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Ireland, England, or Village Italy?

In 2012, our daughter was studying in Edinburgh. When her semester was over, we met her there and spent a little time in Scotland and then took a train to London where we spent a couple of days seeing the sights. Then, we took the Eurostar to Paris where we joined the RS 14 day BOE tour, which we really enjoyed. This spring, we returned to Paris and took the Paris and the Heart of France tour, after which we traveled to Bruges and Amsterdam.

If we had the time and money, there are about 15 other RS tours that we'd like to take. However, at the top of our list, right now, are the 14 Day Best of Ireland, the Best of England, and the Village Italy tours. We're looking at these three tours because they seem to offer a great opportunity to experience the local culture of each particular country. In addition, we enjoy history and photography. We kind of feel as if we've seen plenty of cathedrals and art museums, although we wouldn't shy away from seeing more. We'd appreciate anyone's thoughts regarding picking from these three tours, or suggestions of what you might think would be a better choice. Thanks!

Posted by
4637 posts

For me it would depend when the RS tour is taken. In the heat of summer it would be Best of Ireland. In spring and fall Village Italy.
You already saw little bit of England that's why preference was given to Ireland.

Posted by
14156 posts

I've done all three of those tours.

Although there are cathedrals (Padua, Siena, Assisi) on the Village Italy tour I don't really remember art museums. This is by far the most experience based RS tour I've taken. Lots of, honey, truffles, wine, lol! Being based in the smaller villages gives a really different feel from being based in the big cities of Italy. The only thing I didn't really like was for the CT, being based in Levanto. Of course it was rainy and end of season when I visited so perhaps that colored my thinking.

I loved Best of England which I just did in September. It was a mix of smaller villages (Stow-on-the-Wold, Conwy, Keswick) and bigger towns (Bath and York) and then London. I loved the history aspect of this tour and it was something I could connect with.

I am probably the only person in history that thought the Best of Ireland was just OK. Guide was very funny, bus driver was great, I just didn't click with Ireland. I am not a big drinker and don't really enjoy pubs. I found, unfortunately, that I don't really care for Irish traditional music. It turned out OK because the Trad music is in the pubs and doesn't start until late so I missed a lot of it by being an early to bed person. (Really, 930 or 10PM is about my limit, lol!!) I found the history of the Troubles and the continuing issues between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to be unsettling on a personal level. (We were there at the end of June, just as the folks in Northern Ireland were preparing for Marching Season.)

So, based on what you have already seen, I would suggest the Village Italy tour. Give yourselves an extra day in Padua up front. I didn't (went from Venice to Padua on the day the tour started) and realized there was a lot I didn't get to see. Give yourselves a day in Milan afterward if you are interested in another cathedral, lol. Transportation from Orta San Giulio where the tour ends and the Milan airports is slightly awkward. The guide will organize shuttles/taxis to Malpensa airport but don't get a really early flight out if you are leaving the day the tour ends.

For what it's worth, I did Paris and Heart of France this Fall too. Last year I did 21 day BOE so we've covered some of the same things.

Just my two cents! Your wants may be different than mine!

Posted by
886 posts

I've done a three week tour of Ireland on my own, using the bus/train system, that was almost identical to what the current Rick Steves tour of Ireland is. I loved it. You get quite a span of history in Ireland from ancient Rock of Cashel, to the more modern 'troubles'. I, personally, love celtic music, and play the fiddle so I was in my element! Back then the pubs had not gone non-smoking so it was a bit of a challenge for me and my allergies. I also don't drink much (can't stand beer), but there is always coolers or ciders. I was still using a film camera then, and slide film also, so I had to be picky about the photos I took, but I still took a few hundred. There is so much dramatic scenery, combined with the castles, and quaint old towns that you will get lots of great photos. I haven't looked at the best of England tour, but having been to England in the past I'm sure you can't go wrong. I was looking at the village Italy tour, but opted for the Venice/Florence/Rome tour instead simply because I wanted to see some great art galleries. If I were to find a difference in all of these three places I think I would say that I got more of a cultural experience in Ireland, more of an art experience in Italy, and England was a bit of a mix of both. If that helps.

Posted by
529 posts

I have taken all three of these tours and enjoyed each one.

The Best of Britian, back when it included Scotland was my first tour. I discovered I love the English country side and have returned to walk in the Cotswold's on my own. In fact, I have plans to do a week linear walk this coming spring.

Ireland lives up to its hype of 50 shades of green. The people are extremely friendly. The days spent in Dingle were my favorite. I enjoyed going to the local pub and interacting with the locals. I like a beer or apple cider, but drinking an alcoholic drink is not required.

My favorite tour, by far, is Village Italy. It is the only tour I would consider repeating. This tour is filled with experiences: truffle hunt, bike rides, wine tastings, cooking class, and olive oil tasting to name a few. I still fondly remember the feast prepare by Carlos, the owner of hotel we stayed in while in Levanto.