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Nance's overview of our 21 BOE Tour

Tour: Oct. 11-31, 2015
We flew to Amsterdam and spent a week there before moving to Haarlem, two days prior to our tour beginning. Two reports for that time period are titled, "Nance in Amsterdam", and "Nance in Amsterdam and Haarlem".
Our guide was Martin and his expertise as a guide made this a wonderful tour. Lots of science, social customs, social issues, history, art history, his fabulous Welsh accent, and his great sense of humor made for a fun-filled 21 days. He was generous and quick to provide little treats and niceties to the group. Our bus driver was Matt, and he and his wife were a blast to spend time with.
Haarlem: A beautiful, walkable small town with several good museums, and many good places to eat. Our hotel room remained the same so we did not have to check out and check back in at The Ambassador. Our room was so-so; although we had plenty of space, it was steamy from the lack of a fan in the bath and I had trouble drying clothes here, even with using a hair dryer on them.
Tips: 1] check out the rooftop restaurant at the V&D dept. store where La Place has a soup, salad, and dessert cafeteria on the floor below.
2] Pizza Pasta Al Dente had excellent pizzas. We stopped for some wine and dinner. We each ordered a pizza at 7,5e each but could have shared one pizza between us. I had the Popeye which had plenty of fresh spinach and two oven fried eggs atop the pizza - delicious! Total bill was about 25e.
3] Do not discount eating at a McDonald's at least once. If you are American you will be astounded at how much better a Big Mac tastes.
Amsterdam: All in all, the day was packed FULL and even with the tram ride from Centraal to Anne Frank Huis we walked A LOT! As much as people rave about the AFH I found myself severely disappointed after having toured the Corrie Ten Boom Huis in Haarlem (for free!). The lack of human interaction left me wanting and I was simply unable to make a connection. Even though we had spent 11 days walking our tails off around Amsterdam and Haarlem we were exhausted and glad to get back to our hotel room and chill.
Bacharach: Weather turned cool with a few drizzles; wishing for that sweatshirt I left at home! Informative walking tour with Thomas. Short stretch of strenuous climbing up into the vineyards and steep hills to climb up to Reinfels where we enjoyed Federweiser. Plant this into your brain: Federweiser. Trust me, you are going to want to more than sample this fruity newly made wine. Room was okay with radiators to dry dry clothes on and above.
Dinner: Stubers Restaurant. Four of us ate a 5 star dining experience for a little more than 60e. Wine, fresh bread with dill yogurt for dipping, pork medallions, creme brulee, fresh sorbets, simply outstanding! Everyone else on the tour ate at other places and there were lots of complaints about their service, poor meals, and outright rudeness.
Rothenburg: So wishing we had been HERE for two nights rather than Bacharach. Instead of dinner we went outside of the walls and found a small mall across from the train station and I was able to buy a high necked sweatshirt. Warm at last. Note - european sizes are much smaller.
Hotel was charming with lovely bed and nice bath!
Nightwatchman's Tour was the highlight of a fairy tale day. Do not miss it no matter the weather!
Ruette: Nice room and bath. We had a balcony which was nice for husband to step out to smoke. Nice bar and good beer. Our dinners here were excellent! Did one load of our laundry for 14e - self serve.
Hike to Neuschwantstein needed multiple resting breaks. One mile up steep hills - whew! Very good lunch of sandwich and banana provided at the bus. Hohenschwangau had lots of stairs up to the castle but I liked this castle better.

Posted by
2149 posts

Wonderful trip report. I'm looking forward to more!

