Vickie Kelber, Renaissance Woman

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Vickie Kelber, our Untourist of the week has to be, pound for pound, one of the top contenders for the best photographer/writer we have among our many, many talented Untourists. She does both of them fabulously. We’re all the more lucky, then, that she takes lots of pictures and usually writes a blog that she posts on Untours Cafe. By our count, Vickie and her husband have taken 19 Untours: Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Tuscany, Switzerland (2x), Germany Rhine, Swiss Ticino, Portugal (alas, no longer an Untour), Rome, Venice (2x), Greece, Spain, Florence, Amalfi.
Above is Vickie with her partner, George, on their Amalfi Untour. The photo below in the main text is one of the many photos she captured there. Do go see her albums on Untours Cafe; they are superb….and don’t miss her ‘the running of the cows” video in Meiringen below—one of our favorites. You’ll see why we think she is a remarkable woman.

Find more videos like this on Untours Cafe

Tell us a little bit about your most recent Untour.

We combined a week in Florence with two weeks in Atrani on the Amalfi Coast.  We had previously spent some time in Florence while on the Tuscan Untour, so this trip afforded us the opportunity to see some less touristed sites, revisit our favorite city of Siena, and see a little more of Tuscany.  

Our apartment in Atrani was perfect. With a population of less than 1,000, the residences in Atrani climb down from the cliff to spill out over the sea. It is resplendent with gardens, fragrant lemon groves, courtyards, and stairs, many stairs. The white washed buildings with narrow flower bedecked stairs and alleys were somewhat reminiscent of the old Arabic quarters where our Untour apartment was located in Andalucia, Spain, but had a character all their own; many of the structures appeared to be built right into the mountain.

We enjoyed visiting our tiny town square, Piazza Umberto, in the evenings for a drink along with many of the locals and the restaurants were wonderful. After a day negotiating the larger towns along the Amalfi coast, it was a pleasure to return to Atrani.

And, the view from our “infinity terrace” was serenely incredible.

What is your favorite Untours memory?

That is a very difficult question to answer; we have brought back lasting memories from all of our Untours, and there have been many! I’d have to say, though, that perhaps our favorite came on our first Untour in 1991. Our apartment was the second floor of a chalet in Kaiserstuhl on Lake Lungern.  Kaiserstuhl is a very small hamlet; it consists of only a now defunct train station, one lake front restaurant, a chapel, a few houses, and many cows. Although the hospitality shown by our wondrous landlady who, sadly, has since passed away,  was enough to create a lasting memory, we had a uniquely Swiss experience in that apartment. One evening, we were drawn to our balcony by the most melodious a capella singing we had ever heard. It seems a local yodel club was having a party in a nearby home and entertaining themselves. We spent hours just sitting and listening to the dulcet tones.

How is taking an Untour different from other ways of traveling?

Fifteen years ago, I was so impressed with Untours that I wrote a letter to the New York Times travel editor and it was published. The things I liked enough to write about then have not changed; they’ve only gotten better.

We love the independence afforded by an Untour and the ability to, as we say, “live the life”…..learn about and experience the everyday culture of a place…settling in to one “hometown” and using it as a base to savor the sights, tastes, sounds, and culture of an area. We love getting to know our neighborhood. After we settle in to our apartment, I set out in search of the neighborhood bakery; there always is one. I go each morning to buy the same two items – a roll or bread for me and a specialty confection for my husband. After the first few days, the proprietor develops a sense of familiarity with me. When we stayed along the Rhine, the saleswoman began to greet me each day with a smile and announce my order before I could ask for it. In the seaside town of Nafplio, Greece, the baker himself would come from the back to greet me personally and when I would pass by later in the day, if he was looking out his door, he would acknowledge me with a friendly, “kalimera.”

Untours furnishes the comfort and privacy of apartment living along with freedom from the uncertainties of “do-it-yourself.” They’ve already done the research; I always know what to expect and that their apartments will be conveniently located. They also save time for independent travelers, pre-securing travel passes or car rentals, maps, calendars, and helpful hints for exploring an area. And, should we need it, support is available.  

We like that there is no forced socialization with fellow travelers, but opportunities to do so if we so desire. We have made lifelong friends on some Untours, but never felt we “had” to stick with a crowd.  

Another thing that makes Untours so special is their staff. Untours has a way of hiring just the right people, from the the great customer service in Media, PA  to the onsite hosts whom we have always found to be friendly and helpful. Planning our trips is a pleasure.

With what other company do you know the first name of your travel planner, receive individual service and know that if you call, you can speak to a knowledgeable, caring person or if you send an email, you will receive a prompt reply? I think what characterizes all of the staff is their appreciation of local culture and willingness to share with others.

And, finally, we love the conveniences of transportation to and from airports and the welcome food awaiting us upon our arrival.  
 

If you could describe an Untour in just 3 words, what would they be? 

Supported independence; ideal

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