We're taking the My Way: Alpine Europe tour in September and we'd love any words of advice others who have been on this tour might have to offer. Any suggestions about restaurants, fun things to see and do, what to bring, info about the hotels, or just general thoughts about the tour would be most appreciated. We've taken many RS tours, but this will be our first My Way tour. I'm very much missing the tour reviews for this, but I'm hoping some of you can fill in the gaps left from having that info no longer available.
I just returned from the My Way Alpine Europe tour. We began July 21 in Salzburg and ended August 1 in Chamonix, France. This was my first My Way tour after taking 6 guided RS tours. Here are my random thoughts from the trip.
Your Sightseeing Supplement is going to be very valuable in preparing for the trip. I would advise on making reservations for Neuschwanstein (Fussen) and Aiguille du Midi (Chamonix) as soon as your can. Neuschwanstein can be done now online. Aiguille du Midi can only be done within 7 days of your visit. For the Aiguille du Midi, you will have to make reservations online while in Bolzano (seven days out). There were hordes of people at both places and those without reservations had long waits for tickets.
Weather will affect your sightseeing decisions more on this itinerary than perhaps on others. Rain and t-storms were constantly in the forecast on our trip, though it wasn't as bad as it seems. We had glorious days in the Alpe di Siusi and in Chamonix. Lauterbrunnen had heavy rain the day we arrived, but it stopped the next morning; nonetheless, views of the Monch, Eiger and Jungfrau were not to be had due to low cloud cover. The trip up to the Zugspitze was completely in the fog with no views. Be ready to be flexible with your plans if the weather doesn't cooperate.
Some "don't miss" sightseeing events for me were hiking, taking the lifts, and having lunch in an Alpine hut in the Alpe di Siusi; the Aiguille du Midi lift and Montenvers train to the Mer de Glace in Chamonix (I didn't do the hike in between). If the weather is good, absolutely take the Helbronner telecabines to Italy found at the top of the Aiguille. In Lauterbrunnen, I took the Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg hike even though it was completely in the fog. I'm glad I did it, but wow, it must really be spectacular on a clear day.
Hotels were the typical RS tour hotels. I went solo so my rooms were quite small. Salzburg location was not ideal (15 minute walk to old town); others were centrally located as is typical for RS hotels. Biggest frustration: keeping devices charged with only 1 or 2 outlets in room.
Food was not a priority for me, but fondue and Rosti in Lauterbrunnen were memorable. Definitely not something you would eat every day.
Be ready for Switzerland to be VERY expensive. Everything seemed to cost a lot more than elsewhere on trip (after adjusting for currency difference). Also, I spent a lot more cash while on the trip than on guided RS tours, since I was paying for all sightseeing and dinners on my own. No surprise here, but something to be prepared for.
Biggest unknown going into the trip was the role of the tour escort/guide. It turned out pretty much as expected. Our guide was a valuable Q&A resource along the way, but didn't provide the in-depth history and culture talks that are provided on the fully guided tours.
I would take another My Way tour in the future, but probably only to somewhere that I've been to before. I had the benefit of having been to Salzburg, Hallstatt and Lauterbrunnen previously, so I knew what to expect there. I would probably opt for a fully guided tour of Spain, for example, since I haven't been there, and would appreciate the value-added services of the guide.
Our group bonded pretty well, even though this was a My Way tour and the time together was less than on guided tour. I think this depends more on the people than the type of tour. A final night outdoor BYOB/F gathering at the hotel in Chamonix was a nice way to end the tour. I took the train to Geneva after tour ended (rather than the shuttle van) and then flew back the following day through Paris.
Let me know if you have some more questions.
Eric, many thanks! You've just given me a wealth of information. It'll take a while for me to digest all of it, but I have one quick question now. I assume that going on the Aiguille du Midi is weather dependent. When you make reservations 7 days out, do you have to pay for the ride or just for the reservation?
I so appreciate the time you took to give me such a thorough review with so much advice. I hope you don't mind if I come back with more questions after going through the tour book along with your information.
On a totally different subject, are you aware of the Portland/Vancouver travel meeting tonight at seven at Panera Bakery in Jantzen
Beach? It sounds like a small group at this point, but the group has had just one meeting so far and I'm guessing it'll develop into more with time.
Hi. I took the very first My Way: Alpine last summer. I speak German, am an 8 time alum, and had been hankering for a My Way that was more compact than some, i.e., less bus time. I really enjoyed this trip and hope more are created. My approach to this trip was to identify things I really wanted to do, and during this time, it was locate parts of the European Way of St. James. I was successful in Innsbruck (pre-tour), a bit in Salzburg (I located the office, but the Way was outside the city), and from a distance in Ober Bozen (Bolzano). I enjoyed myself, but this was pretty laborious, and round about Fussen, I just gave in and went with the flow and started to enjoy the more easily available experiences.
Highlights: visiting Hohen Schwangau in a relaxed way and having a yummy lunch by the lake. Check to see if the hotel management can ease your way for tix if you do not purchase in advance. I ate in a fantastic Greek restaurant on some ramparts in Fussen. I do not recall the name, but it should not be difficult to locate. I was proud to achieve both the Zugspitze and Aiguille du Midi as I have been afraid of tall lifts for some time. I enjoyed them both very much. As I recall, our escort prompted us to plan for Aiguille du Midi and may have "helped" arrange this a bit for the group who wanted to go. We went very early in the morning and had no problem with crowds.
The hotels were a mix. My favorites were in Hallstatt, Bolzano, and Chamonix. You may have different hotels as there are numerous RS tours overlapping in some of these locations. One discovery was that whatever amount of time was quoted to me by whoever doing the quoting, RS or others, it always took me about twice the amount of time to get somewhere. This became a rule of thumb, and I learned to incorporate it into my planning.
Now, September: depending on when in September, you may be in a locale or two for the fall cow parades when the cattle are brought down from the Alps. Words to search if you are interested are Viehscheid, Almabtrieb, and Alpabzug. Different words are local to different areas along your way. I caught a cow parade in September in 2011 outside of Innsbruck. Lots of fun. The cows are all dressed up with fancy head-dresses, and I believe they know they are top models. I have lots of photos with the cows posing coquettishly for the camera. Anyway, it is something you will not see here, and with a bit of googling, you find you are in the right location at the right time.
Top Hightlight: probably Hallstatt where we had only one day. I would love more time to learn to vacation like an Austrian. I would actually consider taking this tour again. Enjoy!
With respect to Aiguille du Midi reservations, when you are 7 days out, you make a reservation only. You don't pay for the trip until you get your tickets at the lift (short line for those with reservations). I understood there would be a 2 euro reservation fee but I don't think they every charged it online. When you make your reservation, you will received a time and number. Make sure you have printout or smartphone with reservation details.