Check out my Amazon page for gear that I personally use and products similar to those I pack on my travels (many of which are listed below).
As a photographer, my priorities for travelling always have been photography first. This time around for a safari adventure in Africa, I left my North Face Basecamp Duffel behind and replaced it with the Victorinox VX Touring Wheeled 2-in-1 carry-on as my main luggage. I used the PRVKE bag by WANDRD as my personal camera bag. I am still not a big fan of wheeled luggage but this hybrid wheeled duffel bag was an interesting one to test out. Follow the link to see my review on the Victorinox VX Touring Wheeled 2-in-1 carry-on.
Going to South Africa and going on a safari – less is more. On the safari, you are travelling with a medium size group of people and a laptop is more of an inconvenience than anything else. Unfortunately, my 120mm Twin Lense film camera had to be left at home (especially with an addition of a sleeping bag). Africa can be hot but when the sun goes down, the temperature dips. Black & Blue clothing attract tsetse flies so avoid wearing those colours. Northern parts of Africa are quite conservative so be aware that tights/leggings & revealing tank tops won’t do in the city or small villages (shoulders and knees should be covered). While on safari, you can wear whatever you feel like but in terms of colour, stick to neutrals so you can blend into the environment. White will only get dirty so the colours you should try to stick to are greys, greens, browns. In terms of fabrics, dry-fit and light linens are ideal and layering is key (I hate layering). We were given opportunity during our trip to do our own laundry and hang it to dry.
*We were given slightly wrong information in terms of what we needed to pack. Our friend had previously done Northern Africa, which encompasses more Muslims thus more conservative. Southern Africa is not as conservative meaning shorts and tank tops are the more appropriate attire. Marked in BOLD are clothing or items that weren’t needed or I didn’t use and also important information.
My friend Sarah originally asked me to go to Africa with her about 2.5 years ago but unfortunately timing didn’t work out back then. I did promise her that the next time she wanted to return, that I would join her and that I did.
Travelling with 4 in total (Sarah, Lulu & Jin), we arrived at the airport (YYZ) and checked in together with a lovely lady who called out Sarah for being in her own time zone. She scolded me for how small my signature was but first time in probably 3 years that I have checked a bag. We booked with Ethiopian Airlines, which is affiliated with Air Canada. The system isn’t 100% connected, as we needed to check in at CDG for the rest of our connecting flights. Our luggage however would meet us in Zimbabwe. We had 2 connecting flights – YYZ->CDG; CDG->ADD; ADD->VGA.
We got through security no problem with time to spare and grabbed burgers, fries and a shake before boarding. We didn’t check but our flight also included 2 meals (oops). We all sat together and watched Girls Trip simultaneously. Sarah on the other hand, had deep conversations with the passenger beside her for more than 3 hours with no breaks of silence. Usually I can fall asleep no problem but that flight, I was restless.
We arrived at CDG to temperatures outside of 2-4C degrees. We walked over to terminal 2 to catch the RER B train into town. You need to line up to purchase RER tickets at the machines. A 2-way ticket was 20,60 euro – single 10,30 euro. Arriving at Chatelet des Halles, we walked over to Centre Pompidou Museum (Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France) but only walked the perimeters and surrounding area. For only 5 euros, you can get the panoramic ticket, which allows you to take the escalator to the top of the building to get a scenic panoramic view of the city. The fountain was turned off but there was a large golden thumb statue called The Thumb of Caesar. A little chilled to the bone, we stopped to rest and eat lunch at Le Cafe Rive Droite (2 Rue Berger, 75001 Paris, France) where I ordered the croque monsieur – 7,80 euro.
The goal for this roughly 10-hour layover was to see a good chunk of Paris (parts I haven’t seen in my past travels too) for as cheap as possible and spend some money on food before heading back to the airport. I am a huge fan of alleyways or hidden streets because they create wonderful vignettes unbeknownst to the rest of the surrounding area for that moment in time. I had looked up a few galerie & passages before coming to get a little glimpse of old Paris with its eclectic style and architecture that is still preserved.
We unfortunately didn’t have time to make it to L’ardoise (28 Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001 Paris, France) for a meal – It is a Michelin starred restaurant I had looked up nearby with a prefixed menu for 38 euro but lunch service ended at 3PM. After the Louvre, we decided we wanted to sit indoors somewhere because the cold was getting to us especially with Sarah in her Birkenstocks (which a I think a German man noticed while we were getting crepes and commented “are you mad?!”. We decided to stay near the Seine river and stopped by Coffee Crepes (24 Quai du Louvre, 75001 Paris, France). We all ordered a nice After Eight minty hot chocolates then took a quick glimpse of La Seine river with faraway views of the Eiffel Tower.
