Grand Tour of Europe 2016!

Crossing the Atlantic on the Way to Europe

Where is this plane headed, you ask? Why, it is headed to Rome, Italy! Yes, cruising northwest out of New England across the Atlantic and on down to Rome! And you can hop on board as our 2016 Grand Tour of Europe gets underway! Come join us on Wednesday night the 28th of October for our next pre-trip meeting. Come find out how our tours are very different from the big company package tours. Come find out how your experience with us will be more educational, more remarkable, more fun, and a better value for your dollar than the other options out there.

Our next pre-trip meeting will be in room #1802 at Davis High School at 7:30 P.M. You’ll see what 32 trips across the atlantic can do to fine tune a group itinerary, provide full value, and get you so very excited about touring Europe! You’ll see why people keep coming back again and again, why they tell their neighbors to go with us, and why you should consider it as well.

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Italy, Germany, France and England await! Check out the link below to our detailed itinerary to see all of the wonderful things we are going to see and do together during our 2016 tour. It promises to be a spectacular journey full of art, food and fun. I hope to see you on Wednesday night the 28th!

Grand Tour of Europe 2016 Detailed Itinerary

Take a Break in Fiesole

It is hot in Florence today. 92 degrees with the regular humidity. And it is high season for tourists. If the crowds and the heat get you down, head up to Fiesole for a delightful escape! Centuries of Etruscans and Romans did this very thing!

Bus #7 from Piazza San Marco will have you there in 125 minutes, out of the crowded city and among the pince scents and honeysuckle of this delightful hilltop town.

At the end of the line hop off in the main piazza. You’ll see a street heading steeply up hill at the very bottom of the piazza with signs directing you toward Chiesa San Francesco. Head up there, and you your way stop at view terrace for a spectacular panoramic of Florence lying below in all it’s glory.

imageJust up hill is San Francesco, a delightful little church with its art still in place (not in a museum). From the front door cross the grass to an exit and head downhill to the left, then right to Fiesole’s hillside cemetery. Check it out.

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From there continue downhill to the right and then up to the entrance to the archaelogical park. Inside you’ll see an impressively intact Roman Amphitheatre, still used, that used to seat 2,000 spectators!

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Wandering the park you’ll find the barest ruins of and Etruscan and a Roman Temple, and a Roman bath complex.

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But while you are hear check out the site – between two hills and overlooking a deep valley with hills beyond covered in vineyards and olive orchards. It is a natural air conditioner, with this delightful breeze always blowing. Linger. Enjoy. You’ll be back down in the heat and the crowds soon enough.

Travel Photography Tips

Travel photography can be a richly rewarding part of any trip anywhere. And with a few simple tips you can really jazz up your travel pics to go beyond the normal tourist photo of, say, the Eiffel Tower. Here are a few things to consider:

 

  1. If you have the time and the inclination, wait for it! Stay put somewhere and see what develops, see what comes your way. Try not to be in a hurry.

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  1. Try different or unique angles. Look for something different from the normal tourist shot.

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  1. Find things that are unique to the place you are at, that you just don’t see back home.

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  1. Get out early! Stay our late!

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  1. Tell a story, a sequence.

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  1. Don’t be afraid to incorporate people sometimes. A lot of the time!

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  1. Color! Look for color!

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  1. Don’t overlook the small, the tiny, what we call the micro/macro world.

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  1. Look for the patterns and shapes in architecture – look beyond just the building itself.

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Play with these things and you are sure to enjoy your travel photography more than ever!

The Fine Art of the Picnic

One budget buster on any trip through Europe is food. Restaurants can really put a dent in your spending money if you are not careful. Not that you shouldn’t eat out at great local eateries – local cuisine is an essential experience of any good trip abroad. But you can eat local and eat great for a lot less than most tourists do. One trick is the picnic lunch.

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Europe has great early morning open-air markets where you can get a bewildering variety of fresh food – fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads galore, boxes of juice, on and on. Many locals will shop each and every morning at these markets, ensuring that they have quality, fresh, locally grown food. It is a centuries old tradition that, happily, has not succumbed to the supermarket (they have those too, not nearly as fun).

And not only is the food local and fresh, and not only can you rub shoulders with the locals, and not only can you try to get what you want in the quantities you want from a local vendor, it is cheap! For $5 you can stuff yourself silly with all the fruit, vegetables, breads and juices your heart could desire! Compare that to a $20 lunch at some joint that proudly boasts “We speak English” and serves you cafeteria food. There is no comparison!

The fruits and veggies and cheeses are sold by weight. Just show the vendor with your hands about how much you want and they will bag it up for you. Do it with a smile, use the local words for please and thank you, and they will treat you wonderfully well.

