Subject: Re: World legacy award for sustainable tourism
Hi Ziners --

I am a big fan of walking tours, both escorted and unescorted, but always with luggage transported to the next inn by the tour operator. My sister and I have taken several walking tours in Europe during the past few years. We've gone with different outfits and the size of the groups ranged from 9 to 15. The travelers tended to be middle-aged (ranging from mid-twenties to early 70s), female or couples, and all were well seasoned travelers.

In October 2001 we took a one week escorted walking tour of Tuscany with Sherpa, an English outfit ( ), to which we added four unescorted days where we walked on our own through the Chianti region. Ever since then we have been trying to recreate the experience. It may have been that it was in the days immediately following 9/11 and we seemed to be travelling in a peaceful oasis in a world that appeared to be falling apart, but there was something magical about this tour and the people we were with -- 7 Americans and two Australians. We are still in regular e-mail contact with most of them and have several of us talked about traveling with each other again.

Our walking tour with ATG ( ) in eastern Portugal in May 2002 was definitely the most professionally and smoothly operated of the tours, but was also the one in which there was the least bonding among the participants. There were 12 people on that tour, all British except for my sister and me. After walking for a week in Portugal, my sister and I then flew to the UK and spent a week doing a self-guided walking tour in the Cotswolds arranged by Christopher Knowles of Cotswold Walks ( ). It was a wonderful experience that I would happily repeat.

In October of 2003 we took a walking tour of the Dordogne region of France with Perigrine, an Australian outfit ( ). There were 15 of us, mainly Australians and Canadians. Again, my sister and I were the only Americans. This tour was probably the least smoothly run of the ones we've taken, but it was a wonderful group of people, good walks and the tour guide was marvelous.

All in all, I would take another tour with any of these groups in a heartbeat. (Their prices are comparable.) Our choice of tour operators has largely been predicated by determining who is offering a tour of a place want to go when we want to go there. Landra from upstate New York