Amy Francisco lives and works in the USA, as a Communications and Media Relations Director. She joined the 7-day Europe Taster tour with her ten-year-old son. She sent us a testimonial of their tour and we reached out to find out more about her travel story and what they experienced on tour with us…
I have always been excited to travel and explore new places.
I’m from Texas in the USA, where I was born and raised, though I did have the opportunity to live in Durban, South Africa, for a year when I was a kid. I definitely think that experience instilled in me a desire to travel, but I haven’t done as much as I would have liked … yet! Talk about immersed in a new culture/country! I attended school there, learning a little bit of the local Afrikaans language, met some wonderful people, and got to see amazing wildlife.
I’ve been all over the United States, spent a month in Australia and vacationed in several destinations in the Caribbean, including Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Mexico. But I’ve always wanted to go to Europe, especially Italy. I took a lot of art history in college, and I love anything with a flying buttress.
Europe is the place to experience rich history and culture, and I decided that 2016 was the year to make it happen!
I was hesitant to book a bus tour, fearing the thought of being trapped with a bunch of strangers and a set itinerary. I needed a short tour for spring break, and I chose the 7-Day Europe Taster Tour because I was planning a trip for not only myself, but also my 10-year-old son. The tour allowed us to see major destinations such as Italy and France, plus we got a look at London, Bruges in Belgium, the Rhine Valley in Germany, and the Swiss Alps. I heard this on the trip, and it was true for me as well, but Switzerland was probably the best part of the trip, even though it was the destination I was least excited about visiting before we left.
The ease of the pre-planned trip and relative safety of travelling in a group won out.
I chose coach travel because I was travelling alone with my son. I thought it might be safer to travel in a group. I also know how stressful it can be trying to navigate an unfamiliar city, even in my own country, and I wanted to be able to relax and enjoy the trip, not be anxious (or cranky) about how to get from point A to point B. I also liked the fact that the tour made all the hotel arrangements and included some meals and activities. All I had to do was book our flights and accommodation before and after the tour, and pack my bags.
We saw a lot on the Taster, and now know where we want to return for more thorough exploration.
Switzerland was incredible. The train ride to Jungfraujoch is an absolute must! I also really loved seeing Notre Dame in Paris. It was just absolutely awe-inspiring – and complete with a flying buttress!
My son was particularly interested in seeing Paris and Amsterdam. He had learned all about the artist Vincent Van Gogh, and wanted to see the museum devoted to his work. This was not part of the tour itinerary, but I mentioned how much we wanted to go to our tour guide, and he assisted us in making the arrangements to get there. It ended up being a small group of us who went, and we simply hopped on a city bus to the museum, while the rest of the tour toured to Clara Maria Dutch Cheese Farm. The museum was fantastic, and we explored it thoroughly. I was also so glad that a few others joined us for the experience. I’d like to return to Amsterdam and spend more time there. What incredible architecture!
The “strangers” quickly became the best part of the trip.
People were quiet at first, but gradually – and with the cajoling of our tour guide Andrew – people began interacting. It wasn’t long before small groups formed and shifted as people mixed and mingled. We had the perfect group for mixing – people from 17 countries all on one bus!
It did not take us long to make friends! I am not very shy, much to my son’s dismay. In fact, I found it amusing that in his travel journal he kept during the trip, he wrote on day one that his mother had already made two friends. He was referring to two ladies we met as we waited for the bus to pick us up for the tour. One happened to be from Durban, South Africa, where I had lived as a kid, so it was really neat to meet her. We ended up really hitting it off, having a lot in common, and may meet up in New York when she visits the US.
I would have never considered travelling alone before, but I definitely would now.
I learned that it’s OK, and could be a lot of fun, to travel alone. There were several people on our tour travelling solo, but they were not alone. There is always someone to talk to and share the day’s experiences with on tour.
I believe we had people from 17 countries aboard our tour. When the list of names was passed around the bus, I could not have pronounced 99 percent of them! I loved it. And what a wonderful experience for my son to see that no matter how diverse a group of people is, people are people and share many, many commonalities.
We all need to travel.
People should get out into the world and travel, because there is no better way to appreciate what an amazing and diverse place our planet is, and to understand that while people may have different backgrounds and beliefs, we are all more alike than we might think.
Tips from Amy on taking a bus tour to Europe:
It was so much fun meeting people from so many different countries and backgrounds and sharing our experiences with them. The trip wouldn’t have been the same without our tour guide Andrew and super skilled driver Dom. Thanks to them both for getting us through 5 countries safely and with more laughs than I could try and count. I can’t wait to take my tourmates out for tacos when they visit us in Texas.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Amy! What’s your Expat Explore story? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us on Facebook or Twitter. We want to hear all the stories you have to tell!