Clicky Web Analytics

Clicky

Jun
4
Sat
Posted By Ritesh Chhajer on Saturday, June 04, 2011
6288 Views 15 Comments


After having a helluva great time in London, I started my 9 day tour of Europe. We started from Brussels in Belgium, moved to Germany, then to scenic Swiss landscapes with some great snow fun at Mt. Titlis in Switzerland, enjoyed the Gondola rides at one of most romantic cities of Italy - Venice, witnessed once home to gladiators - The Colosseum at Rome, St Peter's Basilica at Vatican City, Florence, Pisa, Geneva and last but not the least - Paris.
As always, first I have to give out details of visa which in this case would be Schengen Visa.


Schengen Visa:
Check Consulate locations first for applying the visa. Schengen Visa has to be applied to the primary country of visit which can be either first country of visit or the one where you are going to spend maximum number of days during your Europe tour which in my case was Italy. Also remember that for applying Schengen Visa, you need to have your tickets booked in advance. I had booked my tour from Star Tours. Here are the list of documents that I used for applying the visa:
- Schengen Visa Application Form
- Passport
- Air Tickets
- Visa Letter from Star Tours
- Star Tours Invoice
- Insurance Coverage Letter
- Proof of Employment
- Latest 3 Salary Stubs
- Latest 3 bank statements
- H1-B Petition
- One 45mm * 35mm photograph

Getting Started:
Two families with kids, push chairs(Remember that's what they call strollers in UK), car seats, loads of luggage(Never forget we are Indians) - everything fit into 1 taxi and off we went to Eastham to start our Europe tour. As soon as we reached the bus, Vikas realized he had forgotten his wallet and we had to literally beg our tour guide who took ages to decide whether we'll be able to come back on time and finally let us go. Well, it was just the beginning. Very soon we figured out how paranoid our tour guide was about timings as he kept harping about it all the time during the tour and scaring us with what would happen if we lost our passport. Quite a character indeed!

Day 1(Belgium - St Mark, Atomium):

France Eurotunnel Anyways, we went to France Eurotunnel first where our bus got inside the train which then crossed English channel in like 30 mins and took us to Calais where the time changes an hour ahead. Great Indian food was waiting for us at Euston. As part of the tour, the caravan keeps moving along with the bus to deliver awesome Indian veg food for all 9 days for both lunch as well as dinner along with authentic Indian Masala Tea. And the best part was that the cook was from Rajasthan(what else can I ask for:)).

CaravanWe started with City of Brusssels - Capital of Belgium and spent some time at St Mark Cathedral. It was quite a grand place and the Belgian waffles were just too good. From there we went to visit Atomium monument which is an amazing piece of architecture.

Atomium

Day 2(Germany - Black Forest, Switzerland - Rhine Falls):

Cuckoo Clocks    Cuckoo Clock
Rhine Falls
We crossed Rhine river and entered Germany from France. We first started with black forest region where we enjoyed a demonstration of how cuckoo clocks are made and bought some souvenirs. Later, traveled to Switzerland and witnessed the largest waterfalls in Europe, the Rhine Falls. From there, we departed for Luzern to view the Lion Monument, bought some Swiss chocolates and walked on the oldest wooden bridge in the world, the Chapel Bridge.



Day 3(Switzerland - Mt. Titlis):

We took the revolving cable car to ascend 10,000 ft to the summit of Mt. Titlis. The panoramic views of Swiss landscapes were simply breathtaking. We had a great time playing in snow and taking the Ice Flyer ride. This was easily one of the key highlight of the tour. On huge public demand, the bus driver put DDLJ for movie watch so we could enjoy all the feeling of being there in Switzerland.

Titlis 

On the way from Switzerland to Italy, we noticed that sound barriers were built on both sides of the highway to prevent noise pollution in residential areas. No end to technological advancements!

Hindi Notice    Mt. Titlis


Day 4(Italy - Venice):

Gondola Ride Before embarking our journey for Italy, we learnt quite a few Italian words like bonjorno(Good Morning), gratsia(Thank You), prego(Welcome) and most importantly the key ones for shopping like quanto costa, economica. 

Having seen so many beautiful gondola rides at Venice in movies, I could barely wait to get down to Tronchetto from where we took the vaporato(water bus) to San Marco(St. Mark's Square) - one of the most elegant squares of the world. We then saw the famous Bridge of Sighs, Basilica di San Marco and visited Murano Glass Showroom to buy some real good quality glass items. And finally the gondola ride with a beautiful view of Venice - One of most romantic cities of Italy.

