By Jean Strauber, Travel Editor
Next year will be a birthday that ends in a “0” and I’ve promised myself a tour of Europe. Though I’ve been to London several times I’ve only visited Paris once,Vienna once and never Switzerland or Italy. It’s about time that I plan to go. So, during the coming year I’ll describe several tours that appeal to me. And, I will share with you the one that I finally select. One of the first that I am considering is the Trafalgar 18- Day European Interlude.
I was really impressed with the 16- Day Wonder of Great Britain and Ireland tour that I took in 2009. The Trafalgar brochure says the tour is rated as “comfortable” and I will visit seven countries. A buffet breakfast and 16 dinners are included on the tour. If you’ve never been toLondonI’d recommend arriving a couple of days early. I did that when I took my Trafalgar tour two years ago. I stayed at the charming Red Carnation Hotel, Montague-on-the-Gardens.
This charming boutique hotel is just across the road from the British Museum and various bus stops. There is a lovely garden that is maintained and where meals are served. So picturesque. Dinner in the paneled dining room was moderately priced and of outstanding quality. I enjoyed dining on traditional British fare — fish and chips, bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, etc. I asked for and received accommodations with a bathroom walk-in shower. I will confess that it was very difficult for me to climb into those highwalled British bathtubs. The staff at the Red Carnation is just outstanding. Very very helpful, beyond the call of duty.
The itinerary for the 18-Day European Interlude is as follows:
Flight to London.
Arrive in London and the rest of the day is at leisure. Try and plan your flight so that you arrive in the morning. Leave your luggage in the hotel and explore London with a hop on/ hop-off bus pass. There so much to see and do. The Hotel Copthorne Tara will be your hotel for the next two nights.
You’ll spend the morning on a sightseeing tour but the day and evening are yours. If your plans are for the latter part of July and August you must visit Buckingham Palace and Clarence House. They are open to the public when the Royal Family journeys to Scotland for the summer. At Clarence House you can purchase goods produced by the Duchy of Cornwall, including very good chocolates, jams, biscuits (cookies to us), guide books, glassware, souvenir plates, etc. From Clarence House it’s a short stroll to near by Buckingham Palace. The guided tour is awesome. You’ll find yourself in the Throne Room, the State Dining Room, the Bow Room (to name just a couple). When the tour ends you will be offered the opportunity to purchase some light refreshments. Tables and chairs provide seating room on the rear portico of Buckingham Palace facing the gardens. Take the opportunity so later you can brag to your friends, “I had tea at the palace.”
The Trafalgar Tour Director welcomes you as you board your coach that will take you onto the ferry and across the Channel to France. You will continue through France and Belgium to Amsterdam. Your tour director will host you and your fellow travelers to a welcome drink and dinner on board a glass-topped boat cruising along Amsterdam’s canals. That night you will rest at the Hotel Mercure Aan De Amstel. Some of you might want to visit the Anne Frank home, the Van Gogh Museum or even the notorious Red Light District.
The morning begins with a morning orientation tour of this city which includes Dam Square and the Tower of Tears. You’ll then leave Amsterdam and enjoy the scenic drive into Germany where you’ll stop to see its historic Gothic cathedral. Your coach passes Bonn and shortly afterward you’ll board a riverboat that will take you on a relaxing Rhine cruise past castles and vineyards. You’ll disembark in St. Goar for views of the famed Lorelei Rock before reaching the Holiday Inn Manheim City Center.
The first stop is Heidelberg to view its famous castle. Then it’s on to Munich where you’ll see the Marienplatz and Olympic Stadium. Lean back and enjoy the scenic ride to Innsbruck where you’ll stay at the Hotel Hilton Innsbruck.
On to Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart. A local guide will lead you on a walking tour that includes locations used in the film “The Sound of Music.” Your motor coach will take you through some beautiful scenery (“Tales of the Vienna Woods?”) as you drive closer to the Danube River and the elegance of Austria’s capital,Vienna.
A morning sightseeing tour includes views of the Opera House, the Hofburg, Stadtpark, Parliament and the Imperial Boulevards. The rest of the day is at leisure to sight see or shop along the Kamtnerstrasse. If it’s a Saturday, visit the Vienna flea market for some genuine some not-so-genuine antiques. It’s also a farmer’s market and why not pick up some fresh fruit for your room? You can stop at one of the many Viennese cafes for delicious Viennese pastries that just melt in your mouth. Add some Viennese hot chocolate and you’re in seventh heaven. It’s possible that your tour director will have an optional excursion to the famous Lippizan horse stables or a concert featuring music of Mozart or Beethoven. Did you notice how many parks have statues of one or both of these musical geniuses?
Drive into the heart of Austrian Alps and the small picturesque towns of the Austrian Lake District, then continue over the Italian border where the spectacular Carnic Alps will give way to the flat plains of theVeneto region. Here, magical Venice awaits.
Discover this Byzantine city. A canal cruise on a motor launch will take you to St. Mark’s Sqaure. You’ll view the Bridge of Sighs and Doge’s Palace. Then it’s a visit to the glass-blowing factory. The rest of the day you have free time to explore, shop or take a cruise to the island of Burano in the Venetian lagoon.
From Venice, drive across the fertile Po valley to join the autostrada del Sole for the journey through the Apennine Mountains to Rome, the Eternal City.
Enjoy Rome at your leisure after a morning sightseeing tour that includes a guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica. You’ll be able to see Michelangelo’s famed “La Pieta.” Then your coach will take you across the Tiber to ancient Rome and the Forum, the Colosseum and the famed Circus Maximus where chariot races were held. The afternoon is at leisure. However, I feel that your tour director will make suggestions about an optional excursion to the famed Roman Catacombs, the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel.