What is an escorted tour anyway?

Endless Travel Blog

What is an escorted tour anyway?

--by Sheryl Fick

With the Internet, there are so many choices of what to do and how to do it, that at first glance, you may not feel the need for a professional travel consultant. I hope, however, this will explain some reasons to consider Endless Travel. Normally, there are no added planning fees, so see what you think, and see if an escorted tour may be what you want.

First, an escorted tour is when all of the components are bundled together in a form where you, as the traveler, really do not have to pre-plan anything—just show up for the time of your life without any of the hassles of planning and hoping things work out. Of course, that is why you may want to consider the option of a fully escorted tour nearly any place in the world. With the help of Endless Travel to qualify your travel needs, we do the work (or we work together) to plan the perfect vacation.

We work very closely with the Globus (Cosmos is their sister company at a lower price point) family of brands, which include the wonderful Avalon River Cruises and Monograms, the land package we can add on at any time. Globus/Cosmos escorted tours are very popular in Europe, but did you know you can also go to Israel, Jordan, Scandinavia, Iceland or Russia to name a few other destinations? The beauty of an escorted tour is that you can simply sit back, and let Endless Travel do all the work with the help of Globus/Cosmos—you can also be as involved as you choose. This means that if you want to arrive earlier than the tour starts, or stay after the tour, or take a river cruise on Avalon, it can be done. And the pre and post sections can be done with the help of Monograms.

This is a special air rate you can only get by going through a tour company like this...

Several years ago, I experienced an escorted tour in Europe for 12 days. I have to say, it was so relaxing to let someone else drive while I was a tourist and got to hear all the wonderful information presented to me while touring. This tour was during a public wedding in London, and could have been a serious problem, but Globus/Cosmos pre-reserved hotels in the center of each city I visited. So I sat back, and was not concerned with other events potentially disrupting my tour. Such an event could be something like the Rome Jubilee, where hotel space is nearly impossible to find; but not to worry on a Globus or Cosmos escorted tour.

You can have your airfare booked by Globus/Cosmos if you want, and you probably did not know that they offer something you can’t get yourself, which is contracted air. This is a special air rate you can only get by going through a tour company like this, and most times, the prices are much less than you can find. Don’t worry if you do have free air on points. That is something that can be done separately.

This is how it works:

lourveYou contact Endless Travel, and we discuss your itinerary and which escorted tour works best. We can add air to any city you want (arrival transfers). Then you are shuttled to your selected hotel while your luggage is handled for you. Next, you meet the rest of the group and your tour guide for the trip, and are given more details of all the sights you will be seeing. There are no lines to wait in if you choose tours like the Louvre in Paris, the London Eye or the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, to name a few. Let’s say you want to visit Venice, but your tour ends in Rome. No worries! We can arrange a train first or second class, with transfers from the tour to the rail station, and again upon arrival in Venice. The choices are endless! We take the stress of planning away, and Globus/Cosmos does the rest. You can have as much fun as you want planning additional options.

So if you want the ease of not having to plan a trip on your own, perhaps an escorted tour may be a viable option for you. We see people of all ages now doing escorted tours, as they are hassle free, and everyone gets to enjoy the journey. I am still in contact with friends I met from South Africa, as that is one of the many perks.

Why not call your travel experts at Endless Travel? We have over 100 years of travel expertise, and if an escorted tour is not what works, we ‘sell the world.’ Let us help you plan that trip of a lifetime, and remember we, as Globus, Cosmos, Monograms and Avalon, are teaming up to provide the perfect vacation with lasting memories!

Ready to schedule your escorted tour?

Drop us a line today to book your trip!

Cuba

Endless Travel Blog

Viva Cuba!

--by Susan Hammond

Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean, and located just 90 miles south of Miami, has much to offer for those seeking a world of contrasts and authentic experiences. I had the opportunity this past November to fulfill a personal dream, and escorted a group of 12 clients to three Cuban cities (Havana, Varadero and Vinales) on a 9-day, fully escorted, people-to-people experience offered through Cosmos Tours. It was amazing to actually take a step back in time, allowing us to observe the allure and unique lifestyle of the Cuban people.

