“ Owen's Travelmaster / Type: Coach Company „
Owen's Travelmaster are a 'Travel agent and coach company. Whilst their head office is in Oswestry (Shropshire), they also have branch offices in Newtown, Welshpool, Whitchurch, Wrexham and Shrewsbury. I'm not sure how long the company has been around although I do know that it has been around for more than 20 years (at least).
I have been with this company on more that one occasion before this; we went to Torquay when I was 6 and to Blackpool for the day a few years ago - although I was too young to 'take it all in' and have a 'proper' opinion at the time.
We heard about this holiday through my auntie and uncle who had seen it advertised in a local newspaper. They called us up to say they 'fancied going' and were we interested. We then went to get a brochure from the Oswestry branch, and as soon as we had had a look at the 'Summertime in Paris' break, we instantly knew we wanted to go.
~ * Summertime In Paris * ~
The break was to take place between 14th - 17th August (4 days). This was a new tour for 2011. We would be staying at the Mecure Hotel, La Defense (Paris) which is a 3* hotel (I have also written a review on this hotel). The price per person was £235. The tour included : all travel by executive coach, return ferry crossings, excursions as detailed and 3 nights bed and buffet breakfast. A single room supplement was available for £102.
We decided that there would be six of us going; my parents, my auntie and uncle, my friend and myself. We then went to book it.
~ * Booking * ~
Three of us went to book the holiday. It was a quiet time in the office when we went and we were the only ones in there. There was a lady on the desk who was on the computer. For five minutes or so she didn't acknowledge us (there were three of us) and so we just 'hung around uncomfortably' for a couple of minutes. She then spoke to us (I can't remember exactly what she said, but I remember that there wasn't an apology for making us wait and she didn't tell us to sit down so we just stood.) The lady was a bit 'off-ish' and quite 'dry' with us which put us off a little bit.
Anyway, we booked it; we paid a £50 deposit and £28.50 travel insurance (with the company, or you could get your own from somewhere else e.g the post office if you wanted to). We booked four months before going and then were to 'wait to hear' from the company.
The booking was very easy to make. All you had to do is go to the office or ring them up, pay your deposit, give your details and you're done. Simples.
~ * You Have Mail * ~
A couple of days later we received our 'confirmation' through the post. On this letter they told us that they would contact us nearer the time with more 'in-detail details'. We had to pay the full amount (which was around £185) around a month before we went, so we had plenty of time to save up.
~ * Still Waiting For The Details... * ~
We didn't receive the 'in-detail details' (about times etc) until the Friday (9 days before we were to go). Whilst the letter gave us plenty of details and was very informative and gave us all the information that we needed, I did think that it was quite late, especially as it said on the letter that we would need a 'European Health Card' and that it would take around seven days to arrive. Luckily for us, we had already heard about this card and thought that we 'had better get one' before we had heard that we did need one (we got it a couple of months before). However, for someone who didn't know about it until they got the letter on the Friday (which was probably when they got home from work, and so was too late to go the post office, which would then only leave 6 days to send off a request for the card and receive the card before we went).
~ * Getting Closer * ~
As the time was getting closer, I was really excited about going to Paris as 1) I had never been and 2) I had always wanted to go ever since I watched 'Passport To Paris' (a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie) as a child (it was one of my favourite movies throughout my childhood!).
I had no idea what to expect and so was very excited!
~ * Sunday 14th August 2011 * ~
Itinerary - " We depart early morning and travel south to Dover for a lunch time crossing to France. We arrive in Paris mid-evening."
The day had arrived! Today, we were going to Paris. We got up at around 4:30am in order to catch the bus at our local meeting point for 5:50am ( when I was first informed of the time I did think 'ooh that's early, I thought that they would say 8am), although at the same time I was quite happy that it was early because it meant that the holiday would start sooner and we would get to Paris sooner, and because we had got up early we were going to be really tired and so 'sleep the journey off'.
We were driven to Telford service station where we met the driver who would take us to Paris. The driver met us with his wife, who was also coming on the trip with us. She didn't work for the company, although she had volunteered to help out which I thought was lovely (more on this later).
We drove for a couple of hours before we made a stop at a service station. We then drove another couple of hours and then there was another stop. We then drove an hour or so towards Dover to meet the Ferry which we were going on to cross over from England to France.
Whilst I have been on a cruise ship, I had never been on a ferry and so I was unsure what to expect; I was hoping that it wouldn't be too rocky. Whilst it wasn't as grand as a ship (it had the same kind of lay-out) and it wasn't too rocky which was good. The ferry took around an hour and a half. I thought that it was really good how the company had planned to go on the ferry rather than drive through the euro tunnel, as not only did it allow the driver to have quite a long break, it also 'broke the coach journey' up for us and allowed us to have a walk around and sit on the top deck and get some lovely fresh sea air.
