Milan – Zurich – Prague – Europe – 2014 – Day 4-6

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We walked to Zara station to head back to Central to catch our train to Zurich.

We grabbed a little snack at the station from Bistrot Centrale before boarding our train since we got there a bit early. Crema croissant and a fruit shake (frullati – frullato misto)- 6.50 Euro. We took the Trenitalia train to Zurich but they have tickets where the seating is 3 & 3 but luckily train wasn’t full so Mimi and myself shifted to the empty seats. When we finally arrived, we exchanged some of our Euros for Franc coins and stored our luggage. We then walked the town with a walking tour map. Walked all over and in total, walked 12KM before heading back the station for dinner. Pretty much everything is closed on Sundays. We ended up at Brasserie Federal for dinner and I got the Muotatatler delicious which is Air dried beef, raw ham and bacon which really meant a huge slab smoked ham with potato salad and came with tubes of different mustard. 19,80 francs. NOTE – You can pay in euro /francs but will receive francs for change.

NOTE – Zurich, Switzerland is one of the cleanest cities that you could drink the water straight from the hundreds of beautiful water fountains all over.

We finished eating and walked over to the train board to see no status of our train so we lined up at the check-in desk to see if we needed to get printed tickets but were told that our train wasn’t running as Germany went strike. We went next door to customer service where we waited for a bit and luckily Sandra Buchanan saved us. Apparently this is the third strike Germany had done and it’s usually without warning. Sandra was able to find us an alternate route that left the same night but our route leaves to Salzburg on a sleeper train in which we transfer from Salzburg to Munich then to a bus from Munich to Prague that get to Prague only hours later. Such a complicated journey than expected. Should’ve just booked a plane ticket for 25-50 Euro from the beginning. We ended up wasting time at MacDonalds.

I’ve noticed over here, it is so common for couples to display PDA whether it be hugging, holding one another, sitting on each other’s laps to making out. It’s different. More carefree.

We got into the sleeper train from Zurich Hauptbahnhof to head over to Salzburg.  From Salzburg, we will connect to another train in Munich then a bus from Munich to Prague.

The sleeper train are segregated into small rooms with 6 chairs that can recline all the way down. At the beginning, we had the 4 of us plus one lady then the remainder of the ride had a full 6 with one girl beside me who tiny enough to curl up a ball and sleep perfectly. The train filled with soldiers from the Military who were going home so it was loud as they were celebrating. Definitely not a restful sleep at all. We had to change trains at 430AM but luckily we made it on time and the next train was on the platform next to us. We also took a 6 person sleeper train and had a somewhat restful sleeping moment with only two hours on this train and no one joining us. If we kept sleeping, we could’ve missed our stop and ended up in Budapest but Ricky was awake the whole time.

We arrived at Munchen station in Munich and found glorious food. We ate from Rischart bakery where I paid 3,70 Euro for a pretzel with cream cheese and chives in it (breze). Delicious. We then had to walk out of the train station about 10 minutes over to ZOB which is their Train station with a waiting area upstairs with shops and stores. We got into the DB Bahn Icb double decker bus similar to Megabus. I think this ride was probably the most restful of sleep for all. Plus there was free WiFi! Everywhere else you need to send your mobile number and receive an sms code to use it and for people not using data, it’s impossible to receive it unless you get online.  First world problems I know but how did we survive before this? When I did get internet access I received an email about the delay of the original train…

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NOTE – just take money out of the bank (Debit) as the exchange places rip you off. I learnt the hard way. The rate I exchanged at, I already lost $50.

We stayed in an Airbnb in Prague 1 district. We were greeted by Akan who is this lovely Turkish French man who works the medical industry. The apartment itself is astounding. It smells amazing and the look and feel one ups the Milano apartment. It’s a safe street that has a police station beside the sexy sauna. It’s a one way and cars aren’t allowed in after a certain time. It features the original wooden doors and locks but modernized. The kitchen is beautiful however we most likely won’t use it. There are two huge bedrooms plus a living room which Ricky claimed. The toilet and shower are in separate rooms. I could live here.

