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RS Eastern France Tour

Just returned from our fifth RS tour, and it proved to be one of our favorites. I will attempt to write a trip report that is complete without becoming a missive. "Attempt" may be the key word.

Transportation- We flew Air France from SFO to CDG. We ponied up $$ for Premium Economy seats. They were definitely better than United Economy Plus, but not as good as Business or First class. Hard seats, decent food, rationed alcohol. (one glass of wine/beer) Tip of the day: We booked our TGV train tickets to Reims as part of the Air France airline ticket. I did my search for open-jaw SFO-Reims and Marseilles-SFO and it automatically connected me to a direct train from the CDG TGV station to Reims. No Paris station scrum required. Upon arrival in Reims at the Champagne-Ardenne station we just walked down a small hill and caught the tram going directly into town. Dropped us off about two blocks from the Hotel Grand Continental (the RS hotel). Note to self/and you: If you pay for Premium Economy on Air France it entitles you to Sky Priority short(er) lines not only at check-in but also going through passport control. Saved us at least an hour upon arrival at CDG. Pay attention and watch for the red signs indicating theSky Priority line. We didn't notice this until we had been in the regular queue for 25 minutes. Still saved us at least an hour. Did only carry-on which helped.

Hotels-

Overall summary: all hotel rooms were very clean and well located. None had wash cloths (which we expected) and some had safety issues (which we didn't expect). Most had heated towel racks for sink laundry. All had opening windows, minimal street noise and helpful staffs. A simple breakfast was included at all the hotels- plenty of carbs to get you fueled for the day.

Reims: Hotel Grand Continental. We paid an upgrade to insure a king bed for our recovery night. Even with the upgrade the room was sparse. It was very clean with a tub/shower combination. Great location with many restaurants within two blocks. A Monoprix department store was just around the corner where we bought water, shampoo, lotion etc. Elevator available.
Colmar: Hotel Le Rapp. We had a large, clean room here. It had an armoire for storage, wood floors and a stall shower. It also had a separate toilet room. Elevator available.
Beaune: Hotel des Ramparts. We had a top floor room with a window/skylight that opened. It was clean and fairly large, but we missed an elevator for sure. It was 52 steps up (and down) spiral staircases with no hand railing. At the foot of the bed there were several "potholes" in the floor which tripped me up several times. The tub/shower had no curtain/glass to keep the water off the floor. The high,steep rounded walls of the tub in combination with the wet floor and no handrails on the walls surrounding the tub made it pretty dangerous. There was also a large spray can of insect poison in the room. Since we didn't see any bugs we assumed everything in the room had been sprayed. Not sure that made us feel better. :) The family that owns the hotel personally/warmly welcomed us making it feel like we were at a favorite aunt's house. There were beautiful common areas inside and a serene and lovely courtyard outside.
Chamonix: Hotel L'Arve We had a teeny, tiny room and a bed that did not allow both of us to sleep without limbs hanging over the edge/bottom. We did have a small balcony and lovely sound of the river rushing below us. There was good storage in the closet and a tube shower. There were beautiful common areas in which to relax and stretch out ( a good thing since we couldn't do that in our room).

Continue on if you are still interested.

Posted by
1856 posts

The tour was one of my favorites too. It’s been several years so your trip report serves to help me recall many fond memories of this tour. My days in Charmonix were overcast with drizzle so I want to get back at some point.

Nice perk to get expedited passport control at CDG. It can be a real time saver.

Thanks.

Posted by
470 posts

Eastern France- part deux

More hotels...

Vaison la Romaine: Hostellerie Beffroi. We had a fantastic room with large bed, windows overlooking the pool and city below, a small table and chairs and plenty of storage. We had a tub/shower and separate toilet room. We were in the "nearby" building instead of the main building. As all other reviews mention, it is quite a hike up the hill to this hotel but is SO worth the trouble. Our luggage was brought up (and down) in a small truck, so we only had to haul ourselves up and down the hill to meet the bus. No elevator.

Aix en Provence: Hotel Negre Coste. This is a modern, well-equipped hotel. Large bed, wood floors, spacious bathroom with large stall shower. Tons of storage in the bedroom and bathroom as well. If you are extending your stay in Aix this hotel would be very comfortable for a multi-night stay. Elevator available (although broken when we got back from dinner, fixed by morning).

Itinerary: This tour includes a wide variety of experiences, sites, scenery and history. Every part of it was enjoyable. It was not particularly strenuous ( on occasion you do have to negotiate some very steep "steps" hewed out of rocks), the bus rides never seemed long or tedious. We felt like it was the perfect amount of time in every location and that the villages chosen represented the regions we visited well. The pace allowed time to process what you were seeing and to savor the atmosphere. The diversity of each region makes this tour "dense" with multi-sensory experiences, many of which we are still processing as we look through the hundreds of photos we took.
Tip of the day: Arrive in Reims a couple of days early and make a day trip via train to Epernay for champagne house touring. We did the tour at Mercier- very fun little underground train tour.

Tour leader,bus driver, local guides: Our leader Chris was the consummate RS Super Hero. Intelligent, articulate, witty and knowledgeable about the language, culture, food, history, etc. Best of all, she was intuitively kind and empathetic, taking time to engage every tour member individually to make sure they got the most out of the trip. That attention to personal detail and the effort to get to know each and every tour member is the hallmark of a RS leader for us, and we were not disappointed. Hilde our bus driver was another Super Star. Always professional and always personable. Local guides were all pleasant; some were more engaging (and engaged) than others.