Cuban law, while relaxed some for American tourists, still places strict limitations on what we can do when traveling to Cuba, requiring cultural exchange activities for many travelers. The travel restrictions and U.S. embargo, which still remains in effect, means travel to Cuba is not easily planned on a whim.

cuba capitolUpon arrival, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the architecture, the delicious cuisine and my warm welcome from the people. I quickly learned that the Cuban people I interacted with were very inviting and friendly in their responses to questions from our group about their country.

Upon landing in Havana from Miami on a charter flight, we were picked up by our 33- year-old Cuban Tour Director, Limon. As we headed east, we drove through picturesque countryside to a beach destination called Varadero, which is a hotspot for tourism because of the beautiful Cuban beaches. We kept busy that day visiting a local artisan shop called Taller de Ceramica Aristica and enjoyed a pottery demonstration by the owner and, of course, shopping opportunities.

We next traveled to a nearby city called Matanzas, known as the Athens of Cuba for the many renowned artists and intellectuals it has produced. One of the most fascinating stops that we made was at a print and binding shop called Ediciones Vigia. This independent publishing collective began making homemade books in 1985. They are truly creating books that are not only of literary value, but also unique works of art. Each book published is beautiful to behold, fit to be displayed, and work to be treasured.

cuban manThe anticipation of traveling back to Havana was high as we prepared ourselves for a walking tour of Old Havana. Cosmos Tours arranged for a local architect to give us a lesson about the history written in the stones of the 400-year-old streets and colonial buildings. The Havana UNESCO World Heritage Site centers on three historic plazas, each distinct with a church, slave market, and fort. Among the bustle of people, we witnessed one of the most confounding paradoxes of Cuba. Gaily dressed peasant women and old men with fedoras and big cigars posed for photos for a dollar each. They easily made $10 a day, $300 a month. Yet the average government salary is $20 per month. The Cuban people are definitely very resourceful.

While in Havana, we visited a daycare center filled with 50 two-year-olds. Caring nuns and their helpers run this center. Only mothers who are willing to go back to work are allowed to put their child in this free childcare program. The children delighted us with a few songs, and we then returned the favor by singing “Old McDonald” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” This exchange was heartwarming and definitely a highlight of our day.

Next, we were off to visit Ernest Hemingway’s home where he lived for over 30 years, and penned some of his most favorite novels. We saw tombstones where he buried four of his beloved dogs—Black, Negrita, Linda and Neron. It was also fascinating to see his fishing boat, El Pinar, which was used to patrol for German U-boats during WWII.

Next, we were off to visit Ernest Hemingway's home...

As we wrapped up our 9-day tour, we traveled to the western end of the island to the lush province of Pinar del Rio. On the way, we visited a local primary school and interacted with fourth-graders working on math problems. Since this is a state owned school, we were not allowed to donate money to the school, however school supplies were much appreciated. As the children introduced themselves, they told us what they wanted to be “when they grow up.” We heard the typical professions such as police officer and school teacher. But one young man said he wanted to be a driver, and his buddy sitting next to him boasted that he was going to be a mechanic. These two professions in Cuba are very important to this nation due to the vast number of vintage cars throughout the country.

As we checked into our pre-assigned bed and breakfasts in the small town of Vinales, we had the wonderful opportunity to interact with host families and continue immersing ourselves in the local Cuban culture. From the feedback I received from my clients, this part of the tour was one of the highlights of the overall trip. My husband and I stayed in a home where the host was an English teacher. He enjoyed educating us on the everyday challenges of his community, and demonstrated excitement towards the American tourist and what we bring to their country.

A thrill for the men in our group was a visit to a tobacco farm and the opportunity to puff on much coveted cigars while watching the proprietor roll these Cuban novelties. Also, we toured an organic farm where we chatted with the staff and were treated with a delicious farm-to-table lunch.

cuban carCar enthusiasts in our group were totally surprised to see the large number of vintage cars throughout the country. The streets of Havana are congested with Soviet-era trucks, boxy Chinese cars, horse-drawn wagons, and chrome-gilded Buicks and Chevrolets. For those who love history, we explored the different facets of the historic relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. Also, Cuba is an expert and amateur photographer’s dream by offering opportunities to capture life unfolding naturally for the locals.

