London, UK – Madrid – Sevilla, Spain – Porto, Portugal – 2019 – Day 4-6

09/14/19

Madrid – Sevilla, Spain

We had an early morning flight from Madrid to Sevilla via Ryanair.

We arrived to the lovely temperature of 27°C – full of sun for the most part but also a little bit of sunny showers. From the airport, we took the bus into town for 4€ to the very last stop – Plaza de Armas. Started off walking over to Triana Bridge and Triana Market where we grabbed pastries and 2€ fruit platters.

We went to Edificio de La Adriática, checked out the outside of Catedral de Sevilla (line was way to long too go in) and Calle Sierpes – cute little shopping Street. We continued to Plaza de España where they have live flamenco dancing on the main steps. The place is massive and a mix of beautiful tiles with a giant fountain in the middle.

We stopped for a late lunch at Berrinche where we ate fried swordfish strips, pork cheek with truffled potatoes and mixed fried veggies.

After lunch, we decided to check out Torre del Oro (not worth the 3€ to go up). We then went across to Plaza de Toros & Museo Taurino but they also had a line and we didn’t want to spend 8€ each. We wanted to rent bikes or scooters but ended up walking by the river and watching a video production being filmed with flamenco dancers. We continued our walk north alongside the river and right by the bus station of Plaza de Armas, we ended up watching a youth in-line skate competition.

We went back to the Airbnb and around 530PM we were famished and decided to go back out in search of a grocery store to get food for breakfast but to no avail. We ended up walking around for a bit in search of dinner but if course, we went out too early for dinner as dinner hours start around 630PM earliest and many of the tapas restaurants we had looked into opened at 830PM. 630PM is prime time for drinking and socializing.

On the long thin strip of Plaza Alameda de Hércules (the popular hang out spot), we did eventually find a place called Casa Paco to have dinner. We ordered the butterfish, cheese board, potato brass, cuttlefish with black garlic and mushroom risotto.

09/15/19

Sevilla, Spain

A late sleep-in type of morning with brunch at La Cacharreria de Sevilla. We got the Spanish and the Cacharreria combos that include a yogurt and daily smoothie – presentation and food itself was delicious. We smelled cookies right across and got some too. Continued down the street to see Las Setas De Sevilla. Setas means mushrooms in Spanish and they indeed looked like such. The outer level is raised but is a cool place to hang with a playground.

Since Royal Alcázar was closed yesterday, we tried again today but the line went so far around the building so we opted out. Walking around on a Sunday is a much different feel than any other day as many businesses are closed on Sundays and are more so reserved as family time. It was a beautiful 29°C outside nonetheless.

My dear friend Irene who I met through a travel experiment called Yuujou joined us with her boyfriend Benjamin. She is originally from Madrid and was road-tripping through Spain and attending a friend’s wedding. Luckily timing worked out that we were able to be in the same place at the same time. She now lives in Zurich with Benjamin. This was the first time I was able to meet Irene in person after months upon months of chatting and it was such a fun experience connecting in person.

Since they had been on the road, they dropped their things, changed and off we went to grab a quick clara (beer with lemonade/lemon fanta) and watched the basketball finals between Spain and Argentina (Spain won!). We went to Catedral de Sevilla and La Giralda (when they tore down the mosques to build cathedrals, they left the towers that are of Muslim origin and have no steps but ramps so the generals could send donkeys and horses up with all the necessities as it is 37 floors). It was a lot of winding up a somewhat narrow ramp all the way up with little windows that give you sneak peaks outside. Up top, they still have working bells and 360 views of the city. The main entrance to just the towers are closed for construction but you can enter the tower via the Catedral.

When we finished, we decided to go see a flamenco show at Cuna Del Flamenco. We tried to get in line at Las Setas De Sevilla to go up top for sunset but I hate lines and the sun was already setting. We opted out and kept going.

