Upon arrival in London, you'll meet your Tour Manager and begin your trip with anunforgettable, professionally guided, panoramic city tour of London including Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, London Bridge and more!
This evening you will rest and relax for the exciting days ahead.
-Overnight in London-
This morning you'll visit the Tower of London, one of the world's most famous fortresses. The Tower of London has been a royal palace, a prison, an armory, a zoo, and it is home to her Majesty's Crown Jewels. The Tower of London has a vast history that includes the executions of two of Henry the VIII's wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, and Sir Walter Raleigh was a prisoner in the Bloody Tower for a time. The ravens that inhabit the White Tower are a special interest since it was foretold that if they were ever to leave, the great Tower of London would crumble and tragedy would befall England.
You'll visit the Tower Bridge and cross the Thames River. Constructed in 1894, Tower Bridge is a suspension bridge and a world heritage site measuring 801 feet long and 264 feet high which provides a roadway across the Thames for over 40,000 people both on foot and wheels.
Next, you'll take a tour of the iconic Globe Theatre. The original theater was built in 1599 and burned down in 1613 during a performance of Henry VIII. The theatre was rebuilt a few years later, but closed again, seemingly for good, in 1642. Tenements were built on the location of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. In the late 20th century the Globe was resurrected a few hundred yards from where the original structure once stood. The modernized Elizabethan open air theatre that you'll tour will transport you back in time with the engaging and informative look at the life of William Shakespeare, the London where he lived, and the theatre for which he wrote.
Before dinner, you'll get a bird's eye view of London when you take a ride on the London Eye! It's a breathtaking feat of design and engineering where passengers in this monstrous 443 foot tall Ferris wheel can see up to 25 miles in all directions.
This evening you'll have some free time to explore the area around Piccadilly Circus. This vibrant area is bustling with activity and shopping!
-Overnight in London-
Today you'll enjoy a guided walk through this fascinating city established in the 9th Century and home for over 800 years to many prestigious universities and colleges. You’ll learn about the history of Oxford and it’s university as you walk through the heart of the historic city center. You’ll also learn about the numerous famous authors that lived in Oxford including C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Lewis Carroll. You’ll also see some of the well know “Harry Potter” sites which some of the movie sets were modeled from.
This afternoon, you'll visit Oxford Castle, a castle with a prison at its heart. The site has been a place of incarceration since 1071, continuing until the closure of Her Majesty’s Prison Oxford in 1996. You will learn about the real people and events from the site's turbulent past.
-Overnight in Oxford-
This morning you will travel to Bath. First, you will visit the site of the Ancient Roman Baths and take a self-guided audio tour. Bath was founded upon natural hot springs with the steaming water playing a key role throughout its history. Lying in the heart of the city the Roman Baths were constructed around 70 AD as a grand bathing and socializing complex. It is now one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world. You’ll tour the remains of the excavated bath houses built thousands ago by the Romans during their occupation of Britain.
Next, immerse yourself in suspense when you visit Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England that has been shrouded in mystery for thousands of years. It is one of the most famous sites in the world and consists of the remains of a ring of standing stones. Archaeologists believe it was built anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC.
After dinner you will dive back to London
Tonight, you'll see a show at the West End in London's theatre district.
-Overnight in London-
This morning you'll take the Eurostar from London to Paris.
Today you’ll enjoy a panoramic sightseeing tour where you’ll see the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral, the Champs-Elysees and the majestic Arc de Triomphe, the impressive Place de la Concorde and the ornate Opera House.
-Overnight in Paris-
This morning you'll visit the Louvre, one of the largest art museums in the world. The Louvre is one of the signature destinations in Paris and houses a magnificent collection of art from around the world including, most notably, Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
Next, you'll enjoy a visit to the Marais Neighborhood. The Marais district gets its name from its location: once a marshland (‘marais’), it has been inhabited ever since it was drained back in the 12th century. This historic area is now one of the most visited districts of the French capital, for its architectural heritage as well as its unique vibe. The district is shaped like a triangle, bordered respectively by Place de la Bastille, Place de la République and the Hôtel de Ville. It has a number of private mansions dating to the 17th and 18th centuries, some of which have been converted into internationally renowned museums such as the Musée Picasso, the Maison de Victor Hugo and the Musée Carnavalet. The beautiful and well-proportioned square known as Place des Vosges is a highlight of a stroll through the Marais. Rue des Rosiers, the Jewish quarter of Paris, is well worth exploring for its old-world atmosphere and its offbeat shops and restaurants. The Marais has any number of trendy shops and restaurants, as well as its own department store, the BHV Marais.