Once we got off the ferrry, we then drove a couple of hours through France, and then making a stop for something to eat. We then drove another couple of hours and then finally reach our hotel.
We arrived at the hotel at around 9pm which considering we had been 'on the road' since 6am was quite a long time (15 hours in total). I had really been dreading the journey before we went, although I have to say it wasn't that bad at all! I slept most of the way and so it went quite quickly for me. There were plenty of stops which made it more interesting and let you go to the toilet. I am always needing the toilet, but I was never 'having to hold on bursting'. So it was good - there were plenty of stops.
As we got into France ( I was wide awake for this bit as it was interesting to see what the scenery and motorways were like), the driver put on a CD of French music which really got us in the mood.
We then arrived at the hotel; the driver's wife got the keys for us and so all we had to do was go straight to our room; which saved a lot of hassle, e.g having to deal with reception and check in. So it was all done for us. We were also given 'tokens' as a 'pass' so that we could get breakfast.
~ * Monday 15th August 2011 * ~
Intinerary - " After breakfast we depart for a familiarization tour of Paris where our driver will point out the many highlights of this fabulous City stopping at the Pigalle region to allow time to visit the Sacre Coeur. The coach will drop off close to the shopping region of Paris where the rest of the day is at your leisure.
Breakfast was at 7:30am. The coach would then leave at 9am (which allowed plenty of time for breakfast and getting ready to go. We used the hour between 8am and 9am each day to relax, reading magazines etc).
We then went on a tour of Paris which was interesting (we had been given a kind of brochure made by Owen's detailing everything about the sights we were about to see, including a map of Paris which I thought was really interesting and helpful.)
I really enjoyed the tour and the driver really knew his stuff pointing out lots of things even things that weren't on the 'list of attractions' as we were passing them which I thought was brilliant.
The tour lasted around an hour or so and I really enjoyed it.
We then headed for the 'Sacre Coeur' a church on top a hill. We were given the option to either 'walk up the hill' or take the train. We wanted to walk and so made our way up, which took about ten minutes from where we had been dropped off. We got to the top of the steps and stood outside the church (we didn't go in). The view from here was absolutely beautiful and despite being busy, there was a very calm atmosphere.
We had around four hours to spare before having to meet the bus and so we stayed up at the church for around 30 minutes before making our way back down to the shops. The shops were the typical tourist-y ones; my friend and I just sat on the bench people-watching while we chatted - which was nice, as we got to 'take in the atmosphere' and get a 'feel' for Paris.
We then met the coach where we were about to head off to another area of Paris. You could either go shopping or visit the Louvre (art gallery). We decided to go the art gallery where we saw the Mona Lisa.
We were given plenty of time (around 3 1/2 hours) here which was good and gave us plenty of time to do what we wanted.
We then drove back (through huge queues!) back to the hotel where we could do what we wanted.)
~ * Tuesday 16th August 2011 * ~
Intinerary - "We board the coach after breakfast as today we travel out of Paris to the Spectacular Palace of Versailles. Stroll the palace gardens or enjoy a coffee at a nearby pavement cafe. We return to Paris where you may wish to take the opportunity for a Cruise on the river Seine or a trip up the Eiffel Tower".
We left the hotel at 9am and headed for the palace; the journey took around an hour but to 'get us in the mood for the palace', the driver put on a documentary about the 'idea behind the palace' which I thought was really interesting.
We had around four hours here, although we spent around 2 hours of it queing.
We then travelled back into Paris where we made a stop at a 'place' which held special memories for the driver (he had stopped at this spot with his then-girlfriend (now his wife) and saw an amazing and really special view of the Eiffer Tower. It was amazing and probably the best view of the tower that we had seen. I thought that this was very nice of the driver.
We then drove down to the river Seine where we had the option to go on the river or go up the tower. I was really looking forward to going on the river and whilst 'going up the Eiffel Tower' has been on my 'to do' list (that reminds me- my list needs updating!) for a long time, I wasn't that fussed about going up it and so we went on the 1 hour and 1/4 cruise which I really enjoyed- the weather was lovely and hot too.
We went to see the Eiffel Tower (and stood right by it) - it was 'wow'. Although we didn't go up it because the queues were so long!
We then got back on the bus and went back to the hotel where we could do what we wanted (we went out for a meal and a walk round the 'La Defense' area which was really good.
~ * Wednesday 17th August 2011 * ~
Intinerary - "We leave after breakfast and return to Calais making a Hypermarket visit before crossing to England."
