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TR 4/13-5/13/22 Paris + Road Scholar Belgium and Netherlands

This is long so if detail is not your thing, best to move on to the next thread now, lol!

FLIGHTS: I generally fly Delta as I like their safety record. I flew Spokane->Seattle->Paris and Amsterdam->Seattle->Spokane. I flew Delta One on the way over. First time I’d done that and enjoyed it. I felt much less “shop-worn” on arrival in Paris as you just don’t have people brushing by you for the whole trip. I thought I would be able to sleep on the lie-flat bed but alas the older lady seated in front of me TALKED the whole flipping night to her husband who was seated in the pod ahead of her. She also stood up as the plane was taxiing from the gate at Seattle (I could see the horror on the FA’s faces) and managed to drop her water bottle on her husband’s head. She lost her hearing aid during the night so the FA had to come search her pod and found it for her. Still and in spite of that I’d fly Delta One again just for the less crowded nature of the cabin. Masking was still required then so everyone (except “the lady”) wore masks appropriately for the flight. This flight was 100% full. I liked access to the Delta Lounge and yes, I liked the prosecco as a welcome aboard and I am not a big drinker on the plane.
I flew Delta Select on the way back. This was a new cabin class for me. I didn’t really like the seats. They were a bit wider but all have the tray tables in the arm so that’s a hassle. The guy in front of me reclined as soon as he could and even with the extra space it was tight trying to exit my seat. With the tray table being in the arm you can’t lift it out of the way. This flight was about 90% occupied with a few seats vacant in the economy cabin. Masking, which was no longer required, was minimal except me, lol.
Pre-flight from home I was able to load up my vax card into the Delta FlyReady app several weeks before departure. I actually got my 2nd booster after I’d uploaded the card but I didn’t want to mess anything up so just left it as is. Completed my France locator form online. I shockingly was able to check in online for my flights from Spokane to Paris AND able to print/download boarding passes for both flight segments (and had them show up in the Delta app so used the electronic form). I have NEVER been able to do that before. At Spokane I also did not have to take out my food, liquids or electronics (all of which I had to take out in October when I departed from here). I have Global Entry so have TSA pre-check.

Pre-flight from Amsterdam I was not able to check in online but was able to upload the negative Covid test (screenshot of the email attachment) and get a green checkmark in the FlyReady app. I got to Schiphol REALLLLLY early - went with one of the vans provided by Road Scholar at 530 for a 1030 flight. Van got from the hotel near Vondelpark to the airport in 13 minutes. I was checked in, thru Passport control and security by 6:16. I did not have to take out food, liquids or electronics going thru Security.

Arrival to Seattle: Arrived at S gates and came across to the new arrivals center in A. GE kiosks were not working. The same officers were doing Immigration and Customs. Mine was a complete jerk. Asked why a woman would travel on her own to Europe. Did I know anyone there. How much money did I have. What kind of gifts did I bring back. Where did I work. What did I do before I retired. Where did I work then. I was ready for the money question as he’d asked the Delta Pilot in front of me the same thing and the pilot looked shocked and said “I don’t know”. Honest to goodness I don’t know why he wasted his time. ALL his questions were on the screen in front of him from my GE. I’m fat, gray and old just like my passport and GE pictures. He can see when I’ve traveled. For once I wished I had been profiled as a little old lady. Good grief.

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WEATHER: OH MY WORD….beautiful for the whole month! I was met in Paris with pouring rain and walked around the Champ de Mars in a light rain waiting for my room to be ready. I think this is new but there were some covered benches in view of the ET so that was nice to sit on while it poured. The other occupants were a German family trying to have a picnic out of the rain! The rest of the time….Paris, Colmar, Belgium and Netherlands I had mostly sunny days with very occasional rain which did not impact touring.
CAPSULE WARDROBE: I mostly took the same things I’ve taken since 2019. Capsule colors are cobalt and aqua with pants of black and blue. I somehow convinced myself that I needed to have the cobalt Lands End Cardie with me instead of just the LS Dri-fit quarter zip shirts I usually use for an outer layer. This was a mistake. It is bulky to pack, hard to sinkwash/dry and I only wore it a couple of times. Thank goodness I did not pack the white LS button front shirt I thought I needed to go with this. It did not fit in the suitcase so that is good. I do sink wash in a 2-gal ziplock for all my trips. Here's the list:
4 SS Lands End Cotton/Modal Tees – black, white, cobalt, aqua
1 LS Lands End Cotton/Modal Tee – pink
2 LS Dri-fit quarter zip shirts – black and gray
1 LE Cardigan – cobalt
4 scarves – black and white, cobalt/aqua/white, black and pink, ivory and black
1 32 Degree brand puffy vest (Costco purchase of several years ago) – gray
1 waterproof hooded rain jacket – black
2 pr Amanda jeans – dark wash and a black/gray print
1 pr Costco travel pants from years ago - black
Assorted unders, socks, bras, nightwear, compression shorts
1 pr Altra Lone Peak waterproof athletic shoes
1 pr Toms slip ons
1 pr flipflops

