More Good Stuff
The Whole Crew in Tuscany
People in our group came from Sweden, all over the US and New Zealand. A Rick Steves Tour brought us together for a couple of weeks, and it was a great opportunity to meet new people and see new places.
Jennifer & Åsa - friendly and fun, their knowledge and expertise kept all of us engaged and excited. They were awesome!
Sylvaim - We wouldn't have gone very far without him! He got us from one destination to the next, safe and sound.
Big, comfy, and plenty of room to spread out.
Every day Jennifer had our itinerary posted somewhere in the hotel lobby. Take a picture of it with your phone to have it handy.
Romantic Gondola Ride...
...with four new friends, Kim, Nate, Holly, and Russ
Ping Pong Match
Nate, Kenny, Omar, and Noah challenging each other to a game in Tuscany.
Lunchtime in Florence
We found a tiny pizza place on the other side of the Ponte Vecchio. Best seats were outside!
More Pizza with More New Friends
Lunch with Sandra, Rob, Janet, and Jackie before meeting up with tour guide in Rome.
or Salute! A little toast before our last dinner together.
WE sprinkled a few travel tips throughout the site. Here are just a few more tidbits we hope you find useful.
Rick Steves tours take a lot of guesswork out of planning. But a little bit of research helps, especially since we’ve never been on one of his tours before. And there are tons of resources on his web site. We also purchased the following books for our trip: Europe Through the Back Door, Best of Europe, Munich, Bavaria, & Salzburg, Pocket Paris, Pocket London, and French, Italian, & German Phrase Book. And we brought all of them on the trip. If you’re smart, you’ll take the advice of others and bring only the sections you’ll need from the larger books. Cut them out, have them rebound. You might save a few pounds when packing. The first two books together, weigh over 3 lbs! But bring the books along in some form. Our guides referenced them many times during the trip, we used some of the maps, and they really came in handy when we went off on our own.
Make sure you can use your credit card and/or bank card abroad. Our chip and PIN cards are part of the PLUS system, which was helpful when we had to withdraw cash. Remember to notify your banks of your travel plans.
Throughout the trip, we kept some US dollars stashed away just in case.
We waited until we arrived in London to exchange dollars for pounds and Euros.
Money belts – we both used one. Mine was smaller, and I wore it to the back. I tried wearing it in front, but it just wasn’t very comfortable. I kept my passport, credit card, ID, and a little cash in it. I never accessed it while we were out. It was there just in case. I kept extra cash for shopping in my purse.
Omar used the type that loops to a belt and hangs on the inside of your pants; easy to pull out when you need it.
BAGS & LUGGAGE
Make sure that your carry-on luggage complies with international flight requirements; otherwise, you might have to check your bag.
Bring an extra packable bag. We brought one each. We used them when we went to Venice and as our carry-ons on the flight home.
“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” – Susan Heller
WHEN travelling anywhere, food is as much a part of the culture as the art, architecture, history, people, etc. And we tried to eat new things. The most unusual dishes we had? For Omar, it was a squid ink pasta dish he tried in Venice. For me, it wasn’t so much unusual as it was intense, and that was the rum cake in Paris. As for favorites, well…there are too many to list! I already tried duplicating a few dishes at home, like the pear, arugula, and balsamic vinegar salad we had as part of our last meal together in Rome. And I’ve made the almond “Cantucci” cookies from Tuscany, at least ten times since we got back. And they usually disappear within a couple of days. So below are just a few pictures of the many, many things we ate and drank.
Assortment of Dishes
Clockwise from top left: Omar’s Rösti in Lauterbrunnen; assorted meats and terrine at Domaine D’Ardhuy in Burgundy; pork chops and potatoes at the Paulaner Brewery in Munich; linguine and clams in Venice; and the last four are various dishes we ate at Villa il Crocicchio in Tuscany.
Various wines and beer we had throughout the trip.
Last Group Dinner in Rome
Our group occupied the basement floor of a contemporary restaurant called, Target. The food was delicious!
From left: a cup of vanilla cream we poured over our apfel strüdel in Switzerland; panna cotta in Lauterbrunnen; chocolate mousse from Venice; panna cotta from Lauterbrunnen; and another chocolate mousse from Paris.
#7 of Rick’s 10 Commitments is “Centrally-located hotels”. Every single one of our hotels was in a great location. Our bus wasn’t always able to park close by. It was on a completely different island in Venice! But each hotel was easily within walking distance of major sites or subway stations. They were clean, comfortable, and the staff was always friendly. Many of the hotels were unique and locally owned. To our surprise, many of our rooms were more spacious than we expected. Our top favorite was Hotel Oberland in Lauterbrunnen – definitely because the view, but they also had featherbeds on top of the mattresses, which were nice and cozy.
Tilsitt Etoile, Paris
Located a short walk away from Arc de Triomphe and the Charles de Gaulle Étoile Metro station. Nice little hotel, but you might have to climb some stairs. The elevator only fits two people and a couple pieces of luggage. Our room was on the 6th floor.
Hotel des Remparts, Beaune
Cute hotel with very friendly staff. Picture shows only one part of our room. We actually had a two bedroom/two bathroom suite that could fit three people.
Hotel Oberland, Lauterbrunnen
Our favorite place! Again, we lucked out with a two bedroom suite with featherbeds. It also had two balconies overlooking the valley and mountains.
Hotel Blauer Bock, Munich
Awesome location! We were just a block from the Viktualienmarkt, which was only a few blocks away from the Marienplatz.
Hotel Antigo Trovatore, Venice
This hotel was is so close to San Marco's Piazza - less than a five-minute walk that passes the San Marco Basin. Just watch out for mosquitoes!
Villa il Crocicchio, Regello
A few little buildings make up this beautiful estate. Our room was on the second floor of the main building. It had a large bedroom, a living area, and an eat-in kitchen. There's also a ping pong table and outdoor pool. Great place to relax!
Hotel Selene, Rome
Sadly, this was our last hotel room. This was probably the smallest room we stayed in, but still nice and comfortable. Besides, we really didn't spend much time here anyway!
OUR thoughts looking back on the trip:
The Best of Europe Tour was an exhilarating, unforgettable experience. We met a wonderful group of people from across the country and around the world who are just as excited about travelling as we are.
Our guides, Jennifer, Åsa, and our local city guides provided interesting, educational, sometimes humorous perspectives about the sites we visited. Even our driver, Sylvaim, offered us his thoughts on breakfasts in different countries. All the more reason to go another tour!
Some of my thoughts:
I wish I could grow those giant umbrella pine trees from Rome in my backyard. Not possible; completely impractical.
I also liked the smell of the mint trees we passed as we entered the Roman Forum. They’re very different from the mint we know back home.
I'll try to recreate some of the dishes we had. I managed to make a couple of dishes, but there are more on my list.
We can't wait to travel again. Of course, we’d love to go back and revisit the same destinations, but we’d love to see more, too.