Tag Archive | Contiki

Contiki – European Discovery – September 2005

After being laid off from my job earlier in the year, I booked a Contiki tour to London for September. I later booked an additional Contiki tour to Russia & Scandinavia which took place earlier in the summer and is discussed in a different post.

This was my third tour with Contiki and it certainly had a lot of positives and negatives. Of course, coming off of my fab-u-lous Russia tour, I’m surprised I thought this tour had any positives at all. My trip started off with a 40 minute delay and a very snotty

Big Ben

Big Ben

immigration officer. Fortunately, the trip started to look up after that. I braved the Underground (I am from New York City after all!) and got to the hotel within an hour. Their Underground seems more simple than the NYC subway system, but it is also not as complex and has way less people using it every day.
A great part of this trip was that I got to meet up with a girl I met on my last tour and spend the day with her. Things I noticed were that people in London seem to dress better than NYers but the rest of the city is similar.

Amsterdam Shoe

The following day we went to Amsterdam where we went on an unlimited booze cruise and ended up in the red light district. Of course, we had to see a sex show and surprise! I got chosen to perform in it!! These things only happen to me 🙂 Afterwards we hit a few sex museums but really, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all – well, except for the one in NY which is just really artsy and boring. The next day we did more touristy stuff like Anne Frank’s house. Seeing and reading her story really makes me appreciate everything I have in life.

Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest!

Inside the tent

Next we headed into my Germany where the legal drinking age is 16 – I can’t imagine how much trouble I would have gotten into if I had lived there in my teenage years! After visiting St. Goar and the Black Forest, we drove to Munich for Oktoberfest. I’m surprised I remember any of that town considering how much beer was drank. Fun times!

Playing games on the bus

Playing games on the bus

Our next stop was Austria where we only saw one little down and then went to the hotel for our “white” party. Most of us had to buy white clothing because we didn’t know about it ahead of time. It was a good time though.

St. Mark's Square

St. Mark’s Square

Afterwards we finally drove to Italy; first stop, Venice. Did the typical St. Mark’s Square and a gondola ride. What’s interesting is because the canals are really their sewage system, the city puts

Gondola

Gondola

tablets in the water at night to make the water green – it still smells terrible, but when in Venice, it’s a requirement to ride a gondola! Second stop was Rome so we saw the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica which had really long lines even though we went there really early. I got yelled at in the Sistine Chapel for taking a picture – oops! We also visited the Coliseum and the Forum ruins. While riding the public transit system, some little kid tried to steal whatever was in my pocket but fortunately I was smarter than him and had nothing in them. Pick-pocketing seems to be a huge problem in Rome. Our last stop in Italy was Florence. I only bothered to see the fake David statue as you had to stand on line to see the real one and you can’t take pictures so why bother?

Coliseum

Coliseum

 

 

 

After leaving Italy, we continued on to Switzerland which was a very long bus ride. We took a cable car up

Cable Car

Cable Car

Mount Stanserhorn but it was foggy, so the view was not great. We also did some white-water rafting which was amazingly fun. The guides were great and the rapids were fast enough to have people

White-water rafting

White-water rafting

fall out of our boat! Afterwards we headed on to Lucerne to spend the night before we hit our last country, France.

Traveling to Paris was another long bus ride. We got there late so we did a night tour and managed to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle which was beautiful – thankfully it’s beautiful at night because during the day it really is kind of ugly. We were going to go to the top, but someone was trying to jump off of it so police closed it – yup, most

Sparkly Eiffel Tower

Sparkly Eiffel Tower

countries seem to have many of the same issues as the US. We also saw where Princess Diana died and the outside of the Louvre.

The following day we were able to take the elevator up the Eiffel Tower which was pretty cool – it goes up on an angle. I paired off with one other person and we traveled all around on the Metro. We made a quick stop in the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, then headed to Notre Dame, Saint Chappelle and Arc de Triumphe.

Snuck a quick pic of Mona List without flash - sssh!

Snuck a quick pic of Mona List without flash – sssh!

We ended the tour with a trip to Musee Eroticism, shocking, I know. This sex museum was more like the one in NY – more artsy, less fun.

My last night in Paris (is that a movie?) consisted of lots of partying. First we saw Moulin Rouge and then hit up a club or two. The next afternoon I hopped on the Metro to the airport, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Signs are terrible, areas are unclear, security is a pain. I was very

Metro

Metro

happy to make it on the plane and head home. Au revoir, Paris!

Contiki – Russia & Scandinavia Tour – 2005

In 2005 I was in between jobs and wanted to make the most of my time. I had traveled a bit in the past but nothing too far. I had gone on a Greek Island Hopping tour with Contiki a few years prior and enjoyed it enough to give them another shot. This particular tour to Russia & Scandinavia was 3 weeks long. I wanted to take the longer tour that included seeing the Northern Lights but was chicken to be away from home for so long.

To date, this was still the most amazing trip of my life. I made forever-lasting friends (at least so far!), fell in love with a guy (for 3 weeks at least) and saw unparalleled sites that I will never come across again. When I think of why I travel, the memories of this trip are all I need to get me planning my next adventure. That being said, trip-mates make the tour. I give Contiki credit for the itinerary, but without the incredible people I met on Day 1, my views would be very different.

Click here for the site that I made back in 2005 when I came home and was missing everyone and everything I left behind on the other side of the Atlantic.

The random things I remember from this trip aside from the people are:

  • Bathrooms so full of maggots and disgust that we had to take care of business on the side of the road in sticky bushes – trust me it was way better than dealing with the smell and nastiness of the shack on the side of the road. That being said, I can handle my biz  almost anywhere so this had to be bad!
  • Seeing the “zoo” at the gas station – lions and bears in cages put there for the sole purpose of donations to God knows what
  • Being told repeatedly “It’s not wrong; it’s just different” for everything in Russia…..um, no. So much was wrong, yet fascinating.
  • Eating lunch at the Ikea cafe because there was nothing else around for miles.
  • Hanging out in the lobby of our Russian hotel with the prostitutes

Cheers to a once in a lifetime trip that I hope to match someday………..