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European Contrasts - 8th August 2007

22 Oct 2007 CapricornAstrid said

CapricornAstrid
Big Grin

CONTIKI EUROPEAN CONTRASTS
Travelog

8th August 2007 – 6th September 2007


Hey everyone! I’m back from my holiday in Europe! I had the BEST time, and it was one non-stop party... Here is a snippet of my travels, as I can remember them... (including the Optionals, etc.)



It all starts in London! Everyone told me, I'd either love London or I'd hate the place... So I guess I loved it then, because I didn't hate it. I had almost a week in London before the Contiki tour started, so that was good. I thought it was the perfect amount of time to get settled before Contiki. There were some people on my tour that flew in to London the afternoon before the Contiki tour started, and they were stuffed. So if you can, add an extra couple of days to your holiday. London is pretty good, and easy to get around in. I found the Tube really easy to use – it’s all colour coded, and there are signs and maps everywhere (and they speak English if you get stuck). Having the extra few days in London before Contiki, meant I could do the touristy thing, and I went on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus. I went to Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and on a cruisedown the Thames. It was pretty hot in London – the locals always complained about the weather, and everything in general. One thing that I noticed in most places in London - no one is very friendly... Hmm... Maybe that's why they love the Aussies so much? We bring some light into their miserable lives? They would've loved me then. (hehe...). The night before the Contiki tour, there is a tour meeting in London Coffee, which is at the Royal National (where the Contiki Basement is also). I stayed at the Royal National before and after Contiki, and it was pretty good. Nothing flash, but nothing dodgy either. The Contiki meeting basically introduced you to who your tour manager (TM) was, and where to meet the next morning, what to have handy (passport, etc). And also their baggage restrictions. It was interesting to look around and see who else is in your tour group, and after the meeting, we headed over to London Pub (also located at the Royal National), for some food, drinks, etc. Then it was up to our rooms to double check that we were packed and ready for the early start.



Day 1: London to Paris
A warm welcome from your Contiki Crew as we head for the White Cliffs of Dover and the Channel crossing to France. We drive past World War I battlefields to the splendour of Paris. What better way to begin than with an evening tour of the “City Of Lights”? (D) Contiki Village

CONTIKI Yippee!
The tour started off interestingly. They weighed our bags, and everyone seemed to go through without a worry... Until they weighed my bag. Oops, had to unload the extra weight of the Duty Free grog into my Day Bag... Bloody heavy, but made a dramatic difference to the suitcase. They weren’t kidding when they said they were strict on the weight restrictions. But not to stress – that was the only time they weighed the bags, and you can take your sleeping bag out and throw it on the bus sepeartely if you wish.

We drove to the border, and then caught a ferry to cross over to France. There were the occasional service stops along the way, where you can get off, stretch, go to the toilet, get some food… MY BIG BUS TIP: Don’t drink too much on the bus, because it’s not cool to use the toilet on the bus. The driver will enforce that it is strictly emergencies only, because they don’t get to empty it very often at all along the way, and it can get smelly. But it’s also slightly embarrassing asking to use the loo. Trust me, I was the first to christen the loo on the coach, and it was only because I was seriously about to wet myself, and Enzo (our driver) wasn’t really impressed. So anyway, after that, I found that if I only sipped my drink, and when you stop at a service stop DEFINITELY go to the toilet – even if you don’t think you need to go. Sometimes it can be a long time between stops, and because the drivers in Europe have a strict driving timeline they have to stick to (by law), they can’t just stop anywhere… Trust me – I wasn’t the only one with an emergency dash to the toilet, and it is horrible…

We got to the campsite, and no way - I knew the Camp Rep working there! It blew me away. Small world… We all went straight to the bar for our first stein of beer on Contiki. Good fun. Ooh, I also ate a snail. It was okay. They were giving a demo on how to scoop the snail out from the shell and eat it, and then the guy standing next to me (Brendon), threw the whole snail in his mouth, and crunched it up, shell and all. Hmm... Not sure if that was meant to happen, but it's okay. The funny memories were beginning already. We washed it down with plenty of French wine, and then more beer... For those that aren’t huge drinkers, not to stress – the bar at the Paris campsite does quarter and half steins as well, if you still want to be part of the action. Plus there is always soft drinks and things. There were people on my tour that didn’t drink much, but everyone still got along, and had a great time. The cabins here are okay, but definitely not the best we had! When using you shower though, put your clothes in a plastic bag, because there are no shower curtains, and the whole bathroom gets wet).



Day 2: Paris
Today’s sightseeing includes some of the most celebrated icons of Europe. Perhaps take the opportunity to visit the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe or the Champs Élysées. Tonight, why not complete your Parisian experience with a French meal and a famous Parisian cabaret? (B) Contiki Village

Bonjour! Today was pretty much a day for sightseeing... I spent the day with one of my roomies, which was a big mistake, because we wanted to see and do different things. We covered some good stuff though - the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysses, Notre Dame. But lesson learnt – make sure you do your sightseeing with people that want to do that same stuff as you. You haven’t come all this way to miss out!

Enzo (our Italian Stallion driver of the COACH and not bus), took us for a spin on the Arc de Triomphe. For those playing at home, is a big roundabout (with no lanes), with heaps of roads coming onto it, and you aren't covered by insurance on it. There are NO RULES, just that you have to give way to traffic getting ON to the roundabout... All accidents are classed as 50/50 responsibility. There were lots of screams and car horns, but I thought it was nuts! Can we do it again?!

I had a crepe - which is a must try over there. It was pretty good - with Nutella and banana. I have NEVER seen such a huge pot of Nutella in my life!


Les Noces des Jeanette, Euro 33.00
Tonight's traditional restaurant is the perfect place to tempt your taste buds with French cuisine and get to know your fellow travellers. A three course meal with local wine and a great atmosphere means this will be an evening to remember.


Nouvelle Eve, Euro 62.00
Enjoy an evening at Nouvelle Eve, one of the top cabaret shows in Paris. Situated near Montmartre, the show is an extravaganza of dancing girls, exquisite costumes and comedy acts. Your visit includes half a bottle of champagne and one of the most dazzling 'French Can Can' dances around. A truly French evening that is unforgettable!


