My friend Colin (also know as SP) are about to embark on a one month Euro-Trip! We are travelling with Contiki for the first 21 days and then staying in Amsterdam for the remainder.
Below is a quick itinerary of what we hope to do on this epic journey. Only time will tell if this trip can top Vegas & New Zealand for best trip of 2013, but from what I can tell so far, it’s a sure thing!
First we meet up with our Contiki team before we hit the road and take a ferry past the White Cliffs of Dover. We travel via World War I battlefields in the Valley of the Somme, to Paris.
At night, the group kick-starts Paris with the ‘Tour of Illuminations’, which shows off the French capital’s transformation into the “City of Lights”. Lamp-lit bridges and cool little cafés give us a real taste of Paris’ atmosphere. Our tour Manager will fill us in on the world’s most-recognised monuments, like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.
Then we get a stunning view of the entire city with included entry to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Oui, oui, Paris!
With down-time on the coach, check Facebook, adding a blog post, chill out to some music and chat with friends while travelling through the scenic wine producing regions of Burgundy and Chablis.
Get above the clouds with an optional excursion to Mt. Rigi. We will be able to see massive mountain ranges with a bird’s-eye view over this spectacular region.
With covered wooden bridges, cobbled lanes and quaint buildings, Lucerne’s centre is perfect to explore on foot. Also to stock up on lots of genuine Swiss chocolate! I might even pick up a watch that Switzerland is so famous for.
Probably take an optional cruise on one of Europe’s most striking lakes, where stunning scenes of the Swiss Alps reflect back across the water.
Unwinding on the coach as we cut through Italy and head south to the French Riviera.
Next stop on the Riviera and home to the French perfume industry is Fragonard perfumery. Learn more about how perfume is made and some of its more surprising ingredients. It’s also a chance to pick up a bottle or 2 at great price, anyone want one?
Then we hit the rugged coast line of the stunning Côte d’Azur. Follow the beautiful sapphire waters to the palm trees and sun-soaked shores of Nice.
In our free time we will live a bit of the lifestyle with a visit to the local markets. Trying out the region’s produce like lavender honey, aioli (garlic mayonnaise) and mouth-watering rosé wine.
Window shop the chic boutiques or spend the afternoon relaxing in one of the city’s many cafés.
At night, we get a taste of the high life in Monaco, the glamorous principality packed into just 1.92km2 and home of the Formula 1. Indulge in a bit of glitz with the group by opting for a typically French 4-course meal just a few doors down from the Royal Palace. Also, we get the inside story on the Royal Family and their place of residence from our Tour Manager, then try my awesome luck at a casino later on.
Onwards to Italy, land of passion! Heading to Renaissance Florence, we will stop by Pisa and get up close to the famous Leaning Tower.
The scene-stealing Duomo Cathedral rises above Florence, which serves up frescoes, markets and priceless art. There’s will be a choice of a group dinner – an authentic Tuscan feast. Trying the regional dishes in the pretty Tuscan country setting. Then keep it moving with a night out and get our groove on at Florence’s biggest club.
Jump starting the day uncovering this open-air museum and its city centre.
The Local Guide will give us the inside track as the group learns about Florence’s cultural beginnings and explores streets crammed with artworks from masters like Michelangelo. Then we will take a look into a skillful demonstration of Florentine leather making and understand this region’s traditional art.
With bargains and bustle, the city’s markets are a great place to hang out. Probably grab a gelato or two.
Then we will travel through Tuscany’s rustic hills, past the recognisable cypress tree landscapes of this olive oil producing region, to vibrant Rome.
Stylish Rome oozes energy and overflows with relics from another age. Our special access coach tour gets us right into the thriving atmosphere of this living timeline as our Tour Manager will shows us the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia. Continuing on foot to check out the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. Honour tradition at the Trevi Fountain and throw a coin in the fountain’s waters (it’s meant to improve your chances of returning to Rome!) or maybe hang out with our new friends at the Spanish Steps, sit back with a few slices of pizza and people watch.
In the morning, we will make the most of our Local Guide’s inside knowledge with an optional guided tour of the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Then check out Rome’s imperial glory by visiting the Colosseum and Roman Forum.
Take off into the city and absorb the atmosphere, as Vespas flash past timeworn monuments that are surrounded by fountains, pizzerias, cafés and bars. Before we hit the shops, we will get our Tour Manager to point us in the right direction with some tips on the best buys.
In our free time, live the local lifestyle by indulging in a long lunch on a paved piazza or knock back a shot of espresso at the bar, like the Romans do.
Criss-cross the Apennine Mountains past wildflower fields, quaint hill-top villages and the rolling hills of Umbria to Venice.
During our time in this special city, we plan to get a good look into the Venetian way of life.
Known as the “floating city”, Venice is packed with character, crammed with hidden lanes and linked by a network of canals.
Our group travels on our private boat through the waters of the lagoon to visit the city’s historical heart. The limestone Bridge of Sighs, the Gothic arches of the Doge’s Palace and the expanse of St. Mark’s Square (pigeons and all!) show off Venice’s unique beauty and way of life.
Some time will be taken to explore the floating city and get lost in the backstreets. There’s an optional walking tour where we can discover the labyrinth of interweaving lanes, waterways, palaces, piazzi and markets with our Local Guide. We’ll see historic monuments, hidden treasures and the Rialto market – a local favourite for food shopping.
