What a memorable trip for my wife and I in several ways.
Our travel designer, from this tour company, was our lead travel consultant and was the perfect person for our first visit to Europe. It was meant to be a visit to Europe in a “Nut Shell”- 3 days in London. 3 days in Paris, 3 days in Florence and 3 days in Rome. At every location we were provided with private drivers, excursions, VIP private guided tours, and boutique hotel accommodations. Our Itinerary included a myriad of daily activities that was thoroughly detailed. The execution was perfect. It was comforting to be met at every transport location with a driver who was on time and spoke English. The guides were very knowledgeable and always asked us what we wanted to accomplish in the time frame we had for the day. The cooking classes in two different countries were intimate and the wine tasting and lunch was exclusive to us. We had a sense in our discussions with the designer before our trip that he sincerely wanted us to have a special and enjoyable holiday. I mentioned the trip was memorable and it was! The anticipation of the spread of CoVid-19 was just being discussed in Europe at the time of our trip and the Northern regions of Italy were starting to report growing number of cases. The travel designer lives in Rome and has locations in Paris and London. He gave us updates from his Rome location throughout the trip. Italy was last on our Itinerary, and he was encouraging with offering alternative plans if needed before we entered the country. We chose to continue, albeit with caution and fortunately completed most all of the sites and tours in Italy. The night before our departure from Italy the government instituted a lockdown of the entire country. Thanks to the designer and the other folks at this company we had an enjoyable trip in the midst of a lot of angst around us.
We were enlightened at each location by our guides. They were very informative and gave us a thorough historical perspective that only comes with the one-on-one conversations. Our London guide was superb with academic knowledge and he was fun to be with. Westminster Abby and St. Paul’s Cathedral was the highlight in London.
In Paris the cooking class was very special. We enjoyed the intimacy of a chef's apartment and his insight to ingredients and the art of cooking. Our guide showed us the iconic sites of Paris providing great historical detail. The Palace of Versailles was most memorable and tied together the relevant relationship of the Louvre with Versailles.
Florence, was our first exposure to the impact of the Corona Virus, and the lack of people in the popular tourist areas. For instance, our local guide commented that she never before walked into the Duomo and Accademia without a wait. To our benefit we were able to enjoy several sites easily including the iconic David. We sat on the rear bench and studied the sculpture unobscured. It was a tranquil moment and very memorable. The next day the government closed all museums. Two surprises still awaited us. We had a cooking class in Siena. It was the most fun and most work we had in preparing a 5-course meal. The making of Pici pasta was a workout and is very labor intensive. But we enjoyed eating the fruits of our labor a few hours later. The next delight was the trip to San Gimignano and wine tasting at a farm. We were practically the only ones at San Gimignano during our walk of the town, and when we visited the farm we were the only ones for lunch and wine tasting. Very enjoyable secluded adventure.
In Rome we were greeted by an exceptional guide. The first day we completed a pilgrimage to Vatican City, the Vatican Museum, VIP access to special areas, Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Church and the Square. The next day the government closed the Vatican and all museums, and guided archeological sites. We made the best of the situation on day two with our guide and a very informative walking tour around the Ancient Roman ruins. Our guide brought Rome to life with stories of ancient Rome.
The last day in Rome was a day trip to the Amalfi Coast. It was a warm and sunny for the day trip. The towns of Amalfi, Positano and Sorrento were fun to tour, shop and eat. Worth the 12-hour day spent.
Our trip was designed to see and experience as much as we could see in 3 day increments at each location in 3 different countries. We would not have changed anything that was in our control. Our travel designer, from the tour company, was always responsive to our questions and concerns. This was very reassuring considering the quickly changing conditions due to the expansion of the Corona Virus in Europe. The designer’s contracted guides on each of our stops made us feel like we had a friend to contact should we need anything.
Although we missed a couple of sites (Louvre, VIP Coliseum tour and Pompeii) because of the government closing due to CV, we plan to return to experience them and other sites in the future. We will choose to use this company and travel designer again.
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