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It’s a simple enough question. And yet when the market is awash with such a myriad of companies all offering the ‘ultimate guided holiday’, it suddenly seems trickier to answer.
That is, until you return from a Trafalgar trip. And all becomes clear.
With over 50 percent of customers returning, the numbers don’t lie. Nevertheless, as House of Travel’s content writer when I was presented with the opportunity to spend seven days in Switzerland, Spain and Southern France, I didn’t exactly ask for time to mull it over.
Here's what really makes the ‘Trafalgar difference.’
1. What makes Trafalgar stand out from the get-go?
In two words, your Travel Director. Hand-picked and Trafalgar trained, your TD is like having a constant guidebook to hand, but with added personality. They're basically your best friend in every destination. Better still, their knowledge doesn’t out-date as easily as a guidebook.
Pascal, our French Travel Director from Brittany, was our twelve-in-one travel companion nobody should holiday without; a constant source of invaluable information; a friend when you needed a familiar face in a busy crowd; a language expert; a food guru, and even a cookie dispenser when he sensed our sugar levels were waning. But what ultimately made Pascal such a crucial component to the entire experience is that he genuinely cared about our time spent with Trafalgar. Every request, every question and every destination was met with a desire to make our time away from home the best it could possibly be.
The Trafalgar difference: The number one travel tool – a Trafalgar Travel Director.
2. How will I get to see the very best of each destination?
When you first arrive in any given destination, you want to explore the highlights; all the best bits that the locals rave about. With Trafalgar, you get just that. Local Specialists that disclose the secrets you probably wouldn’t discover on your own.
In Lyon, Christian led us through ‘Les Traboules’, the city’s hidden passageways that lie behind unassuming doors. To the untrained eye they are nothing more than locked doorways, but once pushed, they open to a labyrinth of crooked laneways creaking with history. In Arles, Jaqueline led us from Van Gogh hangouts to Roman amphitheatres, and in Carcassonne we knocked on the walls of a medieval fortress so old, they whisper with tales of rulers and warfare.
The Trafalgar difference: Destinations discovered in-depth to places you may not find on your own.
3. I don’t want to feel like a tourist
Who does? Trafalgar appreciate that guests not only want to visit the must-see sights, they also want to get off the well-worn tourist tracks. It may sound like a tricky balance but it’s one they execute perfectly with their ‘Be My Guest’ experiences. To complement the must-do excursions, guests are also invited to dine with the locals, often in their own homes.
In Provence, we headed to La Bastide Rose on the Sorgue River for a ‘Be My Guest’ dinner. Served in the home of Emmanuel and his wife, Poppy, we sat in their dining room, just off the family-style kitchen and ate a Provençal three-course dinner with only ourselves for company. No other dining tables, no busy staff, no hurry, rush or haste. In fact, the only add-on we had to our group was Emmanuelle’s sociable dog. A private dinner party of sorts, our host busied himself in pots of poached pears and enormous bottles of Pernod, all the while regaling us with witty anecdotes and tales of French despair.
The Trafalgar difference: Must-see sightseeing complemented with one-of-a-kind dining.
4. What’s it like travelling with strangers?
By day two, your travel companions are no longer strangers and by the last day you will refer to them as friends.
There’s always a welcome meeting and plentiful opportunities to find out more about your fellow travellers. Depending on your Travel Director, you’ll be inspired to mingle in all manner of ways. Pascal had a few stellar tricks up his sleeve, including quick-fire question sheets which encourage guests to ask one another about their occupations and hobbies. He might even give you another person’s name tag, with the expectation that you go and find said person and strike up a conversation. Prompts aside, Trafalgar also instill a ‘seat rotation’ policy on all their coaches, an arrangement which foremost allows guests to enjoy a different perspective each day, but also provides the opportunity to chat with somebody new each morning. You still sit with your travelling companion but meet new friends across the aisle.
The Trafalgar difference: Instant, effortless friends.
5. What are the perks?
It’s as much about the little extras as it is the big. As a guest of Trafalgar your group will enjoy ‘skip the queue’ advantages, permitting fast-track admittance to all the well-frequented sights. And if you’ve ever been to Europe in the height of summer, you’ll no doubt be singing hallelujah. But it’s also about the simple perks such as authentic accommodation and surprising cultural insights.
On an almost daily basis Pascal would appear with a regional delicacy for us all to try, whether they were Calissons, a traditional French sweet made from candied fruit and ground almonds, or a hard hitting liquor unique to the region, it added flavour to an already breath-taking visual experience.
And from sensory overloads to charming accommodation, in Carcassonne we stayed at the Best Western le Donjon, an age-old hotel sat in the heart of a medieval citadel. When night fell, on Pascal’s recommendation, we descended on the Hotel de la Cité, for unappalled courtyard views across masonry bathed in moonlight. It was the perfect way to capture the fortified grounds in a way that was entirely unexpected.
I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure I would never have discovered either the Calissons or the citadel’s inner secrets, had it not been for Trafalgar.
The Trafalgar difference: Hidden treasures and Cultural Insights.
So, why Trafalgar? Well if it’s not for the people, from your Travel Director to the Local Specialists, who go above and beyond to maximise your enjoyment, and if it’s not for the cultural insights and the unexpected treats, go for sake of your sanity. Because everyone’s raving about Trafalgar, and not discovering the Trafalgar difference for yourself, might just drive you mad.
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