Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tips for touring in Europe from two Seniors who "ain't so sprite!" - Part II: Highlights

Finding a great driver

Walking and walking and walking

The Art in Venice
     particularly liking the smaller museums

The Architecture in Vienna

Two outstanding tours in Vienna
      The Spanish Riding School Stables
       The Vienna Opera House

Hills and Steps in Praiano  - how the seniors do it - slowly


Tips for touring in Europe from two Seniors who "ain't so sprite!" - Part I: Planning!

We are on the final two days of a three week trip to Sorrento, Praiano on the Amalfi Coast, Venice and Vienna.  It's cold and snowy today and so we are not venturing out yet, deciding instead to write some thoughts related to this trip.

We've never liked tours so we tend to figure and plan things on our own. For this trip, planning was more challenging.  Not exactly sure why but the usual fun and researching seemed to be more complex and less clear. We found Trip Advisor extremely helpful and in fact the suggestions we took, especially in hotel and hotel reviews were excellent.  The reviews alerted us to some things to ask for.  An example was a review posted for Hotel Antiche Figure in Venice that indicated that they had arranged a porter to meet them at the train station to help carry their bags to the hotel for 5 Euro's per bag.  We emailed the hotel arranging for this and were so glad we did.  While it was just a short distance from the train station to the hotel it was over a high bridge of the Grand Canal with lots of steps. Definitely would have been stressful for us even though we had packed very light!

We also learned that it is best to contact the hotel directly to make the bookings rather than go through Expedia which we had used in the past.  When we decided to change our reservation in Venice to 4 nights instead of 5 we called Expedia several weeks in advance.  They indicated that we should just tell the hotel upon arrival and that they had let the hotel know.  We learned upon checkin that the hotel knew nothing about the change and that the reservation should have been modified.  If Expedia would send them a confirmation of the change immediately they could still modify the reservation without any charge to us.  Well ..... that took quite a few phone calls, much explaining, and cost about 20 Euro's in phoning to accomplish!  We won't be using Expedia again.  The hotel couldn't have been more cooperative.

A big shout out and thank you to all the people who take time to write reviews in  The little details made a big difference.  For example sharing about the quality of breakfasts proved important.  We prefer to take breakfast at the hotel we are staying at and the raves of good breakfasts were very accurate for both Hotel Antiche Figure in Venice and Hotel Antiche Mura in Sorrento.

We rarely go for a US chain hotel when traveling abroad. However, Murray is a long time Hilton Honor member and he suggested we look at the Vienna Hilton which is centrally located and has a very high rating. We did and decided to give it a try, and are glad we did.  We were upgraded to a wonderful room on the Executive Floor and treated beautifully. We also elected the breakfast option and again were very glad we did. By selecting and prepaying in advance the breakfast proved to be an excellent value. The cost would have been 29 Euros per person if choosing it upon arrival.  While it is a great buffet with lots of different choices.... 29 Euro's ($40) per person for breakfast is just not in our budget.

Please note that we make no reference to a hotel in Praiano. The Margherita was planned by a writer's conference that Murray was a part of for its location. It was mediocre. The shower was abysmal, "hot" water trickled out at a temperature of about 90 degrees and there was no way to avoid climbing two flights to get to our room. The personnel were great. Praiano is expensive and the setting is beautiful, but there is a lot more to choose from along the Almalfi coast.

We are glad that we did take our time to carefully plan our hotels.  Factors such as location, quality of rooms, friendly staff and outstanding breakfasts have contributed to our enjoyment of the trip.