What extra money do I need every day?

This varies depending on your needs.  Some people like to do a gourmet tour of European cuisine and enjoy having wonderful lunches and dinners, whereas others are happy with a sandwich.  You have, obviously,  the freedom to choose whatever you want.  Generally you can manage with $50 a day and have plenty of spare cash left over, if you have a good breakfast and are paying only for drinks and perhaps dinner.  Most people do want to do some shopping however, so perhaps when you might want to buy presents you could allow a little extra.  Depending on the country, food in Europe is often cheaper than Australia as are clothes.  Some people do like the idea of a leather handbag from Florence, a silk tie from Venice, a shawl from Spain or countless other delights, so a few extra euros in the pocket can come in handy.  It is a good idea, for first time travellers, to realise that all the hotels have safes in the rooms so you don’t need to carry a lot of cash around.

What sort of freedom do I have or is it a total group tour?

We always think of our tours as for “those who don’t like tours”.  The beauty of a small group of max. 10, is that we can all do things together but also cater for personal tastes.  With two small vehicles we can take some people to the town  and others to a walking locale with minimum impact on tiny European towns and village streets.  We also supply a comprehensive 20+ page document of day notes outlining all the things to see and do in every location, plus giving a guide to regional food.  Thus, you can find out what each area has of interest to you.   Also in many towns, we allow 2-3 hours for lunch and exploration, give everyone a map and arrange to meet back at an obvious location eg. the starting point.  Quite often,  a small group will disappear round the corner and another small group will stay with us for lunch and a wander.  We appreciate that some people want detailed photos of tiny alpine flowers and others want a long walk or a long meal in a local cafe.  We always have phones and an EPIRB for emergencies  plus first aid kits should a problem arise.  In many cities, we supply day passes for the local trains, buses or, as in the case of Venice, for the vaporettos.  We also try to keep up to date on opening times of cathedrals and museums which vary, but close mainly on Mondays.

Do we have to do all the walks and what do I need?

All the walks are voluntary.  We try hard to provide walks which are comfortable for each level of walker,  thus often providing both an easier and a hard option.  Before the tour, we generally meet everyone on the lovely Spit to Manly walk with lunch at Forty Baskets and  we get to know everyone and people can discuss their fitness and make friends. . If you can manage this walk you will generally have no problems in Europe.  The Cinque Terre has a railway line behind every village so you can opt out of any part of the walk if it looks difficult ahead. The walk above Amalfi is generally along the contour lines as you wind around the mountain paths at roughly the same level above the coastline.  In the mountains we will use chair lifts to access higher points and then do “balcony walks”, again along the contour lines, with beautiful views to the valleys below and peaks beyond.  The walks are normally about 3-4 hours, and you need only a light back pack with wet weather gear, sunscreen, hat and water bottle.  Occasionally we carry lunches as well, for a picnic, but in many locations we can buy lunch.  If you don’t want to do any walk, you have the freedom to do something else.  We generally have two vehicles, so we can transport non walkers to a different location.  Our walks are all graded and our brochure gives some idea of the grade and the meaning of this. In the case of a walk with no chairlift or 2000 steps to the valley floor, we will arrange either a local bus or a taxi to descend at the end of the day.  We do insist on good walking shoes with sufficient tread to give you a grip on the terrain and this is usually discussed, either at the initial meeting or on the Spit to Manly walk.   Many Europeans  use walking poles which can be pulled apart for the suitcase and these do help with balance as well as taking the pressure off the knees.

What is the accommodation like?

The brochure tells you it is two-three star but the “star” rating differs in countries across Europe. Family run hotels in northern Italy are very different from the luxurious “pousadas” in Portugal.  Every room has an ensuite. Most hotel rooms in Europe include hair dryers, soap, towels, shampoo, conditioner  and body wash but not irons or ironing boards.  We make quite an effort to find interesting and attractive inns, gasthofs, pensions, hotels and pousadas, even chateaux that are delightful, interesting and different.  In some of these you will find 4 poster beds, beautifully decorated rooms, spectacular views over the Bay of Naples, Belle Epoque or Art Deco furnishings and even openings on to tranquil courtyards or piazzas.  Many have balconies with views that make you want to spend your three days just sitting there. Some older inns do not have lifts, however, so don’t bring too big or heavy a suitcase. Remember what you don’t remember, and need, you can buy in Europe.

Why aren’t all meals included?

Breakfast is included every day and many of these are superb with huge buffets, local delicacies and even specialty cakes made by the chef especially for us. They are usually better in the countryside, but that is life. Some lunches and some evening meals are provided, usually the first and last meal of the tour but also selected meals where the area does not have adequate restaurants, cafes or similar.  We find that many people like the freedom of exploring a town and having quiet meals without all the members of the group every night. In this way, they can explore the local cuisine of fish, meat, pasta, tapas or whatever, and have their main meal either at lunch or dinner as they prefer.  We always have dinner in the village or town and we always invite anyone in the group to join us, so if you are travelling as a single person, you can share meals with us whenever you feel you want to do so. We can always recommend restaurants as well and the day notes do have a section on the food of each region so you will know what to look for.