We hopped on the train around 6PM and at one point, we had to transfer trains because someone got sick but luckily a local man saw we didn’t get off and lead the way for us to the new train. Once back in terminal 2, we saw line to check-in was incredibly long and luckily enough, we were able to check-in online to avoid that line. Before we boarded the flight from CDG to Addis Ababa, the flight attendant came up to us and asked for our passports. Since the system wasn’t 100% connected before, our luggage was brought to their attention but not connected to a boarding pass until they fixed it in the system. The flight was much better with more rest. 2 more meals (yay).
The flight was still a long haul. But the last flight felt even longer with these 3 guys sitting around myself and the girls, who kept getting up, brought tons of snacks. Way too fidgety for me and they were really rude to the staff thinking they could leave their stuff everywhere and walk anywhere they wanted. We finally arrived and beat the line to customs where we got our single entry visa for $75USD. On the Go Tours arranged airport pickup and away we went. The 30-minute van ride was the best sleep I had in the past 24 hours.
We stayed at the Shearwater Explorer Village (Adam Stander Dr, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe) where our accommodations where in tents on-site with a cot. *DOUBLE CHECK the cots for bed bugs before using it. Apparently the 2 cots in my domed tent had bed bugs as Lulu and myself woke up with these bug bites on our legs that did not resemble mosquito bites. The facility has 4 separate campsite tent areas with shared showers and toilet areas (hot water and toilet paper included) with a main building that has a infinity pool, spa and restaurant along with lodges you can upgrade to. The tents with the cots are the holding area as the 3 other campsite areas are where you are grouped by your tour.
The first night they provide you with a lock for the tent however, the second night, we got moved to another tent (which will be our tents for our trip). These tents, you will be required your own lock. We used my luggage lock. Once we settled into our tent, off we went to the pool to relax. We showered and by the time we were finished, we had a group meeting. On the Go Tours teams up with ATC (African tour company) a local tour company. This meeting is a debriefing of the tour and also where you share with your guides your insurance information and also get to meet one another. Clive was our cook, Frans our driver and Will our guide. Will went over an updated list of all the stops along the way as sometimes the information on the website isn’t 100% up to date. He also listed almost all the excursions that are included and optional add-ons. He also told us that we should save our physical money to pay for tours as they include a 11% inflation rate on credit cards but for normal day to day meals and whatnot to use credit cards like we do back home. Also to save local currency for tips.
Our group for this tour consisted of 13 people plus the 3 staff. Lisa the Yoga Teacher and Katie the Paramedic (Katherine) from Toronto/Calgary and Hamilton, Gordon & Margaret and David and Marianne all retired teachers and nurses from Hope, BC, Susan the Mental Health Administrator from Australia, Stephanie the Electrical Engineer from Dublin (who is working in Cape Town) and Alberto the Lawyer / Events Production company / Farmer etc from Costa Rica.
Also note that although first night accommodation is included in price, meals are not included until the Monday morning when you leave Zimbabwe for Botswana. The currency they use in Zimbabwe is USD.
We decided to go check out the market just outside the gate of our accommodations and just looking at possible souvenirs but the men the market are very pushy always approaching you “sister, take a look at my store, I give your sunset deal”. A little too aggressive for my taste. In terms of being on a tour, this was the only time we had to check out markets for souvenirs and because we had just arrived and we hadn’t even seen any animals we couldn’t justify purchasing anything – a big regret on our part. Zimbabwe is known for their precious stones and there were many beautiful stone sculptures of the big five amongst other things. The average for these stone statues asking price was $25USD but you need to haggle with them. Some other statues could be haggled for cheaper like $5USD. We had arranged to go for dinner with the group with our tour at the nearby restaurant The Three Monkeys and we walked over together. The food is great. We were recommended to get “The Dude burger” or in matter of fact, any burger or pizza – all American sized portions.
The girls and myself sat with Frans and Will and got to know them better. Both have been with ATC for about 1.5-2 years a abs both are from Joburg. Frans is 28 with a young baby at home (taking time off after this tour) Clive is 31 with 4 children and Will is 30 and has a younger sister who is working to save the endangered animals and their environments.
