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My first RS tour

Tonight we will finish my first Rick Steves tour. It is a tour of firsts which may help to explain my initial trepidations. For me it is my first time in Europe, my first tour of any kind, and my first time traveling alone. Also it might help to understand I tend to be a bit impulsive which will explain my five back to back tours.

The first one was The Best of Venice, Florence and Rome. It has far exceeded my best expectations. Our guide, Tina Hiti, is such a wonderful, knowledgeable, kind, compassionate, energetic, person. She really made the tour mesh and come together in an extraordinary way. She has made a life-long Rick Steves traveler out of me. The downside is the bar is now set so high I'm not certain how the next four guides will compare. Not only is Tina the embodiment of what a tour guide should be but the guides she used at different venues were also outstanding. They all brought a passion and a depth of knowledge to the various venues; one who stood out was Francesca. What an amazing balance of knowledge, humor, and skill. She truly has a deep passion for art, poetry, philosophy, architecture, history, and Western Civilization. She also blends in her own delightful brand of comedy.

Obviously the richness of the information as well as the sites and sounds and tastes and smells are far to numerous to mention. All I can say is that never once was I bored and never once did I regret my decision. I found, for myself, being in good shape was important as over the past ten days (I arrived a day early) I have walked 78.3 miles (this is extreme and not close to the average but I love walking so I walked every chance I got) and climbed 233 floors (again extreme). If your goal is 10,000 steps a day it is easy to do.

Another thing I really appreciated was all of the down time to explore on our own. This allowed my to take in two operas and two operatic concerts. The venues for these were so inspirational and truly awe inspiring. The quality of the performances were outstanding as well. I also was able to take in several museums that others weren't as interested in.

Additionally I need to brag on my tour buddies. This was another of my concerns but what a kind, enthusiastic, caring and robust group. I was amazed at how well the seven teenagers blended and how few problems arose. I can honestly say we had no "grumps" on this tour.

Early tomorrow I fly to Paris for my next tour and as excited as I am to be joining that group I am equally as sad to say goodbye to this one.

Thank you Rick Steves for finding such a wonderful guide in Tina.

Posted by
6721 posts

Did you say you booked 5 RS tours back-to-back? WOW!

Posted by
1939 posts

I am so pleased to read you had such a good time. Tina was my guide for the Adriatic tour. She's everything you say and then some. Hoping to read the same enthusiasm for your next 4 tours and glad you're having so much fun!

Posted by
1616 posts

Hi brad, happy to hear that you're having a wonderful first time in Europe. I'm certainly intrigued by someone who is doing back-to-back Rick Steves tours and I hope you will continue to post about your adventures. Please tell us a little bit about yourself if you wish. I'll be following your reports! Have a good time!

Posted by
875 posts

I want to hear more. Keep us posted. My first RS tour will be in 8 weeks, 6 days. Alas, only doing one at a time.

Posted by
938 posts

What a fabulous time you must be having, and what a great idea to take multiple tours and really see Europe! I'm interested in what other tours you have chosen and hope you will return to tell us more about your trip. Enjoy!

Posted by
4602 posts

Thanks for posting, Brad. We've all been wondering how you were faring.

And it's great that you've enjoyed your first RS tour so much. We felt the same way about our first tour, in 2009.

Francesca is a treasure, isn't she? We've had her as a local guide on 2 tours, and she never fails to impress.

So enjoy the next leg of your marathon adventure, and don't forget to check in with us. Happy travels!

Posted by
69 posts

Tomorrow I fly to Paris to start my RS Best of Paris tour. Tina assures me that the other RS guides are quite amazing.

It is hard to express how much anxiety has been relieved by this first tour. I have enjoyed it far more than I thought possible.

My other tours are RS Best of Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna that starts on April 23rd. It's an eight day tour so I finish it and head straight to Prague on April 30th for the RS Best of Eastern Europe tour. It's a two week tour so it ends on May 13th so I then fly to London for the RS Best of London tour finally arriving home on May 20th.

These tours are really a stretch for me. While I've always enjoyed traveling, my travels have always been throughout the Western US, Canada, Alaska and the Yucatán in Mexico.

I think what I have enjoyed most is the opportunity to meet such unique and fascinating people both as fellow travelers and local guides. It has really reinforced the idea that as diverse as our cultures are; people, the world over, have so much more in common than that which divides us. I have seen so much goodness over the past ten days it humbles me.

Posted by
817 posts

Brad - Thanks for posting. I was wondering when your trips were. You just got started.... Boy the others will be just as special. I am envious of you that you are doing 5 all at once. I am doing two back to back next year and the year after that.

Please keep us posted on your next adventures. Enjoy it all. It will be great!

Posted by
8249 posts

It is hard to describe to anyone else how much fun the tours are! I'm delighted you had a wonderful time on #1!! I loved the Paris tour but it will probably be a different group feel from the longer tours.

Who's your Paris guide? I had Rolinka who taught me so much about Paris that I can't stay away.

Pam

Posted by
1175 posts

Every time I go on a RS tour I'm always surprised at how he finds such high caliber guides consistently. I'll be going on another one later this year. I hope you find the other guides are of high caliber too.

For your first RS tour you really did jump in with both feet to take five back to back.

The final farewell dinner has always been fun and I hope you enjoyed it

Keep us apprised of the next trip.

