This is our first time experiencing a guided vacation and I must be honest in saying that we always thought this wasn’t for us. We love to travel and experience this wonderful world we live in and meet the interesting people who make each destination unique. We love to explore and absorb the whole vibe of places we visit, from the smells and tastes to the rhythm of the street. We love to take things in on our own time with only a general guideline for time and no real schedule. However, a friend of ours explained that Trafalgar offered guided vacations that we would love. And so, for our 30th anniversary we are heading back to Europe to try something new.
After reviewing the itinerary for Treasures of France, I was intrigued by how little was scheduled, yet still managing to visit almost all of the places we were hoping to see if we were to go on our own. I was also excited to read about surprises and unplanned stops as well as the optional excursions. This is actually sounding a lot like the way we enjoy discovering new places! So with our bags packed and our minds open we head off on yet another of our adventures, this time leaving the leg work to professionals.
What can I say? Our first day was full of “Ooo La La’s!” We arrived from Canada, excited for our first taste of Paris. Friendly Trafalgar transfer staff whisked us off to our hotel, which to our surprise was just off of the Champs d’Elise on a lovely avenue, lined with wisterias in full bloom. It truly was my vision of Paris, and I was in heaven.
Our Welcome Dinner was at a lovely bistro just down the street, with a view of the Arc de Triomphe. The atmosphere and the food was first rate, with a French onion soup to die for, and crème brule for dessert. We met our travel companions for the week, and I can’t believe over the next week we will actually see all that our Travel Director, Giovanna, has promised!
Our next day in Paris began with the view from Montmartre overlooking the city. I think the view actually outdid the history and majesty of the beautiful cathedral built up there. I still can’t believe we are here. I would have to say that although we have been to many places today, from Rouen to Honfleur and Normandy to Bayeau, we are finding the wealth of knowledge wrapped up in our wonderful Travel Director, the most impressive. We love the beautiful architecture, countryside and towns and villages, but the stories that go with them are the most interesting, and bring the mortar stone and slate to life.
The stop at Juno Beach was especially meaningful to us, as so many of our countrymen gave their lives on that beach in the name of freedom. Just standing on that same sand sent shivers down to our very souls. It was something we will never forget.
One of our next stops was the famous Bayeux Tapestry. Although I, like many people the world over, have come across pictures of this, to see this work of art and history in its entirety was absolutely amazing. Whether you are a crafter and could marvel at the sheer number of hours and talent required to create a piece of tapestry of this size, or are a history buff and could appreciate the story of William the Conqueror in 1066, this historical treasure was mesmerizing. To me the most intriguing part about this piece is that in a time long before anyone could pick up a newspaper or textbook, or find information in seconds at the click of a mouse, these people told their story in such a detailed manner, and it has lasted for centuries. I feel quite humbled and inadequate sitting at my keyboard relating my travels knowing that in a few minutes, I will click “send” and it will disappear and sometimes, to my frustration, disappear forever into cyberspace.
The rain cleared for us to explore the town of Bayeux, and then it was off to Saint Malo, a city with a unique identity and history. We loved the city and our Local Guide, Coco, a proud resident of this wonderful gem. She brought the city’s history and legends to life, and it’s unique, if not questionable, beginnings. I wonder what surprises tomorrow will bring?
Denise McCall, Canada