In my opinion, Cuba has something for everyone who is willing to remain flexible and “go with the flow.” As a travel consultant, I am often asked, “What is your favorite destination?” Until now, I always struggled with this question since I have had many favorite experiences. Now, without any hesitation, I can confidently say that our Cosmos Cuba People-To-People Tour was a trip that I will never forget. In fact, I am planning to go back in a year or two to explore the eastern side of the island including Trinidad, Bay of Pigs, and King Ranch.

Ready to visit Cuba?

Drop us a line today to book your trip!

Belize

Endless Travel Blog

The Unspoiled Paradise of Belize

--by Susan Hammond

I had the opportunity just a few months ago to participate in a guided tour with National Geographic by G Adventures to the country of Belize, allowing our small group of travel professionals to discover and connect with the wonderful local people in a way that was truly meaningful. This adventure took us deep into the Belizean culture, offering a greater hands-on exploration, interactions with local experts and the freedom to roam, all within the structure and security of travelling in this intimate group. This authentic nine-day experience consisted of exploring the Mayan ruins, a visit to a hot sauce factory and excursions to small local villages to get up close and personal with island life.

Formerly known as British Guatemala, Belize is a country on the eastern coast of Central America. It is the only country in Central America whose official language is English, though Belizean Creole and Spanish are also commonly spoken. Belize is bordered on the north by Mexico, on the south and west by Guatemala and on the east by the Caribbean Sea. Since this small and diverse country is approximately the size of Massachusetts, we were able to explore a lot of it during my very first visit. What I truly love about Belize is that in just over a week, we spent time in the lush jungle of the west on the Guatemalan border, ending our journey with beach time on Caye Caulker, which is truly a tropical paradise on the Caribbean Sea.

After arriving in Belize City, our group was transported about 20 minutes from the airport to the centrally located Burrell Boom Village, which is right on the Belize Old River. We stayed in a charming jungle resort offering comfort and convenience in an exotic, tropical rainforest setting.

Our first day consisted of a full-day excursion to the Lamanai Ruins, a renowned Mayan ceremonial site consisting of over 800 structures surrounded by lush jungle. Lamanai (“Submerged Crocodile,” in Mayan) was occupied as early as 1500 B.C.

First of all, getting to Lamanai was half the fun! The short van ride led us across rivers and vast expanses of land, providing us with a true Belizean country tour. We arrived at the Tower Hill Bridge where we boarded a motorboat for a spectacular ride upriver, continuing our journey to Lamanai. The boat tour was by far the highlight (except for the Lamanai Ruins, of course, but we had to flip a coin...) of the full-day excursion. The ride was a wonderful opportunity for wildlife spotting, as well as spotting many tropical birds and spider monkeys. We even saw a couple of freshwater crocodiles floating near the river’s edge.

These caves, called ‘Xibalba,’ meaning ‘Mayan hell,’ are fascinating underground worlds.

As we continued on our journey to the western side of Belize to the city of San Ignacio, we stopped along the way to cave tube (which is an activity very specific to Belize). First, we walked approximately 30 minutes through the jungle alongside the river carrying our inner tubes (yes, we had our mosquito repellant close at hand), then happily launched the tubes in the welcomed cool water passing through dark caves and their wonderful cavities that we discovered thanks to our headlamps. These caves, called “Xibalba,” meaning “Mayan hell,” are fascinating underground worlds. In my opinion, cave tubing is a not-to-be-missed activity in Belize that you have to add to your bucket list!

