What to Know Before You Go…Chapter 2

Chapter 2  The Internet, Web Resources, and the Travel Agency

As you start your trip planning and you are trying to determine where you want to go, use the Internet. There are a number of travel sites, but the best way, in my opinion, is to use Google and put in such things as “vacationing in Australia, or Europe, or France, or the Caribbean, etc”. Many site will come up and you can take your time and look at all of the many places that you can see and things that you can do. On our recent trip to Australia, we knew we were going to Cairns as our first step on our journey, so my wife Googled Cairns. From Cairns, which is north on Sydney, we were able to go out to the Great Barrier Reef, rode the train up to and through the Rain Forest, then rode the Skytrain back down over the Rain Forest to sea level, and back to the city of Cairns, which in itself is well worth seeing. We found all of this on the internet….then went to our agent, who had also suggested these attractions, and made the ticket arrangements.

And, you can use a site like Expedia to get an idea of flights into almost any destination in the world. They will give you prices and times, although the prices are often on bad connecting flights , or bad times, but it gives you a very good idea of when and where you can go. Trip Advisor is another good one, as this give first hand experiences from travelers.

These sites, and many others, are great for travel information, but not always good for ticketing. As I have said, and will say many more times, the local travel agent can get the same, if not better, price….they can give you the experiences of other travelers, and they can do the “hard work” for  you, such as the reservations and ticketing. That is their job. But, you can do the pre-planning by using the Internet to get your general idea of where, when, why, and what you want to do.

A word about the Travel Agency. Only the good ones have survived the Internet. And they have survived because they can offer a service that the Internet cannot. As with almost any professional services these days, you can get almost any service on the web. But, you get what you pay for. I have planned and taken trips using nothing but the internet, with sites like www.hotels.com, and  www.expedia.com, and they were good trips. But, for the most part, I was “flying by the seat of my pants”. And, when all said and done, did not save a penny. Now we use an Agency exclusively. And, a couple of other factors as to why to use an agency….(1) some are specialists, like with Cruise Lines…(2) many of the agencies are really experienced. :Been there done that”  is true for many and this experience is passed on to you…..(3) Your individual travel agent in an agency will become “your good friend”, and they will have your interest foremost in their mind as they plan for you. This is that valuable factor…and can make the difference in your travels.

Next section is entitled….”Make a List”….and this is one of my favorites, for many do not do this until they get someplace and say, “I should have made a list of these things to bring”. Stay tuned.

Viking Cruises….Ocean and River

Effective January 1st…I am the Redding agent for Viking Cruises, and am very pleased with this opportunity. We just completed our 3rd Viking Cruise…and I am now “a believer” in Viking. They are great. No wonder they are consistently rated #1 among the Cruise lines.

Viking Cruises, both in their Ocean and River Cruises, offers cruises where you truly explore your destination-through its food, culture, countryside, and customs. You learn about the lands through which you travel via informative talks that bring history to life through cultural adventures, in-depth pre-trip materials, and on-demand programing-all designed to help you experience the most from your travels.

So, just send me an e-mail at    ron@ronlargenttravel.com   and I will get you brochures, information, details on the Cruises, both Ocean and River…and we will go from there. Viking is a winner.

Getting Around in London

Having lived here many years ago…then having visited several times over the past few years….and knowing the way the world is growing…..an issue in London that could come up is …”getting around”. And, when you are in a “season”, such as now being the Christmas season…crowds and traffic increases significantly, as London is becoming one of the most popular tourist and travel destinations in the world…folks are coming here from all over the world.

First, all traffic drives on the left side of the street, versus the right side, which is most common in most of the modern world. Secondly, the streets are quite narrow at times….so not a lot of room to change lanes, etc…..even the main streets are not that wide, so you have to be very alert to traffic on all sides. Thirdly, the volume of cars, taxis, and buses can be overwhelming at times…and all coming and going in various directions can be very intimidating. It compares with NYC, Rome, and Bangkok in volume, but very well organized, and the lines and signals are followed by all….might be called organized chaos.

Add the public transport to this mix, and it is amazing that all goes together so well. The underground, or metro, or tube…is world famous and absolutely massive in size….again, nothing really like it in the world. Well posted, once you get the idea and “swing of it”…very easy to navigate, but be prepared for crowds. The system works so well, so thousands use it daily….and it goes about 20 hours a day. The double decker buses are great, and go all over the place at all times. The bus stops may have 5 or 6 buses stopping at these stops, but the bus numbers are well posted…and the numbers are what you watch for. For example, but #10 runs up and down Knightsbridge…which takes you right to the Royal Albert Hall…#6 goes to Trafalgar, etc. The taxi system is very popular and very busy….and historically are the basic means to get around. Not cheap, and at times, not much faster to get from one point to another due to traffic, but very comfortable and safe, and they are well regulated, so no need to worry about being “ripped off”. The drivers are usually very friendly and will help as much as needed….they appreciate the tourists. The interesting thing is that many, many locals, including business folks and local shoppers, use the taxi system….so they know it works well.