For those who wish to walk with lions, check out Lion Encounter. My friend was working with this organization however we both dropped the ball and didn’t connect or follow-up with one another and missed re-connecting in the short period of time that both of us would have been in Vic Falls.
I usually jump onto trips because of amazing flight deals but this time around, my friend Sarah alerted myself and 2 other friends about this other special deal on a tour. We had spoken for a few years about going to Africa and twice a year, On the Go Tours runs a promotion of 2 for 1 on tours. Grab a friend and go for the price of 1 person. Regular price for our 12 days Victoria Falls to Johannesburg was $1495CAD. Meaning $747.50CAD per person for the tour.
Our flight we got for a reasonable price at $1283.90CAD. Toronto to France (CDG) (10-12 hour stopover), France (CDG) to Addis Ababa – Ethiopia (ADD), Ethiopia to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (VGA). Return is from Johannesburg (JNB) to Addis Ababa – Ethiopia (ADD), Ethiopia to Dublin, Dublin to Toronto. Originally we wanted to stay for another week to optimize our time but for $500CAD cheaper to return home on a Thursday just made more sense for us.
Would’ve loved to go into a township like the Apartheid Museum and Soweto in Johannesburg but our timing of arrival and departure just didn’t work out. I would recommend the Sightseeing hop on and off tour bus as that would have been the method we would have seen the city if we had time. Otherwise, if not renting a car, UBER is the next best way to get around – cheap and safe.
I travelled with my friends Sarah, Jin and Louisa. #CUTYAdventures #canasianwerewolves
Things to do before you leave:
Yellow Fever (Required if you are going to an area with high risk or transiting from a country with high risk (more than 12 hours) – please check websites to find out) As of 2017, there is a shortage in Yellow fever shots – certain clinics will only have partial vaccine (1 year validity) some locations have lifetime shots. Technically, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa don’t require it.
Prescriptions (Recommended but not all required)
Malaria Pills (take pill 2 days before and 7 days after trip)
Cinpro/Anthim in case of diarrhea
Ducarel – must be started a week or 2 before you leave
-Check to see if you need a visa for the countries you are visiting (Canadians are required a visa for Zimbabwe but can obtain on arrival – $75USD – still cheaper than obtaining prior to arrival)
*If you plan on going to Zambia as well, there is a cheaper dual visa for $50USD (For Canadians)
-Beer is roughly $2
-Outlets the big round 3 prong and sometimes larger 2 round prong with flat prongs.
Credit Card / Debit
-Credit Card can be used in majority of all the areas minus markets.
-ATM – Better exchange rates than currency exchange with Debit Machine
-Zimbabwe adopted USD as their currency (bills only).
-$1USD = 362ZWD (Zimbabwean Dollars) – otherwise, currency is 1:1
-You can drink the tap water and can also ask for tap water and ice at many places.
-No Tipping as Vat is included so tax is included in prices shown. Tip is usually 10%.
-Entry Visa required
-$1CAD = 7BWP (Pula)
-$1USD = 10BWP (Pula)
-You cannot drink the tap water
-Carry 2 pulas & toilet paper around for public washrooms
-Language is Setswana
-Du mella ma (female) ra (male) – hello
-LA guy – how are you
-GA taing – I’m fine
-Kea la bogaa ma – thank you
-Kea rata – I love you
-Muntle – beautiful
-Muna – single man
-Buna – 2 or more men
-Botswana people are more reserved but friendly
-$1CAD = 10ZAR (Rand)
-$1USD = 13ZAR (Rand)
-You can drink the tap water
-UBER is the best and cheapest way to get around. Door to Door is key for safety
-11 Official languages; 9 of which are African
-Afrikaans – A mix of Dutch, Belgian, French & Flemish.
