Starting our European Cavalcade – leaving England

Starting our European Cavalcade - leaving England
This entry is part 1 of 20 in the series European Cavalcade

Today’s post is about how I planned the tour part of my family’s European trip and then the first half of the first day.

Planning the tour

In mid 2014 we (being my wife and I) agreed to the holiday half way around the planet (we live in Sydney, Australia). Thing was, we then had to turn a vague idea into something more solid, something more structured.

So we had to establish our expectations. One key element was our 11 year old daughter Rhiannon. Next year she was going into what we call High School and what some countries call Secondary School. We wanted her to get an idea of places that would be mentioned in her studies as she goes forward. We needed it to cover a lot of ground and be affordable. Naturally we understood that the downside of this would be cheap hotels and a fairly superficial look at many places.

A second key desire was to fulfil a few of my wife’s travel needs. She had always wanted to cruise on the Rhine. She also loved Switzerland, a place we had visited before Rhiannon was born.

After a humongous amount of online research I came down to two options. One was a particular Mediterranean cruise with MSC. My issue was that we would be compelled to spend just one day in port at each destination and we would always be on board a ship. That did not meet my need to really immerse Rhiannon in at least a few destinations. Also, I would not be able to satisfy Nicole’s wants.

The second option was a particular coach trip with Trafalgar Tours, where we would actually stay in destinations, sometimes for a few days. Trafalgar Tours is a well known travel company owned by a group called The Travel Corporation. The latter are a massive international company that owns an amazing number of well known brands. The tour that interested me was called the European Cavalcade. Here is a map of the destinations. The red circles show the number of nights that we stay at a place.


For me this tour ticked a number of boxes. It had a Rhine Cruise (albeit it only for a couple of hours) and a two night stay in Lucerne, hence meeting my wife’s wants. For Rhiannon I really felt that Italy and France were key. In Italy we would see the birthplace of both the Roman Empire and the Renaissance – two major shapers in Western civilisation. Rome, Pompeii and Florence were musts. Then it moved into France. Paris is just associated with so much history that I learnt at school such as the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars and then into the two world wars. And art! Just as with Italy, so much art!

So we picked this tour.

By booking a year in advance we received about 10% off the price. That’s pretty good.

Beginning the tour

We were instructed to arrive at Trafalgar’s London Reception Centre at 5:30 a.m.  I looked around online for words of wisdom from previous fellow travellers and discovered a few stories of people being 30 minutes late and missing the coach. I wondered how true that was, but decided not to risk it. We would be there at 5:30 a.m. or before!


The Centre is south of the Thames and our hotel was north of Hyde Park…

Ah!  I want to side track here. In the late 1990s we stayed in London at a beautiful hotel called the Thistle which is just north of Hyde Park. So we asked the people at Flightcentre (our travel agents for all but the tour) to book it for us for this trip. Little did we realise that there is a nice Thistle (the one we had previously stayed in) and a budget one about 50 metres up the road. Guess which one the travel agent booked us into. Needed a shoe-horn to get the three of us into the room! You would have through that the travel gents would have seen that there were two and actually asked us which one we wanted.

Anyway, back to the story…

So given our hotel’s location I decided that we would leave it at 4:30 a.m. I figured that this gave us plenty of time should things go wrong and…

… they didn’t. The taxi got us there by 4:40. So we had a glorious 50 minutes sitting and waiting. But at least we were not late and did not miss the coach.

In the end about 38 of us turned up and crawled onto the coach like zombies with hand-luggage. We left pretty much on time and wound our way through deserted London streets and down to Dover where we got a glimpse of the famous white cliffs.


There we boarded a large ferry called the Pride of Kent and settled into an hour or so of sea travel. To be honest it was pretty calm with lots of healthy snacks. Ummm.


At this point my brain began to churn. During the weeks leading up to this the news had been full of refugee stories, portraying them as violent and potentially hijacking vehicles. Calais was at the top of the list of danger zones for this. Friends in Australia were even sending me links to news stories proclaiming the danger. I felt like a Roman 1500 years ago experiencing the barbarian invasions. I questioned myself in bringing my family into such a terrible and dangerous environment.


So we landed at Calais and I was full of apprehension. Our coach turned up and we boarded. All the while I remained alert, scanning for trouble. And then, yes then, the coach drove peacefully away from the port without anything happening.

“Over to the left you can see the refugee camp that has been in the news recently,’ our tour guide said calmly in the way that only tour guides can say things.

I peered, but could not see anyone moving beneath the blue tarps and such.

And so leaving the camp behind us, our coach made its way north to Amsterdam – our next destination.

And that is today’s post :-)

Thanks for reading.




Series NavigationEuropean Cavalcade – Amsterdam >>


  1. I visited Amsterdam as a secondary school pupil in the early 70s. That was probably more daunting – a scary place then.


    1. Yo be honest I found parts of Amsterdam a bit scary this time, though I think that it was because I had my daughter with me :)


  2. ““Over to the left you can sea the refuge camp that has been in the news recently,’ our tour guide said calmly in the way that only tour guides can say things.”

    This is so H2G2 =)


    1. Thanks :) Quite a comparison :) I am honoured :)


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