The first tour I took was the Heart of Italy in 2009. Arrived a day before the tour in Florence and did some sightseeing on our own. I am not much of a shopper overseas, but the leather coats were amazing and affordable and I picked one up before we met the tour group. Our group was great; this might be my favorite group of personalities of any tour group, really nice. The guide was amazing, and guided us through Rome on May Day (I try to avoid May 1 at all costs now). The extra day we booked in Rome, she made reservations for five of us to visit the Borghese Gallery. Really went the extra mile for us. I loved this tour, and picked it because it visited the Cinque Terre. It rained the day we arrived, but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for this leg of the trip. Our amazing guide arranged an impromptu happy hour with local wine.
In 2010, I visited Prague and Budapest with RS. A nice group of people, but a large chunk were a family travelling together, and didn’t really get to know them until the last night. The tour guide was excellent, and has been featured on the RS video of Prague. It was interesting going to the baths in Budapest, and cruising down the Danube. The old town of Prague is beautiful, and our hotel was right in the thick of things. I still got lost in the old city however. Before the tour started, I spent a few days in Vienna, which turned out to be my favorite city of the three. The only negative is that each country had its own currency!
In 2012 I took the Paris and the Heart of France tour. Arrived a day early to visit the Eiffel Tower and the cemetery, Arc de Triomphe, and Sacré Cœur. I was surprised how much I liked Paris, and being in the tour was great for seeing all the popular churches and museums, no waiting in line. I want to go back to Paris. The tour also covered Loire valley- stunning chateaus, Mont St Michel, Normandy and D-Day beaches, and back to Paris. It was a jammed packed and probably more strenuous than the other tours, and they are all active. (Try schlepping your luggage, even if it is only 1 small bag, to the top of Mt St Michel) I loved the variety of this tour-art, churches, castles, history all in one. The only downside to this particular group- the average age of this group was considerable higher than the previous tours, and there were certain issues that had to be dealt with, which I did mention in my evaluation. I felt it was worth commenting on because I didn’t think it was fair to the tour guide (who was also great) nor to the other tour participants. I stayed an extra night in Paris on the back end to visit Versailles which had the most tourists in one place after the Vatican.
In May, I did Barcelona and Madrid. I have wanted to return to Spain since my visit to Costa del Sol when I was in high school, which was the first European country I visited. This vacation was the perfect antidote to the most awful Midwestern winter on record. Sunshine every day! I smile just thinking about it. A great group of people, and two great cities, I fell in love with both, but I think Barcelona has more fans. The tour guide was quite the story teller and was a wonderful ambassador for his country. One of the best ever! There was a day trip to Toledo, and I added extra nights on the end to Cordoba and Sevilla- which are easily reached by high speed trains. A few other people from the tour were in Sevilla, and we all met up for a really fun lunch after visiting the Alcazar. Viva Espana!