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Is it all about southern and eastern Europe? - Curt Yeomans

It would seem southern and eastern European nations are now all the rage with travelers, rather than the tried-and-true western European spots, like London and Paris.

That is the impression I am getting after reading a list of a few "Best Places to Visit in 2011." I see a suspicious trend toward people advocating European trips being geared away from the traditional western European travel sites.

Lonely Planet, for example, is pushing Albania, Bulgaria and Italy. CNN has its own list (to which Lonely Planet's U.S. Travel Editor Robert Reid contributed). It also is making the case for Albania and Bulgaria, but does include, Barcelona, Spain, too.

The argument made by Lonely Planet for Albania is that so many people have stayed away from the Balkans, due to all the wars that were fought there in the 1990s (and into the earlier part of this decade), that it has become a "this is our little secret-"type place among backpackers. Lonely Planet reports on the cheap getaways, good food and "azure beaches."

Reid told CNN, meanwhile, that the case for Bulgaria is based on the fact that it is home to the best stretch of Black Sea coastline, has little traffic on the roads, has a rich history that ranges from the Romans to the Soviets, and is a great spot for skiing in the winter. I guess I can't argue too much against Bulgaria, because I, too, want to visit the nation, along with Hungary and Romania, some day.

CNN argues on Barcelona's behalf that it gets a boost from a recent visit from the Pope. Meanwhile, I can personally vouch that Italy -- with its own rich traditions that stretch from the Roman empire, to the Renaissance, to the nation's unification in 1861 -- is worth every penny you spend to get there.

But, when you think of a place like Greece, you have to ask yourself if now is the right time to visit. I remember chatting with another American -- who was on a vacation from studying in Greece -- at an outside restaurant in the Piazza Della Rotunda (outside the Pantheon), in Rome, last April.

This other American was explaining how the situation over there was getting increasingly serious, as people, protesting over Greece's crumbling economy, were getting increasingly violent in their attacks against that nation's government. I have to say, frequent riots are not exactly the things that attract people to visit a country.

I am convinced, however, there is still a case to be made for western Europe -- particularly London -- in 2011. England's capital city is expected to go on a multi-day holiday in the spring, when Prince William, and his fiancee, Kate Middleton, get married. Keep in mind how much of a big deal William's parents' wedding was, way back in the 1980's, and that will give you an idea how big the city will treat this wedding.

Unless the monarchy changes hands between now and 2020 (which is not likely, given how long the queen's mother lived), this wedding, and the 2012 Olympics will likely be the two biggest times to visit London in this decade.

On its web site, British Airways is currently offering a "Royal Wedding Weekend" vacation package (for April 27, 2011, to May 1, 2011) where people can fly to, and from, London on the airline, and stay in a London hotel, for as little as $1,009.50 (including taxes).

So, if you're planning to visit Europe in 2011 (for the record, I am not planning to go back there -- in 2011), remember to treat western Europe just as fairly as eastern and southern Europe.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.