Le Tour’s flashy finish

The 21st and final stage of the Tour de France begins early morning on Sunday, July 24, in the city of Chantilly, forever associated with the tasty dessert known as Chantilly cream; 70 miles later, the competitors in the world’s most famous cycling race will pedal south toward Paris and through its western suburbs en route to the finish line. The course varies from year to year, but the finish has been the same since 1975: Paris’ Champs-Élysées.

The tour’s spectacular end is preceded by eight laps around a circuit between les Tuileries and the Louvre. From this vantage point, you might not manage to skip over to the finish line in time, but you could always dash into a café to watch the action live on TV. The riders will reach their final destination against the backdrop of the Arc de Triomphe, shortly after 7 p.m. Even when the crowds are thick, you can still watch the action broadcast over a giant screen. The awards ceremony generally starts about half an hour following the race’s conclusion. The event’s official website is at www.letour.com/le-tour/2016/us.

The many Venices of Europe

A recent article appearing in the travel section of Stars and Stripes referred to Dresden as "Florence on the Elbe." I've been mentally collecting references of this type for some time now, so I was pleased to have another one to add to my list.

You may have noticed that nicknames linking one European city to a more famous cousin abound. They range from the obvious -- anyplace that ties itself to Venice probably boasts of a canal or two- to the far-fetched. I thought it could be an interesting exercise to see what labels are applied to places we know and love and those we've never heard of. 
Venice -- many cities or neighborhoods within them bear nicknames suggesting similarities to Italy's watery gem. St. Petersburg, Russia, was coined "Venice of the North" by Goethe. But it's not the only one on the block. The title can also refer to HamburgStralsund or Friedrichstadt in Germany; Stockholm, or Brugge, Belgium.    "Klein Venedig" is an old fisherman's settlement along the Regnitz river in Bamberg, Germany, while "Venice of Brandenburg" refers to waterways found in the Spree Forest, some 60 miles southeast of Berlin. If you're looking for the Bavarian Venice, that would be Passau. Wroclaw is sometimes billed as "The Venice of Poland." A section of Colmar, France is known as "La Petite Venise."

Try some open-air opera this summer

Love opera? Add an evocative outdoor backdrop to the powerful sound of the music, and even lukewarm fans might be up for the experience. Here’s a selection of what’s on and where this summer:


• Bregenz: Giacomo Puccini’s “Turandot” will be performed against a dragon-shaped wall on the iconic Lake Stage on Lake Constance on selected dates between July 22 and Aug. 21. Ticket prices start at 30 euros.
• Moerbisch: The Seefestspiele Moerbisch plays out on a stage on Lake Neusiedl, which is billed as the largest open-air opera stage in the world. Spectators can take in the operetta titled “Victoria and Her Hussar” on dates between July 7 and Aug. 20. Tickets begin at 25 euros.
• St. Margarethen: A stone quarry serves as the setting for Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera “Der Liebestrank” (The Elixir of Love) on dates from July 6 through Aug. 19. Ticket prices start at 33 euros.


Learn what’s on with event search engines

You find yourself in an unfamiliar place and you’re wondering what special events are happening nearby. How can you orient yourself? A quick perusal of the city’s official tourism website might turn up a few good leads. Nowadays, another helpful option is to make use of search engines dedicated to finding geo-tagged events. Eventful and Evensi are just two examples of such sites.

Eventful describes itself as a digital media company connecting consumers with entertainment and local events through online, mobile and e-mail platforms. According to its website, the company has some 22 million users across the globe. Evensi is a continuously updated data base of events offering its users the chance to find more than 45 million events based on specific interests worldwide.

Let’s suppose we will find ourselves in Trier without plans through Independence Day weekend. By entering specific dates and a 25 mile radius of this location within Eventful’s search parameters, we learn of events to include a dog show, theater performances for children, an open-air heavy metal festival and a dance workshop. Using the same criteria in a search conducted with Evensi, we discover a hip-hop night at a club, a concert at a winery, an art exhibition and organ concert. Both websites offer links to ticket sellers and event feeds into your social media accounts based on your specific interests. Of course they’re equally handy for discovering what’s on in the city you call home.

Soccer takes over

A month-long bout of football fever is set to engulf vast swaths of Europe, as the series of soccer matches making up the UEFA European Football Championship play out in cities across host nation France. For the first time ever, 24 sides will contest the UEFA European Championship: previous editions of the quadrennial tournament involved 16 national teams. Host cities include Bordeaux, Lens, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Paris, Saint-Denis, Saint-Etienne and Toulouse.

Group stages commence June 10 with a match between host nation France and Romania and are followed by daily matches starting at 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Group stages conclude on June 22 and are followed by the knock-out rounds. UEFA champion will be determined by the final match slated for July 10 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis.