-Population – 20% is White & 80% is Black & Other (Indian, Korean & Chinese)
Below is my initial itinerary for the trip (not updated to what we did)
11/30 Toronto / France
FLY – 840PM YYZ-> 950AM CDG
12/01 France / Ethiopia
LAYOVER – 10-12 hour stopover in France
TRAIN – CDG term 2 – RER Train to Châtelet-Les Halles. Walk to Centre Georges Pompidou (45 mins – €10.30 – purchased 2 pack ticket – €20.60)
-Le Centre Pompidou (Opens at 11AM – Place Georges Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France)
-5 euro – panoramic ticket – rooftop view
18 min walk
-Le Louvre – Pyramid & Carrousel Arc de Triomphe (75001 Paris, France) – Take photos outside
12 min walk
–L’ardoise (28 Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001 Paris, France) (Open 12-3PM & 630-1130PM) (Pre-fixe – 38€)
2 min walk
-Louis Vuitton Maison Vendôme – 2 Place Vendôme, 75001 Paris, France
14 min walk
-Galerie Vivienne – 5 Rue de la Banque, 75002 Paris, France – mosaic – rustic elegance
4 min walk
-Jardin du palais royale – 6 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris, France
-Les Deux Plateaux (2 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris, France) – Take photos outside
5 min walk
-Galerie Vero Dodat – 8 Galerie Véro-Dodat, 75001 Paris, France
-Walk La Seine River
530 – TRAIN – CDG Term 2
Châtelet – Les Halles, 75001 Paris, France -> RER BEPOLAéroport CDG Terminal 2 TGV
FLY – 945PM CDG -> 645AM ADD
12/02 – Ethiopia / Zimbabwe – Victoria Falls
FLY – 835AM ADD -> 1215PM VGA
Airport shuttle transfer
STAY – Shearwater Explorer Village (Wifi)
12/03 – Zimbabwe – Victoria Falls
12/04 – Victoria falls – Chobe River, Botswana
STAY – Thebe River Safaris Campsite (Wifi available in reception area)
– Kasane – Chobe River – Watch Elephants & Hippos
– Sunset Boat cruise
12/05 – Kasane – Nata Region
STAY – Elephant Sands (Wifi – very weak signal)
-Afternoon/Evening Game drive
12/06 – Nata Region – Maun
STAY – Sitatunga Campsites (Wifi available in bar and weaker signal around site)
12/07 – Maun – Okavango Delta
-Overnight excursion into the Delta
-Early morning to Mokoro Poler’s Station
STAY – Mobile Tented Camp in Okavango (NO WIFI)
-Guided evening bushwalk
12/08 – Okavango Delta – Maun
-Visit local village via Pole Canoes
-Return to Maun w/ optional scenic flight over the Delta
12/09-10 – Maun – Palapye – Polokwane (South Africa)
-Drive to the small town of Palapye (between Francistown & Gaborone (Bostwana’s capital)
STAY – Itumela Campsite (WIFI – good signal all over site)
-Drive to town of Polokwane
STAY – Boma in the Bush (NO WIFI)
12/11-12 – Kruger National Park
-Morning viewpoints drive – Blyde River Canyon Region – The Three Rondavels, The Pinnacle, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, & God’s Window
STAY Nkambeni Safari Camp near Kruger National Park (20 min free WIFI at reception)
-Visit Kruger National Park
-Night game drive
-Morning Game Drive
-Buffet Dinner (optional – group decision)
12/13 – Johannesburg
-Hazyview – Johannesburg
-Joburg Arrival – Mufasa Backpackers (21 4th Rd, Van Ryn SH, Benoni, 1513, South Africa)
-Check into hotel – Hyde Park Villas – 28B 3rd Rd, Hyde Park, Johannesburg, 2196, South Africa (WIFI – Complimentary 500MB each day)
-Rosebank Mall – Rosebank Art & Craft Market – Cradock Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg, 2196, South Africa
– Open 9AM-6PM
12/14 – Johannesburg -> Dublin
10AM – Airport Shuttle / UBER to O R Tambo (JNB) Airport
We went to La Bottega di Finestra (Platnéřská 89/11 110 00 Praha-Staré Město) for lunch. It also serves as a small grocery shop as well a cafe. We got there after breakfast time but we’re still able to get the eggs Benedict. I also got the hot chocolate with chili flakes and the chocolate before you add the flakes was intense and dark. We also grabbed dessert. I went for the millieu flaky and creamy. In total 395kc. Mimi and myself split from the boys and went for a walk ourselves and did a round of the Jewish quarters (Josefov) which technically we walked our first night. We saw through a little peek hole in the door the Jewish cemetery.
Returning to the apartment, we packed and off we went to Mustek station right down the street from us and took the bus to Dejankiv station to board a bus to take us to the airport. 32kc. I came into Prague changing $200USD but got screwed by the exchange booth so technically i had $140USD worth of cash for this leg the trip and left with $5. So strange to think I’ve spent so much but realistically i didn’t.
I regret not going to la degustation du boheme in Prague where it would have been maybe $80 for a 6 course meal which on the Michelin list ranked of the best.