Posted by
366 posts

Hi Brad:

you will love the Paris tour. I took it at Christmas 2 years ago and had such a good time I am doing it again. It will be my 9th RS tour. I have to say it vies with the Best of Switzerland for being my favorite.

Posted by
7922 posts

So great to hear from you Brad, thanks for posting this. Really glad you're having such a good time!

Posted by
11450 posts

Brad I am incredibly jealous of your planned travels , so all I can say is lucky and smart you !

Posted by
11613 posts

Brad, so happy you are enjoying Europe! Please keep posting about your adventures!

Posted by
267 posts

Wow Brad! You sure are more ambitious than I am. But it sounds like a great itinerary! I'm sure that you will have a wonderful time and come home so enlightened. I am looking forward to updates as you travel along. Enjoy!

Posted by
7 posts

That sounds amazing! Yes, please keep us posted on how your other tours go :) Enjoy!

Posted by
69 posts

Sitting in a Paris cafe, across from Cathedral of Notre Dame, soaking in Parisian ambience, on my first full day in Paris; wondering what took me so long to get here.

This is my fourth city and am discovering it is impossible to draw comparisons; each one unique, each one spectacular, each one awe inspiring.

Posted by
7922 posts

I miss Paris too. My favorite place on earth. Have fun Brad!

Posted by
1939 posts

Hi Brad. I am enjoying your reports so much. I find myself reliving some of the same "what took me so long feelings" through your journey. I think it took a lot of courage on your part to book these tours, one after another, for your very first trip to Europe. I look forward to sharing more of your joy and enthusiasm for this (these!) tours, your fellow tour members and guides. PS I love Paris, too!

Posted by
8249 posts

I did not enjoy Paris in my visits in the 1970's but RS guides turned that around for me and I've visited there yearly since 2014. Headed back next week and am looking forward to visiting in spring rather than fall!

Bradndeedo, you are so right - all excellent cities and all bring something different to the table.

Posted by
69 posts

Just returned from an afternoon concert at Eglise St. Germain des Prés. One again I was so impressed at the quality of the performance and the beauty of the venue. Eglise Saint Germain des Prés is an abbey originally built in the sixth century and is the final resting place of the French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist: René Descartes.

If you are considering traveling to Europe, I highly recommend searching out some of these concerts. One doesn't need to be an aficionado to fully appreciate the talent of the performers. The four venues I have been to have so enhanced the experience. I am afraid Italy and France have spoiled me. I don't know if I'll ever appreciate an American concert sitting in a large, impersonal concert hall after enjoying these concerts that are so intimate. Now I can't wait for Vienna and Prague. I am also very excited to find some basement jazz bars when I get to Kraków.

Posted by
3 posts

Great post. I will be going on my 1st RS tour in 10 weeks. Five tours back to back - I am impressed. I would love to do maybe 2 or 3 back to back but we are still working and vacation time is limited.
I have been on 2 different guided tours, loved China Spree and was not impressed with the considerably more expensive one in France. Looking forward to RS Switzerland.
Please keep posting!

Posted by
4602 posts

Brad, last year in London we heard Vivaldi's Four Seasons at St. Martin in the Fields. Magical!

Posted by
1175 posts

St. Martin in the fields is a lovely venue for a concert. It's fairly inexpensive too.

Posted by
7922 posts

We went to Vivaldi's Four Seasons in a small, ancient church in Venice (also a solo violinist at Place des Vosges in Paris) and it was magical. Everytime I hear that music, I am transported to a blissful place.
We just went to a wonderful concert at the Madeleine church in Paris and it was wonderful. Soloist sang Ave Maria, my mom's favorite song, and tears streamed down my face.
These are some of 1000s of Europe travel experiences that change our lives for the better.
Brad, true you are spoiled now... you'll just have to keep going back like so many of us... : )

Posted by
42 posts

Hi Brad! This is Alice, one of your fellow VFR tour members and music/opera-goers, just grudgingly returned home two days ago. It is 5 AM local time and have been up since 3 AM due to jet lag, so decided to while away the time perusing the Tour Forum, when I clicked on your topic to find out surprisingly that you were the OP! It was great to meet you, especially because of the music connection and I agree with everything you posted regarding our tour. My only regret was that I missed one of the opera concerts as it conflicted with the gondola night. I hope you have found and will find more music companions on your present and future tours while completing your marathon European excursion. Looking forward to more updates on your travels!

Alice

Posted by
69 posts

Hello Alice,

I'm glad you and your mom made it back home safe and sound but am sorry to hear about the sleep issue. That makes it hard get up for work.

I did find some more concert buddies; interestingly enough also a physician and his wife. There's also a couple here in Paris who will be joining me on my next tour. I may be able to talk them into my Vienna concert; although there is a dinner concert in Salberg a couple of nights before so they may be Mozarted out by then.

I so enjoyed having a concert buddy in Italy. Thank you.

Brad

Posted by
875 posts

Hello Brad,
I am living vicariously through you to help pass the time until my Scandinavian trip starts. I am so pleased you are having a great time.

Posted by
69 posts

I'm now wrapping up tour two in Paris. Once more dazzled by the qualityt of Rick Steves tours. So many things to see and do and lots of time to strike out on my own. Museums were wonderful and the Louvre and Notre Dame both taught me to be careful of my expectations as they created a first impression very different than I anticipated. I like that I've made some new friends.

