A Travellerspoint blog

Bonjour France!

sunny 15 °C

Well, our trip is quickly coming than end. We have arrived in Lyon for a quick overnight stop before we head to our last destination, Paris. It was a long driving day made more exciting with Bec's insistence on playing games. Lots of fun and laughs on the coach while doing crazy and silly things!

The excitement builds with our first views of Paris. It is interesting that the city of Paris sign is a full 75 km. before we actually see the Eiffel Tower. And what a sight it is to see! The Eiffel Tower was selected as the iconic structure to be built for the World Expostion in the late 1800's. Funny that the runner-up of a Eiffel Tower sized guillotine didn't get selected.
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We were given a driving tour of Paris which highlighted Miki's driving skills. For those of you who might think of the crazy traffic on Deerfoot Trail is crazy, you should try the chaos around the Arc d'Triomphe. Check out the photos taken of the Tower when your traveller gets home! It was time for a pre-dusk group photo and then up the tower. It was a windy night but most everyone made it to the top of the tower of outstanding views of the city. The tower sparkles every hour which provided some great photos.

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The next day began with a stop at a French perfume factory and then everyone had the rest of the day to explore this city of love and lights. Some of the highlights of the day included walks along the Champs d'Elyesse, trips to the Louvre, Notre Dame and Montmarte.

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No trip to Paris would be complete without stops to try some of Paris's culinary delights. French Onion Soup, escargot, creme brûlée and crepes! Personally, I love the idea that the Fromagerie, the charcuterie and the patisserie are all located together. Ooh la la! And the bread is almost indescribable. One of our group tried four different types of crepes in the one day she had in Paris. Our culinary and baking students were over the moon to see and try the croissants, pastries and macaroons from Laduree. One creme brûlée was describe as the best desert EVER!

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On our last night most of the group was off to the Nouvelle Eve dinner and show. Most everyone has heard of the Moulin Rouge which is priced a bit out of everyone's price range. We had an outstanding time at our show. The group headed off to celebrate the end of the trip with our tour manager, Bec.

And so our journey together has come to an end. At the beginning of the trip Bec told us that for 80% of the visitors to Europe never return. In conversations with our students I would venture to guess that the reverse statistics would be more realistic. Hopefully 100% of them will be back to explore one or more of the eight European countries we visited. Many are already making plans for at least one return visit!

We hope you have enjoyed reading the blog. Till next time, thanks for joining us on our adventures. Lastly, we would like to give a huge 'shout out' to Bec and Miki who shared Europe with us. Their passion for what they do has given us all a new appreciation for the hospitality and tourism industry.
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Posted by jonaway 07:52 Archived in France Comments (0)

Time to catch our breath!

sunny 15 °C

Well, we need to catch up ith our trip the past couple of days. First our stop in Lucerne, Switzerland, a small community that you may have seen future recently on the Amazing Race TV show. Yes, the city looks just like it did on TV, including the Chapel Bridge and the Schwezerhof Hotel in the Town Square.
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We also stopped at the Lion of Lucerne which is a memorial to the Swiss Army that Mark Twain described as the most mournful statue in the world. We would agree.
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Our weather record was somewhat blemished today with cloudy skies and some rain. We have been so very lucky with the weather. The only bad rain has been while we have been on the coach.

Our hotel stop today was something totally unique, a stay in what was previously the town jail. Yes, the hotel has kept the original jail and converted the cells to rooms. The heavy cell doors are still intact. And yes, this is a spartan room, two beds with foamies, a metal sink, toilet, two lights and a shower. Easy housekeeping duties at this hotel!
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After a quick stop to check out the Swiss watches and Swiss Army knives the group was off for a cruise on Lake Lucerne. While the weather was not totally cooperative the group saw some amazing sights of the surrounding mountains. One of our students, Jodie was even able to captain the ship for a time.

