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21 Day Best of Europe Trip Report 5 stars all the way!

We just returned a few days ago from our first RS tours, and my first time to Europe. It was a long time dream of mine to go to Europe and this trip was the perfect introductory trip. Although it is nice to be home in many ways (ie back to own comfy bed, not having to live out of a suitcase, having my own simple healthy breakfast, cleaner public bathrooms, and seeing my kids and grandkids ) I am a little melancholy that the trip is over. It was much anticipated and a great focus for me ever since June when we decided that we would take this trip, thanks to a very generous wedding gift from my dad. I spent countless hours reading Rick Steves books and travel forums, watching videos, thinking about it, talking to others who had already been, and dreaming about the wonderful trip that it in fact was. I had my bar of expectations set so high that I was a little concerned at one point whether I had let it get too high and if it might not be all that impactful for me. But this was certainly not the case at all. I have been blessed beyond measure by being there and experiencing it all for myself. I am a changed person and have a different view of the European world, beyond textbooks or pictures. I am savoring the trip right now in my memories and want to take this time to write down some final thoughts. I found it so helpful to read other people's reports and want to return the favor.

A few general observations about being in Europe-
I was surprised at how beautiful it was in the natural world sense. I had envisioned it to be much more crowded and maybe even more brown, with not many trees compared to where we live in Oregon. But what I found was so much green lushness, even for late September and early October, and beautiful trees.. The greenness of Holland, the lush rolling vineyard dotted hills of the Rhine Valley and Bavaria in Germany, the magnificence of the Austrian, Italian and Swiss Alps, and the abundance of green rolling hills and vineyards throughout Italy and France; I guess I really appreciate the green landscapes of this earth. We saw so much of that on this trip.

Europe is old!!! Of course I knew this being a history major in college, but it is hard to comprehend how old it feels and is until you get there. I often felt in awe of places I was in, particularly visiting the Colosseum and the Forum in Rome,and Venice oh my! It was deeply moving and I feel changed and have a greater appreciation for having been able to go there.

Europeans seem to move slower than we do in the US and they take time to sit and enjoy the meal and the scene. I/we can learn from that. At cafes, rows of two person tables would often face out onto the street or plaza, rather than facing toward each other, as if people were sitting and watching a movie. And it felt like that to us often. We got into this early in the trip and enjoyed it right up to the end. It seems the European way, and we loved it. On our last day by ourselves, after the tour was done, we took a whole day just to explore 3 different parts of town slowly. We sat in outdoor cafes at each one and enjoyed the scene. We also enjoyed just sitting for quite awhile at Tuileries Park, between the Louvre and L'Orangerie, in two reclining chairs overlooking the pond and gardens, watching all of the people activity from a distance and appreciating the whole scene. It was heavenly!

I will be posting the rest of this report in sections so I do not exceed the limits. Warning...it will be long :-)

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A few comments about our Rick Steve’s 21 Day Best of Europe Tour-

We arrived 3 days early so that we could acclimate and get over the jet lag, and spend a couple of days with some local Dutch friends. It was nice to be rested and also to be able to see more of Holland outside of Amsterdam and Haarlem. I would highly recommend getting there a few days early if you can. We loved Haarlem and would love to return there someday. It was very quaint and walkable and had such a nice old world feeling. We also sayed one extra day at the end in Paris and we were wishing that we even had more. Two would be better so you can relax and just enjoy being there after a very full and busy 3 weeks.

I cannot say enough about what a wonderful tour this was. The itinerary is so well thought out with the right combination of bigger cities and smaller towns to stay in. Our tour guide Dimitri was born in Greece but lived in Belgium, so he knew Europe as a local and maneuvered us around each town with experience and finesse. He did a great job on the bus between towns to inform us of the history and politics of an area, as well as quick language lessons. We would start out each place usually with a guided walking tour, including lessons on how to get around via bus or train on our own, and a fabulous group dinner somewhere, often including the local wine, and ending with the local aperitif. We stayed in all but two places for 2 nights so the 2nd night we were on our own for dinner, and we usually ended up eating somewhere with some of our tour mates which was always enjoyable. We appreciated the local guides at many of the places that we visited which added that local/native voice to the towns and cities. A few we had were Antoinela in Rome, Elizabeth in Paris, Thomas in Bacharach, and two other great women in Florence and in Venice. They were all excellent.