Can't say enough about Toni: delightful tour guide and charming sense of humor. Again the local guides were superb. This tour group had its own personality. Where my first group was accented with youth, this one was a bit more mature; warm, kind, communicative but not quite as adventuresome.

Weather also taught me that while packing light is important so is being prepared for the elements. It was cold and rainy for the first several days and now it looks like I'm headed for possible snow next week in Bavaria. I did pack light just not smart.

More to follow. 😄

Posted by
362 posts

This is a fabulous thread!

We are going on our very first RS tour later this year for our anniversary. Just browsing the forums here, we're already excited. We have our eyes on several other RS tours that also look amazing, but unlike the original poster we decided to try one out before we did anything else.

I'm already counting the days until our adventure. I can't wait to hear more about this one!!!

Posted by
69 posts

Heading from Mannheim to Munich for leg three. This time I'll have two members of my RS Best of Paris tour joining me for the RS Best of Munich, Salzburg and Vienna tour.

From what I can tell it looks like this one will be less strenuous. Personally, I like walking and will walk any chance I get. I'm hoping I get ample opportunities to get lost in Bavaria as those were amongst my favorite times in Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome. But then once more I need to be careful with my preconceived ideas.

My next concert is dinner and a concert at Kursalon in Vienna unless I find a cozy little place in Munich tonight.

I am looking forward to the Neuschwanstein Castle. It was one of my wife's favorite places when she lived in Germany in the 70s.

I don't remember if I mentioned it but I loved the Orsay Museum and the Orangerie Museum in Paris, as well as the Northern European exhibit
In the Louvre. It was wonderful moving out of the Renaissance for a bit.

Someday I'll need to come back and get lost in some of these little French and German villages. They are charming.

Posted by
86 posts

When in Munich with the GAS tour, I caught a very nice evening concert at the Holy Ghost Church (Heiliggeistkirche) which is near the Victualienmarkt. Harp & organ; very unusual combination but absolutely beautiful. You might check to see if that church has a concert while you're in Munich.

Posted by
69 posts

Kathy - Thanks for the heads up but I couldn't find anything for tonight. The tour is in Munich for only two nights and the first one - tomorrow - is the orientation and from what I've seen nothing is offered Monday night. Must be everyone's night off. We will have music in Salzburg and Vienna.

I did take Jane and Rockets advice and booked tickets for Vivaldi at Saint Martins in the Field. It does sound magical. Actually Martha deserves a lot of credit as she provided the impetus to get the tickets. I love having a concert buddy on these tours.

Posted by
1 posts

I'm looking forwards to being your concert buddy, Brad!

Posted by
1175 posts

Good to hear that you enjoyed having Toni as a guide. She guided both my Paris and HOF and Best of eastern France tours. I thought she was great.

Posted by
69 posts

First impressions of Munich- quite an interesting change. The hotel is far more upscale than those I stayed at in Italy and Paris. I loved the ambience of the smaller, more intimate hotels of Italy and Paris but am enjoying Hotel Tobräu as well. For me it is very upscale; but then keep in mind in the States a Courtyard is as fancy as I get.

Went for a walkabout this morning and the bristling city center I strolled through last night was quiet with nary a soul strolling around. What a great opportunity to study the buildings and statuary. Only down side is it was quite cold and it took a long time to find anything open to where I could get a cup of coffee. Speaking of which; it is so nice to be someplace where I can get a larger cup of coffee. French and Italian coffee is wonderful but I do like my volume as much as the aroma and flavor.

The tour starts in a few hours so I suppose it's time for another stroll. I need to find a museum that's open.

Posted by
11613 posts

Brad, great reports!

Buy yourself a sweater or light jacket if you can, what a great souvenir!

Posted by
69 posts

Sitting in Marienplatz at a typical Bavarian sidewalk cafe listening to the gentle sound of a very talented cellist playing a rather mournful Hallelujah. So intrigued with Munich; such a blend of contemporary with the old. Keep in mind this whole trip is so alien to me as I have no frame of reference. It is so different than anything I have previously experienced. It really is a journey of discovery. We just don't have this in Pinetop. RS tours offer such an informative and enlightened experience but also the opportunity for individual explorations and experiences and those may well be the ones I recall most frequently and fondly once I return home.

It's a gentle evening; the chill seems to have abated if only for a day or two. I'm enthralled watching people going about daily business so routine for them and yet so foreign and thought provoking for me.

I've been asked many times: what is my favorite city so far? So far my favorite city has been VeniceFlorenceRomeParisMunich. Each place is so unique and each place has moved me to tears at one point or another. The beauty; the culture; the people; the art; the architecture; the music; the experience all amaze and astound me.

Posted by
65 posts

I am so glad I came across this topic (after another RS alumni member told me about it). Reading all these posts brings back such wonderful memories of VFR Nov '16 for me. I simply cannot wait for my next RS tour.

Posted by
1939 posts

I am loving your enthusiasm for travel, new friends, new places (for sure!), the music you so obviously love and most of all your being so open to new experiences and so willing to try anything. I am enjoying every word of your reports. Thank you for taking the time out of your very busy days to post these reports for us.