We walked across Triana Bridge and had a lovely dinner at La Caseta Nonina. We got Irene and Benjamin to order for us. We ordered an array of croquetas, tortilla de patatas con cebolla (Spanish potato omelette with onions), bastones de berenjena con miel de cana (fried eggplant with honey – this was my favourite) and Tinto de Verano (red wine with lemonade/lemon fanta.) We walked around a bit and stumbled upon a procession before settling down at Alameda de Hercules where we played Spot it / Dobble past midnight while we were still surrounded by many people out and about like a group of university students having a jam session.

09/16/19

Sevilla, Spain – Porto, Portugal

In true Sevillian style, we eased ourselves into the morning. We ate pan con tomate (bread with tomato and olive oil) by the nearby church before parting ways with Irene and Ben.

Onwards to Porto, Portugal.

When we arrived in Porto, we picked up our car rental from the airport – we rented a Mini Cooper. Drove into town and then walked everywhere. We really wish we stayed longer in Porto because the Airbnb we stayed at had such lovely vibes and access to the rooftop. The temperature in Porto was cooler than in Sevilla the previous day.

Walked over to Mercado Bom Sucesso and grabbed our first pastel de nata (Portuguese Egg Tarts). Continued on to Jardin do Palacio de Cristal where they were having a huge book fair and further into the park you go, the prettier it gets especially closer views of the water and the town.

We walked by Igreja do Carmo – twin baroque churches (one for the nuns and one for the monks) with a tiled facade and also has the narrowest house in between. It has been said that the narrow house that is built between the 2 churches was built because there was a rule that churches cannot share the same wall or another story stipulates that the house was built so the nuns and monks couldn’t cozy up with one another.

We passed by Livraria Lello (an old bookshop with intricate wooden detailing) which was right around the corner however there was a line and admission (I hate lines) so we skipped it. I believe it is 5€ for entry. This bookshop is incredibly popular because it is where J.K. Rowling got inspired to write her critically acclaimed book series – Harry Potter. Really cool hang out spot right beside that is raised up as well.

Second stop for pastel de nata was Manteigueira. Then on to Sao Bento Train Station that has beautifully painted white and blue tiles. It is still an active hub that sits at a pivotal point in the city.

We continued across the Luis I bridge to have a better view of the city from above and looks over Cais da Ribeira and Ribeira Square. We finished off the night having dinner at Pedro dos Frangos where we had port wine (obviously you gotta have some port in Porto) with sardines and a full roasted chicken.

I heard about this tour company after I left called “The Worst Tours” that don’t have a route set but also, they cater to you and take you on the off-beaten path of the lovely city of Porto. It started with a group of architects.

London, UK – Madrid, Spain – 2019 – Day 1-3

09/10-11/19

London, UK

To start the trip off, I flew into London’s Heathrow Airport via Air Canada and went to meet my friend Winnie (my travel partner for the next month or so) at Liverpool Station.

Once I got to the airport, I purchased an Oyster Card and filled it with 25£. The underground sure covers a lot but since it is an older transport system, its not the most accessible and also very hot and tight (at certain times, can feel claustrophobic). Parts of the underground metro system reminded me of my hometown Scarborough’s RT train system..

After meeting Winnie at the station, we went to Spitalfields – a quaint outdoor market space filled with little shops and food vendors. We ate at Leon – good food for a good price. We also walked through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park with our bags in tow (I really missed my Northface Basecamp Duffel). We didn’t have anything really planned for the rest of day and also thought we could just arrive early and sleep at Stansted Airport but luckily we sat down and checked to realize Stansted actually closes between midnight and 2AM. We also realized that we were incorrect about the time of our flight and we actually booked the 830AM not 625AM.

We debated if we wanted to stay up and out all night or book a hostel to sleep for a few hours and drop off our bags. Originally, we opted not to put our bags in storage or book a hostel but after walking around for 2-4 hours and running out of things to do, we booked Smart Hostels – a 15 bed mixed dorm and put our stuff down.

