21 Day European Vista with Contiki
In August/September 2016, I jetted off to Europe for my first ever solo overseas holiday.
I flew from Sydney (via Singapore) to London with British Airways. On arrival in London, I used the tube to get to my accommodation at the Royal National Hotel. I had a few days on my own in London where I used the Hop-On Hop-Off bus to get around the city. I saw all the major sights (i.e. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Tower of London, London Eye, Trafalgar Square etc) before meeting up with my Tour Manager & Contiki group.
First stop was Paris – a city that was high on my bucket list. It was an action-packed day. We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, saw the Arc du Triomphe, walked the Champs Elysee, saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre and spent the evening at the Moulin Rouge.
Onto Switzerland! Here we had 2 nights in Lucerne. The day was spent exploring the town including the Chapel Bridge, the incredible Lion Monument and a cruise on Lake Lucerne. We also headed up Mount Rigi using the cog railway for a spectacular view over the Swiss Alps – a highlight for me!
Next stop – Nice in the French Riviera. We had amazing weather and used the day to discover all that Nice had to offer. After a walk along the Promenade des Anglais we took a trip to the top of Castle Hill which boasts uninterrupted views of Nice’s sparkling blue waters and famous pebbly beaches. We visited some food & flower markets and shopped our way along Avenue Jean Médecin. That evening we all jumped back onto Contiki coach and travelled into the small country of Monaco where we visited the famous Monte Carlo Casino, the Prince’s Palace & Monaco Cathedral.
After a stop at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, we made it to Florence – the first of three cities we were to visit in Italy. We arrived in the evening just in time for a Tuscan themed dinner. The following was spent walking the streets of the beautiful city with a local guide who took us to the Duomo Cathedral & the Ponte Vecchio bridge – just to name a couple.
Rome was the next city on my three week trip around Europe – another city high on my bucket list. We had one day to see as much of the city as we could. The day started at the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. We then walked to Vatican City (via the Pantheon) where we attended the Pope’s blessing, visited the incredible Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. The day concluded with a visit the Trevi Fountain – something I was very much looking forward to! Although it was crowded with tourists like myself, I still managed to find space to throw three coins over my shoulder and into the fountain.
Our last stop in Italy was the floating city of Venice. We floated along the quiet canals by gondola, wandered the narrow cobblestoned alleyways and hunted for the perfect Venetian mask for our themed dinner that evening. Venice was the perfect way to complete the last of 5 days exploring the wonderful country of Italy.
From Italy to Austria! First stop: Hopfgarten in the Tyrol region. This is where all the adventure sports took place – my favourite! First, we white water rafted down freezing cold rapids. Day two saw us mountain biking and paragliding. Paragliding was one of my favourite optional activities – well worth it! The view on the way down from the mountain was incredible.
We then travelled a short distance to Munich in Germany. The afternoon was spent discovering the city by bike which took us around to the Chinese Tower and Beer Garden followed by an evening of visiting some of Munich’s best known Beer Halls.
The next day we headed back into Austria to the capital of Vienna. We sampled schnapps and ate strudel, visited Schönbrunn Palace and some of city’s other amazing architecture. The evening consisted of a Mozart & Strauss concert followed by dinner.
As we make our way towards the end of the tour, we found ourselves in the very picturesque city of Prague in the Czech Republic. A maze of cobblestoned streets, Prague is full of castles and cathedrals. We spent the day navigating the city by map to find the Charles Bridge, the Astronomical Clock and the John Lennon Wall. After a busy day discovering the city, make sure to buy yourself some Trdelník – a cinnamon donut chimney-style cake full of ice cream with Nutella!
From the bustling city of Prague to the quiet town of St. Goar, we were now in the Rhine Valley of Germany. A cruise down the Rhine and a lesson in crafting beer steins were just a couple of the activities up on offer. A perfect little break before our final stop.
Amsterdam – what better city to finish a whirlwind of a three week tour. This city is full of personality (and cyclists)! The first half of the day we went beyond the city to Edam where we spent the morning biking from windmills to a cheese farm and onto a clog-makers house. That afternoon we were back in the city making our way to the I Amsterdam sign. We followed this up with a Horse & Carriage ride around other main attractions including Anne Frank House and Dam Square. Finally, to conclude our awesome adventure, we cruised down a canal as part of our farewell dinner.
After an awesome night, we were all up early the next day in time to get back on the road to London. I spent my final night in London before heading back to the airport in time to for long flight home. I had the best time and made some life-long friends in the process. It was a jam-packed three and a half weeks but I would do it again in a heartbeat!