After completing our drive to San Igancio and checking into our rainforest hotel on the outskirts of the city, we enjoyed a couple of free days to individually choose how we wanted to explore the surrounding countryside and attractions. Most of us chose to cross the border into Guatemala (which was an experience in itself) to visit Tikal National Park, which is the largest excavated site on the American continent, containing some of the most fascinating archeological remains of the ancient Mayan civilization. On the way back from this all-day tour, we stopped for a late lunch in northern Guatemala at a local restaurant right on Lake Peten, which is the second largest lake in Guatemala. A dip in this lake was very refreshing, plus the local cuisine was outstanding!

The second day in western Belize consisted of some of the youngsters in the group participating in a cave excursion to Belmopan, Belize’s Crystal Cave. Since I am not a millennial anymore, and spelunking is not my idea of a good time, some of us chose to go to Chaa Creek Lodge (a wildly civilized luxury resort) for the day to explore the Blue Morpho Butterfly farm, where we observed the “Belizean Blue” during every stage of their life cycle. Of course, while we were at the beautiful Chaa Creek lodge for the day, a site inspection was in order after our delicious jungle cuisine. This lodge is very proud that they were chosen to host Prince Harry a few years ago when he visited Belize as part of a Diamond Jubilee tour representing Queen Elizabeth. I came home telling my husband that I could live at Chaa Creek forever, and of course he reminded me that I still have two boys in college, so now is not a good time. Plus, he knows that I would miss the Rocky Mountains and having four seasons, so I was instantly jerked back into reality.

Leaving western Belize and travelling along the Hummingbird Highway, we headed toward the small Garifuna fishing village of Hopkins about three hours by road, south of Belize City. On the way, we stopped at the Hot Mama’s hot sauce factory, which is a true institution in Belize. This tour was a can’t-miss for anyone looking for a genuine taste of Central America. We toured the factory before indulging in some spicy flavors, and of course brought plenty home to enjoy ourselves and give as gifts.

Arriving into Hopkins later that day allowed time to explore the fascinating Garifuna culture. The Afro-Caribbean Garifuna people originated with the arrival of West African slaves who washed ashore on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent around 1635, while likely on their way to New World mines and plantations. We had a delicious dinner at the Sandy Beach woman’s co-op. They served a dish called hudut (a creamy fish stew served with mashed plantain and distinctive local flair). After dinner, we had fun taking a drum lesson and enjoyed a demonstration by these amazing local artists.

belize hammocksUpon leaving Hopkins, we drove back to Belize City and then took a short ferry ride over to Caye Caulker. This small laid-back island, consisting of 1,000 or so residents, displays the ‘no shirt, no shoes, no problem’ attitude throughout the island. The only traffic sign instructs golf carts and bicycles to “go slow,” a directive that is taken seriously. The island is an ideal base for snorkeling and diving adventures at the nearby reef. The northern part of the island—a tempting destination for kayakers—is mostly mangroves, which are home to an amazing variety of birdlife. Other than that, all visitors should be sure to schedule in plenty of time for swinging on a hammock and enjoying the breeze (which is indeed a legitimate activity on Caye Caulker).

In conclusion, my first journey to Belize allowed me to step away from my daily routine to a special place in the sun. I also got to experience some soul-recharging beach time, but with added cultural experiences that gave me a look at what life is like living in Belize. So if you enjoy photographing wildlife, hiking in the jungle or just exploring one of the longest barrier reefs in the Western Hemisphere, Belize has got it all!

Ready to visit Belize?

Drop us a line today to book your trip!

Oxford: The City of Dreaming Spires

Medieval Spires of OxfordOxford, located in central southern England, is focused primarily around its prestigious university which lies in the city’s medieval center. The architecture of the university’s 38 colleges led poet Matthew Arnold to nickname it the ‘City of Dreaming Spires’.

Legends claim that Oxford University was founded by a beautiful young princess named Frideswide. When her dreams of becoming a nun were threatened by a king who wanted her hand in marriage, Frideswide ran away to Oxford only to be followed by the king. But when he reached the town border, he was struck blind. Once he agreed to release her from marrying him, and begging her forgiveness, his sight was restored. Frideswide then founded a nunnery on the site of what is now Christ Church cathedral. The earliest of the Oxford colleges were set up around the nunnery as learning places for monastic scholars.