Maybe grab a table on St. Mark’s Square and eat some delicious Italian food al fresco, we’ll see.
Cap off the day with an optional gondola ride and apparently seeing Venice from on the water is unforgettable!
We wind through the Bavarian Alps and Brenner Pass to a cute Austrian village in a region famous for adventure sports. We will kick start our time here by plunging into some whitewater rafting in an adrenalin-pumping optional activity on the river!
With two nights here, there’s plenty of time for pulse-racing activities. Our resident crew will hopefully give us some pointers on the best stuff to do in the region and make sure we get everything out of our time here.
As we wake up in the morning, we’ll fill our lungs with clean mountain air, jump on a bike and get into the region’s outdoor lifestyle with a fully guided optional tour through the Tyrol’s picture perfect scenery, complete with waterfalls and mountain fields. Working up an appetite – a BBQ lunch is meant to be waiting for us at the end!
With time to do our own thing, laze about or get out for a walk in the surrounding hills. Catch up on some emails or blog posts at the inn or take a gondola up the mountainside for more spectacular views of the area. For something different, we might pop into the local trout farm (though I’m not going to eat one).
For adrenaline-junkies like us, an optional tandem paragliding experience will give us an awesome angle on the surrounding Alpine scenery.
We will remember one of history’s darkest moments with a sobering stop at the Dachau concentration camp memorial. Plus we will learn more at the museum and walk through the remaining living quarters.
Afterwards, we travel back to the home of the world-famous Oktoberfest, Munich – a city that blends traditional Bavarian culture and modern lifestyle.
We will probably take an optional bike tour and get off the beaten track and onto Munich’s side streets with our Local Guide.
Explore the heart of Munich’s old town with the crew, and head to Marienplatz. It’s a central gathering spot famous for the Glockenspiel – a Gothic clock, complete with 32 dancing figures and 43 chiming bells.
Then, we get a taste of tradition at a typical beer hall. Park ourselves at a long wooden table, ordering some hearty local food, like roasted pork knuckle, and quench our thirst with a stein of one of Germany’s 5000 brews.
Our Tour Manager will start the day by introducing our group to the city’s historical heritage. There’s the imperial grandeur of Schönbrunn Palace, the elegantly ornate State Opera House and St. Stephen’s Cathedral – a Gothic masterpiece. Cruise down Kärntner Strasse, Vienna’s main shopping spot, and buy some traditional ceramics or materials for gifts back home.
There’s free time for us to check out magnificent squares and majestic palaces or the city’s art galleries. If we are tired, we” take a break in a coffee house like the locals do, chill out in Vienna’s manicured gardens or wander along the Danube River.
In the afternoon, relax on the coach as we head to the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague.
Prague is a beautiful and atmospheric city. It’s also pretty compact, so it’s best explored on foot. We’ll get straight into Prague’s historic heart with our Tour Manager. We’ll walk over the landmark Charles Bridge, through Hradčany Castle, the home of the original Bohemian Kings and to the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral along the way.
Then a lunch cruise on the Vltava River, which runs through the heart of Prague, and take in stunning views of the city from the water. The Czech capital has a really mixed past so look out for signs of the Holy Roman Empire, the Bohemian Empire, the Nazis and the Communists.
Free time means we can get deeper into Prague’s Old Town in our own time. The city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a jumble of little lanes, alleys and courtyards. Slow the pace down and give ourself a chance to uncover its hidden treasures.
We’ll spend some time in the picturesque Old Town Square, where historic buildings and churches surround cafés that spill out onto the pavement. With some world-famous Czech pilsner in hand, we’ll park at a table, people-watch and try out some of the traditional local dumplings. This is also the spot to pick up some famous Bohemian glass, beads or garnet and amber jewellery
By night, Prague bursts with possibilities. Loaded with all types of music, from jazz bars and hip DJs to opera, there is something for everyone, I know which one I’m going to.
Chilling out while the coach follows the Rhine River, weaving through valleys dotted with castles and vineyards.
Next stop – the pretty, old-world village of St. Goar, complete with fairy tale castle and even a free-hanging cuckoo clock! With our included river cruise, drift past quaint riverside towns and magical castles and see this UNESCO World Heritage area.
We’ll get savvy with a demonstration on the local craft of beer steins. Then kick back with a glass of local wine and choose to find out more with wine tasting in a candlelit underground cellar.
We head into the buzzing capital of Amsterdam to check out the city’s eye-opening Red Light District, where the creative and the wacky come together on narrow cobbled streets, 24/7.
Cycle around like the laid back locals and cruise into the countryside, past working windmills, in the world-famous cheese village of Edam.
Free time this afternoon to experience Amsterdam’s coffee shops, museums and quirky boutiques. Wander along the canals and past gabled houses or try out Amsterdam’s multi-ethnic cuisine. This cultural melting pot dishes up loads of affordable food.
In the night, we get to try some of the traditional local cuisine at a restaurant in a nearby fishing village. With an evening canal cruise, there’s a chance to toast our travels with the group, unwind with a few drinks and uncover another angle on Amsterdam at water level.
For our last night in Contiki, we will make sure to get some pointers from our Tour Manager, dive into Amsterdam’s night action with our buddies and finish up our tour with a night to remember.