Posted by
744 posts

bradndeedo: Yes, I'm also thoroughly enjoying your reports. They've resonated with me, first because of your excellent writing and obvious enthusiasm, second because our first RS tour in 2015 was Best of Paris and our second will be VFR in May. Maybe someday we'll have the time and opportunity to do multiple tours on the same trip, but I really admire the way you dove into this!

I hope the rest of your trip goes well. Cheers!

Posted by
290 posts

Brad
I love seeing Europe through a first time "tour-goer". Every place you visit is such a new introduction of culture, history and scenery. And speaking of scenery, you live in a beautiful part of Arizona. Pinetop isn't what most people think of when they visualize Arizona. I can't wait to read more of your posts.

Posted by
66 posts

Brad,
I really appreciate all your posts! We will go on our first RS tour - Best of Prague and Budapest - this summer. I can't wait to read more of your experiences! Thanks!

Posted by
4602 posts

And speaking of scenery, you live in a beautiful part of Arizona. Pinetop isn't what most people think of when they visualize Arizona. I can't wait to read more of your posts.

Janet, you're right! We've been in Pinetop; we camped near there years ago, and have always wanted to go back. It is stunning, and not at all "Arizona." Of course, not much of Arizona is what people think it is.

Posted by
69 posts

First of all; thank you everyone for the kind words and well wishes. As I've stated before most people, including RS office staff, thought/think I'm insane tackling this many tours. I'd have to agree with them; nearly seven weeks is a bit much. Tomorrow I'll hit the midway point of my travels. Most were concerned about the physical demands but for me it's more of reaching a point of information overload. Church/cathedrals are tending to blend in with each other now. I find myself searching more for contemporary art and land/cityscapes. Still loving the street musicians.

Texas girl- I head to Prague this Sunday. I'm very excited since I now have three concerts over the next five evenings with two being dinner concerts. Tonight is Mozart with the tour group. Then Sounds of Vienna on Friday which should be fun as it blends Mozart, Strauss, arias, and ballet. Then in Prague it's Smetana and Dvorák both Bohemian composers extraordinaire.
According to Tina, my Best of Venice, Florence and Rome guide, Krakow has some fantastic old jazz clubs so that will be great for a change.

Once more, thank you all.

Posted by
69 posts

Jane and Janet- I'm always surprised when I find those who know where Pinetop is. There are a significant number of AZ natives who couldn't tell you where in the State it is. But then there are a significant number of AZ natives who have never been to the Grand Canyon. 😜

You are both right: I do live in a beautiful place. I would like to change Pinetop Mountain into an Alp or two however. I love the majesty of mountain peaks. It comes from growing up in Holliday, Utah and having Mount Olympus framed in our living room window.

Posted by
1173 posts

Enjoyed reading your posts regarding your tours and each city you have visited. I have been on 14 tours and loved each one. So far I have been to all the cities you have been to and each one is as you said, interesting, different and memorable. I totally loved the Paris museums and enjoyed the food in each city. Sounds like you are really making up for lost time seeing it all in one shot. Hope you write more indepth on your travels especially on your Eastern Europe tour which I am very interested in going on in the near future. I went on the GAS tour last year and loved each country and each city and totally loved my time in Vienna where I went to one opera and two concerts! Vienna has the best night life for musical venues.

Keep posting and telling us what you have been seeing, doing and how you liked each place. You are in for a lovely suprise when you get to Vienna, Prague and Hallstatt! If they are using the same hotel in Hallstatt it really is the best hotel!

Going on the tours has allowed me to meet many wonderful people, eat great food, taught me how to go on my own and see things I never dreamed of! It has been a wonderful experience and a life time of memories.

I am going back to London later this year and another RS tour afterwards and looking so forward to it. And the key as you said is to be fit! Walking is so necessary and enjoying walking.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts while on the tour. Keep posting, looking foward to hearing what museums, sites you have seen.

Safe and happy travels!

Posted by
875 posts

Brad,

I hope they perform Smetana's Vltava / Moldau. My husband loves that and it brings back the memory of seeing the river very vividly for him. I am familiar with the musical poem but not the river (yet).

Posted by
69 posts

One of the many things I really enjoy about the tours I've been on to date are the amazing surprises. You may notice that I try not to write about tour specifics but instead about my own explorations and adventures. A lot of this is because I don't wish to ruin surprises and there are many. Hallstatt is one of them. WOW!!!!

It's wet and cold and snow is anticipated but none of that matters; if anything it adds rather than detracts.

Also need to brag on my tour buddies. This is a very diverse and exceedingly warm group of people. If I'm not mistaken I'm the oldest in the group which is not at all what I was expecting. I assumed it would be all retirees this time of year but what a fun, gregarious and energetic group we have.

Posted by
1018 posts

Re: Tour buddies

One of the surprises about the Rick Steves tours is that while the main purpose is to experience another culture. there are side benefits of being with such a great group. For example, you end up learning about America from your fellow travelers.

Posted by
1000 posts

I agree with you on Hallstatt. The Hallstatt episode was the first video & introduction to Rick Steves I watched on television back in 2009. I was just surfing the channels one Saturday & "Salzburg and Surroundings" was just starting. After that episode I was hooked on RS & was going to visit Hallstatt. In May/June of 2015 I visited Germany's Bavarian Region, Salzburg, Hallstatt, Munich & Prague. I would love to revisit Hallstatt during the winter covered in snow.
Enjoy the rest of your trip.