Tonight the group had the opportunity to do the Paris Optionals. I didn’t do these, because I had already booked dinner and a ticket to the Moulin Rouge for myself. But apart from that I did ALL of the Optionals. Our TM will gave us all a sheet listing all the Optionals (and prices), and I ticked the ones I wanted to do, then she added them up, and let me know how much I owed her. You can cancel a choice if you change your mind, if you give your TM at LEAST a day’s notice.



Day 3: Paris to Beaujolais Wine Region
Today’s journey leads us to Contiki’s exclusive Château de Cruix nestled in the Beaujolais vineyards near Lyon. (B,D) Contiki Special Stopover

This place was really nice (apart from the toilets…). We did some tasting of the local wine, and then hit the bar. This place also has THE CAVE, which is a mini nightclub thing in the basement of the Chateau. We dressed up for a Freaks and Geeks party down there (no one knew what that meant, but we all basically threw on anything that mismatched). One hell of a party, but don't remember much more - just that I had outlasted my roomies. Woke up sprawled on top of my sleeping bag in my undies. Nice one... Eeker But hey, it is bloody hot in The Cave, and I must've been burning up the dancefloor!



Day 4: Beaujolais Wine Region
This morning explore the French countryside and enjoy your included picnic lunch. In the afternoon relax and soak in the idyllic atmosphere of rural France. (B, Picnic Lunch, D) Contiki Special Stopover

Today is the day our group conquered the Top of the World walk. Apparently the group that went the day before turned all the signs around, and we went straight past where we were supposed to go, and ended up going around in circles. By the time we got to the Top of the World, we were all hot and bothered, and starving. Good thing Amanda (our Tour Manager) had told us about the Contiki "Oh Well" Attitude... It always seemed to make everything better again. But it was a good time for the group to bond, and the view from up there was nice. We got back to the Chateau and drank Smirnoff on the terrace until The Cave opened. In the meantime though, the fire alarm went off, and there was a mini drama. My roomies spent most of their free time in our room, using my bed as a couch/hair straightening salon. For a split second I was ready to kill them all if they had set off the alarm by setting my sleeping bag on fire, but it was all good - apparently someone was smoking in the toilets...? Anyway, Nurses and Ninjas night in The Cave. It went off also, and I must've had a ripper of a night, judging by the happy snaps on my camera.

The Chateau is the best place to chill out. The weather was nice, and the countryside made it so relaxing. Also, the Chateau has really good meals. After a huge night in The Cave, we had cooked breakfasts in the mornings, and it was really good. I can’t remember exactly what was served for dinners, but I do remember thinking that the food here was fantastic.



Day 5: Beaujolais Wine Region to French Riviera
Our route today takes us south to the fabulous Côte d’Azur via the Autoroute de Soleil and Avignon, the city of the Popes. Tonight we visit Monaco! View the Royal Palace and take the opportunity to try your luck at the casinos of Monte Carlo. (B,D) Contiki Village

It was a pretty long day on the coach, but the campsite was pretty nice. We went to Monaco, and the casino at Monte Carlo. It was all very flash. I did a couple of laps of the casino, kept my roulette chip, and headed to the cocktail bar, where I had a Sidecar that was so toxic, it burnt my eyes everytime I took a sip. I was pretty drunk by the time we got back to the campsite, and I was ready to hit the bar. Shane had a win at the casino, and bought everyone a shot. Mmm... Turned out they had a deal - TEN SHOTS FOR 18 EURO!!! I couldn't resist, and had so many French ****s, next thing I knew, I was doing my laundry with Simmo and Larissa. Luckily they were there to supervise, or god knows what would've happened...

Laundry on Contiki is available at most places, and it varies as to how expensive it is. Everybody got used to wearing the same things over and over between washes though – it seems that is a Contiki thing. But no one cares. They have some places with laundry facilities, with coin operated machines, and vending machines with laundry detergent. Other places have a laundry lady that you leave a plastic bag of shopping with, and it gets returned that night, or the next morning. With the laundry ladies though, they advise not to give them delicates or ALL of your clothes, in case of a laundry disaster (like shrinkages etc.). I never had any problems though.



Day 6: French Riviera
It’s your choice today – perhaps mix with the rich and famous on the beach at Cannes or take a trip into Nice to shop for souvenirs and explore this “Queen of the Riviera”. (B,D) Contiki Village

We caught the train to Nice, and went shopping. It was... Nice... hehe... The weather was really hot. Then we caught the train to Cannes - where they have the famous Film Festival. I sunbaked and swam, it was fantastic. That night, NO ONE hit the bar. Our group was informed that a member of the other Contiki group staying at the same campsite had passed away in Spain from Meningococcal, so it put a bit of a dampener on the evening. A group of us went to the amusement park down the road. We got back, and I think there were a few people in the bar, but it wasn't very lively, which was understandable. Probably a good thing for my liver though. And I would've wanted more French ****s... Mmm...



Day 7: French Riviera to Florence
We visit a French Perfumery before continuing to Pisa, home of the famous Leaning Tower. From here it’s a short journey to the most spectacular of Renaissance cities, Florence. (B,D) Contiki Village

Welcome to Italy! At our first service stop in Italy, we all tried some real Italian pizza, which was sold in huge slices. It was bellissimo! I had been looking forward to the Italian food. We went to Pisa. Everyone was taking photos of everyone pushing the tower over, or propping it up. Mine turned out crap... My hands weren't really lined up with the leaning tower, so it just didn't work. OH WELL – I’ll just have to go back! Yippee! That night, we went to the Red Garter club, which was awesome. I loved happy hour, and got stuck into the Strawberry Daiquiris with Elise. They also had karaoke, which was good fun. After we got back to the campsite, we enjoyed more drinking at the bar there. I ended up sleeping on the couch in the cabin, because both my roomies were sick. It was nice to have a room to myself though, and the cabins in Florence were really nice.