Museums and Galleries- While visiting museums and galleries, we were able to “skip the line”, which was wonderful and saved us a lot of time and extra standing around. The one exception was when we were in Rome for the 1st Sunday of the month when most of the sites we were going to see were free. We had to wait outside of the Coliseum for well over an hour before we got in, even though we arrived 30 minutes before opening. The Vatican lines were also at least as long and by the time we got into the Sistine Chapel, we were crammed in with what seemed like well over a 1000 others and it was hot and seemed dangerous to me, only having one small door to get in and out. I thought what if someone started to push too much, or there was some kind of emergency, that we could have been seriously hurt. It did not seem like a safe set up at all. I think the whole experience detracted from me being able to enjoy the beautiful ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. My favorite churches were St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice with its gilded mosaic ceiling, and Sainte Chapelle with it’s beautiful stained glass windows. We enjoyed skip the line privileges for them and there seemed to be much better crowd control. There were so many other churches, including St Peter’s in Rome, but they all kind of started to run together for me and the opulence began to wear on me. We saw so many galleries and museums but my favorite was probably the Orsay since I really love Impressionism, and I really enjoyed my first museums The Mauritius and the Rijksmuseum in Holland with the early Dutch Masters. By the time I got the Louvre at the end of our trip I was feeling a little “museumed out” and the same could be said for all of the churches as well. I don’t think that I will ever see such a concentration of museums and churches as I did on this trip ever again. (and I will probably never do a trip of such breath and magnitude as this one again either. Don’t get me wrong……..I loved the trip!!)

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Hotels- All of the hotels that we stayed at were wonderful except for one in Beaune, mentioned later. They each had their own local feel and charm. We usually walked out the door and we were a block or two from a major attraction with many sidewalk cafes to choose from. I had thought initially that some of them in the cities, especially in Venice, Florence and Rome, might be noisy at night, but all you had to do was close the shutters to the windows, which were common, and it was much quieter inside. Bathrooms were often smaller than what we are use to in the US and always there was something interesting, like a hair dryer that looked like a vacuum cleaner, a bidet which came in handy for me to soak my tired feet in one night, and warm towel drying racks in every place we stayed at. (would like that at home!) My favorite hotels of all were the Hotel Belvedere in Wengen, where we had a great balcony and view high in the Alps, and also Hotel Serenissima in the heart of Venice, which was most charming with a very welcoming staff, in the heart of it all.

Beds- Most of the places we stayed had duvets, which were cozy, but often too warm for us most nights, and it would have been nice to just have a sheet with a light blanket. We had ACs in most rooms but sometimes they did not work well and at least one place said they were turned off for the season. Personally I do not like to sleep with cold air blowing on me at night anyway. I would say that most of the beds were quite firm on the trip, which is ok with me. However, I really did not sleep well on the trip at all, but it is partly just me. I was so excited about each day it was hard to turn it all off, and if I awoke in the middle of the night I would have similar problems. Next time I will try to obtain a stronger prescription sleeping pill.