Air France flight was quick. We grabbed the RER B to Gare du Nord station where our hostel for the night was. We booked Smart Place but when we got there, they said we had been upgraded to another hotel just down the street called Vintage Hostel – seemed like a downgrade to be honest. Since we technically didn’t book directly to Vintage, they wouldn’t give us free towels and also the carpet in our room was coming up that we couldn’t open or close the door properly without a little bit of elbow grease.
111414 – Paris – Amsterdam
I woke up early and watched a partial sunrise from the balcony before heading down to the lobby for free breakfast with Mimi. We packed our things and stored our bags at the luggage storage at Gare du Nord. You have to get it scanned first before you can put it into the lockers. 9,50 euro. A rainy day in Paris but we walked the streets. Headed over to Sacre Coeur to see the view from above and tried to find Montmartre cemetery but failed so we walked down to the shopping district to Galleries du Lafayette and onto the main street with high end stores such as E Guyard, Chanel, and Colette. We ate in the Water Bar in the basement of Colette which was Batman comic themed. I had the cheeseburger and a small juice. On the main floor, I purchased a surprise bag for 20 euro. It’s filled with fun things but geared towards kids. We wandered the streets some more before we walked back to the train station and boarded a train enroute to Amsterdam.
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
-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
-Lunch – Bistro De France
-John Lennon Wall
-Midday snack – Café Savoy
-Dinner – Pho Vietnam
-Dessert – Café Louvre
11/12 – Prague
-Lunch – Café Lovre
-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
-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)
We took our time to get ready and headed for the metro around 11-1120AM. The metro system here is enormous to say the least but once you actually look at it, it’s actually pretty simple. If only there were escalators. We took the 12 line to Montparnasse then the 4 line to Chatelet. NOTE: If you need to use the restroom and don’t want to pay – goto McDonalds. The Mcdonalds are large here spanning 3 floors with an elevator and they also sell macarons in the McCafe – 6 for 4€50 and 12 for 9€. Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, pistachio, caramel and lemon. They are actually pretty decent.
We walked to Notre Dame church and met up with Luis. Loads of tourists around and all those gypsy ladies with their clipboards around. NOTE: If a gypsy approaches you with a clipboard or a piece of string avoid them at all costs. The church itself was beautiful especially the rose shaped stained glass. Grabbed a omelet jambon baguette. You will see people carrying baguettes under their arms and eating it plain. The baguettes are baked fresh with no preservatives. Rue de Rivoli is another street great for shopping. We walked along and did some shopping then made our way to another Galleries du Layfayette that was closer to the L’Opera house. We stopped by Le Tanneur, Pull & Bear in the first building as many stores were clumped together on different floors in a circular layout. There is no fresh air here at all as everyone smokes including the highschool students. The metros have cell reception everywhere, no air conditioning so windows are usually opened, you either need to pull the lever up or push a button for the door to open. It’s not as spacious as Toronto’s TTC subways but seats can fold up if needed. We ended the night at Nomiya for sushi, sashimi and brochettes (kebabs) one of the better meals of this trip. Paris is a very fast paced city with so many people all the time. Motorbikes, bikes, cars and peopled everywhere. I think its just a little to congested for me but I did enjoy it. I could have done without the smoking everywhere but that’s just life around here. I wish I had gone through the french immersion program as a child because the language is so beautiful; luckily a few phrases and words stick in my mind.
I woke up early and went for a little stroll of the city to shoot a bit especially since in our neighbourhood the Eiffel Tower is so prevalent. We stopped by a bakery called Boulanger for breakfast – quiche and a pain du chocolate to go. Our hotel features a top floor patio over looking the city skyline and we ate our food looking at the Eiffel tower. We checked out and grabbed taxi to Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG). It took about 30-45 minutes and our total came up to €90 (mind you, we were in south paris) but split between 3 isn’t too bad. Our flight wasn’t until 540PM but we wanted to make sure we had ample time to get here and got through security by 2-230PM. Terminal 3 is literally a waiting area with nothing to do and no where to go after you scan and go through. There are shuttle buses that bring you to the plane. Since it is a bus shuttle service, there was another flight ahead of us and the seating area piles up people. We boarded and didn’t get into the air until 6-610PM. An 8 hour flight but excited to get back to Toronto with still decent summer/fall weather.
So what can really be said about these 2 weeks?
Met a lot of great people from all over the world.
