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"The Experiment" trip report, first 2 bus days

It was an early morning for us. Packed and ready to meet the bus at the end of the street at 7:45. Everybody was ready on time and we quickly loaded on the bus. The bus is beautiful, modern clean, and roomy. Some people chose to sit with a travel companion while others enjoyed having two seats to themselves. There was plenty of room for either option. It was enjoyable watching Paris as we left for our next adventures.

A little orientation to bus riding: it is important to keep the bus clean, there is a bathroom for emergency use only (we never go more than2 hours without a bathroom/walk around break) and the driver had a selection of beverages for sale at a low price. Some people had extra luggage for a trip that they had taken before the tour. The bus driver cheerfully loaded it into "deep storage" and it won't surface again until the end of the trip. You can sit anywhere you want, but there was a request that people rotate through the very front seats on the bus to give opportunities to others.v our bus did not have wi-fi.

Our first stop was Guedelon . Here they are building a fortified chalet in the manner of the Middle Ages. We had a local tour guide from Guedelon. Very interesting! One of the positives of group travel that I am discovering is time saving organization. Our tour guide had taken sandwich orders and dessert orders earlier. (This lunch is included on the tour). Immediately after finishing our tour, we could enjoy our lunch sitting in a shady pavilion. This gave us more time afterwards to wander on our own.

Back on the bus to Bourges. We stayed in the heart of the historic district in a lovely hotel. This meant the bus could not not travel directly to the hotel it was about a 2 block walk on cobblestones to the hotel. Boy do those roller bags make noise on cobblestone streets! This also points out the importance of packing light enough to handle your own luggage in different situations.

Time for a short rest/settling in and then we met our local guide for a walking tour. Once again, local history, orientation to the town, and a lesson on stained glass in the cathedral. We ended up at the restaurant for the group dinner.

Let me tell you, if you are going on a tour with group dinners, France is the place to do it!, the tour guide passes around a menu in advance and you choose from 2 starters, 3-4 main plates, and two desserts. The food and its presentation are fabulous. The meal takes about 2 hours and is amazing. Here in Bourges, the restaurant goes all out and offers assortments of starters and dessert tastes so you don't have to choose between.

I will say that after 3 group dinners, seating selection can be a little awkward for a single if all the tables are set up for groups of 4. Two couples will sit together and then the table is full. It works out, but there is certainly a moment of uncertainty at the start of the meal.

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8615 posts

Next day:
We had some free time in the morning and an assignment. Go to the local market, practice your French, and purchase what you will need for a picnic lunch. Another slightly out of comfort zone experience. The market was an amazing sensory experience of color, sounds and smells. I did fine purchasing bread, cashews, and an orange. I was a little worried about the cheese. France has over 500 varieties. Some I like and some I don't. How would I describe what I wanted? I mustered my courage, greeted the shopkeeper, and started off with my stumbling market French. He responded, "Don't worry, I speak English."

The afternoon was not a high point of the tour for me. I think the others on the tour really enjoyed it and I was definitely a minority. It wasn't really surprising that as a non drinker I probably wouldn't be as excited about a wine tasting as the others. I went and enjoyed the sunshine, the setting , and listening to the vintner share some of his passion. I realized that it isn't realistic that every activity on a tour will be my top interest.

This is a challenge that comes with being part of group travel. It isn't about you, it is about the group. With the group comes some wonderful pluses. There are interesting people to meet, people who have similar interests, and fun shared experiences. With the group also comes deadlines and yielding your preferences to the preferences of the group. Fortunately, I usually have the same interests and preferences as the group. One of the skills needed for group travel though is accepting the times of less interest can, and will, happen sometimes on a tour. You just need to move on and see what the next experience will be. My low point is probably someone else's high point.

It didn't take long to swing right back to something of interest, the Chateau of Chambord. An amazing piece of architecture, I really enjoyed exploring this "hunting lodge." Then it was on to Amboise where we checked into our hotel for two nights. Another gourmet group dinner!

This hotel is a little older, a little creakier, but well situated. I slept fine. I do appreciate that they offer laundry service for Rick Steves tour members.

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2499 posts

2 things: I often travel as a solo and seating at group meals can be awkward. On some tours people in couples are not good at mingling. I’m a little reticent in these situations but it usually works out. Some tours there were no other singles to hang out with but, on one, two couples “adopted” me!

In group travel, not every sight or activity will be your cup of tea. I have experienced that as well, of course! But, overall, the camaraderie of being with other friendly and sociable people who are enjoying themselves makes it worthwhile.
I’m impressed that you can write while you are on the go! Love that you are communicating in the “moment “!

Posted by
2252 posts

Hi Carol. Thank you for taking us along on your journey. As a veteran of several RS tours, I think you have presented a fair and very accurate picture of what traveling with a group is actually like-the pluses and the minuses. It sounds like a wonderful tour and I am happy you are enjoying it. I'll be eagerly watching for your next installment. You write beautifully, thank you for taking the time to post your adventure. I know that can be difficult!

Posted by
681 posts

Thank you for your trip report. I have thought about taking a RS tour and your description of daily events is really helping me focus on whether it is for me or not. Looking forward to your next installment.

Posted by
6669 posts

This is great, thanks again. Especially appreciate your observations about traveling solo in a group, and the upsides and downsides of group travel. I think it's great that you got to see Bourges, which isn't such an A-list destination but we found interesting and enjoyable. The cathedral there is quite unusual as I recall.