Western European Adventure – Contiki
In typical Emily and Terri fashion, we talked about where we wanted to travel, so we could cross more places off our bucket lists. The summer of 2015 provided us with a crazy, packed trip to Western Europe. We decided to go with the travel company Contiki.
Contiki Tours are advertised for people ages 18 – 35 with a slogan of #NoRegrets. Our tour was loaded with a bus full of young adults, most on the younger end of the age range, which led to some hilarious shenanigans. The tour we selected was the European Horizons tour, which is high energy (and they really mean that !), 8 countries in 11 days. The tour included accommodations for 10 nights, 15 meals, 1 tour guide, and 1 bus driver. The tour had excursions for just about every city we visited. Our group had people from Taiwan, Zimbabwe, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Day 1 – Arrival
- Emily arrived in London about 12 hours before I did, due to some horrific airline delays. I was not too happy with the airlines. We had booked them to arrive within an hour of each other.
Day 2 – London
- Emily and I didn’t make it to the meet & greet, our own adventuring took a bit longer than anticipated and we missed it.
- Emily and I did the Big Bus tour around London and did the boat ride up to Greenwich (so we could be in two places at once – The Prime Meridian – See Picture Below)
- Contiki hosted a meet & greet in London the night prior to departure.
- The hotel we stayed in was not anything special. The hotel was overbooked and between Contiki and the hotel, the room assignments were messed up.
Day 3 – London to Amsterdam
- Early morning leaving the hotel, we hopped on the coach bus and we were off.
- The bus drove us along the White Cliffs of Dover and then we were on the ferry to cross on to French soil.
- The ferry docked in France and then traveled through Belgium on our way to Amsterdam.
- When in Amsterdam, we did the sunset canal tour Amsterdam. I enjoyed the canal tour. After the canal tour there was another excursion, we decided not to partake but ended up seeing part of the excursion because we needed to use the restroom. After the restroom, Emily and I did some exploring of Dam Square.
- There was ME time in Amsterdam this morning. So many choices to see/do (Anne Franks’ House, the Heineken Experience, FIVB World Championship) If you know us, you know what we picked.
- Back on the coach bus at noon and off to the Rhine Valley in Germany.
- We stayed in a quaint little town, where we learned about how beer steins and cuckoo clocks are made and did a wine tasting (with a shot glass).
- There was some time for shopping – beer steins, Birkenstocks, etc.
Day 5 – Rhine Valley (St. Goar) to Munich
- Leaving the Rhine Valley, we learned about and saw the Lorelei Rock
- When in Munich we went to Marienplatz and the Glockenspiel
- We took the Mike’s Bike Tour around the city
- Be sure to check out the surfing on the Eisbach.
- I won a prize for being the last in the group and staying with anyone that got separated from the pack. Which happened A LOT!
- Ate traditional German food and even stopped at the Hofbrauhaus (this was in an episode of The Amazing Race!)
- Beer choices: Light, Original or Dark. My pick would be Original.
- Size: Half liter or Liter. My pick: Liter. Wisconsin girl. Enough said.
- Note: Try not to pound a liter of beer in 5 minutes, if you don’t have to! It was amazingly light, compared to American beer, though. Delicious!
Day 6 – Munich to Austrian Tyrol (Hopfgarten)
- The first stop was whitewater rafting in Austria. Our whitewater rafting guide was Bjorn (in below picture). The water was Lake Michigan cold so we had to wear wetsuits. It was only my second time whitewater rafting (the first time was in Costa Rica) and I had a blast!
- Emily and I split up for the afternoon activities. Emily went paragliding off the mountain that Bode Miller skis down, and I did a leisurely bike ride through the quaint city of Hopfgarten.
- We stayed at the Contiki Gasthof in Hopfgarten. They hosted a Tight, White and Bright party that night.
Day 7 – Austrian Tyrol to Venice
- From Austria to Italy. Emily and I had been to Venice on a previous trip, so we did not do the island tour.
- We did a gondola ride and had to get gelato! Emily tried to see how many cups of gelato she could eat in one day.
- The mosquitoes were quite vicious in Venice. Make sure to pack the OFF!
- We left Venice and made a stop in Lucerne.
- We visited the Lion monument, Chapel Bridge and Water Tower
- From Lucerne to Lauterbrunnen the sights are picturesque – Interlaken must have picture (see below)
- We stayed at Chalet Jungfrau
- Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe
- Took a tram up the mountain
- Visited the Sphinx Terrace, Alpine Sensation, Eispalast (Ice Palace), Glacier Plateau (Aletsch Glacier), Lindt Swiss Chocolate
- Snowtubing was awesome! It wasn’t even cold and people were wearing shorts in the snow!
- Contiki hosted a Swisco Disco (wear Red & White)
- Travel from Switzerland to France
- We stopped at Trocadero for some pictures of the Eiffel Tower
- We had group dinner at Le Sultan, which was near our hotel
- The location of the hotel was a bit shady; gypsies lined the streets and had no problem taking items from the unsuspecting passers by.
- One of the gypsies took one of the tour member’s belongings and our bus driver chased them down and was able to get the belongings back.
- Went to see to the Eiffel Tower twinkle at night
- I had to pop the bottle of champagne
- Group picture by the Eiffel Tower
- Visited a French perfumery
- Big Bus Tour
- Love Lock Bridge
- Moulin Rouge
- Macaroons from Laduree
- Paris Dinner (snails, I was just hoping not to have the Pretty Woman experience) and Nouvelle Eve show
- The group said their goodbyes.
- Emily and I moved to a much nicer hotel closer to the Eiffel Tower
- Walked to the Eiffel Tower and climbed it.
- Big Bus Tour
- Budget friendly PLUS if you use Swagbucks to start your booking (just search for Contiki), you will earn 2% cash back. With an average tour cost of $2000, that’s a substantial savings!
- Lots of people to explore with and great way to meet friends (had about 50 people in our group). They have you do a “get to know you” game where everyone on the bus rotates back one seat and every minute you go back to the next seat until you’ve gotten a chance to meet and greet everyone on the bus.
- Takes you out of your comfort zone
- Our tour guide would give us short history/geography lessons about the cities before we got there and while driving through. Each afternoon, the first person to correctly answer a trivia question regarding the facts got first choice of rooms for that night. I put my teacher skills to good use and won this several times 🙂
- See a TON of places in a short amount of time
- Adventure packed excursions
- Not much interaction with locals due to huge tour bus and not much travel on local public transport
- Lots of early mornings and late nights (a lot of people seemed to get sick at the end)
- Some of the hotels were shady and not in good locations
- Party vibe was fun at times but got obnoxious when it was too loud to sleep
- Not as much personal interaction/attention from tour guide because of the sheer amount of people on the tour