We wanted to try this cool ramen place called Kanada-Ya but there was a super long line so we went across the street to Ippudo Ramen instead. Winnie got the Yokohama ramen and I got the Unagi Chirashi bowl. Delicious.

09/12/19 

London, UK – Madrid, Spain
Apparently having a bed doesn’t always mean you can sleep through the night. We went to bed at 10PM thinking we could get in 8 hours of sleep before waking and leaving for 3AM. I did not sleep well at all. We hopped on our bus ($20.40CAD) for an 1.5hr ride to Stansted Airport from Russell Square and that ride was really great time for sleeping. We booked with Ryanair and unfortunately that means the airports we are flying out of are not the main airports and are smaller airports that are out of the city centres. Also, as a Non-EU passenger flying in and out of UK requires you to print your boarding pass to get a Visa check.

First stop on our Eurotrip from London was Madrid, Spain. Our first stop was to the Greenhouse Atocha – a train station with an indoor Tropical greenery area. We also stored our luggage at this train station for 3.10 Euro. We had some ordeals with the machine to buy the ticket but all was fixed after 15 minutes. We changed into shorts and just went to town (literally).

We walked over to check out Caixa Forum (Vertical Garden Wall). Next stop was El Retiro Park with the Crystal Palace and watched people row boats while drinking horchata.

Finally checked into our Airbnb in the suburbs and then walked over to Parque Cerro De Rio Rio (Parque de las tetas – The park of the tits as locals like to call it because of the book-shaped hills) for sunset. Highly recommend with multiple hills to watch from.

Went to dinner at Bar Don Manolo – tapas with beer and wine. Ended the night with gelato – Mora (blackberry) and hazelnut.

09/13/19

Madrid, Spain

We woke up later than we had planned but good thing we did as we checked the weather and changed from shorts and tanks to pants and rain gear.

Did the rain stop us? Of course not!

We were still able to walk over 40,000 steps. Started off walking through Rocodromo Pasarela Parque. We walked to Matadero (a former slaughterhouse turned into a art centre), Embajadores neighbourhood – saw the church, Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor, Mercado de San Miguel & Mercado San Ildefonso. Continued to Puerta del Sol (it is Spain’s belly button) with a stop to San Gines chocolate for churros! (BTW, hot chocolate literally means liquid chocolate not milky hot chocolate drink) and made our way to Gran Via shopping street & El Corte Ingles then meandered to the neighbourhood of Malasana.

Went to an awesome cafe call Cafe Federal. The sun eventually came out and we returned back to Puerto De Sol on our way to La Tabacalera de Lavapiés – a former tobacco factory that now houses underground tunnels with graffiti and artists. We then took the metro to the Templo de Debod in hopes of catching a beautiful sunset but unfortunately it was a weak sunset.

For dinner, we walked back towards the Royal Palace and made our way to the Tapas Street (Calle de la Cava Baja) but before that, we popped back into Mercado de San Miguel (much emptier than earlier when it was raining) where we met Rick who works for NASA. Watch out for helicopter drone 2020 next mission out to Mars. We finished off our night having dinner at La Perejila and had the smoked cod, octopus with potato and ham and tomato paste.

Itinerary – Europe – 2019

#urowiz

The original plan was to go to Australia & New Zealand for Sept/Oct 2019 with my friend Winnie. We were hoping for a flight deal to come along. Unfortunately no deal came by the deadline we gave ourselves so we decided to go to Europe together instead. Our itinerary is all over the place zig –zagging all over Europe. We narrowed down our top 10 countries we wanted to visit in the time period we had and researched where we could fly to for a bargain. From there, we chose to go to the warmer destinations first to extend our summer. The last leg of the trip was originally going to be staying in London/UK but we decided during the trip to go somewhere warm because let’s be fair, the heat makes things happier especially being in chilly and wet weather for awhile.

Now, before you get to the itinerary (all the way at the bottom), I am posting some (hopefully) helpful tips and information that came up during our trip.

