Jules Verne was a French novelist who wrote among other things, Around the World in Eighty Days and Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
The travel company jules Verne (known as Voyages Jules Verne until a few months ago) may not include these trips in their brochures but does have a range of interesting itineraries to many countries round the world.
Albania has been on the todo list for years and I decided this was the year. Searching the internet, I found there was only Jules Verne who offered trips just to Albania. All the other companies offered trips which included some time in surrounding countries which I didn’t want. They also allowed a reasonable amount of time to visit the different attractions. Some other companies pack in so much each day that you are hardly going to have time to see what you have gone to see. I was also attracted by the small group size of 5-28.
I always like to book by phone preferring the person contact to booking on line. I always have a series of questions to ask before booking and find the way a company responds is a good indication of how caring a company they are.
Phone calls are answered quickly and all my questions were answered patiently and in detail. We had a long discussion about the walking involved as the holiday was graded 3 and I was concerned that I would be able to cope. (I did.) Once happy, I made my booking, paid the deposit by debit card as like other travel agents there is an additional charge to use a credit card. I was given a direct phone number for Kyle, the Albanian specialist. Written confirmation arrived the next day. I was also kept informed of minor changes to the itinerary affecting hotels booked.
I paid the balance by phone and again this was quick, easy and efficient.
The itinerary arrived two and a half weeks before the trip. Again I had a few minor questions for Kyle. He was on the phone when I rang and I was asked to leave my name number and message and he would ring me back – a nice touch rather than being left on hold listening to music.
We flew from Gatwick with BA and our guide was waiting for us. We fell on our feet with Ilir Paragoni who is a researcher for Albanian Cultural Heritage and had worked as a project manager for the Butrint Foundation. He has also written several books on the archaeology of Albania. He was also a nice guy who looked after us well. He had the knack of presenting information in an informative and entertaining way and who also answered all our many questions patiently and with good humour.
There were 15 in the group – four couples, six men and me. The age range was 50+ to 80+. It was a high powered group with a lawyer, GP, retired collector of taxes, someone who had worked at the Foreign Office with a brief covering Albania and the Balkans, two geophysicists and a retired teacher of modern foreign languages. We quickly gelled as a group and had a lot of fun.
It was an intensive holiday. We covered a lot of ground and there was quite a lot of driving to see everything on the itinerary. There were some long days, but we did have a reasonable amount of time at each of the different sites visited. Albania has a long history dating back to the C7th and C6th BC and the remains from that time, particularly Butrint are amazing. There was also Byllis, Apollona and the amphitheatre at Durres. The Ottomans ruled for 400 years and the Ottoman architecture in Gjirokastra and Berat was wonderful with the stone and whitewashed houses climbing up the hillsides. Both places repaid exploring and we enjoyed the visit to a traditional Ottoman house.
Albania has only been open for tourism for 20 years and most visitors come from Greece or surrounding countries. It doesn’t really feature on the tourist map yet – which is an excellent reason to visit now before it is discovered! And I can whole heartedly recommend Jules Verne to go with.
I will be writing detailed reviews of all the different places we visited. All the information and all my pictures can be found “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/albania/index.html
“Classical Tour of Albania”:https://www.vjv.com/europe-tours/albania/classical-tour-of-albania-1/#introduction