What worked: I wore all the clothing but the pink LS shirt. I didn’t regret the space I gave over to it as you never know if a cold front will move thru and you’ll need an extra LS layer. I wore the flipflops a lot in the hotel including to breakfast. I carried the rain jacket a number of times but didn’t need it for rain a lot. It works really well as a windproof layer so that was helpful. I would never travel to Europe without a rain layer. It was pretty cold when I was dropped at the Spokane airport and my brother encouraged me to take the puffy vest. I wore it thru both airports and the flight to Paris was quite cold. I also wore it several mornings in Belgium when it was 39 to start with.

What didn’t work: As mentioned, the cobalt cardie was just a dumb addition and not flexible enough. I got carried away with “OMG I’m going back to Paris”. I did not have the Tom’s flats out of the suitcase because they are not really comfortable. They were smaller than my back up Altras and I thought if something went drastically wrong with my main shoes they could work.

Added suitcase weight: 34 3M N95 masks packed in the outside pocket. A bunch of Airborne both fizzies and chewables. Several other home remedies for allergies/covid. 2 Abbott Binax now non-proctored boxes (so 4 tests), 1 box of the generic tests from the government, so a total of 6 tests. I had some paper back ups of tickets but was able to successfully use my phone for everything in the end.

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FRANCE: I structured this trip back in the winter when Belgium still had a quarantine for people arriving from the US. If you had been in the EU for 14 nights you were not subject to quarantine so I arranged to stay 16 nights in France. I did 6 in Paris, 3 in Colmar, 6 more in Paris.

PARIS: I had a great time in Paris as always. I met with a bunch of folks from the forum for various dinners and happy hours. What a neat group of people! I love museums, churches and gardens. This time I had watched a number of youtube videos noting different minor Roman sites in Paris so I structured my own walk from Saint-Etienne-du-Mont to Luxembourg Gardens, down Boulevard Saint-Michel to Ile de la Cite which was fun and a good way to stay outside on my first full day. I did not get a Museum Pass this time. Over my 12 days in Paris I did the Louvre twice (once with audio guide), the Marmottan, the Architecture Museum (thank you Sharyn for telling me the statues from the Notre Dame Steeple were on display here! Wowser!), Basilica Saint-Denis + audio guide, Archeological Crypt with Virtual Reality guide at the beginning, the Resistance Museum and the Orsay. I spent a lot of time in the Luxembourg Gardens and the Jardin des Plantes. Also spent some time in the Tuileries although the chestnut trees were blooming and they were causing allergy misery. Spent time in the little pocket garden on the edge of Les Invalides where Avenue Motte-Picquet ends. Did not get to Parc Monceau, back to the Carnavalet (went in October), Nissim Camondo or Jacquemart-Andre. Cluny was still closed when I was there.

COLMAR: My original plan was 3 nights in Colmar to give me 2 full days – 1 for Colmar and 1 for Strasbourg. I loved Colmar and just decided to stay there for 2 days. When I arrived the streets were blocked by an Easter/Spring Market! That was a surprise. I stayed at Hotel Saint-Martin which was really well-located and very cute. I think they use the Christmas Chalets for the Easter Market, just decorate with eggs, chicks and bunnies instead of Christmas themed things. Nothing I really wanted to buy but it was fun to look. EVERYone was chatty (French/English/German) and really seemed to be happy to see tourists. Did the Unterlinden Museum here and then did the DIY walking tour from the TI office brochure. I also took the tourist train one day because I was pooped but it was a waste of time. I saw so much more on my own walking tour. A couple of stops in on the walking tour I realized there were QR codes on the signs at each historical point so used my phone to navigate and get the history. It worked really well.

