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Pris and Heart of France versus Heart of belgium and Holland

After much researching, reading and questioning on this forum, we finally decided on taking one of the tours above as opposed to going on our own. We are a bit concerned about the activity level. Can you compare these two tours on activity level and hotels. Do all hotels have elevators and en suite bathrooms? Stairs, uneven walking? And, of course which did you like better? Thanks.

Posted by
1186 posts

These are questions that only the tour company would be able to answer. Not always the same hotels are used on all the tours. I am going on the Paris & the Heart of France tour in September and I know someone who is going on the same tour in May and her Paris hotels are not the same as the hotels I am staying in, in September. All the hotels I have stayed in on RS tours ( been on 12 tours) all had a bathroom in the hotel room. I stayed in one hotel in Paris ( on the week long Paris tour) that had an elevator, but where my room was, I had to use the stairs as the elevator did not go to my floor. So you need to be aware that there may be stairs that need to be taken. Also, if the bus cannot drop you off by the hotel, you will need to carry your suitcase to the hotel which could be a few blocks away. And the same goes for when you leave the hotel, you may have to bring your suitcase to the bus, so you need to pack light. Also many streets in all three countries may have coblestone streets and uneven walking so you need to wear comfortable flat shoes. And as for the Paris and Heart of France tour, I have talked to people and read on this forum that there are a lot of stairs when you go to Mont St Michele. Well worth, but still stairs.

Posted by
43 posts

Both are great tours. I've been on both, but Paris and the Heart of France was several years ago. I think Belgium and the Netherlands is a little less active than the Paris tour. Belgium and the Netherlands are basically flat countries. Brussels is the only place I remember walking up hill. There is uneven walking everywhere in Europe, so there's no choice there.
I "train" for all tours by walking a lot-uphill too, and using a stair climber at the gym.
Carrying the bags is not too bad since they have wheels on them. You do sometimes have to carry them upstairs, but I just take my time then.
Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
795 posts

It depends on whose tour you are taking. RS has warned that his tours can include climbing up lots of stairs, hauling your luggage around town, hotels with no ac or elevators, etc. It is more of a roughing situation than say a Viking River Cruise with stops in the same cities or privately traveling and choosing hotels with an airport or train station pick-up, ac/heat, private bathrooms, and elevators with staff to carry your bags up and down to your room and no stairs to climb. You should carefully think about all of that when choosing. Hope you have a great trip!

Posted by
399 posts

Gosh, they are both very nice tours. I have done both.

Both, have their fair share of short and long walks. I do think we walked a bit more on trails in the France tour, but nothing that can't be handled by a person who can walk a mile or two around their home town. IIRC, the hotels in France were much more charming than the hotels in Holland and Belgium. That is they were older, smaller, and often lacked elevators. But, keep in mind that the hotels can change from year to year.

The tours, while hitting the same places, can vary in terms of things like walking, uneven surfaces, etc. It depends on the guide. Each tour takes on a personality based upon the guide first, and then the group. Some guides are a bit more adventurous taking the groups on back roads and alleys, making unplanned stops at interesting sites and so on. While they follow the RS tour plans, they add their own mix of activities and ways of doing things. Sort of like the various spices and extra veggies one might add to a stew or a good pasta sauce. It varies depending on the cook. They all follow the basic recipe, but spice it up a bit differently. But, all are good. I have never had a bad or even mediocre guide on a RS tour. Never.

My point is that it's hard to give an answer to your question with any great certainty, other than the tour will perform as advertised. And you will have a great time. :-)

If I had to chose one or the other, I would go with the France tour. It was one of my favorites. But, Belgium and Holland are also so very fascinating. Really, you can't go wrong with either one.

Take the admonition about carrying your suitcase upstairs seriously. I have been on tours where every hotel had a working elevator, and on tours where I had to drag my suitcase up several flights of narrow, sometimes winding stairs. I must admit to finding it annoying when a fellow traveler complains about no elevators despite the clear warning in the RS agreements.

Posted by
2051 posts

Hi Gladys, I've done both of these tours. Enjoyed Paris & Heart of France more but I do think it was a bit more strenuous than Belgium/Holland. The tour info is accurate. You always carry your own luggage, from the bus plus maybe a few blocks to the hotel. Some hotels do not have elevators that go all the way to your room (had to walk up a couple of flights of stairs with luggage). All had en suite bathrooms.

There are a lot of cobblestone streets and uphill or downhill walking may be involved. Sometimes standing is required at museums.

I've been on 5 Rick Steves tours and all involved a lot of walking. I walk 10,000 steps every day at home. We often walked more than that on the tours. Be honest about your abilities. On the Belgium/Holland tour, there were several people who were not physically prepared/able and missed out on a lot of the activities. Great tours but not for everyone.

Posted by
16893 posts

The Activity Level descriptions for both tours mention that some included hotel have stairs, so this is unavoidable at one or more stops of the tour. The warning is more pronounced for the Belgium & Holland tour, describing "historic canal houses with several flights of steep, narrow staircases to reach your room."

This is why you are advised to stick to an airline carry-on sized bag, and within that bag, to pack light! Shoes, toiletries, and bulkier clothes tend to be heavy items, so minimize those and allow space for future souvenirs. You will be much happier if you do. If there's something you don't need for the majority of the tour, there is also usually an option to leave it under the bus, in a space that doesn't get unpacked at the stops, but I'd rather not start out with this necessity.

The strenuous part of touring the destinations is usually more about standing than a particularly long hike or fast pace. Mont St Michel is straight uphill, but if you want to give yourself more time to reach the abbey at the top, then you can start earlier than the rest of the group; discuss a plan with your guide.