For two of the instructors not on the cruise it was a chance to meet with a grad, Raphi Strub, from last years' TVT class who was born in Lucerne and is now employed at the Swiss Museum of Transport.
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Our evening dinner was not at the jail, which we were told was a good thing. We dined at an Asian fondue house on a variety of schnitzel, wurst, spatzle, rosti, and Mac & Cheese in a fondue pot. The Asian part? Orange slices for desert.

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Some of the group ventured out for a chocolate fondue desert, described as the most amazing delicious taste EVER!

After surviving the jail we headed out of Lucerne and towards our last country on the itinerary, France. Our first stop was at Contiki's Chateau de la Cruix. The Contiki team was there with their enthusiastic welcome. As we were not staying overnight at the Chateau they went above and beyond to take us on a full tour of the facility, including the kitchen and the bedrooms. We learned about the history of the chateau while taking in the outstanding views of the vineyards. We headed over for a private wine tasting of the Beaujolis wines grown on the ground of the Chateau. After a spread of local food, baguettes, chesses and meats we were off for our overnight stop in Lyon.
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Some of you have asked to see a picture of our Hungarian Prince, Miki who has driven us safely around Europe. Hey Miki!

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Posted by jonaway 08:24 Archived in Switzerland Comments (1)

Some thoughts from our students....

all seasons in one day

We thought it would be nice for the students to give us some of their thougts about the trip so far. For many this is their first trip without parents, outside of North America, etc. Here is what they have to say:

