Post by Fox Tour Manager, Rachel Couillard
As we chased the sunset from Venice to O’Hare on our flight home at the tail end of my most recent trip overseas with Fox Group Vacations, I found myself contemplating the many reasons why people are inspired to travel. With this particular group, we were as diverse in age and interests as the ten different countries that we traveled through during our two-week trip. Some of our travelers were looking to make connections to their roots, experience history first-hand, or simply enjoy the sensory experiences that a dive into international culture can offer. Others were seeking a better understanding of the delicate differences between cultures that a multi-country tour has to offer, while some were re-connecting with their loved ones by sharing new experiences in celebration of a special milestone.
While people choose to travel for any number of reasons, there is one thing that I think this whole group would agree on: Travel, no matter the reason, is an extraordinary gift.
Every city that we visited on our custom European Splendor tour with Insight Vacations had a special gift to offer.
London offered us many gifts, although the one I think we appreciated the most was a rain-free forecast! The former allowed us to comfortably enjoy a rich history lesson on the British monarchy including visits to Buckingham Palace and the Albert Memorial commissioned by Queen Victoria in loving memory of her husband Prince Albert. Other historical points of interest included Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Household Cavalry Museum, the Tower Bridge and Tower of London. Throw in a cruise down the River Thames and an authentic English dinner at a quaint corner pub and our London experience was all that we hoped it would be! The shopping near our hotel was top-notch, so I was able to bring home a few gifts for myself as well!
The gift of a high-speed rail journey through the “Chunnel” on our way to Amsterdam had us wishing we had that kind of a travel option back at home! While our time in Amsterdam was short, we were able to get a feel for the unique lifestyle of this city via a canal cruise as we drifted between countless merchant townhomes and floating houseboats. We topped off our evening with a lovely group dinner where we had an opportunity to get better acquainted with one another.
No trip to Europe would be complete without an authentic castle tour and a trip to a perfectly preserved medieval town and Germany can always be counted on to offer up both! We enjoyed a tour of Schloss Drachenburg, a 19th-century castle, followed by a traditional German sausage lunch on the terrace that paired perfectly with breathtaking views of the Rhine River Valley.
And speaking of gifts… the spirit of Christmas is ever-present in the medieval village of Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber in Bavaria! Home to the Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas Market store, Rothenburg is the place to go for handmade German Christmas decorations and articles. During our visit we were also invited into the shop of an artisan baker to enjoy a presentation on the town’s traditional pastry: Schneeballen, or Snowballs! And for the men of our group that were less interested in holiday decor and pastries, they enjoyed the gift of German beer, of course!
The next stop on our tour brought us to the magical city of Prague! An evening river cruise on the Vltava River gave us a unique perspective on the heritage of the city as well as the beautiful bridges and sculptures. The following day, we took an early morning tour of the 1000-year-old Prague Castle, including a walk through St. Vitus Cathedral to see the stained glass windows and religious artifacts that are housed there.
That evening was arguably the most fun night of our tour, as we enjoyed true Czech hospitality over a traditional meal and minstrel show. Our glasses literally overflowed with local wine and our bellies were filled with local dishes and as much laughter as we could stand. Several friends from our group were even pulled on stage to participate in the show, some more reluctantly than others!
The next day we traveled on through Slovakia to Hungary for a lesson in geography with a visit to the twin cities of Buda and Pest. These sister cities standing across the Danube River from one another are more popularly known as one city by the name of Budapest! Our local guide brought us to the highest part of Pest for a panoramic view of the city and its many beautiful bridges. She also took us to the Central Market Hall to do some shopping and teach us about the local specialties, which included Hungarian wine and brandy, as well as the popular spice, paprika.
As we traveled on to Vienna, we got to add the musical gifts of Mozart and Strauss to our ever-growing list by attending a symphony orchestra performance. We met yet another fantastic local guide that took us on a tour of Schonbrunn Palace, the seat of the long-ruling House of Habsburg, followed by a walking tour of the city to learn more about the local culture. Another favorite experience of the group was a visit to the popular Cafe Central for coffee, champagne and a taste of Sachertorte – a special Viennese chocolate cake.
Our final travel day through the Austrian Alps brought us to the last city on our tour. Venice offered up so many gifts that it would be hard to name them all! We enjoyed a traditional gondola ride while sipping prosecco and listening to a local singer on-board. The following day we watched a glass blowing presentation. We then took a day trip to Burano Island for a lesson in handmade Chantilly lace and shared a delicious lunch of fresh local seafood. The icing on the cake in Venice was a final breakfast on the terrace of our hotel overlooking the Grand Canal before a unique ride to the Venice Airport in a water taxi.
Reflecting on such an incredible trip, I would have to say that the thing that inspires me to travel is the sense of wonder I feel when I get to experience something for the very first time. With this being my first Tour Manager assignment in Europe as well as my first time visiting many personal “bucket list” cities, it is not an exaggeration to say that this European Splendor tour with Insight Vacations was the trip of a lifetime. The greatest gift I took home with me was the pleasure of getting to share so many new experiences with such a wonderful group of people! A special “thank you” goes out to all of our guests for choosing Fox World Travel Group Vacations– we love having you as part of our Fox Family!
P.S. On behalf of Fox World Travel, we have to extend a HUGE thank you to our fabulous Insight Tour Director, Gigi Bromage. As always, Gigi worked diligently to make sure that every step of our tour went off without a hitch, all while being such a pleasure to travel with! I also want to personally thank Debbie King, Senior Group Development Specialist for Fox Group Vacations and veteran Fox Group Vacations Tour Manager for taking me under her wing on this trip and giving me the opportunity to learn from her while working out in the field.
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