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Essential Europe

SmarterTravel

Author: Ed Fait
Date of Trip: August 2014

My wife and I took the 11 day Essential Europe tour with Globus from 8/23/14 to 9/2/14. Let me begin by saying that this was a first vacation that was fully a guided tour. We usually do cruises. We have never been to Europe and will not likely go back so we wanted to see as much as possible. Essential Europe came closest to doing this. Some general comments about the tour would be that the hotels were all very good with the one exception being the accommodations in Venice.

Our tour guide was pleasant, cooperative, and knowledgeable. Our baggage transfers were as simple as putting your suitcases outside your room and meeting up with them when you checked into the next hotel room. Excursions were well organized and the included dinners (four of them) were good. Breakfast was provided every morning and they were just okay.

The optional excursions provided by Globus were expensive and the ones that included meals did not have as good of meal choices and the included meals. Our bus driver was good and the bus was comfortable and included free WIFI. Our tour group was only 27 people with 10 of them being from Australia. The group meshed well and we had a good time with them.

Some issues that travelers to Europe should be aware of are that the exchange rate for Euros, Francs, and Pounds, is not good for Americas. You must realize that a $2 purchase is more like $2.50 or $4 (England) in our money. Also, you must have electric adapters to plug your stuff in and England’s is different than the other countries. Ice is in short supply in Europe and only two of the six hotels that we stayed in had ice machines. You almost never get ice in a restaurant. Don’t plan on watching much television unless you speak the native language. Also, with the exception of Switzerland, everywhere we went we were warned of pickpockets. Fortunately, we had prepared by having provisions to secure our money and credit cards and we kept a sharp eye especially in the crowded areas.

Following is a day by day review of the tour.

Day 1: We flew into Rome. Globus has a small booth at the airport which we had trouble finding. When we did find it the Globus staff was courteous and cooperative. We were transported to our hotel where we met our tour guide. The dinner provided in a Rome restaurant that evening was wonderful, a six course meal while we were serenaded by musicians and singers.

Day 2: A guided tour of Rome that included the Vatican and Coliseum was provided. The tour guide was excellent. We took an optional tour in the afternoon and got to see many other interesting sights. Rome is a beautiful city with some much to see. We had dinner on our own that night at a restaurant near our hotel but it was expensive and not that good.

Day 3: We traveled by bus to Florence. A tour of Florence was provided with another great guide. Florence is a beautiful city and the highlight was seeing Michelangelo’s statue of David. A pizza party was provided for dinner and it was great. Several different kinds of pizza were provided and it was all you could eat. Gelato was provided for dessert. The downside of the day was that we didn’t check into our hotel until 8:30.

Day 4: We took the bus to Venice. Venice turned out to be a disappointment. The only provided excursion was to see a glass blowing demonstration for about 20 minutes and then listen to a pitch to buy glassware. Numerous cruise ships were docked in Venice and it was packed. The gondola ride was expensive and nothing like we expected. There was a traffic jam of gondolas in the canals and the drivers were not friendly. Also, free bathrooms were hard to find and you had to pay extra to sit down in any of the restaurants. A nice dinner was provided at a local restaurant. Once again, we didn’t get into our hotel until late.

Day 5: We rode the bus into Switzerland. Switzerland is a beautiful country. We stopped for lunch in Logano then finished the trip to our destination in Lucerne. An unexpected bonus was that our bus driver detoured us because of a traffic tie up and we went over one of the mountains. The view was breathtaking and we stopped at the top for pictures. We didn’t arrive in Lucerne until 5:30. We purchased an optional excursion that included a dinner that was good with Swiss singers, musicians, and yodelers performing.

Day 6: We had a quick tour of Lucerne by bus and had the rest of the day to ourselves. Some of our group rode up on the mountain. We choose to shop all day and the shopping was great. A dinner was provided in our hotel and it was just okay.

Day 7: A long travel day to get to Paris. We arrived in Paris at 5:00 and we purchased an optional tour which included dinner at a Paris restaurant and then a drive around the city at night. Seeing the Eiffel Tower and night was the highlight.

Day 8: In the morning we had a bus tour of Paris. We had a few stops with the big one being the Eiffel Tower. A trip to the second level was provided. When the tour ended my wife and I walked to the Champs de Elysee to shop. This was our only option because it was Sunday and all of the smaller shops in Paris were closed. In the evening we went on an optional tour to the Moulin Rouse. A dinner with wine and champagne was provided while singers and a band performed. After dinner, the show lasted two hours and it was spectacular. The dinner was just okay but the show was worth the expensive price we paid to go.

Day 9. We took the express train to London through the Chunnel. It was nice to get off the bus for a day. When we arrived in London our tour guide left us. The hotel we stayed out had a Globus office and the personnel there directed us for the last two days of our tour. This was a negative and all the people in our group expressed that they thought our tour guide should have stayed with us until the conclusion of the tour. We purchased an optional excursion to see the play, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A dinner was provided at a London restaurant that was very good. The play was excellent with great seats. Since we have never seen a Broadway level play like this one, it was a real treat.

Day 10: In the morning we had a bus tour of London with a very knowledgeable guide. We got to see the changing of the guards at the palace. In the afternoon we purchased an optional tour of Buckingham Palace. It was quite a place to see and we were lucky because they only do tours of the palace two months of the year when the Queen goes to Scotland. In the evening we purchased an optional tour that included dinner at a London pub and a boat road at night on the Thames River. The dinner was the worst we had during the tour but the boat ride was awesome. The highlight was sailing under a fully lit London Bridge.

Day 11: Our tour ended and we flew home from London.

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