Day 8: Florence
Your day includes a walking tour seeing the Piazza della Signoria, the Duomo and Santa Croce and a chance to shop for leather, gold and silver. In your free time maybe visit one of the city’s many museums or galleries and this evening enjoy the colourful Florentine nightlife. (B) Contiki Village

We went to a leather demo, and went shopping for some Italian jewellery too. Very nice. It was interesting to learn about the leather, but when it came to shopping in the streets, it was hard to pick the authentic from the fake. The leather at the place with the demo (Leonardo’s) was expensive, but authentic. I bought a little jewellery box made of leather. I think it was about 40 Euro, but I really liked it. Over the road from Leonardo’s, was Walter’s Silver Shop. It was really good, and I bought some earrings and things in there. I had the biggest and the best slice of pizza for lunch... Mmm... I went on an included guided walking tour with the rest of the group, which was good. Then we went out for a Tuscan Dinner (optional). Julia and I polished off a couple of bottles of the local Italian red vino, and ended up speaking with out best Italian accents... After dinner we went to a nightclub called Space (optional). It was great, but had to be rescued from so many sleazy locals... Without realising, I was still speaking with my crappy Italian accent... Caught a taxi back to the campsite with Simmo, and a couple of others from the other Contiki group. Ended up on the couch again, beacuse Kate had spent the whole night vomiting... Hey, I thought the Vino was great?!


Souvenir Group Photo, Euro 11.00
A photo of you and all of your new friends is the perfect souvenir from your tour. The photo will be taken with a panorama of Florence in the background or in one of the city's famous piazzas.

The group photo was taken just before we went out for dinner. We were all dressed up, and the backdrop was Florence. It looked fantastic, and I would recommend you get one. It’s a good momento. Everyone looked fantastic.


Tuscan Meal, Euro 27.00
Our restaurant this evening is located in the heart of Florence and provides the venue for our Tuscan feast. In true Italian style yo'll dine on antipasta, pasta and a wonderfully aromatic main course - all washed down with some local Chianti wine.

Okay, so this meal wasn’t very exciting. A few people on the tour complained about it. It was great to spend the meal with the rest of the group, but a few people chose to eat elsewhere. It’s not disgusting, but it’s just not spectacular…


Space Electronic Disco, Euro 11.00
A chance to dance the night away at Florence's largest night-spot. Your first drink is included in the price and will get you started for an evening of fun. Enjoy the great music and maybe take the opportunity to show off your karaoke skill.

Space was fun. You get given a card when you arrive, and it has a free drink included on it. You use the card like cash, and then before you leave, you hand the card in and they tell you how much you owe. Don’t lose the card, or you get charged like 50 Euros. The bouncers at the door then call you a taxi, and tell them where to take you. If you share the taxi with three other people, I think it costs you roughly 7 Euro each? The only crap thing about Space though, is all the sleazy locals. So if you’re not into that, then just dance with your friends, and you can save each other. It’s not a huge hassle. More funny than anything.



Day 9: Florence to Rome
All roads lead to Rome where our included sightseeing tour is the perfect introduction to the Eternal City. This afternoon why not discover this city of Gladiators with a local guide? Then, do as the Romans do and stroll past the Trevi Fountain, the amazing Pantheon, and Piazza Navona. (B) Contiki Village

When in Rome... It was getting pretty damn hot. I ended up copying the clever Asian tourists by using an umbrella for some shade... *Under my Umbrella-ella-ella-eh-eh-eh* Checked out the Colosseum, and went on another guided walking tour (optional). I think the whole group took this Optional. It was so hot though, that every now and then members of our group would duck off to the nearest gelati stand, and sneak back again. Our TM took us to the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and Piazza Nevona, and we enjoyed more gelati!

The shop at the campsite sold the cheapest Bacardi Breezers and beer. So that was nice - good for our cabin parties (with DJ Simmo and MC Matt).


Guided Imperial Tour, Euro 11.00 (10-19 people)/Euro 10.00 (20+ people)
Join a local guide for an excursion back in time. You'll wander across the cobbled stones of the Roman Forum, marvel at the Colosseum and learn why the glory of Imperial Rome still stands out in the history of Western culture.

The guided tour was good, but because it was so hot, a lot of the group wished they could be somewhere cooling off, rather than roaming around in the heat. It was very interesting – there is so much history in Europe, it’s almost overwhelming.



Day 10: Rome
Once at the centre of the powerful Roman Empire this city, steeped in centuries of ancient history, awaits your discovery. The Colosseum, Imperial Forum and the treasures of the Vatican City make for a day of serious sightseeing. (B,D) Contiki Village

We lined up FOREVER to get into the Vatican... I nearly DIED from the heat. But the Vatican was excellent. Every wall and ceiling was covered in paintings. The Sistine Chapel was really nice as well. A couple of us snuck through the special group exit to get straight into St. Peters Basilica, and then out to the Vatican Courtyard, where the Pope steps out on his balcony and so on. I window shopped at the flash exclusive shops, and went to the Spanish Steps. It was bloody hot, so I caught the train back to the campsite with a few of the others, and most of the group was at the pool. We ended up having an even better cabin party, with plenty more Bacardi Breezers and beer, and Pringles - the 1 snack for Contiki.



Day 11: Rome to Corfu
A chance to take a guided tour of the ancient city of Pompeii as we travel across Italy to board our overnight ferry to Greece. (B) Adriatic Ferry

We drove to Napoli, where Enzo, our driver was from. Then we went to Pompeii, and that was really interesting. It was BLOODY HOT though. Got out the umbrella-ella-ella-eh-eh-eh... again, and even though it was so hot, the group huddled around me for the shade. The brothel in Pompeii was interesting... Comfort obviously wasn't an important factor in those days... Then we caught an overnight ferry to Corfu.


Guided Tour of Ancient Pompeii, Euro 16.00 (19-34 people) Euro 15.00 (35+ people)
The once thriving city of Pompeii lay buried for centuries under thick layers of ash which rained down after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. It was rediscovered in the 17th Century and two-thirds of the city has now been excavated. A local guide takes you to the important sites and explains the history of this fascinating city.

The tour through Pompeii was really interesting, and I think the whole group took part in this Optional. Again, it was very hot. A few from the group explored on their own once they got inside, and discovered so many more interesting things that the guide didn’t cover on the tour. When you start the tour, you get a map, so once you’re in, you can do your own thing if you like. But I would recommend Pompeii – it was fascinating.



