January / February 2014
Germany, France, Austria, Slovenia, Italy
Day 1 TUESDAY 14 arrived Frankfurt am Main (Germany)
Day 2 WEDNESDAY 15 Frankfurt am Main (group photo in Römerberg, followed by walking tour of the City’s main sights and traditional German meal in a Sachsenhausen Apple Wine Pub. We visited sights such as the reconstructed Old Town – the Ostzeile, the Rathaus, Alte Nikolaikirche, the Römerhöfchen, the ‘Kaiserdom’ (St Bartholomew’s Cathedral), the Museum of Modern Art, Goethehaus, Paulskirche (site of the first German Parliament), the Hauptwache, Alte Oper, and the Kleinmarkthalle where people got their first taste of German street food - Frankfurter Wuerstchena (tasty locally made sausage with an audible snap, served with mustard and a Broetchen (bread roll), or with Sauerkraut).Other delights included Handkäse, cheeses of all varieties, Bratwurst, Weisswurst, Currywurst, apfelwein, Apfelsaftschorle, and of course beer!
Day 3 THURSDAY 16 Frankfurt / Gelnhausen / Neuses
Day 4 FRIDAY 17 Frankfurt to Köln (Cologne)
Morning departure by coach Sight seeing en route, and dinner at Hotel / Restaurant. Evening Nightwatchman’s walking tour of the Old City starting from the Main Town Square in the shadows of the imposing Kölner Dom.
Day 5 SATURDAY 18 Köln
Met in front of Cologne Cathedral with local guides for a 1 hour guided visit of the “Kölner Dom” – one of the architectural masterpieces of mankind. Declared a World Cultural Heritage Site as ‘a perfect example of Gothic construction’, the Cathedral is the symbol of the metropolis on the Rhine. Only two minutes on foot away from the cathedral was the late Romanesque church of St. Andreas – in the midst of the Cologne banking quarter. The peculiarity of St. Andreas is the combination of Romanesque and Gothic styles. Finally we visited the Gross St. Martin Church. With its prominent crossing towers and clover leaf chancel Groß St. Martin has made its impression on the panorama of the Cologne Old Town since the Middle Ages. Spent the afternoon exploring Cologne for an independent lunch in smaller groups and time at leisure in the city centre before enjoying a group dinner at the Köln Neumarkt.
Day 6 SUNDAY 19 Köln to Reims (via Aachen) Departed early and checked out before boarding the coach to travel to the historic City of Aachen near the borders of Germany, Holland and France. Performed the High Mass in the beautiful Church of Sankt Severin where we were warmly received, before heading into the City Centre to visit the Aachen Kaiserdom. The church is the oldest cathedral in northern Europe and was known as the “Royal Church of St. Mary at Aachen” during the Middle Ages. For 595 years, from 936 to 1531, the Aachen chapel was the church of coronation for 30 German kings and 12 queens. Enjoyed a guided walking tour of Aachen sights, before we had free time to explore and lunch in city. Boarded the coach and travelled via Belgium to Reims (France) approx. 4.5 hours drive. Dinner and overnight accommodation in Reims.
Day 8 TUESDAY 21 Reims(France)
The first recorded coronation banquet was held at the palace in 990, and the most recent in 1825. The palace has housed the Musée de l’Œuvre since 1972, displaying statuary and tapestries from the cathedral, together with reliquaries and other objects associated with the coronation of the French kings.
The Palace of Tau, together with the Cathedral of Notre-Dame and the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. Later we braved the cold wet night to venture to our evening rehearsal and concert at the Eglise Saint-Benoit, Reims with the Choeur Nicolas De Grigny. A capacity audience gave us a fantastic reception, and there were a number of encores.
The finale included a combined performance of the two large choirs , accompanied by the CSM. We made a splendid noise in the large, reverberant church. By the time we departed it was starting to snow. We all enjoyed our dinner at the Campanile Reims.
Day 10 THURSDAY 23 Paris
A violent storm hit Paris as we were finishing at the Louvre, and many said goodbye to their umbrellas… ripped and broken umbrellas were strewn across the city. After the storm cleared, many people chose to stay in Paris for the night to make the most of their time in the French capital, whilst others headed back to Pajol for dinner.
