Monday, November 8, 2010

BCers Visit Italy, Switzerland & France; Pt 3: Insight Vacation Bus Tours

MY WORLD IS flooded with memories of Europe. Now that my post-vacation illness is almost over, I've had time to look through photographs and reflect on our Insight Vacations bus tour and our reasons for choosing it.

We thought a bus tour as opposed to a cruise on a huge ship (like the one we saw near Venice) would allow us to see more of the towns and countryside and give us the freedom to step out and explore cities from our local hotels.

Although a little more expensive than other bus tours, we choose Insight Vacations for several reasons. We liked the Italy, Switzerland and France option. Also, Insight promotes itself as slower paced with more legroom. This suited us fine, especially since we didn’t want to feel rushed and my husband who wears a leg brace appreciates extra space. Subconsciously it might have been a rainbow on the Insight bus, (reminding me of Penelope Puddle rainbows), that cemented the decision.

After booking with Insight, things got murky when they couldn’t fill bus seats and changed dates. We questioned their efficiency when our reserved airplane seating fell through twice. Once we got to Europe, I got the impression that our Insight Tour Director was unhappy with our relatively small group of some 25 people ... perhaps because it was not as lucrative? I'm guessing there are bigger discounts for sightseeing tours with larger groups.

When booking with any bus tour there are side excursions and sightseeing options at extra cost. Although some of our Insight group struck out on their own now and then, it became clear we were expected to book the options. Otherwise, it is just a bus ride driving past monuments.

Bill and I soon realized we were lucky to be in this smaller group after seeing more robust tours at sightseeing hot spots. We learned there is no such thing as a slow paced bus tour. It was pretty much hurry all the way. But at least our tour was less congested. Since my husband’s pace is slow, he usually got a head start from location to location so as not to hold anyone up. The stress would have been greater in groups almost twice our size.

I can’t tell you how many oohs and aahs we uttered viewing the fantastic sights that jumped out at us as if from pages of history books. We could not image seeing such wonders without an organized tour and guides. Most tours arrange priority entrance to cut through lineups. This is key since every inch of Europe seemed to be covered with tourists. I was told long lines of tourists and locals at the Vatican (pictured through our bus window) are constant.

We liked that Insight hotels are generally close to sightseeing areas of cities but we didn’t want a room next door to a streetcar and noisy neighborhood. Sometimes we were too close to the action but we were always able to request another location in the same hotel. Also, breakfasts were included in all our hotels. This was a nice start to the day, however rushed. Every morning was up and at em to new destinations.

Europe is not for the faint of heart or feet. Walking and more walking through every conceivable and often ancient roadway is part of the experience. There are stairs of all sorts, bumpy cobblestones, hills to climb and wobbly boats to enter. Museums, palaces and churches seem miles long. Elevators are scarce to non-existent. Often our bus was parked far from the ultimate destination where we needed to walk. Bill and I both fell along the way.

A reassuring part of the trip was our cool-headed bus driver who said little and never got ruffled, negotiating congested traffic, narrow side streets and a sudden lightening storm with apparent ease.

We also enjoyed most of the well-informed entertaining local tour guides. Their passion and knowledge brought magic and depth to what we saw. With limited time, these local guides made cities and artifacts come to life brilliantly and gave a sense of the cultures we were visiting.

I look forward to rummaging through my hundreds of photographs to share the marvels of Europe in future posts. My camera became a vault filled with priceless memories. In fact, when I missed a step and fell with camera in hand my husband looked down and asked, "Is the camera all right?"

Explorers can find more sites from around the globe at My World.


  1. Oh, that sounds more like something Dick would say, not Bill. LOL
    I'm sorry to hear you both fell. I've almost fallen on a few trips but always managed to grab something or Dick.
    Looking forward to pictures of the wonderful sights you saw. The photos here, however, speak volumes about bus travel. Aren't bus drivers amazing? Wow.
    Was thinking about you yesterday and today, and here you are. That's great.
    Luv, K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  2. Looks like a great trip although I can imagine that it was tiring. I enjoyed the shots you shared.

  3. I don't know if I could keep up with a bus tour as I'm ALWAYS lagging behind taking photos. I think I'd be in BIG trouble FAST!

  4. You didn't visit Scandinavia? :) Maybe next time!
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Wonderful shots of very interesting trip.

  6. The sights in your photos are wonderful to see and it sounds like you both had a great time overall.
    Thanks for sharing your delightful journey.

  7. i always have a hard time taking pictures from a moving bus. they seemed to turn out either blurry or out of focus. your shots are well captured and glad you had a delightful trip.

  8. Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment, I'm very happy you enjoyed our walk!

    And thanks, also, for inviting me along on your European vacation, I will try to return for future expeditions!

    Love Penelope Puddle!

  9. Sounds a little bit like a whirl wind bus tour. But I suppose you get to see a lot, in maybe too short of time.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. It is fun to reminisce about travels. My "guide" at Kruger is a blogger friend, then I rented a car and traveled for weeks at my own pace.

  10. i guess bus tours are more organized than striking out on your own (which i did in Europe). i would be in trouble, too, because i wanted to see the side streets not included in the tour.:p

    will be looking forward to reading more about your trip and see the sights through your eyes.

  11. I agree, smaller groups are better but you do pay for it. In our experience large tours break into small cliques while a group of twenty or less everyone get to know each other.
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting on Michael.

  12. Ci auguriamo che questo viaggio in Europa vi sia piaciuto, pur con tutte le contraddizioni europee.
    Buona serata :)


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