Breakfasts- The included hotel breakfasts were always filled with a lot of variety, usually consisting of lot of bread and local pastries, eggs, cold meats and cheeses, yogurt, granola, fruit, coffee, juice and cold cereal. I am a big cold cereal eater at home and especially appreciate good healthy high fiber cereals, which we did not ever find at our hotel breakfasts. They usually had something like cornflakes and coco rice cereal. I tended to eat a lot more for breakfast than I do at home, but I figured we were walking so much each day that by lunch time I felt starving again. They usually had self serve espresso machines in the breakfast rooms and the coffee was actually very good with an option for many types of coffee. (I would get a grande espresso and add a little milk to it) I usually drink decaffeinated coffee at home and it was hard to find so I just drank the regular and I seemed to do just fine. Overall the breakfasts and the service were just wonderful and I enjoyed sitting with new people on our tour each day to chat.
The group dinners were wonderful and they usually did not start until 7 or 730, so by the time were were all done with many courses, it could be 930 or later. My husband and I always felt a need to walk afterwards and everywhere we went it seemed was prettier at night with the soft lights. It felt pretty gluttonous to me how much we ate at these dinners but it was all so good, and I can get back to more more healthy and lean cooking now that I am home again. The food in Europe was really delicious wherever we went and I loved trying out the local cuisine (except for the snails!) A few favorite things were bitterballen in the Netherlands, octopus and lobster in Monterroso, croissants in France and Italy, the pasta, oh the pasta and pesto and fresh baguettes, and gelato, limoncello and most all of the local wine that we tried which was relatively inexpensive (and pretty decent) compared to the US, especially Oregon wines (which are very good but expensive!) . There were many tasty dishes that I forgot to write down.

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Smoking - All throughout Europe I found that Europeons still are allowed to smoke in public, and at restaurants it was quite common to be sitting down to eat a great meal and the people right next to you are lighting up and creating a cloud of smoke around you. I found it kind of unbelievable really, but I guess it was not long ago that one could do that in the US and even smoke on an airplane. I am thankful we do not have that here anymore!

The bus rides were a bit of a concern to me before we left, when I read that some days we might be on the bus for up to 7 hours. However, that was a very conservative estimate and we stopped at least every 1.5 - 2 hours for a 20 minute or longer break. Where we stopped was at these very fancy “rest stops”, sometimes called “Auto-Grills” which included gift shops, restaurants with good food and espresso bars, and bathrooms. Sometimes you had to pay 1 euro or so to use the bathrooms but then you got it back if you bought something at the stores or restaurants there. The food was actually surprisingly good at all of the places that we stopped for lunch, and reasonably priced. We were so active on the days that we were not on the bus, that the time on the bus was actually a welcome rest time to just sit and look out the big picture windows at the beautiful scenery, read up on the next place we were going, listen to our guide share info with us about our next stop, and to edit photos and get ready for that next facebook posting when we had wi-fi again at the hotels. The bus was very clean and comfortable and modern with huge picture windows. Our driver Peter got us around like a pro. We could purchase bottled water on the bus for 1 euro or wine for 2 euro. The water throughout Europe was good to drink so I tried to refill my water bottle wherever we went.

The bathrooms in Europe - let's just say that I was really happy to get back to a US airport and find them so clean, with toilet seats, toilet paper, hot water and soap, and paper towels to dry off with. In Europe they were usually lacking some if not most of those qualities, and the smell of urine was quite strong in most of them, especially in Italy. I don’t know if it is just that they don’t get cleaned as regularly or that some countries do not provide toilet seats so women tend to squat more, thus splatter more. Anyway, I am very happy to be home and have clean bathrooms again :-)

This tour is VERY active. We were often let off of the bus several blocks away from our hotel since the hotels were so centrally located, and had to walk down uneven cobblestoned streets with our luggage. Also, several of the hotels did not have elevators, or if they did, they were small and slow so it was easier to just walk up the stairs with your luggage. I felt I got a good workout each time just from that part of the trip alone! Then there was our walking tours and museum tours and extra walking that we just felt compelled to do since we were there, and how wonderful is that? I would guess that we averaged 6-8 miles a day, some days more, a few days maybe less.Lots of hills and lots of stairs. It helped to work off all that wonderful food we were eating :-) I am an active person and hike regularly and go to the gym several times a week, but I felt tired, especially as the weeks went on and I managed to get a terrible cold which wore me down. But I did not want to miss anything and kept going and figured I could rest up on the long trip home and when it was over. My 71 year old husband did not get as tired as I did. I would say that all of our tour group kept up with everything, except for one precious woman friend who broke her ankle the day before the tour started and she had to miss a few things. I am guessing we were all pretty tired by the time it was over.

