Thursday, June 19, 2008

Woo hoo! The Adventure Begins

I haven't discussed my Europe trip in awhile because there wasn't much to report. However, today, issued their itineraries for 2009. So here it is:

Best of Europe in 21 Days

Your day-by-day itinerary:
Day 1: Welcome to the Netherlands
Your room should be ready by 3 p.m. at the hotel in Haarlem (30 minutes by train, bus or taxi from the Amsterdam airport). We'll meet at the hotel around 4 p.m. for an orientation meeting and a chance to get acquainted, followed by a walking tour and dinner together. Sleep in Haarlem (2 nights). No bus. Walking: light.
Day 2: Progressive, Artistic Amsterdam
We'll take the train into Amsterdam this morning, and begin with a walking tour of Amsterdam's historic core, including Anne Frank's House. This afternoon we'll see masterpieces from the remarkable Rijksmuseum. You'll have free time late this afternoon to see the Van Gogh Museum or stroll along the canals. Later we'll return to Haarlem for a free evening. Train: 1 hr. Walking: strenuous.
Day 3: Dutch Treats and Rhine Views
We'll work our way down to Germany's castle-studded Rhineland. Along the way, we'll stop in Arnhem to visit the Netherlands' first and largest open-air museum. We'll enjoy dinner together at our hotel tonight. Sleep in Bacharach on the Rhine (2 nights). Bus: 7 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 4: Rhine Castles and a River Cruise
This morning we'll take a walking tour of Bacharach with a local guide. Then we'll head to St. Goar and hike up to the mighty Rheinfels castle, overlooking the Rhine. We'll tour the castle, cruise the Rhine, and have a free evening to do some exploring on your own. Bus: ½ hr. Walking: strenuous.
Day 5: Medieval Rothenburg
After an early start, we'll arrive in Rothenburg, Germany's cutest medieval town, just before lunchtime. The afternoon is yours to see Riemenschneider's altarpiece (the best woodcarving in Germany), walk the medieval wall, tour the Crime and Punishment Museum, or hunt down the best apple strudel in town. Sleep in Rothenburg (1 night). Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 6: Dachau and Austria's Tirol
This morning we'll visit the Dachau concentration camp near Munich. Later, depending on the day of the week, we'll have a lunch break in Munich or Andechs. We'll then drive south into Austria, toward the Alps and Reutte, our rural and tranquil Tirolean home base. Eat dinner and sleep in or near Reutte (2 nights). Bus: 6 hrs. Walking: light to moderate.
Day 7: Neuschwanstein Castle and the Luge
It's a short drive and a half-hour walk to "Mad King" Ludwig's Neuschwanstein Castle. After lunch, we'll look for a summer luge to barrel down (weather and season permitting), and find free time to stroll in the woods or relax at our peaceful hotel before dinner. Bus: 1 hr. Walking: strenuous.
Day 8: Italy's Incomparable Venice
We'll drive all day to Venice, where we'll leave the bus and board a boat to our hotel in the historic heart of this seductive city. Tonight we'll take an orientation walk to magical, moonlit St. Mark's Square. Sleep in Venice (2 nights). Bus: 8 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 9: The Art of Wandering in Venice
After a morning walking tour through the historic heart of Venice, you'll be free to tour St. Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace, the Accademia art gallery — or shop, explore the alleys, cruise the canals, and "crawl" the pubs. No bus (too much water). Walking: moderate.
Day 10: Florence and Michelangelo's David
After checking into our hotel, a gelato-fueled orientation walk will wind us through the historic core of Florence. This evening we'll get acquainted with Michelangelo's David at Florence's Accademia. Sleep in Florence (2 nights). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 11: Wonders of Renaissance Florence
We'll begin our day with a tour of the masterpiece-packed Uffizi Gallery. Then you'll be on your own for the rest of the day to discover the wealth of historic churches, museums, street markets and cafés. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 12: A Walk Through Caesar's Rome