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ROAD SCHOLAR ART HISTORY TOUR OF BELGIUM AND NETHERLANDS: This was a dismal, heartbreaking disappointment for my 13th Road Scholar tour. For those that don’t know, Road Scholar subcontracts out most of its tours. There are actual Road Scholar offices in some countries (France and UK) but not in Netherlands. The whole planning process was in complete disarray and has completely collapsed both in Netherlands and in the home office in MA. This long-running tour has always been a show piece, but not this year. Apparently, the person who did the sub-contracting for Netherlands either retired or went under during Covid (were given both stories by 2 different leaders). The ”Europe” office of Road Scholar located in Mass. either fired or laid off it’s entire workforce during Covid and has no one left who has any experience with tour planning. Essentially nearly everything that could go wrong did. They had us scheduled for days in certain cities for museum visits on days when the museums there are always closed while there were museums in other locations that were open those days. They were hiring the local guides as late as the day before (yes, I asked many of them when they were contacted by Road Scholar). The Belgium Art History lecturer got Covid and there was no replacement so a pivotal part of the educational content was missing. Buses were late, kind of dirty and one could not find the hotel in Amsterdam.

In the middle of the tour our very nice leader had a heart attack. He fell to the sidewalk in Amsterdam when he was away from the group and was helped into a taxi by bystanders. He made it to the hotel, went to a Dr and was diagnosed with a “mild heart attack” he said. He wanted to get home to Belgrade for treatment so declined the recommended hospitalization. Our replacement leader was the person he told me he worked for and was the sub-contractor although she denied it. She said she “just bought some tickets” for the group. She got to the group on Monday after Leader #1’s heart attack on Saturday. On Sunday we had a lecture scheduled on Netherlands Art History and fortunately that excellent lecturer has done this tour many times and took us to the Rijksmuseum for our scheduled time there.

On the Saturday the leader fell ill, one tour member tested positive for Covid. The spouse continued to come to activities, lectures, meals. They arrived to the first lecture with a vented mask. I offered an unvented mask and they took it and wore it the rest of the time. They converted to positive as well on Monday evening after spending the day with the group on the bus to Haarlem and on a canal boat cruise.

The substitute leader arranged for the return-to-US covid testing to happen at 6PM the last day after a full day in The Hague. I felt this was too late in the day to be able to make alternate plans if one tested positive and opted out of the day’s activities to arrange my own Covid test in the AM. That change of plan gave me a chance to meet up with a forum friend for a wonderful lunch/brunch in Amsterdam which was relaxed and fun instead of stressed! The leader did not understand that the test parameters were one day instead of 24 hours ahead of the flights. I sent her the CDC page stating one day for information.

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ROAD SCHOLAR AND COVID: According to leader #2, Road Scholar does not have a policy for Covid. She was caught in some untruths so not sure whether that is true or not and have asked for clarification from Road Scholar. Few wore masks on the bus except a couple of us until the first person tested positive, then more masks came out. It was a shock to me that everyone that tested on the last day was negative. I wore an N95 all the time, on the bus, for group events, when I was on my own. I took it off for meals and donned it when I was finished with my last bite. There is apparently no policy on how to manage spouses/roommates of individuals who do test positive during a tour. There was no pre-tour testing, no checking of CDC cards, no checking or discussion of Belgium PLFs or Netherlands health forms.

COVID in FRANCE/BELGIUM/NETHERLANDS: As Frank expressed in another thread, Europe has moved on to viewing this as endemic not pandemic. No masking in any country except for France on public transport (which is going away Monday). No one said anything to me as I continued to mask all day, every day in all 3 countries. I felt more comfortable that way so you’ll need to choose what works best for your situation. I probably would not have been as vigilant masking if there had not been the need for a negative test on return.

COVID TESTING: The Road Scholar group had Covid testing in Amsterdam. One of the tour members is an Immunologist who has worked in developing assay testing. She was laughing about the tester’s technique which was very much focused on everyone getting negative tests. She said it was 3 light circles in one nostril for them and no way would Covid cells be picked up with that. My tester (different location) did 5 touches at the back of my mouth, then 5 circles in my right nostril. Results were all sent by email. The leader took us to another hotel where dinner was arranged and had the concierge print out everyone’s test results.

COVID SELF TESTS: I took 6 non-proctored tests with me and bought 5 more in Paris. I tested for a total of 12 times over 30 days. I did the first test after a day or two in Paris when I was having a major allergy attack from tree pollen. I continued to test intermittently and then tested every day for the last 4 days of the tour when the folks started testing positive as I had been sitting 2 bus rows behind them on for the day. For me this worked well. It decreased my anxiety and allowed me to relax.

