On June 17, 2014 a group of 44 excited travelers, mainly from Lafayette, set out on the trip of a lifetime. The group consisted of 14 high school students, 3 college students, 5 teachers and 22 other adults. This 15/17 day adventure would include stops in 7 countries: the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France and Great Britain.
The group spent their 1st day just traveling.
Day 2 began with their arrival to Schiphol airport in Amsterdam where they met their tour director, Pamela, who has worked with the groups traveling from Lafayette since 2000. Some of the sights seen in Amsterdam were the Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace), the National Monument, the Begijnhof (one of the oldest inner courts in the city), the Bloemenmarkt (the world’s only floating flower market), canal houses from the Golden Age, and the beautiful architecture of Amsterdam. The bus picked them up after dinner and took the group to Lelystad, a small city just outside of Amsterdam (about 45 minutes). This was their home for 2 nights while they explored the Netherlands.
They started the day 3 at Zaanse Schans, a community packed with wooden windmills. Here the group saw demonstrations over clog- and cheese-making and explored the inside of De Kat, a working windmill. The next stop for the group would be Volendam. It is an old fishing village located on the shores of the North Sea. They finished day 3 back in Amsterdam for a bus tour of the city by a local guide. After dinner, the group walked to the Anne Frank House, a historic house and biographical museum. During this visit they actually climbed the hidden stairs behind the original bookcase and explored the Secret Annex. They also viewed the exhibition on the life and times of Anne Frank and the 7 other people that lived here while hiding from the Nazis for 2 years and 1 month.
Most of day 4 was spent on the bus so the group had their first “motor way” stops on their way to Germany. They arrived in Heidelberg in the afternoon and visited the Schloss Heidelberg (Heidelberg Castle). Most of the group walked down to the river to see the “Old Bridge”, the first stone bridge to cross the Nectar River before heading to Bensheim, Germany, the location of their hotel for this night.
On the way to Munich, Germany they had one of their most memorable stops of the trip, Dachau, on day 5. It was the 1st concentration camp set up by the Nazi’s. Carmen Rac, who had been an exchange student at Macon County High School, met the group here and spent the rest of the day with them. After this very humbling experience, the group was taken on to Munich. They made their way to the Marienplatz, Munich’s most famous square, to watch and hear the Glockenspiel chime at 5 PM. This 100-year old carillon (it is like a huge coo-coo clock) has 32 life-sized figures that reenact historical Bavarian events. After dinner the group went on to their hotel in Freising for the night. This town is the oldest settlement in Upper Bavaria.
Day 6 was another long day on the bus, but well worth it because the views were gorgeous and included several castles on the motorway. This was also an exciting day because the group had breakfast in Germany, lunch in Austria and dinner in Italy. During their lunch stop in Innsbruck, Austria the group had a little time to see a few of the main sights. These included the Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof), the Maria-theresien-Strasse (one of the busiest streets in the city), the Triumphpforte (Triumphal Arch) and the Inn River. They had a beautiful view of the Bergisel Ski Jump and the city of Innsbruck itself as they left for Italy. The route this afternoon took them through the Tyrolean Alps and the views just got better and better. Their hotel for the next 2 nights would be located in San Stino do Livenza, Itlay, a small town about 45 minutes from Venice.
Day 7 began on Isola Della Giudecca, one of the smaller islands of Venice, for a glass blowing demonstration. Then on to Venice, where they met their local guide for a walking tour. She started at the San Zaccaria, a church dedicated to the father of John the Baptist. They ended this tour at St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice’s most famous church. One of the main things to see during their free time was the Rialto Bridge, the oldest bridge across the canal. They also had tickets to tour Doge’s Palace (once the home of the ruler of Venice) during this time. The entire group met back in St. Mark’s Square later that afternoon to walk to one of the 177 canals for their 45 minute gondola ride. The ride took them through many of the smaller canals on their way out to the Grand Canal. This was an excellent way to get a different view of the city and its beautiful architecture.
The group made their way to Verona, Italy on day 8. They saw parts of the original walls that once protected this city as they walked into the center of town. They walked past the Arena, one of the best preserved ancient structures of its kind (some of the group would tour the inside after lunch), before making it to the main attraction in Verona, Juliet’s balcony from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. They arrived at their hotel for the next 2 nights in Emmetten, Switzerland just before dinner. This beautiful small town in the mountains is about 30 minutes outside of Lucerne. Several from the group said this was the prettiest place they had ever been.