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Tour Highlights for me- There are so many that I will try to pick out one or two from each place:
Netherlands- Pre-trip
Mauritius Museum in De Hague for early Dutch Masters, quaint town of Delft, and the charming city of Haarlem and walking the streets at night. Spending time with our local friends and staying on their houseboat!
During trip- 1st group dinner and meeting our tourmates, day in Amsterdam and enjoying sidewalk cafes and a “coffee shop”
Germany-
Bacharrach, quaint and historic, first German town and loved it. Hike above town is really special, go up to the hostel at the top of the hill. Trip to St. Goar and the Rheinfels Castle, and the river cruise back. Beautiful area! Lots of vineyards and green hills. Went to an optional wine tasting before dinner...tasted and rated 12 wines...not great wines but fun! Great historic pub across the street worth visiting.
Rothenberg felt like Disneyland, so crowded and touristy the day we were there. A lot of bus tours there for the day. Walked and Wall and the Nightwatchman’s tour very interesting
Dachau Memorial- We had an amazing tour guide here, from Ireland I believe. It was very moving and impactful to visit here….felt disbelief that we humans could do such a thing.
Oktoberfest! Surprise visit here for just a few hours where we were all set free. Had fun sitting at a table with an international group of young people and sharing a beer and some songs.
Austria-
Stayed at Hotel Ernberg, near Reutte, but our activities took us back to Germany. We took a beautiful mostly level 5 mile hike to Neuschwanstein Castle along a lake. The castle blew me away! I won’t say too much so you can be surprised at it’s grandeur too. Also enjoyed riding a luge afterwards. Tip- Let it go at the top to get the best ride, don’t worry about braking too early. It is safe and fun, unless you happen to be behind a slow person. Local folk music and dinner was lively at hotel. Also great balconies with our first look at the Alps...wow!
Italy
Venice- The entire group elected to take optional gondola rides before dinner. It was worth it! Venice wowed me! Loved the day we got to wander aimlessly in Venice on our own.No cruise ships in town made it even better. All the canals and bridges were just fantastic.It was my husbands birthday for our first Italian group dinner and it was amazing..7 courses I think!
Florence- Loved walking over to Michelangelo Plaza across the river with view over town. Might like to stay in that part of town next time, quieter. . Also found the Tower Bar at Hotel Torre Guelfa, with a great view over the city...a great place for a drink at sunset. Our local guide at the Accademia and Uffizi galleries was absolutely the best- American born, Art History Student who married a local man. (can’t remember her name)
Roma- Seeing the Colosseum and Forum...for sure. Loved Walking around Rome at night better than the day, amazing statues and fountains everywhere. Had another amazing group dinner here. Limoncello and Grappa again!
Orvieto- the hilltown we visited in Umbria for a few hours on way to Cinque Terra. Loved this old walled town on the hill and would LOVE to come back and stay sometime.
Monterosso al Mare- Absolutely loved staying here. Wish we could have stayed an extra day here to really relax. The one day we had we did the hike from Monterosso to Corniglia, then used a train to get to Riomaggiore then the ferry boat back.It took all day because we took it slow and lingered. Loved the feeling here and laid back vibe. I think the 21 day tour should be 22 with an extra day here to unwind, or give up Rothenburg as an overnight.

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Switzerland!
We stayed in Wengen, a train ride up from Lauterbrunnen Valley. Ride up was AMAZING! And Hotel Belvedere was like a royal castle with jaw dropping view to the alps. We took a cable car up the next morning even further to Mannlichen and then hiked over to Kleine Scheidegg, where we had lunch and then took a train back down to the valley floor. The views were beyond belief up there and I can hardly wait to go back someday and hike more.
France
Beaune was a rare one night stand and based on the hotel we stayed at it, it was hardly worth it. It was the only hotel the entire time that seemed sub standard (Hotel Athanor) compared to all of the others we stayed at. I am not sure why they picked it. It would have been better to have a quick stop in this town and get on to Paris to have more time there. That being said we had a fun wine tasting there and a great dinner on our own with tourmates.
Paris- Loved our historic walk with our guide, dinner in the Latin Quarter and the river cruise at night with some of our tour mates. The twinkling lights went off on the hour which I was not expecting so it was a nice bonus when we found ourselves in front at that time. Especially liked the Orsay, Montmartre, and climbing the Arc de Triomphe. Great view of the city if you do not do the Eiffel. If you can, take an extra day or more here to relax and unwind and just enjoy being there.

