The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

WEEKENDER / Entertainment

November 23, 2012

Long way from home

Getting the maximum out of tours of Italy, the Vatican, Switzerland, France, England


Our local guide told us how the royalty had no privacy. People stopped in to see royalty give birth, to assure those in succession to the throne were who they said they were.

We visited the Louvre, where among the artistry was the Mona Lisa. No bans on pictures either. Use flash if you like.

The Louvre had a series of shops as well, including an Apple Store and Agatha’s Jewelry, where I bought myself a 50th anniversary Rolling Stones watch.

The contrasts between the old and modern are all over Europe. We stopped at an ancient church in a little Italian town where the gift shop sold postcards featuring the Little Rascals.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa was an awesome sight, as you would expect. After feasting your eyes, you could buy a t-shirt of Sponge Bob or Spider-Man straightening it.

Our tour group of about 22 people from the U.S. and Australia stayed together for most of the journey, breaking up in London. The tour company’s fast-paced structure let us see a lot and after a day in London, we were on our own. Our trip took a less efficient pace as we figured out London’s transportation system and tried to visit what we could on our own. 

Trafalgar is old pros at tours and theirs gives you a mix of the touristy and standard fare, like the Louvre and Eiffel Tower and front row at the Moulin Rouge along with out-of-the-way places, like the restaurant in the rolling hills outside Rome on a rainy night with a guitarist and two crooners or the buggy ride off the beaten path in the Swiss mountains.

Some highlights, thoughts and advice:

• Europe is different than the U.S. and each country is different. Italians aren’t so worried about structure, while Swiss are very regimented.

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