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Best of Europe in 14 Days - May 11-24 (Alums - need your help)

My wife and I, plus her twin sister/husband will be taking this tour. Anyone else going then, or any alums have any good tips or suggestions on how to make the best use of our free time? Can't wait to get started.

Thanks,

Tom

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333 posts

I'll be on the 21 Day BOE tour at the same time you're taking yours. I suggest arriving at least a day early if not a few, just for getting over jet lag and doing some exploring on your own. Look over your itinerary and get a feel for how much free time you'll have and how busy you'll be beforehand. That might help you decide how active to be when you do get time. I know the guides offer a lot of optional activities and ideas for free time too. You can also research on your own and make tentative plans- and then inform your guide. I'm planning to paraglide in the alps should time and weather cooperate in Switzerland. Search out blogs from other RS Tours as they can be a wonderful resource as to what others have done and enjoyed. That's how I learned about the paragliding!

Have a great time planning!
Lisa

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206 posts

Tom, even though you are taking a guided tour, I hope you have already been planning for the trip. I am taking the same tour in 2016 and already have lots of info on what I plan to do on free time. Would hope you would arrive in Paris on Saturday if you are starting a Mon afternoon tour. Very important to look at hotels now if you do arrive early. Paris hotels are booked very far in advance. You will have one afternoon and evening on your own in Paris if you do not arrive early. You will have a full day in Switzerland to just hike, picnic, or whatever you like. Munich will also have an afternoon and evening of free time. Florence will be busy busy and not much free time other than about 3 hours around lunch. An afternoon and evening in Venice and Rome also.
I just start out walking and take in everything I can. Churches are so beautiful, I just go in all of them I can, even if just for 10 minutes. Your guide can offer all kinds of ideas on what to do or see with free time if you have not already got it planned. Whatever you do, you will have a wonderful time on the tour. Hope you can arrive early or stay a few days longer. The time will go so fast and will never be forgotten. Enjoy!

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1173 posts

Tom: As you know I took this tour Sept 2014. My suggestions:

Venice: Make sure you go inside the church of St. Mark's Basilica -- and if there is time, stand on line ( line moves quickly) to go to the small museum on top of the church, pay a fee into the museum and you can see the ceiling close up ( no photos allowed) and see the horses that used to be outside the church ( copies are now outside, story behind horses) and you standing on the balcony around the church and see great views the main square. Never been to Venice, I personally would just take the take to walk all the streets and take a boat ride ( they use boats as buses and ride the "bus" all around to see the canals and buildings). If weather is good, I would do that instead of a museum and I would go on the pub crawl at night ( my friend did not want to go and then she was sorry). A guide takes you around, extra fee but you eat and drink and see Venice, ( I plan to do it next time I am in Venice). The guide is in the book and our guide told us she would make the reservations. If rain, then go to a museum, you can buy the combo ticket and see the inside of the Doges' Palace, ( amazing place, I went this time) and the other museum where you buy the ticket, we did not have time for both museums and Doges is more important. Venice is meant to be outside and wander and lose yourself and take the boat ride during the day. If you had more time, I would suggest other things, but that is a lot. You will also be taking a walking tour and a mask demo with the group which is very nice and then let free to spend the day in Venice. Don't spend too lunch at lunch, as Venice is a must see! I will write about other places soon.

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1173 posts

What I meant to say don't spend too much time at lunch as there is tons to see and walk around Venice. Go to the Rialto bridge and walk across it. I had been to Venice years before twice for a day and walked around, so I did not do what I am suggesting as I had always wanted to see the inside of the Doge's Palace, but the next time I go to Venice, I want to walk around and take a water bus to see more of Venice.

Rome: The tour takes you to the Vatican takes you on a short tour of the Vatican museum ( see some major works), you go ( and spend plenty of time) inside the Sistine Chapel, try to grab a seat on the benches, people are all seating, then someone gets up, but you have to be quick and seat down. As you are in there 20 minutes or so looking up the whole time. I got a seat the two years in a row I was there ( 2013 & 2014) and it was helpful. Then get up and more to the other side so you can see everything. Very crowded and must be silent and no photos. But it is amazing and worthwhile. Then the tour takes you Vatican museum. Then you will go inside St Peters with the guide ( but they are not allowed to guide if they are not licensed) or you go in by yourself or you leave. Don't leave! Go inside St Peters and walk all around. This will take at least 45 minutes to an hour, to see the whole church, or more or less, but more. Now you can either leave and once you leave you cannot go back in, or make sure before the guide leaves you, to find out how to get back into the Vatican museum. I did that one year and spend the full day in the Vatican, I stayed on and went back in and toured the museum. It is like the Lourve, you will not see the whole thing, but you will see a lot and how many times to you get to see the Vatican museum. The tour going through the museum is very, very crowded!!!!! Just like the Lourve, but once you get into the museum and away from the tour groups and the most famous art, you will find the museum not crowded at all and you can breath and see the pieces just fine. Then you will enjoy the museum. I did that with the Lourve and The Vatican museum and it was fine. Most of the tour will just leave and go back into Rome, but it is up to you to do what you wish and what you want to see in your free time in Rome. It is just a suggestion. I will write more about what to see it Rome. PM if you want to ask me about Rome and what you think you may want to see.

