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Trip/Tour report for Best of England + Paris & HOF

Trip/Tour report for Best of England & Paris & HOF

This is a pretty long report, so will continue the post in follow up comments!

I did these tours back to back starting the Best of England on Sept 13 2015 and Paris and the Heart of France on Sept 29. I very much enjoyed this combination of tours. They worked well logistically since I just took the Eurostar from London to Paris to pick up the 2nd tour but culturally they are very different. During the Best of England, several of us were discussing how to pick back to back tours and one couple said they wished they had not picked Best of England and Ireland as back to backs as the cuisine and folk music felt very similar to them. One couple had done Rick’s Portugal tour before the Best of England and thought this worked well for them as the cultures were quite different. Everyone is different, so I mention this just for people to give some thought to similarities/differences when choosing tours.

Luggage/assorted other bags/packing cubes:

-Last year for an 8-week trip I used Rick’s 22” convertible backpack. By the end of the trip it was very heavy for me to lift. Once on my back it was fine but I wound up with bruises all over my arms from slinging it around to my back. I was determined not to have that problem this time so purchased the RS 20” roller during a sale last Spring. It worked really well. I still had room in it when I left and wound up expanding it for the flight home just because it seemed stuffed. I had planned to check it on the way home anyway as I had a 9-hour layover in SLC. It was easy to handle. Had no problem getting it into the overhead on the International leg going over nor into the overhead on the Eurostar. I did gate check out of Lewiston ID because really, unless you have a teeny backpack you can’t get anything in the overhead of the commuter jets. The only negative about this bag is that altho the loaded Veloce fit over the handle, it was then pretty heavy to pull, so I did better with the Veloce on my back (no valuables except binoculars and a deeply buried iPad Mini in it while in transit).

-I also had the RS Veloce backpack which I used for my under-the-seat bag (and then my “bus bag”) and packed my LeSportSac Everyday bag for my purse once I arrived. This time I also used an Eddie Bauer Travex Connect Travel Wallet which was absolutely perfect! I travel solo and always slightly worry about my money/passport on the overnight flight. This is small enough to fit under my cardigan and not be a nuisance but also held my passport, iPhone6 plus credit cards, some local currency and my Chapstick, lol. I had my money belt on but I don’t like to put my passport in there until I get thru Immigration on the other end. This small wallet was a great option. I also wound up using it a lot during my travels when it was rainy. It fit well under my EB raincoat, stayed dry and kept my hands free.

-I am a believer in packing cubes to keep myself organized. I use the Eagle Creek silnylon compression packing cubes. I use a full cube for my shirts and sweaters and a ½ cube for my underwear/socks/PJs. These cubes are very light even with the extra zipper for “compression”. I used a ziplock for scarves and could never keep it so it was squashed down. I also use ziplocks for my 3-1-1 of course, another clear plastic toiletry bag for my non-liquids, and a ziplock for meds.

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Clothes: I do a packing list for every trip. Over the last 2 years I have refined that pretty well so that I am not taking extra stuff. Here is what I packed: Pants - 1 pr dark wash jeans that have a lot of poly in them so dry pretty well, 1 pr black Christopher and Banks jeans that are mostly poly, 1 pr C&B black poly pants. Shirts – C&B SS aqua sweater (poly cotton blend, test washed and dried at home in under 8 hours), 4 Lands End cotton modal SS shirts (white, black, cobalt, purple), 1 LE LS Heat Crew (really in their long underwear section, but I sized up and wore this all last winter as a shirt. Light weight, dries fast) Scarves – 1 aqua/black, 1 red/black. Underwear – 4 Ex officio underwear, 2 Ex Officio bras, 4 smart wool no show socks, 1 Costco merino wool crew socks. Cardigans – 1 Lands End black cotton LS, 1 LE black gray animal print, 1 LE black cashmere. (My brother talked me in to taking the cashmere at the last minute. I used it a lot the last 2 weeks of the trip, and would have been chilly without it.) Outerwear – 1 Eddie Bauer waterproof black mid-thigh length coat (The last 2 years I have traveled with a Marmot precip. Since I was going to be a little later in the year, plus going to Normandy toward the end where I thought it might be chilly, I opted for this longer heavier jacket. It did not fold up small enough to fit in my purse which is the good thing about the Marmot, but it worked very well and I was glad to have it.) Shoes – I wore Black Altra Provisioness walking shoes and packed Altra Lone Peak Trail athletic shoes. I also packed a pr of very light shoes called Fitkicks for in the hotel room. I did not wear the LS shirt but would still pack it again. I also did not ever have the back up shoes out of the suitcase and only wore the Fitkicks a time or two. The Fitkicks replaced a pr of cheap flip flops that I pack in case I have a shared shower but were a smidgy lighter. In the future I would continue to pack a backup pair of shoes and either the flipflops or Fitkicks. I sink washed the whole time because that is my preference. It worked well for me as it has in the past and everything dried well. In Bath it was very rainy and humid but I just placed the fan on the floor and turned it on full bore while I was in the room and things dried overnight.

