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European Discovery Dec 17 - Dec 30 2012

26 Aug 2012 Vic asked

Vic

Is there anyone else going on the European Discovery Tour from Dec 17th - Dec 30th 2012?

This is my first contiki tour, so I am looking to connect with people who are also going on these dates. I am also going solo, so I am a little nervous.

For the veterans who have gone on this tour, any travel advice you guys can give me while traveling in winter in Europe would be awesome. :)

Drop a line.

Cheers :)

  • 27 Aug 2012 miss_meg said

    miss_meg

    Hey Vic,

    I did this tour last year I was on my own too (departed 31st Dec and spent new years in Amsterdam) wish I was going again this year but thought I would share some advice;

    - I’m from NZ so I wasn’t used to the shops being heated so you will be lugging off all your jackets when you go inside (try to go for one layer when you go shopping!)
    - I did all of the optional activities except for the tour of Vatican City and I’m glad I did it on my own because I got to spend more time viewing the exhibitions I wanted rather than being stuck with a tour guide rushing thru the boring bits, spend as much time in the Sistine Chapel as poss!
    - Don’t forget you will need two power adaptors; one for UK and one for Europe; I suggest you take a double adaptor board too so you can charge all your bits and pieces at the same time :)
    - I took cash with me on my tour rather than everyone else who took credit cards etc. It wasnt as stressful trying to find ATMs and getting pinged with huge bank charges
    - Obviously be wary of fellow travellers and locals (try to avoid taking your nice flash phone and gadgets)
    - Don’t be shy, try all the foods, get to know your fellow travellers and try to pick up some of the other languages – the locals love to see you make an effort :)

    Thats all I can think of so far, hope you have an amazing trip :)

    Meg

  • 27 Aug 2012 Vic said

    Vic

    Hi Meg,

    Thanks for responding. Absolutely fantastic advice.

    I am from Toronto, Canada, so I know exactly what you mean by layering too much when you go shopping. :)

    Couple of questions though.

    What kind of outerwear or jacket do you recommend I take with me? In Toronto we get really cold winters, like the temperature goes down to -25, so I have really warm jackets but I think they might be overkill for Europe. So how cold will it get over there?

    I will take your advice on Vatican City Tour, I will do that on my own. :) But for the rest of the optional activities, do you recommend doing them all or are there some which I should skip?

    Thanks

    Vic

  • 27 Aug 2012 Vic said

    Vic

    Self delete. double post :)

  • 27 Aug 2012 miss_meg said

    miss_meg

    Hey Vic,

    You’re welcome it’s always good to offer suggestions that you wish you knew before you left! But don’t worry you will have an amazing time :)

    Yikes -25 that makes me cold just thinking about it! Well to be honest it’s really hard to guage what you will need to bring, you may recall in the news last year the parts of Europe were hit with that wicked ice storm, I had only been there about 2 weeks before hand and while it was pretty cold it was STUNNING weather the entire time like blue skies and sunshine! I would suggest to check the weather closer to the time so you can see what you are in for.

    It doesn’t snow where I live in NZ so it was inevitable that I would feel the cold haha but what I found most difficult is when I was shopping I didnt realise all the shops and hotels etc are SO well heated (not like that where I’m from!) It was honestly like boiling hot in the shops! So I guess if it is the same weather for you wear like a long sleved thermal then try to aim for one big jacket (heavily fleeced on the inside) and might need to be waterproof if you are unlucky with rain (or even snow!) but that way when you go inside shops you can just whip it off and be cool enough inside :) I ended up ditching one of my big puffer jackets in Italy because it was filling up my suitcase and I never felt the need to wear it!

    I did all the other optional activities (apart from the Vatican tour) and we also didn’t get to do the canal cruise in Amsterdam (I guess because it was new years) but we went on a walking tour thru the streets which was AMAZING and was at Museum Square for the countdown.

    Wine tasting in St Goar was really fun and worth it for 8 euros, unless you hate the taste of wine I wouldnt bother :P

    Gondola ride thru venice is a MUST def get a bottle of wine to enjoy it with too, the venetian restaraunt is good value for money too we all went away well fed (and quite drunk too!)