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FUNNY INTERACTIONS: I had the best moments with people. As I found in October, Europeans are glad tourists are back and were chatty and kind.
1- in Colmar, seated at a table outdoors for lunch.

Waiter – Talks quickly while handing me the menu
Me - Je ne parle pas francais.
Waiter - Well, that was my German not my French. Did you want English?
Me - Yes, please.

2 - On a tram in Amsterdam squished in with my group in the aisle
Younger lady in hijab: Are you tourist?
Me - Yes!
Younger lady: We are too! We are from Saudi Arabia.
Me - Are you having fun?
Lady - Yes, where are you from.
Me - US
Lady - Oh my husband and brothers went to school there.
Me Where?
Lady - My husband went to Illinois, my brothers went to Washington, not the DC one and to Oregon and Wyoming.
Unfortunately our stop came up, but I laughed my butt off. Wow, Wyoming is about as far culturally from Saudi as you could get!

3 - At the Kroller-Mueller Museum in eastern Netherlands. Lots of school groups visiting and they were being sent outside to the sculpture garden
Group of girls: jabbering away in Dutch to me as we stood beside a sculpture in a pond
Me: Sorry, I don't speak Dutch
Them: Oh, you speak English!
Girl#1: I fell in this pond when I was 6 and then they had to put up these signs saying be careful the water is deep.
Me: Laughing...well, that is funny and I'm glad you were OK!

Girl #2: We had to leave the building because they called a Code 1.
Me: What’s a Code 1?
Girls: No idea but they kicked us out.
They were in 7th grade, so lively and SUCH good English. I told them to tell their English teacher they were very fluent when talking to an old gray-haired American lady. They laughed and were so cute and clearly loving practicing their English! I decided later a Code 1 must have been "Museum staff has had it with the teenagers and needs a break", lolol!!

TECHNOLOGY: My trip last October was the first time I’d gotten an international calling plan (Verizon). I used it some then but I used it a LOT for this trip. Kim from Paris has mentioned several times she uses Citymapper so I downloaded that on her recommendation and it was awesome. I am a paper map gal. I don’t use a mapping app at home because I don’t usually go places that are unfamiliar. I loved not only the directions for Metro including which car to get on but walking directions including in Vondelpark on Wednesday, lol. It led me right to my lunch destination and Kate, lol! Having a phone, with a data plan these days is essential. From the Covid testing results that were emailed to loading them into the Delta app to following the walking tour in Colmar to getting restaurant menus which are sometimes just a QR code on a table – just a huge range of services that needed a smart phone with connectivity. In a final blow to the Road Scholar trip, the hotel Wifi was out the last 2 days. This is a Radisson so it’s a nice place. Those without data were having a time getting their data organized for the flight home. Credit Card-wise, I tapped to pay everywhere. I rarely used cash unless I needed to replenish my coin stash or if I was eating with friends and one paid with a card and we reimbursed them with cash.

MUSEUM BAG SIZE CAVEAT: I’d had this happen years ago in both Trier and Munich where my regular purse (Le Sportsac Everyday purse) was deemed “too big” for a museum and needed to be checked. I was not ready either time so had to pull out my money, cards, other documents. This happened twice this trip at the Brussels Fine Arts Museum and the Reubens House in Antwerp. I was ready by Antwerp and had my tiny cross body bag I wear on the airplane stashed in my purse. NO problem in any of the museums in France or Netherlands. Just a heads up to be ready for this possibility!

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OVERALL ASSESSMENT: I did a Road Scholar tour in SW France in October 2021 and it went extremely well and was a 5* program. I will take another tour in France or England where I know there is an organization but I would not do or recommend another Netherlands/Belgium tour. Over all I had a great time. It was wonderful to be back in Europe and I felt very welcome everywhere I went. The awful lack of organization with Road Scholar made me truly appreciate the Rick Steves organization. They’ve kept their trained people and they give their guides a lot of autonomy to provide input to itineraries and to work around issues as they arise. Next trip? Rick’s Best of Italy in September, lol!!

Posted by
2163 posts

OMG, Pam, that trip report! It made me flinch for sure since, as you know, I am another big Road Scholar fan. That does sound like a disaster - I’ll be curious what kind of response you get from the home office.

