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Old 05-14-2010, 09:26 AM   #21
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And, cardude, we know you can afford it!
I guess I can afford it (depends on my mood) but I don't like spending the money unless I think I'm getting a deal. I'm strange like that. Must be from my long experience in the car business watching people getting taken advantage of by unscrupulous comptetitors (not me of course ). So now I can't buy anything unless I think I'm getting a deal. I'm probably not getting a good deal most of the time, but if I think I am it's all good. I'm a sucker for ON SALE items, and probably falling for every marketing gimmick under the sun.

And as a side mea culpa, I really hated the way the car business in general took advantage of the folks who let themselves be taken advantage of. It really was unfair and pretty sad to tear the heads off the less informed, or even worse the ones who trusted us.
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Old 05-14-2010, 09:37 AM   #22
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It's just a tour, not the rest of your life. You can always go back and do more yourself if you find an area you just fall in love with.
As one who is married to somebody with wanderlust (I go, but I won't enjoy it ), I would have to agree.

One of my DW's favorite places is Venice (the old town, on the lagoon). The second time we were there (boarding a ship for a Med cruise), she hopped off the plane (overnight air, with no sleep) and while I went to our cabin for a well deserved rest, she went off to explore the "nooks and crannies" of the back alleys of Venice. I didn't see her again for over six hours.

Most trips are just "appetizers". If you really like a place, nothing to keep you from going back and exploring it on your own, on your terms..
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Old 05-14-2010, 10:38 AM   #23
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We did the Amalfi Coast, Rome and Florence while on a Celebrity cruise. This year we have rented a villa in Tuscany and will really see the area over a month. Like others have said, we got our appetites whetted.
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Old 05-14-2010, 11:20 AM   #24
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I have taken a look at the RS web site but assume the reviews are selective. I'll take a look around the web to see what I can dig up.
OB
Actually the RS reviews are comprehensive of everyone who completes a review. I am not sure how far back they keep the archives but the latest year info covers all that replied. (I know because I monitored if my DW and mine were posted). RS is pretty open about his program and does not want anyone to experience any unexpected surprises. His pretrip planning material are helpful, right down to telling the best way to navigate from the airport to the first hotel.
As you can tell we are fans but the activity level and his focus on experience with the locals are not everyone's "cup of tea". When you are on the go, you are coming a lot of ground. When you have the afternoon off, it is really yours to do what you want. The hotels are 3 star level places and will not always have all the amendities you may expect/require--including AC. But you will always come away from his trips enriched by the places you have seen and the interactions from fellow-travelers whose lives and insight are often as interesting as the travel.
We are generally Independent travelers but have learned that RS value is handling the details so you can focus on the experience and not worry about logistics and any of the other hundred details of traveling in foreign places and systems.
We had one gal on our trip to Turkey who was on her 12th or 13th RS adventure. Her DH does not travel so she has done nearly all of them as a single. One of RS's changes is that most of the trips now include a single option for housing. In our last trip, they rotated roommates so every fourth day, one of the singles got a single room. Other "singles" were happy to pay the 'single premium" and had the room to themselves the entire trip. As others have said, go ahead and give RS a try. You will not have a "bad" experience and you will know if you want to repeat.
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Old 05-14-2010, 11:37 AM   #25
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One thing I have noticed about packaged tours in general is that they cover too much ground. Yes, too much! We are laid-back people who want to take things very leisurely, and linger around in places that we like. What a tour covers in one week, we do it in two. Yeah, what else do retirees (or semi-retirees for that matter) do with their free time?

