We are travelling to Europe in September/October by taking bus tours. As we will be in many cities for two days, we would love some advice on where we can go for day trips using public transport. We are mostly interested in seeing scenery and everyday life, and would like to concentrate on small towns a little away from major tourist centres such as London, Salzburg, Venice, Rome, Paris and Vienna.
Most major European cities have comprehensive public transport systems. Single day travel passes and off-peak fares are well worth investigating.
You'll be travelling after Europe's main holiday season has passed, so you should find that even the most popular destinations aren't too busy.
A day trip to London-on-Sea, Brighton, is a must, with its raffish seaside atmosphere and pier, plus pubs, cafes and shops in the atmospheric lanes. You could also head to Canterbury, the RHS Wisley Garden, Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Colchester, Oxford, Winchester ... the list is endless, really.
With its scenic villages and lakes, the Salzkammergut region of Salzburg is easily reached by public bus.
Rome is surrounded by options for half-day or day trips, including the mountain town of Orvieto, 1.5 hours away. The medieval old town is precariously situated on top of a cliff, and its magnificent Gothic cathedral is a visual feast of gold mosaics. The gorgeous Tivoli gardens and Roman port of Ostia are also good options.
Venice is a great walking city and you'll be amazed at how quickly you can escape the tourist throng by simply heading away from the train station/Rialto-San Marco main drag. Try exploring the area past the Arsenale in Castello, where you'll find picturesque strings of washing flapping over the laneways, markets and shops selling cheap wine by the litre.
In Paris, all you need do is travel to the end of a metro line and you'll feel a million miles from the City of Light. For something a little more exotic than the suburbs, you could take a day trip to Versailles, Chartres or Giverny.
Finally, Vienna is surrounded by stunning countryside to its west, including the famous Vienna Woods, vineyards and spa towns.
Rich pickings en route
We are travelling by car from Avignon to Nice. Have you any suggestions for an interesting inland route that will highlight the culture and beauty of this part of France? We will be travelling in late August/early September.
The distance from Avignon to Nice isn't great, around 200km, but so many delightful towns and landscapes are packed into this small area that you could happily tour around for several days as you make your way to the Cote d'Azur.
From the charming city of Avignon, the inland route twists and turns its way down south towards Arles.
Just out of Avignon, the small town of St Remy de Provence - the historic centre of Les Baux de Provence - clings precariously to a 245m-high grey limestone spur.
Heading east towards Apt, capital of the Luberon, you'll pass Fontaine de Vaucluse (one of the world's most powerful natural springs) and the spectacular hill town of Gordes. The Luberon's lush hills stretch from Cavaillon to the River Durance, a region made famous by British author Peter Mayle (A Year in Provence).
Northeastern Provence crowns the top of the Cote d'Azur with spectacular Alp-cradled mountains. You can't miss the Gorges du Verdon, Europe's largest canyon, as it slices a 25km swathe through Provence's limestone plateau.
You could drive the dramatic La Corniche Sublime (the D19 to the D71) that twists along the southern rim, taking in landmarks such as the Balcons de la Mescla (the Mescla Terraces) and Pont de l'Artuby, the highest bridge in Europe.
Then make your way to the gorgeous medieval hilltop village of Saint Paul de Vence, a short drive from Nice. The haunt of artists and writers such as Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall and D H Lawrence, the town's highlight is Matisse's masterpiece, the Chapelle du Rosaire (Rosary Chapel).