I will note that our Portugal and Spain Road Scholar went smoothly last month with no hiccups. There was no mask usage on our bus either - except our guide, citing a Road Scholar rule, wore hers at all times. Ron and I were intermittent with ours. Our group was tiny - 11 people on a 48 person bus - and after a brief conversation, we all mostly put the masks away on Day 1. They were required in sites in both Portugal and Spain and all 11 of us used them.

Our Delta flights were funny - masks still required on the way over so we used them. Mask requirement gone on our return flight and so we didn’t use them.

We all tested negative at the end of that trip.

As to the rest of it - well sounds like a blast and you had me chuckling in a few places!!

Posted by
1381 posts

Thanks Pam!
Very helpful and engaging. (I rarely read or enjoy trip reports. 😉)

Posted by
5152 posts

Pam, Stan and I loved dining with you and Tammy, too. Let's do it again soon.

Every time we've met up with Forum Folk IRL, we've had a lovely time and made lasting friends.

Posted by
35 posts

Pam, I flew CDG to Seattle on May 12, and had a similar experience going through Customs and Immigration. GE kiosks not available, and that same irritating officer was in the single open GE lane. He was definitely “extra.” Thanks for your trip report — fun to read!

Posted by
1097 posts

Hi Pam!
I loved your report and I love your attitude.
I took the RS Best of Italy tour in September of 2018. I think you looked at my photos in Google share. My favorite surprise was Orvieto.
I will be in Paris from June 2-15 if you are still going pre-tour and would like to meet another forum member over an Aperol Spritz!

Posted by
408 posts

Oh, Pam. You always have such interesting trips and great trip reports. It was great seeing you Saturday, what a fun bunch we are. I've been looking at so many things France related that all my ads are now in French.

Posted by
1160 posts

Thank you so much for sharing all this info, Pam! Sorry about your tour, wow.

Posted by
151 posts

Thank you, Pam, for a great trip report! Love your humor and optimism. Glad you had a good time even with the challenges.

Posted by
2989 posts

Thanks, Pam, for a wonderful trip report!
I enjoyed reading it very much.
Kudos to you for having a great time and making the best of it.
I'm glad you were able to spend time in Paris before the tour,
and I'm glad you enjoyed Colmar.

You wrote,
"Next trip? Rick’s Best of Italy in September, lol!!"
That sounds great.
Rick Steves tours are the best!

Posted by
9929 posts

Wow, thanks for all the comments!

Valerie - your hair would have been standing on end, lol! There was lots of eye-rolling going on! It's probably good we were not on this sinking ship together.
LizinPA - thank you for reading and I'm glad it was interesting to you!
Jane - So much fun to meet with you, Stan and Tammy! I'll reserve the table, lol!!
CorrieTen - I am actually glad it's just not me! I think I might have had him in the old building last Fall where he had on a mask and whispered so I had to keep leaning over and saying "Whuuut?"
Vandabrud - Yes, I am sure I looked at your pictures!
Leslie - I was going to message you to tell you I'd been busy, hahaha. Yes, had a good time yesterday. We are a good group! And laughing about your ads in French, hahaha!
Roubrat - thanks, yes, very sorry too. 13 Road Scholar tours, 11 Rick Steves tours. I am a good tour member and I know how they should be run.
Sharon - thank you! The group was good and we were all trying to be optimistic!
Bogiesan - You'll not believe this but there were 2 other Idahoans in our group of 18. They are from Boise and were very nice - big hikers and skiers.
EstimatedProphet - Yes, I was hugely disappointed. I've never had such an awful program. The 1st leader was devastated and I thought he was going to cry when he came in to say good bye to us. He felt the whole program had been gutted from what it previously had been.
Rebecca - You would love Colmar! You know how we both love Bath? Colmar is obviously not Regency or Roman BUT it was so scenic yet comfortable!

I forgot to say that the group itself was excellent. Lots of very interesting people and laughter!

Posted by
1678 posts

fantastic trip report as usual Pam. Loved the funny interactions section! Sorry the tour didn't meet your expectations, but sounds like you made the best of it. Super surprised by the immigration grilling...I've seen that happen overseas but never here. I'll have to make sure I study up on my life before I come home!