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1173 posts

Beaune, France --- lovely little charming village -- Take the tour of Hotel Dieu which is a hospital, self guided tour, they give you earphones to hear the walking tour of the hospital and very interesting and different. I have traveled a lot and never saw anything like it. Should not take more than an hour or so, maybe less. Then just walk around the town and see all the little streets and shops, lots of shops, lots of window shopping, very well done windows. Lots of places to have a drink, eat and relax. But you are only there one day and will have a nice wine tasting and dinner with the tour. So your afternoon will be spent walking around the town and seeing the Hotel Dieu. You can also take a walk around the walled city. ( We did not have time to do as we did not spend as much time as you will in Beaune, they changed the tour a bit, we went to the Lourve in the morning before going on to Beaune). Nice relaxing day, could have stayed there an extra day. Great place for the French to go to for a weekend.

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1173 posts

Rome -- If staying on to see the Vatican Museum is not what you want to do with your limited time in Rome, I do have other suggestions. I have been to Rome several times and still not have done all the things I would like to do. But do make sure you go into St Peters, even if you don't go back to the Vatican Museum. The Trevi Fountain is being worked on so we did not bother to go in Sept to see it, you may find out if there is anything to see, but I doubt it so I would skip the Trevi Fountain, but I would take the bus or the metro ( I like the metro) back over the Tiber River and go to the Spanish Steps. The metro stops right by the Steps. You can walk up the steps and there is a church to go into at the very top of the steps. You can have lunch at my favorite wine bar right near the Spanish steps, L'Enotec Antica ( been there twice) - lasagna just like my mom used to make, no kidding. Then you can take a walk to the Piazza del Popolo and there are two churches there to go into. Remember the best art is in all the churches. Take a look at the Rome section of your book and see where you would like to walk around and see. The art and the beauty of Rome is all around you and you don't need to go to another museum, having limited time, take a walk around an area to see Rome. The tour will take you to The Pantheon so you will see that and it is amazing. Our tour went there, then we had free time and had dinner on our own near the Pantheon and then met up again. So make sure you know where you will want to eat near the Pantheon.

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1173 posts

Should it rain while in Rome, you could go to the National Museum of Rome, which is close to your hotel, I would only do it if it rains, as it is best to see Rome by walking around. There are so much to see that is outside and as I said as you are walking around if you see a church, pop in as you will be amazing by the sheer beauty of each church in Rome.

If you find your self back by your hotel, you can go to the Baths of Diocietian, the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria which has the most amazing Bernini's statue, St Teresa in Ecstasy, Church of Santa Maria Maggiore and around the corner is the church, Santa Prassede. All are in a short walking distance of your hotel.

It would also be nice to go to Piazza Navona -- we went at night as a group which is great and going during the day would also be nice. Great people watching place and a great place to have a drink or a gelato. So there are many options on how to spend your time in Rome. I hope this helps.

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1173 posts

Munich: The two nights in Munich are free evenings, no group dinner. Have in mind where you want to eat both nights. You will definitely go to Hofbrauhaus, even if you don't eat there, you have to go to enjoy the atmosphere, have a beer or whatever you drink and have a big pretzel. It is a fun place, very casual and you sit with lots of people. You walk in and when you see some seats empty, you grab them. It was jam packed the night we went and it was a week day night, not even a weekend! There is a live band and it is just a fun night.

There was an option to go to Dachau Concentration Camp, ( no one went on my tour, but it was a rainy day and the tour is outside).
You can also go to the BMW museum, again I don't think anyone on my tour went, it is outside of Munich. I really liked Munich so I would stay in the city. I liked walking around Munich. I went ( as I have told you) to the Residenz ( beautiful palace) in walking distance of the Vikrtualienmarkt. It is an open air market which looked nice to browse. I recommend taking a walk through the Vikrtualienmarkt. It looked nice, but it was rainy so we did not go. We did go into St Michael's Church and to the Marienplatz which is the main square where there are tons of beer halls, shops and we saw the Glockenspiel ( must wait to see the show, we saw it the first night at 5PM) which is a must see. Right next to the Vikrtualienmarkt is the Schrannenhalle ( upscale food hall) where we enjoyed desert and rested.

