I had hoped to finish this this weekend, but as often happens, life got in the way. :-) So here's the first installment. I'll add to it starting tomorrow, and hope to finish in the next couple of days. And I'll borrow Gretchen's comment in her thread: Spoiler alert: This is a great tour.
We took the May 21 Paris and Heart of France tour this year, our 13th RS tour. Our guide was Michaelanne Jerome. She has been with RSE for over 20 years, in a number of roles. She is American, but went to high school in France, and continues to spend a lot of time there. Our bus drivers were Matt and Annie, a married couple from Belgium. The bus was roomy and comfortable. Matt and Annie had both hot and cold drinks available for purchase at very reasonable prices.
The group: Our group had 26 people; including 9 couples, 5 single women, and a family of three. Age range was from 18 to upper 70s; about half the people were retired. As it happened, we knew a number of people on this tour ahead of time. As some of you already know, Kim and I are members of a travel group in the Tulsa area. Kim suggested about a year ago that we might enjoy traveling together. So as soon as the 2019 tours were announced, we sat down with a calendar, and came up with this tour. Kim's husband David, my DH Stan, and another of our travel group and her husband, Eileen and Gary, all signed on. In addition, Debbie, a friend that we met a couple of years ago on the Village Italy tour also thought this sounded like a great tour, and signed up as well. So there were 7 of us who were friends or acquaintances in the group.
Stan and I have been on tours where groups of friends or relatives traveled together and tended to exclude others. We vowed not to do that. So even though we had ties to 5 other folks, we made sure that we spent time with the other people in our tour. But as Kim said before we went “At least we'll only have to learn 19 new names!”
We were a little surprised that the group never really "clicked." Everyone was nice, everyone liked everyone else (I think) but we never really gelled as a group. But that happens sometimes.
Packing: This section will be familiar to those of you who read my Eastern France report, although I've added a few minor details; skip it if you want.
Stan and I each took an Appenzell backpack and one personal item. My personal item was a smallish (about 12” x 8” x 4”) bag I got as a premium for renewing our Sierra Club membership. Stan 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.
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, the kind that folds into its own pocket
- 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 bought a rain jacket partway through this tour. 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.