Days 12-14: Corfu
Three sun-filled days on the beautiful Greek island of Corfu. Windsurf, waterski, parasail, swim or just soak up the sun. Get off the beaten track in an open-top 4-wheel drive jeep or cruise along the coast. At night, enjoy the local cuisine and try your hand (or feet) at Greek dancing. (B,D) (B) (B,D) Contiki Special Stopover

We had a few free days in Corfu, which was nuts. It was a nice break in the middle of the Contiki tour. If Rome was bloody hot, Corfu was ****ING HOT. We got to Corfu super early, and ended up crashing on the floor in the lobby (because we couldn't check in til later). I had the best sleep of my life somehow... We had a pool party, and we polished off what was left of my Duty Free grog. Shots of Cointreau... Owch. It burned so bad, but felt so good... Smart Ash thought she'd jump in the pool to escape more Cointreau, but Clever Brendon swam it out to her. Cheers buddy... The next day, we found out we had been banned from the pool. Oops. Today was the day for George’s Boat (optional), and it was the best fun! We spent the day at Dassia Beach, where I took part in some watersports. I went parasailing, and took a spin on the Mambo with Nat, Julia and Natika. It was excellent. I enjoyed a bit of “Sexy Time” on George's Boat, and got a sensual massage from the man himself, for steering the boat... I went skinny dipping – yes, it was during the day - and yes, the water was extremely clear... Thanks to my mate Mell for capturing the proof for me... Eeker That night we went to a Greek Dinner, and Greek Dancing (optional). The next day, I caught an EXTREME BUS into town, and did some shopping, and enjoyed another Yiros (they put chips in theirs though...) – very cheap though. Had a toga party that night, and enjoyed getting on the Fruit Tingles with Simmo. The cocktails in Corfu were awesome! CORFU WAS AWESOME!!!


George's Boat, Euro 27.00
Don't miss out on this superb full day trip - it's a great opportunity to get an off-shore view of Corfu's idyllic scenery. We sail up the East Coast, make frequent stops and also drop anchor at a lively seaside resort. A delicious lunch including fresh bread, dips and salads is included to give you energy for a day of fun.

George’s Boat was so much fun – you HAVE to do it! It’s a full day, where he takes you out to Dassia Beach for watersports and fun, and then you have a Greek lunch (with salad, tzaziki, bread, olives…), then on the way back, there are plenty of stops for a swim and a special skinny dipping spot. George himself is so hilarious, and good fun. I’d have to say this was one of the best parts of the Contiki tour.


Car Hire, Euro 55.00-155.00
(cost per day depending on car)
Why not hire a car and explore this beautiful island and it's beaches? Drive along the coastline, or head inland and discover mountain villages along the way. A day cruising around Corfu will definitely be one of the highlights of your time in Greece. Daily hire rates vary depending on the type/size of car your choose and will be explained by our local Contiki Representative.

I didn’t actually hire a car in Corfu. But a few of the boys in my group all put in to share one together. You organise it with the Contiki Reps the day before. I think they had a good time. I caught the bus in to the town, and did some shopping and stuff, and shared a taxi back with some others.


Dinner & Greek Dancing, Euro 30.00
Taverna, Retsina and Zorba - it'll certainly be all Greek to you by the end of the evening. Try tasty local specialities such as taramasalata, tzatziki and roast lamb on the spit. Enjoy a colourful and lively folklore show during which you're bound to learn a few Greek steps - all to the sound of bouzouki!

Okay, this was okay… A few people got sick, or some kind of gastro in Corfu, and a lot of people think it’s from this dinner… But it could’ve been the ham that you can have with breakfast – seeing at it’s hot in Corfu, and the ham sits on a table outside where you serve yourself. It was fun having dinner again with the group, and you had your photo taken with these Greek girls dressed up in traditional clothes (you can buy the photo on your way out). You also got a shot of Ouzo as you arrive at the restaurant. The entertainment is good – they have music playing, and traditional dance demonstrations, and opportunities to join in.


T-Shirts
Be inspired by the Greek Gods, or better still let your imagination run wild and create your own group design! A terrific souvenir of your tour.

T-Shirt Euro 17.00
Girly-T Euro 19.00
Girly-T Sleeveless Euro 19.00
Men's Fitted T Sleeveless Euro 20.00
S Shirt Classic Euro 22.00
S Shirt with Hood Euro 23.00
Polo Euro 22.00


Everyone bought t-shirts or hoodies. I think we had to give our group design to our TM when we arrived in Corfu (so we worked on it in Florence and Rome), then they get them delivered a couple of days later.


Watersports
Parasailing, water skiing and donut rides are just a few of the great activities available today at Dassia Beach.

Parsailing - single Euro 38.00
Parasailing - double Euro 34.00 pp
Donut ride Euro 18.00
Flyfish 1pax Euro 32.00
Flyfish 2 pax Euro 27.00
Flyfish 3-6 pax Euro 24.00 pp
Water skiing Euro 22.50
Wakeboard Euro 25.00
Jetski - single Euro 44.00
Jetski - double Euro 30.00 pp


This is if you go on George’s Boat (which tales you out to Dassia Beach). It’s so much fun there, and I did the parasailing (where they take photos for you), and on another ride similar to the donut, called the Mambo. There were a few in my tour group that didn’t do any watersports, and just enjoyed the beautiful beach. They still had a fantastic time. I guess it depends on your budget, because the watersports are expensive. But especially the parasailing, was a real memorable experience for me.



Day 15: Corfu to Italy - Mini Cruise
A full day and night cruise across the Adriatic back to Italy. Relax and enjoy the boat’s facilities. (B) Adriatic Ferry

This cruise was really flash. The restaurant was nice, and I did some duty free shopping... They also had a casino, and several bars. I managed to score a disabled room with my roomies, so we had a massive room, with a TV. I mastered the top bunk very nicely... haha...



