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« Skill and the Arts | Main | Some New Pleasures »

August 25, 2007

Optional Touring

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

The packet of materials arrived yesterday from the tour company. Now we have our marching orders.

(Nancy is a big tour-group fan. I am not -- at least where western Europe is involved. But this year we're doing it her way, meaning that we do the tour. And once it ends in Milan we'll be heading south to Cinque Terre and Lucca, doing this by train rather than by my preferred method, the automobile.)

One item of major interest in the packet is the itinerary booklet. For each day, it tells where the group as a whole will be going and which meals will be furnished. For example, I now know that I have an entire day to knock around Florence on my own or with Nancy. That's because I've been there twice already and have seen most of the sites the tour group will be visiting.

Another part of the itinerary gets scary: it's the section dealing with Optional Excursions. What's scary is how much extra money these activities can chew up.

For example, our Italian tour averages one Optional Excursion per each of the 11 days available for sightseeing. If one were to sign up for all of them (and some people do just that), the total cost per person would be 482 Euros or $656 at an exchange rate of 135 cents per Euro.

Cheap me, I'd take not a single Optional Excursion. But Nancy likes to do stuff and will probably sign on for several of them and shame me into taking a few with her. At this point, we might take the "Fountains by Night and Dinner" excursion in Rome for 59 Euros ($80) apiece. I can halfway justify the price because we'd otherwise have to eat out anyway.

The other excursion on my horizon is the "Gondola & Serenade" in Venice, costing 32 Euros ($43) a head. I meekly mentioned to Nancy that we already did the gondola / serenade thing at the Venetian casino in Vegas. But she has this strange concept that doing it in Venice will be more authentic or more romantic or more something. More expensive, that's for sure.

There. I've vented and am feeling better already. What's your take on Optional Excursions for tours that cost a lot in the first place?



posted by Donald at August 25, 2007


Tours? You go on tours? Are you old enough for that already?

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on August 25, 2007 7:15 PM

I went on exactly one tour--of Italy, four cities in two weeks--in my 20s.

The idea was to use the tour for travel and transfers and hotel bookings, and ditch the bus as soon as we got wherever.

I still hated it, and would never take one again.

Of course, I despise almost all travel now, anyway. The most I'm generally up for is a road trip, and that's either solo or with one trusted traveling companion.

When did I turn into such a crank?

Posted by: communicatrix on August 25, 2007 8:00 PM

What's the name of your tour co? The prices are unbelievably low!
A dinner and a tour of the fountains in Rome - vs "much ado about nothing" meal in, say, Williamsburg (Brooklyn) -and no fountains?
Of course Nancy is right!

Posted by: Tat on August 26, 2007 7:02 AM

Taking these tours guarantees that you will do this all in the company of many Americans. That insulatates you from the experience, no?

Posted by: john on August 26, 2007 1:08 PM

If at a loose end in Florence, just get a local bus up to Fiesole. Etruscan hill town; beautiful views down into the valley.

Posted by: dearieme on August 26, 2007 6:17 PM

This tour operator sounds like an electronics store which, after selling you an expensive product, proceeds to give you a hard sell on a costly extended warranty. Enough is enough.

Posted by: Peter on August 26, 2007 8:59 PM

Are you going to hit Perugia? I was there during the World Cup and the Umbria Jazz Festival last year. Great City!

Posted by: Scott on August 26, 2007 9:09 PM

The fountains of Rome? Those are on the street,
in public view. All you need is a map and some
basic info on buses and you can do on your own.

And if you walk, you'll get to see other things which are in public view.

As for food, look to the Guide Michelin for one
star dining places. Authentic Italian cuisine.
Or buy some bread and prosciutto and make sandwiches. Italian cold cuts are heavenly.

Posted by: Adriana on August 26, 2007 10:51 PM

Tours. Another thing I can't afford to do. But in this case its something I don't want to do so -- I don't care!

Posted by: Lester Hunt on August 26, 2007 11:50 PM

"Italian cold cuts are heavenly." Yes; it's the donkey meat that makes the difference.

Posted by: dearieme on August 27, 2007 11:48 AM

"Yes; it's the donkey meat that makes the difference." Don't knock it unless you've tried it -- with olive oil, black pepper, and lemon juice.

Posted by: Lester Hunt on August 27, 2007 1:46 PM

"Italian cold cuts are heavenly." Yes; it's the donkey meat that makes the difference.

And Italian cheese can be really out of this world!

Posted by: Peter on August 27, 2007 3:47 PM

Ah, maggot cheese...

Seriously, cuisine is an artifact of poverty. When
you cannot afford to throw away any bit of food you get quite inventive.

so what if the fruit juice fermented while it was
being kept in the cellar? You are not going to
throw it away... Actually it has a nice taste once
you get accustomed to it.

So what if the cheese developed fungus. It is still good protein..

Why throw away the turnip greens after you have
eaten the turnips? They can be eaten too if you cook them right.

The old cock died of old age. Are you going to
throw it away? Boil it in wine until it gets soft.

There are only bits of meat sticing to the bones.
shave them, mix them with some kind of cereal and
spices and you got sausage...

So, maggott cheese is in the same proud tradition.

Posted by: Adriana on August 27, 2007 5:45 PM

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