I’ve not always been the confident and savvy tour leader I am today. There was a time when I relied on the “expertise and advice” of drivers and guides to lead me and my student groups around the sights of Europe. The trouble was that the bus drivers were always on the take, either for the young girls or for our tour dollars; and the guides were at least fifteen years younger than me with about half as many people skills. The only positive thing they had going was our ignorance and their knowledge of the tourist sights.
To make matters worse, these tours were promoted as providing breakfast and dinner everyday, but I always came home hungry! After those early trips to Europe our first stop, after arriving at our hometown airport, was for a thick and juicy steak! You see, we had been practically brainwashed into believing that everyone in Europe had a hard roll and jam for breakfast and a chicken or pork cutlet followed by a piece of fruit for dinner. No wonder my students craved a Big Mac!
What ever happened to that food Julia Child so eloquently described in her cookbooks? Finally, I took control. Never again was I going to be blindly led through the streets of Europe by a guide who was experiencing a sight for the first time just like me! Never again was a bus driver going to steal from me and my group and blame it on the locals, and never again was I going to come home from Europe craving American food!
It was the basement dining experience in Rome that did it. Earlier in the day our “walking tour” had taken us past outdoor cafes and garlicky smelling trattorie which just pleaded with my senses to come in for a taste. Finally, it was time for dinner and I was ready! But to my dismay, we were loaded onto our bus and transported to the outskirts of town. Here we got off the bus and went underground into a huge 400-seat cafeteria. I think all the student tour groups who visited Rome that day were scheduled to have dinner here. My group was hustled in and seated. We were fed pasta, an unknown cutlet, and a piece of fruit. Then we were hustled out so the next group could take our seats.
It took me a few years to get my act together, but never again will I come home hungry from a European tour. Our Exploring Europe tours are loaded with good food and gourmet meals. Don’t get the wrong impression, this does not necessarily mean “fine dining.” Our meals consist of the best of the local cuisine coupled with a unique and special dining experience. We eat fish by the seashore, pesto in Liguria, snails in Burgundy, sausage in Munich, and omelets in Normandy. Potatoes are a staple in Ireland, and you’ve got to have fish and chips in England. Pasta reigns supreme in Italy and crisp French fries, dipped in mayonnaise, are a delight in Belgium. In Holland you can try a salted herring, only if you like, and the spicy Indian cuisine of London is sure to put a sting to your taste buds. If you don’t like what you see (or smell), there is always another choice somewhere else. You’ll never go hungry on one of our tours! Happy Eating!