In July 2010, my family and I embarked on Trafalgar’s European Traveller tour encompassing four countries: England, France, Switzerland, and Italy. This tour exceeded my wildest expectations. In addition to visiting the promised tourist attractions in each country, my family made the time to mingle with the locals, independently from our tour group. This enabled me to truly experience the authentic culture of each of the countries I visited. Before leaving my home state of Massachusetts, I researched interesting things to do in each of the countries. Making a currency conversion table by equating the value of American Dollars to Pounds, Euros and Francs, allowed me to spend wisely. To appear native in each of the respective countries, I learned 25 essential words and phrases in French, German and Italian. It is my recommendation that you do the same to make your trip as memorable and life changing as my trip was for me.
Shopping and eating fish and chips at outdoor pubs in London and listening to the locals’ converse amongst themselves was ‘smashing’ and “brilliant.” The ease of locating and then navigating the “tube” (underground subway) further allowed me to feel as though I was a native. Don’t forget to “mind the gap” when exiting the tube. Riding the London Eye, eating lunch at Harrod’s, and visiting the Tower of London were just a few of the family excursions we did at my request, independently of our tour.
Crossing the English Channel by ferry, and then entering Paris was nerve wracking to say the least. In short, Parisians are crazy drivers. Although I found Parisians to be laid back and took things at a leisurely pace, their demeanor drastically changed when they got behind the steering wheel of a car, bus, or vespa. Be at the Eiffel Tower at 10:00pm to see it sparkle like millions of diamonds! Expect to say Bonjour if you want to be greeted or waited on. I was extremely excited to have purchased clothing/shoes and accessories that have yet to make their way to the USA.
Lucerne, Switzerland was postcard perfect. The numerous magnificent and majestic snowcapped mountains that surrounded and reflected on the serene Lake of Lucerne was very calming, especially after having just survived Parisian drivers. The wooden covered bridge, decorated with brightly colored hanging flowers, the polite and easy going demeanor of the locals made this one of my favorite countries. While in Lucerne, you must take a cable car to the summit of Mount Stanserhorn. You will view breathtaking countryside and animals as you ascend to the summit at 6,300 feet. The photographs you take at the summit will be some of your best pictures ever.
Italy was by far the most enjoyable and educational of all the countries I visited. Since I just completed 9th grade, my history class was focused on world civilizations. Italy made my history book come to life. The Roman civilization not only left a legacy but also left extensive and elaborate buildings behind to remind the world of their massive triumphs. To be able to view and walk on cobblestone roads, steps and narrow alleyways as well as enter into architectural structures built 2,000 years ago was incredibly amazing and at times incomprehensible.
I highly recommend this tour as it gives you the opportunity for both guided and unguided explorations. Although I am only 15 years old, this trip has made me feel wiser beyond my years and has instilled in me a deep sense of gratitude for those that came before me. I am forever grateful and positively changed by this experience.
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