Think you’re not a coach traveller? These amazing Europe trips may just change your mind.
1. English Country Gardens
Why we love it: Mannered country elegance incarnate in Europe. This 10-day coach tour of southeast England starts in London, using the city as a base for day jaunts to Tudor-era Hampton Court Palace and its Privy Gardens; Wisley Gardens, flagship of the Royal Horticultural Society; and Kew Gardens, a royal botanical site with sprawling Victorian glasshouses and indoor galleries. Then it’s off down the coast, for a series of overnights that plant you close to the nation’s horticultural marvels.
Highlight: Wandering among the 4,000-bloom rose gardens of 13th-century Hever Castle, once home to Anne Boleyn. There’s also a stop at Sissinghurst. Created in the 1930s by poet and gardening writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband, writer Harold Nicolson, this famed garden is divided into floral “rooms” with different colours and themes.
Why it’s better on a bus: You visit some of the country’s most popular and acclaimed gardens, but you never have to wait in line. The tour packs in plenty of general sightseeing, too, from the Sussex coast and the seaside city of Brighton to the Bluebell Railway, the Cliffs of Dover, the cathedral city of Canterbury and the spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. There’s also the simple pleasure of watching the countryside unfold as you motor among wildflower-flecked woodlands, grazing cattle, Victorian country homes, brick-clad villages and wee corner pubs. Bonnie England! Sip an English cream tea at Mount Ephraim Stately Home & Gardens on Trafalgar’s English Country Gardens tour. Departures May to September 2015. From $3,195. Book this coach vacation right now
2. Flavours of Italy
Why we love it: Ravioli, prosciutto, mortadella, salami, Chianti, olive oil – need we go on? This 11-day tour gives you all of that flavour and more, right from the source. Plus, you get a pretty good taste of the country as a whole, with stops in Rome, Greve, San Gimignano, Florence, Pisa, Parma, Bologna and Venice.
Highlight: Trafalgar offers a number of what they call “insider experiences,” like a visit to a local market in Florence with a boisterous chef named Libero, to pick ingredients for a pasta supper you cook together. Elsewhere, you’ll savour supper and wine in a family vineyard overlooking grapevines and olive groves, as the sun sinks into the golden Chianti hills.
Why it’s better on a bus: Yes, you could do a similar trip on your own – but would you know where to find the best delicatessen in Bologna to taste crescente (stuffed bread) and prosciutto? And find a professional chef in Tuscany to give you an off-the-cuff talk on the basics of Italian cooking? And learn about Marco Polo’s house on a secret walking tour of Venice? It’s all taken care of. Have dinner with a local family in the Chianti hills on the 11-day Flavours of Italy trip. Departures May to October 2015. From $3,125. Book this coach vacation right now.
3 WWI and WWII Battlefields
Why we love it: History come to life. This 13-day tour covers all the big war sites in England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. You begin in London, with a peek at all of the main tourist attractions, then get straight down to business with a visit to the Imperial War Museum. From there, you head down the coast to Portsmouth, and on to French war sites such as Normandy, Caen, Amiens, the Somme and Vimy – plus Belgium’s Ypres Salient and Groesbeek, Netherlands.
Highlight: Alighting at the Canadian National Vimy Ridge Memorial dedicated to Canadian soldiers who died in the First World War – a site that all Canadians should try to visit at least once in their lives. Likewise Essex Farm Cemetery, outside Ypres, Belgium, where Lt. Col. John McCrea wrote In Flanders Fields, and the Normandy beaches where Allied troops landed on June 6, 1944.
Why it’s better on a bus: You cover four countries in less than two weeks – yet no fussing with planes, trains or automobiles. Plus, you have a travel director with major history, geography and culture chops offering rich knowledge every step of the way. Pair that with ample free time for exploring, and you’ll come away with a truly nuanced understanding of places you’ve only read about in history books. Trafalgar’s Battlefields tour includes La Coupole Museum, a Second World War bunker complex. Departures May to August 2015. From $3,825. Book this coach vacation right now.