France, Italy and Monaco with Olde Ipswich Tours

I have traveled many times to Europe, and “A Gourmet European Wine, Cuisine & Travel Experience” from Olde Ipswich Tours (8 Herrick Dr., Ipswich, MA 01938; phone 877/356-5163 or visit, April 14-27, ’04, was the best tour, without exception, that I have ever taken. (2006 tour, May 1-15, is priced at $4,999 land.)

Olde Ipswich owner, Jean Moss, is a friendly, energetic, accommodating tour leader who willingly did whatever was needed with a smile. Our group consisted of nine people plus Jean and a driver traveling in a comfortable van. We spent 13 nights in charming inns, elegant hotels and small villas with magnificent mountain or lake views.

We arrived in Nice, southern France, and stayed for two nights in Beaulieu-sur-Mer. Our room with balcony overlooked the beautiful Mediterranean and was within walking distance of the center of town.

We then moved to a small villa in the Provence hills for the next three nights, also within walking distance of a small town. During these five days we visited the magnificent Villa Rothschild with its breathtaking gardens plus Nice, Villefranche, Antibes, Mougins, Biot, Eze, Saint Paul de Vence and Cannes, not to mention Monaco.

Then it was on to northern Italy for two nights in Santa Marguerita, a charming seaside resort from which we visited Portofino by boat, then two nights at beautiful Lake Garda. We took a boat to see Sirmione as well as the ruins of a Roman villa.

We proceeded to Verona and then by train to Venice, where we spent two nights just steps away from St. Mark’s Square. We had three days at magnificent Lake Maggiore with a breathtaking view of the lake and Alps from our hotel balcony. We visited Lake Como, Isola Bella, Bellagio and Stresa.

Throughout the tour we explored ancient Roman villages, quaint towns, museums, a few churches, wineries, art galleries, estates and castles and still had time to stroll and shop along the way. The balance of planned activities was perfect — not too much of one thing. Not once were we rushed.

I’m saving the best for last, and that is the meals. How Jean found these wonderful restaurants is beyond me. Each meal was better than the last, and each was a gourmet experience. We dined in mom-and-pop restaurants, small inns, hotels and elegant restaurants. The men wore a jacket only once during the tour; casual attire was fine for all other meals. Many of the meals were works of art, and some were just plain home-cooked-type meals. All were beyond my expectations.

If you are considering a tour, look no further. This one is not ordinary. Olde Ipswich offers tours to many European locations; I’m looking forward to my next one with Jean.

— JO HARDING, Sparks, NV