Having grown up in Ohio and later spending a few years in Montreal, Phil Wise now lives in California with his wife, Claire. Over the years they have travelled extensively in Europe, using Inntravel since 2004 for several of their hiking tours in Italy, Switzerland and France. This means that Phil is ideally placed to answer your questions about Inntravel in general, our trips and how they work, and the practicalities of travelling to Europe from North America – simply email him at [email protected] with your questions and he’ll get back to you.
In the meantime, we asked him a few questions of our own...
Q: Did you find it a ‘culture shock’ when you first visited Europe? What was so different from what you were used to?
A: The first time my wife and I visited Europe was the summer of 1972 when we took 10-day trip visiting Amsterdam, Paris and then London...
A: The first time my wife and I visited Europe was the summer of 1972 when we took 10-day trip visiting Amsterdam, Paris and then London. What an eye-opener for a young man from conservative Cincinnati, Ohio. We arrived in Amsterdam around 3pm and were starving. Little did we know that, unlike most cities in the States, where restaurants stay open from lunch through dinner, restaurants in Amsterdam shut down completely at around 2.30pm and don’t re-open until 5.30pm, at the earliest. All of this has changed, some for the good and some for the worse, as an American influence can be seen in most of the big cities in Western Europe. One can eat just about any time. Furthermore, one doesn’t have to be totally fluent in the language of the country one is visiting, as it’s easy to find a few Europeans that speak some English. On this same trip we ate on the Left Bank of Paris, where there is a plethora of restaurants serving every type of food imaginable. On this first visit in 1972 all the menus were in French. Now, the signs are half in French and half in English.
Q: Where in Europe have you most enjoyed visiting?
A: This is an almost impossible question to answer as my wife and I have enjoyed every European trip. France is totally magnificent and has just about the best hiking trails. It has the Alps...
A: This is an almost impossible question to answer as my wife and I have enjoyed every European trip. France is totally magnificent and has just about the best hiking trails. It has the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees, the Verdun Gorge, Burgundy and especially Corsica, where one steps back 30 years in time. Our first inn-to-inn hike was in Corsica, where we had the best mussels I’ve ever eaten, along with a beautiful salad, frites and red wine.
I could also go on and on about Switzerland, Italy and Spain. Each country has its own special pleasures which should be enjoyed.
Q: Why do you find hotel-to-hotel walking such a pleasurable way of getting to know somewhere?
A: Inn-to-inn hiking is the only way to see the real Europe, a Europe that is a step back from the hustle and bustle of today’s modern world. Sure, one should certainly see Europe’s main cities...
A: Inn-to-inn hiking is the only way to see the real Europe, a Europe that is a step back from the hustle and bustle of today’s modern world. Sure, one should certainly see Europe’s main cities – London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Zurich and Geneva – but one generally tours these cities on their first or second trip to Europe. Also, a visit to Europe’s main cultural centers can always be combined with an inn-to-inn hiking trip. A walking trip allows one to see the Europe that very few Americans (and Europeans) ever see: everyday life outside the big city. A walking tour is also so much more pleasurable than driving from town to town, fighting traffic and finding somewhere to park. You just get up, drop your bags at the front desk and you’re off. The maps and hiking instructions are extremely easy to follow and if it’s really pouring out or you don’t feel like walking that day it’s easy to take a cab or get a lift to the next hotel.
Q: Why Inntravel?
A: My wife and I have been taking both guided and self-guided hikes for years. We hiked the Tour de Mt. Blanc in 1994 with a group of 14 others. That, along with two other guided hikes, convinced us...
A: My wife and I have been taking both guided and self-guided hikes for years. We hiked the Tour de Mt. Blanc in 1994 with a group of 14 others. That, along with two other guided hikes, convinced us that we were best to hike by ourselves, as a group of 10 to 16 people was just way too cumbersome. We used a provider other than Inntravel on our first self-guided hike. It was a wonderful hike but some of the accommodations provided by this firm were unacceptable, paint peeling from the walls, beds covered in plastic, etc. Our first Inntravel trip was From the Pyrenees to the Atlantic and every aspect of this trip was perfect, even to the point of staying in a little inn that served the best crème brûlée ever. We even became friends with a couple from Scotland with whom we are still in contact. Over the years we used a number of other providers other than Inntravel, but only when the trip was not one offered by Inntravel.
Q: Have you ever struggled with a language barrier when travelling around?
A: Not speaking the language of the country we are visiting has never really been a problem. There are two reasons for this. One, I do my best to attempt to say something in the local language...
A: Not speaking the language of the country we are visiting has never really been a problem. There are two reasons for this. One, I do my best to attempt to say something in the local language, just to be polite. Having lived in Montreal for 5 years, I speak just a smidgen of French and try my best to say something in French when first meeting someone in France. However, when that person hears me speaking French with my Southern Ohio twang, they immediately attempt to respond in English. Secondly, I travel with my private translator, my wife, Claire, who is multi-lingual. She grew up in the English section of Montreal but speaks French fluently. Her first language, however, was Yiddish, which is somewhat similar to Swiss German, so there is no problem when we are either in Switzerland or Germany. She also knows a smattering of Italian and a little Spanish.
Q: Even with all your travelling experience, what still surprises you when you visit?
A: To paraphrase Sally Field, when she won her Academy Award, “they like us, they really like us”. I’m referring to how the Europeans really like Americans. This is true...
A: To paraphrase Sally Field, when she won her Academy Award, “they like us, they really like us”. I’m referring to how the Europeans really like Americans. This is true all over Europe – Americans are treated great. One of our Italian hikes was the Long Trail, of which a portion goes through that area where the US 10th Mountain Division fought in WWII. First, it’s amazing to see the mountain top our ill-equipped GIs captured and it was wonderful to see the real appreciation in the eyes and behavior of the locals for what those brave Americans did so long ago. My wife and I have seen the same appreciation in sections of France. The other item that always jumps out at us, especially in every little village in France, are the statues in honor of those brave young soldiers who fought and died in WWI. This is something that Americans just do not understand: the death of an entire European generation, be it in France, Great Britain, Italy, Germany or Austria.
Q: What questions can people ask you?
A: Anything and everything! I know booking a hiking or biking trip deep in the European countryside for the first time is a big decision, especially if it’s with a company you’ve never...
A: Anything and everything! I know booking a hiking or biking trip deep in the European countryside for the first time is a big decision, especially if it’s with a company you’ve never heard of before. So if there’s anyone who is thinking of using Inntravel for the first time, they should send me an email, and I can give them a better idea of what to expect as regards the walks, the route directions, the accommodations etc based on my own (very enjoyable) experiences of travelling with Inntravel.
Your questions answered
If you are considering an Inntravel trip but want to know more about how it all works and what to expect, you can send Phil an email at [email protected]. Having been on several Inntravel hiking tours over the years, he’s well placed to answer your questions about travelling with Inntravel from an American perspective.
In his own words
You can read about Phil's experience on his first ever Inntravel trip, From the Pyrenees to the Atlantic, in his travel diary.