A Travellerspoint blog

The Final Leg!

Still sick, but still loving every moment

semi-overcast 23 °C

Hello!

First of all, I have to say congrats to my cousin Lindz and her hubby, Tom on the arrival of their handsome baby boy, James!! I'm so excited for you guys and I can't WAIT to meet him.

Also, today I am missing two weddings, so I want to say congrats to my cousin Todd and his new bride Jen and also to my buddy Carolyn and her new hubby, Steve. Hope you all had a wonderful day....wish I was there!

All right, this is it! I'm back in London, still coughing up a storm and ready to head home! I'm here tonight and tomorrow night, then I fly home Monday.....YEAH! I've had an amazing time, but I'm ready to come home and sleep in my own bed. I hear that Belle has been keeping it warm for me and I can't wait to cuddle my puppies....missing them tons!

I last left off in Austria.....wow, lots of catching up to do. I'll try my best to remember everything, as I don't have my travel journal with me. So, we left Austria and headed to Germany. On the way, we stopped at the Swarovski Crystal museum and store. It was pretty neat, although I could have done a lot more damage in the store! I was extremely good compared to others.

Next we headed to the Drachau concentration camp. This was really emotional. We had only about an hour to explore and I really wish we'd had longer. I got the impression that others felt it was almost too emotional, but having studing Germany and the wars, I thought this was the perfect "field trip" to tie together all I'd learned. I could not believe the living conditions and felt almost moved to tears by some of the images.

We continued on to Munich where we would only be spending one night. For dinner we went to a German beerhall. At the hall they only serve beer by the litre! I don't like beer, so instead I had Spezi (a mix of Sprite and Pepsi) by the litre! LOL A man came around and took pictures, there was a live band and girls wearing traditional clothing performing dances and playing songs using bells. It was really cool and reminded me of Oktoberfest.

Unfortunately, most of us felt that our time in Munich was mostly a waste because our couple of hours spent in town were spent window shopping as it was a Sunday and everything was closed! Therefore, my discussion of Munich is now finished.

On to Switzerland with a stop in Liechtenstien, the 4th smallest county in the world. The population is something like 30 000, but the number of registered businesses is over 100 000 due to the bank accounts (like Swiss accounts). Here we had chicken schnitzel on a bun for lunch and got our passports stamped. Due to the EU (European Union) regulations, we did not have to get our passports stamped in any country after France. All countries in the Union have a free passage policy. Since Liechtenstien and Switzerland do not fall under this category, you can get a souvenier stamp on you passport for 2 euro.

We continue on our way to Switzerland. The weather was cloudy and rainy again, so we couldn't really appreciate the views as much as I'm sure we could have. We stopped to do some shopping (swiss army knives, watches, chocolate etc.) then headed to the Contiki Stopover. This time we stayed in a chalet, rather than cabins, at the base of Jungfrau mountian. It was really beautiful. We ate dinner, then went to bed!

The next day we had the option of going up a cog railway to the top of the mountain. Unfortunately, it was raining, and snowing at the top, so almost everyone chose not to spend a lot of money and time to get to the top and not be able to see anything. A few people who had never seen snow before chose to go anyway - this was obviously not the case for me! Instead, a group of us decided to walk into town and do a bit of shopping. Then, we took a gondola up the mountain. At the top we took a train across to a town called Mullen. We explored the town, ate lunch took pictures then walked to another gondola. This gondola took us back down. At the based we took a bus to another cool sightseeing spot. We went to a waterfall that was inside a cave! I believe it was the runoff from a glazier, but I'm not sure. It was very cool. We had a take a lift inside the cave, called a "tunnel lift". That night back at the chalet was Swisco night (Swiss Disco). Everyone was dressed in Swiss red and white - it kind of felt like Canada Day! It was a big party night and a really great time!

We were off to Germany again the next day! Today we stopped in Heidelberg for a couple of hours. As we drove through this part of Germany I was struck by the landscape. It kind of looked like what I image Scotland to look like with mountain and castles all around. Heidelberg was very cute - bought shoes and a dress.

We continued on to the Rhine Valley and St. Goar. Here we had dinner, saw the world's biggest cockoo clock and went to a beer stein maker. They designed a very special Contiki stein - bought one, even though I don't drink beer. Once we got to the small town and hotel (more like a B&B) that we were staying at, we walked a short distance to a wine cellar where we enjoyed a candlelite tasting. OH, MY, GOSH was this wine EVER good. I bought a rose, a white and a bottle of icewine. The man refered to the Niagra region icewine and said that this was a much more economical option than the Niagra version. Early to bed tonight!