    The group photo is a great thing to have to remember your trip and hopefully you are lucky enough to have a stunning day like we did, the back drop of Florence is honestly breathtaking, everytime I look at my photo on the wall I imagine being back there :)

    The Tuscan evening was great fun, you usually meet other Contiki groups there too and the hosts are very welcoming with lots of music and dancing, cant remember what the food is like but the wine was great I remember that ;)

    Absolutely do Moulin Rouge you will NOT regret it! the menu is amazing as well (even though it is quite expensive) perhaps ask your family/friends to shout you the euro’s to go as a Christmas pressie :)

    sigh just talking about it makes me want to go back! Hope this info helped Vic :)

    Kind Regards

    Meg

  • 27 Aug 2012 Vic said

    Vic

    Hi Meg,

    Thanks so much for your detailed answer. You are the best! No Seriously, you are. :)

    You have given me some great advice and suggestions I shall take your advice to heart and do everything you have suggested to a T. :)

    Take Care

    Ciao

  • 27 Aug 2012 miss_meg said

    miss_meg

    Hey Vic,

    Haha honestly it is my pleasure, forgot to mention the Space Disco in Florence is SO much fun lots of good looking locals too haha it will be a crazy night out I promise you that ;)

    Anything else I can help with just let me know, you are going to have a blast!

    viaggi sicuri!

    Megs

  • 28 Aug 2012 Vic said

    Vic

    Nice, Space Disco. I will definitely be stopping by there. They featured that club on Jersey Shore when they went to Italy. :) I love clubbing but I have only clubbed in North America, so looking forward to check out European clubs. :)

    Wow can’t believe I still have over 110 days to go. :(

    Btw, are you going on any other Contiki Tours?

  • 28 Aug 2012 miss_meg said

    miss_meg

    Hey Vic,

    Oh really thats cool I might try look for an online copy of that! It is CRAZY there like 3 levels of partying! there is nothing like that here in NZ :P

    It will go fast I’m sure, oh and one thing my mum always reminded me; pack and repack then repack again so you eliminate un-necessary clothes and extra stuff you wont need! I wish I hadn’t taken so many tops and pants etc coz you are able to wash stuff in the places that you stay for more than 1 night plus you will end up wearing everything anyway!

    My flatmate and I have just booked LA to the BAY departing 24th April 2013, both our first time to USA so we are super excited! Can you give me any tips?!

    Cheers

    Meg

    Edited: said Vince instead of Vic oops! brain is mush :P

  • 28 Aug 2012 Vic said

    Vic

    Hi Meg,

    First time in USA should be fun for you guys. Americans are really friendly so you guys will have a great time making new friends and meeting people. Food in America is really cheap and served in big portions so your food budget can be small and you will still go to bed on a full stomach. And the best thing is that shopping is really cheap and you have a lot of variety. I rarely buy clothes from Canada. So pack light. :)
    I usually drive down to USA to buy clothes. Americans have very strict Alcohol Laws and you have to be over 21 to consume it.

    As for your tour, I have been to almost all of the places offered on the LA to the Bay Tour.

    LA – When you are in LA, see the regular touristy stuff like the Chinese Theatre, Hollywood Sign, Santa Monica Pier, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, etc. If you guys want to see celebrities go to Spagos Restaurant, Chateau Marmont, Farmer’s Market or Urth Caffe. And TV shows like Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel are free to attend, just get the tickets in advance. It takes a long time to get into good clubs in LA and last call is at 1:30am. I suggest skipping clubbing in LA and leave it for Vegas. People from LA go to party in Vegas.:) Arrive a couple of days early to fully enjoy the city. And the weather is always 20-25 degrees. :)

    San Diego – This place is known for its wildlife like the Zoo and Sea World so definately check that out.

    Phoenix and Grand Canyon – There is not much to do in Phoenix. Its basically a pit stop until you reach the Grand Canyon which is spectacular.