Jewelry: Every time I travel I tell myself I will not take jewelry. Somehow, even though I don’t wear much jewelry at home (I mean really, I live in rural Idaho!) I wind up selecting a few bracelets to wear in transit. I always put them in a ziplock with my watch and fitbit until I get thru airport security, but then I never wear them again. Ditto this time. Took 2 cute Premier jewelry bracelets. Wore them twice in 5.5 weeks. I am not letting myself add that weight next year!

What worked: The 20” roller was wonderful as was the Eddie Bauer Wallet mentioned above. I had also downloaded the RS guidebooks onto my iPad Mini and that worked great. I had had a guidebook on my Kindle before and I did not like that format but I am sold on the iPad and the guidebooks – very easy to navigate. I loaded the Collins Guide to Birds in Europe onto my iPad and that was very helpful in IDing what I was seeing bird-wise. I also downloaded the Paris Metro app which was really handy for looking at the Metro map even without wifi but of course was of no use with route planning if I was wifi-less. Also had the London TFL transportation bookmarked and again it worked really well when checking routes in the AM before I left the hotel and WIFI. Thank you to everyone who talked me in to the iPad several months ago when I was debating about a new e-reader!

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What didn’t work: My regular birding binocs! Too heavy and I did not have as much time to bird as I anticipated, especially during the 2 RS tours. They were basically too heavy for the amount of time I used them. I am a novice birder so could never get in synch with having birds available, my bins and the Bird guide at the same time, lol!

A word about Plantar Fasciitis: The abbreviated version of the back story is that I developed bad PF at the end of a trip to UK in Fall 2013. I got orthotics, changed to Altra Zero Drop shoes and finally got total relief after buying the MELT system balls to roll my feet. During the summer of 2014 I saw a product called Correct Toes advertised for PF relief but since I was planning an 8 week trip including the 21 day BOE the end of the summer I decided to stick with what had been helping. I had some minor toe pain toward the end of the 8 weeks even with using the Melt balls on my feet at night. I got the Correct Toes in Nov 2014 and have worn them continuously up to and during my trip. They are absolutely amazing. Most days my Fitbit showed I walked between 13,000 and 23,000 steps every day for the 5.5 weeks I was gone. I had no pain at all. I took the MELT balls just in case and used them on the night of my first 23,000 step day but never needed to use them again. This product has worked so well for me in strengthening my feet and I feel were instrumental, along with the Altra Zero Drop platform, in preventing ~any~ foot pain during my trip.

Activity Level: I like to walk a lot in the months leading up to a RS tour. My goal is always to get to at least one long walk of 10 miles, but that is just me. This year we had awful, awful wildland fire in the area for most of August and you could NOT safely get outside to walk due to the smoky conditions. Inside the house was not much better. I really slacked off in the 3 weeks before my trip, but had gotten up to 7 miles a couple of times before the smoke blew in. I would rate both the Best of England and Paris and Heart of France as moderate in relation to strenuousness based on the other RS tours I have taken and my fitness level, altho it was not where I wanted it to be, worked fine. The hardest day on either tour was probably the Mont St Michel day on the Paris HOF tour, made more difficult due to rain, wind and slick steps of which there are many on MSM. On a personal level, my toughest days were in Bath when I walked up to Prior Park to see the Palladian Bridge and gardens and in Keswick where I walked up to Castlerigg Stone Circle. On my own I had a couple of 23,000 step days in London, too. For reference, I would rate 21BOE as my most strenuous tour with group tour days in Amsterdam and Rome coming in at 10-14 miles each.

