Ruth & I are always on the lookout for exceptional small towns in distant places. We found one in England just last year called Broadway. Three others that we have really liked are Plockton, Porvoo, and Scentendre.
Broadway is in The Cotswolds not too far from Oxford. It’s exactly 18 miles north of Cleltenham, our still very traditionally British base close enough for exploring Broadway, where parking is tight. We traveled by local bus to Broadway from Cheltenham in less than an hour. It’s a town to wander around in, have tea, and slowly savor. Broadway has been favored for centuries by British elites like the author of Peter Pan, painters, and composers. They traditionally liked to hang out in the Broadway Tower, an 18th century oddity that is accessible from Broadway but not exactly in town. An American named Frank Millet started an artists’ colony in it with his wife Lily, but he died on the Titanic. She was not with him, moved to New York, and lived another 20 years like Jackie Kennedy, but she became an interior designer not a book editor. That’s The Tower featured in an ale ad above.
Plockton, where only 400 people live, is one of those small town wonders. It’s near the Isle of Skye and has a main street lined with palm trees. In Scotland! Plockton people live in small white houses, and visitors can walk from one end of town to the other in half an hour. It’s so scenic that it shows up in TV series. The closest big city to Plockton is Glasgow, and I’ll forever be grateful to Aussies John and Trish for knowing about it and wanting to see it on our way to the top of Scotland and The Orkneys.
Porvoo is the 2nd oldest town in Finland and close enough to Helsinki, about 30 miles away, to be a delightful day trip. Because they live so far north and have snowy winters, Finns often paint the exterior of their houses bright colors. I first noticed this in Turku, a seacoast town with lots of pastel dwellings. Porvoo, which was a trading post before becoming a town in the 14th century, has several red warehouses and colorful houses. Its Old Town with many cobblestone walkways is fun to wander in and has lots of craft shops. The photo above is a staircase in design-focused Helsinki.
Finally, there’s Szentendre. When I first went to Budapest, I kept seeing signs for Szentendre in Budapest’s super urban transit system, became curious, and decided to go there. I’ve been back twice to this town on the Danube River that began as an artists’ colony and now has lots of craft shops that Ruth loves. We took my cousin Tom there, and he immediately began speculating about buying property and living part of each year there.