Monday, March 23, 2009

European Discovery

So let's start talking about the actual trip that I took with Contiki. After looking at different trips I utilized another great feature that Contiki has by attending a "Virtual Webinar" where Contiki employees break down the different trips that they have to offer. These webinars are usually focused on a specific destination (i.e. Europe) or a specific time period (i.e. Winter). I attended the Winter European webinar that was offered to learn a little more about the trips Contiki had available for me to take during my Holiday break. The great thing about the webinar was that I was able to learn a little more about each trip Contiki was offering and ask questions at the same time (or you can just sit back and listen to the questions that other people have) while make 100 excusrion dollars that I could use on my trip to pay for optionals (I will talk more about this in a later post). Almost immediately after the webinar, I knew which trip I wanted to take and I picked up the phone, called Contiki, and booked the trip.

From the Contiki website:

"If holidays were compared to courses at a dinner party, the European Discovery would be the appetiser. 8 countries in 12 days gives you a taste of all the big cities as well as some of the hidden treasures, so you know where to come back to next time! From Amsterdam to Rome to Paris, you won't want to miss a thing. In fact, sleep will probably be the last thing on your mind!"

The European Discovery trip was indeed a brief taste of Europe. Generally you get an afternoon and a night in each of the places you visit with more time alloted to the big hotspots such as Paris and Rome. You spend most of the mornings and days on a coach bus with roughly 50 or so new friends. Most of the coach time is spent catching up on the sleep you didn't get the night before or getting to know your tourmates a little more. This trip is great if you want to see as much of Europe as you can with a small budget and in a short period of time. Its a great trip for couples to go on together or a group of friends to do and even great for solo travelers (trust me, you won't be the only one on the tour alone!). Below is the daily itinerary for the trip straight from the Contiki website (the winter version as that is what I went on, the summer version of European Discovery does vary slightly).

London to Amsterdam Day 1
Meet your Contiki Crew and see the White Cliffs of Dover before travelling through Belgium and into the Netherlands to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam to Rhine Valley Day 2
This morning take time to explore one of Europe's most intriguing cities. Maybe visit Anne Frank's House or the Van Gogh Museum. This afternoon we cross the German border and head for the stunning Rhine Valley.

Rhine Valley to Munich Day 3
This morning learn how beersteins are crafted before travelling to the capital of Bavaria, Munich. Explore and see the famous Glockenspiel before joining us in a traditional beer hall.

Munich to Innsbruck Day 4
We continue through impressive mountain scenery into Austria. Explore the cobbled streets of the Winter Olympic town Innsbruck with its magnificent Royal Palace and Imperial church. Don't forget to try a piece of delicious Austrian strudel and some local schnaps!

Innsbruck to Venice Day 5
Today we wind through the astonishing beauty of the Brenner Pass to cross the border into Italy. It's a short boat ride to the historical centre of Venice to see St Mark's Square, the Doges' Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. There's no better way to see Venice than from a gondola so why not join us for a ride before treating yourself to a Venetian evening meal?

Venice to Rome Day 6
Past medieval hillside villages and through the Apennine Mountains, we travel south to the fabled Seven Hills of Rome. Do as the Romans do and stroll past the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. Later be delighted by your first glimpse of the Colosseum on our sightseeing tour.

Rome Day 7
A full free day to explore the treasures of Rome. Your chance to join a tour through Imperial Rome with a local guide, before time to visit St. Peter's Basilica, the Spanish Steps or check out the shops.

Rome to Florence Day 8
Our morning drive leads us to Florence, the Renaissance city set in the beautiful Tuscan Hills. Learn about the Duomo, Giotto's Bell-Tower, Piazza della Signoria and Santa Croce as our local guide walks us through the city. Free time to shop or visit one of the famous museums.

Florence to Lucerne Day 9
Our path takes us toward the towering Alps and the vast serene lakes of Switzerland. Be charmed by medieval Lucerne and enjoy shopping for local specialties - watches, chocolate and Swiss army knives.

Lucerne to Paris Day 10
Our focus today is the journey to Paris. We weave our way through the beautiful French countryside to the "City of Lights".

Paris Day 11
Visit a French perfume house and then take the opportunity to visit some of the most celebrated icons of Europe. The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Nôtre Dame, Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées all await your arrival! Tonight, why not complete your Parisian experience with a French meal and a famous cabaret?

Paris to London Day 12
Today we drive past World War I battlefields on the way to our cross-channel ferry back to England. Time to swap addresses and say goodbye as we arrive early evening in London.

Next indepth look at each location visited!


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