Day 16: Arrival Venice
Our spectacular morning arrival into the Port of Venice is one of Europe’s most impressive sights. After docking, we make our way to Verona, home of Romeo and Juliet. A warm welcome awaits us tonight at Contiki’s Venice Village. (B,D) Contiki Village

We went to Verona, where they have Romeo and Juliet. It was a very cute place, with the cobblestone streets and lots of shops. The camping site was good too. I was a legendary dishie there as well, which was excellent fun in the kitchen. We were rewarded for our assistance with more Italian vino. Cookie and Dishie duties are so easy. At the start of the tour, our TM wrote up a roster, and just put our names next to a place. So you only have to do it at one place, and that’s it. The bar at the campsite was buzzing - there were six Contiki groups at the campsite, so it was huge. We enjoyed the Pimps and Prostitutes theme, and the Attitude Adjusters, which I had been warned about, but I had too much of... I had one, and thought that it was so overrated... Had another one, and I had officially put the ASH in smASHed... They had six shots, and were topped up with Bacaredi Breezer... Owch. No wonder they said that they **** you up (there is a sign at the bar, saying ‘try our attitude adjusters – they will **** you up’). Yes they do. Unfortunately, something shonky was going on, and someone was spiking people's drinks... My roomie was one, and I thought she was dying! In fact she nearly did - thanks to Tommy, she is still alive today... NOT COOL. Another girl ended up getting taken back to her tent in a wheelbarrow. It was messed up. So just watch your drinks, and who buys them for you.



Day 17: Venice
A short boat ride takes us into the historical centre of Venice to see St. Mark’s Square, the Doges’ Palace, and the Bridge of Sighs. See glass and lace making demonstrations and why not treat yourself to a gondola ride? (B,D) Contiki Village

Today, we went into the main part of Venice. We went to a lace demo and a Venetian glass demo, and I spent up big... I'm still convincing myself it was an excellent purchase, and I have just invested in an heirloom... Eeker But the Venetain glass was gorgeous, and they had so many things – vases, figurines, and glass sets… Went to St Marks Square, and the Chapel... I also has a ride on a gondola (optional), which was great. My gondola group all put in for a bottle of champagne (I think we bought it from the gondola place – and they give you plastic cups as well). It reminded me so much of the Italian Job, as we floated through the canals. We enjoyed a bit of karaoke and flame twirling back at the campsite. Good fun.


Gondola Ride, Euro 21.00
No trip to Venice is complete without a ride on the canals in a world-famous gondola. Take in the sights, savour every minute and treasure this truly memorable Venetian experience.

The gondola ride was great fun. I think you have six people to a gondola. It’s a nice peaceful ride through the canals, and it went between 30 minutes to 45 minutes. Your group can buy champagne for the gondola ride, which is fun. Just don’t drop your plastic cups in the water as you’re getting on (like another group did – oops! They had to swig the champagne instead). It was a nice way to finish off the day in Venice.



Day 18: Venice to Vienna
An enchanting drive as we waltz into the home of Mozart and Strauss to see the splendours of the once mighty Austrian Empire. Classical music to heighten your senses tonight? (B) Youth Hotel

Vienna was one of my favourite places. I loved it so much. The hostel was awesome. Chris and I managed to get free Jagermeister shots, and it was fantastic. We went to a Mozart and Strauss concert - which was pretty flash (with champagne included). Had the BEST PASTA OF MY LIFE (yes, even better than any I had tried in ITALY!!! *gasp!*) - it was so good… Went back to the hostel bar (where we got the free Jagermeister shots), and I lined up for the Internet, and finally got on after downing a couple more beers. Sent some interesting emails... The Internet is really cheap here.


Mozart & Strauss Concert, Euro 26.00
Taste the culture of Austria with a truly memorable Mozart and Strauss concert in one of Vienna's most famous concert halls. The show is peformed by a small orchestra and singers in full costume and is the perfect introduction to this 'city of music'. An evening to remember!

I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this optional, and whether I’d like it. Along with a lot of the others that went, I was really impressed. It was great to go there and get dressed up, and have a great night out, and we enjoyed the champagne (included) in the foyer during the interval. The costumes were spectacular.



Day 19: Vienna
On our sightseeing tour see the fabulous Palace of the Habsburgs, the State Opera House and fashionable Kaerntnerstrasse. In your free time try authentic apple strudel and Viennese coffee. Later why not sample some local Schnapps and a traditional Viennese meal? (B) Youth Hotel

Still buzzing from the memorable pasta, I went on a walking tour of Vienna with the rest of the group. We had some free time, and then went to a Schnaps factory (optional)... Mmm... I bought up big, including some Absinthe, and orange schnaps with gold flakes in it, and some t-shirts... They don’t have EFTPOS there, so make sure you take cash. We didn’t know about this, and I borrowed some money from Amanda to pay for my purchases. I had a traditional Weiner schnitzel for dinner (optional), and shared a bottle of the local stuff with Ana. Bus party on the drive back to the hostel. Good times.


Old Vienna Schnaps Museum, Euro 5.00
Founded in 1875 by the Fischer family, this distillery still uses traditional methods when producing schnaps, brandies and liqueurs. The owners will explain the methods of schnaps making and show you the variety of ingredients they use (without giving away their secrets). Finish up by sampling their wonderful creations.

I enjoyed the schnaps museum, and included in the price, are samples of the schnaps. They have lots of tasting samples set up after the demo for you to try them. After, there is an opportunity to buy some schnaps, but they don’t have EFTPOS there, it is CASH ONLY. Make sure you take plenty of cash.


Viennese Dinner, Euro 27.00
Venture into the Vienna woods for an evening of traditional food, including a Viennese schnitzel. Wash it down with a couple of drinks, live entertainment, dancing and memories that will last a lifetime.

This dinner was really nice. They have music and singing while you eat, and you get some drink tokens to use as well. I would recommend this dinner – it was great!



Day 20: Vienna to Prague
Stop at the World Heritage town Ceský Krumlov before arriving in the Czech capital Prague. (B,D) Hotel

We went to Cesky Krumlov, which is a historic town in the Czech Republic. It was really nice, and there were great views for some good photos. The hotel we stayed at was good - pretty basic, but that's all we needed. The group went out for a pub meal, and mastered the public transport back to the motel again.



Days 21-22: Prague
Two free days to discover the labyrinth of streets in the old town, the medieval castle district and Karlov Most, the most photographed bridge in Prague. (B)(B) Hotel

Amanda took us for some sightseeing. There are so many statues and history, that it was hard to take it all in. We went over the famous bridge, Karlov Most. Then we went on a lunch cruise (optional), and the food was excellent. The host was pretty cool too. Enzo was hilarious - the boys and I were teaching him some Aussie phrases, and he'd teach us some similar Italian phrases. It was gold. Amanda took us clubbing, which was insane. Thank god I could sleep in the next day! Had a pretty casual day, the next day. Slept in, went shopping, chilled out... Tea at the pub... Not much else...


