Margaret Thomas from Brisbane recently returned from a wonderful three month Tailor-Made Holiday in Europe. Passionate about getting off the beaten track a little to truly discover the local life, she also wanted to tick a few big-name attractions off her bucket list. Together with her local consultant, Marlena Holden from Escape Travel Cleveland, they built a tailor-made itinerary from scratch.
My partner and I recently went away for three whole months. On our way to Europe, first we stopped in Hong Kong for four days, a city I really love. It’s such a vibrant place. Then we explored China for two weeks, including Beijing, seeing the pandas in Cheng-du and the Terracotta Army. We also did a little three-night Yangtze Cruise that took in the incredible Three Gorges.
Then we flew over to England where our special tailor-made itinerary kicked in. We explored London and then, with our hire car, drove all around England, up to Holyhead and over to Ireland and back. It was great because we had the freedom and flexibility to get off the main road and go to all the little places, which is exactly what we wanted. We stayed in wonderful accommodation, did some great day tours and museums, and found this is a really easy place to drive.
We were in Ireland 16 years ago and this was our first time back. We were surprised how good it was looking and how prosperous it all is. As well as doing Dublin and all the smaller places, we got to watch the grand final of the hurling competition – it’s the national sport over there, kind of similar to hockey. It’s a big thing.
After the United Kingdom, we explored more of Europe by bus and train. Having this all planned out before we went helped a lot. We stayed in France for a good four weeks, including Paris, Toulouse and Leon, as well as lots of little villages and towns. In Rouen I wanted to specifically go to a cemetery that my great uncle was buried in from WWI. I was the first living descendent to go and it was really special. It’s so impeccably maintained, they really look after it too. I was really impressed.
Then we went to Belgium, Bruges and Ghent, as well as Switzerland, Germany and back up to Scotland. The whole way it was fabulous. It was all really easy.
I enjoyed Bruges the most – the beautiful architecture, the history and the people were just really so friendly. We had five days there and we went to lots of little restaurants and they were all superb.
The only thing that I might change is that I found the three months just that little bit too long. By the 10 week mark I just wanted to come back to Australia – I started to miss people back home and miss the grandson.
Europe is a great place to explore on your own. Doing this as a tailor-made holiday really allowed us to do this. I do like guided tours but somewhere like Europe is just so easy to do your own thing - but with the extra support of having accommodation, care hire and all those bits booked before you go so you still have a plan.
A good idea we found is to pick a town and use it as a base to explore. Like we stayed at Toulouse and went north, south, east and west, exploring a town in each direction. That’s an interesting thing to do because you don’t quite know what’s there but it’s a nice surprise. We found a great museum – the Toulouse Lautrec Museum – and a castle we weren’t expecting. They're the kind of surprises we love when we're travelling.
Thankfully our consultant Marlena made it really easy - though we came with lots of ideas about what we wanted. But she recommended extra things along the way and she found a way to really pull it all together into one amazing, well-rounded European holiday. It included everything we could have ever wished for - and more - and we loved the help to find incredible accommodation, car hire, little tours and lots of extra nifty bits to make it complete.
It was a really exciting feeling having an itinerary planned out that we had created ourselves, taking in all the places and experiences we'd only ever dreamed about.