|07-06-2010, 10:33 AM||#1|
Join Date: Mar 2009
Back from 6/20 Alpine Magic
We just returned from the 6/20 Alpine Magic adventure (with a few extra days in Paris). All I can say is what an awesome experience. I will post some pictures within a couple of weeks (~2500 to download), but I'll provide some scatter brained thoughts on the adventure in no particular order:
1.) Can't say enough positives about our guides (Marc and Maddie). Although it was their first adventure together (I think Maddie was training on the early June adventure) you would never know it. They had a genuine chemistry together and it showed. They spent time with each family/individual and really got to know them. Our son has a tree nut allergy and I think Maddie was more on top of it than we were. Marc would call the group togethe with his uniquely accented "Adventurer's" call, about half way through I think all of the junior adventurer's were having a contest on who could do the best Marc impressions. I could go on and on, but the value that they brought to the overall experience can't be measured.
2.) As a whole our group really bonded. We had a very diverse group that really got to know one another. This made the trip so much more enjoyable for us.
3.) We had 8 junior adventurer's (from 7 to 13) and they seemed to bond as a group within a couple of days. They rode the bus together, played together, and ate together. If one of the JAs wasn't at the JA table at dinner, a JA would seek him/her out, say "we saved you a seat at our table, come on and eat with us". I don't think Marc and Maddie had to do alot of work to get the JA's together, the kids really did seem to come together on their own. Again, this really adds to the experience and our son now has some pen pals and new friends.
4.) For us, the Disney excursions/adventures were awesome and fit perfectly. They were diverse enough so that there was something for everyone and for the most part, we never felt rushed or wished we we could stay. For some specifics, we had a blast on the ropes/ziplines. Although, if you go on this trip be aware that the younger JAs start on the kids course (which they blew though with ease) while the parents start on the "green" course, and can work up to the increasingly difficult "red" and "black" courses. When we finished the green course, we saw the two 7 year old boys sitting rather bored. It looked like they weren't going to be allowed to go on the "green" course--need to be 8. After some minor negotiations with the owner, and telling him that we would sandwich our son, and the same with the other 7 y/o, he allowed them to go on the green course once they passed a training exercise. So, although we would have liked to have done the "red" course, it was more important that our son get his shot at the big boys course, and he had a blast (although that is all we had time to complete). I won't go into alot of detail on the others (lake cruises, Isola Bela, running with huskies, Ballenburg, etc.). I will say that the pasta making lesson was also alot of fun and a great time for the group to bond. There were a ton of laughs. The only adventure that seemed a little forced was the Bike trip around Lake Lucern. For us, this was the one that felt a little rushed. It was bike to a scenic vista, take some pictures, and bike back to the bus. It felt more like they were simply trying to break up the one long bus ride. It was OK, just didn't really have the WOW factor to it.
5.) For on our own excursions, we pretty much got to do everything we wanted/planned, except for Mt Pilatus in Luzern (we didn't really have a good 5 hour window to do it). We really lucked out, for the 2 weeks we were in Europe the weather was spectacular (if not too hot). I would definitely recommend that you research what you want to do in Zermatt. You have two free afternoons and there is so much you can do. On the day we arrived in Zermatt, we had a fondue lunch, then we got to go paragliding in the afternoon. We took off from Riffelberg and it was a surreal experience with awesome views of the Matterhorn and the valley beneath. On the second free afternoon in Zermatt, a group of us took the gondola's up to Klein Matterhorn and went into glacier palace. Again, awesome views and it is pretty cool to go inside of a glacier. In Stresa, we took the "bucket" up Mottarone to the top of that mountain for those views. Also, walking the bridges and old wall, and climbing the "towers" of Luzern provided more sweeping views/perspectives. If you get the sense we try to get to the highest point wherever we go, you are probably right :-)
6.) I should also mention the local guides. I'm not sure where Disney finds these people, but they are also great. One I will mention is the woman who does the wine tasting in Stresa. Most wine tastings I have been to are always about the grape and process. The woman who did it in Stresa had a story for everything. She was funny, engaging, warm, and informational. Her stories about being a young girl at the end of WW2 in Stresa were moving. Hopefully, other ABDs later this summer have her.
7.) We found the people in these areas to be so hospitable and nice. One quick story. As I mentioned our son has a tree nut allergy. In Switzerland, we were having trouble finding chocolate without nuts (most of the chocolate tended to have hazelnuts). Towards the end in Luzern, we promised him we would find chocolate fondue for him. We went to the Fondue House in Luzern. Initially they said the fondue did not have nuts, we ordered a 3 course fondue meal. Then they came back and said it was pre-made with Tobblerone (nuts). Without prompting, the owner came over and said he would take care of it. He had the chef run down the block to the chocolatier, buy some chocolate, and make up a special batch for us. So, if you are in Luzern, hit the Fondue House (~a 3 minute walk from the hotel). Good people as well as great food.
8.) It was pretty cool being in Europe during the world cup. The atmosphere is electric. Outside of our hotel in Luzern was a small "courtyard". They had a jumbotron set up showing world cup matches which were able to watch from our balconies. The courtyard would be filled with people passionately rooting for their team. Switzerland was actually playing one game and the place was packed. The only thing missing was a Swiss goal. We all wanted to see the place erupt.
9.) The food on the adventure was actually pretty good given that most of the meals were a fixed menu. Two meals stood out to me. The one at Monterossa in Stresa was alot of fun and it was a great family style meal, and the lasagna after the pasta making was the best I've ever had.
So, overall I would recommend this adventure to anyone. We can't speak highly enough of this experience. The end to end experience of getting to know our guides, doing the adventures, making new friends, and doing this as a family will create lasting memories.
I will try to post some pictures over the next couple of weeks. If there are any specific questions, you can PM me.
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