By Jean Strauber, Travel Editor
Two years ago, you may remember, I took the 16-Day Wonders of Great Britain and Ireland Experience and had a marvelous time. The sites we visited, the optional excursions that were offered and taken upon were all outstanding. From the sampling of Haggis to marveling at Stonhenge from different views, awed at the display of military precision at the Edinburgh Tattoo or even riding in a fourin- hand in Killarney, it was a most enriching, enlightening and a fun experience-thanks to the experience of Trafalgar and Harry, our beloved tour director who provided many additional insights into what we were seeing.
A couple of weeks ago I visited the headquarters of Trafalgar, a world-wide company that offers firstclass tours to wherever you may want to travel on this planet. At their headquarters, I met with Amber Ritchie who provided me with a tour of their facilities. At a nearby Starbucks coffee house, we chatted over our iced mochas about a forthcoming European Experience that I would like to have during the summer of 2012. In a previous Travel Tips column I informed you that I was having a “0” birthday and I had made a promise to myself to undertake a European tour. Amber suggested that I investigate Trafalgar’s Costsaver vacation that I could select and share my holiday with you.
She provided me with a Costsaver 2012 Europe and Britain brochure and suggested that I might like to sample one of their European Discoveries. In scanning the brochure I found 11 different escorted vacations visiting multiple European countries, taking in the amazing sights, enjoying picturesque scenic drives and have free time to explore on my own. These vacations range from nine days (Glimpse of Europe) to 34 days (European Discoverer with Cruise Option). Accommodations will be in Superior or First Class Hotels including trusted and renowned brands such as Mercure, Holiday Inn and Jurys Inn. During the summer of 2012 Trafalgar will bypass London because of the Olympics. The brighter side of this is that the rates are significantly lower from about mid-July to mid-August because of the Games. Let me share some of these Trafalgar European Experiences with you.
For those whose time is limited: The Nine-Day “Glimpse of Europe.” Your tour includes London (except during the Games), Amsterdam, a Rhine Cruise, Rhineland, Lucerne (two nights), and Paris (two nights). Memorable highlights include: free time in London, seeing the White Cliffs of Dover, cruising the Rhine River, views of the Heidelberg Castle from the old town, see the picturesque Black Forest, viewing the mighty Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen, an orientation tour in Lucerne, viewing the Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame ad the Eiffel Tower. You’ll have at least one surprise Hidden Treasure experience, unique to your itinerary, courtesy of your Tour Director.
The tour that I am considering is the Trafalgar 18-Day “European Impression Experience.” As I would like to travel during July, my vacation will begin in Amsterdam. I spoke to Amber about a twoday pre-tour that would allow me and the friends that I will be traveling with to experience more of Amsterdam.
This is what I am hoping will be my itinerary:
Day 1- Leave USA
Day 2- 3 Arrive Amsterdam for the next two nights for a pretour that would include a canal ride, visit to the Van Gogh Museum, visiting the Ann Frank home, the Rijksmuseum and a tour through the “redlight” district.
Day 4- Join the Trafalgar European Impressions tour that begins in Amsterdam
Day 5- Our itinerary today will see us leave Amsterdam, drive into Germany and visit Cologne. We’ll embark on a relaxing cruise along the Rhine River and view those ancient castle that dot the river bank. We’ll disembark at St. Gooar where we’ll view the Lorelei Rock and hear the legend of the fabled siren! Our hotel is the Ramada Micador where we’ll also be hosted at dinner.
Day 6- This morning we’ll leave Rhineland and head south into Bavaria. We’ll arrive in Innsbruck where we’ll have an orientation tour before checking into the Alphotel. Again, we’ll enjoy a scheduled dinner.
Day 7- We leave Innsbruck and head to Salzburg to visit this Baroque town, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. We’ll continue on to Vienna where our hotel will be the Austria Trend Bosei. Our tour director will make suggestions for dinner on our own.
Day 8- This morning the expert local guide will show us the city’s important landmarks with the afternoon free to explore on our own. We might take in one of the many performances in this city that was home to Mozart as well as Beethoven. You must try one of the many small coffeehouses that seem to be on every corner where you can sip delicious hot chocolate accompanied by a decadent pastry.
Day 9- We leave Vienna and will now journey through the Austrian Alps to cross the border into Italy and arrive in Venice.
Day 10- The morning begins with a cruise by private launch to St. Mark’s Square, admire the Bridge of Sighs and the ornate Doge’s Palace. We’ll visit a glass-blowing factory for a demonstration, then the rest of the day we’re on our own to wander through the markets or cruise to the picturesque island of Burano for a fresh seafood lunch.
Day 11- We leave Venice for Rome where our accommodations are at the Aran Park Hotel. Why not sit at an outdoor cafe and sip on a glass of fine Italian wine, pay a visit to the Trevi fountain to throw in a coin for good luck?
Day 12- This morning begins with an escorted visit to St. Peter’s Basilica where we’ll see Michelangelo’s sculpture, the Pieta. The tour continues across the Tiber into ancient Rome for view of the Forum and the Colosseum. During the afternoon we can visit the Sistine Chapel, visit the famed Rome catacombs, or again relax at a sidewalk cafe and view the passing parade.
Day 13- Our journey will take us to Florence today. During our free time today you’ll have time to visit Piazza Signoria, the Duomo or shop for the high quality leather goods or jewelry before returning to our hotel this evening at the Hotel Demidoff.
Day 14- We leave Florence and travel north through Bologna and Milan to cross the Swiss border. We’ll see Lake Lugano and then take the famous St. Gothard route through the Alps to Lake Lucerne to the city of Lucerne where we’ll make our home for the next two nights at the Hotel Weinhof. Our tour director will probably have suggestions for enjoying a Swiss folklore and fondue evening.
Day 15- This morning there will be an orientation tour, including the medieval Old Town and a visit to the renowned Lion Monument. The rest of the day can be spent buying Swiss chocolate, taking an optional trip to a nearby mountain for spectacular views or cruising on Lake Lucerne.
Day 16- We will leave Switzerland and cross the border into France. We’ll travel past Belfort and the remnants of the Maginot Line (built to protect France against invaders after World War I), continue into the Burgundy wine region and arrive in the City of Light, Paris. Our hotel will be Mercure La Defense 5.
Day 17- Our knowledgeable local tour guide will provide us with views of the Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower. The rest of the day we’re on our own for strolling along the banks of the Seine, visiting the magnificent gardens and Palace at Versailles or exploring the Louvre Museum (established as a museum by Louis XIV in 1682) to view the Mona Lisa or the personification of ancient Roman women, the statute Venus de Milo.
Day 18- Today some of you will be saying “Au Revior” to your fellow travelers. But, why not extend your visit in Paris to include a boat ride on the Seine, a visit to Napoleon’s Tomb, a revisit to the Louvre, the Museum of Man (with its fine Neanderthal exhibits) or take a DaVinci Code tour?
Departures on the 18-Day European Impressions tour begins Thursday, March 29 and extend to Monday, December 31st 2012. Beginning on May 3 and extending through October 11, Trafalgar has planned weekly departures. From March 29 through June 28, the fare is $3025 (land only; includes two nights in London); departures from Amsterdam begin July 7 and end August 18 and the fare is $2725 for land only; Thursday August 23 London departure is $3085; weekly departures from August 30 through October 4 is $3099; departure October 11 $3150; December 15 departure is $2950; December 31 $2950. Early payment discounts are offered. Single room supplements vary depending on departure date. For more information about this and other Trafalgar COSTSSAVERS European Experiences please contact your Travel Agent or me at TrvlWritr2@aol.com.