We left the hotel at 8am, drove a couple of hours then made a stop. We then drove another couple of hours where we then stopped at the Hypermarket. I didn't really enjoy the Hypermarket bit as it reminded me of the shopping centres are home and I didn't need anything and so really I just wanted to get home. However, despite the fact that I didn't like the Hypermarket, it made an interesting stop ( a change from the service stations) and also gave others the opportunity to stock-up on tax-free things. Everyone came back with something; alcohol, cigarettes etc, so everyone else obviously enjoyed getting what they wanted and picking up a bargain.
We then got on the ferry which lasted almost two hours (it took longer than the one on the way there even though it was the same distance).
We then made a couple of stops before finally arriving to where we got 'picked up on the way' at around 11:30pm. We arrived home at around 12am. It had been a long day, but so worth it!
So that was my trip to Paris. I will now tell you some extra information etc.
~ * Extra Information, Hints and Tips etc * ~
First of all, I would like to say a massive thank you to the driver and his wife. They were fantastic. What I thought was really lovely was the fact that his wife had 'volunteered' to come along and she was such a big help. She 'guided' the group taking us to places, and getting tickets for us. The driver was lovely; a really good driver and really knew his stuff. They were both fluent in French which was VERY helpful as none of us could speak French and so they were very valued members of the group. They also really cared about the group and were very helpful; if anyone had a problem, or wanted to know something then they would sort it out immediately. They tried their best and worked really, really hard to make everything easy for everyone. We were all tired after the journey, but for them to do everything for us on top of the long and stressful journey that they had had themselves they were still very energetic and still willing to help everyone and make the journey as enjoyable and as interesting as possible (by pointing out things, telling us stories, showing us videos about Paris). They would even stop and chat to you, asking what you had been up to and if you were enjoying the trip. They had time for everyone and nothing was too much trouble. The driver's wife was even making tea and coffeethroughout the joruney. They were one of the main reasons why I enjoyed the trp so much. They were brilliant and I can't thank them enough.
We only had two full days in Paris and I was really impressed at how much we got to see and do. It was all planned so well - a really well thought out and put together trip. I am certain that had I gone on the trip and arranged everything myself, I probably would have wasted my time deciding what to do and trying to find my way around and probably wouldn't have done much. So for me, this trip was perfect as we got to see and do a lot of things and it has given me a real taste for Paris.
For the first couple of days I was fine about only having two days in Paris. But then by the second day I had really got into the holiday mood, and so I was quite sad to say goodbye to the city as well as everyone else on the trip. Looking back it would have been nice to have maybe one more day there (although ideally a week would have been nice, although everything was so expensive (around 3.50 Euros just for a bottle of coke- a euro is almost the same as a £1 at the moment, and to think that you can get a bottle of coke for around £1.10 in the UK...so 3.50 Euros for a coke is quite a lot!), I don't think I would have been able to afford to have gone for a week.
The driver was always on time which was brilliant. If he said that we would be leaving at 9am, if everyone was there by 8:45am, off we would go which was good.
I loved everything about the trip; the travelling was long and the hotel wasn't brilliant (especially breakfast), but everything which the driver was in control of was absolutely fantastic.
I usually dislike travelling on coaches as I always end up feeling ill. But there were enough stops and breaks on this trip that I was ok.
There was air-conditioning (which really helped when the temperature was 28'C), a toilet, seat belts, adjustable sear back and secondary braking and safety systems on the coach which was great. There were also tea and coffee making facilities and the coach was non-smoking.
The ride was very comfortable - great for sleeping.
I thought that the trip was excellent value for money. For just £235 per person, we had a lot for our money; 3 nights bed and breakfast in a 3* hotel, the price of the ferry, the whole trip etc. On the way home we had to stop for petrol, and we saw the driver put in over 500 euros worth of petrol, so imagine how many people they would need to cover the whole trip; so say it was £1000 of petrol for the whole trip, they would need around 4 or 5 people's total amount of the price just to cover the petrol! So I would therefore say that the trip is excellent value for money.
There were around 30 people on the trip (the coach could seat 53). We were given seat numbers which we stayed in, although whilst no one did move, I am sure you probably could have moved to an 'empty' seat if you had wanted to.
Pets are not allowed on holidays - guide dogs are accepted on UK trips but not overseas.
There are over 60 pick up points and if you live within 10 miles, as part of certain tours only, theywill pick you up from your home.
Guests are requested to keep their luggage to a maximum of one medium suitcase. Luggage labels were supplied.
Owen's is do a lot of tours; they go to a lot of UK places ( holidays, day trips, concerts etc) as well as overseas holidays, as well as some cruise holidays (although I am not sure how this works).
I really enjoyed my holiday with Owen's and I would definetely recommend them and also definetely book again with them!
I was really impressed!
Thanks for reading!
xd-o-n-z-x (also posted under xdonzx on ciao).