As an attorney, I love learning. As a traveler, I love seeing new sites and learning about the places I visit (not to mention taking great photos). So when I was planning my trip to Europe, a continent rich in architecture and history, I wanted insight into the places I visited that went beyond just the simple surface level. I wanted context. Enter Context Travel.
Context Travel has taken a different approach to the travel tour. In cities worldwide, Context focuses on deep, in-depth travel, putting things in…you guessed it, context. The docents are local and no tour is more than six people. Yes, you read that right, a maximum of six people are allowed on every tour. By being so small, Context Travel’s tours really allow you to interact with the people on your tour and experience something new with new people.
So when I went to Europe this summer, I had the opportunity to take three Context Travel tours (that they sent me on complimentary to experience and write about their tours) in three different countries. I started in Paris with the Paris Market Walk tour, where we visited a local market and sampled fresh eats (and drinks). Next up was the Westminster Abbey, Britain Through the Ages tour in London, where we got to explore the famed Westminster Abbey in depth. And lastly, I got to participate in the inaugural tours in Stockholm, Sweden, with the Taste of Sweden tour.
Here’s a breakdown of the tours, with context (see what I did there). 🙂
Stop 1: Paris Market Walk Tour
Context Travel has numerous tours in Paris to choose from. But being that Paris is such a foodie city, and I am such a foodie, we opted for a market walk. This was an excellent idea. Our docent, Preston, is experienced with food and wine in Paris, and he took us on an in-depth, three-hour walk through a Paris market, with tastings along the way.
This tour gave us much more insight into local Paris. We got off the beaten path and headed to the 12th arrondissement (or district) in Paris, which is not a heavily traversed area by tourists. In fact, we were told not to get the locals in our pictures unless we first asked because they were not particularly accustomed to tourists. This gave us a refreshing look at Paris from a truly local perspective.
As we walked the street filled with stalls, I was immediately struck by the freshness of the produce. It is no secret that Europe has stricter food quality standards than the U.S., and the food there really just tastes so much better. The market is open every day, and Parisians stop and get their fresh produce typically on the same day that they eat it.
After walking the stalls, the first stop was a bread shop. After munching on some bread, we then headed to a coffee shop. Given that I am not a coffee drinker, I had the most delectable hot chocolate ever. We stood outside, took in the sights, and discussed travel with the family that was on the tour with us.
Then, cheese. We know I have a cheese addiction, so being able to sample fresh cheeses from a cute little fromagerie was absolute perfection. Preston explained the difference between some of the cheeses and a lot of the differences in dairy in the States versus Europe. We tried a range of cheeses and I really indulged. We, of course, then had to move to the indoor portion with the butchered meat and tried some fresh meats from the butchers.
By this point you are thinking, surely this is the end of the market walk. But no, there was then chocolate. We sampled so many chocolates, and they were all so delectable, that we ended up buying some to go. The richness and sweetness of the chocolates were an absolutely perfect “dessert,” as we sampled while locals came in and out for their daily chocolate fix.
Oh but there is more. A Paris foodie extravaganza wouldn’t be complete without wine. We went to a local shop where we tried their house wine straight out of the barrels. We stood around a table in the small wine shop and drank and talked about our plans in Europe.
We were full, and we were happy. Having sampled produce, wine, cheese, meats, chocolate, bread, and coffee, this was the absolute perfect experience. If you love food and want to experience local Paris and all its foodie splendor, this is the tour for you. Context Travel really knocked it out of the park with this one.
And be sure to use BarrisTourista’s link to book the Paris Market Walk Tour!
Stop 2: London and Westminster Abbey
Confession: I love reading about the Royals. I relished in the Royal Wedding. I still swoon over Prince George and Princess Charlotte. I fancy that Duchess Catherine and I would get along swimmingly and be BFFs, and of course I wouldn’t mind playing with the babies on our weekly get togethers. So when I had a chance to take a tour of Westminster Abbey in London on the second stop of my Eurotrip, you know I jumped at it.