So, in summary…getting around is pretty easy to figure out…and pretty easy to go from one place to the other. The key is to get the many maps, from the general maps to the bus maps to the metro – tube maps…and most of this is on various apps now. But, and this is a big “but”…be prepared for crowds, which can really slow down the entire system. When the hotel concierge says 30 minutes, give yourself 45 minutes, or even an hour, and so it goes. And, be prepared for crowds at the seasons….and if you want to see the “changing of the guard” in the summer, for example, be prepared for massive crowds lining up at the fences an hour, or more, early. And,, when one is in these tourist areas, look for the higher places to view the event…looking over the crowds, even though maybe a bit further away.

Just some thoughts on “getting around”. Can be done without much difficulty…but prepare, and be prepared.

Enjoy the travel in London….it will be a unique experience…..

Nuremberg….

Nuremberg is much larger than what I expected, and a center of commerce and industry for this area of Bavaria. It is right on the Danube Canal, which is a major transportation resource…..and then the city itself historically has been a major rail city.

We took the included tour of the City….as well as the walking…but suffice it to say that the city has put the Nazi movement in perspective, clearly indicating the size and power of Hitler and the party. The huge Nazi HQ building is still in place, as is the Congress Hall area, which is only 2/3rds completed…then we saw the area where Hitler would hold the rallies, which were attended by upwards of 300,000 party faithful.

The Old Town, for the most part, survived the bombings in WW II…and the Castle is a Medieval marvel. We had a great tour of the area, with a very knowledgeable tour guide that did college work in Oregon. It was an afternoon tour, so our final couple of hours was at the Christmas Market, which is the largest in Germany, and may be in Europe. There are a total of 4 large Christmas markets, but we were at the largest at the Old Town town hall,,,right in the square in front of the Catholic Cathedral, which was not very impressive, and near to the Lutheran Church, which was very impressive. The market itself was jammed with probably 10,000 folks doing their shopping, and this was a big day, as the last Saturday before Christmas.

The day ended with the Captains Dinner…..a full and fun day…Nuremberg is a must to see to fully understand the nature of the Nazi Party, and Hitler, and how Germany was learned and rebuilt from the War.

More to come…

 

Vienna on up the Danube….Wednesday

We left Vienna during the night heading north and west up the Danube towards Krems….and Gottweig Abbey. Again, this is a spectacular setting with the Abbey right on top of the mountain. The Abbey is fully operational and has both Art and book collections that are world famous. The 2 hours at the Abbey was set up specifically for Viking, and we were told that Viking has donated considerable funds to keep the Abbey open, eventhough it is the home for 43 monks that work in the area.

Back on the ship and traveling up through the Wachau Valley…world famous for wines and picturesque towns and castles…and today was an absolutely gorgeous day with bright sun,….not much wind, but low 40’s…but a gorgeous day. Afternoon on the ship with regular updates and special events, etc….and now off to the Viking Explorer Reception…should be fun..

Vienna, Austria….Day 6…Tuesday

Vienna, Austria……ship was delayed in the locks leading into Vienna on Monday night…and we first heard about it early Tuesday morning with the daily announcements. Apparently late Monday night the winds picked up on the Danube and by the time we got to the locks….too high to go through….so we were put on hold in the River for about 2 hours….there were then additional delays and finally cleared the locks at 5 AM…which made us about an hour late to get into Vienna. In that it was a full day, plans were changed and we proceeded to dock at another town about an hour drive away from Vienna. We then boarded Viking buses…and off we went into Vienna, through beautiful farm lands and small towns…arriving about 10 into Vienna.We then had the included panorama tour of Vienna, as well as the walking tour of the Old City….a magnificent old city with gorgeous buildings….just a beautiful place to see and walk through, etc.

Being late, Viking decided to give us a 25 Euro credit per person for lunch….and we ate behind St Stephens church at a great restaurant….finishing up by 2 when we met up again, and then went on the optional tour to the Schonbrunn Palace.

The Palace is a showplace for Emperoress Maria Theresa and the Hapsburg Dynasty….and I cannot say enough in this blog about her and her reign…and I bought a book at says it all, including her 16 children. A powerful woman like Queen Victoria in England……Maria Theresa being the daughter of Charles VI. The Hapsburg Dynasty in Central Europe in itself is a Masters Thesis…what a fascinating story of reign for 650 years. This is a MUST visit….

Back to the ship for dinner…then on to our Optional Concert of Mozart and Strauss by the Vienna Residence Orchestra. This is a small chamber orchestra obviously hand picked as they put on quite a show of music and humor to this private concert. Just a thrilling and fun performance with soloists, ballet dancers, and a great orchestra….a fun evening and well worth it…even for non-music lovers.

Back to the bus by 11…a great day in Vienna…one of the World’s Great Cities…and the 2nd one we have been part of on this trip…the other Budapest.

More to come……