Our last stop was Amsterdam! Along the way we made some stops. First we went to a cheese and clog maker - bought more - then we went for a bike ride around town. This was VERY cool. I will not say much more about our time in Amsterdam, because as they say - "What happens in Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam"....or something like that. I will say that it was a great place to end the tour.

Thanks so much for reading everyone. I've had the greatest time of my life! I can't wait to get home and see people and show off pictures etc.

Love and hugs,
Ash

Posted by AshS 07.08.2010 11:51 Archived in Netherlands Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Venetiza!

The Gondola Ride in the Monsoon!

sunny 26 °C

Hi Everyone,

So, I last left off on my way to Venice. It was a long ride as we had to go back through Florence to pick up our bus driver. They have a very strict number of hours they can drive, so they must take days off. Therefore, we had a shuttle driver take us to and from Rome while Derrick rested in Florence.

Once Derrick was back, we were on our way! About half way to Venice stopped in the city of Bologna. It is a city of about 400 000 with still a very strong Communist stronghold. They are also unique to Italy because of their love of basketball more than soccer. Those are about the coolest things about Bologna. Otherwise, it wasn't very pretty and there wasn't much to see. We stayed for about an hour. I bought a cool ring with butterflies on it.

Once we got to Venice we enjoyed a yummy meal at our campground. There was a "Beach Party" happening there that night with competitions between Contiki buses. Naturally, the best bus of all won! Together the people of our bus enjoyed 3 bottles of champagne while dancing up a storm! We had a GREAT time that night.

The next day we were up bright and early to catch the ferry over to Venice. When we got there we met our tourguide. We got to wear those cool little boxes around our necks and listen to her with headphones! She quickly pointed out that the sky looked scary. We began walking and listening to her explain things and then it began to rain. I did not have an umbrella or raincoat, so I got wet!

The tour ended and a few of us decided to grab some lunch and shop before our gondola ride. It didn't rain much during our shopping adventure at which time I spent loads of money (shoes and a bag and lots of other souveniers)!
We met the group and our tour manager, Seb and walked to a glass blowing demonstration. This was very cool. I bought a necklace.

Next we went to a lace demonstration. It was really interesting. I didn't realize beforehand that Venice was so well known for its lace. I bought a tablecloth and napkins - for the house I don't own yet!

Okay, so next is what you've all been waiting for......THE GONDOLA RIDE! Well, there were 6 of us per gondola and a fat Venetian driver. We loaded, took a bunch of pictures then turned down the first canal - RAINDROP, RAINDROP, RAINDROP. "Do you think I need to open the umbrella I bought, girls?" That was a stupid question. I've never been so cold and wet in my life! It just poured and poured on us. We stopped under a bridge for a bit, but then our crazy diver just continued on! All I kept thinking about was - protect the hundreds of dollars of stuff you bought today. So, the front of me was dry, but I had to sacrifice my bottom - and dry underpants to save the items. The girls on the boat had a good laugh at the water streaming down my butt crack. In all though, we were still having a great laugh and enjoyed ourselves the best we could.

We headed back towards the ferry, then to camp. I had a quiet night because my health is not that great - terrible cough and sore throat.

The next morning we were off to AUSTIA! We didn't have to drive as far today then we stopped for our White Water Rafting adventure. This was quite funny because we all had to get changed beside the bus (don't worry we had bathing suits on) into our wet suits and lifejackets. Then we took a group photo, broken into groups, had quick lessons and then carried our rafts to the water. The water was pretty darn cold, but beautifully fresh.

We got in our rafts and headed down river - the 'Inn' river which runs from Switzerland to Germany. The guide then said, "Okay, just up here we all swim" ......."Excuse me, what? Don't you hear me coughing up my lungs over here?" Yep, I went it.....purposely to the freezing cold RAPIDS! We had to practice getting people into the raft when they fall out, and we had to see what it was like to get pulled back it - great fun actually. We were pulling people in and falling all over each other - a good chuckle by all.

A cameraman took our photos as we continued on our way. Some people who didn't go also took photos from a bridge. We had a great time. I wished we could have been on higher grades of rapids - these were about a 2 out of 5. Maybe next time!

We headed off to our stopover - not a campground but a Contiki hostel this time. At this stop I am a "Cookie" someone who helps with the cooking and serving of food. Everyone has to take a turn. It was kind of fun and it brought back some of my serving skills from my time at the golf course! It was also a very yummy meal - schnitzel!

Today was our big adventure day. This morning I went on a mountain biking trek for about 12km. The whole group did a lot more, but I was having trouble breathing from my cough, and let's face it, was a bit out of shape for all the uphill climbs so a few of us turned back about half way. The views were more beautiful than words can descbribe - I felt like I was driving through a scene from "The Sound of Music".

