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.