  • Europe has been the best experience of my life! I am so glad I took this opportunity in life, and am enjoying it with friends who have become like family to me. The landscape, people, buildings, food and language are all so foreign, I absolutely love it. Contiki has been quite the adventure so far and I am so happy we have the two best people hosting this tour! Thank you, Beck & Mickey! You guys are so passionate about what you do and that's what makes it that much better :) - Jodie Buyck
  • An amazing time here in Europe. Sad we only have a few days left but the memories will last forever. It's weird being here with friends instead my family. With the help of my teachers and our incredible tour manager Bec and our coach driver Miki, this trip will always be in my mind when my classmates and I go out into this industry by ourselves in less than a years time. Thank you to all who made this trip possible, exciting, and memorable. I'll always cherish what we have together. ~Adam Berger
  • Europe has been so memorable. An experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. The people I've met, the food I've tried, the places I've visited have been so amazing. I've made some great friends who I hope in the future I'll be able to travel with and make even more memories. I'd like to thank our wonderful and lovely tour manager, Bec who has taught us so much about Europe but was always able to make us laugh and hang out with us. Miki our hilarious coach driver, who needs to come to Canada so we can fill his life long dream, meeting Justin Bieber. I think he deserves it. Also, I'd like to thank everyone who made this trip possible at SAIT. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them. This trip has given me even more of a travel bug and there's a few places I know I'll be visiting again. This trip has given me a new found love for Eurovision. It's been an absolute unforgettable experience. It's truly a dream come true and again thank you to everyone who made this experience possible. - Vicky Chitryn
  • I had an amazing time here that I will never forget. Its been awesome travelling around seeing new places, eating new foods, and just everything about this trip has been fun. The bike ride in Munich was so much and I wish we could have stayed longer there. There have been so many good memories on this trip ! I will miss you and Mickey and I'm thankful for everything you've done for us. Thank you for everything! -Cindy
  • Europe, Europe, Europe, what can I say. I love Europe and I can not wait to come back, there is so much to see and do and each place we have visited has its own little characteristics that makes them unique. I 've made some new friends and have great memories, photos and videos with them that are irreplaceable. I can't wait for our next adventure all together! -Kayla
  • This trip is honestly mind blowing for me. I would have never thought of myself travelling to Europe. I feel very grateful to have gone on this trip to meet many amazing people, see many different things that I wouldn't see in Canada, as well as learn many types of cultures here in Europe. After experiencing this trip I feel like I've fallen in love with Europe and I would like to come back someday again. I thank you for all the amazing activities and all the services that were set up from Contiki. I hope we get to do this again! I will miss Europe and all of you!! Till next time! -Johnel
  • A truly eye opening experience, so much information so much to explore. There was so many places that were new to me and others that I got to know a lot more in depth, where fairy-tale places and sophisticated society meet. Where history was made. But all this trip would not have been the same without the everyone who came and made this possible, especially Contiki and the teachers. I really love the ups and downs of this trip, learned so much and gain a new vision of the world. And although I don't like playing favourites I really wish I could stay in Munchen, dankeschon. -Ivan
  • This trip has been an amazing experience and something I will cherish for the rest of my life. I am very greatful to be traveling with an amazing group of individuals. I can't thank Contiki enough for the amazing staff members they have assigned to our trip, Mickey and Beck have been amazing at making this trip a memorable time. They are both fun individuals full of knowledge. I also want to thank the teachers for giving us this opportunity. I have been able to learn so much about Europe and I can't wait to return as soon as possible. I can't pick a favorite spot, every stop has had its own unique features that make each place amazing. I have gained a new vision of this world and all the beauty it holds. Thank for everything!!!!!! :) -Alec
  • This experience will be one I will take with me forever. At first I was nervous of the unknown we were about to set into but with the incredible guidance of our instructors and the Contiki crew Momma Europa embraced us all with a big hug. I haven't had so many "best day ever!!" days in a row. Everyday is a new adventure with a bunch of firsts to be checked of the bucket list. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity to learn in grow in a way many will never be able to. Thank you to everyone in my life who brought me to this point!! Best trip ever! -Lauren (Lo) Scappaticci
  • I've enjoyed this trip so much I was so excited to come back to revisit Germany and Switzerland but to see new places as well. We jammed so much into such a small amount of time and I love it! It made it not go by fast at all. Beck and Miki you're the best and you both made it such a kick ass time. This trip has further strengthened my love to travel and I now have new experiences and knowledge and have lots of places I want to return to. (And I just might move to Munich) Thanks y'all! Lauren Spindler.
  • As I look back on the Europe trip, I remember how I have grown as a person. This trip has showed me things I couldn't imagine. Sometimes it is easy to forget just how big the world is. We saw everything from cities packed with people to unbelievable views of nature in small towns. I feel like so much of the world was crammed into only twelve days, each of which was better than the last. I know this won't be the last I see of Europe. We have only just scratched the surface! -Braydon Souter
  • Not long ago we met at the airport, nervous and excited. I didn't know anyone on the trip and I definitely didn't know what to expect from Europe. This trip has exceeded anything I could have hoped for. Even our time on the coach has been unforgettable. I already can't wait to travel again and eat and drink in more crazy places. -Brandi Pierrard
  • I really have been having the time of my life it has been such an adventure with everyone. I love Europe it is such a beautiful place with so much history it's become like a second home with an extended family which I love and adore there is still so much to come and even more to do I can't wait to get home and share it. -Ricky Fowler
  • This experience has been an enriching in reassuring my passion for travel and tourism. Being my very first flight and tour outside of Canada I wasn't sure what to expect. Through the Contiki team (Miki, Bec) plus the amazing friends that have become second family for me. It an amazing feeling that a group of people can meet for the first time at an airport for a 2 week trip and by the end there is a long lasting connection started by travel and the memories.Europe has many things to offer and I wish I had more time to explore but that just gives me a chance to come back and see it all!. It's about the journey not the destination. <3 Europe #noregrets #contiki #awesome -Richard Zimmerman
  • Going into this trip I knew no one and was terrified of the thought of leaving home for the first time, on my own no less. I feel very lucky and blessed to have met some great people who have been with me every step of the way, and have become my second family in Europe. This trip was everything I hoped it would be and so much more. -Kaitlyn
  • Europe has definitely been worth it for me! It has not only been my first journey outside of North America but also my longest away from home. I really enjoyed taking a Contiki because they provided an enriching experience with lots of surprises that were outside of my expectations. This trip has given me a good idea of where I want to come back to in the future and has also given some base knowledge of the regions we have visited. I love Europe! - Heather Dumont
  • My whole life I never was really interested in coming to Europe. I was more interested in wanting to go to the beaches and the party scene. But now coming and experiencing this amazing trip has changed my thoughts about Europe. I never want to leave and I believe one day I will live here. It has everything to offer, from history, culture, mountains, beaches, fabulous people and of course the cute guys! I have experienced a lot of the world and Europe was surprised me the most. Every trip has changed my life in some way and this trip has opened my eyes to so many more opportunities. I have met so many new friends and that's one reason I love to travel, meeting people all over the world is what I live for. Bec has been an inspiration to me. She has giving me hope that one day I will be able to have my dream job to travel and to show others our beautiful world we live in. Miki couldn't be more rad as a coach driver. He has made this trip happen for us! So thankful and blessed to be here. I love Europe and I love Contiki! Forever thankful. - Tonni Fudge
  • This trip to Europe has been my first trip out of North America, and I can't definitely say that this will not be my last. This experience has been incredible and so eye opening. I had no idea what I was in for and had no idea what to expect, but with the guidance of Bec, Miki, and Contiki I have learned so much and definitely caught the so called "travel bug". I loved travelling around with all my friends and making new ones within these two weeks, and can't wait to meet more people throughout my travels. Bec has been an amazing tour manager and I couldn't even imagine what it would be like without her. She is such a sweetheart and has made me want to get out into the world and make an impact on everyone I meet. And I can't forget about Miki, he is the whole reason why we are here. He is a very knowledgable driver and a very awesome guy. I am so sad to see this trip come to an end. I have made so many memories and this trip will forever be in my heart. #noregrets -Andreen Steele <3
  • This trip has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Europe and Contiki are both such an awesome balance between education and fun. This experience has reassured me that travel and tourism is what I want to do for the rest of my life! Bec has been an inspiration because of her passion for her job and her ability to light up everyone's mood. I'm disappointed to see this trip coming to an end but I know I will be back very very soon maybe even to work for Contiki. Such a blessing to be here right now. Live the life you love:) -Maria Brenton

