Subject: Bus Tours (was Europe Trip)
Hi Pat,

I wanted to respond to your inquiry about Trafalgar's 15 day "European Magic" tour. In another lifetime, I was a travel agent & used Trafalgar when I escorted a group to Oberammergau, Germany to the Passion Play in 1990 & have booked many people on tours with them. It is a very good tour company & in my dealings with them, I found the people efficient & professional.

Your itinerary is quite ambitious & you will see many of the delightful tourist spots. I'm sure you are aware that you will hit the highlights & probably be frustrated that you can't spend more time in the spot you find charming & want to explore. Taking a bus tour is a trade-off. On one hand you have your transportation, sightseeing, meals, etc. taken care of & you don't have to worry about the basics.

On the other hand, you are viewing Europe with a crowd of Americans. I'm trying not to be too negative here because I know that thousands & thousands of people wouldn't travel if they couldn't travel on a tour. My prejudice, as you've probably guessed, is to travel with one or two companions, doing "our own thing." Of course, that has its drawbacks, too. We spend time being lost. 8-)

In Israel I drove down a pedestrian path which got smaller & smaller & had to back all the way out with the help of a young Arab boy! That aside, I haven't read Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door for a few years but I know he has a great chapter on "surviving bus tours." You might want to get the book as it has lots & lots of ideas for having a wonderful time in Europe.

By the way I've been to Europe about 30 you see the perspective I'm coming from. I'm certain you will have an absolutely wonderful trip & come home with lots of souvenirs, lots of pictures & lots of memories & be so enthusiastic that you'll have to go back again & again!

Here are a few hints from my own experience: try to go to London a day or so before the tour starts. That gives you an opportunity to get over jet lag & orient yourself, maybe see a play (one of my favorite things to do in London) & maybe do a little sightseeing on your own. The hop on/off daily bus tickets are great. Research all the places the tour is taking you & make a list of "must-see sights." Again, Rick Steves has a great museum book, Mona Winks + his general, Europe Through the Back Door book. There are many guide books but I find Steves very practical & down-to- earth.

Occasionally when the bus makes a stop for sightseeing or a meal, go off on your own & find a little cafe to have coffee & let the world go by. So fascinating to just watch the locals, maybe get in a conversation with them.

Learn a few words of Italian & French & try to say good day or thank you, they'll be delighted. I like to have a mix of seeing the fabulous tourist sights & just soaking up the atmosphere of the place.

This is getting to be a book instead of a message so I'll stop. I know you'll have a great trip.

Carol Bailey in OR