Posted by
69 posts

Just came back to the hotel after the farewell dinner for the Best of Munich, Salzburg and Vienna tour. I believe I have become quite spoiled as the hotels on this tour are significantly different than those on the previous two tours. VFR and Paris both featured hotels I was expecting: small rooms, stairs to climb and IF there is an elevator it was very small. MSV has four hotels and each one was nicer than the previous. My room has a spectacular view of the Stephansdom.

If you are booked for this tour you are definitely in for a treat but make sure you get your climbing workouts in prior to coming as being in good shape will certainly enhance your experience.

It is amazing how close one can get to such a diverse group of total strangers in such a short time. I hate saying goodbye but then tomorrow I get to meet a new group of people whom I will learn to consider them friends.

Posted by
66 posts

Hey Brad,
Can't wait to hear about Prague!!!!! Where are you staying there? So happy for you!

Posted by
66 posts

Hey Brad,
Can't wait to hear about Prague!!!!! Where are you staying there? So happy for you!

Posted by
503 posts

Hi Brad, I am impressed with you doing 5 tours in a row! I have talked with people who have done 2 back-to-back tours and they said it was very hard to transition from one group to another, learn new names/faces etc. I was wondering if you have experienced that also? I appreciate your honesty in saying that things are started to blur together; I find the same thing happens to me even when I get home and reread my journal! I have so enjoyed your posts, thanks for doing them.

Posted by
817 posts

Hi Brad - Anxious to hear about the Eastern Europe trip. It is on my wish list to do. I have been to Prague and Budapest but only during a river cruise for the Christmas markets, so I feel like I did not get much time to see these wonderful cities.

Happy Travels

Posted by
69 posts

Texas Girl- in Prague we're staying at Hitel Metamorphis.

Lisa - for me the issue isn't learning names; I taught for forty years so I'm pretty good at putting names with faces. My problem is remembering the names of the past groups. I'm blaming it on age. The older I get the harder it is to retain and recall. I had a wonderful couple on both the Paris and MSV tour; we would be discussing members of the Paris tour and their names just wouldn't be there. Funny thing is I still remember everyone from VFR; maybe it's because it was my first and we all remember our firsts. 😉

Posted by
503 posts

Brad, I was on the Eastern Europe trip last Fall (it was still 16 days then) and loved it. I hope you get the tour guide we had, George Farkas as he was fantastic. There will be many opportunities for you to get your fill of musical performances in all the places you visit. If there is a special concert in Budapest and your group is offered a chance to go, don't hesitate, we did and it was truly a memorable evening.

Posted by
69 posts

Sixteen days - lucky you. It would be nice to have a couple of extra days.

Katerina is our guide and she is phenominal; but the I haven't had anything but in four tours.

I have to say I love the surprises in the tour. There have been so many and they've been so fantastic. Of course I can't write about them or else they wouldn't be surprised. Katerina arranged one for our welcome dinner and it was a great way to begin a tour.

Posted by
1939 posts

I'll be on the Eastern Europe tour, also staying in the Hotel Metamorphis starting the end of August. I am happy you won't be writing about any surprises....well, sort of! I'm beside myself with excitement and can't wait to read your report for that tour. I am happy you are enjoying yourself so much! Exactly what you should be doing.

Posted by
66 posts

Hey Brad,
We are arriving early and staying at the Hotel Metamorphis for 3 nights prior to our tour. Then we will be is staying at Hotel Leonardo with the RS tour. Thanks for all your great info - it is exciting!

Posted by
69 posts

I am going to belabor a point made earlier, many times I think.

I just returned from another concert; this time at the Mirror Chapel at the Klementinum in Prague. This is a beautiful baroque chapel and a perfect setting for a concert featuring Smetana, Dvorák and Vivaldi. Now granted most Americans are not familiar with Smetana but you will love his Sltava (also known as Moldau). Dvorák is a bit better known and Vivaldi's Four Seasons is a staple throughout all of the cities I've been too.

What makes this so special is the intimacy of the setting, the charm and beauty of the venue, and the sense that this has been going on in Europe for hundreds of years. For them it seems as if it's a way of life. Katerina, our guide, put together a list of cultural activities one could take in today alone; there were easily over thirty different opportunities. For me, these concerts will definitely make lasting memories.

Posted by
4602 posts

Brad, that's the way we felt about hearing Vivaldi at St Martin in the Fields. And yes, we do know who Smetana is! Most people are surprised to learn that Tulsa OK has two symphony orchestras, as well as a world class ballet. We're one of the best kept arts secrets in the country. I didn't even mention the opera company and 2 world renowned art museums - Philbrook and Gilcrease. The museums are artifacts of early 20th century oil money, but those wealthy oil folks also brought music-loving wives to the frontier.

Posted by
66 posts

Hey Brad,
I keep looking for an update on your trip. How is Prague, the hotel, etc? Is this your last tour before you go home? Thanks!

Posted by
69 posts

Texas Girl-
I apologize for my silence; I've been fighting a bronchial thing the past couple of days but am on the mend.

Prague was amazing, the tours were great and well worth the time. The only down side was l we were there on a holiday so a couple of the museum I wanted to take in were closed. The concert at the Mirror Chapel was wonderful.

