12 Sep 21 tour review

Here's my general review. I’ll also post a day by day. Pardon any typos – I’m still jet lagged.

Short version – it’s been a roller coaster of a year waiting for this tour to happen and it turned out to be fantastic. I don’t regret hanging in there vs delaying one little bit.

To set the stage, this was our 3rd visit to France with Tauck so we were looking to cover new territory but also fill in some blanks in Paris itself. Also, we had amazing weather. I find weather can really affect how you feel the tour goes. And finally, though our tour was not a small group start, we only had 9 travelers in total. Thankfully, we all got along great with each other, the TD Marianne Radwan and the driver. A lot of laughter in our group. My theory is that when all the others had canceled, it left a small group that was pretty adventurous and flexible. And finally, everywhere we went the people (especially those who depend on tourists) were happy to see us and service was excellent. Of course, that assumes you know to greet people with Bonjour Madam or Monsieur and know a few words like merci, s'il vous plait, etc.

A big question we’ve all had this year is how covid would affect a tour. Other than wearing masks and being vaccinated, not that much. The CDC card worked for every place that some verification was needed – generally restaurants and tour sights. Masks are required indoors except when eating or drinking. That includes the bus. Also a couple of sites at Normandy it was required outside – that was the tour at Pointe du Hoc and the American Commentary. We brought 2 small bottles of hand sanitizer and some packaged wet wipes, but sanitizer was available everywhere generally near the doors. Also most of the hotels provided wet wipes and/or small bottles in your room. The only time the entire tour I felt unsafe was our trip home when our Lax flight got delayed along with 4 others trying to use the same gate and we were all milling about waiting. Ugh.

** An edit - on the bus the TD did use seat rotation and she spaced us out with an empty row in-between.

We really enjoyed the tour though I fear any mention of a chateau to my husband any time soon might send him running. A fair amount of French and WWII history which was good. I would have also liked more on the Celtic and Viking influences in Brittany and Normandy.
New Vox ear pieces this year instead of the old style they have a sort of hook that only fits over your right ear. The old ones could be swapped to either ear. The hook style was a pain because it kept getting tangled in our mask ear loops, eye glasses, etc. Not an improvement. Wish I’d brought one of my old ones.

Clothing – If you really feel like it you can bring along a dress or sport coat, but only half our small group wore them on the few occasions you might need them (dinner at C. Champchevrier, hotel dining rooms and farewell) but the rest opted for dress slacks/nice top for women and collared shirt/tie/pullover for men. More important to plan for a range of weather possibilities, comfortable walking shoes, etc.

The hotels and food on the tour were excellent. Most were big established ones with full amenities like the Versailles Palace but the Chateau Rochecotte was smaller and very quaint. AC in some or you could open the windows if needed except for the one in Paris. Most do the duvet only bed setup but you could ask housekeeping to add a sheet if you wanted. Breakfast was a buffet at all the hotels. I had thought with covid it would be ala carte. I prefer buffet so I have more control over choices like what fruit I want. Rooms had a Nespresso machine and/or a kettle. We were the first to use the Barriere hotel in Dinard vs the one in St Malo that many have complained about. We thought it was excellent. Most of our group got bay views with balconies to sit on. Given the proximity to the sea, seafood in abundantly available for most of the tour. Loads of salmon, mussels, etc. Also lots of sweet treats like salted caramels and butter cookies.

A note about Paris. Traffic is a mess mostly due to some changes in what streets buses like ours can go down, park at, etc so even though traffic was lighter it actually took our bus driver longer to get us around and hard to find a place to park so we could get off for pictures. Many sites are partially covered by scaffolding as they are doing a lot of refurbishment with preps for hosting the 2024 Olympics. And right now there are loads of police in the city because of a big terrorist trial and the Arch de Triumph is covered in honor of the artist Christo. Weird looking.

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