For the past year, a fat ceramic pig had been taunting me. Perched on my dresser, the polka dot piggy bank gobbled up my spare change and stray bills when I’m feeling flush...and then reluctantly coughs them back up when I hit some sort of household emergency. The idea, initially, was that Little Mr. Piggy would eventually help pay for a European vacation. A week in Spain, I thought, as I dropped a five note in the pig. A weekend in Paris? I wondered, as I later fished that fiver out to help pay for our heating repairs. After six months of repeatedly robbing our meager savings, my wife declared a truce. “You want quaint little towns and artisanal dairy farms? We don’t have to go to Provence—let’s go to Vermont!”
Scoff if you want, but she was right: Many of those cultural sights that seemed to be beckoning from across the pond can be had right here, on this side. Here’s how to plan your very own Almost-European American Vacation.