Saw, ate and experienced amazing things.
For the limited time we had in certain cities, I absorbed as much as I could and of course its a once in a lifetime trip that I could spent with my best friends celebrating all our birthdays (roughly)
Out of all the places we’ve been; Germany and Austria are on the list to go back to.
It was our last day with the group and luckily ending it in the magical city of Paris. We started off driving to the Champs de Mars area where people usually go to have picnics by the Eiffel Tower. We stopped off at Mur pour la Paix to see the peace monument and to take our group photo. In the span of 10 minutes, gypsies (they are men!) swarmed us trying to sell us trinkets. Always bargain… Always!
Fragonard was our next spot to learn the history of perfume and smell some of the scents. Christian kindly dropped majority of us off at the Arc de Triomphe. It is surrounded by an insane roundabout so to get there, you need to go through the underpass. Did you know you can climb up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe? There are roughly 360 steps up which isn’t too bad but its dizzying. If your between 18-25 and have ID, you get in for €6. We climbed up top and the view was gorgeous. You can get a nice city view from above including the Eiffel Tower – a great spot high above that included the Eiffel Tower in your photos. We were famished and stopped off at Vesuvio for lunch on the Champs-Élysées. We all had the special menu for €13. I had the pasta trio and the chocolate mousse .
We then did what many tourists do; we went shopping. NOTE: if anyone approaches you and asks you to purchase a LV bag and hands you cash so no because there is a limit of 2 purchases at Louis Vuitton per passport and you must claim it when you depart the country. We made our way to Musee d’Orsay and ventured the neighbourhood until we had to meet at 430PM. For our Contiki groups final dinner, we went to the top of Montmartre at a restaurant called – La Bonne Franquette. There are tons of tourists in this area so watch out for gypsies unless you want €1 beers. When you make it to the top of the hill, it is a breathtaking view as you see the vastness of Paris as a city and the beautiful architecture. We filled the back room of the restaurant and they started us off with a nice rose called kir with currant in it. Our set menu had the following options: apps – french onion soup or escargot, entrees – beef boginiony, cod fish in a cream sauce or duck l’orange. With brie cheese and a chocolate cake for dessert. We had a good mix of red, rose and white wine. Our group was very lively as we all headed down the hill toward the cabaret. On our way, we basically walked through the “danger zone” red light district and made a tiny stop at the moulin rouge. We then went to our final stop as a group; Nouvelle Eve Cabaret. No photos allowed here. Bare breasts and high kicks into splits everywhere. It was a very entertaining show. A good night was had for sure.
The previous nights festivities ended off the 10 days with our Contiki group and tour. In the morning, I went down to say my goodbyes on the bus. It felt so weird not to bring my bags down and sit on the coach for hours again. It’s sad that majority of us will never see each other ever again but of course there will be facebook and photos. Sophia handed out a sheet during our trip to write down whatever contact information we wanted for others to contact and stay connected after the trip.
We ended up in the lobby around 10AM and met up with Luis and Andrew. Andrew is from Australia and was travelling for a bit before the tour and still had a week left in Barcelona before heading back to work. We stopped by the Manprix – grocery store/bakery for food before heading to the metro. Andrew parted ways to the airport as we went on a search for our hotel – Novotel Vaugirard Montparnasse. Luis was staying an extra few nights and joined us on our search for our hotel. I had looked at the site and also at a map but for some reason, the site said to get off at Duroc but really we should of gotten off at Vaugirard. We finally got to our hotel after help from some friendy locals. It feels good to be in an actual hotel. We walked towards Rue de Sevres to shop as well as Galleries du Lafayette (big shopping complex). Pharmacy’s are on practically every corner. I had this travellers cough since the beginning so I ended up picking up cough sirop and Strepsils – wish I had access to this earlier in the trip.
It is such a bad day. It’s cold. We got woken up at 3AM by our group partying in the hallway. Klarice got a fever and my dry travellers cough is wet. It was a messy morning for all including our group from partying. Probably the worst sleep I’ve had. This is where those sleeping bags come in handy. I really missed my bed. Crystle and myself went into town to find some medicine for Klarice. It’s interesting that medicine can only be purchased at the doctors office but also that we can just ask for it, pay and it’s ours. This place however cold (6-11 degrees) is beautiful as the fog is covering parts of the mountain and at the very top you can see the snow covered mountains. Conversion rate is crazy 50CAD=37.50CHF. What I find really cool is the fact that many of these buildings are so old that they use the old keys including our room. I recommend bringing a jacket of some sort for this leg of the trip and also bringing Ricola/Fisherman’s Friend or halls. A very somber day.