When we got back we had a bbq lunch of sausage and baked potato. Yum! Then we took a shuttle van to 800m above sea level. This was the base for our tandem paragliding adventure. I took a gondola to the top (1450 m above sea level), then proceeded to run and jump off the edge! Crazy eh?! It was the scariest and BEST thing I've ever done in my life!

We started with a photoshoot at the top, then just after we ran and jumped off he took more pictures (while I was stearing) with a camera on the end of a long rod. Then he asked if I wanted to do rollercoaster - which meant he spun us in a circle as if we were out of contol and going to crash. First he asked if I wanted to videotape it, so I got out my camera and taped the whole rest of the ride, including the landing which involves simply landing on your bum!

I am extremely exhausted today so hopefully it will be another quiet night - I can't keep up with these crazy kids!
Tomorrow were off to Germany (MUNICH) with a stop at Dachau Concentration Camp.

Hugs,
Ash

Posted by AshS 31.07.2010 09:00 Archived in Austria Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Viva Italia!

Writing you from Roma!

sunny 34 °C

Bonjourno!

I have lots of catching up to do!

I guess I last left off on my way to Monaco. Well, that was outstanding! One of the most beautiful places I've ever seen in my life. Our tour manager and driver bought us wine and we drank a glass outside the front of the palace overlooking the bay with the gorgeous, huge cruise liners and yachts. Breathtaking.

Then we headed up to the casino in Monte Carlo. I thought it would be really busy inside, but it was rather quiet. I decided to spend 5 euro on the slots - the really cool ones with the handle to pull. I didn't do too badly, because when I cashed out, the ticket said 13.70! The coolest part was standing in front of the casino watching the 'richies' drive up in their flashy cars and the little valet guys would run about and treat them like gods.

The next day we headed off to ITALY! Before we left we went to a French Perfumery for a tour. It was quite neat. I bought myself some perfume - I'm sure you're all excited that I will smell better upon my return to Canada! LOL It was a long day of driving, but we did get to stop again in Pisa. I took the picture that Jenna and I had pre-planned and can't wait to show you all.

Next it was off to Florence. We got to our campground and got changed for dinner which was onsite. Then we headed into a karaoke bar called "The Red Garter". This bar served cocktails by the pitcher. Needless to say, it was a fun night! The next morning the coach took us into town where we went to a leather shop for a demonstration. The shop also sold jewerly. I bought myself some treasures here - and a little something for Jenna too.

After the leather shop, we met a guide for a walking tour of Florence. This guide was awesome at his job. We saw the statue of David and some other cool sites. I really found this one bridge quite fascinating. It had shops built on it, and out of the seven in Florence it was the ONLY one NOT to be destroyed by the Nazis!

This was quite a long day as we went back to camp and got changed then went back into town for a Tuscan dinner. It was YUMMMY! It began with antipasto, then three different types of pasta. For the main, was polenta, chicken in a mushroom sauce and salad. Dessert was a chocolate mouse cake. After dinner we walked to a club called "Space Electronic". It was a cool place, but we had an earlier night.

The next morning we headed to Rome. To our surprise, when we got there we had a walking tour of the Forum and Colosseum. WOW! Then I layed in the grass and stared up at the view for about 45 minutes before we met up with our tour manager who took us to a bunch of other sites.

The Pantheon was quite neat and I really loved the Trevi Fountain. Bet you didn't know they take 18 000 euro a MONTH out of that fountain - it was hot out, and I tell you, I had more than a thought our two about jumping in and grabbing myself a few hundred euro! LOL

Today was amazing - I went to the Vatican!!!! Soooo cool. I'm still feeling kind of overwhelmed about that one. I bought myself some rosaries and got yelled at in the Sistine Chapel for trying to take pictures! Tee hee It was just awesome. The awesomeness continued afterwards with the best pizza I've ever had in my life. At this shop you order the slices you want, then they weigh them and you pay by the weight. I might be ruined of Canadian pizza forever.

Tomorrow we're off to Venice. Getting excited about the gondola ride. Okay, I think I'm about to run out of time on the computer.

Love you all,
Ash

Posted by AshS 27.07.2010 09:23 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

Oh la la, Paris!

The city that blew my mind! And the gorgeous Beaujolais wine region

overcast 24 °C

July 19th - 22nd

Bonjour,

Sorry it's been so long since I've written, it's been very busy and there hasn't been easily accessible internet. I've been having a great time. Here's some of the highlights.

I met up with my group and we headed off to Paris. It was a bit uncomfortable at first because no one really knew anyone, but other than that, it was okay. We drove to the ferry at the White Cliffs of Dover (very pretty) and took the ferry, bus and all across the English Chanel. I've made friends with two sisters from New Zealand, so the three of us ate breakfast together on the ferry. I quickly discovered that I am not only the only Canadian on my bus, but I am the only person who is not from N.Z. or Australia. Needless to say, it's been interesting sifting through their accents, mate!

