By: Jen Smith, Marketing Communications Specialist
European Highlights with Trafalgar was a fast paced, dream vacation. This is the perfect trip for first time Europe travelers, who want to cover a lot of countries and see a little bit of everything, in a short period of time. We got to visit 5 countries, that I’ve never been to, over the course of 9 days. We had tons of included meals, experiences and free time.
We landed in London after an overnight flight from the states, and our private Trafalgar driver was waiting for us (with a sign with our names on it!) right when we exited baggage claim. He dropped us off at our hotel in the early morning and we were able to check in right away! The hotel was beautiful. The lobby was covered with sunflowers and they had a piano bar and restaurant on the second story, with a view of The River. Our room had all the essentials, and some extra amenities.
We freshened up and went to find our Trafalgar rep, who was waiting in the lobby. She gave us a map and planned our whole day for us. She told us when to visit certain landmarks, how to exchange currency, and even gave us restaurant and grocery store suggestions. She was available to us for the whole time we were in London. From our hotel, we were able to walk to Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, British Museum (home of the Rosetta Stone) and a local pub for a meal.
The next morning, a local specialist picked up our group from our hotel and took us around London. He was very knowledgeable and entertaining. We first went to the famous, London Bridge, which is the most plain looking bridge I’ve ever seen! But, it was the best place to get views of the iconic Tower Bridge.
We drove past Fleet Street, home of the famous Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber, went through the financial district and past some unfixed damage from the war.
During our walking tour, we went past Westminster Abby, Horse Guard Parade, and 10 Downing Street (Prime Minister Residence).
When we drove through Trafalgar Square, he told us that the artist who sculpted the famous lions, used a real lion as inspiration for the head of the sculpture, but used his dog as a model of the body and legs of the sculpture. You can tell because lions don’t sit the way he sculpted the statue!
He timed our tour perfectly because we got to Buckingham Palace right before the Changing of the Guards. We had the perfect view.
We met our tour director and driver the next morning and it was off to catch the ferry to the main land. Our tour director instructed us where to go on the ferry to get the best views of the White Cliffs of Dover.
We made it to Amsterdam that evening, in time for a walking tour of the city. We climbed on the I Amsterdam sign, walked past the Rijkmuseum and down the quaint streets over the canals.
She warned us to be on the look out for quick moving, silent bikes since the city was completely designed for bikers. Later that evening, we went on an included canal cruise dinner. The sit down dinner included drinks and a 3 course meal. Cruising through the canals during sunset, while a local specialist gave us a tour of the city, while eating a delicious meal was one of the highlights of the trip for me.
After our quick stop in Amsterdam, we made our way to Germany.
We stopped in a little town called Boppard, where we were able to grab lunch on our own and do a little shopping before our Rhine river cruise. The Rhine is covered with castles, so the views were amazing.
After the river cruise, we drove to another little town called Heidelberg, which was right on the water. We went on a short walking tour of the city. Our travel director pointed out the architecture of the town and brought us to one of the best places to take pictures.
We got back to our hotel for our included dinner. It was a buffet of familiar and local foods. I couldn’t even try everything because there were so many dishes! Everything I did eat was very tasty, I was impressed!
The next morning, we headed to the Black Forrest. We saw the world’s biggest cuckoo clock and also watched an expert explain his craft.
There were a few places to eat nearby (our travel director told us which one was best) and Trafalgar even bought our dessert- Black Forrest cake! We did a little shopping and went on a short hike during our free time before getting on the bus to head to Switzerland.
First stop we made in Switzerland was at Schaffhausen, the largest waterfall in Europe!
Our travel director gave us some free time to go climb to the top, and told us where the best place to get views were, and which gift shops to avoid because you could find a better deal down the way! The smell and color of the water was very memorable. It was clean, loud, and calming. After seeing this waterfall, I knew that Switzerland was going to be a place of immense natural beauty.