The numerous colleges make for an amazing place to just wander all day, lost among the historic buildings still clamoring with students.  There are numerous guided and self-led walking tours to be found such as University tours, ghost tours, literary tours, and (of course) Harry Potter film location tours. Oxford, England

Guided or not, however, be aware that many buildings have a fee to enter them, and tickets sell out well in advance. So plan your day carefully if there are specific places you want to visit, or make sure the tour company covers entry tickets. That said, it is common understanding that if a gate or door is open, passersby should feel free to wander inside.

And what tour of Oxford would be complete without a visit to the gravesite of J.R.R. Tolkien? Wolvercote Cemetery in north Oxford is easy to reach by bus from Oxford City Centre. It does have a small parking lot and public restrooms. There are signs and maps to get you to Tolkien’s grave readily available.

Finally, when you are ready for a break from the scholarly and more scholastic life, the Oxford Pub Tour is not to be missed. Take some time to enjoy some tea or a pint while looking out over the Thames. 

A visit to Oxford is a convenient day trip from London, and many tour companies will start and end your tours there, allowing you to forego the tricky prospect of finding parking. A parking violation in the city is quite the expensive souvenir.

The relationship between the City and the University wasn’t always grand, however. After one of a series of “Town versus Gown” riots, several scholars departed Oxford and founded the University now known as Cambridge in 1209.

Not quite as large as her sister university, Cambridge is made up of 31 Colleges, and is the top-ranked university in the United Kingdom, and second-best in the world (according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings). But much LIKE her sister university, Cambridge is an architectural marvel, and fans of historic buildings will not be disappointed. A walk through the numerous courtyards in the town and throughout the university is a must.

CAmbridge river sightseeingSitting along the River Cam, the town of Cambridge is host to a bevy of riverside restaurants serving up delicious meals. And those feeling especially adventurous can splurge on a punt ride, where a boatman will push your boat along with a pole while you wonder at the sights along the riverbank. Some of the best boat guides are former students who share their love of their city and campus with you as you drift up and down the river.

With literary, historical, and contemporary cultural sights to visit, a trip to Oxford and Cambridge is something the entire family can enjoy.  Let Endless Travel help you plan that perfect “Oxbridge” getaway!

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Recommended Reading:

  • The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  • The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
  • The Notion Club Papers, J.R.R. Tolkien

The Canadian Rockies – WOW!

The Canadian Rockies - WOW!

By Linda Lovin

I recently faced a critical travel decision. My husband was approaching a very significant birthday, and at the very same time, we would celebrate 34 years of marriage. Where should we go for a one-week vacation?  My husband left the planning to me but reminded me that he hated airports, long flights, and travel in general.  My goal was to make the right decision about location/supplier partner/excursions/dates of travel and to WOW!!!! my man in the process. I am thrilled to report that the decision to travel to the Canadian Rockies resulted in the most wonderful travel week of our lives (to date).

"...the expression on my husband's face was something between disbelief, shock, and pure awe."

In the course of planning trips of all types for my clients, I have dealt with a host of outstanding experts in the travel industry. For this personal and most special occasion, I chose Entrée Destinations as our partner supplier. Their motto of “service and hospitality are in our DNA” are not empty words. Beginning with my first telephone call, they were attentive to my every request and honestly did “sweat the small stuff and obsess over details.” As a Travel Advisor, I felt I shared a kindred spirit with Entrée Destinations.

On September 21 our adventure began. We departed DIA for an easy 2.5-hour flight to Calgary. After breezing through a friendly international arrival terminal, we were met by Min, a long-time resident of Calgary and our greeter from Entrée Destinations. Min ushered us through the Calgary airport, insured that our car rental experience was seamless and was an encyclopedia of knowledge about Calgary and all of the territory we were about to explore. She offered a multitude of travel suggestions – one of which was Gypsy Guide. This is an incredible app that gives practical, historical, and cultural commentary along numerous driving routes not only in Canada but throughout the USA.

Tip: Be sure to pre-load Gypsy Guide in an area with a strong Wi-Fi signal.

