In the not so distant past, airline, as well as train, travel carried a certain amount of glamour, while a trip on a bus seemed a little down-at-the-heels.
Today, airlines are cramming people in like cattle and Amtrak can be a bit shabby around the edges, but bus travel, particularly the organized bus tour, is getting more luxurious with first-class seating and imaginative itineraries.
There are bus trips designed to take the hassle out of going to the opera in Los Angeles and ones meant to guide you through Europe or the Old West. Tours can cost as little as $24 or more than $3,000.
Here are some of the bus tours available to North County residents:
ADVENTURES IN TRAVEL
Olivenhain-based Adventures in Travel has taken a standard, full-sized, 47-passenger bus and converted it to a living room on wheels with 21 easy chairs that swivel and recline. It also boasts a galley, VCR, and stereo system, and is highly insulated for freeway sound-proofing.
"I'm not a bus person, but the minute I stepped on this one, I thought I was in seventh heaven," said Anne Woolley of Rancho Santa Fe. "And the seating is more sociable than the usual side-by-side set-up, where you can only talk to the person you came with."
Adventure's approach to touring is as upscale as its limousine-style-bus. Partners Brenda Montiel and Theodore Kilman have between them numerous degrees in the arts and have traveled to more than 75 countries. Both are assistant professors at Palomar College, though Adventures in Learning is a separate entity. An entity, nevertheless, that mixes travel with education.
In addition to theater and museum trips where Montiel and/or Kilman acts as private docents, Adventures hosts art expeditions to Santa Monica and Venice Beach, seeking the unusual in outdoor art, street performers and architecture.
In their public art tour of Los Angeles, Kilman, the architecture expert, discusses 45 of the 150 public artworks downtown, including their origin and significance to the city. On both tours, participants stroll the neighborhoods for a close-up look. Lunch is included, usually at a restaurant where the art or architecture is as interesting as the food, according to Montiel.
A nine-day Santa Fe Opera, Taos and Southwest history tour is slated for July 27-Aug. 4. Participants fly round-trip to Albuquerque and are met by the limo-bus, which transports them throughout the tour.
Longer trips include a 16-day Mozart anniversary tour to Europe in October, led by concert pianist Nicholas Reveles.
An 18-day tour of Borneo in January will concentrate on indigenous arts and music, and a native botanist-guide will introduce participants to the local flora and fauna.
Foreign trips charter standard buses.
Santa Monica Art Safari: $65, including lunch.
"M. Butterfly," : tickets, transportation and lunch, $105.
Sixteen-day Austria/Mozart Tour: $3,338, including air fare.
North County pickup points:
California 78 and Broadway Park and Ride, Escondido; Westwood Plaza Park and Ride, Rancho Bernardo; Campanilla Road and Rancho Santa Fe Road, San Marcos.
Brochure available, 756-2142
MiraCosta College offers 12 bus excursions in this season's Horizons catalogue, and, although the transportation and accommodations may not be as snazzy as Adventures in Learning, most tours have an educational bent.
Watercolorist and art instructor Jo Reed will lead a one-day art and antiquities tour through the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu on June 29, and professional opera lecturer Vere Wolf will lead a four-day "Operatunity Tour" of Santa Fe, lacing performances with talks on the drama and history of the opera.
New tours in the summer '91 catalogue include "The Murals of East Los Angeles," a study of more than 30 historically significant paint and mosaic walls in what is considered the mural capital of the world, and "L.A.'s Oldest and Newest," a combination historic homes tour and shopping excursion at the restored Citadel, a former tire company built to resemble an Assyrian Palace, now housing factory-outlet shops.
Perennially popular tours for the community college include The Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, and long-running theater performances like "The Phantom of the Opera" in Los Angeles.
"Even without Michael Crawford, the response to the 'Phantom of the Opera' trip has been phenomenal," says San Elijo campus coordinator Lynn Wetzell.
MiraCosta charters its buses from Goodall's, and no refreshments are served on board. All tours are self-supporting through enrollment fees.
J. Paul Getty Museum: $29.
"Phantom of the Opera": $75.
Mandy Patinkin at the Hollywood Bowl: $47.
Santa Fe Opera : four days, $746 per person, double occupancy, including air fare.
North County pickup points:
MiraCosta College, One Barnard Drive, Oceanside; MiraCosta College, 3333 Manchester Ave., Cardiff.
Catalogue available, 755-5155 or 757-2121.