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1173 posts

I am not sure if you are going to Paris the day before the tour begins or if you are coming into Paris the day the tour begins. I ask because if you are coming into Paris the day before the tour begins, then you may want to make morning reservations for the Eiffel Tower to go to the top which as a great view of the city and see the Eiffel Tower and across the street is the Trocadero which is a great place to really see the Eiffel tower and take photos of the tower. If you want to go to the top, make your reservations on line as soon as possible. If you don't go to the top, it still is a great place to go in the morning before the tour begins at 2PM at the hotel. You can get a bite to eat or a snack or fruit in Rue Cler which is right near the Eiffel Tower.

If you are coming in the same day as the tour you could still go see the Eiffel Tower after the tour goes to Notre Dame and Latin Quarter or you could go to my all time favorite museums, the D'Orsay which is an old converted beautiful train station and houses all the French Impressionists art, start at the top floor and work you way down to the ground level. And if time, small museum, but stunning is the Orangerie Museum ( near the Lourve) which houses the very large water lillie paintings of Monet. Again start at the top and work your way down. Not sure of your interests, so if you have questions about Paris, PM me. Been to Paris several times and twice on the week long Paris tour.

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1173 posts

Swiss Alps --- well was I blown away by the beauty of the Swiss Alps!!!! It is filled with sky and mountains and cows and just a relaxing time there. No churches, no crowds, no museums, just being outside and seeing nature! It was breathtaking. I was lucky, I had a balcony in my room, so my friend and I sat on my balcony for about and hour and looked out onto the view and talked and relaxed.
We went with our guide on a long walking tour that day. The town is a street and a few shops ( watch store) and a grocery store. There is a pub in town, but we were too tired to go. We ate both nights at the hotel, once with the tour dinner and once on our own. We made reservations for the second night so that we could eat on the porch. It was cool, we kept our rain jackets on but I was comfortable ( and I am always cold) so it was fine. But you need to make reservations for their restaurant and make sure if weather permitting you eat outside on the porch. It was really nice. We just had a long walk that day. You will need to ask the guide for options if you don't want to take the walk. I saw people hang gliding but as fun and exciting as it looked, not be me.

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1173 posts

Florence -- you stay on a vineyard, very nice place and there I crashed and took a nap when we checked in. Not a small room so you can really spread out and relax. There is a pool and you can go swimming, weather permitting. You have a day in Florence, time is limited there. But staying on the vineyard was nice and being out of the city was relaxing. Different than the hotels. Walk out and see nature and mountains. Not too much time in Florence on your own. Read the book and see what you want to do. You may want to walk around and pop into a church or two. You do go to two museums that day. We went to the American cemetery outside of Florence, which was sad but very interesting.

Well, I think I covered the whole tour. Of course there are tons of things to do on this tour that I did not do or cover. You have limited time, so pick the thing that you think you will enjoy most and do it and have fun! Make sure you have enough batteries and memory cards for your cameras and bring bandits and good walking shoes, and extra bag for Venice as I told you earlier. Sunglasses and layer your clothes. Very casual tour, no sport coats or dresses needed. Bring your own earbuds, you will need it for some of the walking tours. Have a wonderful safe time!!! There is plenty to see and do in Paris, not just what I suggested, so read the books to see what you can do.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you all for the great information and suggestions. We will actually spend a couple days in London before heading to Paris on Sunday for our Monday Rick Steves Tour. We have reserved a room in the hotel Rick Steves uses there and will get reservations for the Eiffel Tower for Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. We can't wait for this "trip of a lifetime".

Thanks again,

Tom

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1173 posts

One last thing, you had told me the name of your hotel and I stayed there last year, you are right near the Arc de Triomphe. Make sure you go see it and there is a underground passage on the street to go under the ground and come up to see the Arc de Triomphe. It is a great monument and cool photos and should not be missed since you are a few blocks away! You can then walk down the Champs-Elysees from there. Again you are only a few blocks over from the Champs-Eylsees.
Ann

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1173 posts

Do you have your days mapped out for London? Where are you staying in London? I took the week long tour of London, good place to start planning is looking at the week long tour. London is an amazing city and lots of fun things to see and do.

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71 posts

Wow - great info on this post! My family of 4 (my husband and I and our two teenagers 18 and 13) will be taking this same tour starting June 22, so this info is very helpful. This will be our first RS tour. We are very excited!

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks to all that have posted. Ann, your posts and guidance have been invaluable. Thanks so much!! Getting closer and can't wait.

Thanks again,

Tom

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11450 posts

Reservations for Eiffel Tower are snapped up within hours of coming available on line.. just a warning.

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1 posts

My fiance and I will be on this trip for our honeymoon.

We looked at Eiffel Tower and the tickets are already sold out for the time we'll be there.

We look forward to meeting you all.