Images: Obersee at Konigssee, Germany; Dolomites, Italy; Above Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland; Mont Blanc, France;
I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—
air, mountains, trees, people.
I thought, "This is what it is to be happy.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Do you like towering mountains, their jagged peaks reaching heavenward? Lakes filled with glacial water in every hue from blue to green ? Or the clang of a cow's bell on a gentle breeze?
This site is for you.
In September 2019, I took Rick Steves' MyWay Alpine Tour - 12 days zig-zagging through the Alps. We stopped only at the places perfectly situated for hiking. The hardest decision I made on those 12 days was which trail to hike.
Interested? Come along.
Pre-tour on my own: 2 days in Melk, 2 days in Salzburg
Days 1-2: Salzburg, Austria
Days 3-4: Castelrotto or Kastelruth, Italy
Days 5-6: Fussen, Germany
Days 7-9: Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland
Days 10-12: Chamonix, France
Overnight in Geneva before early flight home
Route map from Rick Steves website. Check out this year's tour!
Choosing MyWay Alpine
Shortly after I returned home from my first Rick Steves tour - 7 days in Paris in 2015 - a catalog landed in my mailbox.
Rick Steves Travel: 2016.
I had (still have) the travel bug pretty bad (bad is good here), so I thumbed through the pages. Even though I had just returned home. Hadn't even gotten the credit card bill yet.
Past the glossy photos of ancient ruins, romantic castles and rolling hills, a group of tours called MyWay populated the last pages. One started in one of my favorite cities - Salzburg, Austria. The tour visited the Alps in five countries, stopping for a day of sightseeing. Or hiking.
What could be better than hiking in the Alps?
But in 2017, my mom and I chose the 10 days in Scotland tour. I felt a unique fit there, so I returned the next year to spend some quiet time in the unique beauty of the Highlands.
In 2018, I knew it was time to plan another adventure. The ever-changing date of Brexit kept me away from Scotland. And MyWay Alpine was at the top of my list.
I researched temperatures, airfares, arrival airport options, pre-tour destinations. I wavered between my birthday in August and the cooler temperatures and fewer crowds in September. Watched September tours fill, but still didn't have a travel buddy. Decided I could go solo.
And finally booked the tour, Sept. 2-13, 2019, with a few days pre-tour in Austria.
The following is a true account of the adventures that followed.
Images: Sunny afternoon in Melk; Refreshments by Konigssee; Gondola to glacial cave, Montenvers
About the Writer
Hey I'm Robin. I live in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, a small and rapidly growing city. We top many rankings for best place to live, work, retire, raise a family, and more.
By day, I lead a team that tells the story of life science in North Carolina. We meet a lot of different needs under tight deadlines. It takes special skills - my team once presented me with a Certificate for Cat Herding, if that gives you an idea. (Though I am a dog lover, see right, me and Annie.)
I use my vacations to see new things, far away. I turn off my work email, and recharge. I'm also a writer, so this scrapbook is partly for me. But it's really for you, if you're curious about this tour. I hope you enjoy the Alps through my eyes.
About Touring, Rick Steves' Tours, and MyWay
I hear two things when I tell people that I'm going solo on vacation, and joining a tour after a few days. One: "you're so brave to do that."
When the alternative is staying home, I don't consider this courage.
Second: "I would hate being confined by a tour. You don't get to do what you want." This is true on some tours.
But Rick Steves tours are different. You usually have a half-day of free time, and the guides provide much more knowledge and context than you would find on your own. I've had a French history lesson standing on the Pont Neuf in Paris and imagined an ancient burial ritual standing in front of an igloo of stones in Scotland. How else would I get that?
Finally, touring makes planning much more focused. With my busy schedule, it's nice to have someone else - someone who knows - making tough calls and meeting all the deadlines. The guides fix problems that crop up, too, and they plan some fun surprises.
My Way gives you even more freedom. Rick Steves chooses the route and the hotels, and provides the transportation. I planned all of my own activities. Cary, our guide, gave us some insider tips that made our activities easier, including choosing a restaurant. She also had office hours each morning to answer any last questions before we started our adventures.
One of the highlights for me of this tour was running into other tour members somewhere along the hiking path, or back at the hotel, and hearing their adventures for the day. A merry band of travelers were we.
It'll be four days before I officially join the tour, but here's the cast. All Rick Steves tours start with a guide, even MyWay. Ours was Cary, and her enthusiasm spilled over to all of our activities. Mix with a group of 28, all full of our own hopes for an epic vacation (picture taken in Lauterbrunnen). We needed a bus driver, Will, who spoke so many languages even he couldn't keep count. Finally, all three of my Rick Steves tours had some document like this to convey the day's activities.
So, let's get started
When I leave for a trip, a lot of my friends will say "can't wait to see the pictures." This time, I replied "I can't wait to take them." After learning some black-and-white photography in college, I'd put away the camera. But the new mirrorless cameras are a lot less expensive and lighter to carry.
It's a big decision to take a bulky camera when you're trying to pack light. But it's certainly possible - as you can see at the right. That's all I took for 18 days in Europe. (And the suitcase isn't even full. Thanks to Sarah, one of Rick's tour guides who has a master class in packing. She does say to leave the camera at home. Your phone is enough.)
Thus, I have a lot of photos from this trip. Throughout this scrapbook, you can click to enlarge them. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them!
I've included some food pictures throughout this website because, well, it was Europe and food is always good. But this unexpected pairing was a great way to start the nine-hour flight from Raleigh-Durham to Paris. I plugged in my noise-cancelling headphones and pressed play on the 1812 Overture. It didn't help me sleep, but at least for 20 minutes, it was heaven!