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Travel & Holidays in later life


Reclining seats on a luxury-grade Grand Tourer coach in the Wallace Arnold fleetThe classic continental coach tour gives you a sampling of several countries. You pay your package price, and then sit back and let someone else do all the arranging: hotel bookings, meal reservations, route-planning, tipping of waiters and porters.

In a two-week circuit, you can have an armchair view of Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and France, with perhaps Luxembourg and Liechtenstein (which you might not notice if you doze for a few minutes).

Some holidaymakers regard these itineraries as a reconnaissance, helping them decide which countries they'd like to visit in more detail next time. 

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Ask your travel agent for brochures. Otherwise, here's a short-list of addresses:

CONSORT TRAVEL - Wickersley House, Bawtree Road,, Wickersley, Rotherham S66 2BB. Tel:  0844 844 0470. 

LEGER - Canklow Meadows, Rotherham S60 2XR. Tel: 0845 408 0769. 

TRAFALGAR - 15 Grosvenor Place, London SW1X 7HH. Tel: 020 7574 7444. 

WA SHEARINGS - Miry Lane, Wigan WN3 4AG. Tel: 01942 824 824. 

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Seven-country coach tours are not necessarily a dawn-to-dusk marathon. By using handy motorways, they can feature the occasional day or half-day at leisure.

Similar itineraries, with more two-night stops and city sightseeing, can range up to three weeks  - especially on classic European Grand Tour circuits that reach south to Rome. 

A knowledgeable coach tour courier/driver points out places of interest, fills in the general background to a region, and arranges suitable refreshment stops.

At the main highlight cities, a local guide takes over for a more detailed half-day or whole-day sightseeing. Sometimes the local sightseeings are included. Otherwise they are priced as optional extras.

A typical "classic" coach tour itinerary goes cross-Channel from Dover to the art cities of Bruges and Ghent for overnight in Brussels; into Germany to the Rhine Valley (possibly with river-steamer cruise included), and thence to Heidelberg, Black Forest and across the border to Switzerland.

Ancient bell-tower in a village overlooking Lake Garda A leisure day in Lucerne could give the chance of a cog- tooth railway ride up Mount Pilatus.

Then comes a taste of the Austrian Tyrol to Innsbruck; Brenner Pass to reach Venice, Florence and Rome - each with city sightseeing, leisure and optional afternoon or evening excursions; thence back by way of Siena, Pisa, Italian Riviera, Monte Carlo and the final excitement of "Paris by Night".

Coach-tour operators have devised dozens of variations along this basic pattern. Some tours, for instance, are short-period budget holidays just across the Channel to the art cities of Belgium and Holland, to Paris or the scenic Rhineland (along the stretch between Bonn and Rüdersheim).

A Shearings coach During autumn, grape-harvest time along the Rhine is the best season for wine festivals. The short trips are often taken by motorists who have an "extra" week's holiday, but don't want the bother of driving themselves.

A highly popular springtime destination is the bulbfield region of Holland, south of Haarlem. The full glory of the tulip season goes from about April 9th to May 9th (plus or minus a few days according to season).

Spreading deeper into scenic Europe, many coach tour packages avoid long-distance road-races by using charter or scheduled flights to distant Continental airports where the tour coach awaits.

The best coach-touring idea of recent years is to leapfrog across France aboard the TGV high-speed train services from Paris. Travelling at 160 mph through pleasant countryside opens up leisured coach holidays in Switzerland, Italy, Spain, French Alps or the Riviera. 

WA Shearings - the merger since 2005 of the two market leaders, Wallace Arnold and Shearings - has followed that system for a number of tours. A coach with a British driver awaits at the regional destination, to stay at the base hotel with a programme of half-day and whole-day excursions. 

Dodging the midsummer heat are the autumn and spring coach-tours of the highlight cities of Spain, Morocco and Italy, or the classic sites and scenery of Greece or Turkey.

Other versions of these air/coach holidays are often stretched to a leisurely fortnight, using a formula of "Tour a while, stay a while". 

These packages combine a week's relaxation at an Alpine or Mediterranean resort, with scenic coach-touring out and back by different routes.

Many coach-tour regulars prefer these arrangements. One year they do Classical Greece; another year for Italian Lakes and Alps; then a Grand Moroccan tour, visiting the Imperial cities of Fez, Meknes, Marrakesh and Rabat. 

In total contrast they could choose a Baltic circuit, packed with scenic interest.

The locally-based courier and driver really know the country. And there's enough leisure time to absorb impressions.

An ultra-economy version of the Centre Tour is to travel out and back by In the Roman Forum Express Coach, with high-speed overnight travel along motorways. Generally, coaches are purpose-built for this operation. They have tilt-back seats, a toilet on board, and perhaps a hostess or the second driver to serve soft drinks. 

Routes are selected for shortest possible journey-time. Scenic interest is incidental, cities are avoided, and there are no sightseeing stops along the way. 

Express Coach tours are Best Buy if you must keep holiday costs to an absolute minimum. The price target is to undercut the standard air-charter package holidays, to compensate for a couple of nights' cat-napping in a reclining seat. But it's a hard way of saving money.

Consider these other coach options:

ANNECY - French coach touring by TGV train

LOIRE VALLEY - The Garden of France

RHINE - Enjoy a classic Rhine/Moselle cruise

SALZKAMMERGUT - Sounds of Music with salt

TYROL - by coach tour

HEBRIDES - Hopscotch to the Western Isles

IRELAND WEST COAST - Coach-touring the west

SCOTLAND-NORTH - tour from Dornoch 


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