I embarked on my most recent European adventure with one thing in mind, to take as many different types of transportation as possible and to not check any luggage for our 16 day adventure. It was an experiment in travel, to be able to serve my clients better with first hand knowledge and one that I knew would be an adventure, my husband was not so sure. You see, I am a serial over-packer, I need a different shoe and outfit for every what-if scenario. But since this trip had so many moving parts, I didn't want to deal with a ginormous suit case the entire time, I would have to really think about what I was bringing and maximize my wardrobe. Also, public transportation is not so common where we live, it's more common to see an ATV driving the streets than it is a local bus, so the unknown of a foreign country's subway's, trains, trams and buses was a little intimidating. Sure, I've been on these before visiting larger cities in the US and the last time I went to Europe it was how we got around, but I've always had a local or a pro with me, I didn't really have to pay attention. This trip I was the pro..
As I configured our trip, I had us flying into Barcelona, we'd spend a few days here exploring, taking in the city sites as well as some of the more rural areas, then we'd take the train to France where we'd embark on our Ama Waterways river cruise. After a week exploring the Provence region we would make our way through Switzerland and Germany where we'd finally depart out of Frankfurt. I had everything planned for transportation in between cities that I possibly could ahead of time and then when we got to the cities, we could "wing" it.
Our time in Barcelona was a breeze, I had arranged a private car on arrival to take us to our hotel from the airport since we would be tired and wanted something easy after a long flight. I scheduled a tour to Montserrat one day and the rest of the time we used the subway and clocked on several miles of walking everyday, no wonder Europeans are so fit! After spending some great time in Barcelona, making our way through various tapas restaurants, and taking in the amazing markets and several different art and architecture stops that embody the city, we made our way east to France!
We took the high speed train from Barcelona to Arles and were able to walk to the river cruise ship from the train station. Once we were on board we could relax and be pampered for an entire week! After all the hustle and bustle of Barcelona, we settled into our cabin and then went to the main lounge area to grab a bite a nice nice hot cup of cocoa, which turned into an addiction by the end. I wish I would have stuck several packets in my luggage, as I have yet to find a US supplier that carries the particular brand.
The river cruise was amazing and the staff on-board even more so. I have river cruised before but this was my first time on Ama, I had high expectations, as I have been selling them for years and always had great feedback from clients. They did not disappoint, the food was fantastic, but I loved the excursions. Most days we were given at least one option in the morning and in the afternoon, and you could choose between three different levels of activity you wanted, from active to slow paced. We saw mid evil castles and recreated villages, palaces, went to an olive farm, a Roman amphitheater, Pont du Gard which is a UNESCO heritage site and were the first Ama cruises to get to go into the aqueduct, visited several vineyards, a truffle farm, a stream train ride, several cities, and so much more!
After the river cruise was over we ended in Lyon and took the train to Lucerne, Switzerland. I think Switzerland was my favorite country on this trip, I loved it there! I had us staying in a hotel close to the train station for easy access, and to my surprise the Lucerne station was a great place to grab a bite! We ended up getting a couple of meals there, underneath the station is a large mall with several shops, restaurants and a grocery store. The next day we took the scenic train to Interlaken, which was amazing!! The scenic train is a must do, so is first class!! We had nice big seats and plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy the views, coach looked like the chicken bus, jammed packed with people and there was a large group keeping the rest of the train car entertained with their various traveling songs and dance moves that we got to a glimpse of when the doors opened between the two cars. While this may seem more fun and appealing to some travelers, we were glad to be in the more relaxing car!
The scenic train views were breathtaking, waterfalls cascading down magnificent mountains, emerald green lakes and rivers, little villages along the mountainside, green hills, wooden chalets and snow capped alps! Once we got to Interlaken we strolled the quaint cobblestone streets lined with shops and restaurants. We decided on fondue for lunch, of course, and ate outside to take in the local culture. We also rode an alpine slide that would not be legal in the US, I haven't laughed that hard in so long! The weather was perfect and it was a perfect day! We spent our next day around Lucerne taking in the sights before heading to Germany to meet up with my nephew.
Once we got to Germany, I contacted my nephew who's been going to university in Heidelberg. It was so fantastic to see him and get the local tour! He took us to different areas around the city, to palaces, a street fair and the castle. That day my fitbit clocked 15 miles, it was the most miles in a day for the trip, I'm glad this was toward the end of the trip, my body was adjusting to the walking long distances by then!
The next couple of days were spent exploring around the area and then going to Frankfurt to prepare for our flight home. While in Frankfurt we went to one of the museums and got to see an actual Picasso and Warhol!
It was a perfect combination of history, culinary, activity and adventure! I'd like to credit my expertise and detailed planning for the flawless travel, which did help, but we also had a lot of luck on our side. Everything went off without a hitch and we didn't have any delays of any kind.
I love Europe, it's so rich in history and each country is so different. If you would like to have a European experience tailor made for you, give me a call!