    Las Vegas – This is where the action is. I am actually going to Vegas next weekend to party it up for the Labor Day long weekend. The Party Scene is Amazing. Go Clubbing. Girls usually get in for free. We guys are not so lucky. :( Get tickets in advance to shows they have on the strip as they usually get sold out. And they also have some amazing Outlet Shopping Malls on the strip. So shop till you drop. :)

    San Francisco – Is spectacular. Do all the things they suggest and also try to go to Alcatraz Island. :)

    Not sure how you guys are flying back to New Zealand. But if you have a couple of days, rent a car from San Francisco and drive down the Pacific Coast HighWay from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It is an absolutely spectacular drive. I have done it many times and each time I am awstruck by it. There are many small towns along the way where you can stop and eat and drink some wine from the local vineyards. :)

    And oh yeah, pack some sunblock. :)

    Cheers

    Vic

  • 28 Aug 2012 miss_meg said

    miss_meg

    Kia Ora Vic!

    Thanks heaps for the awesome suggestions, I just read them out to my flatmate we are jumping up and down with excitement!! Cannot wait! and we will def be checking out those shops and restaraunts!

    We get to LA 2 days before Contiki starts so we plan on getting straight into the sight seeing, celebrity spotting and shopping then.

    Our Contiki finishes off in San Fran 4th May and we have looked into getting a cheap shuttle back to LA which I believe does go via Pacific Coast Highway (rather than the inland motorways which is great) its a shame we wont be able to stop where we want but we are on a bit of a budget so will have to hire a car next time we go!

    We depart LA 7th May and in that time we are considering Disneyland and staying in Anaheim because our flight from LAX departs at like midnight so thought it would be easier to be closer etc. we are tossing up between dedicating the remaining time to Disneyland or going back to the city it’s so hard to decide!!

    A couple of things;
    a) the optionals for my tour mentions ‘V Theatre’ in Vegas, do you have any idea what that is?!
    b) i have had a look at public transport around LA it seems quite straight forward do you recommend the metro or buses for getting around to Beverly Hills for example?
    c) you mentioned alcohol laws (we will both be 22 by the time we get there!) are there bottle stores pretty much everywhere or can you really only by alcohol in bars?
    d) have YOU met any celebrities in LA?!

    Absoulte agreement with sunblock, 25degrees is like a high in our summer so we wont be used to it in USA spring haha.

    Thanks again Vic

    Megs

  • 28 Aug 2012 Vic said

    Vic

    Hi Meg,

    Yeah, those places I mentioned are definite celebrity hangouts. You will see paparazzi camped out across the street waiting to take pics. :) They are kinda pricey but you can go there to grab a drink or something and chill in the vibe. Definitely go to Chateau Mormont, its right on Sunset Boulevard :) For shopping, go to Rodeo for window shopping as everything there is crazy expensive, hehe. :) But go to Beverly Center, The Grove and Santa Monica Place for shopping.

    Shuttle back to LA is fine as long is via PCH. Its the View that counts.

    Most of the stuff to see in LA is located near Hollywood. Rest is just urban sprawl and some are really dangerous areas such as East and South LA which you guys should avoid. :) So I think you guys can see all there is to see in the first 2 days of you guys being in LA.

    So if you guys have never been to Disneyland, I suggest you guys go there. Beaches and Malls are also in New Zealand but Disneyland is not. :)

    The V Theatre is basically a variety theatre where there are multiple performing stages where people do different kinds of entertainment such as Stand Up Comedy, Pole Dancing, Magic Tricks, Hyponosis, Illusions, etc. I went there, it was pretty interesting. If you like this sort of thing, check it out. :)

    I actually have never taken a Bus or Metro in LA. I have friends who live in LA, when I fly down there to visit them, we drive everywhere. I am not the best person to ask about this but the best way to see LA is to drive. :)

    Alcohol is available everywhere. In Canada, only government owned stores can sell them. But in USA, its a Capitalist society, so everyone with a liquor license can sell them. Just have your ID handy. :)

    As for celebrities. I have seen a few. I saw Wesley Snipes having lunch in a restaurant before he went to Jail. :) I saw Paula Abdul at the Grove eating a pizza. I saw MacGvyer signing autographs at the Grove as well. I went to a Sushi restaurant with a buddy of mine and I saw David Duchovny (X-Files) and I met that Indian Guy from Big Bang theory on a plane.