Posted by
983 posts

Venice: Great walking tour with Elizabette, shopping, singing gondola ride -24e. Free day exploring in a small group of 7-8 and walked farther here than anywhere else on the tour, 13-16 miles! Took advice of tour guide and reserved dinner spot for 8 at Osteria Al Portego. Food was delicious but dinner was marred by the rude waitress.
Hotel: blah. Shower so small I cannot bend to wash my feet. Tour mates faces bitten by bedbugs.
Florence: One of my favorite cities on the tour. Lovely walking, leather market, neat indoor market of meats, veggies, small stand-up restaurants, bakeries down same street as leather market. Group dinner here was outstanding!
Free time: Museo Galileo.
Own dinner: Osteria Pastella almost across the street from our hotel. 3 of us shared a 1.3 kg 4 inch thick t-bone steak roast for 44e. They make their own pasta in the front window - fresh when you order! Nice little bar across the street for music and cocktails.
Hotel room was huge - at least 16x20 with a decent bath. Hint: In rooms that have locking shutters hang your clothes to dry between the shutter and the window!
Rome: Whew - the stairs! More than a hundred to get up to the 4th floor where our hotel was located. The lift will hold three people but was used to send luggage up the first day. Fairly nice room and bath and excellent breakfasts. Good walk to the Colesseum. Here the higher than normal stairs about got to me. Evening before dinner ended in a lovely square outside of the Pantheon. Would have liked to hang in this square but we moved on to our group dinner.
The dinner had been hyped by our guide but it was one of the sorriest dining experiences I have ever had. I don't typically complain but the whole experience was miserable, from the non changing menu of potato chips, salad, pork meat, dessert, to being forced into impossibly tight seating right next to an outdoor heater. Even more miserable was the one bathroom for the whole restaurant which was located in the kitchen, so here there is this line of people standing all around while the cooks were dodging around us trying to heat the canned green beans. If this restaurant (Tratorria del Palarro) remains a tour meal I would seriously advise dining somewhere else at your own expense.
We chose to share a taxi ride back with three others and I got to ride in front by the driver. It was THRILLING, almost like an amusement park ride! Total cost was about 15e for the five of us including tip. So loved seeing Rome by taxi at night!
Cinque Terre- absolutely stunning scenery, great food at reasonable prices, and here was our place to just chill. We hosted an afternoon cocktail party out front of our hotel and all who stopped by had a good time chatting and telling stories. Our guide said groups rarely interact like that. Sorry to hear that as we had a blast! One more day of rest here would have been lovely. Dropped off one bag of laundry down the street for 13e. It was wrapped and on our bed when we returned from the day out.
Stechelberg: The most beautiful place of our whole trip. This is hiking land! We took the gondolas up to Schilthorn and are glad for the experience! We came down and met the rest of the group in Murren but then chose to go off on our own. A lovely walk down to Trummelbach falls but by that time I was too tired to enjoy the falls. Never did see a bus so had to walk back to the hotel but that was okay. We had packed some breakfast bars, snickers, and water so we rested and ate by the river and enjoyed the cow bells. Okay breakfasts but very good dinners at the restaurant, and plenty of it with second helpings offered.
Room was fair sized with a wardrobe to hold our clothes - nice. Lighting was very poor. We shared a bath with father and son - no problem there at all. Several had their own baths in room - nice! We enjoyed having wine and chocolate with my buddy and her husband before our group dinner.