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So grab some friends, hit the morning market, and stock up on this great food. At lunch time find a shady spot, spread it all out, and dig in! You will love the picnic lunch!

2016 Spring in Spain and Portugal

For all you travel lovers out there you should seriously consider coming along on a great Spring 2016 tour of Spain and Portugal! Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo, Lisbon, Evora, Sintra – these places are unforgettable! And with the services of some tried and true local guides we will have a great time sampling the cuisine, the art, the music, the life of one of the great places in the world.

500px-Barcelona_collageBeautiful Barcelona – the early home of Picasso, started life as a Roman city and became the seat of Catalunya, a fiercely proud region of Spain. Resplendent in Roman, Medieval, Gothic, Art Nouveau, and Modern architecture, Barcelona will have you completely enthralled.

500px-CollageMadridMadrid! All grown up from its Medieval village roots, Madrid is Spain’s epicenter and one of the worlds great capital cities. The old town core is still completely intact and offers  a wonderful way to enjoy the heart of Spanish life and culture. Retiro Park, the Prado, the Royal Palace, and nearby Toledo – we will enjoy all of the glorious art and vibrant life of Madrid.

Poster_LisbonLisbon! My son lived here, and he can tell you that there is virtually nothing not to love about Lisbon. Incredible maritime history, the nearby towns of Sintra and Evora, supremely friendly people, great food and Fado – Lisbon will be a great place to end our tour.

Join us March 24th through April 3rd of 2016 for this fabulous trip! Click on the link below for pricing AND and a detailed itinerary of all the things we will see and do together.

Our first pre-trip meeting for 2016 Spring in Spain and Portugal will be held on March 24th at 7:30 P.M. in room #1802 at Davis High School in Kaysville, Utah. I hope to see you there!

Spain & Portugal Detailed Itinerary

Get Up Early – Stay Out Late!

“Early to bed and early to rise . . .” You know the old saying. It is the way I live my life. I go to bed at 9:00 P.M. and get up at about 4:45 pretty near every day of my life. Except on Symphony nights, where the dang thing doesn’t start until 8:00! Those late nights are rough! And I absolutely love the early morning!

 

But when I am in Europe things are a bit different for me. I still get up at the same time, but the nights will find me out and about among Europeans who love the night!

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One small bit of culture shock Americans have when they go to Europe is the time dinner begins. 8:00 P.M. is usual for folks from Rome to Paris and most places in between. And it is easy to sit down at 10:00 with lots of locals to tuck into a great dinner. That doesn’t happen much where I come from!

The after dinner stroll, particularly in Italy, is another endearing custom well past my bedtime. But when in Europe I eagerly join in with local families rambling slowly, kids in strollers, gelato everywhere, and smiles and laughter. And Paris did not get the tag “City of Lights” because of what happens at noon! The nighttime is the right time to be with the locals enjoying their lifestyle.

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But the early morning! Europeans are not morning people all that much. Wandering around Rome or Paris in the early morning hours you are the King of all you survey! You have the whole town largely to yourself in the cool and the quiet. The tourist crowds are still abed and it is you, the sunrise, and the birds! It is a beautiful time of day to see parts of Europe alone, or just the two of you. Sunrise in the piazza of St. Peter’s in Rome is unforgettable. You are pretty much the only one there as the sun strikes the cupola and makes its way down the façade of that great church. The empty, calm canals and bridges of Venice are a labyrinthine delight. And a fairly traffic free Paris?

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They say you can sleep when you are dead. Well, adequate sleep when traveling is vital to your health. The trick to getting up early and staying out late in Europe is to take a good break in the middle of the day. The locals do it. You might as well do it also! Take a very leisurely lunch, perhaps a short nap at your hotel, and you are good to go on both ends of the day. I highly recommend it. Europe is great 24/7 – particularly early in the morning and late at night!

Drink the Water!

One question often comes up when I talk European travel with others – “Is it safe to drink the water?” They mean it in the most practical sense. They don’t want to get diarrhea. I answer of course in the affirmative. It is perfectly safe in Europe to drink the water. But there is more to it. I see in that question and it’s answer a metaphor for travel itself. Drink the water!

_DSC4563When you get to a place, get all in! Get out on your own two feet and look around. Look at everything. Notice the colors, notice the light, notice the sky and the people and the trees. Smell it. Hear it. Taste it. Touch it. Be out in it and be a part of it. Take note of the big picture and the smallest of details. Stand back and take in the big important building, then get up to it and put your hand on it. Feel its texture, its solidity, its coolness to the touch. Wherever you are get out and watch the sun rise. Stay out and watch the moonrise. Listen to the local laughter, the local dialect, the local language. Eat the local food, buy a local flower, ride the local bus.

