Venice by morning light

Venice by morning light

What is it about dragging yourself out from under that down comforter, pulling on some clothes, and setting forth on foot early–not five a.m. early, but six, or six-thirty or even seven–when the sun has just begun to reclaim the sky and the narrow streets still lie deep in shadow?

This is my favorite time to explore Europe, whether Amalfi, the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome, or deep in the Tuscan and Umbrian countryside.  Or perhaps Provence, the Dordogne, the beautiful villages of the Loire, or the Normandy coast.  How about an Alsatian town, or deep in the Schwarzwald.

No matter where you roam, and that’s the secret…roam… leave behind any goal…just take serendipity and your chance along as your guide.  (Don’t worry, there’ll be someone to gently point you back toward your inn should you get lost, and if you’re a beginner, stash that map where you won’t reach for it constantly.)

Atrani on the Almafi Coast, Italy

Atrani on the Almafi Coast, Italy

Greet the friendly shopkeeper washing down the sidewalk in front of the bodega.  Savor the yeasty aromas coming from that German bakery, and welcome being asked what you’re up to by that curious child fetching rolls for her family’s breakfast.  Let your obvious pleasure earn a smile in return from two early-rising nuns.  Then stand at the bar of an Italian café and open your eyes fully with a tiny drop of espresso.  This is the morning world of Europe…before bustling tour groups crowd the streets and you must fight your way across the bridges of Venice.

Panzano, Italy

Panzano, Italy

So forget that last hour or two of sleep…you’re on vacation, don’t unwisely waste these precious morning hours…and drag yourself out for that early walk.  It will remind you of why you travel, and reward you with a wealth of beauty and delight.  Museums are nice, great art a pleasure, wine tastings never a bad thing, but the true joy of discovering European life lies in the unexpected view of a centuries-old tower barely holding its own against the ravages of time, the Gregorian chanting of the monks coming from a medieval Provençal church, the old city cat emerging onto the stoop to take his first stretch of the morning.  Bring your camera.

Sarlat in the Dordogne, France

Sarlat in the Dordogne, France

In the weeks and months to come I will introduce interested readers to some magical back road driving tours and fascinating places  stumbled upon over several decades of European travel.  I’ll share with you some special little restaurants few guidebooks mention, and the inns and B&B’s which have given us special pleasure.  I’ll post some of my favorite photos taken along the way, and mention some of the brilliant novels and travel memoirs which capture a time and place.

Pitigliano, Tuscany

Pitigliano, Tuscany

But this is a joint venture, so get ready to step up.  Tell me where you’re headed, or where you dream of going.  If it’s in Western Europe, there’s a chance I can help you plan an adventure rather than just a trip, and I’ll set out some specific suggestions to make things really special.  So do tell me.

Camon, Southern France

Camon, Southern France

And don’t forget to try a morning walk.  I’m already over there in spirit, quietly dressing so as not to wake my wife, planning to join her in the breakfast room in an hour or two.  After all, let’s face it, some of us aren’t early morning people. And they can always go out later for gelato.  I’ll save some Europe to share with late-risers, as well.

San Gimignano, Tuscany, italy

San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy


About Patrick W. O'Bryon

Writer. Traveler. Europhile, especially Italy and France. Hobbies: rescuing animals from abuse, abandonment and mistreatment, and being sous chef around the kitchen to my chef de cuisine wife.
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  1. Covetotop says:

    I totally agree with you. Early morning is the best time to wander and wonder around the old European cities and villages. This is going to be a very interesting blog. Congrats!

  2. oliviaobryon says:

    Beautifully put with gorgeous pictures to boot! I can vouch you are amazing at inspiring fantastic travel choices. So excited for your coming posts… Maybe you’ll get us to take another adventure sooner rather than later 🙂

  3. xandertrek says:

    Fantastico! I can already smell the morning air in Europe. Looking forward to a trip back soon. I will definitely seek out your guidance when we narrow our travels.

  4. donna foland says:

    Magnificent pictures and writing! This makes me want to start to travel so much more — hopefully soon one day my pocketbook will agree with me 🙂

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