 

Money – STACK (Pre-paid Mastercard)
36 days of travelling to multiple countries with different currencies takes a lot of organizing. When I travel, I usually carry a good amount of cash on me and pay that way so I don’t incur high conversion fees using my credit card. I made sure I knew what countries I was going to and calculated roughly how much I would be spending per day and got cash for certain countries I knew I would be in for a longer duration.

I tried to average about $60CAD/day. Prior to setting off on this trip, we tried to book our Airbnb’s, car rentals and flights in advance so at least those costs were covered.

My brother told me about this card called STACK, which is a conversion fee pre-paid Mastercard. With this card, you Interac transfer money from your bank account to the card account via the app using the special custom question and answer the app provides you with. Say you decide to transfer $200 to the card, if the card gets stolen, the card is not linked to your actual bank account and if say only $200 is on the card that is the limit that can be used. This card comes as a physical card but is also a virtual card via the app.

What I liked about using this card is that it was a very fast and secure way of paying for things abroad and the app also notifies you when a transaction has been made and will convert it automatically to your main currency so you don’t have to calculate the conversion yourself. And it is conversion fee free!

I used this card more so in the Scandinavian countries because they have started to adopt the cash-less transactions method but I still used cash in many of the other countries we travelled to.

Use my referral link and you’ll get $5 in your account when you activate your card.
Download STACK now: https://getstackco.app.link/fuqEmfMNH1 (this link only works on your phone via the app once its downloaded)

 

Ryanair
Yes Ryanair has super cheap flights BUT many hidden costs or steps. We decided to go to many countries because of how cheap the flights were (12£ one-way to go from London (Stansted) to Copenhagen (CPH) is a real good price). We also booked early. These cheap tickets have many drawbacks. First off, many of the airports you fly out of or into are not usually the main airports and are usually smaller airports outside of the city centre which adds more travel time.

More recently, Ryanair changed their luggage requirements from what use to be a free carry-on (still smaller than regulation size on other airlines) and now the only free luggage you can have must be 40x20x25CM. Depending on the airport and the staff, they don’t really check the size of your bag. I got the size compliant bag (Swissgear – https://www.shopbentley.com/en/escape-collection-travel-tote-swiss-gear-1016684.html) and it sits under the seat no problem with room to spare. The staff didn’t really check so you could get away with a slightly larger bag or a bag that can squish.

REMEMBER TO ALWAYS CHECK IN ONLINE. You can do this up to 48 hours. For non-EU passengers, you must print your documents, as they will not issue you a boarding pass. I found that with flights not connected to the UK, the boarding pass will be issued to your Ryanair App however, if you are flying out of or into UK, you must print your boarding pass to get a Visa check and stamp. I have heard that if you don’t print it and ask at the check-in desk, there is an expensive fee for them to print for you.

Easyjet, Air Europa, Norwegian and Vueling are also other cheap airline operators and their restrictions are not severe as Ryanair for luggage or protocol. I usually use Momondo or Skyscanner to help me check for better deals on flights.

 

Car rentals – International Driver’s License
As a Canadian, you are required to have your International Driver’s License to rent a car in Spain.

 

Sim Card
Travelling throughout many countries in Europe for over a month, trying to find a SIM card plan that works in all the countries and for that period of time was a challenge but there are definitely options out there beside “roaming” with your phone plan back home as that can be costly.

For my 36 day Eurotrip, I purchased this 30 day SIM card that works throughout 71 European countries with 12GB + 3000 minutes + 3000 texts. You are also able to top up this plan when in the UK by purchasing in-store.

Photo & Video Storage – SSD & USB – I brought an external to back up my photos from my DSLR and my phone every night. I also bring a USB for back-up to the back-up of the external for peace of mind since my phone internal storage is not large enough to store all the photos from the trip for the entirety of 36 days. I would suggest bringing another USB (64GB should suffice) to be the back up to the back up for the phone photos so you can clear space.

You can also use cloud storage but I am not a fan of that so these are my alternatives.

