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Hello:

I am taking a three week trip to Europe following the completion of a conference I am attending in June 2013. My itinerary takes me to London, Belgium (to Waterloo for a tour of the battle), Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, and Rome. I will be travelling between late June and mid July.

I have used a travel agent to help me find affordable but centrally located hotels. I am seeking advice from you, the reader, on the sites I can see myself and the tours I should participate in. For each location I am going suggest potential ideas. I am hoping that a knowledgeable and wiling reader can tell me if my suggestions are good ideas or a waste of time. I prefer smaller tours rather than being herded about like cattle on a big bus. All of my travelling from city to city will be by train. In addition, I understand that on some days the museums and tours that I list here are closed on one day such as a Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday. I am working this factor into my daily planner.

To note, I am a professor of history. I have been to England, the Bay of Biscay Coast, Spain, and Portugal, when I was 10. I did not go to Madrid when I was Spain, but rather went to San Sebastian to Portugal to spend a month in Sintra. When I was 12 I went to Italy (Rome, Florence, Venice) and Austria (Innsbruck and Vienna). I am now in my early 40s and much of that time is slightly vague although I do remember parts of thos vacations quite well. I was in London and Wales for a week in 2011. I consider castles, art, history, battlefields, and countryside/gardens to be most interesting. I speak Spanish at a high level and can converse in basic French. I am also open to any suggestions for restaurants for lunch or dinner, or for places to shop for curios, affordable antiques, and memorabilia including antique Napoleonic militaria or lead soldiers. I would also like to know if the tour passes for each city are worth purchasing.

After my conference in London, I have four free days. I will have spent eight nights in total in London. Any side advice on potential evening activities or late afternoon activities are appreciated. I wanted to see Yes Prime Minister, but it is not playing in late June. I saw that there is a Blackadder Theatre. Do they put on Blackadder plays? I would like to see the Damned, but I do not think that they are playing anywhere along my trip.
On my four free days in London I am planning:
Day 1: Tate Museum and the National Army Museum
Day 2: Tower of London and the National Gallery
Day 3: Tour of Leeds, Canterbury, Dover, and a barge up the Thames to the city center
Day 4: Imperial War Museum - I have been here before. I am not sure how to fill this day. Any suggestions?

London to Brussels to Waterloo
Day 1: London to Waterloo
Day 2: Tour of the battlefields of Quatre Bras, Ligny, and Waterloo to Houghmont

Paris:
Day 1: Leave Waterloo for Brussels to Paris. How long is the trip? If I have time what can I do on this day?
Day 2: Versailles- Giverny Tour - lunch provided
Day 2: Louvre - Dali Museum - Eiffel Tower
Day 3: Loire Valley Tour to 3 Chateaus - lunch provided
Day 4: Musee L' Armee - Musee D' Orsay- Notre Dame
Day 5: I was debating taking a tour to Normandy and the Somme? Are either one worth it? Are they really a bunch of cemeteries? Is this itinerary already overly ambitious? I want to feel France not take some impossible 14 hour tour for not much to see. Form what I read the tour from Paris to the the Normandy beach heads might be that impossible tour.

Madrid:
Day 1: Paris to Madrid. I am guessing this day is a wash. Tapas night tour?
(When I was 12 I stayed at Napoleon's headquarters in the Pyrenees one night. I stayed in some important room. Have I made a mistake by not stopping somewhere like this along the way? To note, in addition to British history I have studied Latin American History in great detail, which means I have studied much Spanish history. Please help me make the most of this time.) I am also interested in Spanish history from the Napoleonic invasion to the Spanish Civil War. I looked into a tour of the Spanish Civil War but the gentleman who offers it will not be in town. I want to make sure I have a circumspect tour on that subject (my philosophy opposes both fascism and communism as they are both statist philosophies).
Day 2: Prado and the Royal Palace
Day 3: Tour to Toledo, El Escorial, y El Valle de los Caidos
Day 4: Reina Sofia Museum and Thyssen-Bornemisza
Day 5: Suggestions? Any Napoleonic, Reconquista, or Spanish Civil War tours?

Barcelona:
Day 1: Madrid - Barcelona
Day 2: Museo Picasso and walk the historic quarter
Day 3: Suggestions? Should I skip this day in Barcelona and add it to Madrid or Paris? I do not need to go to the beach on this trip.

Rome:
Day 1: Barcelona -Madrid all day (I probably will take a sleeper car if they are not too expensive). This day is a wash.
Day 2: Bike tour of the Appain Way? This is only offered on a Sunday. Is there a better way to see the Roman countryside or get out of the city to Etruscan villages?
Day 3: Spanish Steps - Fountain of Trevi - other suggestions. There is probably a half day left here. Any art to see?
Day 4: Half Day History Tour of Rome Coliseum - Forum. Can I get to Hadrian's castle this day? What else can I do to walk in the steps of Roman history or Art this day?
Day: 5: Tour of the Vatican - a 10 person jump in the line tour and walk around the plaza after the tour. This is not a full day so any other ideas for this day would be great.

Day 6: Leave for USA. Have I erred in this itinerary? Is it too rigid? Should I have gone to Portugal and Gibraltar instead? I am sure I will not want to leave. Any teaching jobs???

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