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Dear Traveler,

Albeit with some wind, rain, and chilly days, spring has come to our town of Ashland, here in southern Oregon. Dogwoods and rhododendrons are spectacular. The massive oaks in our backyard are now fully leafed and partly obscure the view to the valley. The town is already full of tourists. So far, Hamlet gets mixed reviews, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is by all accounts a winner, but the sensation of the 2010 Oregon Shakespeare Festival to date is the musical, She Loves Me. The Merchant of Venice and Twelfth Night have just joined the rotation. Three new, eager restaurants have opened in spaces where dishes served by former tenants had become stale and repetitive. Time will tell if they can join our list of favorites: Peerless, Lila's, Kobe, and Thai Pepper. While I look forward to a summer of outdoor dining, golf, and quick trips to the coast on the hottest days, my thoughts are on Europe where...

...the dollar has strengthened dramatically against the euro. Last November, the buck was worth only 0.67 euro. Today it fetches 0.82 euro. The 100 euro hotel room that cost $150 in November is now $122. That 4-euro beer has dropped from $6 to less than $5. It appears that in 2010 the major in-country cost components of a European vacation are going to be lower than they have been in several years. I profess no knowledge of what makes currencies fluctuate, but it seems pretty clear that the euro's current weakness has to do with worries about the financial problems of certain countries in the so-called "eurozone." Since the fundamentals that caused the dollar to steadily weaken over the past several years haven't changed, it seems logical that when these fears subside, the euro will regain strength. Most currency gurus, however, forecast continued euro anemia, and more than a few predict a Europe traveler's dream: parity for the dollar against the euro. Either way, I say go to Europe now.