We are staying for our second night in Bayeaux at a lovely hotel, Hotel d'Argouges. It has a convenient location in the heart of the city but you feel like you are in the country with its lovely courtyard and gardens. I would recommend this hotel to anyone.
I have often read people on the forum ask where the tour has stayed thinking it must be really good if the tour stays there. I have learned that you need to remember that tour hotels usually have a central location, but also they are chosen for their ability/willingness to block off 17 rooms for a group to stay. Sometimes it is a lovely hotel such as this one. Sometimes it might not be the place you want to stay as a solo traveler. You might have a few more options.
The D day tour today was excellent and quite moving. It was carefully planned and the details well orchestrated. For example, our guide had taken sandwhich orders a few days ago. When we arrived at the Utah Beach Museum, it was ready and waiting for us in a private area. This left us with the maximum time possible to explore the museum. The local guide could not have been better. We saw several sites and ended at the American Cemetary in time for the flag lowering ceremony and taps.
I was reminded once again of the amazing sacrifices many Americans have made over the years for our country. If you are active duty military or a vet, thank you. Those words really don't seem adequate to express the full level of regard and appreciation I wish I could express to you, yet they are the words I have. Thank you.
Tomorrow night we return to Paris and have our final dinner. The end is coming much faster than I expected, yet each day has been full. The guide has found out the times of our departing flights and is helping to coordinate sharing of transport out to the airport.
There was a slightly awkward moment on the bus today when one couple passed around an envelope "on the sly" asking the other members for a suggested donation to buy the guide and driver gifts. I mentioned that their tips were included in the tour costs. The reply I received was that this was for a gift and not a tip.....
Now, I could never say enough positive things about our guide and our driver. They have been excellent professionals that are also very personable. I've seen significant effort and genuine concern for the well being of every tour member. However, I wasn't planning on buying them gifts. I didn't buy souvenirs or other gifts either. I passed the envelope on to someone else, but I felt uncomfortable being put on the spot.
The experiment is almost done. I've learned a great deal about what it is like to be on a Rick Steves tour. I've learned a little bit more about some of the unique features of group travel. Best of all, I've have a great vacation in France that I really enjoyed. I've added another way to travel to my options and know that traveling with a group can be positive. Taking a step of courage and signing up for a tour has been a good experience.