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Pre-tour: I started a week ahead in London (nice SEA -> LHR direct flight on Delta) arriving on a Sunday. This turned out to be a great decision as I had stayed at this hotel before (Lime Tree) and had decided to take the Tube in to Victoria. On Sunday afternoon crowds were light heading in to town as well as at Victoria Station so I had no worries about being in the way with my rolling suitcase. The advice here on the cross platform change from Piccadilly to Circle/District for Victoria station was perfect. On my days in London I did a couple of London Walks, the Imperial War Museum (very disappointing in spite of the positive feedback from folks here. I felt like it was just another military museum, nothing special. I did every floor but did not finish the Holocaust exhibit as when I went from the 4th to the 3rd floor there was a building-wide evacuation due to, I think, a possible bomb threat), the Queens Gallery for the exhibition on Gardens in paintings, the National Gallery (some areas closed due to an ongoing workers strike so check to see if the rooms containing the artists you enjoy are open)Tate Britain and attended a Westminster Abbey Evensong. I caught the train to Salisbury for 2 nights (Cathedral View B&B was wonderful!) and did the TI sponsored guided walk (very good) and Salisbury Cathedral (free docent tour thru the cathedral but did not go in to the Tower as I don’t like heights, also saw the Magna Carta) on my arrival day. On the full day I took the Salisbury Red Stonehenge Tour bus which runs a continuous loop out to Stonehenge and back thru Old Sarum. This was wonderful. If you do it, pay for the higher ticket that includes your Stonehenge entrance as the driver will get off the bus and purchase all the tickets so you don’t have to stand in line. I took the shuttle out to the stones but enjoyed the lovely day and walked back along the path to the barrows and thru the fields to the VC. Did not have a whole lot of time at Old Sarum as I wanted to get back to the Salisbury Museum before it closed for the afternoon. The Salisbury Museum had a special “Turner in Wessex” exhibit I wanted to see and it was really, really good. Their permanent collection is also quite good but I did not allow enough time for this venue, then I finished off with a beautiful Evensong in the Cathedral which was much more personal than at Westminster Abbey. Even though both congregations seemed to be mostly tourists, there was much more a sense of Salisbury being a church service rather than a tourist stop. The next day I took a train to Bath. That afternoon I walked up to Prior Park Gardens (yes, it IS uphill, whew!). The next day was the start of the Jane Austen Festival and I enjoyed their costume parade even though it was raining heavily at times. I also enjoyed a talk on “Rummaging thru the Reticule” about what Georgian ladies carried in their purses. I loved seeing people walk around Bath in costume! There were many but it did not seem any more crowded than Bath normally would on a weekend at the end of summer.

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Best of England: This was an outstanding tour. It was my 6th RS tour and I loved it. The guide, Tom, was really excellent. No name game as he indicated he had a tour member burst in to tears one time while doing it. From the first night he started calling each tour member by name so it was really, really easy to learn everyone. Plus on this tour probably half were retired educators so were great on names anyway. Tom is a barrister and must have taught history in a former life. Wow, he is so knowledgeable. Charming and a great sense of humor. I loved his gentle teasing of group members (and yes, Fred the Dapper was easy to distinguish from Fred the Greater!) He did suggest it would not be inappropriate to address him as Your Guideness. LOLOL!! So funny! Ben, the bus driver was awesome. Such a fun guy with a big personality and blended well with the group. I love that the guides and bus drivers eat with the group. I know with other tour companies they do not but I love the extra contact! Tom and Ben make a wonderful team and it is clear they have a terrific working relationship which makes it such a pleasure for the group. I also loved Tom’s history drills. I will never forget Avebury is 16 times larger than Stonehenge and that Hadrian’s wall dates from 122AD. Tom is so well grounded in history, culture and the legal system that there was never a question he could not answer. I was thrilled when he popped out his Blue Badge and realized he was going to do the Westminster Abbey Tour.

Tour Itinerary: I loved Wells Cathedral and really like how Tom and Ben structured where we got off the bus for our first view of the Cathedral. It was magnificent! Glastonbury was just OK, but would not have known that if I hadn’t been. I liked the Cotswolds, particularly the walk Tom took us on thru the countryside, Stanway House and the quick look at the church in Stanton. I found Stokesay Castle really interesting on the way to Wales and loved that Ben took us a scenic way in to Wales. Bodnant Gardens was great as was Conwy. I am not a big lover of steam trains so the time on the train from Beddgelert to Caernarfon was just OK altho the scenery was great. I loved the Lake district even though we had quite a bit of rain. The full day in Keswick was very good. We did a short walk with Tom, then it cleared for our free afternoon and I headed up to Castlerigg which was amazing. I really loved Vindolanda and Hadrian’s Wall as well as York. London, of course is always my cup of tea.

