Delightful Dolomites - a 'must see - must do' trip.
We returned on 24th February 2013 from our trip to Fondo, and without any hesitation I would recommend this trip. The organisation was exceptional, the drivers fantastic, and the hotel was very comfortable. What we saw and learned about this stunning area in just one week was absolutely amazing. The trip was exceptional value for money.So, let's start at the beginning. After a balmy crossing to Calais, we picked up our drivers Marcin and Kenny. There was a slight hiccup when we arrived; because the ferry had been resheduled a couple of hours earlier than the week before, we had to wait to pick up our drivers, then when we stopped to pick up fuel, one of the other Shearing's coaches needed oil that the service station couldn't provide, so Kenny took us on a mercy mission to help them out. So we were on our way after a couple of hours. I wasn't looking forward to an overnight on the coach, but there were stops every two or three hours, the drivers taking it in turns to serve hot drinks in the coach and plenty of chances to get out and stretch the legs. By breakfast we had arrived in Austria and with a temperature of -8 outside, we had a lovely breakfast with yoghurt, fruit and cereals in a lovely small service station. We had arrived in this beautiful snow-covered winter wonderland.Onwards to Fondo, where we arrived just before lunch. The day was spent chilling out and wandering around Fondo. Being a Sunday it was pretty quiet, and we discovered a beautiful church nearby in the town square. There is also a supermarket in Fondo a few minutes away from the hotel. There's also a lovely bar with stunning mountain views in the shopping complex above the supermarket that serves a nice cappuchino and a nice hot punch! In the bar, there is a wall covered with information about a local skiing hero. There are nice little shops to look around in the evenings after the siesta, a fantastic pizzeria on the road that goes up to the Canyon, and a little further on down the road going out of Fondo is the cheese factory where you can buy some good quality local parmigiano and other cheeses. Lots of people say there is nothing to do here, but it is an ideal place for taking it easy and sampling some local Italian culture. The pizzeria made a great stop for lunch on our last day before we left.The hotel - most of the Shearings customers were based in the annexe adjoining the hotel, just across the car park. Very functional, and well-heated, some rooms with great views. We were on the third floor of the annex and the rooms were built into the eaves of the roof, which made it a bit restricted on moving around the room, especially if there are two of you. However, despite this 'compactness' the rooms are very clean and functional and well serviced every day. Any problems with the rooms such as the odd light bulb blowing etc, were remedied immediately. The food was good Italian fare, with a salad starter, a pasta or a soup, and a main with meat and potatoes. The pasta dishes were out of this world especially the lasagne that Walter demonstrated how to make one evening before dinner. The meat served was fresh and tender and very good quality. The chefs do a great job in the kitchen. We had a few issues with service being a bit too rushed but as soon as we let Walter know he was keen to ensure everything was ok. Each night he checked the following days menu with you, and if you didn't like what was on offer he could change things for you. There was a lack of fruit at breakfast and evening meals, but we bought some fruit in from the supermarket to eat with breakfast and they didn't mind us doing that. Yes, Walter is running a tight ship in difficult times but his aim is always to please, and I think most guests were very happy with the service provided. The hotel also has a lovely little spa in the basement of the hotel. It is little promoted or advertised, but for 8 euro ,pay at the bar in the hotel, you can use all the facilities, have a swim and a steam bath and sauna, and spend as long as you like down there. Bring your swimming hat and a towel otherwise you have to pay 3 euros for the hat and 2 euros for the towel. We did this on one of our half day optional trip days and it was a good way to relax. The beer and wine in the evening with dinner are included, and this saved us a lot of money. The bar does get busy when the hotel is full, but we stayed in the lounge at the back and this was more comfortable.Everyday, we had the option of going on trips, and all of these were worthwhile. In addition to the included trip of the Grand Dolomites tour, we did another optional trip to the Brenta Dolomites. Both were amazing, fanstastic trips, and we got dropped off in several ski resorts where we could take the cable car or the gondola to the top to see even more amazing views. We discovered lakes in the middle of the mountains, and waterfalls in the middle of nowhere. Marcin and Kenny made a good call for one of these trips. They saw on the forecast it was going to snow on Thursday so they swapped the mountain trip to Wednesday and did the half day trip to the Ice man museum on the thursday. This meant that our trip to the mountains on Wednesday had amazing clear views set amid spectacular scenery. Some of the drops are a bit scary,"Oh my God!", but the roads are well made and the excellent skills of our drivers made it look easy; it all added to the fun of the day out. The trip to see the Bolzano ice man was very interesting. I thought Innsbruck was going to be a long day, but it was fine, and had a great time in the Innsbruck strudel bar sampling both savoury and sweet strudels, milling amongst the tourist shops and visiting an interesting cathedral with a very big bell!Sorry if this review is long, but we packed so much into our week that we wanted to tell other customers about it. The great thing was that Marcin and Kenny, even though they were always working hard, driving, guiding, serving, cleaning the coach after a day out, they enjoyed the trip as much as we did. The delight they took in the love of their work and the area was infectious and this really made the trip. Their knowledge of the area was detailed, informative and comprehensive. All in all this ensured a really good experience for everyone. Thank you Shearings for a fantastic holiday!