The group camaraderie- This is probably one of the best things of this trip. Most of us were first time Europe visitors so that made it even more special I think. We were all so excited to be there and make the most of our time. Our group was very active and participated in all planned activities and even optional activities with gusto. There were a few of us still in our mid to late 50s but most people were in their 60s or early 70s, and the majority were retired. I don’t know if it is usually this way but everyone got along so well and we truly did mingle and spend time with just about everyone over a meal or two during our 3 week tour. Even on the nights where we did not have a “group dinner” we often would get together with a small group somewhere and enjoy a meal together. I felt sad when our tour was ending and we had to say goodbye. I know that is highly improbable that we will all be together again, but we do hope to see some of our peeps at another tour or have them visit us at our home in Oregon, or see them on a road trip someday. They enriched our lives and our tour and we thank each of them for being there.

Also Hats off to our wonderful tour guide Dimitri, who kept us all laughing and light and informed. He had such a way of keeping us all together, informing us of important locations of toilets, and helping us all to be independent travels after the tour. I for one, feel much better equipped to travel in Europe on our own sometime, although we had so much fun with our group, and we loved having all of the logistics taken care of, that I probably will want to do one again.

I am curious how many other people who do these tours experience some “trip let down” when it is all over? I know that an easy cure is booking or planning another trip but it may be awhile for us. Also, what about those "My Way Tours" which are certainly less expensive? Can anyone who has taken RS tours both ways share about the camaraderie and group connection on those? That to us was priceless!

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679 posts

Sounds like a wonderful experience for your first time. Congrats

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1018 posts

Europe is old!!! Of course I knew this being a history major in
college, but it is hard to comprehend how old it feels and is until
you get there.

I had to laugh at this because it was my first reaction too. My hometown was founded in 1875 and I grew up thinking that an old building was from 100 years ago, apparently not...

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11411 posts

Thank you for your trip report , I really enjoyed reading it !

I’ve only done one RS tour , over ten years ago now - it was a Family Europe in 24 days . I took my then 11 yr old daughter , it was not my first trip to Europe but probably my 15 th lol - but I had never taken my 11 yr old and while I had taken her older brother two years previous and just did it in my own with him I chose a Tour for my dd as I knew she’s enjoy the social
Aspect and I thought it would be more relaxing for me to have someone else handle the details so I could just enjoy time with my child ( and I was right )

Yes , near end of tour I did feel sad to think I’d never see any of the other members again . It felt a bit surreal on last night when 14 of the kids on our tour all sat at one big table , all laughing and chatting , boy and girls aged 8-17 - all having been very friendly and welcoming to all other kids ( we had an amazing group , seeing kids from all different places and ages all mixing together , no bullying or sulking , it was amazing ) and thinking “ we will never see any of these people again that we’ve shared so many firsts with .
So yes , I understand

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1932 posts

I really enjoyed reading about all your experiences. Sounds like a great first time journey. After 6 group tours I can identify with having to say goodbye to your tour members. Have to say we are still in contact with many and continue to correspond or visit. Lasting memories! Your report will be helpful for others who are planning their first tour.

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2760 posts

I was ready to take my first trip to Europe in 2001 and was doing some research on the trip. Having seen RS shows on PBS and listen to him give some talks in person, I decided that I would sign up for one of his tours. I selected the 21 day ETBD tour, had a great time and have returned to Europe 16 times in the last 18 year where I have taken 16 other RS tours. That first tour is still one of my favorite.