WOW moment: The biggest WOW was the drive from Conwy to Beddgelert on the back road thru Snowdonia NP. Somehow Tom and Ben managed to organize a beautiful sunny morning and Mt Snowdon was visible in all its’ glory. I understand not all tours take the back road and frankly that should be the standard route. Gorgeous! 2nd WOW moment was the hike in the Cotswolds. I really enjoyed the villages, the countryside, everything.

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Incidental notes: I had asked several forum posters ahead of time if there were days where the lunch stop was also a sightseeing stop. I had found on the Ireland tour that some of the lunch stops you spent all your time trying to get lunch and didn’t have time left to see the sights. The advice for this tour was great! I had food for lunch on the transition day from Cotswolds to Wales as the food stop was for tea and scones at Stokesay Castle, for the steam train day in Wales, for the train trip from York to London. This turned out to be fortuitous as our original train from York was delayed indefinitely as it had hit a horse on the tracks north of York. We boarded the next train due out of York which then was delayed 45 minutes en route when a rail broke. That pushed in to our lunch time in London so in order to get to Westminster Abbey for a visit, we were encouraged to eat on the train. I had food with me so that worked well plus the train was so full as about 3 other departures were loaded on to our train at York and the station where we were halted for the broken rail that it was standing room only as we got toward London.

An extra note: Southern England Itinerary for 2016 – Both Tom (who hails from Cornwall) and Ben are very enthusiastic about this tour itinerary!

Transition day: I took the Eurostar from London to Paris. I’ve done this 2 years in a row and yes, I’m still enough of a newbie that it boggles my mind when we go under the Channel. I was thinking about the people who want to book the Eurostar and then try to hook up with either another immediate train departure or get to an airport for an international flight. My departure was delayed due to a “cable theft” along the line in France. As far as I could determine, the cable theft was from the high speed line and I believe we had to take a circuitous route on rail lines that don’t handle the high speeds. The train experts may correct me on this (and please do if this is an incorrect assumption). The bottom line is that we were about 1.5 hours late (actually, I believe the announcement said 101 minutes) in to Paris after having left just perhaps 10 minutes after our scheduled departure. I am not big on packing a transportation schedule and am big on allowing myself plenty of time if I am going to catch a tour, but I was really glad I planned to get to Paris a day before my next tour started!

Paris and Heart of France Tour: Again, this tour was outstanding. I loved Rebecca, the guide. Very knowledgeable as altho she is from Philly originally she has lived in France for 33 years. She is very charismatic, charming and enthusiastic and a lot of fun to travel with!

Tour Itinerary: I booked based on the itinerary and it was perfect. I loved Guedelon (hurry, it is estimated to be done in 7-9 years!) and the Chateaux we visited. I loved the wine tasting at Selles-sur-Cher…the owner did the tasting and he was wonderful! Normandy and Bayeux were wonderful. I was not enthusiastic about Mont St Michel. I thought this was going to be one of the highlights but it was rainy and windy when we arrived and started up the main street and I just did not click with this place. I did go to the Lauds service at 650 the next morning in the dark and rain and OMG there were more unlit, slick steps after the nun motioned you in thru the big wooden doors! This was one of my least favorite places ever but I’m glad I went as I would not otherwise know that. For reference, my least favorite RS tour destination was Civita di Bagnareggio. Yuck.

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Wow Moment: The DDay tour with Dale Booth was my WOW de WOW WOW moment. Really outstanding. He is a fabulous, personable, and knowledgeable guide. I loved how he started with the basics of the land features of the area, then the basics of the German occupation and fortifications, then built up the story with the Plan, the weather, the people. I love how we did the small villages in the Drop zones first, then to Utah, then to Omaha. Amazing guide. I also had asked him before we started if he could point out an Advanced Landing Ground which I knew to be near the American Cemetery on Omaha Beach. He started out his background lesson bringing in the ALGs as well as the other facets and then pointed out the airstrip as we went past. I had a map of its’ location but would never have been able to figure it out without his help.

