By day 7, I have no idea where we have been or where we are going, That is why I adore my tour directors. The minute we meet at the airport they are my bff! They get an American hug, which they probably hate. And from that point on they are in charge.
Raoul, our Swiss/German/Italian/French and Swiss German speaking guide, had his hands full! Fifty-four people from four different groups! We all agreed that by all circumstances it should have been difficult to accommodate so many. In reality, we all got along famously and Raoul.....well, I hope he is reading this because he was a huge reason our trip was so great!
The tour directors have a big job pleasing so many, and you can tell they all want to please so much! But something he may or may not know, is that getting the opportunity to connect with, and learn from Raoul is what also made the travel so experience so much better. Learning about his life beyond tour, running with him through the market with two minutes left before closing, seeing him truly enjoy our group when one of us was yodeling at the Swiss Experience dinner..... all of these things make the trip special, in addition to the wonderful places we visit. And on our unexpected rental car drive from Chicago to KC, Sophie suggested we name our GPS. We decided on Raoul.....he never gets us lost!
We are now down to the last couple of days on tour and we are tired, feeling dirty, missing our showers, but we still seize every moment that we can to learn!
We departed France, and headed toward our final destination; Spain. I did my usual reminder of most helpful phrases to get along in another county. "Hello", "yes", "Thank you, and "good-bye".
Half way to our hotel, after about 3 hours on the road, we stopped at a little medieval town called, Carcisssonne. Raoul had mentioned visiting this town since we were first communicating through email before the trip, so we knew that it would be special place and it did not disappoint. It was the first excellent shopping that we had encountered with dresses and leather goods, medieval toys for kids, jewelry and more. There were crepes and gelato on every corner so crepes were for lunch! We loved walking around this quaint town, and I was a bit sad thinking I might not ever get back there again.
Our drive to our hotel was short and we were tired,. but what a surprise to arrive at an absolutely beautiful beach hotel about an hour outside of Barcelona. The lobby was spacious and the whole place reminded me of an all inclusive resort in Mexico or Las Vegas. The place was full of locals and other Europeans on vacation. I was surprised at the size of my room, and the balcony was amazing with its view of the other resorts and the beach and ocean. Dinner was a huge buffet spanning a very large room. After we ate we all met in the lobby to find the beach.....which wasn't quite as easy as it sounded as we did go the wrong way to start. But the beach was so much fun for the kids, which in turn made it fun for us. I left the parents and other chaperone there so that I could walk back and shower and change and meet the kids downstairs to hang with them so the parents could have some adult time. I sat writing a bit and chatting a bit with the kids. I guess they were more tired than the adults because they actually asked to go to bed before the adults were ready:)
The next morning we left for a crazy, full day in Barcelona. We met our local guide outside of Sagrada Familia and followed her around the town and then finished on a bus tour and visit to Park Guell. Our tour guide was sweet, but oh so boring and she had a thick accent that made her difficult to understand. Raoul and I had a few giggles over it, while everyone else slept:)
Some of us took an incredible bike tour of the city. What a great way to experience Barcelona! We got to see many back streets and neighborhoods and then the beach. I had done this tour previously on my training trip for EF and the second time was just as great as the first! Being able to experience so much water on this trip was a highlight for sure!
Dinner was at a tapas place in the city and after dinner some of us went to a Flamenco show and some of us when shopping. We all met afterwards and fell asleep on the bus on the way back to the hotel. It was sad to have to go to sleep right away, but with our flights leaving in the morning it was a must. It was fun to step out on my balcony and hear the local band playing at the resort next door, and sad to know the trip was about over. We exchanged a few messages and went to sleep.
This group has been on time, has helped each other, has laughed together, has supported and listened to each other, has "mommed" so hard ALL of the kids that the trip itself was a breeze. If I were have tried to take the kids on a tour myself it would not have been nearly as fun for anyone because I can't split up to do things like get cheeseburger, find special souvenirs and more, by myself.
Good byes are always awkward with tour guides, but Raoul was different. He treated us like his kids and made sure we were all set with big hugs at the end.
I sent an email to my tour consultant for EF Go Ahead! Tours seeing if I could request Raoul for my trip next summer to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Prague. It would be so nice to have him as guide again. I feel like I said goodbye to a new friend today, all while just beginning new friendships with those of us that traveled together.
It's been a real good time.
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