Posted by
983 posts

Beaune: A nice stop on our way to Paris. Wine tasting interesting but didn't buy any. Three of us dined at Cafe Les Negociants - fresh fried fish, quiche poulet, and chocolate molten cake with ice cream and whipped cream. Just what I needed! I had a feline dining companion who enjoyed some of the chicken from my quiche. Oh, I needed that kitty fix!
Hotel room was nice with decent bath.
Paris: Oh, to be back in lovely Paris. I can't wait for our next trip back over as we will probably start here. So much to see, so much to do! My fave museum was d'Orsay but the Louvre needs DAYS of exploration. Rodin gardens were nice. We had a late lunch and ended up eating fresh donuts for dinner at a bakery on Rue Cler. A very cold late night cruise down the Seine after our final dinner had us back at our hotel around 11:00 and back up at 3:30 to prepare for our flight home. I hated the thought of leaving so early in the morning but it was sort of nice. 70e taxi ride to the airport with no traffic and he dropped us off at our terminal. Beard scissors confiscated lol.
Random thoughts:
*We treated ourselves this first time to business class, and I was very happy we did. I might be able to fly premium economy but think my body jitters would get the best of me in economy.
* We carried our daily cash/passport copies in our Travelon purses (yes, dh had one too and he is still carrying it back here in the states!). We left our passports and bulk of cash in our bags in our room. When transferring to other cities I wore my money belt turned backwards and dh wore a hidden pocket. I never knew the money belt was there. Not taking a chance with our passports or bulk of money.
* Riding the trains and metros can be confusing but if I can do it, you can too! I was a little intimidated at first but got the hang of it!
* Splurging for a taxi sometimes is a good thing!
* Hot chocolate and a donut should be part of your daily intake!
* Packing as light as possible is essential. I got sick of moving every two days after about two weeks and found myself lightening my load every chance I got.
* Everybody in the group was nice. Everybody was always ON TIME!!!! Always! That made for nice touring.
* Would I take this tour if I knew before what I know now? Absolutely!!!!!!!!!!! We would never have seen so much with so many wonderful, small group guides if we had done this by ourselves. We would have been worn out from moving ourselves around the countries, standing in lines, etc. NOW we know where we would like to revisit... but there are still more tours and more countries to explore. RS Tours - you rock!

Posted by
11099 posts

Nance, what a terrific trip report! I love your observations!

Posted by
983 posts

Hi Pam! The tour was every bit of fun that you said it would be! Thank you for your reviews and advice!!! I tried to include names of restaurants that were good so others might try these as well. I was surprised when the weather turned cold as the previous week and a half had been great - sunny days in the 60's. I made do though until I could snag that sweatshirt. I washed it after Austria, but didn't dare throw it in a dryer for fear of shrinkage as the damn thing already fit like a glove lol. All in all it was an amazing adventure and I feel more comfortable going on my own now. Still, it is nice to have the transportation provided for you and I got so much more out of the museums with a guided tour so I am sure another RS tour is in our near future. We should collaborate with Pnd and all go together on one or maybe make our own. I know you are interested in a Christmas market tour and I would love to do that too!

Posted by
11099 posts

I am so glad I didn't oversell!! This is still my favorite tour. I am glad you included restaurant names. Also, the guides do have some latitude in choosing tour restaurants so the yucky one in Rome might not be on other guides' tours.

Posted by
983 posts

Not sure Pam. There was another RS tour group at the same restaurant sitting indoors. None of my tour mates had anything good to say and one man at our table ate nothing after a few little tastes. It doesn't matter. I will never be back there but did want to note it.

Posted by
983 posts

Hi Pnd! I don't even know if the hotel is aware they have bedbugs. Surely the maids would see that, huh? I don't know if our tour members informed the hotel or not. I would have.

Posted by
2655 posts

Nance - This is one of the best trip reports I have ever read - great high level summary and going into more detail when appropriate. Do you write for a living? I will probably never take a group tour, but you provide lots of information for the independent traveler as well.

Could you name the bed bug-infested hotel in Venice?

Posted by
49 posts

Awesome insight into your trip! Thank you for mentioning the restaurant in Rome. If that is our group dinner next summer, we will skip it. I hate to waste meals in Italy ;)

As for the hotel in Venice, do you know if any of your group mentioned the bites to the tour guide? I would hope RS tours wouldn't knowingly keep booking tours into a hotel with a known bedbug infestation. It stinks that some of you posting here had to deal with this, so I hope changes are made in the future if necessary.

Sounds like I need to start doing stairs! I can walk distance without too much trouble, but stairs can wear me out much faster.