We arrived in Paris where we stayed in cabins at a campground. We went for a drive after dinner where our tour manager pointed out all of the big sites: Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc du Triumphe, etc. etc. About half way through the tour we stopped for champagne and escargot. I LOVED the escargot, yum yum. We went back to the campground and hung out for a bit, then went to bed because we had a big day of exploring Paris ahead of us.

The next morning we were dropped off at the base of the Eiffel Tower. We proceeded to climb the stairs, rather than take the elevator. Looking back, this may have been silly because it was probably about 35 degrees at 9am and quite humid! The view was awesome though, and I'm really glad I climbed the steps because now I can eat more brie and bagettes! :)

Next I headed off to see the Arc du Triumphe from up close. Along the way I stopped for a bagette sandwich, yum! Surrounding the Arc is the busiest roundabout in the world, so it would have been a challenge to get across. We found stairs that took you underneath and went over that way. It was cool.

I headed down the Champs Elysees with my friends and then broke off from them to head to Musee D'Orsay. So far, this may have been the highlight for me - standing less than 30 cm from Monet's "Nympheas bleus". Thanks for all the trips to museums and instilling a love of art in me Gramps, made this experience all the more fascinating and exciting.

That evening we went to dinner, where I had escargot again and enjoyed some (or lots of) wine. After dinner we walked down beautiful coblestone streets to the Caberet show. This was totally unbelievable! There was delicious champagne - I indulged a bit there as well - and fabulous performances.

After Caberet we went to a bar. To say the least, yesturday morning was not much fun! We're now staying in the most beautfiul Beaujolais wine region. We went to a wine tasting last night - just what I needed - and I purchased some wine for my Daddy! - Love ya Old Guy!

After dinner we had a dress up party - Freaks and Geeks. Today we were supposed to go on a picnic, but it's rainy, so everyone is catching up on email, etc. Thus, I have to go because, as the Aussies and Kiwis say, there's quite a "que" behind me.

Au revoir,
Ash

Posted by AshS 22.07.2010 03:13 Archived in France Comments (3)

London Baby!

I made it......

sunny 29 °C

Hello All,

Well, I headed off just as scheduled on "Thomas Cook" airlines (I know, I'd never heard of it either) at 6pm Toronto time. It had a lot of leg room but was freezing cold and didn't have personal t.v. screens, we had to all look at the same ones. The horror!

Straight away, (sounds very Britishy and posh, eh?) I met Eileen and Jeff. They were a lovey couple from Essex, England who had been on vacation in Canada and New York for two weeks and were just heading home. Eileen and I chatted away....I know, me chatting away, who would of thought it?! I was very greatful that I met them because they sort of took me under their wings and helped me in the Gatwick airport. We arrived about 15 minutes early in London and had to wait until another plane had pulled out until we could unload. I flew through customs and baggage claim.

I found the little man holding my name on a sign, but it was a lot less thrilling then I thought it was going to be. It was about an hour drive from the airport to my hotel. I got to see a lot of little "boroughs" that were very quaint. Each one had something in common with the other, a gas station and a pub!

I arrived at the hotel, which is MASSIVE, (I'm in room 6217, just to give you an idea of the size) only to find that there was not much open. I checked my luggage for the day and tried to call home. Apparently I have some difficulty with English phones, so I just used my cell phone - looking forward to the bill for that! :( I found a little coffee shop, ate and called home.

Once the desk for CONTIKI opened I went down and purchased a "hop on, hop off" sightseeing bus pass. It has a lot of different routes throughout the city with guided commentary either through headphones or a live person. At the first "hop off" I met an Australian girl who was trying to find the same route as I was. Her name is Paula and she is on a different contiki tour than I am. See is from Melbourne, which is one of my favourite cities in Australia! We laughed and joked about each other's acents and took pictures for each other in front of buildings and in red phone booths.

Paula and I really enjoyed ourselves seeing all of the sights. The bus pass also included a boat tour down the Thames with commentary on the buildings surrounding it. We saw the "Changing of the Guard" at Buckingham Palace....kinda boring. Saw the London Eye, London Bridge, London Tower, Westminster Abbey etc. etc.

I finally got to check into my room at about 2:30. I'm in a double room which means I will have a roomate I expect, but there wasn't anyone there yet. I'm meeting Paula and her roommate (another Aussie) for dinner at a Pub at 6pm and then I meet my Contiki group at 7pm.

I'm only just starting to feel quite tired and I expect I'll sleep well tonight. Thanks so much for all your well wishes. I'll try to keep updating as often as possible.

Love and hugs,
Ashley

Posted by AshS 18.07.2010 09:19 Archived in England Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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