Venice

Day 5(Italy - Rome, Vatican City):

As a die hard Gladiator fan, I was looking forward to visit Colosseum - once the home to gladiators and all those gory fights. However, we had to wait a little longer for our local guide to arrive. Apparently, only local Italian tour guides are allowed here. Anyways all that wait and historical stories that we had to hear was worth it as the Colosseum was truly one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering.

Colosseum

We then went to Vatican City - home to the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church to see the St. Peters Basilica. There was a long queue and it almost took an hour to go inside. After seeing it from inside, we could fathom why so many people are queuing up outside. It was so very gorgeous and huge that it was almost impossible to capture it's beauty in a camera. The meticulously crafted carvings, magnificent statues of saints - Simply awesome!

St. Peters Basilica

Day 6(Florence):
This time around the local Italian guide was much better with an accent that we could fathom easily. We got to watch some of the finest historic buildings of Italy like Basilica of Santa Croce, the final resting place of Michelangelo and statue of David. 

God of Water    Florence City

Previous night, we also checked out local casinos. However minimum bet being 1 euro was too much to survive for a longer period:)

Day 7(Pisa, Geneva):
We departed for Pisa to see the Duomo cathedral's bell tower popularly known as Leaning Tower of Pisa - One of the seven wonders of the world. On the way to Geneva, we passed through Mont blanc which is the highest mountain in Europe. While entering the tunnel, we observed that there are big heat sensors to detect over heated vehicles. 

Leaning Tower of Pisa  Pisa

We then crossed the Italian/Swiss border and entered Geneva. Interestingly UN building is here but Switzerland is not part of it as it always remains neutral. The Flower clock and Jet D'Eau(water fountain) were pretty nice and serene sight seeing spots.

United Nations

Day 8(Paris - Eiffel Tower):

Eiffel Tower It didn't really matter that the tickets were booked in advance as the queue to go up the Eiffel Tower was so long. But the view that one gets from the top of Eiffel Tower is simply breathtaking. We then took the night tour of Paris and covered Concorde Square, Shanzelize Street, Notre Dame. The city looks so much vibrant and stunning in the night. Need to plan another trip only for Paris as 1 day was just not enough.

An Evening in Paris

Eiffel Tower View

Eiffel Tiower View


Day 9(River Seine Cruise):
River Seine Cruise This was the last day of the tour. We took a ferry to Calais and enjoyed the nice cruise along the River Seine. As all good things come to an end, so did this tour. We traveled almost 4700km over 9 days. We had such a fantastic crowd that even Khushi and Neel enjoyed the tour a lot.







One week in London followed by 9 day Europe tour - Shall cherish these memories forever.
For now, back to grind.


Rants & Raves Minimize

  • Gravatar
    PRITY JOHARI Monday, June 06, 2011 at 7:34 AM

    hey, u r saving thousand of dollars coz when i read it, i literally felt that i m part of this europe tour. so u see, i m thinking do i need to go for europe tour? by the way i would really b very happy agar tu saara vivaran hindi mae jaahir kare to mazaa aa jaaye. un sab ke paise bhi bach jaayenge jinhe angreji nahi aati.kya bolta?

  • Gravatar
    Amrish Monday, June 06, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Another fantastic summary ! i can see that you truly have "Jee liya/raaha aapni zindagi". i hope/wish that more golden moments are ahead.

    • Gravatar
      Ritzy Monday, June 06, 2011 at 1:21 PM

      inshallah!!!sitaron se aagey jahan aur bhi hai

      • Gravatar
        Vijay Sunday, August 07, 2011 at 12:14 AM

        Hi Ritesh,
        Very nice to read your tour experience. I along with my family are going for Treasures of Europe this September. How was startours service and hotel...Please give your advice.
        Vijay

        • Gravatar
          Ritzy Monday, August 08, 2011 at 7:12 PM

          Star Tours service is pretty good when it comes to Indian Veg food. It was simply awesome. Regarding hotels, 2 hotels were very average but otherwise rest of them were pretty good.

          Only thing with such packaged tours is when we like some place then we won't be given enough time to explore that area and most of the time would be spent travelling in bus. But that is expected and we can't help it.

          Economically the tour works out very cheap and we were able to cover lots of places. Also since the crowd would be all Indian, you should be able to have some fun while travelling as well. Hope you enjoy the tour.

  • Gravatar
    Nischal Monday, June 04, 2012 at 8:30 PM

    Hi Ritesh
    I happened to land on your blog while researching star tours. I am planning to take the 9 day treasures of Europe through star tours this summer.
    We are confused whether to take a 9 day star tours or 12 day SOTC tours.
    What's your opinion ? Is 9 days enough for so many countries ? Because it seems, majority times you end up spending traveling from one city to another.