For dinner, we started with cheese fondue, chicken with veggies with rice then finished off with apricot crumble with custard. The fondue was very strong with white wine. We were “dishies” that night and for the following morning meaning we help bring plates that were finished into the kitchen and clean the tables. A bunch of the girls decided they didn’t want to drink or party that night so we had a girls night. We fit about 16 in a room. We stayed there for about 3 hours or so then headed back to our rooms around 10-1030PM for an early night. It was a really good opportunity to hang out with just the girls with maybe a tad bit of alcohol so it wasn’t just a blurry night that everyone thinks Contiki is all about. We have maybe 12-15 guys on a tour of 51 so it felt great to connect and talk to people of all nationalities and laugh.
The mountains in the morning looked absolutely beautiful. We have had long days on the road but the road from Lauterbrunnen to Paris is the longest drive. I can tell you that the public washrooms are free here (unlike the previous countries where you have to pay to use). It would have been nice to explore more of this beautiful country but there is only so much time on this tour and also weather permitting.
The bus ride was gruesome as the final length of our travel to the last country (9 hours). The only thing you can do on the bus really is sleep even if your not tired.
We finally arrived and Christian gave us a scenic view of Paris driving down the canal where the Louvre and Musee de Orly are. Nearby, we stopped by a restaurant and had a glass of champagne and escargot. Christian then drove the scenic route on the famous Champs-Élysées and going through the huge roundabout around the Arc de Triomphe. We stayed at Etap Hotel Paris Porte de Montmatre by the metro Avenue de Saint Ouen. It is 2 to a room and I am rooming with Anne-Marie. She works for Samsung and is from London. She is one of the nicest people you will meet. Our hotel room isn’t bad either but thank the lord for free wifi. Our shower head changes colours as you shower and toilets look like airplane toilets.
We went to dinner at Le Sultan for turkish food right down the street. Immediately after dinner, a large group of us; I would say 24-25 out of 51 went to the Eiffel tower together. We took the RER – metro with Anne-Marie as our lead navigator. We arrived and it was beautiful. €8,20 to goto the second floor as the top was closed. It was still beautiful up there. We stayed up there for a while then hopped down as for 5 minutes every hour, the tower sparkles. We then decided to head back and it was a big thing of confusion. Trying to buy tickets for 25 people using coins alone was pretty painful as well. We were out past midnight so we ended up celebrating Crystle’s birthday at Invalides station. We eventually got back to the hotel for a nice shower and sleep.
Facts of France:
France – 60 million population.
The French alps create a natural border between italy. Mont blanc is exactly on the border and same with Lake Geneva and Lac Blanc.
France is famous for its agriculture – wine. Largest producers of wine but Italy is largest exporter.
One of the founder of EU
They have free healthcare and a great education system.
They are the 4th largest producer of weapons.
Lots of the biggest fashion originated in France – Louis Vuitton – the first to make a flat bottom suitcase.
King Clovis built the first catholic church – the Notre Dame.
Charlamaine conquered France and Germany. Vikings – would kill someone by slashing them from throat to stomach to make blood angels. Vikings would be bribed with money by the french king but then the king ran out of money so he gave them some land – North Normandy. William the conquerer is the most famous vikings.
Joan of Arc was a peasant girl during the 100 year war. She could hear voices and was given a small army and turned the tide of war in Frances favour however they believed her to be a witch and burned her at the stake. It’s been said that the only thing left after she was burned was her heart still beating. She was then made into a saint.
20,000 people could live in the 14 houses at the Chateau du Versailles during King Louis’ time. He was a small guy and thought he was the best. He wore tights because he liked his legs, he wore heels and also wigs to add to his height. Louis the 16 and Marie Antoinette married and ruled France very poorly as they were young and didn’t know better.
In the 1700’s during the revolution – large amounts of people chopped off many heads. Most of world war I had taken place on french soil. They decided to sign a treaty to prevent a future war however, Germany waged war on Poland, United Kingdom and France immediately declared war but didn’t do much for 9 months. They thought the Germans would come through the same route they had before and posted soldiers there as they didn’t think Germans would bring tanks through the mountains – little did they know, Germans altered their tanks and came through the mountains and defeated them in 6 weeks.