 

Hikes

Alltrails is amazing for finding hikes around the world. People review or comment on each hike and also you can see the difficulty and lengths. You can also download the app.

 

Groceries
To be honest, we ate out a lot this trip. When we could, we tried to make some meals with friends. We also stocked up on snacks like fruit and breakfast (skyr, yogurt, granola etc). You will find that there are many grocery stores but some are superior to others in terms of quality for the price. Budget friendly grocery stores you should be on the lookout for are Aldi & LIDL.

 

Overview

Spain – Euro
-Tipping is not common but you can tip if you want (5-10%)

Eating times
Different times for eating. They take siesta very seriously and will take hour long lunches where the kids will go home as well to eat with family. Dinner usually starts around 8PM.
Desayuno – breakfast – 7-9AM
-a Spanish classic is a toasted baguette with olive oil and crushed tomatoes
-other breakfast foods consist of churros and chocolate or pastries like croissants.
Almuerzo – Mid-morning snack – 1030-11AM – Coffee with a muffin or a croissant with ham and cheese
La Comida – Lunch – 2-330PM – Most important meal of the day.
Merienda – Mid-after snack – 530-730PM – More about socializing – more drinks than food. Churros are popular at this time of day or a small meat and cheese sandwich.
La hora del aperitivo – Tapas Hour – 830-10PM
La Cena – Dinner time – 9-11PM – Dinner is usually much lighter than a standard dinner meal. Traditional Spanish dinners are shared plates.

-Try Clara – beer with lemonade or lemon Fanta
-Try Tinto de verano – Red wine with Sprite or Fanta (very popular in Spain) – very similar to sangria

Common Phrases
-Hola – Ola – Hello
-Adios – bye
-Si – Yes
-No – No

-Pardon or Disculpa – Excuse me
-Por Favor – Please
-Gracias – Thank you
-De nada – You’re Welcome
-Lo SIento – Sorry
-Factura – Bill
-Salud – Cheers
-Camamos – Let’s eat

 

Portugal – Euro
-Tipping is not common but you can tip if you want (5-10%)
-You need to try some pastel de nata (Portugese Egg Tarts)
-Ola – Hello
-Oi – Hi
-Tchau – Bye
-Sim – Yes
-Nao – No
-Por Vaor – Please
-Obrigado – Thank you
-De nada – You’re Welcome
-Desculpe – I’m Sorry
-Perdao – Pardon me
-Saúde – Cheers
-vamos comer – Let’s eat!

 

Sweden – Stockholm – SEK – Swedish Krone
-Open drinking on the streets is not allowed.
-Physical cash transaction is not common here.
-Tap and Swish (E-Transfer) is the common transaction types
-Stockholm is made up of many little islands connected by bridges
-Tipping is not common however, it is common to round up the total to the nearest big number as a tip.
-Access is their tap transport card – I got the 72-hour card. You can take all the forms of transportation ranging from bus, train, tram and ferry.
-Fika – an important part of Swedish culture. Fika – coffee break

-Hej – Hello
-adjö – bye
-Ja – Yes
-Nej – No
-Ursäkta – Excuse me
-snälla du – Please
-Tack or Tack tack – Thank you
-Varsågod – You’re welcome
-Förlåt – Sorry
-räkningen – Bill
-Skål – Cheers
-låt oss äta – Let’s eat

 

Denmark – Copenhagen – DKK – Krone
-Open drinking on the streets is not allowed.
-Tipping is not common however, it is common to round up the total to the nearest big number as a tip
-Biking is taken very seriously and has its own road rules just like driving a car.
-Copenhagen Card – You can use the calculator on their website to see if it is worth it to purchase this card. We purchased it but mainly for the unlimited travel. We purchased the 72 hours card. It’s sort of an honour system in a sense as you have to write in your start date and time on the card. You don’t tap it when boarding trains/buses etc but there may be a fare/ticket checker on some of your rides and must show your card. I wish we used the erasable pen we had instead so we could adjust it as we were in Copenhagen for a little bit more than 72 hours and it would have been nice to not have to purchase a day pass for the last few hours. The card gets you into many attractions and discounts on many other things.