Lunchtime Cruise, Euro 24.00
See Prague from a different angle by joining us on a cruise along the River Vltava. You'll enjoy the scenery and a delicious buffet lunch with drinks.

This was fantastic. Lunch was a smorgasbord of delicious food, and we had drink vouchers as well. The host was great, and told us all about Prague. After lunch, we went to the top level of the boat, and enjoyed the views with our drinks. It was excellent.



Day 23: Prague to Munich
On to Bavaria’s lively capital Munich, home to the Oktoberfest. Maybe join us this evening at one of this city’s traditional Beer Halls. (B) Youth Hotel

More shopping... Saw the Glockenspiel, but it was surrounded by scaffolding. I think they are restoring it? Went to a beerhall (optional). It was insane! Managed to down my stein of beer with no problems! I think that's when I officially became the beer babe. Started the trip on cocktails and spirits... On to the beer... Mmm, good food there too. Heaps of fun, and got some great photos.


Bavarian Beerhall, Euro 20.00
Join us in one of the oldest and most famous beerhalls in Munich, which was established in 1406, for a traditional evening of fun. Taste German specialties including roasted pork knuckle and beer, while watching dancers, yodellers and musicians in full costume. Prost!

It was great fun, and the food was excellent! I would definitely recommend this optional.



Day 24: Munich to Swiss Alps
We stop for lunch in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein. Enjoy time to shop and sightsee in Lucerne before reaching our idyllic stop in the Swiss Alps. (B,D) Contiki Special Stopover

We stopped for lunch in Liechtenstein, and I had my passport stamped there. I think it costs 2 Euro, and there’s a tourist information booth that stamps your passport. My passport wasn’t stamped anywhere else on the trip, apart from at the border in Calais, just before getting the ferry back to the UK. I was so excited to get to Switzerland. It was like a dream come true! Swiss chocolates everywhere! Aaahhhh... So good.



Day 25: Swiss Alps
A spectacular day where you can choose to hike the many trails or maybe enjoy a trip up the snow-covered Jungfrau mountain on a cog railway that passes through the Eiger mountain! (B,D) Contiki Special Stopover

I went on the cog railway, up the Jungfrau mountain (optional). It was my first time in the snow. I went snowboarding, and made snow angels... It was the best! My bum spend more time in the snow that upright, but it was good fun – I dried it off and thawed it out under the hand-dryer in the toilets after... It was the best day though. The cows and sheep all have big bells around their necks. This was my other favourite place in Europe. I got so many beautiful photos, and some could even pass for postcards! Especially up Jungfrau Mountain – the photo opportunities are fantastic!


Jungfrau Mountain, SF 125.00
A fabulous trip on the highest cog railway in the world up the Jungfrau Mountain, which rises to 4,158m (13,600ft). Travel through 7kms (4.2 miles) of tunnel and stop for grand views from the plate glass windows - literally in the North Face of the Eiger Mountain. The journey ends at Jungfraujoch - 3,454m (11,300ft) above sea level with impressive views from the highest railway station and post office in the world! Whatever the time of year, the scenery is fabulous and there's even the opportunity to ski (at a small charge and weather permitting).

This was an excellent day out. I think it was even more exciting for me, because I’d never been to the snow before. It was good fun to do all sorts of things with the others that went up as well. You can go snowboarding, skiing, have a huskie ride, and many other activities. They have a beginners slope for the snowboarding and skiing as well, so it’s a good way to give it a try for the first time.



Day 26: Swiss Alps to Rhine Valley
Heading north we re-enter Germany and visit the university town of Heidelberg on the banks of the Neckar River. Tonight we stay in the picturesque Rhine Valley after seeing the famous Lorelei and hearing how German beersteins are crafted in St Goar. (B,D) Hotel

We went to a wine tasting in St. Goar (optional), which was really good. We also went to a beer stein factory, and went into some shops with cuckoo clocks and traditional teddy bears. When we got back to the motel, my roomies and I held a room party. It was awesome. We had mini kegs and everything. And Happy Birthday, Scuba Steve! CHEERS!


Wine Tasting, Euro 8.00
A chance to sample and learn about some of the most famous wines of the Rhine region of Germany. There's also the opportunity to purchase some of your favourites! Don't leave your tasting glass behind - it's yours to keep as a souvenir.

The wine tasting was held in a cellar that looked almost creepy by candlelight, but it was really ambient at the same time. They explained all about the different local wines, and we got to sample a few. They had some cheese and nibbles to have with it, and it was good fun.



Day 27: Rhine Valley to Amsterdam
We cross the Dutch border and make our way to Amsterdam. Visit a cheese farm and see how clogs are made. Cycle through the countryside and the fishing village of Edam. A centrally located hotel is home for our last two nights. (B,D) Youth Hotel

We saw a clog making demonstration at a clog making place, and the clog maker was a crazy guy – it was hilarious. He was mad! We tasted some traditional cheese from Edam, and went on a **** bike ride, with an hilarious Dutch lady... That night, most of us went to a live sex show, and enjoyed joints, brownies, mushies and munchies... It was one crazy night. But it was good fun to have a try at the local things that we couldn’t really try legally elsewhere. The motel was really nice – the beds were so comfortable. But the rooms were so small, that the beds were all pushed up together. But it was nice and comfortable, with good facilities, and great food.



Day 28: Amsterdam
This morning why not take a canal bike ride to further explore Amsterdam? In your free time perhaps visit famous sights such as Anne Frank’s House or the Van Gogh Museum. Tonight we celebrate our last evening together. (B) Youth Hotel

Amsterdam was crazy! The motel was great, the food was fantastic, and the Internet was FREE! Lots of sightseeing today. I went on the canal boat ride (optional), and did some shopping. Later in the afternoon, we went on a canal cruise (optional), and then went off to dinner (optional) at a Chinese restaurant. After tea, we all went out on the town to party up big for our last night together on the tour. Amsterdam is the perfect place for a party! More joints, brownies, mushies, munchies, and piercings… (Chris, you legend).


Canal Bike Tour, Euro 12.50
There's no better introduction to this beautiful 17th century city than a fun canal ride. Our four-seater pedal boats follow a picturesque route past pretty canal houses, the Amstel Locks, and the famous Skinny Bridge, and is the perfect way to start your day of sightseeing.

