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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Swiss Alps – Paris – Contiki 2011 – Day 8 & 9

09/19/11

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.

09/20/11

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.

Venice – Swiss Alps – Contiki 2011 – Day 7

09/18/11

730AM start. Woke up and had breakfast before we parted way with Samantha. There are tons of mosquitoes and they for some reason only bit myself and my fellow Canadians. Enroute to Switzerland – Lucerne then Lauterbrunnen. Multiple stops along the way to Switzerland.

Facts about Switzerland:

The swiss had a great army but they decided to retire from the european war.

These men are great as security guards for the pope (they cannot bow but salut).

Michaelangelo designed the swiss soldiers uniform which they still wear.

The tunnels are s shaped so if a missile were to be shot, it would hit the sides. They have tons of tactical reinforcements such as tunnels that can hold over 10000 people and able to set off a detonator to block off the city.

Switzerland is neutral. However, within 72 hours, they can mustard up a large army to defend their country if they want.

Any men from 18-30 must join the army unless they are unfit to but must pay a tax until they are 30.

If they join the EU, there would be no democracy.

There are 4 official languages – German, French, Italian and Rumantsch.

Famous products – milk chocolate – Mr Lindt then Johann Toblerone – nougat and shaped in a triangle to represent mountains.

Swiss army knives -can purchase white only in Switzerland, black for Europe and red for international.

Swiss watches – swatch

Swiss bank accounts – you just need 500 swiss franks to open it from any part of the world – you can remain anonymous as it is only numbers. So the jewish could protect their money during the time of the nazis.

Traditional foods- fondue – cheese, chocolate. If you drop your cheese or bread in the fondue, you kiss the person left of you.

 

We stopped in Luzern (Lucerne) and went on the worlds most photographed bridge -Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge). We arrived on a national holiday so all the stores were closed but luckily we were able to go into Harry’s to look and purchase watches, swiss army knives etc. Another store that was open was Bachmann which was fully stocked with loads of chocolate, food and drinks and even macarons. We stopped by the Lion monument –  it is a lion with lashes and a spear on its side holding up a shield that is carved into the cliffside in the shape of a pig. This carving holds great significance as it represents royalty and loyalty for the soldiers.

It was unbearably hot in Venice while it is the complete opposite after travelling 7-9 hours to get to Switzerland where it is the beginning of spring weather and chilly. We hopped off the bus in shorts and t-shirts and we we’re getting looks like we were crazy. The city is very pretty with mountain views all over the place. The air is crisp. We drove for another 1/2-hour to our final destination in Lauterbrunnen (a small little town with gorgeous scenic views getting into town) We are staying at Camping Jungfrau where it’s 3 to a room and bunk beds. Our window was open when we arrived and it opens 2 different ways so I made sure we closed that properly however the hallways were definitely warmer at this point. Contiki reps made us dinner – burgers and fries.

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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