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Dream European Vacations

Courtesy of L'Oustau de Baumanière

It doesn’t take long to be swayed by the drowsy rhythm of the Île de Ré, off the western coast of France. Before you know it, you’ll be getting around by bike, stopping to sample fresh oysters at the market or to admire historic town houses by the old port.

This colorful seaside hideaway is at its most charming in early summer, when crowds are thin and a gentle breeze stirs the bougainvillea. And like our favorite Old World escapes, a trip to the Île de Ré encourages you to relax your pace and bask in life’s finer pleasures, as the Europeans do oh so well.

If your European daydream is set among white-sand beaches and ancient ruins, look no further than the Greek island of Cephalonia. Check in to the affordable Emelisse Hotel, which offers a pool, a spa, and proximity to Gentilini Winery & Vineyards.

Other travelers will gravitate to the artisanal pub food and country retreats of the Cotswolds, where a string of new openings has attracted discerning Londoners like designer Stella McCartney.

Across Europe, there are similar signs of revitalization. While the waterfront city of Palma, Spain, has its share of medieval mazelike streets, don’t be surprised to find a thriving contemporary art scene.

In the village of Alaçati, Turkey, meanwhile, ambitious chef Kemal Demirasal wants his restaurant to reach the culinary heights of Copenhagen’s Noma. Size up his progress over a 12-course tasting menu on the patio above the terracotta rooftops—and raise a glass to your dream vacation come true.

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