Hardly anyone did this optional. It wasn’t too bad though. I think with more people, it would have been more fun. Each paddle boat got a bag full of goodies – with lots of munchies and cans of soft drink. We were given a map, a rundown of the canal rules (giving way to boats etc.) and a time limit, and basically leisurely paddled our way to our destination. It was nice.


Evening Canal Cruise, Euro 19.00
A cruise on Amsterdam's world-famous canals is the perfect way to celebrate your final evening on tour. You'll pass many famous sights including Dutch gabled houses, the Anne Frank house, churches and the Red Light District. Your cruise includes commentary, a couple of drinks and snacks.

I think everyone did this optional, and it was fun. There was a bar on the cruise, and we were allowed to drink as much as we liked for free, until the booze ran out. We went past Anne Frank’s House, and a few other places. It was good.


Sea Palace Restaurant, Euro 29.00
This unique floating restaurant is built in the typical pagoda style of Chinese palaces. Located in the heart of Amsterdam it's the perfect place for you to join us for a typical Dutch 'rice table' which consists of a variety of main dishes accompanied with rice.

What a feast! I think everyone took part in this optional as well – as it was out last dinner together on the tour. There was so much food. It was really delicious. We were also given drink tokens as well. I’d recommend this as a great optional, to enjoy with the rest of the group on your last night together.



Day 29: Amsterdam to London
Time to swap addresses and e-mail contacts as we travel through the Belgian countryside and back to Calais for our ferry crossing to England. (B)

Enzo finally got the DVD player in the coach to work, but after such a big night in Amsterdam, we mainly slept the way back to London. We were given some feedback sheets to fill in, which were sealed up, and confidential. We also got given a sheet that was copied, where we wrote our contact details for each other. When we got back to the Royal National, we decided to meet back at the London Pub later for tea together, and partied on once again. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone, but they were all champions. We had a great group, and it was great to meet them. I’ll have memories that will last forever. I can’t wait to go on my next big holiday!



Overall, it was fantastic. I would recommend that you take multivitamins everyday, because most of the group got the “Contiki Cough” (I didn’t though – yay!), and it was handy to have some Berocca packed for all the big nights. Also, it’s good to pack a mini supply of medical things, for the flu, nausea, constipation and diarrhea, bandaids, painkillers, and travel sickness tablets.

I hope you enjoyed reading my travelog. I had a fantastic time, and I hope you do too when you go on your tour!

Ash x x x

Big Grin
  • 23 Oct 2007 CapricornAstrid said

    CapricornAstrid

    Hey! I can’t remember the story exactly, but apparently there’s some history with Amsterdam and Chinese food…?

    But yeah, it was the best trip! I’m planning one to the US now. Yippee!

  • 25 Oct 2007 Ross said

    Default_avatar

    Hey Ash,
    I am wanting to go on a Contiki Tour in August 2008 and i was wondering how much money do i need to have a good time
    I want to go for around 2 months and do a 30 day contiki of London, Amsterdam and Greece, then have 30 days to myself to travel the greek islands.
    How much is accomidations and everyday spending money.
    Would the whole trip cost under $15,000?
    ?
    If you could give me any idea of howmuch a contiki would cost, (the whole trip including spending money, food etc) it would be a massive help,
    Cheers Ash, hope to hear from you soon.

  • 25 Oct 2007 CapricornAstrid said

    CapricornAstrid

    Cool<!--graemlin::cool:-->

    Hey Ross!

    Here’s a rough idea of how much I budgeted for with my holiday…

    My Contiki tour went for 29 days (European Contrasts), and cost just under $4000 (including their meals – which is breakfast every day, and about half dinners).

    I put aside $1000 for the optional extras – it doesn’t cost quite that much if you do all of them, but I tended to budget a little extra in case.

    I budgeted $100 every day in Europe, which was roughly 50 Euro a day. This was for spending money, extra food and munchies, alcohol, and tipping etc. Basically everyday expenses. (I got drunk almost every night, and it lasted me, but budget a bit extra if you’re a big drinker).

    In London, I budgeted $150 every day, which was roughly 60 Pounds. That covered meals, sightseeing and spending money. That was heaps to keep me going.

    I took my credit card for any big purchases, that my daily budget wouldn’t cover. I used it a couple of times – for those expensive souvenirs.

    In London, I stayed at the Royal National Hotel. It was just under $100 per night, and I shared with someone. They have either twin or triple share. It’s cheaper to go triple share, but I went with the twin. Up to you. They have the prices and info in the Contiki brochure.

    As for the other things, flights cost me $2500 return to London from Melbourne. Travel insurance cost me $250 for five weeks.

    Um… That’s all I can think of. Hopefully it’s been helpful though. Good luck with planning your holiday. August is a fantastic time of the year in Europe. The weather is awesome. You’ll have the best time!

    Ash x x x

  • 25 Oct 2007 Ross said

    Default_avatar

    hey thanks heaps Ash!!
    What is the average age of people that go?
    so on the contiki is it like one big party
    do they have people organising events to go to?
    Dont mean to be rude but is it mostly drinking and sex

    I cant wait to go but i dont really want to spend more than $15,000
    all i want to go is Greece, London and Amsterdam,
    thanks for your info!!

  • 25 Oct 2007 CapricornAstrid said

    CapricornAstrid

    No worries! I’m happy to help.

    There was a big range of ages on my tour. There were a few 18/19 year olds. Lots between 21 – 25 (like me!). Late twenties, and a batch of early thirties. But it was really evenly spread. But I’d say the majority was 21-25.

    As far as drinking and shagging… Definately yes to the drinking – but having said that, there were non-drinkers on the tour, and they still had fun. Sex was mainly with other Contiki groups staying at the same places as us. On my tour, the girl:boy ratio wasn’t really that even. Mostly girls – so I guess that works in your favour? lol There were a couple of hook ups on the tour, but a lot of hooking up with other groups when they had parties at the bars.