If you haven’t joined and booked with Airbnb yet, follow the link and get credits for your first booking. www.airbnb.ca/c/ruu

We finally had a chance to shower and freshen up then we finally left the apartment at 4PM. The sun was actually already setting. We walked down to the main street which led us the old city buildings. We walked around and went to dinner at V Kolkovne (8 – 110 00 Praha 1-Staré Město, Czech Republic) in the Jewish quarter that is on the Michelin star list and it was amazing for traditional Czech German dishes. I got the goulash soup, pork hock and the mixed light and dark lager which in the end cost 400cCZ which is approximately $20CAD or under. We walked in the square/old town city hall area. We pretty much walked everywhere the Prague 1 area. Average temperature this time of year was 9 degrees throughout the day. They also are allowed to smoke indoors at bars still. Everyone speaks English here so there is much better communication than Milan.

Itinerary – Europe – 2014

1106-2014 Europe – Milan, Zurich, (enroute via Salzburg & Munich) Prague, Paris, Amsterdam, Iceland

 

My friends (Mimi, Ricky & Aaron) found the crazy one-way flight deal for $177USD (From New York-Milan; a week to get to Prague-Paris-Hong Kong). We did however alter it so we would goto Amsterdam and then a layover in Iceland before returning back to Toronto. In total, we travelled for 2 weeks.

If you haven’t joined and booked with Airbnb yet, follow the link and get credits for your first booking. www.airbnb.ca/c/ruu

Here is the itinerary.

 

11/06 – Toronto – New York – Milan

FLY – YYZ-JFK; JFK-MXP

 

11/07 – Milan

AIRBNB – District 13 – Milan

-Meet Mimi & Aaron at MXP Airport

-Malpensa Express train to Milan Cadorna Station

-Walk around Corso Como

-Dinner – Eataly

 

11/08 – Milan

-Piazza Del Duomo

-Lunch – Osteria al 29 Pizzeria

-Basilica di Sant’ Ambrogio

-San Lorenzo

-Chinatown & Navigli

-Dinner – Gia Como OR Da Oscar OR Osteria Luna Piena

-Chinatown – Massimo del Gelato

 

11/09 – Milan – Zurich – enroute to Prague

TRAIN (Trenitalia)– Milan – Zurich – Prague (Train went on strike) – DETOUR

-walk around Zurich

-Lunch – Brasserie Federal

TRAIN – Zurich – Salzburg – Munich (detour)

 

11/10 – Enroute to Prague

BUS – Munich – Prague (detour)

AIRBNB – Prague 1

-walk old city

-Dinner – V Kolkovne

 

11/11 – Prague

-Charles Bridge

-Kampa Park

-Lunch – Bistro De France

-John Lennon Wall

-Petrin Tower

-Midday snack – Café Savoy

-Dinner – Pho Vietnam

-Dessert – Café Louvre

 

11/12 – Prague

-Lunch – Café Lovre

-Havelske Trzsnice

-Prazska Trzsnice

-Dinner – Kolkovna Salavran

 

11/13 – Prague – Paris

FLY – PRG- CDG

-Breakfast – La Bottega Di Finestra

-walking the Jewish Quarters

TRAIN – RER – Gare Du Nord

HOSTEL – Vintage Hostel

 

11/14 – Paris – Amsterdam

TRAIN – Paris – Amsterdam

-Store luggage at Gare du Nord

-Lunch – Collette

-Sacre Coeur

-Montmartre

-Galleries du Lafayette

 

11/15 – Amsterdam

AIRBNB – Amsterdam Nieuw-West

-Dinner – Hunkar Restaurant

 

11/16 – Amsterdam

-Central Station – Pick up iamsterdam card (2 day pass)

-canal cruise (iamsterdam card)

-Stedelijk Museum

-Lunch/Dinner – Pompa

-iamsterdam sign

-Red Light District

 