The hotel was more typical RS hotel than MSV but still very comfortable and breakfast was very good.

Krakow was wet and cold and I was fighting a bronchial bug so I can't really write about it.

Loved Eger, great place to just wander aimlessly with everything from vineyards to Barioque architecture within less than half a mile. I strongly recommend walking to the town square rather than taking the bus, so much charm one misses by driving past.

Just pulled into Budapest and am getting ready for our first walking tour. The hotel is beautiful and definitely more upscale than many hotels.

Posted by
267 posts

So sorry that you have to deal with the bronchial bug. It does tend to slow you down which is something you try to avoid while traveling. We were in Krakow the end of last summer, and I wish that everyone could see it as we did. The people were great, the food terrific, and so much history! I hope that you are feeling better and are able to continue the updates. I have been thoroughly enjoying tagging along on your wonderful adventure!

Posted by
66 posts

Hey Brad,
I am sorry about you having the bronchial problem. I hope you are feeling better!!
I am glad to hear that you enjoyed Prague and excited to hear about Budapest. Where are you staying?
I really enjoy hearing about your travels and experiences.

Posted by
1173 posts

Very sorry to hear you have not been feeling well. Hope you are on the mend and able to enjoy the rest of your travels. Looking forward to hearing about Budapest, have not been there so this should be interesting. I also look forward to hearing about your week in London as I am going back this year. My first RS tour was the week long London tour and have not been back since. Where in London are you staying with the tour. Are you staying on your own in London after the tour or are you going home?

Enjoyed reading all your posts of all your tours! The tour guide you have for the Eastern Europe tour is a lovely woman. She was my assistant tour guide just learning how to be a tour guide for RS when I went on the week long Prague tour! She of course was an experience tour guide in Prague but then got the job with Rick Steves. I would love to have her as my guide again!

Have a safe, healthy and fun time in the rest of your travels.

Posted by
69 posts

We are staying at the K&K Hotel right next to the Opera House and easy walking to most places on the tour. It is a beautiful hotel with the elegant charm of bygone days. Rooms are spacious (For a RS standard) and quite comfortable. Apparently some of the rooms have a jacuzzi, being a single traveler I typically get only a shower which is all I need or want.

Today we had sunshine all day so that was nice not dodging raindrops.

In London, we will be staying at the Washington Marfair and it looks like a very nice hotel.

Tomorrow night is open so some are going to the opera (Electra) and others of us are taking in a concert at St. Stephan's Basilica. I would have done the opera but found out about it after I had booked tickets to the concert.

Budapest is a beautiful city with an intriguing past, not typical of European cities by any means. Great city to amble and get lost in.

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1 posts

"This is my fourth city and am discovering it is impossible to draw comparisons; each one unique, each one spectacular, each one awe inspiring." Vienna struck me in this way and made me wonder how many places I have been missing out on!

Posted by
69 posts

Well Megan, my friend, the answer is we will simply need to discover how many places we have been missing out on. 😄

Allow me to introduce Megan and her hubby: tour buddies extraordinaire; funny, happy, compassionate, gregarious and charming. It was a fortuitous event getting to spend eight days traveling Bavaria with these two.

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4602 posts

One of the joys of RS tours is the wonderful people you meet.

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69 posts

Okay. Now I know I'm sounding redundant but just returned from a fabulous concert in a fabulous venue. The concert was a talented string ensemble and the venue was St. Stephan's Basilica in Budapest. I was moved to tears during Albinoni's Adagio in G minor and again during Massenet's Thais Meditation. Once more superb music in a wonderful venue. Just can't find this in Pinetop.

Posted by
7922 posts

Welcome Megan!

Still enjoying your posts Brad!

Posted by
375 posts

Oh, Brad, thanks for all these posts! I'm enjoying them immensely. Can you travel a few more months to keep us entertained? Hope your bronchial thing is all better.

Posted by
1173 posts

Brad:

So happy to hear you are having a great time in your travels. Thank you for sharing your London hotel. Looking forward to hearing about your week in London.

Are you on flickr or instagram? Asking because I would love to see your travel photos for which I am sure you took a lot of photos.

If not, still enjoy reading all your posts of this amazing time in Europe and all the great sites and cities you have visited.

Safe and happy travels.

Posted by
69 posts

Hello Ann,

As of now this is about it for social media but may need to change once the dust settles.

Tomorrow is my last full day with Eastern Europe. Katerina has been beyond wonderful. RS has dynamite guides and Tina and Katerina are, in my humble opinion, heads and tails above the rest. It only makes sense since they are also close friends.

This tour group has been fantastic, they all are but this group really clicked from the start and things have just become more comfortable.

I always figured that by now I would have hit some sort of fatigue but still wake each morning with anticipation of what the new will bring.

Well another eight days and this chapter will start to close. What an adventure it has been and what wonderful people I've had the honor to have met. And now I have many new and wonderful friends.

