Once again, I am bowing to pressure (I am such a pushover!) and submitting a tour report. Our latest tour was Best of Eastern France. Let me start by saying, this is a wonderful tour. It helps if you either like wine, or just like learning. This tour is based on an older tour that was called “Villages and Vineyards of Eastern France.” Well. Villages, yes, a few. Vineyards? Oh, yeah. But teetotalers can enjoy the tour, as well. There's plenty to do, plenty to see, and lots to learn. This has rocketed to the top of the list as one of my favorite tours, right up there with Village Italy and the late, lamented Best of Florence. (Pause to insert a plea to RSE: Please please bring back the Best of Florence and Best of Venice. I promise we'll sign up.)
But I digress.
This first installment will be a general overview. Later installments will get more specific, probably going day by day, or at least town by town.
Our guide was Daniela Wedel. She has been a guide for RSE for years, and leads a number of tours in France, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. She is German, but has lived for some time in Provence. She also has spent time living in the US, and her English is good. She is charming, enthusiastic, and fun. She tossed in several unplanned events, including happy hours, and one tour of a sight that may eventually be added to the tour; more on that later. Our bus driver was Luc, a pleasant and extremely competent Belgian.
The tour members: Our group consisted of 28 people, mostly retired, mostly couples. There was one couple originally from South Africa, one couple from Puerto Rico, and a family, the parents of whom at least are from the Philippines. The age range was from the early 20s (the daughter of the Filipino couple) to the 70s. Most people were in their 50s and 60s. My DH and I may have achieved the status (?) of being the oldest people on the tour. We're not sure, and I never got up the nerve to actually ask Daniela.
The group was top-heavy with teachers and retired teachers, but we also had at least 4 physicians, one lawyer, a marriage counselor (he said he was off-duty on the tour,) and one accountant. Not everyone divulged an occupation, which is fine with me. Only one couple had never been on a Rick Steves tour; everyone else was an enthusiastic veteran.
Packing: DH and I each took an Appenzell backpack and one personal item. My personal item was a smallish cross-body bag I got as a premium for renewing our Sierra Club membership. DH carries an older laptop bag, without the laptop. This was his first time to use the Appenzell; usually he carries a smaller, lighter backpack that he's had for years, possibly since we were students. (Yikes!)
His Appenzell and laptop case each weighed in at 10 pounds. My Appenzell was 13 pounds, but my shoulder bag was only 7. Here's what I packed:
- 3 pairs of slacks, including one very light, loosely cut linen blend, which I almost never wore because it was rainy and chilly much of the tour; of the others, one was a dark gray tweed, the other off-white.
- 5 tops, 3 long sleeved, two short sleeved. One top was very heavy, the others were more lightweight. Mixed colors, but all went with my decidedly neutral pants.
- one cardigan
- one very light jacket
- one windbreaker
- 2 bras
- 4 pairs of underpants
- 4 pairs of socks
- 2 pairs of shoes
- 1 set of silk long underwear – which I was definitely glad to have in Chamonix
- 1 set of “comfy clothes,” including a tee shirt and a pair of light jersey pants. These were my sleep clothes, as well as my lounging-around-the-room clothes.
- 1 hat – a white fedora I picked up on a tour in England in 2016
I also had a rain jacket that I bought in France, on our tour just previous to this one, Paris and the Heart of France. (Tour report to follow. Eventually.) The jacket came in very handy, but was heavy and didn't fit into my bags, so I had to either wear or carry it whenever we traveled.