11/17 – Amsterdam

HOTEL – Citizen M

-Library

-Lunch – Vapiano

-Science Centre Nemo

-Dinner – Chinatown – A Fusion

-Hartman et Hartman

 

11/18 – Amsterdam – Reykjavik, Iceland

FLY – AMS-KEF

AIRBNB – Reykjavik

-Dinner – Snaps

-grocery shop – Hagkaup

 

11/19 – Iceland

DRIVE

-Seljalandsfoss

-Skogafoss falls

-Solheimajokull glaciers

-Lunch – Halldorskaffi

-Vik

-Reynisfjara Beach

-Dinner – Fish Market – Fiskmarkadurinn

 

11/20 – Iceland

DRIVE

-Skaftafellsjokull – Skaftafell – Vatnajökull National Park Iceland

-Lunch – Halldorskaffi

-Dinner – Bæjarins Beztu

 

11/21 – Iceland – Toronto

FLY – KEF-YYZ

-Blue Lagoon

-HOMETIME

 

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Austrian Tyrol – Venice – Contiki 2011 – Day 6

09/17/11

The leg of the trip is one of the longer drives. The morning air is great in Austria.

Facts about Italy:

Italy is that boot shape country.

60 million population. 300000 sq km.

2000 years ago, all roads did lead to Rome.

Italian government – 1946 became a republic but have had at least 50 changes of government. Corrupt politicians including the current one who was caught with an underage prostitute at his own sex party.

Mafia was a big problem but there still is some mafia control around italy.

Vatican City is considered to be its own country when Mussolini gave them independence.

Quality over quantity for fashion.

Lots of pizza, pasta, wine.

Venice is made up of 114 islands.

Venice has a pop of 300,000.

There are no local Italians on the island.

Venice is suppose to be the future of what cities should be as there are no cars.

2 Venetian merchants stole the body of St Mark and hid it under pork (authorities were jewish so didn’t check the basket) and built the cathedral – St Marks Basilica.

The biggest problem to today for Venice – its sinking! It drops a foot per century. Floods up to 200 days a year.

 

We went through a tunnel and then crossed the Italian border where we drove through the mountains – the view was so calm an serene. Our first leg of the bus ride was 3 hours long and once we got off, you could definitely tell we were somewhere warm. The weather for the day was high of 29 degrees.

I think the great thing about this kind of tour is that you get to meet people from all walks of life and even some that’s life paths are similar to yours. The other girl who joined us in Amsterdam, Laura is from Australia and also our age. She graduated from uni for Journalism and has also struggled to find work in her field. She’s done multiple internships like myself (but probably more) and it has taken her a while to find her placing but when she returns home will start on her journalism career path. Laura and Alanna had been travelling before joining us from places like Milan, Croatia and London.

We stayed at a camp site – Camping Fusina, literally a camper trail park but at least we had our own bathrooms in them.  Venice was incredibly hot and humid – I was sweating like I had played a full game of volleyball or something but realistically just standing there doing nothing. Our trailer was hotter than it was outside. After a little down time, we hopped on a motoscaffo (ferry/boat) that was about 45 minutes long to get to the island. Thanks to one of our group members Luis, I was able to leave a text message for my friend Samantha whom we would be meeting in the square once we docked. When we arrived, we walked into Marks Basilica square and the amounts of tourist was insane however the beauty of the buildings overpowered that. We left the group and searching through the tables on the boardwalk, we eyed our friend and snuck up behind her. Samantha is one of our friends from high school and we hadn’t seen her since graduation. She lives in Italy playing volleyball. Our first stop was for gelato – a definite must while in Italy. Crystle and Klarice opted for lemon and I got melon.