That is all for tonight. I will catch up on Lucerne and our visit to the Contiki Chateau in the next post. On to our final destination, Paris tomorrow. Long bus trip so lots of time to write. We hope you enjoyed the comments.

Posted by jonaway 14:04 Archived in France Comments (1)

Italia!

sunny 18 °C

And, once again, just like that welcome to Italy. our tour manager, Bec had a few surprises for us before we got to our hotel. The first was a bit of a side trip to the stunning town of Sirmione, located on Lake Garda. You can tell that this is a popular resort town with the number of hotels available. Our first treat was a walk around and lunch in the town center. The treat was that we were not stopping at a usually service centre for our afternoon meal. This gave the group the first chance to try the varieties of pizzas.

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Our next surprise was an unscheduled trip to Verona, the home of Romeo and Juliet. The local tradition is to write your love letter or story on a piece of paper and attach it to the wall close to the statue of Juliet. It is said that women of the town collect the letters and, in some case, respond to the person. Wthat that in mind Bec handed out paper for everyone to write their "letter to Juliet"! The city has it's' own version of a coliseum where outdoor theatrical performances occur throughout the summer. Imagine seeing Romeo and Juliet performed in this city of love! Bec treated us all to a gelato before making our way to see Juliet's balcony and the famous statue.

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Our only stop in this amazing country is Venice but because of the high costs of accommodation on the islands we are staying at a charming hotel on the mainland in the town of Mirano. Staying for two nights here is a treat as it gives everyone a chance to take a breath. We happen to be in Europe on a very special night, the finale of Eurovision. Imagine a cross between American Idol and The Voice, then add one country representative from about 40 plus European countries and add to that a bit of a crazy twist to the competition. Eurovision gave the world ABBA who won singing Waterloo and went on to worldwide fame. Bec is a HUGE fan so she arranged for a viewing of Eurovision tonight. In true Eurovision style we all dressed in the craziest outfits we could for the big event. the winner was a guy from Austria. Curious to see what we are talking about? Google Conchita Wurst, Eurovision 2014 winner.