Posted by
382 posts

Pam,
Wow. Your trip sounds like a before and after drama! I’m so glad that you got to enjoy Paris (your happy place) and Colmar. I can’t believe that so many problems developed. It wasn’t just one or two things, it was an entire “tour of trouble”. I’m glad that you had a great group and you all had an optimistic attitude. I appreciate all of the details of your trip. I’m so glad that you have the “Best of Italy” to look forward to. That was my first European tour and it is still my favorite. I don’t know if you’ve visited Rome before, but you need more time in that city. I wish I had several more days there. Our tour started on September 1 and it was very warm for the fist 10 days. So if you have an early start date, you’ll need lots of SS shirts.

Thanks again for a great trip report.
Janet

Posted by
306 posts

Thank you for sharing an interesting and detailed trip report, Pam. I am sorry to hear that the tour was a disappointment, but I am glad there were many other bright spots along the way. I particularly enjoyed the anecdotes about the people you met. I will look forward to reading about your fall trip!

Posted by
2930 posts

Great report. All in all, sounds like you enjoyed yourself regardless!

Posted by
1041 posts

Pam, thank you for your detailed and humorous travel report. I always enjoy your writing. Sorry to hear about your road scholar trip. I haven’t traveled with RS in many years, but my first trip was nothing to compare with my five previous Rick Steves trips. I think I’ll stick with Rick if I do future group tours, although I mostly travel on my own. That said, I’ll be seeing a lot of different places in Europe with my 16-year-old granddaughter next month on her inaugural trip to Europe on the Rick Steves family tour. I look forward to seeing Europe through her eyes. I haven’t done the specific Italian tour that you are signed up for in the fall, but I’ve seen an awful lot of Italy. I agree with one of the previous posters who said Orvieto was one of their favorite places. I’ve been several times and would love to visit again.

Posted by
1674 posts

Pam, Loved your trip report. So detailed and helpful. Sorry that Road Scholar was such a fiasco. But glad you stayed upbeat and did what was best for you.

Posted by
2217 posts

Pam, another fantastic TR! The good, the bad and the ugly! Sorry your tour was a disappointment, but like they say, a bad day touring is better than a good day at the office!
On another note, I so enjoyed meeting you IRL! You are just like you seem on this forum, a breath of fresh air! I hope we end up on a tour together someday or get to have another meet up!
Did you ask for any compensation from Road Scholar?

Also, I have not yet taken a Road Scholar tour, but have a couple on my wishlist. The central Mexico one.

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9929 posts

CL - Honestly, that is what I thought! OK, you've got a tired, haggard looking old lady and you are grilling her about where she worked before retirement? Very bizarre.

TravelMom - thanks! Good to be home and catch up on OTHER people's trips, lol!!

Janet - Thanks for the tips for Italy. I'm going the end of Sept and still think that might be too hot for me! I thought of you on the couple of mornings in Ghent when I started out with the puffy vest on and the temp hovering around 39 with some breeze, lol! I couldn't imagine being out on the Delta Works with that!

Meg - I had fun with others. I didn't list all of them but they have made me giggle over and over!

Wray - You know I pack with you in mind, lol!

Patricia - you are going to have a great time with the granddaughter! What a fun introduction to Europe. I'd gotten to the point where I was choosing my next tour based solely on the itinerary as I felt both programs from both groups were on par BUT I learned a valuable lesson this time. The set up of the crew that is doing the actual nuts and bolts of the tours is critical. I had not really factored in that Rick has a strong organization which he kept intact thru the pandemic while Road Scholar did not.

Horsewoofie - Thank you!

Tammy - It was such fun to spend time with you! Yes, they have offered what I think is pitiful compensation. They've initially offered a $500 credit OR a $300 cash refund. They did this BEFORE the trip even ended because several people had called and emailed desperate to get someone to intervene. They generally send out evaluation forms the day the trip ends so I got that and because my eval score on the trip was so low was invited to send an email with further details which I did. I did state that the compensation was not enough just for the missing educational content, not even the screwups on the city visits when museums were closed, missing meals (which was actually fine with me, lol) etc.

Posted by
382 posts

As always I totally enjoyed your trip report. I am one who loves detail and you provide lots of it. Thanks for posting this!

Posted by
1674 posts

Pam, the French portion of your trip sounds wonderful. I have Colmar on my "go to" list for next year. Thanks for the sightseeing hints.

