5 European Flower Destinations You Must See
PHOTO: The flowers of Europe, like this tulip from Holland's Keukenhof Gardens, draw more than honey bees, they attract travelers too.
Nothing more perfectly expresses the joy we feel at the return of spring than the eruption of flowers. In Europe, the flowers begin coming in along the Mediterranean in March, and are filling the flower markets of northern Europe by April. Dutch tourism enjoys a peak surge in April with the coming of the tulips and other flowers. Throughout Europe, each country has its own specialties. Private Shore Trips (PST), a company that specializes in city tours and privately arranged ship excursions, has made its list of the Five Best Ways to See Europe’s Spring Flowers.
Private Shore Trips is a division of Travels with Friends LLC, a U.S. based company which began in 2001. In 2007 the company began focusing on offering excursions for cruise passengers that are separate from the cruise ship’s own excursions. PST trips grow less expensive as the size of the group grows larger. The excursions run from just a few hours to as long as eight hours. “The main distinction of what we offer is that our trips are private,” said company founder Steven Hurley. You won’t be surrounded by strangers.”
Number One: Take a private tour of Holland’s Keukenhof Gardens. In Holland the crocuses are already exploding with daffodils, hyacinths, and smaller tulips on the way. In the next week or so the tulips will really begin their annual show, and will be in top form through mid-May. From mid-April until the first week in May the tulips steal the show. PST takes visitors down Holland’s most scenic floral roads and explores the dikes and windmills as well.
The eight-hour PST package for Keukenhof is a good example of the pricing. Priced at $526 per person for two, it then goes from $358 for three passengers to $274 for four, $224 for five, $190 for six, $192 for seven, and $171 for eight passengers.
Number Two: The Nice Flower Market was ranked by the French National Council of Culinary Arts as one of the country’s most special markets. But don’t eat the geraniums, fuchsias, dahlias, and impatiens no matter how beautiful they smell. In fact, the odor of these flowers almost outstrips the visual experience. The five-hour PST trip takes in Nice, Monaco, and Monte Carlo and is priced from $226 per person for two and, $57 per person for eight passengers.
Number Three: The Flower Boxes of Palma de Mallorca burst from the windows and around the doors. The people of Mallorca in spring have gone from rose-colored glasses to rose-colored windows. PST picks visitors up at their hotels, or at the port, and an English-speaking guide in a vehicle takes them to see some of the choicest lanes for the best, most floral boxes. The trip also includes a visit to the Monastery of Valldemossa, where George Sand and Frederic Chopin spent time together. The four hour excursion is priced from $296 per person for two to $87 per person for eight.
Number Four: Croatian Lavender on the island of Hvar reaches its zenith in June and July when the hills around Hvar Town are absolutely purple with it. In the town lavender is used even in cakes and teas. The 4.5-hour PST package also visits the Fishing Museum and St. Mary’s Church and is priced at $316 per person for two and $113 per person with eight passengers.
Number Five: Marseille’s Wild Red Poppy Fields. In May, the fields throughout Marseille are covered with flowers, especially red poppies. The poppies literally line the paths between the vineyards and olive groves in the valley. In June the sunflowers come out and then the lavender fields go royal purple in July. The eight-hour PST package is priced from $498 per person with two pax and $125 per person for eight passengers.
PST offers travel agents a way to earn commission on those ship shore excursions. “We get a lot of support from agents because of commission, but also because we customize and give their clients exactly what they want,” said Hurley. “Almost every agent that calls in, talks to one of our counselors in order to tailor it to the customer’s specifications. We are happy to do it.”
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