Day 11 FRIDAY 24 Paris
Concert in the famous L’église de la Madeleine – one of the most prestigious concert venues in Paris. Our concert was attended by a large audience who were very appreciative and gave us a standing ovation. Whilst the acoustics were a challenge, we presented a full 90 minute concert and were all proud to have been able to perform music by composers including Faure and Saint Seans, both of whom had written it for this imposing building!
Day 12 SATURDAY 25 Paris
We enjoyed a free day today, with people relishing the chance to revisit The Louvre Museum, or enjoy an excursion to Sacre Coeur and Montmartre, a Café crawl in The Sorbonne and the Latin Quarter, or even venture further afield to the Palace of Versailles. In the late afternoon we gave a concert to another large audience, this time at the Elglise de Saint- Augustine de Paris. Despite the vast dome creating huge echoes and a difficult reverberation, and the fact that the organ was about 200 feet away, three stories up from the orchestra and choir we managed to do well and receive yet another standing ovation. Straight after the concert we quickly rearranged ourselves into a side transept and performed music for the Evening Mass which was much easier in musical terms, and a rewarding experience for us all. The Priest sang the entire service, and at the end of the Mass gave a lovely speech thanking us for our splendid music.
Day 13 SUNDAY 26 Paris (France) to Augsberg (Germany)
Early in the morning we boarded our luxury coaches for transfer to the Boulevard de Rochechouart – where we all braved the chilly conditions for a morning walk in Montmartre and up to striking landmark that is the Sacre Coeur Basilica perched high atop the only hill in Paris. After visiting the imposing Basilica we had several hours to wander the streets of Montmartre and experience the “Art of living” or “living the Art”, of the Bonvivants, still notable in many corners of this arrondissement. Enchanting cafe’s, working artists, restaurants and galleries cram every section of this part of the city. Eventually we walked down the hill towards the famous Moulin Rouge, where we met our coaches again to transfer to Gare de L’Est (one of the largest and the oldest railway stations in Paris). Set in the 10th arrondissement, the station is not far from the Gare du Nord, facing the Boulevard de Strasbourg, part of the north-south axis of Paris created by Baron Haussmann.After time for coffee and croissants we departed Paris on the afternoon high speed ICE train for the historic German City of Augsburg. Upon arrival many were excited to see the first real snow of the tour, and after a short walk through the City we arrived at our luxurious hotel where we were glad to warm up and take advantage of the creature comforts of our hotel.
Day 15 TUESDAY 28 MünchenVisit Munich’s famous Viktualienmarkt in morning before a 3 hour guided walking tour of the city and sights (Explore Marienplatz, Frauenkirche, Old Peter etc) Bavarian Dinner dance at Hofbräuhaus Restaurant and Brewery in the evening.
After a guided walking tour of Altstadt von Innsbruck, we sadly departed the beautiful Austrian City following the Inn Valley to Wattens. There we vsited the unique Crystal World of Swarovski – a combination of modern art installations and dazzling array of crystals, including the largest Swarovski showroom in the world. We then continued through the Alps to Salzburg – stopping for an independent lunch en route at the Austrian Village and world-renowned ski resort, Kitsbuhl.
Another early start began with a two hour guided walking tour of Salzburg, following in the footsteps of Mozart, and taking in some of the main sights of The Sound of Music. This was followed by time at leisure in the city centre, which gave everyone the chance to visit one of the famous coffee houses (including Café Tomaselli which has been serving the locals since 1705!).
Other sights that various groups visited included the imposing Hohenfortress which towers above the City, Mozart’s Birth House, Schloss Mirrabell, the Cathedral, or the beautiful shops which this city is famous for. In the afternoon we all enjoyed a Sound of Music tour which took in many of the sights which are further afield, including Schloss Leopoldskron, Nonnberg Abbey, Helbrunn Palace (and its famous Rotunda) and the surrounding Salzburgerland and Salzkammergut Lakes district, including the magnificent Basilica of the Benedictine Abbey at Mondsee (setting of Captain von Trapp’s wedding). After a long day of sightseeing we then performed an evening concert in the Church of the Precious Blood, Salzburg. This strikingly modern building was the first built in a controversial modern style after the ravages of WWII and proved a challenge given its unusual architectural layout, which included a nave “in the round”, low arched ceilings and a huge fixed stone altar in teh. Despite the freezing conditions
Day 20 SUNDAY 2 Feb Venice (Italy)
We drove to the Ferry terminal at Messtre and boarded the Tronchetto boat and travelled down the length of Venice’s famous Grand canal.