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We are heading on our first RS tour in May 2020 - the 21 BOE, so I appreciate any feedback regarding your experience. I want to do the same for others after our trip. Thank you for your feedback.

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440 posts

Thank you for taking such great notes and sharing them with us.

I am on the BOE21 next October. Will be my second RS event after Scotland earlier this year.

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2941 posts

I agree that one of the special aspects of a Rick Steves Tour is the congenial group of people that you travel with.

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11153 posts

Thanks for taking the time to post these details of your impressions. Very interesting and very useful for others.

I think we ALL can relate to the let-down of a trip ending!

As for the age of Europe, I love the saying, "In Europe, 100 miles is a long distance. In America, 100 years is a long time." You really can't appreciate it if you've only seen one or the other (European visitors often have no real concept of distances in the US until they actually come here, and as you say, it's hard to have a real concept of how old Europe is compared to the US until you visit).

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7634 posts

What a wonderful time you had!! I also had the Dimitri/Peter duo for this trip. I loved Dimitri. What an exceptional guide he is!

Thanks for posting!

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1921 posts

What a great report! I enjoyed all the detail, as well as the way your enthusiasm leaped from the computer screen. I do understand getting burned out on certain activities. I did 3 weeks in Italy in 2015. I would be fine with never seeing another piece of religious art as long as I live, though I would go back to Italy in a heartbeat.

I'm glad you had such a good time. It's hard not to get bit by the Europe travel bug after such a memorable trip.

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112 posts

Loved your report. We did most of this itinerary in 2006 with two college age kids, backpacks and Eurail passes. My husband and I did it with Rick Steves in 2116 to get the benefit of the local guides and not hassling the trains and hotel reservations. Your report brings back great memories.
We also started several days early and visited the Mauritius (?sp) and Delft. We also spent a day in Amsterdam visiting the Van Gough museum as well as the Resistance Museum (it was rainy).
It was and is a fabulous tour. It is active and can take a toll on feet. I packed extra shoes to trade off and flip flops for quiet evenings—as well as minty foot cream for the end of the days.
Again, thanks for the memories.

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922 posts

I'm so glad you had such a good time on your tour. The 21 day is our only tour with RS and we felt much the same as you - awed by the age and splendor or European buildings and the scenery. And yes - I think we became addicted to a having a new thrill every day so it was quite the let down to return home to hum drum regular life. Just two years ago I sat in some of those same chairs in the Tuileries, feet propped up on the edge of the pond, enjoying the warm sunshine and just being in Paris. It was interesting that you noted your Swiss stay in Wengen rather than Stechelberg. Did you get to see Trummelbach falls?

Thanks for a lovely and informative report!

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27 posts

Thank you all for your kind words. I am happy to hear from each of you some similar feelings. 10 days later my husband and I talk about this trip everyday, savoring the memories, and wanting to keep them alive. It took us both quite a long time to catch up on our sleep after this trip and not feel like we were all fuzzy headed by mid day. I am not sure if others found the same thing. I think it was much more than the jet lag (9 hours difference on the west coast) but more recovering from all of the activity and sleepless nights on the trip (my own issues) . It really was a trip of a life time and if you are thinking about taking this trip...just do it! It would be good to have a least a few days off of work when you return home though to recover :-)
Someone asked if we went to the falls in Lauterbrunnen Valley, as yes we did. There were just so many memorable moments on this trip that I just picked out a few of my favorites at each place. The falls were spectacular and unique and not to be missed!

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200 posts

Also enjoyed riding a luge afterwards. Tip- Let it go at the top to
get the best ride, don’t worry about braking too early. It is safe and
fun, unless you happen to be behind a slow person

I am interested in riding the luge when I am in Schwangu and wondered how safe it is. Did you really ride it fast down the hill?
I always wonder if I'm going to be the one who goes off the side on a curve? How many times did you it?

