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Interlaken, Switzerland
May 25, 2000

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Five Reasons It's Getting Easier to Travel in Europe

Cash Machines. They're everywhere. Who bothers with Travelers' Cheques anymore? (Only drawback: cheques were your access to American Express offices to check for mail, but not a problem because ...)

Cyber Cafes. Still mainly in the big tourist and university towns only, but getting better. They tend to stick them in odd places: we found out on our last day of seven that there were two free terminals with screaming access at the Tourist Information office in Fiesole.

Phone home. It's cheaper and easier than ever. Slide your Visa card into a payphone and talk to the U.S. during the evening for 15 minutes for $2 or $3. Except for Italy. (Don't ask.)

The Euro. Not available on the streets, but everyone lists their prices in local currency and the Euro -- which is fairly close in value to the dollar. Makes price conversions quick and easy.

Parisians are friendlier. The old stereotype of haughty Parisians seems less and less true. Maybe they're putting something in the water. As likely, the spread of MTV and Coca-Cola culture lessens the cultural gap between Americans and the French, especially among the young. Meanwhile, the old guard that picked on you for failing to conjugate properly seems to be fading away.