We ventured quite some time over canals and the light was beautiful as the sun started to set. We went to the Rialto and saw the Peggy Guggenheim museum (outside only because it closed 45 minutes before we got there). We ate at Trattoria e Pizzeria where we got the tourista special and I got the gnocchi with 4 cheeses. It was so creamy but also heavy because it is all potatoes and cheese. When we finished dinner, the couple beside us overheard our conversation and we ended up talking with them for quite some time. They were an older couple from Boston who work for the Boston Globe and were coming to the end of their 12 day trip of Italy.  To end the night, Samantha and myself topped off with another gelato – I chose peach. We got back to the square and met up with our Contiki group and said what we thought would be our goodbyes to Samantha. We then walked as a group to the boat to head back to the campsite. When we returned, I received a text from Samantha. Apparently in Italy, the trains can go on strike at last minute notice so she ended up taking a bus to our location at the campsite and she ended up staying the night with us until the 1 day strike was over and she can head home.

Venezia, Venice was beautiful with its canals, cobblestone streets, old buildings and narrow streets that lead you to open but bare courtyards. Its a cute place to visit but I still think Munich or Austria are my favourite thus far for cities.

Munich – Austrian Tyrol – Contiki 2011 – Day 5

09/16/11

We left Munich bright and early and made way to Austria. After a late night for most, I’m pretty sure the whole bus had passed out. When I awoke, I saw mountains everywhere. We had made it into Austria and a little village that looked so cozy.

Austria facts:

Austria is one of the best cities – free health care, one of the highest standards of living.

They still speak german.

They mainly manufacture steel and lumber.

The Hapsberg ruled from 1300-1918.

Marietta terretza. She had 12 children. Her most famous daughter was Marie Antoinette. She was the few that were not inbred.

Spain and Austria – separated the Hapsberg dynasty. Because they were so inbred, they had prominent chin/jaws that affected talking and eating. The hapsbergs were kicked out of Austria unless they took away their claim to any authority.

Austria ceased to exist for 7 years and became a republic in 1946.

It is a haven for all outdoor sports fanatics.

Hearty meat and potatoes are the traditional food such as goulosh soup. They are also big on their sweets like apple strudel.

They drink more coffee than anyone in the world. Vienna has over 25 different coffees. 220L a year per person of coffee.

The Sound of Music – the singing VanTramp family is real. Maria was only the governess for the oldest daughter and they were married for 10 years before they left Austria. They took a train to Italy and flew to USA.

 

The bus dropped off those who were going for the rafting option and then dropped the rest of us off at chalet where the rafts would finish. It was a beautiful and hot day. The sun is very intense but it’s absolutely beautiful here. Had some traditional goulosh soup as we waited. Played a little bit of beach volleyball then made our way to the shoreline to soak in some sun and watch our group come to shore. After a hour half bus ride, we arrived at our first Contiki hotel – Haus Schoneck. We arrived about an hour and half late due to an accident on the highway coming over. Losing sunlight and running behind schedule, we threw our stuff into the room and those who decided to go paragliding went on their way and same with those who decided to go on the mountain bike tour. We had chose to do the biking tour and went on our way through the city. I have to tell you that Hopfgarten, Austria is a beautiful little town.  I’ve missed that feeling of going fast through streets and taking in that fresh air and view. We had a few bikers that would go in front then slow down which bugged me a lot as I can barely stand walking behind slow walkers. We biked along a creek and with views of the mountains surrounding. Apparently the mountains connect 9 cities of Austria for skiing, snowboarding and it’s said that Sunday there will be snow on the top of the hill but not permanent as the ground is still warm. A day lift is 40€ and a season pass is 400€ which is an amazing deal for unlimited ski and snow board. We then took a stop in a park and cafe area. Had a glass of Almdyler (a ginger-ale like drink that is only available in Austria) and ice cream.

Our tour guides left us on our own to get back home or explore the city. We biked through a little neighbourhood and all the houses were just lovely. Our guide told us at the beginning that once April hits, people start to plant colourful flowers outside their windows/balconies and it becomes a playful competition between neighbours. I wouldn’t think I would have liked biking that much but it definitely was fun. We took a little detour but found our way to the centre of town again by the church. We realized at 6PM that we needed to be back for 630PM and raced back with time to spare. Got back to our room and relaxed a little and hung out with our roomie for the night Deb from Australia. She’s been travelling for over 3 weeks prior to this tour then going another 2-3 weeks going back to Germany for Oktoberfest and Paris then off to Ireland. The Contiki staff made us dinner in the Contiki village. We had 3 different tours groups staying in this village and had a theme party that night – superheroes. Did you know there is a certain way to hold a shot? If its before midnight, you hold it with your thumb on the top and pinky on the bottom. After midnight, you hold reverse with pinky up and thumb down. This way, you show that you aren’t drunk.

