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Ireland & The Yellow Roads of Europe - After 25 Years, A Look Back

Posted by Rich Mancini on 3/17/2016
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Europe, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, Tauck, Travel

europe_4
europe_6In 1989-90, as Tauck approached its seventh decade as a travel leader specializing in North American tours and cruises, Arthur Tauck Jr. and tour architects Scott Supernaw and Herbert Wiese headed off to Europe for on-the-road, hands-on, in-depth crafting of Tauck's first European itineraries – checking out cities, towns, villages and destinations that our guests might want to travel to with Tauck. Today, as we celebrate 25 years of our "Yellow Roads of Europe" land trips, I thought I'd ask Scott to take a look back and share some personal stories from those travels to give us a real sense of that pivotal and exciting period in Tauck's 90+ year history:

The question was this: Could we develop and operate European trips that would complement our successful escorted tours and cruises in North America? To find out, a decision was made to take a year to travel to Europe and research destinations our guests told us they were most interested in. Working with maps, Michelin guides and green books, we spent months researching and developing itineraries we could test out in Europe to determine if we could operate them in true Tauck fashion.

While serving in Germany with the Air Force and afterwards, Arthur Tauck travelled frequently, often taking bicycle treks along the back roads and byways of the region. These routes were often along the designated "Yellow Roads" on the Michelin maps – secondary roads off the beaten path – the roads along which we wanted to develop our itineraries. The "Yellow Roads" concept became a choreographic strategy for Tauck's first European tours. Along with the traditional "must-see" items, we set out to find unique experiences that went beyond – those moments that would provide guests with a truly memorable European experience they would then tell their friends about.

europe_1One of the first countries we explored was Ireland, setting off across the length and breadth of the country in a small van. Remember, this was back in 1990, before Ireland joined the EU and funds were available to pave many of the secondary roads; while Herbert drove and Arthur navigated in the front, I was relegated to the hard benches in the back as we bounced around the then-unpaved Irish back roads!

We learned early on that asking directions in Ireland was an experience in itself; each inquiry was met with a series of questions and recommendations – like, "What would you be going to Killarney for? I've got a cousin who plays a lot of golf... give him a call if you're interested." Or, "If you want a fine meal, the kitchen at such-and-such is one of the best; take dinner and give my best to Brian, the waiter, he's a friend." Or, "Paddy will show you what farming's really about here in Ireland... and he can spin a good story or two."

We actually did set out to find Paddy and his dairy farm, and came across a fellow in a tweed jacket and bib overalls, with a tweed hat and a walking stick, leaning on a fence and smoking a pipe. When we inquired about Paddy's farm, the gent gave us a circuitous set of directions, after which Herbert exclaimed, "But that takes us back to here!" To which the gentleman chuckled and replied, with a twinkle in his eye, "That’s right. I'm Paddy. How can I help you?" Thus began a working relationship that lasted a quarter-century.

europe_2In Switzerland, we found a small but fashionable winter resort nestled at the foot of the Jungfrau that in the summer offered the majestic scenery of the Alps in an uncrowded location – the perfect setting for what we were trying to achieve – and an intimate, family-owned hotel. However, to the affable young general manager of the property, this was a business opportunity that he, as a small hotelier, had never seen before, and he was hesitant to make a quick decision about such a prospect.

The discussion made little headway, and around midnight, exhausted, Herbert and I retired. But Arthur and the young general manager had discovered that they shared a couple of common bonds – a fondness for family businesses and a love of skiing – and continued talking into the wee hours. At about 7 the next morning, Herbert and I came upon Arthur on the balcony of his room, typing away on his laptop… about what turned out to be the dates for the new Tauck trip at that hotel, which remained a Tauck exclusive for years to come! It was a great example of the Tauck way of doing business – by forging longstanding personal relationships – that began in 1925, and continues today across all seven continents.

europe_3And then there's the hotel we found in a perfect location right on Las Ramblas in Barcelona. A year later, as the first Tauck guests arrived at the hotel, I was at my desk in the office when a frantic call came in from the general manager. "Mr. Supernaw… help! It is 6:30 PM here and all your guests are waiting outside the restaurant for dinner! The restaurant doesn’t open until 9 PM; the chef and his crew are not even here. This is Spain... most Spaniards don't even think of dining until 10 PM... what am I to do?"

I asked our Tauck Director if the tapas bar around the corner was open – and could they take our guests for cocktails and tapas while we waited for the restaurant to open? The answer was yes – and by the time the group returned to the restaurant, the general manager had arranged for an early opening for our guests. As a result, the tapas bar before dinner – and an early opening of the hotel restaurant – became the kind of authentic dining experience we wanted to provide for our guests throughout Europe. The tapas experience is special and typically Spanish... and the early dinner, by Spanish custom, is typically American. Once again, a new challenge was met.
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europe_5Ultimately, we launched our inaugural "Yellow Roads of Europe" for the 1991 season, mailing our brochure in early January of 1991... just as the first Gulf War began. But despite the less-than-ideal time period, our first European trips were instantly popular with our guests – as they continue to be today, a quarter-century later. The die was cast... and the rest, as they say, is history!
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