This morning we'll drive straight to the heart of Rome, where we'll spend the afternoon uncovering Ancient Rome (visiting the Colosseum, Forum and Pantheon) with a local guide. Tonight let's celebrate la dolce vita, with a fountain-splashing, after-dinner stroll through the heart of the city. Sleep in Rome (2 nights). Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 13: Renaissance Rome
Today we'll focus on Renaissance (Catholic) Rome, spending our morning touring the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel, and our early afternoon in St. Peter's amazing cathedral. You'll have the rest of the day free to take a siesta or explore more of the Eternal City. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 14: To Italy's Cinque Terre
We'll drive all day to reach the sun-drenched beaches of Italy's hidden Cinque Terre: five perfectly preserved fishing villages, surrounded by vineyards and the sea. On the way, we'll take time to visit one of Italy's enchanting hill towns. At the coast, we'll leave the bus and take a 10-minute train ride into the Cinque Terre, where we'll sleep (2 nights). Bus: 7 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 15: Free Day in the Cinque Terre
Ahh, time for a 'vacation from your vacation.' You couldn't see a museum here even if you wanted to! This is simply traditional Italy, with nothing to do but hike through the hillside vineyards that connect the five villages, take in the breathtaking scenery, hang out on the beaches, swim, and lounge around the town like a local. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 16: To the Heart of the Swiss Alps
Today we'll catch an early train back to our bus, then head into the heart of the Swiss Alps. After a breathtaking drive, we'll arrive at our hotel located in the magnificent Lauterbrunnen Valley. Sleep in a creaky old chalet in the Lauterbrunnen Valley (2 nights). Bus: 9 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 17: Free Day to Hike in the Alps
The day is all yours. If the weather is good, you may want to ride a gondola up to the Schilthorn at 10,000 feet, loiter in the thin air, and hike part way down. Or just lie low and play Heidi. For more Alpine thrills, ride trains and lifts to hikes at the foot of the majestic Eiger and Jungfrau peaks. Bad weather options include Trümmelbach Falls, valley hikes, or just relaxing in the mountain air. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 18: A Hearty Taste of Burgundy
Today we'll say "Auf Wiedersehen" to the Alps and "Bonjour" to la belle France. We'll drive into profoundly French Burgundy for a look at small-town France. After an orientation to town and some free time, we'll gather for a sampling of this region's most famous product, Burgundian wine. Sleep in or near Beaune (1 night). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 19: Historic and Neighborhood Paris
After breakfast, we'll drive into Paris. Our driver will drop us off at our hotel, a croissant's toss from Paris' greatest sights. This afternoon we'll visit the stunning Notre-Dame cathedral, the brilliant stained glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle church and take a walking tour through the historic core of Paris. Sleep in Paris (2 nights). Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 20: Parisian Masterpieces
This day provides a busy, star-studded finale for our tour. After a practical Métro subway lesson, we'll visit the Louvre with a local guide. You'll be free for the rest of the afternoon, to round out your Paris sight-seeing with a walk down the Champs-Elysées, or perhaps a visit to such legendary museums as the Orsay and Rodin. This evening we'll share a final dinner together. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 21: Tour Over After Breakfast
If you're staying on in Paris, today would be a great day to hop on the train and tackle the sprawling palace and grounds at Versailles. If you're headed home, the airports are an easy shuttle-van ride away. Au revoir!
Naturally: Itinerary specifics subject to change.