Next, you'll take a narrated river cruise on the Seine.
This afternoon you'll visit Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the most famous landmarks in Paris. Located on the small island of Ile de la Cite in the middle of the Seine, the cathedral is a stunning example of French Gothic Architecture and is probably most famous for the use of flying buttresses which are the exterior arch supports.
This evening you'll visit the Eiffel Tower. This iron lattice structure located on the Champ de Mars needs no introduction as it is the quintessential symbol of Paris. Take in the beauty and majesty from the tallest and most famous structure in Paris.
-Overnight in Paris-
Today you'll experience the most magical place on Earth at Disneyland Paris. Have a blast on the rides and see the amazing attractions.
-Overnight in Paris-
This morning you will travel to Caen.
You'll visit the Caen World War II Memorial Museum. Built on the site where many lives were lost in World War II, this museum delivers the message of peace while retelling the events through two world wars to the 1989 symbolic day when the Berlin Wall was brought down.
Next, you'll visit the fortified German gun pits and observation bunkers of Pointe du Hoc the capture of which played a major role the D-Day landings because of its position as the highest point between the DDAy beaches, Omaha and Utah.
You'll then visit one of the landing sites of the Normandy invasion, Omaha Beach. After, you'll explore the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 as the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. It contains the graves of 9,386 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations.
-Overnight in Caen-
This morning you'll board your bus and begin the drive back to Paris.
You'll take a walk around the fashionable Saint Germain des Pres neighborhood and explore the trendy shops and cafes. You'll continue on to the Luxembourg Gardens to see the Luxembourg Palace, Medici Fountain and pristine landscaping of the 17th century gardens.
You'll also visit the iconic church built at the highest point of the city in Montmartre, the Sacre Coeur.
This evening you'll board an overnight train from Paris to Florence.
-Overnight on train from Paris to Florence-
Upon arrival in Florence, you'll take a guided walking tour learning all about this fantastic Renaissance city. You'll see the Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore with its impressive pink, green and white marble facade and dome by Brunelleschi. You'll learn about the bronze doors of the Baptistry which represent an early use of perspective. You'll continue on to Piazza della Signoria, the seat of Florentine power both past and present and admire the statues under the Loggia del Lanzi in the square. You'll walk towards the Ponte Vecchio taking the same route as the Vasari corridor which was built to take the Medici family from their the municipality in Palazzo Vecchio to their to their home in Palazzo Pitti without ever touching the ground. You'll see the jewelery and goldsmith shops that replaced the butcher shops on the covered bridge in the 16th century. You'll end outside of Santa Croce, the final resting place of Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo Galilei.
Next, you'll visit the Duomo, the Florentine cathedral known for it's distinctive Renaissance dome.This magnificent gothic structure built in the 1300’s includes art work by Giotto and engineering by Brunelleschi.
You'll visit Accademia Museum, home of Michelangelo's famous sculpture, David, a marble statue representing the biblical hero, David. Originally, the statue was on display in the Piazza della Signora before it was moved to it's current location at the Accademia Museum in 1873. A replica of David stands in the Piazza della Signora marking the place the original sculpture held so long ago.
This evening you'll also visit Basilica di Santa Croce, which houses extraordinary works of art as well as the tombs of some of Italy's most elite citizens such as Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli.
-Overnight in Florence-
Today you will take a day trip to Cinque Terre (Five Lands), a stunning seaside community comprised of five beautiful villages that are amazingly preserved in a time when cars did not rule the roads. Wander the cliff side trail that connects these villages and experience the breathtaking views and the wondrous history.