MKL_2095Good travel is rich experience. Doing nothing but sticking to the side of a guide charging along at a hurried pace in order to get the essential tourist sights seen is hardly a rich experience. Taking some time to just be in a place. Sure, get all you can from the guide, but do stop and be still. Don’t just pass through. Be there for a bit. Stop. Drink the water!

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Keeping to the Shady Side of the Street

Shady as in keeping out of the Roman sun! It has turned hot this week in Rome, and hiking the seven hills in the midday blaze can be a chore. But there is usually a shady side of the street you can keep to, the funky Roman water fountains where you can refill your water bottle, and of course Gelati! Slow your pace, let it all soak in, and Rome in the heat is as great as any time of year!

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One way to beat the heat is to get up early and enjoy a morning stroll well before the tourist hordes roll about of bed and form their long lines at all the major sights. Get up early enough and you can watch Rome go to work – the hard working folks at the open air markets are great fun to mingle with as they set up their fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers for the morning markets.

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So get up early, drink lots of water, slow down your pace, stay to the shady side of the street, and you’ll love Rome whatever the weather!

 

There Is So Much More To Europe Than The Sites

I like street photography. Street photography is basically capturing the ordinary life on the street in any city, with an eye toward the people that live and work in that city. Most of the time they don’t know you are taking their picture. It takes a little getting used to to shoot this way – you feel a bit like you are doing something wrong. But over the years of shooting on the streets in Europe I have come to realize that the people of Europe are a BIG part of any good travel experience. Photographing them, talking to them, getting to know them, consciously adding this element to your trip enriches your experience in untold ways.

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As you get to know a few people over there, as you do a little people watching, you find that they live and love, work and play just as you do. They have pretty much the same hopes and aspirations as you, they face many of the same challenges as you, and they look at life in very similar ways. You find they may have quite different ideas about how to solve our common problems, and just maybe some of their ideas are better than yours. But it is really our commonality comes through. We are all part of the same human family, and getting to know one another cannot be a bad thing!

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I will never forget when we met this wonderful gentleman – and I mean Gentleman – last year at Omaha Beach in Normandy. He is a veteran of D-Day, a Royal British Marine, and was the soul of kindness as people clustered around him and listened to his story. It was a bit surreal, surrounded as we were with the graves of nearly 10,000 dead from that dreadful conflict, and sharing the memories of one who was there and had fought valliantly and had survived it all. You don’t get these meaningful experiences if you don’t pay attention to the people you meet on your way.

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So make it a point to do a little people watching, maybe even a little street photography. And don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with a local. Get to know them a little bit. Let them get to know you. We have a lot more in common with each other than we often realize. And after all, Europe is not its buildings and museums – Europe is its people! And they are wonderful!

Insurrection!

So our first meeting for the 2013 Grand Tour of Europe was going well, until the question of why I dropped our four days in Germany and Switzerland from the tour came up! As I explained the increase in airline tickets and how much the cost had gone up my intrepid travelers rose in rebellion and demanded a vote on the issue! Bowing to the will of the masses I have now put together a post-trip option (can I just add here how thrilled I am!) to Switzerland and Germany! So if you sign up for this option what are you going to get? Let me show you!

 

The Trail

This is one thing you are going to get, one of the most spectacular hikes you will ever enjoy in you life! We take a cog wheel train up the side of the mountain to a peak overlooking Interlaken and then hike the ridge trail as long as we want! We pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it! The view of the three great peaks, the Eiger, the Munch, and the Jungfrau (the young girl protected from the Ogre by the Monk!) are wonderful, the wildflowers are spectacular, and everything about the alps here in Interlaken is nearly indescribable!

 

View of Interlaken

 

SNow Covered Peaks

 

 

Alp Horns

 

And did I mention the local traditional culture?  I’ll tell you what – travel with your eyes and senses open and your life can be enriched beyond measure!

After a couple of days in Switzerland we are off to Oberammergau in Bavaria, southern Germany! I LOVE staying at the Hotel Wittelsbach in the lovely village of Oberammergau! The owners of the hotel are the children of the former owners who welcomed me and my groups when I first started traveling 25 years ago, and their hospitality is unmatched!

Hotel Wittlesbach

 

We will spend two delightful days traveling across Bavaria, visiting Linderhof and Neuschwanstein, the palace and castle of the last King of Bavaria, King Ludwig. Both are memorable, beautiful, romantic, and the natural surroundings of each are without compare. Plus you’ll get to hang out in Oberammergau a bit!

Hanging at Neuschwanstein

 

Christmas Market

 

Alps Wow!

 

So as far as revolts and insurrections go, this is one I welcome with all my heart! Viva la Revolucion!