I just compared my packing list (clothes) against yours. Happy to report, I'm finally on track with a similar right mix: 3 pants (leggings in my case), 7 shirts (long and short sleeve), 2 sweaters, 1 jacket, 1 rain poncho, 3pr shoes. Thanks for sharing your list. It's all my sundry things that add weight and bulk: drugs, toiletries, Covid supplies, electronics. No matter how much I stare at the list, I don't see anywhere to cut. Plus, I'm old-fashioned and like my paper back-up for tickets and itinerary. I'm almost at my 25lb goal. And then there will be the gifts and souvenirs I buy along the way....but I'll expand and check my suitcase on the way home.

Thanks also for the technology info. I'm not very technological so am struggling with some of it. Good to know that Citymapper is a must. I downloaded it a while back but haven't played with it locally. Did you use Apple Wallet/Pay?

Your trip report is so inclusive, I read it three times to pick up the details. No Road Scholar tours for me! Not enough patience to deal with them. Your patience admirable. If I remember right, you had problems at the start of Covid getting refunds from them.

Posted by
961 posts

Aw Pam, so sorry the road scholar tour was so bad. It's unbelievable that could happen with such a major tour company. I'm really glad you had such a great time in France to offset that disappointment.

Posted by
9929 posts

Luv2Travel - thanks for reading!

Horsewoofie - your packing list looks good, lol!! And yes, it's the extra stuff that is heavy! I carry an ace wrap because I needed one ONE time and couldn't find one. I have my MELT Method balls to roll my feet to prevent PF, I have a little pouch with some tea bags and sugar, blah, blah! I will try to cut down on the extras. My OTC meds are heavy but what do you leave out?

Nance - I thought of you and Michael when I was in Amsterdam knowing how much you all love it there!

Posted by
8877 posts

Fantastic trip report! It was great meeting up with you in Paris, again, for Easter dinner and happy hour the next day. I very much enjoy meeting up with people from the RS forum and other groups and getting to talk to like minded people. We met up with people 4 times during our week in Paris, and had lunch with Kate in Amsterdam. I’m so happy you had mostly good weather throughout your trip. We got everything from rain, snow, wind and sun, with more cold (to us wimpy Californians) than warm weather.

So happy you had a good experience departing from AMS. Ours was a nightmare and it took several hours to check our bags and get through security, packed together with many people who it seemed were mostly not wearing masks, even though they were required in the airport. Sigh… Our flight was a 3:00 p.m., so maybe the morning flight made a difference for you.

Thanks for sharing The MELT Method with me. We’ve been super busy since we got home 2 weeks ago, but I need to make time for this. I need to get my foot in shape before we leave again in 3 months.

I know you’re looking forward to the next trip and I’m looking forward to reading your next trip report!

Posted by
9929 posts

Andrea it was because of your experience I opted to take the early van to the airport. I couldn't believe I got thru so quickly! I figured it would be so much easier to be excruciatingly early and have time for a quick breakfast than gnawing my nails and thinking "I should have listened to Andrea", lolol!! I would have been pacing the hotel room anyway!

I had a great time with you and Jim! Let's meet up again in Paris!

I can send you that website if you need it!

Posted by
4612 posts

Pam, I so enjoyed hearing some of this in person last Saturday at our group meeting and then leisurely reading this and smiling & groaning at the details again!

The RS Best of Italy has been my favorite RS tour and the launchpad for all of the subsequent trips back to Italy. It may become your new favorite - on par with Paris!

I will be checking in with you for a detailed description of the Seattle airport officer - whew! “Asked why a woman would travel on her own to Europe.” That first question alone could take 15 minutes to share all of the positives - LOL! “Well, I’m so glad you asked! First, …….” ; )

Posted by
9929 posts

"Well, I’m so glad you asked! First,"

OMG Jean! That is brilliant! I'm filing that for the next trip!

Posted by
70 posts

Hi Pam, and welcome home! I appreciate you sharing the different aspects of your trip, including the fun bits of conversations with people you encounter. You’ve inspired me to capture some of these things in my travel journal. You are certainly a Trooper (yes, capital T) for surviving the Netherlands portion. I’m sorry that went so far off the rails!

Of course I love hearing about your time in Paris, too. I’m headed to Best of Italy June 12, with solo time in Paris afterwards (2nd time there). I’ll finally get to use the “I am Vegan” Cards you shared with me back before the pandemic hit.

PS: Hopefully that airport agent will be sent to a remote post by the time you head to Italy! LOL

Posted by
9929 posts

Shawn! I would love a TR from a vegan point of view of the BOI! I've already got my Italian "I am vegan" card ready to go, lol.