Upon arriving at Saint Mark’s Square it soon became evident that the constant rain was going to result in flooding, and brightly coloured waterproof knee high boots were quickly purchased by all. Some could not resist Italian espresso or gelati, but a few managed to visit the great Basilica San Marco for High Mass rather than being entertained by the tame pigeons which frequent the square and provide great joy for passing tourists!
There was a short time to explore some of the sights of this incredible waterlogged City…including the many bridges that cross the canals, the many leaning towers, the major churches such as Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Santa Maria della Salute, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.
We raced back to our hotel to get dry and changed into our formal gear before heading off to the small village of Chioggia, at the entrance of the Venitian Lagoon. There, despite the driving rain which had flooded all of Italy by now, we attended a special Evening Mass and then presented a concert in the Cathedral of Choggia, (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta). There was a massive audience, with the Cathedral almost full, including rows and rows of clergy, including Bishops, Nuns, Priests and even a VIP Papal delegation from the Vatican who had been present for the Mass and stayed to hear our music. We gave a terrific performance, and were very well received, with a standing ovation and repeated calls for encores, which eventually numbered five!
Day 21 MONDAY Venice (Italy)
After breakfast in our fabulous hotel, we again travelled into Venice by Tronchetto boat for a day of sight-seeing activities. Most took advantage of a cruise to the Lagoon Islands of Murano and Burano. First stop was Murano, famous for its glass and the incredible art created there by its master glass workers. We visited a glass blowing factory and were amazed to watch the master artisans create beautiful glass objects from lumps of glowing red hot molten glass in a matter of minutes, and then enjoyed browsing (and buying) many beautiful glass objects in the showroom afterwards.
Pasta, Calamari, Cuttlefish, fresh clams, fish and all sorts of pastas and treats were washed down with a splash of chianti and good Italian espresso – just the thing to warm us up on a cold wet day. Later on we took the boat back to Venice and disembarked at Saint Mark’s Square, where some chose to return to the hotel on the bus, and many chose to stay in Venice for the night and make the most of their time there. Some chose to cruise the Grand Canal again, enjoy another Gondola Ride, visit the Palazzo Ducale, venture to the beautiful Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, enjoy another Café Crawl, wander the narrow streets and laneways or spend time in the many beautiful shops that cover Venice.
Day 22 TUESDAY Venice to Padova (Padua)
Today we all enjoyed a daytrip excursion to the historic University town of Padua. We boarded the coaches for a visit to the ancient “City of Water” (about an hour’s drive away). The driving and constant rain that was continuing to flood most of Italy certainly meant that Padua (or Padova as it is commonly referred to in Europe) lived up to its reputation, albeit for the wrong reasons! Padova is also famous for its Saint, St Antonio. Sights of the city included the Caffe Pedrocchi, the Basilica of St Anthony, Piazza dei Signori. The impressive Basilica complex also houses famous artworks including great frescos by Tiziano. Prato Della Valle is supposedly the largest square in all Europe and is surrounded by stunning statues. We headed to a lovely restaurant for a fabulous final formal meal, where a good time was had by all, and various speeches and acknowledgements were made, and we had a chance to thank our wonderful guides and coach drivers. The food was scrumptious, the wine excellent and the company lots of fun.
A highlight of our tip to Padova was a visit to the famous Scrovegni Chapel with its stunning frescoes, which for many who have been to the Vatican rival the even more famous Sistine Chapel in terms of beauty. We endured the rain for a three hour guided walking tour of the city of Padua before breaking into small groups for some café time, and qa chance to get out of the rain.
After a quick change we headed to the Church of Maria Pellegrina for an evening concert in Padua. Another large and VERY enthusiastic audience greeted us, and we gave a wonderful final performance which ended with yet another standing ovation and repeated encores. It was a great thrill to perform Vivaldi to such a reception, and the acoustics of the building were beautiful. It was with a tinge of sadness and a lot of pride that we realised that we had performed for the last time on this tour. After clearing out and chatting to the locals we returned to Venice for a late dinner at our hotel (served by a dozen or so waiters in dinner suits who dished out as much charm as they did pasta during our final Italian banquuet!).