Day 9 began as the bus dropped them off at the pier in Lucerne to catch a boat for a ride on Lake Lucerne that took about 1 hour. Off the boat in Alpnachstad, the group had to catch a ride on the world’s steepest cog railway for a ride up to the top of Mt. Pilatus that took about 30 minutes. When they arrived at the top of the mountain, most of the group explored some of the walking/hiking paths, such as the Dragon Path. A few made their way up the Tomlishorn which is the tallest point on Mt. Pilatus at an elevation of 7000 ft. 40-passenger aerial cableway cars took them down to Frakmuntegg. There they loaded 4-person aerial panorama gondolas that would take them the rest of the way down the mountain to Kriens. The bus took the group back into Lucerne where they saw the Lion Monument. Some of the other main things to see here were the Chapel Bridge (Lucerne’s main landmark), the Jesuit Church (the first large baroque church built in Switzerland north of the Alps), Lake Lucerne, the Reuss River and the painted facades of the old houses
On day 10 the group traveled to the small town of Colmar, France. The city is renowned for its well preserved old town with its traditional houses. It is also the birthplace of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. Some of the sights to see were: “little Venice”, the Maison Pfister House, St. Martin’s Church, the Musee Bartholdi, and the House of Heads. Their hotel for tonight was located in the Munster Valley in the village of Muhlbach-sur-Munster.
On day 11 the group rode through the Reserve Naturelle Frankenthal-Missheimle on their way to Paris. The first place they went after checking into their centrally located hotel was the Champs-Elysees, the most famous avenue in the world. At the western end of this avenue stands the Arc de Triomphe. The group took the underground tunnel to reach the center of Place Charles de Gaulle to visit the Arc. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI. After dinner, they took a 1-hour narrated cruise that went by many famous Paris attractions including: the Louvre Museum, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Place de la Concorde, Alexander III Bridge, the Orsay Museum, and the Eiffel Tower. The group then made their way to the Montparnasse Tower, a 689 foot office building where they took the elevator to the 56th floor, and then on to the terrace by stairs. This outdoor viewing platform offers perfect conditions to admire the City of Lights.
Day 12 began with a bus tour from a local guide. They saw many of the same sights seen the day before plus a few extras. These include the Place de la Bastille, the Pantheon, remnants of the Roman baths, the statue of Joan of Arc, Place Vendome, Opera Garnier (the Paris Opera house), Les Invalides (contains Napoleon’s tomb), the Fontaine Saint-Michel and La Madeleine. Most of the group took a train to visit the Palace of Versailles, some stayed in town and went to see all the art collections at the Louvre (including the Mona Lisa) and a couple climbed the steps to the top of Notre Dame to get up close and personal with the gargoyles during their free afternoon. Several from the group went to go up the Eiffel Tower after dinner.
On day 13, the group loaded a local bus which took them to the Gare du Nord train station to catch the Eurostar for London, England. Some of the places seen here were: Covent Garden, Kings Cross Station (Platform 9 ¾), Trafalgar Square, and Piccadilly Circus. Their hotel for the next 2 nights was right in the middle of London.
Day 14 began with a bus tour from a local guide. Some of the main sights were the Tower Bridge, London City Hall, the London Gherkin, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey and the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.
On day 15, the group split in half. 22 of the travelers were taken by bus to Heathrow Airport for their flight home while the other 22 loaded a bus headed for Bath, England. Some of the main things to see here were: the Abbey Church, the Roman Baths, the River Avon, and the Pulteney Bridge. Their next stop would be Stonehenge. It is one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe.
Day 16 was a complete free day for the group. A few headed out early to catch a train for Brighton, England. It is a town on the south coast of Great Britain. Some of the things done by those that stayed in London include: visiting the Kew Gardens (the Royal Botanic Gardens), visiting The Tower of London, riding the London Eye, visiting the Imperial War Museum, and visiting the Natural History Museum.
On day 17 a local bus carried the remaining 22 to Heathrow Airport for their flight home.
This was an amazing trip with lots of adventures for the entire group. We plan to travel to Europe again in 2016. The exact destinations haven’t been picked yet, but anywhere we go will be a good trip. Just ask anyone that has traveled with us before on the previous 8 trips. Look for information in the next month or so about this trip in the papers. Better yet, send Tammy Brawner (the group leader) an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to get added to her list of people she sends information about the trips. We are also planning a trip to Australia and New Zealand in 2015. If you are interested in this trip, you need to contact Tammy as soon as possible so you won’t miss out. We look forward to traveling with you in 2015 or 2016 or both!