Published on April 12th, 2012 | by Emma Hackwood2
The Best of Both Worlds in Southern France
Many travellers are faced with a dilemma when deciding how to visit Europe; to join an organized tour, or to go on their own and discover the country for themselves. Lindsay Kipp experienced both in Southern France and shares why she thinks a combination is the best of both worlds:
I just recently arrived home from a fabulous trip to France, and was lucky enough to experience both the “do -it-yourself” trip and an “escorted trip”. To be honest, I loved both! So I am going to share my thoughts from both of these travel experiences.
I loved traveling around Paris at my own leisure and on my own schedule. This city is absolutely beautiful and has so much to offer and so much to see. I found that the transit system was very simple and made travelling around the city a breeze. I could get from one major tourist attraction to another within 10-15 minutes and the subways or buses were always on time, which was very nice.
There is a common misconception that France is very expensive to eat, shop, and travel within. But this was not the case at all! I found that everywhere I went, there was the option to spend as little or as much as I wanted. Eating, for example, was something that I was worried about when arriving in France. I thought that there would be more fine dining options than just general dining or fast food options. But this was not the case at all. You could have a delicious crepe for 6 Euro’s at breakfast, an amazing baguette sandwich for lunch from a local bakery for about 3 Euro’s, and a 3 course dinner that was anywhere from 15 Euro’s to 40 Euro’s depending on where you went and what you chose to eat. This was a great aspect of the trip for me. The food and wine in Paris was definitely one of the highlights of my trip, which is why I was grateful that I had a few days to travel around Paris on my own so that I could have these experiences. Escorted Tours are great, but most meals are included, and have are a pre-determined menu, so you do not always have the options to try something new.
I did pre-reserve a City tour before I left for my trip, which I can definitely recommend to anyone. The city tour included a 1 hour boat cruise in the Seine, a 1 ½ hour city tour with commentary, and a 4 course dinner at Chez Clement. It was about $120 for this tour, but it was worth every penny! You basically got to see the whole city, learn the history of it, and it gave guidance and a good idea of where everything is, so I could visit each place at my leisure later on. I would recommend for anyone to visit Paris on a “do-it-yourself” trip, it was an amazing experience.
The “escorted” portion of my trip to France was just as great as my own time spent in Paris. I travelled with Trafalgar Tours for 7 days through the South of France, we visited Avignon, Aix en Provence, Cannes, Monte Carlo, Nice, Marseilles, Cassis, and ended the tour with one last night in Paris.
I absolutely loved travelling with Trafalgar. I found that the tour was so well organized, fun, informative and included as much as it possibly could include. The tour director was so knowledgeable of the cities and could basically tell us a story about every city, village, church, and building that we passed by.
The tour was composed of both “escorted” time and “leisure” time, so we also had the best of both worlds here too! I loved that we had someone to show us around, tell us the history, explain the easiest ways to get around when we were on our own, etc. And I also loved having my own time in each city so I could explore at my own pace and be able to try different foods while I was there.
Escorted tours, I believe, are the best way to see a country if you have never been there before. There is basically no cause for stress or confusion. The hotel reservations were all taken care of, most of our meals were planned, all train passes, airport transfers, and other transportation was taken care of. Everything was just so easy and I felt like I really got the most out of my time in each city.
Finally, the highlight of my time in France, I would have to say, is Nice. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen in my life and I would love to spend a full week or two there someday. I did spend a short time there on my own, but could have honestly stayed there for much longer.
Overall, I had a great time in France and am so excited to one day be able to explore other countries in Europe, and even Northern France. I think that by mixing both my own leisure time and having an escorted tour was the best way to do the trip.
Looking to find your own way around France or book a Trafalgar Tour? Lindsay Kipp is an International Travel Consultant at our Place d’Orleans location in Ottawa, Ontario and can be reached by E-mail or by calling 1-866-719-7626.