I was glued to the Royal Wedding and all of the coverage, so stepping inside Westminster and learning all of the history of the Abbey was pretty neat. Unfortunately, you cannot take pictures inside so I was limited to outside pictures.
This is an absolutely grand place! I had no idea of the size and various taverns that this place has. Three hours was certainly needed to explore all of the different aspects of the building, from the Royal Wedding spot, to burial tombs (I had no idea that so much of the royal lineage was actually buried in the Abbey) to where services are held. This building literally houses 1000 years of British history in a one-stop shop.
We were able to see the official coronation throne, as Westminster is the official setting for all coronations. Additionally, Westminster pays homage to notable contributors to society in various areas such as literature, the arts, science, and civic duty. There are not just tributes to various contributors to society, but there are also many effigies and graves on the grounds, including scientist Charles Darwin, estimated up to 3000 graves on the property.
The architecture, with the exquisite high ceilings and arches, is marvelous. If not for the hourly prayer where everyone pauses, it would be easy to forget it is actually a church because it is so intricate in its detail and structure. It was interesting to see how one institute housed so much of Britain’s history, and Context Travel does a great job of working in the history with the visuals of the Abbey. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes (and don’t overdo it in Paris before you take your tour, like I did), because the stone floors of the Abbey combined with its grandiose scale will make you want to soak your feet after your tour.
Stop 3: Stockholm, Sweden
In mid-July, Context Travel expanded to its newest city, Stockholm, Sweden. And I got to experience one of the tours firsthand with the Taste of Stockholm (now called an Introduction to Stockholm) tour. Initially, I thought it was going to be an all-foodie tour, similar to the Paris Market Walk, but it is actually quite different. While there is the food component, this tour takes you around various areas of Stockholm, giving a great introduction to the city and its regal architecture.
The tour started at City Hall. Our docent told us that we had to visit Stockholm’s City Hall and I am sure I wasn’t the only one who was questioning that decision, because how interesting could a stop by City Hall really be? Then we went inside.
Wow! City Hall is absolutely stunning. The grandiose rooms were far beyond what one would think of a normal city hall, with the high arching ceilings and staircases. The organ alone was monumental, and it was easy to see why they have the Noble Prize dinner at this venue.
When we reached the hall where local government convenes, you could definitely see the Viking influence, as the ceiling was in the shape of a Viking Boat. But the real eye opener was the Golden Hall, a ballroom made entirely of actual gold. Let that sink in. the wall mosaics were entirely made of gold. It was absolutely breathtaking.
After we left City Hall, we stopped in front of the Royal Palace near Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town area. I had no idea that Sweden had royals at all, and as it turns out they are not even of Swedish descent, but they are their royals, nonetheless. Standing in front of the Palace, it featured understated elegance. It wasn’t flashy or nearly as intricately adorned from the outside, and, surprisingly, it is actually larger than Buckingham Palace.
We ended the tour at the Hotorget Market, Stockholm’s oldest market. The full indoor market boasts has stalls for produce, seafood, and more. In the market, we got our first opportunity to experience authentic, Swedish food. Although I didn’t get to try legit Swedish meatballs at this stop, we each had a full meal, and I was able to sample fried herring, and a local delicacy that was a shrimp toast delicacy. We discussed the cuisine of Sweden over lunch.
This is a great tour to take if you are new to Stockholm and want to get an excellent overview of the city and the area. The tour guide explained features of Stockholm, like the fact that it is built on a series of islands, and gives a great sampling of different parts of the city.
Context Travel far exceeded my expectations for my tours in Europe. They have such a wide offering of tours based upon your interests, and it really made my Eurotrip memorable. The small group setting facilitates asking questions and personal attention, and it really allows you to have time to get to know your fellow tourmates. I highly recommend Context Travel for your tours the world over. And I know that I will be using them in the future.
And if you want to try out Context Travel (and support BarrisTourista :-), please use the BarrisTourista link to book your tours with Context Travel. What are you waiting for? The world is waiting.
This post contains affiliate links wherein I get a small percentage of sales. Context Travel provided these tours as complimentary media tours. All opinions expressed are my own.