-Overnight in Florence-
Today's day trip will be exploring the hilltop town of Siena and visit its most important sights including the Duomo, the headquarters of the oldest bank in the world, Monte Paschi di Siena and Piazza del Campo, the sight of the famous Palio race. You'll learn about the different contrade or neighborhoods and their long lasting rivalry that plays out during the medieval horse race.
You'll visit the main cathedral in Siena, an example of gothic architecture and decoration. You'll see the ornate facade, the horizontal striped pillars in the interior and the unfinished extension whose construction was abandoned after the black plague struck the city.
You'll stop at the hilltop town of San Gimignano known for it's unique skyline formed by a dozen medieval towers that have survived the centuries. You'll stroll through the narrow streets and have time to visit the many gourmet food, souvenir and artisan shops in this picturesque town.
-Overnight in Florence-
This morning you'll board your bus and drive to Rome.
Today you'll have a full day exploring the captial city of Italy. You will see the Coliseum, the largest amphitheater in the world. Emperor Vespasian began in 70 AD and was finished in 80 AD by his son Titus. Emperor Domitian (81-96) made further modifications. These three emperors are known as the Flavian dynasty and the Coliseum is also known as the Flavian amphitheater and is one of the greatest works of Roman engineering and architecture that the world still enjoys today. Crowds between 50,000 and 80,000, and even the emperor himself, attended gladiatorial contests, animal hunts, mock sea skirmishes, mythological dramas and famous battles. You'll continue on to the Roman Forum, the epicenter of the Roman Empire and the heart of public life. You'll see the remnants of Roman public buildings and squares where parades, elections and commerce took place.
Next, you'll visit the Trevi Fountain, one of the most famous places in ancient and modern history. Experience the “scenes of Italy” as locals and tourists mix. See where a young maiden revealed the secret water’s source to a group of Roman soldiers. The Trevi Fountain, was the ending point for the aqueduct created from this legend. These pictures are depicted on the upper level. While Neptune, the statue’s focal point, sits astride two horses on the water’s below. Each horse is guided by a triton-a mythological divinity. One horse is calm while the other is restless symbolizing the different tempers of the sea. Test the legend by throwing two coins in the fountain, one ensures a return trip to Rome while the other promises new romance.
This afternoon you'll see the Pantheon, which gave Michelangelo his inspiration for St. Peter’s Basilica. Experts see the Pantheon as an icon of Roman architectural perfection. It was built as a Roman temple and later converted into a church when Christendom entered Italy. Marvel at the bronze doors each weighing 20 tons. They were once covered in gold! Look up to see a perfectly round oculus, in the dome’s center. Brilliant Roman architects gently sloped the floor to allow for convenient drainage when it rained. The Pantheon is an important burial place for several noted figures including artist Raphael. Still being an active church, the Pantheon is a popular place for weddings. If you close your eyes, you might just be able to imagine an ancient Roman wedding and how they lived, in this wonder of ancient and modern civilization.
This evening you'll visit the popular Piazza Navona. It is built on the ancient Stadium of Domitian, also known as Circus Agonalis-built in 85 AD. This square could hold up to 30,000 spectators watching the contests just a few feet in front of them. Today Piazza Navona is a charming place with shops, restaurants and vendors. Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers sits in the center of the Piazza.
-Overnight in Rome-
Today you'll have a guided tour through Vatican City including St. Peter's Basilica and square and the Vatican Museums. You'll see the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and Raphael right next door to one of the world’s spiritual leaders. You'll have an up close look at masterpieces like the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, the Chapel of Beato Angelico, the collection in the Raphael Rooms and Loggia and the Borgia Apartments. At St. Peter's Basilica, you'll climb to the top of the dome.
You'll make a stop at the Circo Massimo, an ancient Roman sporting complex where chariot races and public sporting activities took place.
To close the day you'll explore the Catacombs of Rome. Consisting of over 40 catacombs, this labyrinthian system of tunnels was the burial place for Christians in Ancient Rome at a time when burials within the city walls were prohibited by law.
-Overnight in Rome-
This morning you will depart for your return trip home, or continue onto Itinerary 2 of your summer European Exploration