Thursday September 17
It took six hours for our bus to get from Chinon to Sarlat. During this time, Nick and I considered the differences between our current tour with Rick Steves’ Europe, and the one we took last year with a different company (GC).
- The RSE tour had 23 participants and two guides, while the GC tour had 37 participants and one guide.
- The hotels we stayed in during the RSE tour were in the heart of each city. There was no problem with us walking at night. In the GC tour, our hotel was two hours away from Florence, so we had two hours in the bus, two hours in Florence, and two hours to get back. We could have walked around at night, but there was nothing to do or see in Chianciano a spa town that lost its population when the government stopped supporting spa treatments. As part of the GC tour, the hotel in Sorrento was centrally located.
- In the RSE tour, half of the dinners were included, and they were in restaurants. In the GC tour, the dinners were frequently in the hotels. The food there was not particularly noteworthy. With our current tour, each dinner was exquisite. The fact that only half the dinners were included worked out well. We were able to find eateries of our liking, and to order as much or as little food as we wanted.
- On RSE tours, participants are required to carry their own luggage to and from the bus and the hotels, and within each hotel; not so during the GC tour. But it wasn’t problematic. We were instructed about what to bring in advance, so we brought less.
- RSE tour participants are asked not to tip guides and drivers. On the GC tour we were expected to tip the tour leader, the drivers, and the local guides.
- The GC tour offered optional activities that amounted to several hundred additional dollars for each participant; not so with the RSE tour.
- Both tours required significant walking. RSE are divided into light walking (2-4 miles per day), moderate walking (4-6 miles) or heavy walking (6-8 miles). We were both extremely grateful that we had selected an RSE tour while we could do all the required walking. We hope we’ll be able to do more in the future.
- Pick up one of Rick Steves’ books and you’ll find cleverly written, fascinating information on every page. We consulted our Rick Steves books on both tours.
Time for lunch! Toni, our tour guide, provided us with a picnic! Salami, ham, celeriac slaw, couscous, many kinds of cheese including bleu and Boursin, French bread, mayo, mustard, lettuce, pears, plums, apples, cookies, chocolate, and of course, wine.
Back on the bus, our next stop was a visit to a WW II town of martyrs called Oradour-sur-Glane. On June 10, 1944, Nazis entered the town, rounded up its 600+ residents including 200 children, murdered them, and then burned the village. The reason they chose to do this is still unknown. Walking through the town, we could see the remains of various shops, homes and vehicles. Graves in the cemetery display photos of some of the martyred children. Anyone not be affected by the sight of this town would have to have a heart of stone. The next part of the bus ride was rather quiet as we reflected about what we had seen.
Sarlat is the pate capital of the world. That evening we enjoyed a dinner of duck pate, duck, and walnut cake with glace vanille. Our dinner companions were Ruth and her daughter Jane, who told us about their trip to the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, my home borough. At that time, Ruth decided she wanted her children to go to the World’s Fair. She took them by freighter from San Francisco via the Panama Canal.