    But see the thing is I live in Toronto and every September we have a big Film Festival called TIFF and so all the celebrities come down here. I have seen more celebrities in Toronto than LA. :)

    Hope that helps,

    Ciao

  • 30 Aug 2012 miss_meg said

    miss_meg

    Hey vic!

    thanks heaps for your response i’ve saved snippets of info to our ‘contiki bible’ here at home haha! im not sure if you have come across it but there is a great thread which was created in 2007 titled ‘what you wish you had known before you went on contiki’ or something along those lines. its about 2 hours reading but if you skim thru it you might find more useful hints otherwise im always here if you need advise on europe :)

    take care

    Megs

  • 30 Aug 2012 Vic said

    Vic

    Thanks Meg,

    I shall read that. :)

    Btw, I am thinking of doing a Contiki New Zealand tour after this one. I fell in love with the country after I watched Lord of the Rings. :)

    From all the Tours listed here for New Zealand, which one as a Proud Kiwi would you recommend for this lowly Canuck? :)

  • 30 Aug 2012 miss_meg said

    miss_meg

    Hey Vic,

    cool im stoked you want to visit good ol’ NZ! the best part of the NZ tours is that most of them cover both islands and i would suggest anyone of them that pretty much goes from Auckland (near the top of the north island) to at least as far south as Queenstown (near the bottom of the south island) so you can see the spectacular sights where they shot LOTR as well as doing all the extreme activities like bungy jumping, zorbing, horse riding, the luge etc in both islands.

    The best time to go is probably end of Spring around Sept/Oct because you will still see snow down the south and HOPEFULLY enjoy some warm sun around the north island. Safe to say our winters are nowhere near as cold as yours and I would normally suggest coming in winter if you want to ski/snowboard which is top notch esspecially down the south by queenstown but if you are doing the north island as well the winters are pretty miserable here just cold bleak rain!

    I mean what kind of stuff do you like doing? laxing back tours / sight seeing / lots of action packed activities?

    NZ pretty much offers all of the above but depends what weather you are hoping to come to :)

    Megs

  • 31 Aug 2012 miss_meg said

    miss_meg

    I just came across this awesome youtube clip i havn’t seen before so nz tourism must get other countries to broadcast it; best of NZ scenery and LOTR references!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5rc-5FinU4&feature=player_embedded

  • 31 Aug 2012 Vic said

    Vic

    Wow, what an amazing video. No wonder I want to visit. :)

    Basically, I am not looking to do any winter sports stuff. I can do that in Canada. I want to do activities like bumji jumping, white water rafting, hiking, etc. A good mix of action and laxing back tours. So I guess December would be the best time to visit as its summer time in New Zealand.

  • 31 Aug 2012 miss_meg said

    miss_meg

    Yeah summer is awesome here, it will be still be quite cold down south (although dry as anything) not the kind of summer heat you get in the states or Australia but you can’t beat NZ scenery and adventure sports! oh plus having a BBQ for Christmas and playing cricket on the beach instead of being wrapped up inside eating turkey and watching the snow haha

  • 31 Aug 2012 Vic said

    Vic

    Done and done. 2013, I am coming to New Zealand.

    From these 3 tours, which one would you recommend:

    http://www.contiki.com/destinations/new-zealand/tours/80-grand-adventurer-auckland-christchurch
    http://www.contiki.com/destinations/new-zealand/tours/331-the-big-tiki-auckland-queenstown#
    http://www.contiki.com/destinations/new-zealand/tours/85-grand-explorer-auckland-christchurch

    :)

  • 31 Aug 2012 miss_meg said

    miss_meg

    Yay! You wont regret it!

    Well obviously the big tiki is number 1 because you get to do a bit of everything including visiting Queenstown which is honestly breath taking!

    The difference between G Adventurer and G Explorer is in Explorer you get to do more of the top of the north island, i would personally do Grand Adventurer and not bother with Bay of Islands (not that it isnt STUNNING!) but it’s kind of a back track and the best of the trip is further down the line.

    In saying that though if you have the time and money Explorer would be great but I think the Big Tiki covers everything!

    :)

  • 31 Aug 2012 Vic said

    Vic

    Perfect. I will decide between the Grand Tiki or Grand Adventurer. But most likely I will end up doing the Grand Tiki. Its not everyday I go to New Zealand so might as well make the most of it and go all out. :)

    Thanks for all your help Meg, you are the best. :)

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