Post tour: I spent 4 more nights in Paris. I didn't much want to stay in the ending tour hotel (near Arc de Triomphe) so I moved back to Rue Cler area where I am comfortable as a solo traveler. Yes, I worshipped daily at the Shrine of St. Arbucks (so named by Tom, the Best of England guide) but I was truly in need of soy lattes! I was NOT ready to come home. I did so love this time of year in Paris. Leaves turning and falling, lovely cool temps...it was grand!

On traveling solo on RS tours: These were my 3rd and 4th solo tours with Rick Steves (the other 3 were with family members). I think it is important to do your own research for sights you may want to see in your free time. Even though the guide will mention some activities you should be aware of what is in the area that you might want to see. Also, if the guide is providing any optional walks or activities, do them! As I mentioned recently on another thread, even if there are other solo tour members, their activity level and interests may not match yours.

If you didn’t know already, I love traveling with Rick’s tours. I love the guides, the itineraries and sharing time, sights and experiences with like-minded travelers.

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260 posts

What a great report! Full of practical tips as well. Sounds like two swell trios although weather didn't sound very good. I've done several RS trips but not these two, so interesting for me to hear your views. Curious as to the age of the other tour members as our most recent trip, Loire/southern France was the oldest group we have seen on. RS trip (and we're not exactly young ourselves)

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Thanks Laura! The age ranges were from maybe late 40s/early 50s to upper 70s for both. Neither tour had either the youngest tour members or eldest tour members I've experienced. It seemed like many were still working.

The weather was not as bad as it could have been. Rebecca, the guide, said her Paris/HOF tour prior to mine was awful with the rain so we felt lucky.

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526 posts

Love love love your trip reports, Pam! What did you wear on the plane? Your packing list sounds perfect. Another question, did you pay extra for economy plus (or whatever it is called on your airline)? I've been debating that....I guess maybe the extra leg room might help me sleep? I don't know.

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526 posts

Love love love your trip reports, Pam! What did you wear on the plane? Your packing list sounds perfect. Another question, did you pay extra for economy plus (or whatever it is called on your airline)? I've been debating that....I guess maybe the extra leg room might help me sleep? I don't know.

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2551 posts

Pam, thanks for writing a great trip report with a lot of details! I really enjoyed reading this. Your trip report really makes me want to go on both of these tours! I know I would enjoy the guides you mentioned. I'm glad you enjoyed your tours so much! Now there's the new "Southern England" tour next year to think about....it sounds good.

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Hille, my in transit outfit was the black poly pants, aqua sweater, black cotton cardie and black/aqua scarf. I always buy up to Economy Comfort. I'm 5"6 (or maybe a bit less now lol) but I need the extra 4 inches or whatever it is. It is worth the cost to me for that as well as the single supplement on the tours!

Rebecca, you know I am eyeing that new itinerary! Trying to figure out how I can work it so I can get the Tom/Ben combo!

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Pam - It sounds like you had a good trip. I was especially interested in your trip report because we did Paris and the Heart of France in August. Arnaud was our guide....very good. We also had some bad weather. Four days in a row of rain all day every day, the worst day being the day we went to Mont St Michel. (Interesting that you had the same experience). I think the weather kind of ruined the experience on Mont St Michel for me...it was really miserable with horrible wind and rain. The other days it rained it was a nuisance, but we were able to just "keep on swimming". I think we would have had a better experience if the weather had been better. There was no morning service while we were there either. I loved Giverny...even in the rain. We took the Eurostar to London and did the RS Best of London tour. Guess who our guide was? Tom! He was great. We spent some days on our own in both Paris and London. We are now very interested in the Villages of Southern England tour.

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369 posts

Thanks Pam for the great trip report. These were actually my 1st and 2nd RS tours though they have changed a little from when I took them. I didn't have Tom for a guide, but on a visit to London, he was my guide on a couple of London Walks. I am really excited about the Southern Villages of England tour but not sure when I will take it though since I am still teaching, it would make for a great summer tour. Need to check out some of the products you mentioned, also.

Thanks again - Leslie

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1552 posts

I love reading your posts and your trip reports. You have so much information to share and I'm always impressed by how many details you remember. One of the things you mentioned brought back some of our best travel memories. Back in the day, Dale Booth used to work for a company called Battlebus, doing D-Day tours. We did 4 tours with him over a two year period. We did a D-Day overview, a Band of Brothers tour, as well as a Canadian and British experience. His knowledge and engaging personality are exceptional and I am thrilled for RS participants that they get to experience him.