And then – it was WOW!!! All the way. The countryside around Calgary is rolling hills of farm and ranch land with jagged mountains thrusting on the horizon. As we drove on the Trans-Canada Highway, we simply became speechless. Please understand that we are twenty-five-year residents of Colorado, have traveled the Rocky Mountain West extensively and we love our home in Evergreen. However, we were totally unprepared for the majesty that was unfolding before us.

Tip:  Pre-purchase a Discovery Pass that allows access into all of Canada’s National Parks, marine conservation areas and historic sites.

After about two hours of driving through absolute jaw-dropping magnificence, I treasured the moment when the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise first came into view and the expression on my husband’s face was something between disbelief, shock, and pure awe. Located in Alberta’s Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Chateau was originally built over 100 years ago as a base for outdoor enthusiasts and alpinists and sits at the base of a glacial moraine that fills Lake Louise. The water is emerald green from Victoria Glacier’s sediments and is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful works of nature on the planet.

Tip: Lake Louise has been “discovered.” Each day, bus after bus stream into the area, all filled with tourists from around the world. By reserving a room at the Fairmont with a lake view, it is possible to enjoy the miracle of sunrise over the lake and glacier within the comfort of your room.

Lake Louise

We spent a day soaking up the scenery that lies within an hour’s drive from Lake Louise. Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park is a jewel that offers relaxed lodging and dining in a serene setting. Athabasca Falls and the mountains and valleys

of Yoho National Park provide one breath-taking moment after another.

The next day, we took the highly recommended Ice Explorer Glacier Tour departing from the Glacier

Discovery Centre on the Icefields Parkway.  It was the coldest and windiest day of the season so, while we did get to take a short ride on the Ice Explorer onto the 10,000-year-old Athabasca Glacier, we didn't get to spend as much time as we would have wanted on the most visited glacier in North America.

After two nights in Lake Louise, we drove the Icefields Parkway for the trip to Jasper. This road has been described as the most beautiful mountain drive in the world. My husband and I have not witnessed all the mountain drives in the world, but it is difficult to imagine scenery more spectacular. Initially, we stopped at every vista for photographs thinking that surely this was the most beautiful view of the day. The gorgeous panoramas just kept appearing with every curve of the road.

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is a different experience from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Situated in Alberta’s magnificent Jasper National Park, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, comfortable cabins line the shore of a lake that often reflects the image of surrounding mountains. It is quiet and boasts a world-class golf course.

Our first morning in Jasper, we enjoyed a private walking tour of the area with Alpine Art Ecotours and learned about the history of the indigenous people in the area as well as the fauna of the forest. We thoroughly enjoyed talking with our local guide about everything from history to current Canadian politics.

That afternoon we cruised Maligne Lake with its beautiful azure-colored water. Alpine scenery, frigid glacial water from the three glaciers visible from the lake, and the haunting beauty of Spirit Island, a place of religious significance to Canada’s First Nation people, are part of our memory of that special day.

The next day, we re-traced our steps on the Icefields Parkway and took an exhilarating helicopter flight up, over, and

 

 

Spirit Island

down into the Canadian Rockies. Rockies Heli Canada also provided a short hike and lunch beside a waterfall as part of the experience. My husband remains in touch with our local guide in hopes of a future fishing trip into the wilderness areas we saw.

Our final days were in Banff and the Fairmont Banff Springs. The world-famous “Castle in the Rockies” has been providing legendary hospitality to guests for over 130 years.  Once again, we experienced unbelievable beauty, fabulous food, and people so genuinely nice that we felt like we were in our own hometown. The town of Banff is a quintessential mountain town with a myriad of lodging and excellent dining options.

Our last guided tour was a boat ride on Lake Minnewanka, the second longest lake in the mountain parks of the Canadian Rockies.  Stunning snow-capped mountains juxtaposed against the brilliant autumn colors of the trees were reflected on the water during our glorious morning outing.

Lake Minnewanka

On the closing day of our trip, we awakened to low clouds and snow showers. Reading books by local authors in front of a roaring fireplace provided us with the perfect ending to the perfect celebratory trip.  WOW!