Posted by
93 posts

Brad,

I have so enjoy reading all you have done. I agree meeting the tour group is always fun. We have been on the GAS tour 2014 and Village Italy 2015 and this year Best of Switzerland. Both our guides were outstanding and you are right the surprises are the best. Each night I would lay in my bed thinking it is going to be hard to top today. Then a new and new adventures everyday of every tour was great.
On the GAS tour we stayed in Hallstatt one night we all wanted to stay 3. It was by far one of the WOW unexpected days on any tour. It was mid October 70 degrees about day 11 or so and everyone was getting a bit tired. Ten of us decided to have lunch on the deck overlooking the lake. A glass or two of wine sun on our backs and we thought we were in heaven..
Brad, thank you for all your posts..I love reading them and have even reread them. Can't wait to hear what you will plan next. The GAS is a must do tour and the Village Italy is a real hands on tour...we loved both. Looking forward to Switzerland this summer.
We agree the tour guides are the best.. we had Rolinka on GAS and Tricia on Village Italy
Happy and safe travels,
Sue

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69 posts

Tomorrow I begin my last tour for this run: a week in London. I just returned from the Vivaldi concert at St. Martin-in-the-field church and it was as wonderful as Jane and Rocket both said it would be. I met up with Martha (a new travel buddy) and we had a pleasant dinner prior to the concert. It was a great way to start this last week.

Tomorrow, I'm going to try to make it to a launderette so I don't offend my new travel buddies right off the bat. 🤣

Posted by
4602 posts

The London tour is great, Brad. Who's your guide? We had Roy as our guide, and Gillian as a local guide. Absolutely top notch. We noted at the time that Roy may well have been the best guide we've ever had; for sure he's in the top two.

Posted by
681 posts

I have enjoyed reading all about your trips. I don't think I could do all of them back to back. I am exhausted just reading about all the wonderful things. My husband and I also went to hear wonderful music at St. Martin in the Fields. It was the first night we got to London and I didn't care about jet lag. It was AMAZING. As Rick says, "Keep on traveling"

Posted by
69 posts

And so it ends. Tonight was my last farewell dinner; by this time tomorrow I'll be flying over American soil on my way to Phoenix, then back to Pinetop on Sunday.

I'm frequently asked about favorites. I can honestly say almost everything. I loved the cities, the towns, the villages, the hamlets. I loved the churches, the basilicas, the cathedrals.
I was inspired by the museums and tours. I was moved by the concerts, the operas, the musicals.

There were very few disappointments and they will soon be forgotten. I am sad to see my adventure coming to a close; but then I suppose I'll need to start planning my next great adventure.

Words cannot express how much I've enjoyed the RS approach to travel. The guides have all been truly exceptional (I see the irony; how can they all be truly exceptional, isn't that a contradiction?) They have all been so kind, humorous, knowledgeable, compassionate, thoughtful, and professional. Everyone of them has been someone I would like to have as close friends.

For the past seven weeks I have striven to push my boundaries. I've tried new things, new foods at every opportunity and discovered new things about myself.

When I first signed up for five tours there was concern about my stamina. RS tours are physically demanding. I am glad to say that I feel I finished as string as I started. Over the past seven weeks I walked nearly three hundred miles and climbed 1,147 flights of stairs. I'm just shy of 850,000 steps.

I was not worried about the physical aspect as much as the social aspect. I believe I'm a nice guy but I can also be a bit of an arrogant prig. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the people I was privileged to travel with. I met some wonderfully intriguing individuals and had some extraordinary conversations. I've learned so much from those strangers whom I now consider friends.

I am returning to my home a significantly different person than I was when I left. Throughout my travels I have encountered so many compassionate and caring individuals. Moving from town to city, from culture to culture, so many people take so much pride in their jobs. Their energy was so positive and up lifting. My experience really did reinforce the idea that we who travel on this Earth really have so much more in common that that which separates us and it is those differences, as minor as they are, that really adds music and color to our lives. Others add so much to my life.

Posted by
875 posts

Bravo!
Thank you so much for sharing. This thread should certainly be featured in next month's travel news.

Posted by
1939 posts

Beautifully said, bradndeedo. You are quite an amazing person in your own right. It's been a privilege and a pleasure to "travel" along with you on your adventures.

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697 posts

I was not worried about the physical aspect as much as the social aspect. I believe I'm a nice guy but I can also be a bit of an arrogant prig.

Now I find that really hard to believe! Arrogant prigs aren't moved to tears during concerts ;)

I have enjoyed reading your thread. We did the Best of Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna tour last Nov/Dec and will be doing the Best of London tour this coming October. I hope to hear more about what you did in your free time in London. We did enjoy the Vienna Philharmonic while in Vienna and that sure was something! We also enjoyed an Advent concert while in Vienna.

Posted by
1616 posts

Hi Brad, I've really enjoyed following along and so happy that you've had so many great experiences on your 5 RS tours! Safe travels!

Posted by
1062 posts

Brad, thank you so much for sharing your travels with us!
Are you thinking about your next marathon adventure as you fly home? 😏
( I think that Rick Steves should fly you to Washington for the tour reunion!)
And please keep in touch on the Forum. You have a number of friendly and interested admirers here!

Posted by
4602 posts

Ditto what ShaRYn said: Please keep in touch.

And you elegantly stated what so many of us believe:

I am returning to my home a significantly different person than I was when I left. Throughout my travels I have encountered so many compassionate and caring individuals. Moving from town to city, from culture to culture, so many people take so much pride in their jobs. Their energy was so positive and up lifting. My experience really did reinforce the idea that we who travel on this Earth really have so much more in common that that which separates us and it is those differences, as minor as they are, that really adds music and color to our lives. Others add so much to my life.