Another thing I like about trips is that for me planning is 1/2 the fun. I did research with travel books, videos checked out from the library, and on-line Web search. I have found that I learn a lot more about places that we visit that way. And having to plan for your own transportation using public means (buses, trains, ferries) means you know more about the places. And we walk A LOT, pulling our carry-ons behind us. And having to poke around looking for a place to have dinner is an experience in itself.
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Old 05-14-2010, 12:27 PM   #26
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NW-Bound, your adventures are exactly the kind of experiences I'd prefer to avoid! *shudder* I had plenty of those in my youth.
Does that mean DW and I are still in our youth? Hey, thanks!
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Old 05-16-2010, 03:52 PM   #27
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I've been doing a price comparison of these two tours:

Rick Steves 17 Tour of Italy $4695 plus air
Rick Steves' Europe 2010 Tours: Italy in 17 Days

Exploritas Rome, Florence, and Venice tour (14 days) $4295 plus air
Exploritas : Italian Classics: Rome, Florence, Venice - Italy - Country Studies

The RS tour ends up about $335/day while the Exploritas is more like $375/day. That is without a single supplement and the RS tour does not include lunch or half the dinners. The Exploritas includes all but 2 dinners.
Both include all tips for guides, admissions, and transportation.

I have to add on kennel expenses for my dog at $35/day. So another $650.

Total for the RS tour including $1000 for air: $5700 + 650 + 180 for meals = $6530 basic cost
For Exploritas, including air $5300 +650 + 100 = $6050

Still haven't decided but am leaning to the RS tour because it goes to all the places I want to see, including the Lakes and Cinque Terre. I think I'll put together a rough budget of an independent intinerary for comparison.
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Old 05-16-2010, 04:19 PM   #28
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If you are going alone... a tour might be nice since there are others you will get to know and share the experience.

If you have a traveling companion... consider getting Rick's book and do it independently. You can always take tours in individual cities... or do the hop on hop off bus thing.
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Old 05-17-2010, 07:24 PM   #29
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Have you looked at this tour group ?
Women's Travel Club, woman traveling and adventures
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Old 05-19-2010, 04:03 PM   #30
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Moemg, I took a look and didn't really like the structure of the tours. They are too short as well, and, hate to say it, but I don't enjoy the company of large groups of women. I'm sorry ladies! I love my friends individually but in groups . . .

I've been looking at HF Holidays. Its a British company that does walking tours. The prices are GREAT. But the walks are long.
Guided Walking at San Quirico d’Orcia - HF Holidays

The more I look into tour groups, the less I am inclined to sign up, at least for Italy. I think I can manage on my own, even at my *advanced* age.
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Old 05-19-2010, 04:30 PM   #31
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How about finding a friend or a relative to go with you? I myself do not find traveling alone attractive.
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Old 05-19-2010, 05:13 PM   #32
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How about finding a friend or a relative to go with you? I myself do not find traveling alone attractive.
Yeah, I agree in general. But it's easier said than done to find a compatible travel partner. I haven't totally dismissed the idea of going on a tour yet.
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Old 05-20-2010, 03:51 AM   #33
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OldBabe - I just spent 3 days in Rome - I was alone - I used three books:

Rick Steve's, the Day Trips in Italy series and the Rome book (it's the series that is a narrow book with lots of color photos - they do a book for all of the larger cities in the workd and in many languages). I did a combination of the different walks in each of the books. I found the Day Trip's books to be excellent - the author has you pick an anchor city and then has a series of walking tours around that city and the area beyond. He tells you which trains, buses, etc to take, gives you hotel and restaurant suggestions - and focuses on what you will see and experience and not necessarily buy. The Rome walks were long ones, but definitely covered the area. I used the Rick Steve's for interesting tidbits - his stroll starting in Lago de Argentina (?) where Julius Caesar was killed and then through the Ghetto, the Ottavia ruins, the Michelangelo stairs up to a view over the Forum was the best, in my mind - and it was a bit shorter than the Day Trips.

In any case, I think you can do fine without a tour group - OR - start out with them for a few days and then break off by yourself. Tour groups are OK but it gets to be a blur - I tend not to use them now as I'm comfortable pretty much wherever I go - but I'm also willing to do the research ahead of time.

Rick Steve's is also good for low to mid-priced hotels that are not chains, have the flavor of the country or culture and are well placed. Actually, his idea of staying in Orvieto and training into Rome is how we did it the first time - Orvieto is an amazing hill town (great Italian ceramics at great prices) and quiet (and cheaper than Rome).