Overall experience: This tour exceeded our expectations in every way. The itinerary allows you to experience several regions of France, each of which has its own distinct cuisine, scenery and vibe. September weather was perfect. We had one or two misty days, but no heavy downpours. A cloudy free day in Chamonix allowed us to use the modern laundromat and truly relax. Especially in Provence, it seemed that around every corner was another perfect vista of stonework, vines, flowers and meandering lanes. Experiencing the markets allowed us to understand daily life. Being at the end of the tourist season we could eat and interact among locals instead of American tourists. Most places we ate on our own we were the only English speaking customers. Wait staff were usually patient and helpful to us. (Except for one determined waitress in Colman who insisted that my husband have a sausage plate instead of quiche. He prevailed.) As we began the tour, Chris explained the nuances of civility for the French. Opening with a "Bon Jour" and remembering "Merci" went a long way despite the fact we speak no French.
Advice: As advertised, this tour has a focus on winemaking and the associated tastings. If you don't enjoy either of those activities it might not be the right tour for you. Also as advertised, the tour bus cannot drive close to many of the hotels and you need to be prepared to transport your own luggage. Pack light. Pack light. Pack light!

Posted by
470 posts

Addendum: Part Trois

How could I forget the food? Well, truth to tell it is because the food was fairly forgettable. Group meals were a big improvement over our last tour. They were all in lovely settings, at least one drink (wine or beer) was provided most of the time and choices were given for most meals. When there was only one "plat" offered, accommodations were arranged by our leader. She then followed up with those folks making sure that it worked out okay. It only makes sense that the food a restaurant prepares for a large group is probably not the same as if you visited that restaurant on your own. I always compare it to the plated dinner at a wedding. It is not just about the food, but also the conversation, the ambiance, the mood and the memories. We had plenty of all of that at our group meals. Our leader also organized/hosted several happy hours on our "free nights" Those were a highlight for us, and really built camaraderie among the tour members. It also made it easier to find someone to eat dinner with since everyone grouped backed together at the end of their free afternoon. Brilliant strategy on the part of our leader.

On our own we had some better food. Some of tour mates sought out small "foodie" places and were well-pleased. (We were often just too full to sit through a multi-course meal.) Despite some of the negative reviews about the food, it was exactly what we expected. Not great, not terrible. ( Given that I gained 5 pounds on the trip it couldn't have been all that bad right?)

Posted by
1395 posts

Enjoyed your report. I to fly out of SFO & have enjoyed the Premium Economy with Air France. Besides the leg room, I like that the person in front of you does not recline into you, such as Lufthansa's PE does. Which keeps the entertainment screen at a decent distance.

Posted by
594 posts

We've got our eye on this tour, many thanks for sharing this report!

Posted by
6378 posts

Thanks, TravelingMom. This tour has been on my wish list for years. Maybe 2019?

I just wanted to comment that on our 21 Day BOE some years back, we also stayed at the Hotel Des Ramparts in Beaune, and all I remember about the hotel was the inbelievably good croissants. I still daydream about them. They were real: not sweet, not chocolate, not glazed, not soggy; just pure flour, butter, salt, and yeast perfectly prepared; absolutely amazing.

Posted by
418 posts

Hey Traveling Mom
Your opinion is pretty much the same as ours for this tour which I expected since we were one week ahead of you. I too was a little disappointed in the food. I also came home with an additional 5 pounds, but I think it was mostly due to the fact that we would have group meals so late at night and they were huge affairs. I just felt bloated most of the time because we would finish eating at 9:30-10:00 p.m. Then we'd head straight to bed. I was also not very happy with the hotel in Beaune. It felt very unsafe because of all the staircases that were unlevel and had no consistent handrails.

We flew British Air premium economy and really liked it. On our way over we had a 787 Dreamliner that spoiled me for any other airplane. It was amazing! Very comfortable seats, great service and the best connections for us to return to Texas (Marseilles to London, London to Houston.
Glad you made it home and enjoyed your trip.

Posted by
136 posts

Nice to read your trip report, TravelingMom! Chris was the guide for my Paris & the Heart of France trip a few years back, and your perfect description of her wonderful attributes made me nostalgic for that trip and her excellent skills as a guide. Glad you had her for your trip!

Posted by
15686 posts

Thanks for the report, Mom. Now I want to visit Provence!! I visited Alsace and Burgundy after an RS tour that ended in Chamonix. I wish you could have had my room at L'Arve - spacious and a big bed (though I was alone so maybe the bed wasn't as big as I remember).

If you want great food, put the RS Greece tour on your list. There were at least 3 choices for main course, often as many for first course and/or dessert, plus a vegetarian choice at every group meal - except for the veggie one that had dozens of choices on the table and the fish lunch. On the other hand, there was a lot of up and down, in a couple of hotels and at a good number of the sights.

Posted by
9891 posts

This sounds like a wonderful trip, TravelingMom. Your detailed report is fantastic and will surely be of help to others considering this tour. Love your direct-to-Reims-from-CDG plan, very savvy.

Posted by
8648 posts

There is a way to get private messages on the forum that may be better than posting your email. Several posts today have shown that spammers know about this board. I'd hate to see them get your email and flood your mailbox.