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173 posts

Next time you are in Italy order a cornetto instead of a croissant...that is the Italian version:)

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In response to Derek's questions, we rode the luge at Tegelberg, which was very close to Neuschwanstein Castle. I cannot say for sure how steep the others are, but this one was not real steep with lots of wide s-curves. By braking at the top, it made the rest of the ride down slower. The second time I hardly used the break at all and the ride was much more thrilling. I had heard someone report on this forum before we went on this trip, that someone had run into another rider in their car (not sure which luge it was ) and had injured themself. I think this was because the person before them had put on their brakes too much and the person coming up from behind came up to fast. The one we were at you always had a wide open view to see the other person in front of you and we were all spaced out quite a bit, so it seems it would be hard to have this kind of accident. That being said, we should all do only what we feel safe and comfortable with. I for one liked the thrill of less brakes :-)

And regards to the pastries in Italy that looked like croissants....yes they were all so delicious! We were spoiled by being able to have these wonderful fresh pastries at every hotel we stayed at during this trip. If we had stayed much longer I would have gained even more weight than I did. Honestly though, with all of the walking that we did I found that I only gained a pound in 3.5 weeks...pretty amazing considering we ate about twice as many calories as usual!

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You asked about dealing with “trip let down”. One thing I have been doing is making an old-fashioned scrapbook-type photo album...actual prints, paper and ink. I took the Villages of South England trip this year and have been working on the album little by little since this summer. I get prints of my pictures by location so I am not overwhelmed with all the prints at one time. I take time to weed out the prints I want and take time in manually cropping and placing the prints on colorful paper sheets that go into album sleeves. It is fun to “re-live” the trip this way. I look up the places again to add comments to the album. I find this is good therapy for me. Also, I have stayed in touch with a couple of ladies from the trip. Now, I have to make sure I get this album done before my next RS trip. I am going back to England next May...Best of England. Oh, by the way, I enjoyed reading about your trip!

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141 posts

Thank you for your very enthusiastic trip report! As far as trip let down goes - yes, I've experienced it after each of the three RS tours we've taken. We usually travel in later September/first half of October because I prefer the cooler weather, so when we get home to Minneapolis we know what is in store for us and we dig in. Garden clearing, yard work, getting ready for the next growing season, etc - expending physical energy can be a great antidote for feeling sorry for oneself. I also clean out out my closets - after living out of a carry on for 3 weeks I take a good, hard look at whatever excess I see and donate it to my favorite women's charity. We also keep our trips alive by talking about them with each other and sharing our experiences with friends and neighbors - we are one of the older couples on our block (60 and 70) and our younger neighbors are always eager to hear about our experiences. They dream about going. We dream about going back.

You asked about the camaraderie regarding the MyWay Tours compared to the guided tours. We did the MyWay Europe Tour in 2015, the MyWay Alpine Europe Tour in 2017 and the guided Best of Sicily Tour in February of 2019. The camaraderie on all three was wonderful. The My Way Tours seem to attract more independent travelers who want the travel logistics taken care of, but then want to be able to do their own thing. They learn how to put the research in ahead of time as far as what they want to see in different locations and make reservations for the sites that require them. This doesn't mean that they don't want to socialize - on the contrary, we had many unplanned cocktail hours and dinners with our tour mates just because we ran into each other at the same venue. Table for 2 became table for 4 (or 8) pretty quickly. We have kept in touch with many of our fellow tour members through our private Facebook groups, and some have contacted us when they came through Minneapolis and we've had dinner and reminisced. We did the guided Sicily Tour because we felt we could never do the little island justice on our own - we just didn't have the historical knowledge. It was the right thing to do for us. The history of Sicily is breathtaking, our guide (Karen Kibby) was wonderful and our tour group was fabulous and very inclusive. We came away with yet another group of wonderful people to keep in touch with.

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Thank you Carole for your scrapbooking idea. I plan to go through my 1000s of photos on google sometime soon and make a shorter slide show so it is easier to show. It is nice to relive the memories :-)

And thank you lizthemadhatter for your feedback as well. It sounds like the group camaraderie is still there with the My Way tours. Would love to do the My Way Alpine Tour next!