PM if you want some more info - and I'm sure you'll enjoy Italy - they'll just appreciate you can speak the language somewhat.
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Old 05-23-2010, 10:31 PM   #34
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Deserat, thanks for the reply and the great ideas. The more I read about Italy themore I want to see and experience. I only had a brief taste in my youth as I was traveling in several countries on that trip. I'm going to have to reduce expenses to do all the traveling I want to do. I've been looking into Monastery stays. Apparently, these are spartan accommodations with private baths for around 40 to 60 Euros a nite for a single! Some of them are in historic buildings.

Monastery Stays - Italy Accommodation - Convent Lodging
Has anyone stayed in this type of accommodation?
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Old 05-23-2010, 11:50 PM   #35
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Never stayed in the monastery/convents, however would have to say they look fabulous. For me, when I have travelled alone, I find it important not to stay at a big impersonal hotel. Staying at a B&B or something like the convents, is more likely to attract single travellers so think it would likely be beneficial to you.

BTW don't be afraid to ask any of your friends if they are interested in travelling as you never know if they are thinking the same thoughts as you. I am married, but last year I made a 10 day trip to Vietnam with a friend. I asked her to go, she probably never would have asked me, assuming that I only want to travel with DH. We got on fabulously and it was our first trip together. The key was we laid down the ground rules to start with, each of us did a portion of the organising, we were both open about what we did and didn't want to see and we agreed to tell each other if we were getting on the others nerves.
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Old 05-24-2010, 08:05 AM   #36
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Yes, I haver stayed in a monastery in Rome ( LAR 138 of your link, Procura Generale Suore Missionarie Pallotine) and in Syracusa.
I would go back any time.
The place in Rome is located very conveniently, close to the Vatican. We covered most of the city by foot.
The one in Syracusa was in the middle of the old town. SIS 101 belongs to the convent, but is a hotel. There was also the option to stay at the convent, much cheaper and also very nice.
The nuns were extremely friendy, the places very clean. If you need hotel atmosphere, it is not the right place, but if you want fair value it is perfect.
No religious details were required. I am protestant - nobody asked.
No curfew - when we told the receptionist that we would come back late we got a key.
Breakfast was basic - but there is a coffeshop on every corner.
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Old 05-24-2010, 10:48 AM   #37
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Thanks, Chris! It's fabulous to get a specific recommendation. I was looking at the ones in Rome but couldn't tell if any were centrally located. This sounds exactly right for city stays. I would rather have basic accommodations rather than hotel amenities if the price savings is substantial, which it is.

Now I need to find an agritourismo for Tuscany. Any recommendations?


Danger, unfortunately most of my friends are still working full time or don't have the money for international travel. Their vacation times are hard won and spent with husband/boyfriend or don't fit with my working schedule. But I do have a couple of friends who might be interested. So thanks for the suggestion!
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Old 05-24-2010, 12:05 PM   #38
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I was in Tuscany by car. Our agritourismo was a bit far off if you rely on public transport.

But for Rome, if you stay in the area close to the Vatican, remember to take the direct train from the airport to the Vatican station, not via the central station in the city. It is quite frequent and very convenient. We walked to the monastry from the station, no problem even with our luggage (on wheels). This also helps to avoid the central station where some specialist thieves are said to concentrate on "incoming" tourists and cab fees can be quite steep.
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Old 05-24-2010, 04:26 PM   #39
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Great suggestion on the train, Chris! This is exactly the kind of advice I was hoping for. I remember very well in 1976 arriving at the Rome central train station. What an intimating place it seemed at the time. Of course, I was 26. I've grown up a bit since then.

Thanks so much!
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Old 05-25-2010, 12:21 PM   #40
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We were meeting our walking tour guide at the central station in Rome. As soon as we got off the train, we asked where the McDonalds was (perpetuating the myth about American tourists). When we finally found him, we realized that there were four McDonalds in the area.
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