-Make sure you check if certain attractiions are open on specific days
-Expensive country

-Hej – Hello
-adjö – bye
-Ja – Yes
-Ingen – No
-undskyld mig- Excuse me
-Vær venlig (vair-vin-lee)– Please
-Tack or Tack tack – Thank you
-Selv tak (sell tack) – You’re welcome
-Beklager (bi-clay-er) – Sorry
-regning – Bill
-Skål (skuul) – Cheers
-Lad os spise- Let’s eat

 

Germany – Euro
-Tipping is not common but you can tip if you want (10%)
-Drinking is allowed in public
-Many flea markets on Sundays!
-Many stores are closed
-Grocery stores are closed Sundays however the ones in bus/train stations are exceptions

-Hallo – Hello
-Tschüss – (choose) bye
-Ja – Yes
-Nein – No
-Entschuldigen Sie – Excuse me
-bitte – Please
-Dankeschön– Thank you
-Bitte – You’re welcome
-Es tut uns leid (astudentslight) – Sorry
-Rechnung – Bill
-Prost- Cheers
-Lass uns essen- Let’s eat

 

London – Pound – £
-Oyster Card – train/subway/bus system is very intricate but can get you everywhere.
-Tip is around 10%

 

Scotland – Pound- £
-Similar to Quebec to the rest of Canada, Scotland is the United Kingdom’s counterpart whereby at a certain point, they wanted to separate to become a country of their own.
Edinburgh
-It doesn’t really snow here but the temperature remains an average low of maybe 5C
-Edinburgh seems to be a popular for international students to study

 

Congratulations, you have made it to the piece de resistance – My Itinerary for 36 days in Europe. We did move around things we did on certain days in certain cities but for the most part, this is what we did and they are grouped by areas in each city to maximize your days.

 

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3 & 4
Week 5 & 6
All the places we went

London – Amsterdam – Contiki 2011 – Day 2

09/13/11

Woke up at 5AM and left around 630AM on a very brisk morning. The thing is with Contiki, you have restriction on the weight and size of your luggage (20kg) so that morning we had 3 Contiki tours leaving simultaneously lining up to get our luggages weighed and on the right coach bus. Our tour guide was Sophia, a fellow Canadian (French Canadian) who looks like the blonde version of Selma Blair. She is very friendly and very informative (there will be tons of facts being injected into my journals sporadically that are told by Sophia). Our driver was Christian and he is beyond what words can describe but is one crazy upbeat guy. His parents were originally from Sicily and Morocco but he was born in France. We are a group of 51 so it will be interesting – I have the best seat in the house – the very back middle seat so I had all the leg room. We headed to the Port of Dover (we saw the white cliffs of Port Dover) and took the ferry over to France – Galais enroute to Amsterdam. We also passed through Belgium. Being on a bus with around 50 other people, Sophia had multiple icebreakers. We did a version of speed dating to meet the other people on our tour which was cool.The youngest on the tour is 18 and oldest I met was 30 from places such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, USA, Japan, London and also a few Canadians. I even got complimented on my accent… thanks…?

Facts of Belgium:

Belgium has Arnold Schwarzenegger-like cows because they are chemically enhanced.

Belgium is also known for Smurfs, Tin Tin, french fries and the world’s tallest man.

It’s the Japan of Europe with a population of 10 and half million.

 

Facts of Amsterdam:

The population is 17 million for Netherland- 750,000 in Amsterdam.

More than half of the country is under sea level.

They built canals and dykes to create housing and farming.

There are more canals in Amsterdam than Venice.

12 million bikes in Holland alone with 200,000 bikes that end up in the canals.

Some of the best museums are located here such as Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh and Anne Franks’s house.

Pickled herring is a dutch delicacy.

They drive on the right side of the road as opposed to London or Australia where they drive on the left.

