Me Time And We Time On A Cosmos Tour Of Europe

2 March 2015

Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities.

There is nothing nicer than sitting at a canal-side cafe enjoying a cold Amstel lager and watching the antics of the fearless local cyclists whizzing up and down the cobblestone lanes.

The air is filled with a cacophony of different bike bells as the local workers head home from a hard day at the office.

 Amsterdam's favoured means of transport

I’m here on my own on a 23-day European tour with Cosmos - a company well structured for solo travellers.

It’s day three and I’m already taking advantage of some of the “free time” Cosmos builds into its tours.

We have arrived in Amsterdam early afternoon and I’ve snuck away from my travelling companions to undertake my own Ocean’s Twelve tour of the city.

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Some Even Drink The Coffee

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I’m a big fan of the Oceans movies and this is one of the key movie destinations. First stop for me is the Pulitzer Hotel where Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and friends based themselves while in Amsterdam.

Then it was on to famous Dampkring Coffee Shop. For all you novices, coffee shops in Amsterdam are where you can go to enjoy coffee, smoke joints and eat hash cakes. It’s legal and most establishments are filled with tourists.

I’m not a smoker. I’m one of the few people in Dampkring actually drinking the coffee. The air is thick with smoke and it’s not long before I escape to find a canal-side cafe near one of the other things that Amsterdam is famous for - its Red Light District. It doesn’t matter where you look in Amsterdam something interesting is always happening.

There’s plenty of time on the Cosmos itinerary to explore the key cities you visit and enough freedom to escape from the rest of the group.

 The Champs Elysee says Paris

At the start of the tour our guide spent a lot of time explaining the available options, which meant we could plan well and maximise our free time along the way.

The best way to see any destination is with a local - and that’s exactly what happens when local guides join us along the way. It’s their inside knowledge, their understanding that make the difference between having a good holiday and creating memories on a great holiday.

In Amsterdam on Day 4 our local guide kicks off our day with a glass-topped canal cruise taking in picturesque Dutch terraced houses; next is a spot of drooling at the Diamond Centre; followed by a tour of the town.

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The Eternal City Turns On Its Charm

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The good news is that you always stay in three-plus star hotels and the tour group size is capped at 44 people. My tour includes all breakfasts and seven dinners.

My tour started in London and was filled with highlights. Here’s a few of my favourite things.

The London two-night stay was in the heart of the action. There was a long list of tour choices. I went with the Tower of London option followed by a cruise down the Thames which gave me totally different takes on this ancient city.


Check out Germany's Romantic Road. A Trip Down Germany’s Unforgettable Romantic Road

There's always time to buy clothes in London. An Insider’s Guide To Clothes Shopping In London


 A cobbled street in historic Avignon

After Amsterdam we headed south into Germany through Rhineland.

We took in the storybook tour of Western Europe from the majestic Rhine Valley and its quaint castles, to the snow-capped Alps of Switzerland. Then it was south again, past stunning lakes and lush pine forests, into Italy to the medieval city of Verona famed for its tragic young lovers – Romeo and Juliet.

Venice is breathtaking. There is so much to do. Ladies, leave some time to sample the leather handbags.

Next stop – Rome. I was expecting a dirty, noisy place overflowing with tourists. But this 2500 year-old city turned on the charm for me - the history practically oozes from every stone.

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A Drive Through Van Gogh Country

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From Rome, it’s a lovely drive through olive groves and small Tuscan villages to the beautiful medieval cities of Pisa and Florence.

Make sure you take a walk across the famous Ponte Vecchio and soak up the atmosphere at the Piazza del Duomo with its famous cathedral.

On day 13 we travel to the French Riviera along the Cote d’Azur, through colourful landscapes made famous by Van Gogh, to the historical cities of Avignon and Carcassonne.

 A bird's-eye view of buzzing Barcelona

By Day 15 we were on to Spain for two nights in Barcelona. This cosmopolitan city has a real buzz to it. A highlight for me was seeing Gaudi’s unique architecture at La Sagrada Familia and Houses Batllo and Mila.

Two days later we hit the road for the vibrant capital of Madrid before continuing on through Basque country to Bilbao. It’s then back over the border to Bordeaux, the wine capital of France, where we gladly sample the produce.

Our last part of the journey takes us north through Cognac and Orleans to name a few of the enchanting French towns on our way to Paris, our grande finale with the aid of a local guide.

Alison Crisp

Alison Crisp is a freelance travel writer and publicist. She has worked in communications, marketing, publishing and print media for the past 20 years.