Itinerary – Contiki – 2011

0911-2411 European Horizon

I joined Contiki tours for their 7 countries in 10 days tour – European Horizon. I added on 3 days in Paris. I travelled with my friends Klarice and Crystle.

What you need to know about Contiki:

-you need to be between the ages of 18-35

-your itinerary is already planned for you (there are optional activities provided) a schedule for each day will be provided by tour guide

-Bus driver and Tour guide aren’t paid too well so tipping is much appreciated at the end of the tour (they get accommodation and maybe a stipend for food during the tours)

-You are allowed one luggage to go under the bus but it will be has to meet restrictions and weight.

-Depending on your journey, a Contiki sleeping bag will be provided (which adds to luggage)

-Travelling solo is great in these tours as you meet people

-If you are travelling with a group less than 4, it is usually 2 or 4 to a room so if you are an uneven number, you will room with different people each time

 

09/11-12 – YYZ – London

-Arrival at Gatwick

-take train towards Victoria

-Hostel: Royal National London Hotel

-Oxford St – shopping

-Contiki Group Meeting

 

09/13 – London – Amsterdam

-Check luggage

-Take Contiki bus enroute to Amsterdam via ferry

-Enroute via Belgium

-Hostel: Hotel Slotania

-Booze cruise down the canal

 

09/14 – Amsterdam – Rhine Valley

-Dropped off at Centraal Station for free time

-IAMSTERDAM sign, museums etc

-Meet up and enroute to St Goar, Germany

-Hotel: Winzerhaus

-Wine Tasting – Urbarer Winzerkeller

 

09/15 – Rhine Valley – Munich

-Enroute to Munich

-Dropped off at Marienplatz for free time

-Peterkirche church

-Bavarian Beerhall – Munchner Haupt Gastuhaus Biergarten Festsall

-Hotel: Haus International

-Party in the basement of Haus International

 

09/16 – Munich – Austrian Tyrol

-Enroute to Hopfgarten, Austria

-Rafting option

-Hotel: Haus Schnoneck

-Paragliding or Mountain biking option

-Party night with another Contiki bus

 

09/17 – Austrian Tyrol – Venice

-Enroute to Venice, Italy

-Camper – Trailers: Camping Fusina Hotel Venice

-Speedboat to Venice

-Gondola optional

-Meet up with Samantha

-Free time

-Speedboat home

 

09/18 – Venice – Swiss Alps

-Enroute to Lauterbrunnen with stopover in Luzern

-Chalet: Camping Jungfrau

 

09/19 – Swiss Alps – Interlaken – Jungfrau

-free day in Lauterbrunnen

-optional cable car ride up the mountain

 

09/20 – Swiss Alps – Paris

-Enroute to Paris

-Champagne and escargot

-Hostel: Etap Hotel Paris Porte de Montmatre by metro avenue de saint ouen

-free time

-Eiffel Tower with partial group

 

09/21 – Paris

-Champs de Mars

-Fragonard – Perfumery

-Drop-off by Arc de Triomphe on Du Champs Elysse for free time

-Goodbye dinner at La Bonne Franquette

-Pass by the Moulin Rouge

-Cabaret – Nouvelle Eve Cabaret

 

09/22 – Paris

-Final goodbyes with Contiki group at breakfast

-Optional bus ride to airport

-Hotel: Novotel Vaugirard Montparnasse

-Shopping Rue de Sevres & Galleries du Lafayette

 

09/23 – Paris

-Meet up with Luis

-Notre Dame

-Galleries du Lafayette & surrounding shopping

 

09/24 – Paris – CDG- YYZ

Homebound via Charle De Gaulle Airport

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