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The group spent every available minute in Venice, 12 hours of non-stop fun. Most of the group enjoyed their first taste of the city by taking a 30 minute gondola ride. From there we stopped at the Murano glass factory for a short demonstration and then we were off for a walking tour of some of the city. from there we had about 5 hours to explore and shop and eat and drink. The best shopping deals were for Italian leather, Murano glass and carnival masks.

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For our Italian feast tonight we donned out newly purchased Venitian masks and headed for a delightful traditional meal. After trying the Antipasto with meats and grilled veggies, risotto and then four kinds of pasta we were all starting to see "our food baby" developing. The whole evening was outstanding and very memorable.

The end of our stay was complete with an incredible thunder and light night storm in the distance. st. Mark's Square even flooded a bit for us just to give us a feel for what happens to this city on an island (or islands).

Posted by jonaway 21:51 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Culinary treats

Food, glorious food.

Unlike previous blogs this European blog has been a bit challenging to write. When travelling in a totally different country, such as Egypt, Turkey or Peru there is so much to write about the culture. Europe is so familiar to so many people so I thought I would like to write a bit about the food and drink, the differences and similarities between the countries and some of our favorite things.

Great Britain - is known for its excellent pub food, Cadbury chocolate, and fish and chips. I think the trip to the Food Hall at Harrods Department Store was one of the highlights. Of course, no trip to the U.K. Would be complete without trying one of the excellent ales and porters in the pub.

The Netherlands - there were many memorable types of food. First, the variety of cheeses are most unlimited. Holland is home to the world famous Edam cheese. In addition, pomme frittes are served throughout the country and are often served with mayonnaise. Pannenkoken is a popular dish available throughput the day. This thin pancake is served plain with icing sugar and fresh lemon, with apples and cinnamon or a variety of other ways. When served it looks enormous however we seems quite able to clean our plates.

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Amsterdam is also home to the Heineken brewery. Unfortunately our time was limited so a visit was not possible this time. For those wanting to try some different drink we can recommend Pisang Ambon (banana liqueur), Bolshevik liqueurs and gene over, a Dutch style dry gin.

Germany - Let's first say that the Germans love their carbs. Dumpling, spatzle and potatoes are a staple on any dinner plate. Pretzels, fresh out of the oven are soft, warm and salty. And the Germans like their meat dishes which can include pork knuckle, Wiener schnitzels and all types of wurst (sausages). And a stop in Germany would not be complete without a tast of the local beers, especially at the Hofbrahaus. This is also home to many fine wines, especially the Rieslings of the Rhine Valley. And for desert, Ritter sport chocolate bars are available everywhere.

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Austria - the cuisine in Austria features schnitzel and beef goulash (taken from the bordering Hungary). The baking students that are on this trip may have sampled some of the local deserts including sachre torte - chiocolate cake with an apricot filling) and again, Apple Strudel. Austria is also known for schnapps, with over a hundred different flavours ranging from absinthe to hazelnut.

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Italy - What's not to love about the food and drink of Italy. From the moment we crossed the border we have seen the vineyards of the country. Venice is well known for the introduction of the Bellini. The version served here is from premade bottle and has a lovely refreshing peach flavour. For those needing a refreshing change try Aperzol Spritz, a Campari like soda. Pizza and pasta are the local favs for food. Check out the Venice day of our blog for more on a typical Italian dinner. And for desert, no trip to Italy would be complete without a stop for gelato. It is always hard to choose which one to try. For those who can't make a decision try two. My favorite so far is the lemon and cassis (black current). Yummy!

And how the Europeans love there coffee. No offence Tim Hortons but European coffee is the best!
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Posted by jonaway 21:44 Comments (1)

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