THE SECRET CHARMS OF EUROPE

By Hilary Winston

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In college, I studied abroad in Vienna and had dreams of a semester-long fling during which my new beau and I would take in the sights and share cappuccinos while trying to keep our scarves out of the barista’s pride-worthy foam. I spent a lot of time with one particular gentleman in my program, and after weeks of flirting he finally asked me to the theater. It was happening. So romantic. He even brought flowers on our date, but by the end of the performance he still hadn’t given them to me. I started to suspect they weren’t actually for me. We met the cast backstage because a girl he knew from opera class was in the production. I hated her. She was beautiful, had a beautiful singing voice and was now going to be living the dream with her cute, scarf-wearing American suitor. I was devastated, and right. The flowers weren’t for me. They were for the star of the show—Klaus. Yep, Klaus. Not the beautiful girl from opera class but Klaus, an equally beautiful gentleman with a beautiful singing voice. Klaus was thrilled and headed off for a nightcap with his new American beau. I headed off to the subway for a long ride back to the suburbs, where I lived with an eccentric host family who watched reruns of Full House almost exclusively. Uncle Jesse’s shenanigans were not exactly my idea of European romance. And I was left romantically unsatisfied.

That brings me to this summer. Vacation season. My guy and I, like couples everywhere, have been fighting for months about where to go. Staycation? Gocation? The kind of vacation for which you need just a backpack, a bathing suit and the phone number of a good international lawyer? Or the kind of vacation for which you need a backpack to carry all the money you’re going to spend? To me, the choice is easy. Like “every other girl” (according to my guy), I want to go to Europe. Women like Europe. I’m sure this has happened to you during vacation talks. But why is it that every woman is dying to go to Europe with you? Paris. Rome. Venice. All vacation discussions lead to an expensive flight you’ll never be able to use miles for because everyone’s lady wants to go to Europe. Well, I’ll explain.

Women want to go to Europe because it’s romantic. (Personally, I want the romance I missed out on in college.) And Europe is more romantic than other places because it’s old. Yes, there are older places, but Europe is where fairy tales were born—on cobblestone streets and in tiny alleys that in America you’d avoid because you’d worry about being robbed but that in Europe are charming. Paint chipping off a door in the States is a sign that someone has a lazy handyman. In Europe, a door with chipped paint is quaint. Rusty water. Old pipes. Thin walls. Narrow staircases. Shared bathrooms. Small beds. All quaint. I stayed with a guy in Turkey at a bed-and-breakfast where we shared a bed generously called a twin. We also had to light a small wood fire to heat water for the shower. In America I would have called the police and demanded my money back. But in Europe it was sweet. Different. Everything is charming. Even the pharmacy is charming. Just the idea of a foreign tampon is somehow charming. But why don’t we just go to Europe with our lady friends and enjoy the charming hell out of it? Because we want to experience it with you.

We want to have a three-hour dinner without the TV on. We want to take a walk afterward, and not just to the car. We want to have only 12 channels to pick from—all in another language. We want to see French lovers making out in a park, even if we make fun of them. Because we want to believe we’re still being romanced, even if we’re a long way from that nerve-racking first date. And you should care, because romance fuels us. When you’ve had a hard day, we make you dinner (or pick up a much better dinner on the way home), because we care about you. We want to make you feel good. And what makes you not just another lazy relative or co-worker who also depends on us is the fact that we chose each other. There was an undeniable romantic spark when we met, and sometimes we just need to be reminded of that. And as weird as it might seem to you, Europe helps remind us. Does it mean that after we get back home we have to cram into a lumpy twin bed and dry our clothes on the balcony? No, but we do get to bring home a little bit of our own fairy tale. For six days and seven nights, we get to be princesses and you get to be princes. So skip the beach vacation this year. Maybe you’ll have to stand in a lot of long museum lines, but at least you won’t get skin cancer.


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