    It is like one big party though – most nights they have something on at the bar at the campsite, or they take you out to clubs and pubs. The tour manager organises activities, and places to go and party. But it’s up to you how much drinking, sex and partying you want to do though – because some people weren’t into that, and some were. I’d better not say too much more… You know how it is – what goes on tour, stays on tour… Wink<!--graemlin:;)-->

  • 25 Oct 2007 Ross said

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    hahahahaha,
    well said,
    well i’m definately looking forward to it now!!
    especially if the girl ratio is higher! lol

  • 25 Oct 2007 CapricornAstrid said

    CapricornAstrid

    Big Grin<!--graemlin::D--> Have fun! x x x

  • 31 Oct 2007 SoCalGuy805 said

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    Thank you for writing such a detailed explanation of your contiki experience. I traveled last year for a lilttle over three weeks with family and did all the planning and reservations ourselves which was stressful leading up to the trip and amazing once we were there. But this year I am going it alone and have been really debating whether or not to do a tour becuase i am going to visit frinds in spain and germany after or b4 the tour. After reading and talking to many of the people who have experienced Europe contiki style i am convenced that the European Contrats tour is my style of traveling. Thank you for all the info. One question though. I am assuming you are converting aussie $ to Euro’s in your calculations of expenses???????

  • 1 Nov 2007 CapricornAstrid said

    CapricornAstrid

    That’s okay, I’m very happy to help. My expenses listed above are in Australian Dollars… (So in Euros, it’s roughly half, or when I travelled, it was 60 Euro cents to the AU$)

    Good luck, and I hope that you have a great time. The Contrasts tour was fantastic. I would definately recommend it!

    Thanks for your feedback!

    Smiler<!--graemlin::)-->

  • 10 Feb 2008 Annalee said

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    Hey Astrid,
    Thanks so much for taking the time to tell us all about your trip. A friend and I are going on the Contrast leaving June 25 and I am so excited. Even more so after reading about yours. Did you keep a diary? Don’t know how you remember what you did everyday with all that drinking Wink<!--graemlin:;)-->
    Anyway, good luck on your next trip!!!!

  • 11 Feb 2008 CapricornAstrid said

    CapricornAstrid

    Hey! You’re going to have so much fun on your trip! I tried to keep a diary of my adventures… It started off well, but then I got slack, so I just jotted down a couple of things! Plus, it’s good to look back on the photos for a good memory jogger! I wish you and your friend all the best for your holiday in June! You’ll have such a great experience, and meet some wonderful new friends.

    Smiler<!--graemlin::)-->

  • 13 Feb 2008 ptooma said

    Default_avatar

    hahaha .. how true for a majority who want to scribble a journal whilst on tour, reality sets in quickly after day one and the journals end. All I can say is Good Luck. Easier to use 1 or 2 of these memory cards depending on how long your trip is …

    - Vic

  • 21 May 2008 Explorer1100724 said

    Default_avatar

    this travelogue is excellent! Great job Smiler<!--graemlin::)--> I have a question that is bugging me, hope someone can help. I can’t cycle so I was wondering what will happen to me during the Amsterdam cycling trip?

  • 3 Jun 2008 Maverick07 said

    Maverick07

    Thanks heaps for the travel journal, it was brilliant, good reading and extremely insightful, especially in regards to the optional excursions. Can you tell me though a) how many nights do you use your sleeping bag for and b) is it really necessary to take it along with you?

  • 10 Jun 2008 CapricornAstrid said

    CapricornAstrid

    Hi!

    You definately need your sleeping bag. I think it was only London and Amsterdam that we didn’t need it…? (Maybe the Rhine Valley as well?) But you need it for most of the trip. Most places don’t have linen – just a mattress and a pillow.

    Hopefully this is a help.

    Smiler<!--graemlin::)-->

  • 22 Jun 2008 CapricornAstrid said

    CapricornAstrid

    That’s a shame you had such a bad experience at the Chinese restaurant in Amsterdam. Everyone on my tour loved it – thought the food was really good, and a great way to spend the last night together. I can’t remember the service being bad either. Confused<!--graemlin::confused:-->

  • 19 Aug 2008 Sophh Bee said

    Sophh Bee

    WOWZA!
    Astrid sounds like you had fun!
    this has definatley confirmed that this is the tour i want to do next year.
    and i love to hear that the weather is still good in august ><
    i’m a kiwi so i do love my summer sun and the aussie sun
    wink.gif" alt=“Wink” width=“15” height="15"><!--graemlin:;)-->

    i hope i have as much fun as you did but like the nurta grain adds . . or is it milo . . “you only get out what you put in”

  • 9 Nov 2008 walkermanau said

    walkermanau

    Hey guys and gals.. I did this tour in May/June of this year and had an absolute BLAST.. i met great people and had an awesome time partying around Europe. I would defo recommend this tour to everyone.. You spend the perfect amount of time in each country to get a snapshot of Europe!! You visit amazing places and i have memories that i will remember forever!! And best of all you spend it with GREAT people..

    Ash-T.. don’t worry about going by yourself.. try and meet people on the forum who are doing the same tour as you and it eases the worry.. our tour even started a facebook page so we got to see what everyone looked like and now we all keep intouch.. There is bound to be many more who are travelling alone.. it all part of the adventure..

    I would do this tour again in a heart beat.. best time of my life!!

    Ben

  • 10 Nov 2008 CapricornAstrid said

    CapricornAstrid

    Hey everyone!

    Thanks for your comments Ben. It is definately the best tour – you’re right – perfect amount of time at each place. I wish I could go on it again as well… Maybe I will…?

    Ashley, like Ben said, don’t stress about travelling alone. I did. I had met some others on the same tour as me through this Contiki website though, and we ended up adding as friends on MySpace and Facebook so we could see what each other looked like. I found most travellers were doing it alone, and they were all probably like me, a bit nervous at the start, but also excited about the new adventure and the chance to make a heap of fantastic new friends. You will have the best time!

    Sophh Bee – I hope you have a fantastic trip also. We had some kiwi’s on my tour. Two of them were actually in the same class as my cousin at Kamo High (Whangarei)! (I have family in NZ). It’s amazing who you meet on your tour! You’ll definately have as much fun as me! And you’re so right – “YOU ONLY GET OUT WHAT YOU PUT IN”!

    xoxo Big Grin<!--graemlin::D-->

  • 29 Mar 2009 kristy uk & europe09 said

    Default_avatar

    hey just wondering if the theme nights , do they have the outfits or should we bring our own along? im doing contrasts sep12 09

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