By Jean Strauber, Travel Editor
I’m still trying to decide on my European sojourn this coming summer. I’ve written about the Trafalgar European 16-Day Interlude tour which departs from Amsterdam (I’ll be traveling during the Olympics) and includes Cologne, Amsterdam, Cologne, a Rhine Valley Cruise, Munich, Insbruck, Salzburg, Vienna, Venice, Rome, Florence, Lugano, Lucerne, and ends in Paris. The highlights included sightseeing tours, a canal cruise in Amsterdam and Venice, visiting a traditional glass-blowing factory, a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica, and, of course Trafalgar’s Hidden Treasures which make Trafalgar Tour Vacations so memorable The sightseeing highlights in the Traditional Europe Cruise Vacation include:
An orientation tour will take you to the Mint Tower and Dam Square. I am planning to arrive two days early so that I can visit the Anne Frank house, the Rembrandt and van Gogh museums. In the evening we’ll be enjoy a welcome reception and dinner with our Travel Director on an included canal cruise in a glass-topped boat. COLOGNE/RHINELAND: We will visit the Cologne Cathedral, which was begun in 1248 but wasn’t completed until the 19th century. It was heavily damaged during the bombing of Cologne during World War II, and fully restored to its glory by 1956. In Boppard we will take a Rhine cruise to St. Goar to view the Lorelei Rock.
We will view the impressive Heidelberg Castle and proceed to the medieval city of Strasbourg for an orientation tour, then cross the Swiss border to the alpine town of Engelberg.
LUCERNE: In Lucerne, we’ll see the Lion Monument and the famous wooden Chapel Bridge. As the schedule allows for free time you can go shopping or even take a narrated boat cruise on Lake Lucerne.
LIECHTENSTEIN: We’ll stop in this postage-stamp sized principality on our way to Venice. There are some awesome views of the Alps, and souvenir shops galore. Innsbruck: An
orientation tour includes the famed Golden Roof of this city nestled in the heart of the Alps. If there is free time, visit the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum and the grand 15th century Imperial Palace.
VENICE: During the two nights we’ll take a private motor launch to cruise to St. Mark’s Square, view the famous Bridge of Sights and the ornate Doge’s Palace. Another highlight is a glass-blowing demonstration.
ROME: With two nights in the Eternal City, we’ll have a sightseeing tour that includes St. Peter’s Basilica and Michelangelo’s Pieta. We’ll cross the Tiber to see the Forum, the Colosseum and enjoy views of the Sistine Chapel. There will be free time to further explore Rome on your own — perhaps visit the Fountain of Trevi or Rome’s Catacombs.
ISLE OF CAPRI: From Rome we’ll drive through the vineyards of Frascati into the Campania region, then board a ferry to cruise to the Isle of Capri from Naples. A funicular railway will take us to the town of Capri for a walking tour. We then travel to Sorrento.
SORRENTO/POMPEI/ASSISI: This will be a very busy day. After a buffet breakfast we’ll travel to Pompei for a walking tour of the excavations. Later we’ll view the Abbey of the restored Abbey of Monte Cassino (one of the bloodiest battles of World War II took place here) and arrive later in Assisi, the town of St. Francis in Italy’s Umbrian Hills. Trafalgar has scheduled an orientation tour including the St. Francis Basilica with its spectacular frescos by Giotto.
FLORENCE: A sightseeing tour will take us to the Signoria Square, which is in the heart of the historic center, and we’ll admire the view from the Piazzalo Michelangelo. Time is provided to browse through the shops in Florence or visit the Loggia della Signoria, which holds important statues, including a copy of Michelangelo’s David.
PISA/MONACO/NICE: Another long traveling day, but we’ll see so much. First, there’s the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then it’s on to Monaco to see the noted Monte Carlo Casino and view the palace where Prince Albert and his new bride reside. We’ll then travel on to Nice, and enjoy a Highlight Dinner at a local French restaurant.
NICE: While in Nice we’ll explore the medieval town of St. Paul de Venice and visit a nearby perfumery.
AVIGNON/LYON: From Nice, we board our deluxe motorcoach and proceed to the papal city of Avignon. We’ll see the Papal Palace as well as the St. Benezet Bridge before proceeding on to Lyon. In Lyon an orientation tour awaits us, which includes the Fourvierre Hill and Place Bellecour.
LYON/BEAUNE/PARIS: We leave Lyon and travel through the beautiful Rhone Valley, stopping at the village of Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy, before arriving in the City of Light, Paris.
This morning we have an orientation tour which includes the Arc Triomphe, Champs Elysees and Place de la Concorde. We’ll visit the Eiffel Tower and be able to view the city from the Tower’s second level. In the evening our Tour Director hosts a Farewell Dinner for us and our traveling companions. If you can, I do recommend an additional day or day in this city so that you can spend time at the Louvre, admire the exhibit at the Museum de Man, visit Versailles, the Notre Dame Cathedral or just sit and enjoy a cup of coffee at one of their famous outdoor cafes. I’m now considering the 18 Day (usually 21) Traditional Europe Experience. Per the 2012 Trafalgar Europe & Britain Guided Vacations, the tour will begin in Amsterdam. If you are traveling at any other time than during the Olympics, you arrive in London where you spend two nights with free time to explore the city on your own.
A morning tour of the capital is included. But, if you’ve been to London before, why not purchase a hop-on/hop-off bus pass and do the city on your own. If you’re planning your Trafalgar vacation for late August or the early part of September, I recommend highly that you purchase tickets Buckingham Palace and Clarence House tours. 2012 is Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, celebrating her 60 years on the throne of Great Britain and head of the Commonwealth and special exhibitions are being planned for the Jubilee Year. After the conclusion of the tour, you can purchase some light refreshments (tea, sandwiches, cookies, cakes) and can brag, as I did, that you had tea in the palace.
Clarence House, now the home of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, is also available for tours. The royal couple have retained many of the late Queen Mother possessions in the public rooms which gives further insight into the character and personality of Queen Elizabeth. On my tour, I noted that the docent added many personal details about the life style and personality of the Queen Mother. After your tour I recommend visiting the Duchy of Cornwall gift shop. Not only can you purchase guide books, the also various foods that are produced in the Duchy of Cornwall are offered for sale. Their jams are delicious and are a unique gift. On my tour in 2009, I combined the tours to the “Buck House” and Clarence House in one day as they are located so close together. I also visited the Queen’s Gallery adjacent to the palace.
It was well worth the money. and you can purchase the tickets online. Land prices are $4650 (London not included) to $5475 per person/double occupancy. Trafalgar is offering anyone who wants to take any of the European holidays I’ve described in my Travel Tips of the Week column can enjoy a 5 percent discount in combination with any other discounts to which you may be entitled. You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.