Thank you for taking the time to post this. I appreciate that you and Pam have previously directed me to threads that have been helpful and informative for the BOE21 tour. :)

Posted by
983 posts

Thanks Trayla - no, I don't write for a living but love writing - especially limericks! This is a list of our hotels. I would be happy to stay at any of them except for the one in Venice. Seriously, the shower was smaller than a phone booth and bed bugs - oof! I am unaware as to whether my tour mates told the guide about the bugs.

Hotel List for: Europe in 21 Days Tour -
Dates listed are the arrival and departure date
From: 10/11/2015 To: 10/13/2015
Ambassador City Centre Hotel
Oude Groenmarkt 20,
Haarlem, 2011 NL - NETHERLANDS
Tel: 011 31 23 512 5300  Fax: 011 31 23 532 9549
From: 10/13/2015 To: 10/15/2015
Hotel Kranenturm
Langstrasse 30
Bacharach, 55422 - GERMANY
Tel: 011 49 6743 1308  Fax: 011 49 6743 1021
From: 10/15/2015 To: 10/16/2015
Hotel Gerberhaus
Spitalgasse 25
Rothenburg, 91541 - GERMANY
Tel: 011 49 986 194 900  Fax: 011 49 986 186 555
From: 10/16/2015 To: 10/18/2015
Alpenhotel Ernberg
Ernberg-Zum Dorfwirt
Reutte, 6600 - AUSTRIA
Tel: 011 43 5672 719 12  Fax: 011 43 5672 719 1240
From: 10/18/2015 To: 10/20/2015
Hotel Mercurio
Calle del Fruttariol 1848
Venezia, 30124 - ITALY
Tel: 011 39 041 522 0947  Fax: 011 39 041 241 1079
From: 10/20/2015 To: 10/22/2015
Hotel Palazzo dal Borgo
Via della Scala 6
Florence, 50123 - ITALY
Tel: 011 39 055 216237  Fax: 011 39 055 280947
From: 10/22/2015 To: 10/24/2015
Hotel Nardizzi Americana
Via Firenze 38
Rome, 00184 - ITALY
Tel: 011 39 06 488 00 35  Fax: 011 39 06 488 03 68
From: 10/24/2015 To: 10/26/2015
Hotel Punta Mesco
Via Molinelli 35
Monterosso, 19016 - ITALY
Tel: 011 39 0187 817 495  Fax: 011 39 0187 817 495
From: 10/26/2015 To: 10/28/2015
Hotel Stechelberg
Stechelberg, CH-3824 - SWITZERLAND
Tel: 011 41 33 855 29 21  Fax: 011 41 33 855 44 38
From: 10/28/2015 To: 10/29/2015
Hotel des Remparts
48 rue Thiers
Beaune, 21200 - FRANCE
Tel: 011 33 380 24 94 94  Fax: 011 33 380 24 97 08
From: 10/29/2015 To: 10/31/2015
Hotel Muguet
11 rue Chevert
Paris, 75007 - FRANCE
Tel: 011 33 147 05 05 93  Fax: 011 33 145 50 25 37

Posted by
983 posts

cbb - you'd better get to those stairs and I'm not kidding! For several weeks before our trip we would go to the hospital a few times/week and climb stairs as long as we could stand. I needed to be doing it for 3-4 months - really. I never had much pain although my knees got a little sore. I came home in much better shape physically than when I arrived over there and lost 10lbs, even with all of the chocolate souffle's, Winkel's apple pie, wine, and liquor. I'm pretty sure we averaged 7-8 miles/day for the whole month. As much as I don't miss packing up every other day to move, I sure do miss touring!

Posted by
1058 posts

We stayed at the Hotel Mercurio in mid September on our Rick Steves Best of Italy tour and had no problems with bed bugs there or anywhere else. I guess it only takes one person bring them from someplace else. Here is some advice for travelers when they get home: empty your luggage in the garage and immediate put your clothes in the wash. Don't take your luggage into your bedroom without checking it throughly.