Can't wait to see where you go next!
Patty

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1910 posts

Thank you for another wonderful trip report, Pam! It sounds as if your time was well organized both by the tours and you but mostly you! I appreciate the packing list and other specifics. Nicely done.....I am signed up for the South England tour in mid September and pleased to hear the positive feedback on the proposed itinerary. What do you have planned for your next Great Adventure?!?!?

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1792 posts

Pam,
Thanks for a detailed and informative trip report. How nice to take 2 tours back to back! It sounds like you did some interesting things before the England tour began, too. One question I had was - did you see Churchill's War Rooms? That was a highlight for me on my last trip to England in 2013. It brought you back in time to see the conference rooms with every item left in place where Churchill and his leaders held their meetings to discuss the war and strategy, etc. I saw the Enigma machine and listened to the phone recording between Churchill and Truman discussing whether to allow Germany to do a partial surrender. Truman said we must insist on a total surrender, wow!
It was interesting to read your report about the Paris + HOF tour, too. This was my first ever RS tour which I took in mid-October, 2014. The trip of a lifetime! We were very fortunate with the weather, sunny every day except for a couple cloudy, drizzly days in Paris - I arrived 3 days early so did quite a lot in Paris before the tour began. Once we left Paris and toured the Chateaux in the Loire Valley on our way to MSM, it continued to be sunny and even a little warm. I had packed for cooler weather which taught me to always bring 1 or 2 short sleeve tops just in case of warmer temps. MSM was amazing, at night the sky was dark and the stars were so bright! We took pictures of the Abbey with the lights on it, so beautiful. Also, I loved the afternoon we visited Leonardo da Vinci's chateau in Amboise, so interesting to see the working models of his inventions. Normandy was very windy and cool on the beach but we had a very good guide as well for that. I loved our tour guide Julian who was extremely knowledgeable and our bus driver, Annie, a terrific personality and good driver of course.
Thanks for a great report,
Judy B

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524 posts

Pam,

What a wonderful trip report. You have a very organized write style, so informative. I have taken both Best of England, when it included Scotland(Roy) and Paris and Heart of France(Chris). I understand about the lunch and sight seeing problem. I tend to make sure I either have a snack lunch or pick up something at a local market to eat picnic style. That way I have more time to see the sights. I just hate to worry about the amount of time used for a cafe lunch, especially in France.

I bought the RS 20 inch bag to take on my next trip, Southern England. I am so excited about this trip, I can hardly wait!! I would love to have Roy as the guide, but because of your review Don would be fantastic, also. I use the Eagle Creek pack it folders. I use two, one for shirts and one for pants. I also have the medium cube, but I want to check out the compression cubes you mentioned. That might be a better idea to get my stuff packed in this smaller bag. Don't worry I am a light packer, too.

I know you are a Costco shopper, have you seen the packable down jackets?

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2020 posts

Pam, thanks for the excellent trip report. It was definitely more detailed than the report you gave at our Moscow Group Travel Meeting with outstanding tips and suggestions. Is it possible that you take time every night to write about each day? I think I should take you on all of my trips as my travel writer!

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8068 posts

Rhonda, so funny that you had Tom! What was your start date? He was going to do a Best of London tour right after ours. We finished on Sept 26 and his next tour started Sept 27. Yours may have been before ours though, if you went in August.

Leslie, I want to do Tom's London walk of the Legal area of London next time I go back! The Eagle Creek silnylon bags are available at the Spokane REI and probably at that AAA on N. Division. I haven't been in there in a while, but have been to the AAA in CdA and they do have them there.

Patty, I know you must have enjoyed those days with Dale! I would love to do a multiple day tour with him and yes, I would like to do the British and Canadian landing areas.

Andi, I think you will really enjoy this itinerary! I will probably not decide where I am going until after the 1st of the year, but this new itinerary is at the top of the list. Now...what to combine it with??

Judy B, I didn't do the Churchill War Rooms this time but have done them in the past. Frankly, my time this trip would have been better spent there instead of the Imperial War Museum. To me, just walking thru the corridors where Churchill walked, lived and made those decisions is very poignant and meaningful. I love all the oral history interviews, especially the women who were secretaries who could not tell their families where they worked. I want to go to Bletchley next time as well.

