I am writing this segment of my trip report gazing out the open window of my hotel room on Mont St. Michel. The sun is rising, casting the landscape into a glorious contrast of shades of silver and gray tinged with orange. The tide is moving in to cover the mudflats. Gulls wheel circles in the sky calling to each other. The air is fresh with scent of saltwater. A peaceful start to a new day.
I think it is here on Mont St Michel that some of the advantages of group travel are clearly shown. Our arrival was timed for late afternoon. I can't begin to describe how many people were trying to navigate down the one small street. We stepped into our hotel lobby, were served refreshing ice cold water, and had a little time to refresh ourselves in our rooms. I then went out for an exploration. I could see the crowds thinning already.
We met on the ramparts where our guide provided cider and then went on to the restaurant for a group dinner exploring the tastes of Normandy. Another evening of good food and good company. The challenge of being able to sit with any of the couples continues. I fully understand why they want to sit with their spouses, but I sometimes feel like I am sent to the children's table. After dinner I walked around the Mont on the mudflats and came back into the hotel. The street that was almost impassable earlier, was empty. It was if we had the entire Mont to ourselves.
These logistics of timing our arrival so carefully, cool water on arrival, the meal arranged and a truly unique lodging experience show some of the hidden value in group travel. I could have arranged a great deal of this myself with careful study and research, but it felt good to be able to rely on the experience of the Rick Steves tour planners to take care of this. I'm pretty sure it might not have flowed quite so seamlessly and with such little anxiety about logistics if I had done it on my own and I am a good planner.
Today we will tour the Abbey and then depart around 11 am as the crowds start building up again.
I enjoyed the portion of the tour in the Loire Valley. It was walking through history almost everywhere I turned. The two chateaus were an interesting contrast and I really enjoyed seeing Clos Luce, Leonardo DaVincI's home in Amboise.
Some thoughts specific to what I am learning about group travel.
Don't forget to "opt out" if an activity doesn't match your interest or activity level. I had been anticipating visiting Clos Luce for quite awhile. Our guide made herself available to the group during the afternoon free time to walk with anyone to Clos Luce. Almost the entire group showed up. She told us in advance that she would be walking slowly and pointing out restaurants and point of interest on the way. I found myself getting frustrated at the pace of the group. I didn't want to hear one more menu read aloud! Then I realized that I was the problem. I was trying to do something with the group (walk) that I wasn't interested in doing. I needed to "opt out" and go to Clos Luce on my own. I did so and had a great time. Lesson learned- remember to opt out as needed.
You don't want to be "that person" that is always lagging behind or showing up just a little bit late. There are just some occasions where the group can't go on without every member present. One of the responsibilities of group travel is to respect the time of other members of the group.
Your cup can be half empty or half full. It is interesting to see how different people can react to the exact same experiences on tour. Choose to be positive!