They are also known for pancake based foods such as mayo and frites and salted licorice.

Edam and gouda are dutch cheeses.

Yes marijuana is legal. The limit is 5 grams per person if you purchase weed. Mushrooms have been recently banned since 2008. However, you cannot smoke a joint in the street or cafes.

Prostitution is legal and about 25,000 prostitutes work here however they are part of a union called the Red Thread.

We finally arrived in Amsterdam at our hotel for the night – Hotel Nieuw Slotania. The final 2 girls that were to join our trip had arrived. Being a group of 3, one of the latecomers stayed with us. Her name is Alanna and she is from Australia and is our age. She graduated from uni for Exercise Science. Dinner with the group – buffet style and then a “booze” cruise – unlimited drinks for a 90 minute boat ride along the canal. The tour bus drove us to Centraal Station where we boarded the boat. Inside had seating and a bar in the back. It was beautiful to see the different parts of Central Amsterdam. We then docked and majority of my group went to a Sex show where people have sex on stage in front of you. We (Crystle and Klarice) opted out and explored on our own to find some cake to celebrate Klarice’s birthday before heading back to the hotel.

London – Contiki 2011 – Day 1

I jetsetted to Europe with my best friends – Crystle & Klarice. We wanted a taste of everything but couldn’t commit to a longer trip so we settled to doing the European Horizon tour with Contiki Tours. At the time, my friend Klarice was working for a company that is in affiliations with Contiki tours thus giving us 50% off the tour which made it more enticing and so we extended a few days in Paris with the money saved. 7 cities/countries in 10 days (London, Amsterdam, Munich, Austria, Venice, Switzerland, Paris)  We flew with Airtransit.

09/11-12/11

We got on the plane around 10PM and arrived around 955AM. The time difference is only 5 hours so sleeping wasn’t too bad.

Arriving in Gatwick, London, we transferred to the trains heading to Victoria. The platforms gets really crowded and once a train gets cancelled it’s like herding cattle onto an escalator to get to the next platform. Our first attempt to get on the train failed as people acted like highschool kids who don’t know how to move onto the bus to fit more people. If the door closes, unlike the TTC subways in Toronto, there is a button you can press to open the doors. We eventually got on the express bus that goes directly to Victoria (30 mins). One thing I noticed which is poor on their part is the lack of garbage bins but then again if there is no garbage cans, it’s less likely people should be littering there. I asked one of the ticket takers where I could find a garbage can and she told me to stick it in her co-workers pocket jokingly. What’s cool is that once you get on the train, they come onto the speakers and say their welcome message in multiple languages such as Italian, Spanish, French etc. The train ride was a nice time to snooze for a bit. The layout of the train is simple but works as there are racks for luggage.

Arriving at Victoria Station, we had to stand in line for the taxi queue. The taxis are so cute here. No one sits in the front of the taxi as there is no trunk so luggage can go up front. The seating area can sit 3 on the regular seats with 2 seats that fold out. We zipped through the streets and passed by the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and other beautiful buildings. Luckily our taxi drove past these areas as we had very limited time here. We stayed at the Royal National London Hotel on 38-51 Bedford Way courtesy of Contiki in a triple bed room. Contiki has their office in the basement where we signed in and got our free sleeping bags and free wifi. After signing in, our mission was to shop since we only had 1 day in london. As we walked, you can see the leaves changing colour and even already on the ground. Would’ve loved to be in London for summer. We journeyed all the way to Oxford St and stopped at staple stores such as Topshop, Pull & Bear and Primark. Primark was just overwhelmly packed and clothes everywhere but I bought my first pair of skinny jeans for 9 euros! The sun setting was so intense as we wore our sunglasses and we still couldn’t see much of what was in front of us. We rushed back to the hotel for our group meeting for 7PM. After the meeting, we went to eat at a local restaurant called the Diner at Bloomsbury for some good ol fish and chips. Tesco is a big convenience store over here. We stopped by to pick-up some last minute items and off to bed we went.

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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