Well, I guess this is a little unusual for this Travel Log since I've been talking about RV travel up until now. But, for those who might be interested, Joyce and I just took a 15-day tour of Europe called Italy Plus. It's provided by Trafalgar Tours -- to read all the details, click on the picture on the left. You cover 7 countries in the 15 days, so it's a very aggressive tour. For a quick view of Europe, though, I recommend it highly!

In the verbage that follows, I'm only going to tell and show the things that I found most interesting (including any info on European RVing that I can provide). If you want to see all the pictures I took (about 500 or so), click on Shutterfly logo below. If you were on the tour with us, email us at rjhoffman@yahoo.com -- we'd love to hear from you!
Also in Florence, we happened upon another unique woodshop. They had huge wood carvings, including a full-sized motorcycle and an antique car. The cycle is shown here -- go to Shutterfly for the car. Also see the Leaning Tower of Pisa there.

DAY 12 - Genoa to Geneva: Again, many beautiful sights, but this page is getting way too long already.

DAY 13 - Geneva to Paris: In Paris, Notre Dame, the Louvre, a cruise down the Seine River, and views from the Eiffel Tower. Probably the most amazing were the views from the second level of the Eiffel Tower -- one is shown above right. The views looked more like picture postcards than reality.

DAY 14 - Paris to London: Went to Versailles in the morning before returning to London. Many pictures of Versailles are included on the Shutterfly pages.

And that's about all I've got for now -- hope this was enough, but not too overdone. We had a great time, but feel like we've done enough of Europe for quite some time. We may go back someday, but this trip definitely introduced us to the continent.

Click on "Back to Index" or "Next Chapter" to read about slide-outs.
Click Here for Trafalgar Tour Website
Click to see ALL the pictures!
In fact, the best way to view the pictures along with this text is probably to click on the SHUTTERFLY logo above -- the pictures will open in a new window, allowing you to view both the pictures and the text at the same time. Also, the pictures can be enlarged on the Shutterfly site, so that's the place to go for a better view. I've kept them small here to try to speed up the page opening.

As I mentioned above, the tour covered seven countries -- England, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy, and the Vatican. It's described in Trafalgar brochures in terms of the tour day, so the Yahoo PHOTOS are arranged similarly. To simplify finding related photos, I'll use the same scheme here.

DAY 1 - Depart USA: Flew from Orlando to Cleveland to London -- about 8 hours on planes altogether.
DAY 2 - London: Finally got to the hotel, decided to go out and see a little of London. Only had time to wander as far as Harrod's and Buckingham Palace, but got a little taste of London anyway. The thing that impressed me most was the cars on the left side of the road -- even though I've heard it forever, actually seeing cars approaching on the "wrong" side was quite strange. The most British thing to me were the double-decker busses -- we got an all-day pass for them and rode them everywhere we went. To the right: a view of the left-side drivers from the top of the bus and a shot of the bus.

DAY 3 - London to Brussels: Today we met our Tour Director, Peter Ansell. A really great guide and very well-informed on everything we saw, including alot of historical facts.

Leaving England, I turned to see the White Cliffs of Dover -- something really impressive about the view. Probably due to my strong interest in World War II.

In Brussels, we did alot of sight-seeing -- old buildings, great statues, etc. Learned that Brussels is the capitol of the new European Union and headquarters for NATO -- didn't know that. Also hadn't ever heard of the Atomium (see at right), a structure built for the 1958 World's Fair that represents the atomic lattice of iron crystals. Really enjoyed Brussels' sidewalk cafes, where we had a delicious supper. Back at the hotel, we joined some rowdy Scots in the bar, readying themselves for an upcoming Soccer match with Belgium (we later heard that Belgium won -- sorry about that).

DAY 4 - Brussels to Lucerne: For you RV fans -- all RVs that I saw in Belgium were small trailers towed by rather small cars. Probably a necessity, since fuel runs around $4.50 per gallon. As we moved southward, I began to see an occasional Class C motorhome. I'm not sure if this was just coincidence, but trailers in the North and motorhomes in the South seemed to be the rule.

DAY 5 - Lucerne to Venice: In Lucerne, we visited several historic sites and memorials, but to me the most Swiss part of the tour was our views of the Alps. I took many really great Alpine views (see Yahoo page), but these two here are my favorites. The first shows Swiss villages in the shadow of the Alps and the other is a photo taken "above the clouds" on the Stanserhorn at 6300 feet.

DAY 6 - Venice at Leisure: Venice was just as impressive as we thought it would be. Gondola rides, cruises in the bay, all were beautiful and unique. To the right, some views from the top of a cathedral tower (with an elevator). In the first, those white dots are tables arranged meticulously for an outdoor restaurant -- the black dots in the center are the hundreds of pigeons that appeared to rule the square. Farther right, a beautiful view of an island completely covered by Venetian buildings -- precariously constructed barely above the water level.

Here, I've included a shot of RVs waiting for a Venetian ferry -- I guess they were heading to one of the islands in the bay. Farther right, one of the many picturesque canal views.

DAY 7 - Venice to Rome: A pleasant drive through the Po Valley, past Olive orchards and vinyards, green hills and the Appennine Mountains.

DAY 8 - Rome at Leisure: The Colosseum, St. Peter's Basilica, the Forum, the Sistine Chapel, and many other amazing sites. For me, the most impressive was the inside of the Colosseum, still recognizable after 2000 years. To enhance the Colosseum experience, our Tour Director played a video of the movie "Gladiator" on our way into Rome -- really brought the ruins to life.

DAY 9 - Rome to Bay of Naples: Another beautiful drive through the European countryside. What's that on the right? That's a "Smart Car" -- a tiny car built by Mercedes-Benz and very popular in Europe -- probably soon to be seen in USA. Would probably make a fantastic RV tow-behind vehicle!

When we arrived in Naples, we took a trip out to the ruins of Pompeii. Very impressive ruins chock full of history and many interesting buildings. The most amazing to me were the people trapped in the ash from erupting Mount Vesuvius, such as the crouching man at the far right. Below that, a sign reading "CAMPING POMPEI" -- a campground right at the ruins!
36. Italy Plus - A Quick Tour of Europe
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DAY 10 - Bay of Naples to Florence to Montecatini: Started the day with a cruise to the Isle of Capri -- fantastic scenery! On the right, just one of many pictures of the scenic island. Farther right, another Class C RV that I noticed outside of Naples.

Day 10 was September 11, 2001. When we arrived at the hotel in Montecatini, Italy, we were greeted by the view on the right on the CNN channel. We at first thought it must be a science fiction movie, but slowly realized that this terrible scene was reality. That night, there were many discussions about leaving the tour and going home immediately, but the Tour Director convinced all of us to continue. Realistically the best idea, since we probably couldn't have gotten a flight then anyway. As it turned out, getting back to London on Sunday proved to be the earliest we could have flown back to the USA.

DAY 11 - Montecatini to Genoa: We drove from Montecatini back into Florence and spent a few hours there. Again, many things to see as evidenced by the pictures you'll find in the Yahoo! PHOTOS pages. One of the more stunning photos is this one of a cathedral with the sun shining through the aperture in the front. One of the most exciting finds was when we followed some signs into the basement studio of a local wood-carver -- he had numerous elaborate carvings of varying sizes, from picture frames to large pieces of furniture.