Debra, the Eagle Creek compression cubes are not real compression cubes in my view. To me a real compression bag squishes the air out of the cube. These cubes have an extra zipper so it compresses the bag that way. However, it does keep the contents tight and provides some structure to the rest of the stuff in the bag. I did have to change my packing strategy for my shirts/cardies. I had always rolled them but found with this cube that when I zipped it down the cube was kind of humped up in the middle and a strange shape. I have better luck folding them flat. I really was surprised at how much fit in the 20". I will have to look at those down jackets next trip to Costco. Altho I am trying to restrict jacket-buying this year...bought 2 from Lands End last year and this year is supposed to be warmer than average for us in the Inland NW.

Darcy, last year I kept good notes. This year I slacked off and regretted it! Next year...back to nightly notes.

Thanks to all for your kind comments!

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2151 posts

Pam--I so agree with your statement about the Churchill War Rooms , it was the museum that meant the most to me when I visited London. Next visit will also definitely include a trip out to Bletchley.

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1189 posts

Pam, I love your reports. They always make me want to book a tour.

I was wondering, if there were Canadians on your HOF tour, were they offered to go to Canadian D-Day sites while the rest of the group toured the American sites?

Thanks a bunch.

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8068 posts

Thanks Christa!

Andrea, on this particular tour there were no Canadians. I am not sure how it would be possible to tour Juno Beach where the Canadian troops landed as that is fairly distant from the place where the Americans landed on Utah and Omaha. According to googlemaps (so take that info for what it's worth, lol) it's about 45-51 km/45 mins from Juno to Omaha. (Probably actually fewer miles going closer to the coast but the roads along there were pretty narrow so it's not like you can go very fast. The way they are positioned, Juno is to the NE of Bayeaux where we stayed and Utah and Omaha to the NW. Dale was a step on guide and met us in Bayeux, so Annie, our regular bus driver drove us in our regular coach. Dale met us at 845 and we got back to the hotel right around 5 with really no slack time. We had a picnic lunch at the Visitor Center at Utah Beach plus a couple of bathroom stops. He did ask as we started out if there were any Canadians in the group.

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657 posts

Awesome trip report! I really appreciate all of the time and effort you put into it. Love your writing style!

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8068 posts

Thanks!

One other thing I thought of which may not be apparent to those who are new to European travel is the possibility of train strikes. This did not affect me but 2 of the tour members on the Paris/HOF tour were headed to Bruges the day our tour ended. I saw them later that day at the Musee de l'Armee and they found when they got to the station that there was a Belgium Train strike, so they had to scramble for a hotel for another night in Paris and hope for the best the next day. When I got back to my hotel later and had wifi I looked quickly at the Belgium forum on Trip Advisor and yes, it took about 2 seconds to see a thread near the top, posted in Sept with a warning about a strike for that day in Oct. Too bad they had not known to check around to confirm there were no problems. So...check this forum (Nigel is so good with UK strike news), check TA, check the train/plane websites!

Posted by
4486 posts

Thanks, Pam, for a wonderful review. We were thinking about HOF for 2016; DH really wants to see Guedelon, but we were seduced away from it by the new Villages of South England tour. We've been hoping for Roy or Gillian as guides, but it sounds like Tom would be great, as well. So, where are you planning to go next year?

We do appreciate the great reviews people (especially you) have been posting, since RSE has changed not only the format of the evaluations forms, but also how they are posted. Keep up the good work.

Posted by
8068 posts

Thanks Jane. Tom was so great! I can't imagine not enjoying a tour he is leading and besides he is from Cornwall and the tour spends 3 nights in that area. Ben, the driver, said he was looking forward to the drive thru they are going to do together. All the guides and bus drivers will take a couple of vans and run thru the tour in about 3 days in February or so. I thought that sounded like fun!

I have not decided yet about the next trip. The top contenders are Southern England, GAS and Belgium and Holland. Back in the pack are the new Switzerland tour, Scotland and Southern Italy. Way back are Greece, Turkey, Sicily and the tour that starts in Chartres and goes to Southern France. Hard to decide!

Posted by
4486 posts

We did Belgium and Holland a few years ago, and loved it. Beer, chocolate, world-class art ... what's not to like! We piggy-backed that one with Best of Paris. It was a wonderful combination.

Posted by
931 posts

Pam - what a fabulous trip report. After reading your BOE report I wouldn't have expected anything less! Details make the story and you have a knack for including the right amount so we can live vicariously through your words. Thanks for including the tip about possibly wanting to travel two different cultures when doing back to back tours.