We got to our hotel in Switzerland, which was walking distance from the city center and right on the water. We opted to not go on the optional excursion and have dinner on our own. (The rest of our group assured us that missing out was a mistake because they had a great time!) We walked to Chapel Bridge and along the shore of Lake Lucerne.
It was beyond beautiful and it was easily my favorite part of the trip.
We enjoyed the company of our tour group on the patio bar of our hotel both nights. It was fun to learn about the places they were from, other places they traveled, and what other destinations were on their list. The views of the mountains and the lake were amazing at night as well.
The next morning, we took the optional excursion to the top of Mount Pilatus. Our tour director told us that legend says a dragon built the mountain, so you see dragon logos everywhere!
After we descended the mountain, we went on a lake cruise, which was relaxing and beautiful.
We got on the road the next morning to head to our final stop, Paris, France! The night before, our travel director asked us to write down our favorite song, and she included each song on her playlist for the drive to France. It was interesting to hear all the different tastes in music. We arrive late afternoon at our beautiful hotel in the financial district of Paris, right by the La Grande Arche de La Defense. This arch looks very different than the other two arches in the city. We later learned that all 3 arches line up perfectly, which speaks to the wonderful design and planning of the whole city.
We skipped out on the optional excursion to Moulin Rouge (which we heard was over the top wonderful) and took the Metro to walk around the outside of the Louvre, Carrousel Arc de Triomphe and Tuileries Garden.
On our last day, a local specialist took us on a coach tour around the city. She took us past ‘the most beautiful building ever designed’, the Palais Garnier. This Opera house was actually where The Phantom of the Opera was set. She also showed us ‘the ugliest building in Paris’, the Montparnasse Tower. People are so opposed to this modern looking skyscraper because the architecture is so out of place and sticks out like a sore thumb. After it was constructed, buildings 7 stories or higher were banned from the city center. She joked that the most beautiful views of Paris are from that building, since it’s the only place where you can’t see the Montparnasse Tower!
Our coach dropped us off right in front of the Eiffel Tower and we skipped the line with our local specialist and tour director and took the ‘lift’ (elevator) to the second landing spot for amazing views of the whole city.
We decided to take the stairs down, which is not for the faint of heart and our local specialist took us to a view point to get some great pictures with the tower in the background. Trafalgar even planned to have a professional photographer snap some group pics, which we were each given a print out of later that night!
We continued our coach tour to the Champs Elysees, the famous street with the Arc de Triomphe at one end and Place de la Concorde at the other.
Lining the street were a wide variety of stores (Nike to Louis Vuitton) and a variety of restaurants (Five Guys and Le Fouquet’s). We munched on a baguette and some macaroons and window shopped for about an hour.
Later that night, we went to our Be My Guest dinner at Chez Paul, a local Parisian restaurant. The chef and his family welcomed us and we enjoyed our 3 course meal- with drinks included!
After dinner, we were whisked away to our optional excursion, the Seine River cruise at night! Our tour director told us exactly where to sit on the boat in order to get the best pictures. It was wonderful to see Paris all lit up.
While on our cruise, we caught the Eiffel Tower’s light show from a distant and it looked so pretty! We docked and got back on the coach, but our night wasn’t over. Our tour director said, we can’t leave Paris without getting the perfect view of the Eiffel Tower’s light show, so she wanted to take us all to the best place to see it. None of us complained! Since it happens once an hour, for only a few minutes, she knew exactly when/where we needed to be. The coach dropped us off a few minutes until the top of the hour, in the shadows on the Tower. Watching the light show up close was magical, and I highly recommend planning your evening in Paris around it!
European Highlights with Trafalgar is properly named; we got to see all the highlights of Europe, in an easy and stress-free way. I now have a better idea of place I would like to see again, and where I want to go to next! I recommend this trip to anyone who wants to see all the must-sees of 5 European countries, who doesn’t mind early mornings or walking.
Marketing Communications Specialist
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