8 Athenaeum – A Bibliophile’s Tour of Europe

It’s no secret that most modern Western literature either came from, was inspired by, or can be traced back to Europe in some way.  The continent is a literal treasure trove of literary locations, inspirations, and history. This is likely why so many literary aficionados make, at some point in their lives, a pilgrimage to bask in the wonder of the places that have shaped our lives in so many ways.

Bodleian Libraries – Oxford

https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk

Bodleian Libraries - Oxford UniversityAmong some of the most celebrated libraries in the world are those at Oxford. Their collections are incomparable. Some of their buildings have been in active use since the Middle Ages. The libraries group includes research, faculty, department and institutional libraries, the principal of which is the Bodleian Library (also known as ‘the Bod’), named for Thomas Bodley, chief benefactor and instrument of the Oxford library’s survival of the purge of Catholicism by the Dean of Christ Church in 1550.

Modern tourists can take 30, 60 or 90 minute guided tours of the library which include Duke Humfrey’s Library, the Divinity School, the Convocation House, Chancellor’s Court and a visit to the Radcliffe Camera, home of the Radcliffe Science Library.

Word on the Water – London

https://twitter.com/wordonthewater

Word on the Water, floating bookstoreOriginally a 50-foot-long Dutch barge built in the 1920s, Word on the Water is a floating bookstore on Regents Canal near King’s Cross in London. One of the few barges on the canal granted a permanent berth, the bookstore offers not only a warm fire for winter reading, but summer performances including everything from folk groups to jazz bands as well as poetry slams in its rooftop garden.

Mid-week visits tend to find the shop less crowded, with a higher availability of cosy chairs to relax in while you peruse new and used books. Keep your eyes open for Star, the shop’s resident dog, and a couple of cats which can occasionally be found roaming the decks.

Trinity College Library – Dublin

https://www.tcd.ie/library/

The oldest of the Trinity College Library buildings completed construction in 1732. With over six million printed volumes covering over 400 years of literary achievement, Trinity College Library is permanent home to the Brian Boru harp (the national symbol of Ireland) as well as the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow and the Ussher Collection. The library’s main chamber, the Long Room, is nearly 65 meters (213 feet) in length, and holds around 200,000 of the library’s oldest books. 

For a crowd free exploration of the library, visitors can purchase a fast-track ticket and show up a little bit before opening time, making you one of the first people allowed in. Tickets to see the Book of Kells also gives entrance to the Long Room, and guided tours of Trinity College that include the Trinity College Library are available as well.

Gladstone’s Library – Hawarden, Wales

https://www.gladstoneslibrary.org/

Gladstone's LibraryMemorial to four-time Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone, Gladstone’s Library was known as St. Deiniol’s Library from its founding in 1894 until 2010, when it was renamed for its founder. The current building wasn’t constructed until after Gladstone’s death, and currently it houses not only the library itself, but a restaurant, a chapel, conference facilities and 26 bedrooms which are available for those who are looking for a truly unique experience.

Throughout the year, the library hosts a series of events focused around William Gladstone’s personal areas of interest such as religion and theology, history and politics, and 19th-century literary culture. The Reading Rooms at Gladstone are filled with desks and comfortable arm chairs, providing a pleasant, peaceful atmosphere for students, researchers, historians, academics, theologians, and award-winning novelists, scriptwriters, poets, and playwrights.

Access to the Reading Rooms is as a member, residential guest or on a “Glimpse” tour which runs at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm completely free of charge. Glimpses take around 10 minutes and include a history of the Library before a short visit to the silent History Room. The tours cannot be booked in advance, and are offered on a first come, first served basis.

Hay-on-Wye, Wales

http://www.hay-on-wye.co.uk/

Located on the Welsh side of the border between England and Wales, Hay-on-Wye (Y Gelli Gandryll) is world renowned for having the most bookstores per capita in a single town. Trains run on a regular basis from London and other major cities to Hereford, a town about twenty miles away. From there, visitors can take advantage of a regular Stagecoach service that will take you from Hereford’s train station right to the middle of Hay-on-Wye. The town has about 1500 residents, and the average tourist can circumnavigate the town on foot in about 20 minutes, so you won’t find any sort of public transit within the city.