I also wanted to add that I got a phone call yesterday from Road Scholar wanting more information after they read my evaluation. We talked for about a half an hour with her asking more questions and not making excuses. They have offered some recompense in the form of either a small cash refund or slightly larger voucher for further travel.

Posted by
8512 posts

Wonderful report. I'm so sorry about the tour disaster. But I'm glad you had a wonderful time in Paris and were able to have lunch with Tammy after the abrupt "change" in her plans. I had been hoping she had been able to get around.

Whew! Quite testing times we're experiencing.

Posted by
2283 posts

This was a fun trip report, Pam! I was just in Colmar for the first time too and loved it. (Still working on the trip report.) Can't believe the guy who interrogated you in Seattle. Geez! And the Road Scholar Tour! So glad it didn't take away your sense of humor. : )

Posted by
9929 posts

Bets, the only thing that would have made Paris better is if you and Monsieur J had been able to make it up from the South of France!

Carroll, I knew it was going to be neat but wow...really loved it! I think the tourist sector folks were really glad everyone was back!

Posted by
1313 posts

I absolutely loved your trip report. Thanks for sharing, especially your funny conversations. I have had very mixed results from my Road Scholar tours, but never as bad as yours. After my last they offered me a $200 discount on my next trip and I told them not to bother. Sounds like I made the right decision. I am probably being very dense, but what does LS stand for in your clothing list? Finally I don't fly into Seattle, but I couldn't believe your GE guy. I love the response Jean suggested if I am ever asked some of those questions. Pam, I am going to read the trip report again right now as you made my day.

Posted by
9929 posts

LaurieBeth, I could not believe that guy either. Yep, let me pay for Global Entry, have a background check, fingerprints, face to face interview and be certified a Trusted Traveler and get dumb questions on entry at an airport.

LS = Long Sleeve SS = Short Sleeve

I'm glad you enjoyed the TR. I'm sorry you, too, have had issues with Road Scholar programs. I've had mostly good experiences but if this one had been my first it would have been my last. My France ones have all been absolutely wonderful!

Posted by
1160 posts

Pam, I read that wrong for a second and thought the officer was asking you about long sleeves and short sleeves! LOL

Posted by
9929 posts

Hahah...well THAT might have been next! Fortunately a line was building!

Madam...why are you traveling in Short Sleeves when it's 46 degrees outside? And why do you have just carry on? And, gasp, did you do sink wash while you were gone?

Posted by
1160 posts

And why are you calling this a capsule wardrobe? Where is the capsule? Show me the capsule! And where is the wardrobe?

Posted by
9929 posts

"Capsule Wardrobe" - composed of interchangeable items only so that you can limit your clothing choices. Usually with a limited palette of colors so that your pants/shirts/completer pieces/accessories all go with each other.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsule_wardrobe

So....I have 4 shirts that go with all 3 of my pants - 12 outfits. I have 3 longsleeve completer pieces that each go with each of those 12 outfits so that is 3X12 = 36 outfits. I have 3 scarves that go with every shirt/completer piece outfit so that is uh....3x36 so that is 108 separate outfits that are possible with the combination of 4 short sleeve shirts, 3 pants, 3 long sleeve completer tops and 3 scarves.

Now to be honest weather-wise you'd either wear the short sleeve shirts + pants + scarves (if not too hot) OR the SS shirts with the topper + pants/scarves so it's not truly 108 outfits BUT it tells you how many outfits you can create from just a few pieces.

I also throw in an extra scarf in pink and black that does not go with my 2 blue tone shirts or the blue cardie. It does go with the black tee, the white tee and the pink Long sleeve tee plus both the black and gray topper pieces. Just need a little variety!

So capsule colors are cobalt blue, aqua, black and white. The extra long sleeve shirt is pink so does not go with everything but I'd not wear it with the SS shirts anyway.

Have you ever gone down the rabbit hole of The Vivienne Files blog? Her capsule wardrobes are usually more expensive than I pay for clothes and dressier than works for me BUT I can take her colors and pull them together for something that DOES suit me!

https://www.theviviennefiles.com/

Posted by
1160 posts

Oh, I know, I should've made it obvious I was doing it in the voice of the GE officer 😄

Posted by
13707 posts

Ten 🌟s for the terrific report, and 11 🌟s for not letting a bad tour ruin your good time!

LOL, the worst experience we ever had with Immigration and Customs was right here at home. Sounds like it may have been your too? Jerk. 😠