may as well start and end the transaction with the Swedish crown (but feel free to bring any euros clanging around your change bin).

 

 

      

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