Any suggestions on planning in advance for free time on BOE 14 day? Not sure how much to go with the flow while I am there and how much should be scheduled in advance - tickets purchased etc. Any suggestions on things not to be missed when I am on my own?
What is "BOE" ?
Best of England?
I went on the BOE 14 day tour in September 2014 and loved it. I had been to all the countries the tour was going to and most of the cities, so I had an idea of what we would be seeing and what I wanted to do in my free time. READ the RS book on Europe for each section of each area or city you will be visiting. Write down what you think you will want to see even if it is more than what you will see, this way you have choices and depending on weather or what others may want to do you are prepared. No need to purchase anything in advance, except if you want to see an opera in Venice on the second night when dinner is on your own. If not, I would ( and I wish I had but my friend didn't and then she was sorry) go on the Venice pub crawl. Out of the whole trip that is my one regret I did not do. You go with a guide ( it is in the RS book) (not a RS guide) pay a small fee and he takes you and others that may not be on the RS tour to different bars to have a glass of wine and small plates ( like Tapas). I heard it was fun. I plan to do that if I get back to Venice. Plan what you want to see, museums, sites, even restaurants in your free time and dinners on your own. In Venice, you can see some churches, walk the streets, take a boat ride or go to Doges Palace for a tour and have a drink in the Piazza. I had been to Venice before and always wanted to go inside the Doges Palace so I did. Plus walked around a little. In Munich, it was a bit cold and rainy, so we went to the Residenz Museum which is the palace and it was wonderful. I love a good Palace and crown jewels! Went to a beer hall at night. In Paris, you can visit any number of museums ( make sure their open). I have been to Paris before, and being that it was a Sunday ( museums are free and super crowded) I went to the Luxemburg Gardens, the Cluny Museum ( not crowded) and the Pantheon ( yes their is one in Paris) and had lunch sitting outside. Never been to Paris, walk around see the bridges, go on a boat ride up the Seine, see the Arc de Triomphe. In Rome, make sure you see the Spanish Steps, Piazza Nouvona and have a drink on the piazza. If you want when you go to the Vatican, you can stay in the Vatican museum and spend the afternoon there after the Vatcian tour is over. Much to see in this museum. If you have more questions, feel free to pm me ( private message me) and I will be happy to give you more suggestions. I have tons of other suggestions but space is limited. Have two options, one if it is nice out and one if it rains. Have a wonderful safe time!
BOE means Best of Europe not Best of England.
Please tell me what hotel in Paris are you staying in? Thanks.
More information on Rome
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 metro stops right by the Spanish 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Make sure you see the Arc de Triomphe, there is an 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.
Wow, Ann, fabulous job!
I have not done the 14 BOE but have done the 21 BOE. What I would add is to take your guide up on any optional activities or dinners they offer.
In Switzerland if the weather is nice, your guide may offer to make arrangements to take anyone who wants to go up to the top of the Schilthorn. The expense for the cable car is not included in your tour price so the guide will buy the tickets for the folks that want to go and will let each tour member know the cost. Ann mentions a hike with the guide. Ours included a ride on the cog train up the other side of the valley so that was an additional charge but oh-so worth it! There is plenty to do without going with the guide, but you will soon realize you can see more if you make the guide choice! BTW when we made a stop to get Swiss Francs the guide also had a suggestion on how much for each person to get depending on which activities they were going to take part in.
A couple of times our guide offered to arrange extra group dinners in between sightseeing events. They were reasonable costs, the food was good and everyone had a great time.
In Venice I opted to do one of the Vivaldi concerts. The hotel desk had tickets to the performance which she, the guide and the RS guidebook recommend (the one not in costume) so several of us went to dinner beforehand and then to the concert. It was amazing but you do not need to book ahead for this. Some went to the opera but were able to get tickets on the day of the performance.
Your guide will also give you suggestions on things to do. Like Ann, I had been to some of the cities before so I knew what I wanted to see. I did the Capitoline Museum in Rome on our free afternoon and also was able to visit the Baptistry in Florence which I had just seen from the outside before. I actually had not planned to see it but our guide had told a story on himself about his first visit there. He was leading a group and had never actually been inside before. He said he was so awestruck at the ceiling he completely lost his train of thought and just had to stop and stare. It was amazing!
Have a wonderful time! You will love this trip!
Thanks, Pam! Great suggestions from Pam!!! Each guide is different and each group is different and the weather is different! So each tour experience is different. But yes, do plan out your free time and then go with the flow, but have a planned flow. Things change but at least you will have a good idea of what to do and expect.
Wow ladies thank you!
Wow so much great information. I would only add to be sure and go to the top of the Victor Emmanuel Monument. I think you get the best view of Rome from there. I was one of my highlights in Rome
I agree, if you have the time or in that area, go to the Victor Emmanuel Monument. Make sure you go to the top and see the great view. You must pay for the view but it is a great view. And don't forget to see the church right next door! The churches in Rome are amazing and must be seen. Just another suggestion if you are nearby. So much to do, so little time, but it will be a joy just to go!
Hi, I am glad the information helped. I would really love to know the name of the hotel in Paris your staying in?? Thanks, Ann
Hi Ann and everyone. We had an amazing time on the BOE 14 day last June/July. Our Paris hotel was the lovely Hotel Tilsitt Etoile, not too far from the Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe. We did a pre-tour in London for a couple of days and arrived in Paris a day early.
I'd highly recommend reserving tickets for the iconic Eiffel Tower.... we timed ours in the evening at the start of the hour, so we could ride up the elevator while the lights were twinkling. Magical!
We also stayed over an extra day in Rome and visited the beautiful Borghese Gallery. Reservations are a must - I highly recommend this one!
As for free time during the actual tour, we didn't schedule anything in advance and overall went with the flow. We had an amazing tour group, so spent a lot of our free time with them as well! In Paris, we toured the Musee d'Orsay and shopped at the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore (my daughter is a huge reader). In Beaune, we toured the Hotel-Dieu and enjoyed an evening walk through the charming town while they lit up the local buildings with colorful lights. In Lauterbrunnen Valley, our entire group spent our free day together doing an amazing hike and eating lunch in Gimmelwald (stunning!). We also went to see Trummelbach waterfalls and had dinner at the restaurant in the Schutgen hotel. In Munich, we toured the Münchner Residenz, visited the Viktaulienmarket, and had a fantastic time with much of our group at Hofbräuhaus the first night, and Augustiner Keller beer garden the next.
In Venice, our entire group enjoyed an amazing evening gondola ride - with music and song! We toured St. Mark's Basilica and took a vaporetto over to San Giorgio Maggiore island (incredible views from the top of the church bell tower). In Florence, we people-watched and shopped at the San Lorenzo Market. In Rome, we visited the Borghese Gallery and enjoyed a 4-hour evening walking food tour (we stayed over an extra day).
You will have an amazing time! This tour is fantastic.
Thank you for this great post. It has been a great read and most helpful.
Ann, you should be a tour guide! I am blown away by the time you took to make and personalize so many recommendations. Fantastic!
Yes, Ann's recommendations are amazing! Thank you for taking the time to write them.