American Traveler Gateway to Europe
Antique Map, Geographica, c.1630 Art Print
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With the money question under control, you'll now want to plan the schedule of your trip and your travel itinerary. The scheduling part is easy. By far the great majority of trans-Atlantic flights leave in the evening, arrive in Europe the next morning, after you've had a night's sleep.
As for your itinerary, most trips to Europe are planned around a key "gateway"-a major city at which you'll either arrive, or from which you'll later depart on the return trip. It used to be that travel counselors advised choosing London, as the gateway, on the theory that the lack of a language barrier would ease you into European life by gradual degrees. But that ancient advice has little relevance to the travel conditions of modern-day Europe-particularly in such countries as Holland, where English is virtually a second language.
Far more important than the number of persons who speak English is how they speak it-whether they do so with sincerity and warmth, thus enabling you to begin your trip in a pleasant and enjoyable manner. On that score, the Dutch rank high as one of the warmest, most outgoing people in Europe.
In choosing a gateway, it's obviously far better to rely on practical considerations, not cliches. You'll want, first, to begin your trip in a city that is conveniently located for a tour of the continent. For that purpose, I usually choose Amsterdam, which stands at the very entrance to the heartland of Europe-with Paris, Brussels and London just an hour away by plane, Frankfurt and Copenhagen less than an hour and a half away, Rome just two hours and ten minutes distant.
There are, in addition, several budget considerations that usually point to Amsterdam as your most advantageous gateway. For one thing, the auto rental rates in Holland are generally acknowledged to be the lowest in Europe. If, therefore, you've planned a trip by car through Europe, you can achieve substantial savings by picking up the car in Amsterdam. You can, in addition, purchase a European car, tax-free, at the famous "Ship-Side Showroom" located on the very grounds of Amsterdam International Airport.
This unique auto agency will complete the arrangements for you in less than an hour after you've stepped off the plane-the purchase itself, issuance of all necessary papers, delivery of the car.
Finally, in choosing a departure point for your return trip to the U.S. or Canada, Amsterdam is probably once again your best bet.
For, by common acknowledgment, its airport possesses the largest and cheapest Tax-Free Shopping Center on the continent. That means that just prior to flight time, you can stock up on a vast array of low-priced perfume, liquor, cameras, watches, jewelry and the like, and carry them not across the continent, but simply into the planet