I learned from a former travel agent friend the best place an American should travel when wanting to visit Europe: the United Kingdom (UK). Why? Her logic makes sense: when traveling outside the U.S., it's a bit overwhelming the first time and in the UK, English is spoken.
Things are a little bit different over there (they drive on the opposite side of the road and London hotels,
Edinburgh hotels and Glasgow hotels may be a bit smaller for our super-sized American bodies) but not overwhelmingly different (just bring a face cloth, they seem to be absent in Europe).
Having traveled to the UK several times, I can attest it's a safe, excellent destination to visit. The people are extremely friendly. I remember going out to a London pub by myself for dinner. All the tables were full but a family visiting from somewhere else in the UK invited me to join them. UK pubs have a warm, cozy feeling, almost like Cheers except everyone doesn't know your name when you walk in but will know it when the pub closes. The staff in the London hotels are friendly, too, looking out for their American cousins.
And hitting the town, one never knows who'll they'll run into. On my last trip to London in Feb. 2005, my UK reps took me out for a chichi dinner at a place called Oxo where we saw the real Bridget Jones! Renee Zellweger was sitting at the next table over, very cool. Not sure which of the London hotels she was staying at but maybe she was renting a flat.
I also saw the "Jerry Springer Opera" while in London. No, Springer didn't star in it but the play was based on his show. I love London's sassy edge.
While the people and activities are fabulous in London, Scotland is wonderful, too. You've already heard my evening with the porcelain god in one of the Edinburgh hotels (for those unfamiliar, I had food poisoning from a Thai restaurant) but I don't let that mar the pleasant experience I had in Scotland's capital city. From the folks at the visitor information center (which has Internet kiosks) to the folks at the hotel trying to make me feel better, I was surrounded by warm hospitality.
Unfortunately, my travels haven't taken me to Glasgow yet and I think I'd fall in love with the city, too. After all, "Glasgow" means "dear green city." Thanks to my friends over at CheaperThanHotels.com, I've learned Glasgow is Scotland's style capital for it's buzz, edge and creative class. I imagine something like Seattle or Portland with all types of art everywhere and hip sounds floating from pubs. Glasgow hotels range in all types and although I'm usually brand-loyal, I'd stay in one of the trendy, boutique types.
Are you ready to visit the UK? Dust off the passport and head over to CheaperThanHotels.com to find deals for London hotels, Edinburgh hotels and Glasgow hotels.
[Top photo: Look kids! Big Ben!; photo to the right: Not sure what I was doing but I liked the sculpture; bottom photo: roller skaters down a London street]