Find summer fun in your own back yard

The days are warm, the evenings are light, and it appears we will soon say that summer is at our door. While extended trips to far-flung destinations across Europe are always a special treat, most of us aren’t able to pull off long-distance getaways every weekend. Thankfully, the summer season means there’s no end of fun to be had right in one’s own backyard. Here is a selection of some of the highlight events taking place in the larger cities close to the places we call home. The list covers events through Labor Day weekend only.




United Islands

Pick the winner with the German Rail Bahncard

From June 10 through July 10, European eyes will be glued to TVs and the big screens set up in outdoor spaces, as 24 national soccer teams face off in their bids to be champions of the UEFA EURO 2016. (We’ll reveal some of the best places for public viewing as the dates draw near.) The once-every-four year competition is hosted by France this time around. Will Spain retain its crown, or will reigning World Cup champion Germany come out on top? Stay tuned…

German Rail is using the event to promote the purchase of its 25% and 50% discount rail cards with a clever campaign. Those who buy the three-month introductory Euro 2016 “Sieger” Bahncards before June 11 have the chance to predict the winner of the European Cup. All those who guess correctly will be rewarded with free travel on ICE, IC/EC trains and IC buses within Germany during the month of August 2016. The cards do not entitle holders to free travel on regional or local trains.

Germany’s auto-free cycling days start May 22

With more than 40,000 miles of cycling routes, Germany’s a great place for exploring by bike any day of the year. But it’s hard to beat an “auto-free” day, when a normally busy highway is shut down to all forms of motorized traffic, and cyclists, skaters and hikers come out in the tens of thousands to enjoy food, drink and endless forms of entertainment along the route.

On May 22 there are two events not far from military communities. The “Happy Mosel” will offer around 50 miles of auto-free road along the Moselle River between Schweich and Reil. The event kicks off officially at 11 a.m. in the town of Leiwen, where live bands play music for all tastes. Other activities in the villages along the route include martial arts demos, an old tractor display, face painting and other activities for the kids. Despite the road’s closure up to 6 p.m.; it’s possible to reach all the towns along the route by car. The event website states that Happy Mosel will be held for the last time ever in 2017, so maybe this is the year to get out and enjoy it? Learn more at happy-mosel.com/de (German only).

Star spotting in Cannes

Star struck? On-screen heroes have their feet on the ground at the Cannes Film Festival. The 69th edition of one of the film industry’s biggest events kicks off May 11 and continues through May 22.

What are the chances that an ordinary soul can rub shoulders with Bono, Leo and Lupita?

Every year, celebrity magazines publish a list of spots where you’re most likely to lay eyes on film royalty. The obvious point for a stakeout is the Palais des Festivals et des Congres, located just off the beachside strip known as Boulevard de la Croisette. From here it’s possible to see the red-carpet entrance to the Grand Theatre Lumiere, where two gala screenings are held each evening. Insiders suggest standing on the road, rather than alongside the carpet, where your view will be obscured by accredited photographers and cameramen.

Other reputed A-list hangouts include the area’s Michelin-starred restaurants (L’Oasis, La Palme d’Or), the trendy nightclubs (Le Baoli, Gotha Club) and luxury hotels (Hotel Martinez, InterContinental Carlton, Hotel Majestic Barriere). The secluded Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, at the southern tip of the Cap d’Antibes, harbors celebrities, too.

Between star gazing, one can always loll on one of the area’s beaches, enjoy a cocktail at a pop-up bar along the Croisette or check out the yachts in the harbor. In the evening, the Cinema de la Plage offers open-air screenings of out-of-competition films and Cannes classics. Request an invitation at the Cannes tourism office, located at 1 Boulevard de la Croisette. Learn more at www.festival-cannes.fr/en.html.

Check these old favorite bands on tour

Music fans with a good few years under their belts have felt their world rocked of late by the untimely passing of some of the musicians they’ve grown up listening to. The brighter news is that a slew of bands that emerged in decades well past are still going strong and even continue to tour. Here's a sampling of a few of our old favorites (in a few cases, what’s left of them!) who might soon be playing at a venue near your present home, or failing that, a place you’d like to build a trip around. This list was assembled just as a taster, and the dates indicated don’t represent the extent of an artist’s tour. For tickets, a good starting point either is www.eventim.com or the artist’s home page.

Beth Hart plays Frankfurt May 27; Dortmund May 29; Grolloo, Netherlands, June 3; and Ludwigsburg, Germany, June 6.



About the Author

Karen Bradbury has lived and worked in Europe for more than 15 years. She has called Moscow, Copenhagen, Rome and now a small wine-producing village along the Rhine in Germany home. When she's not working, whatever the season, she's probably traveling.

Email: news@stripes.com