The annual book festival (The Hay Festival) is held in Hay-on-Wye to celebrate books and the town itself. The festival lasts for two weeks, and has happened in early June (usually) every year for over thirty years. Drawing book lovers, writers, and artists the normally tiny population jumps to nearly half a million during the festival season.

If major festivals aren’t your cup of tea, there are many other festivals and events that take place in the town throughout the year, including Hay-on-Wye Food Festival, Hay Arts and Crafts Festival, Hay-on-Wye Horse and Pony Show, Hay-on-Wye Winter Food Festival, and Hay Fever, the children’s book festival.

Strahov Library, Prague, Czech Republic

https://www.prague.eu/en/object/places/403/strahov-library-theological-hall-philosophical-hall-strahovska-knihovna 

Strahov Library (Strahovská knihovna)Strahov Monastery (Strahovský klášter) is a Premonstratensian abbey founded in 1143 in Strahov, Prague, Czech Republic. The monastery is home to the Strahov Library (Strahovská knihovna), the oldest section of which dates back to the early 1670s and is arguably one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.

The library has three main areas to explore: The Grand Philosophical Hall, The Baroque Theological Hall and the Cabinets of Curiosities. The Grand Philosophical Hall contains over 42,000 philosophical texts watched over by frescoes painted by Anton Maulbertsch, representing humanity’s quest for knowledge and drive to learn the secrets of the universe. 

Strahov Library (Strahovská knihovna)

The Theological Hall contains over 18,000 religious texts above which is a magnificently painted fresco depicting the ethos of the library that a person with great faith must also build on his knowledge and provide education for those who need it. Between the Philosophers Hall and the Theological Hall, are the Cabinets of Curiosities, each a tiny museum unto itself. 

The library is open daily from 9am to 5pm (with a lunch break from 12pm-1pm). The entry price for the Library and Pictures gallery is around CZK 120, and there is a small fee if you want to take pictures. 

Book Tower, Municipal Library, Prague, Czech Republic

https://www.prague.eu/en/object/places/860/prague-city-gallery-municipal-library-mestska-knihovna

Book Tower, Prague LibraryNot to be outdone, the Prague Municipal Library (Městská knihovna) partnered with artist Matej Kren to install “Idiom” an incredible book tower. With mirrors in placed at the top and bottom of a cylindrical tower made of books, Visitors peek through the opening on one side of the tower which presents the illusion of a tower of books which extends infinitely. There is generally a short wait before you can line yourself up to get the perfect photo, but the tower is a beautiful site to see and well worth the stop!

The Municipal Library is also home to the Prague City Gallery, a home for contemporary artists to display their work. Founded from the small collection belonging to the Prague Municipal Government, the gallery is situated in exhibition halls reserved specifically for it. As one of the most important galleries in the Czech Republic, it is a single facet of seven gallery locations throughout the city.

Abbey Library of Saint Gall, Switzerland

https://www.stiftsbezirk.ch/en/

Abbey Library of Saint Gall, SwitzerlandThe Abbey Library of Saint Gall (Stiftsbibliothek) was founded by Saint Othmar, who also founded the Abbey itself. While the Abbey of Saint Gall was destroyed in a fire in 937 CE, the original section of the library was untouched, and to this day it holds some of the oldest collections in Switzerland covering 12 centuries of continuous collecting.

Currently the collections reside in the new (mid 1700s) Rococo styled hall designed by architect Peter Thumb. With elaborate art installed on the ceiling whose frames flow into the curved molding of the hall itself, the library is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. Unfortunately, cameras are not allowed inside the library as photographs of any kind (including cell phones) are forbidden.

If you are a book lover with an unquenchable sense of wanderlust, the Bibliophile’s Tour of Europe is just what you’ve been waiting for. To explore some or all of these phenomenal libraries, give us a call and we will help you plan an excursion to remember.