    • Gravatar
      Ritzy Friday, June 15, 2012 at 10:43 AM

      Hi Nischal,

      To be honest, whether it's 9 day or 12 day packaged tour, it's never going to be enough to cover everything. However since we are talking about packaged bus tours, I feel 7-9 days is good enough coz after a while it becomes tiring since every morning you need to wake up early and majority of the time would be spent in traveling. Also we should let some time for those memories to sink in so my opinion shorter is better. I used Star Tours for the simple reason they were the only ones that offered really good pure veg food throughout the tour.

      Enjoy your Europe tour. I am sure it's going to be one of the best experience of your life.

      • Gravatar
        Dipali Monday, June 10, 2013 at 8:56 AM
        re special food req on tour
        Hi Ritesh,
        Thank you for wonderful summary of the trip. I have aspecific ques re FOOD. My son 7yrs old, ia allergic to
        -Milk ( cows milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, ghee etc)
        - Eggs
        - Tree Nuts
        I want to know if it will be good idea to take him on the tour, due to food reasons, Are the kitchen folks approcable and accomodating if making special request, Like would they answer simple queries like
        is there gheee in rice or yogurt in bhatura etc, I am just worried if he will have anything to eat or not or what would be my alternative options. Do they serve dinner back in the Hotel kitche?
        Please advise as your personal expericen and review will help me make decision if I should take him or not. Thanks a lot on advance

        • Gravatar
          Ritzy Friday, June 14, 2013 at 7:57 PM

          Star Tours serves only veg. food and it's pretty good. When I traveled, the cook was from Rajasthan and very accommodating. Best to setup a rapport and give some tip as well. Regarding milk, I too had a young daughter (2 yrs) and getting milk was always tricky since the bugs tours keeps moving and you hardly get time. I used to get it from the hotels where we used to stay and some times from the kitchen of caravan which was with us. Usually there are families with kids and people understand about these things. So no worries.

      • Gravatar
        Dipali Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at 11:36 AM

        HI Ritesh,
        Have a ques re the tour, my son is allergic to
        Milk (ie milk, ghee, butter, cheese, yougurt, butter etc)
        Nuts
        Eggs

        I am trying to find ouut if he will have anything to eat on the tour and if the kitchen staff will make any accomodations for him.
        Please let me know your thoughts

  • Gravatar
    Roshni Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    Hi Ritesh my name is Roshni Ray.Actually me and my husband are planning a trip (Glamours of Europe)
    with STAR TOURS in JULY and and wanted to get some feedback from you about the tour
    since you have already been with them.
    I searched for Star Tours reviews and read your blog. Hope you don't mind me
    messaging you like this.Just had a couple of basic questions.
    1) Do they give enough time at each location to go around and see the
    place or is it just passing through.
    2)For food are there vegetarian options in the menu?
    3)Does the tour manager give us free time to explore the place on our own or do we have to
    be with the group all the time.
    4)If we want to try the local cuisine can we leave the group and go for lunch or dinner
    on our own or do we have to be with the group all the time.
    I apologize in advance some questions are really silly but since I have never been
    with a conducted tour before that's why asking this. I would really appreciate if you could
    give me some feedback about your experience with star tours and help me make a decision.
    Thanks a ton in advance
    Regards,
    ROSHNI

    • Gravatar
      Ritzy Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 2:00 PM

      Hello Roshni,

      With any packaged tour, usually limited time is given since whole lot of places needs to be covered. In case you want to stop by and leave the group then usually it's your responsibility to join back the group from the next stop. Since English not known to many in Europe, I would not recommend that and advise to stick with the group. I was happy with the time that was given to spend at each place. Food was all vegetarian and really great. That's one of the reason I went with Star Tours because of the veg. food given every day. I had a great time. Hope you would also enjoy your trip.

      --Ritzy

      • Gravatar
        Yash Friday, May 30, 2014 at 1:48 PM

        Great blog. liked your response given on Aug 08, 2011. Very much summarise what to expect from star tours. Thanks

  • Gravatar
    sam Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 9:08 PM
    hotel names
    we are planning to go for treasures of Europe this summer .... what hotels did you all stay in during the tour ... please mention any hotel names ... thanks

    • Gravatar
      Ritzy Monday, April 27, 2015 at 10:15 AM

      Sam,

      I went to Europe tour about 4 years back so hardly remember the hotel names. But mostly they were decent around 3 to 3.5 stars.

      --Ritzy

Tag Cloud Minimize


Archive Posts Minimize