Thank you, Brad, and Happy Travels.

Posted by
66 posts

Thank you, Brad, for sharing your travels! I looked forward to reading all your experiences. Please keep us updated on your next great adventure!

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1173 posts

Hi Brad: It has been really great to read all your travel reports and I also enjoyed reading what others wrote. Sounds like an amazing time and a life long memory and things to talk about when you get home. Would love to hear more about what you saw and did in London. I am going to London later this year and will be solo doing that before I go on a RS tour. I have not been back to London since 2005 when I went on my very first RS tour which was the week long London tour. That tour changed my life and now I too have been on several tours and met many wonderful tourmates and saw lots of wonderful places in Europe.

Happy to hear your well, healthy, still walking after all that travel. Next week you will be in a dream from it all.

Hope you write more about the London tour and look forward to seeing more posts from you.

Safe travels!

Posted by
3 posts

Brad, you certainly earned your stripes as a traveler. I have enjoyed reading all your posts and am amazed at your stamina to take 5 back to back tours.

I am going on my 2nd RS tour in September; Berlin, Prague, Vienna. I did a Europe My Way tour last year. I haven't even taken Tour #2 yet and I'm planning Tour #3, Ireland for next spring. My friends and family think I'm a bit nuts so it's great to be able to go on a forum and read posts from other "kindred spirits."

i appreciated reading about the concerts you attended. I am looking into the one you attended in Prague. Did you do a lot of trip planning in advance or did you rely on recommendations from the tour guides and get reservations as you went along???

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69 posts

Hello Barbu369,

Like you, I am also planning my next RS tours. They are addictive, aren't they. I am thinking about the Best of Europe. It will have some repetition: Venice, Florence and Rome but I could easily repeat Venezia and Firenze. So much I still haven't seen.

Most of my concerts I booked before I left; shooting in the dark but they worked out extremely well. Every city I visited had multiple concerts every night and last minute tickets were easy to come by.

The trouble with RS catalogs is when I sit down to consider my next tours it's like being a kid in a candy store; I want this one and that one and this over there and that over there. I just can't afford them all.

Enjoy trip #2 and the planning for Ireland. I've talked to some who just did Ireland this Spring and loved it.

Posted by
8249 posts

Ooooh, DO consider the 21 day Best of Europe! Even with all the travel you did this year you'll see some new things. You'll be much better positioned when you do return to cities you've visited as you'll KNOW what you want to sprint off to see.

If you do book it, allow yourself at least one full day in Haarlem and several days ahead in Amsterdam. I added a lot of time in Paris afterwards but I hadn't been in years and I think you did the Best of Paris during your travel this year? Still, for Paris I find myself going back over and over.

I did it the end of August/first of September and that time was hot for the Italy portion but perfect for Switzerland. Be cautious about booking the earlier tours if you want to do some walking on your full day in Switzerland as the trails can still be snow covered in May and early June.

Posted by
290 posts

Brad, I. Was living through you as you traveled. I hope you write up a trip report and submit a scrapbook for us to drool over. The first time someone goes to Europe is so exciting and I loved seeing it through your eyes. I'm headed to The 7 day Paris and Eastern France tour in September and I need to look into concerts while we are there. I already looked and found out that it was not ballet season. Are there any specific websites you used to get concert info? Welcome home! Start planning your next adventure!

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69 posts

Hello Janet,

I got most of my tickets through ClassicTic.com, however there were others I booked directly through the venue. I would search concerts for the cities I would travel to and then select the venue/concert that looked the most intriguing.

I am looking forward to planning my next RS tours, looking at maybe cutting back to five weeks with an extra week on each end to just revisit cities I feel like I want more time in. Since I did Spring this year maybe I'll try Autumn in 2018. The only issue there is it seems such a very long time away.

Enjoy your September tour. Eastern France is definitely on my bucket list. ;D

Posted by
53 posts

Hi Brad: Thank you so much for sharing your adventures! Did you take any "my way" tours?
I'm considering my first solo RS Tour next June - either Best of Paris & My Way France in 13 days (or possibly adding a few days in Paris prior to the My Way trip. I'm somewhat concerned about getting around on my own after the sun sets (as a female traveler). You've certainly inspired me to seek out concerts or performances in the evenings!
Enjoy your time at home, and thanks again for sharing ;)

Posted by
69 posts

Hello Shawn,

I am so sorry for being slow in responding to you. Mea culpa! No, I haven't done any My Way tours yet but probably will if I repeat some of the cities. I may not be the best to respond regarding being a single female after dark, but I was out after dark most nights and never saw an issue, and I was walking a lot after the sun set. Our tour guides emphasized that the only real concern were pickpockets, and that was on every tour I went on. One idea: since you're considering concerts, if you wish to walk to and from (I highly recommend that), when you purchase tickets, buy a second one and offer it up to other group members. I did that and had takers on all but one and I went to over a dozen concerts, operas, and musicals. It also gives you a chance to get to know other tour buddies better. I still communicate with a few of my concert buddies.

If you do book a tour, I hope you have as wonderful a time as I did.

Posted by
11450 posts

Shawn.. I've done paris solo several times.. its fine for a lady alone.. I had no issues.

Posted by
53 posts

Pat and Brad : thanks so much for your input, and great idea about the extra concert ticket! Happy travels to y'all!