Twelve aspiring globetrotters won a free tour during EF’s 50th anniversary celebrations last year, and avid photographer Katherine was one of our lucky winners. This past September, she set off from her small town in the Midwest and embarked on a whirlwind adventure on our Grand Tour of Europe: London to Rome. From taking snapshots of iconic landmarks after dark to fulfilling a travel dream for her mother in “The Eternal City,” here are some of her favorite memories—and photos—from the life-changing trip.
You visited many beautiful places on your 16-day adventure. What drew you to this tour?
My husband and I live on a farm in North Dakota where we grow soybeans and corn, and I never pictured myself traveling to Europe. So, when I had the opportunity to go with a friend, I chose this tour because it looked like it would give me a taste of all there was to see. I knew this would be an exciting, busy trip, and it was fun to take in as many sights as possible in wonderful places I had only ever dreamed of visiting. The days flew by and I’m glad I kept a journal so that I can look back at and remember all that we saw.
What was the best part about traveling on a guided tour with Go Ahead?
Our Tour Director, Daniele, was so personable, fun, informative, patient, and flexible. We all just loved him, and it nice to have an expert leading the way. Also, all of our tickets were purchased in advance so there was no waiting in lines. The well-located hotels we stayed in and the meals provided were just excellent, and I liked that we would have a guided tour and then get to enjoy free time. My friend and I were out until midnight almost every night snapping pictures. Our group members were always surprised to see we had made it up in time for breakfast!
I’d love to hear about some of the highlights from your tour!
It was interesting that even though the countries we visited are fairly close together, the architecture, landscapes, and feel of each city was so different.
London, England: I loved taking photos after dark because everything was lit up so beautifully—even icons like Big Ben and the London Eye were illuminated with red, green, and blue lights in the evening.
Paris, France: One night, my friend and I visited a little Parisian street café near our hotel. There, we had some wine and a flaming crème brûlée for a bedtime snack.
The Netherlands: A parade of horses pulling dignitaries in antique carriages went by us one afternoon in Amsterdam. We knew the ladies in the fancy hats must have been important!
Germany: The traditional food and beer in the Heidelberg Region were very good! Germany is one European country I would like to go back to because my ancestors are German.
Lucerne, Switzerland: I love the mountains and read all the Heidi books as a child, so this country has always been on my bucket list. While it was foggy on the day we traveled up to Mount Pilatus, the train ride to the top and gondola ride back down were very exiting.
Rome, Italy: Visiting Vatican City was very special, especially since my mom wants to go there but will never make it. It was so vast and stunning, and I felt like I was seeing it for her. I had to have a little cry while in the chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Venice, Italy: I thought it was so amazing that St. Mark’s Square square flooded every day as the tide came in. I love taking photographs with reflections in them, and all the canals offered many photo ops.
Out of all the destinations you visited, did you have a favorite?
Going to the big cities on tour was very exciting for me, but, I have to say Venice was my favorite. I live in a small town of about 75 people in the country, so I liked that the lack of traffic and crowds made for a very relaxed atmosphere. There were many little shops to pop into and the quaint hotel we stayed in had so much charm. It was just delightful!
How was it to travel with a group of new people?
While I have fond memories from each destination we visited, my group was one of the best parts of the tour. Everyone got along very well and we laughed until our stomachs hurt. All the photos I take of scenery are nice to look at, but it’s the ones with the people in them, the new friends made, that have the most meaning.
Has seeing the world changed you in any way?
I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be seeing these far-away places. Traveling has made me realize how much I appreciate the quiet peacefulness of my farm life, but it also gives me something amazing to look forward to. I love the exciting prospect of where I might go next! I think that if your health is good and you really want to travel, don’t put it off. Just go for it because you will not be sorry.
Have you had any memorable travel experiences in Europe? Tell us in the comments below, and scroll down to see more of Katherine’s stunning photos from tour!
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Heidelberg Region, Germany
Heidelberg Region, Germany
Lake Como, Italy