And please note: That "single supplement" (the price you pay for traveling alone) is $800+. The world might not be made for single people, but if we're willing to pay the extra freight for our privacy, who's to complain?

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Of course now I've got about 14 months to get my sorry butt in shape for this trip. Walking? No problem. Walking while carrying 20+ pounds worth of "stuff?" We shall see. It'll be a metabolic horse race between the amount of food and beverage I'm likely to consume and the amount of calories I burn running around all day. I might end up about weighing about the same, but I'll have Buns of Steel when I get back, even without Suzanne Somers around.


Anonymous said...

Hey Bart! Karen here. Haven't done the German river castle thingy but everyone says it is wonderful. Been in Munich and the general Bavarian region a few times - very beautiful and I'm sure you will be amazed at the scenery.

As for the Cinque Terre - do a little research -- there are several hill walks you can take between the villages - they are well marked and take you thru some beautiful places. Leave the 20 pound pack in your room, however--- some of the walks are complete killers!!

Venice is, of course, so much fun. Just wander back and back and back until you get lost. Go to Murano and watch them blow glass - wonderful! Our favorite thing to do is a bit expensive but worth the splurge -- i think I told you. Go to St. Marks around 9 or 10 pm - there is live orchestra music in the square. Have your dessert there - and your coffee, and sit out and look at the square and listen to the music--- it will lift you up!

Venice is a maze, and even the maps are difficult to follow -- but ask directions or try to find the street (alley) where they make the masks. There are many mask-making shops but there is a street that has lots - it is wonderful! And get up early to go to the fish market - it is along the Grand Canal -- can't remember the exact boat stop but anyone can tell you. Go early in the morning - at least by 9 am - and you will see veg and fruit and fish - beautiful!!

Switzerland, anywhere, is breathtaking. I will NEVER forget my first view of the Alps. It was fog, and fog and fog, then woosh! we broke thru and there they were. Like some one had thrown cold water in my face! Looks waaaaay better than the calendar photos!

As for Rome, Paris and other cities - the nights are usually good fun. Things in the touristic areas are open late. - go up to Sacre Coeur in Paris (that big, white, domed church you see in all the pictures) - you can get a cheap meal and wander the artists' shops and stalls.

If you like, go to Versaille. You can take the Metro and be there in no time. It is completely, amazingly wonderful - you can't even imagine how much money and time it took to build... I would advise going.
Also - alhtough you are short of time - you might want to go to Giverny - Monet's country house and gardens... very serene and beautiful.

My suspicion is that you will fall in love with at least one place and my advice would be to start saving again and go back on your own to that place and really get stuck in. People think it is OH-SO expensive but there are lots of places in cities where you can sleep cheap and eat cheap and not suffer at all - just takes a bit of research. Use this trip to "take a peek" -- and then start planning a return on your own.

I cannot warn you enough about pick pockets. They are usually gypsies (you can spot them by their dark, ferrety eyes making contact with each other- and they often carry filhy sweaters over their arms - on hot days! That is a prop they use to disguise their hands in your pocket! Best one - you get on the Metro and there is a "crowd" of people pushing out - your reaction is to put your hands up as they squirm past (but you will notice there is no "crowd" behind them - it is just them)- and they pick you clean.
Keep your money and your valuables where the sun don't shine! Avoid walking directly through crowds as much as you can - DO NOT put your bag down anywhere but in your lap--- they can get in while it is under your chair. I sometimes think that if they worked as hard at a real job they could all be company presidents. Stay away from gangs of kids trying to show you their "artwork" -- which also disguises their hands. Cross your hands over your pockets and yell "NO" - as loud as you can and then start looking around for a policeman while saying (not shouting) "Police - police". They will usually run away. And there usually are police around trying to keep them off you so make eye contact with a cop in places like the Colliseum and the ticket like at Versaille (which can be horendously, unbelieveabley long because there is usually only one girl working! Because the pick pocket gangs they in groups, one take the stuff, hands it off to the other who hops on the train and is gone before you even know you are broke! You can get money from any or thousands of ATMs so only get as much as you need for the day - and use your VISA or Mastercard for purchases whenever you can - even the ice cream stores usually take cards!! Check some of the travel websites like Magellan or Travel Smith - they make wallets that go under your sock! Or under your T-Shirt. Get something like that - I'm not kidding! It might be a good idea to take two cards that you can use at an ATM - in case you have to cancel one. Also - if you have an AMEX - take that. AMEX will get you a replacement the next day just about anywhere in the world.

Sorry - don't mean to dwell on bad stuff but it is an aspect of helling around Europe.

Your itinerary looks super - and I'm sure Rick's people look after you well - I'm sure you will have a ball!

michelle said...

I am so jealous! ;-) Have a wonderful time. I can't wait to see pictures!!!!