Posted by
8068 posts

Thanks for your kind words Nance. I relive my trips by rereading the Trip Reports!

Posted by
31255 posts

Pam,

Wow, that is an extensive trip report! It's great to hear that you had such a wonderful time on the tours (how could it be otherwise on a RS tour). I've spoken with Tom on many occasions, and I also like his wonderful English sense of humour.

I was interested to read your comments about Plantar Fasciitis, as I also suffered from that on a trip that I took in 2006. I tried several "off-the-shelf" solutions but finally did what I should have done in the first place and visited a Podiatrist. He prescribed some custom Orthotics and since I started using those I have had no further problems.

"the Imperial War Museum (very disappointing in spite of the positive feedback from folks here. I felt like it was just another military museum, nothing special."

I also visited the IWM in September as I was interested to see what had changed since the major renovation. I quite enjoyed my visit and thought the displays were very well done. The WW-I special section was well presented and the Holocaust portion was very moving. I also visited Bletchley Park and spent the better part of a full day there, and found that fascinating!

"The DDay tour with Dale Booth was my WOW de WOW WOW moment."

I've also toured with Dale and agree, he's an outstanding guide! I did the Canadian highlights tour with his former boss, Paul (who operated BattleBus Tours) and he is also incredible. He is often used as a consultant for documentaries on the History Channel.

Regarding touring the Canadian and British sights, I suppose it would be possible to include all the landing areas in one day tour but that's an extensive area to cover. IMO, it would be better to take separate American, Canadian and British tours (unless of course one just wants a quick glimpse of the highlights). There are a number of significant locations in both the Canadian and British areas, and it would take at least a day to cover just the main ones. The Canadian locations would include (of course) the Abbaye d'Ardenne, locations around Caen and Carpiquet airfield, Authie, Varaville, Le Menil Patry and the cemetery at Beny sur Mer. Among the significant British sights (IMO) is the Pegasus Bridge museum and the Orne River bridges.

Where's the next trip?

Posted by
8068 posts

Ken, I am glad you enjoyed the Trip Report! Not really knowing you (except for having met you in the lobby of the hotel in Edmunds a couple of years ago on the Reunion weekend), I can safely say you would really enjoy traveling with Tom.

IMO, it would be better to take separate American, Canadian and British tours (unless of course one just wants a quick glimpse of the highlights). There are a number of significant locations in both the Canadian and British areas, and it would take at least a day to cover just the main ones.

Yes, I agree. I think if someone is on the Rick Steves' HOF tour and particularly wanted to see the Canadian DDay sites it would be better to break from the group that day and make arrangements for your own day tour of that area.

Ken, also after having spend $$$ on custom orthotics, I have to say the Correct Toes work better. Using them has strengthened my feet enough I can go without shoes on our hardwood floors.

Posted by
1910 posts

Pam, a truly well written, entertaining and informative trip report! As always, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and will plan for my Villages South England tour next September using some of your ideas and suggestions. Meanwhile, I'm off to Sicily in March-over Easter. Thank you for posting.

Posted by
31255 posts

Pam,

Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I'm sure I would enjoy travelling with Tom. I also chatted with him in the lobby of the hotel in Edmonds. I'll have a closer look at the South England tour, but I'm not sure if there's any way to guarantee that he would be the guide.

I've never heard of the "Correct Toes" but will keep them in mind should my foot problems re-occur. My custom Orthotics also cost a small fortune, but thankfully I was still working at the time so most of the cost was covered on my benefits plan.

Posted by
1792 posts

Pam,
Belgium/Holland is also one of my top contenders. When are you thinking of going? I like Sept/Oct for travel. Perhaps, we will be on the same tour. I love RS tours! I heard him speak at my local Public TV station earlier in Nov. He truly is living his calling, I wanted to sign up right then!

Enjoy your reports.
Judy B

Posted by
8068 posts

Ken, glad your orthotics were covered by insurance. Yes, they are so expensive!

Judy, not sure when I will do Belgium and Holland. The first ones of the year with Keukenhof included go quickly, I am not sure if I want to go spring or fall! There are still some dates left in May that I may consider.

Posted by
695 posts

Great report, Pam! I'm going to look into your toe thingy and the EB wallet too. Is this the smallish bag with several zippered compartments that can be worn as a cross body bag? Small and flat?