In 1990 I used to work with an Australian called Rob. He had been on a Contiki tour and highly recommended it to me, but until I stepped onto the bus I had no idea that I was going to be the only Limey along! But hey the Ozzys, Kiwis and South Africans were up for a good time so I had no worries there.
We sailed to Belgium first over a very choppy sea. Here the tour combined to make a full bus; the other half had already seen the delights of Amsterdam.
During his speech introducing the tour George, the tour guide, told us that if we were not there for the bus he would leave us behind, assuming that we were ‘having a good time’. Of course the tour saying became ‘if you miss the bus you’re having a good time’. He also playied the Monkies every day we setoff in the coach.
There was only one blight on the tour when one of the girls was knocked over by a car in Florence. Watch those mad italian drivers, they are lunatics. She had a few superficial injuries and rejoined us a few days later (girl in ‘bear behind’ pic, with the ‘bear behind’ on the photo’s page).
The rest of the tour was a great time of partying and seeing Europe, never to be forgotten.
Included: France (Paris, Fontainbleau, Beaujolais, French Riviera, Monaco), Italy (Pisa, Florence, Rome, Venice), Germany (Munich, Heidelberg, Rhine Valley), Belgium, Switzerland (Lucerne, Jungfrau), Austria, Holland, Liechtenstein.
So I had to get from Thetford, Norfolk, UK to Russell Square, London first. By coach and then tube. In my early days of travel I took a massive suitcase and was wasted when I got there. The woman on Contiki reception said so and I managed to mutter that I had come from Victoria. She replied that load of other people had come a lot further i.e. Australia. ?ot carrying a whacking great suitcase all the way, I thought.
One night was spent at the Russell Square hotel, with a view of the BT telecom tower from the window, then off in the morning by coach to the Dover ferry. As I saw the white cliffs of Dover disappear I was not ready for the crossing to follow. It was very choppy and I had to lay on the floor all the way to avoid throwing up. The ferry was on the way to Belgium and Zeebrugge to meet up with the coach. Here two tours were to combine to make a full bus.
Then followed a long journey across Belgium into France and then onto Paris. We entered Paris is it started to get dark and by the time we reached the arc de triomphe is was fully dark. It was quite a strange experience and a memorable way to come into Paris. Then there was a sort tour of Paris by coach and we saw the famous view of the yellow headlights and red taillights in a long line heading away down the Champs Elys?s. We stopped to take photos of the Eiffel tower at night and then onto the camp site and a chalet for the night.
Next day it was the Paris thing with the Eiffel tower, Notre Dam, the Louvre for a peak at the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, then the arc de triomphe in daylight. Later that night it was the Can Can at a club in the Paris Red Light district. Two nights in Paris included a disco. The in tune at the time was the Loveshack by the B-52’s which the Australians loved.
Next day we were on our way to Fontainbleau to look at the grand house and then onto the Beaujolais region for wine tasting and a picnic, oh and a disco with the Loveshack again probably. Then onto Cannes and Monaco on the French Riviera in the South of France, where I was not allowed in any of the casinos and I looked too young! All us young looking ones had to walk around all night instead. Still we were able to walk around the grand prix circuit and look at some very expensive boats.
After this it was on past the leaning tower of Pisa, and it does. Then a lovely journey to Florence long the famous Italian roads long the roads which cut through mountains and then across bridges, made famous in the opening shots of ?he Italian Job as a Lamborghini Miura speeds along them. Each bridge has a great view of the valley bellow.
Florence was a nice city with the Ferrari museum sitting high over great views of the city, some Michelangelo painting and the statue of David. Here, after coming back from a pasta meal, (which gave us all the shits) ice cream and ?hen Harry met Sally at the cinema: one of the girls stepped in front of a mad Italian driver, she was ok but had to spend a few days in hospital and re-join us later in the trip. Florence was where the group photo was taken.
Rome included the amazing St. Peters where we went to the top of the dome, which makes St. Paul? in London look silly. Watching a pockets due to the abundant pick-pockets was made our way to the Coliseum. In Venice we all took Gondola rides and explored the narrow streets between the canals. Venice is very nice and I would love to go back for longer.
In Hopfgarten, Austria I took a mountain bike and saw some great scenery, also up a ski lift (with no skis) to see some big views. Here we did white water rafting and it was great fun falling down a steep river in foaming water on a rubber tube full of air. Onto Switzerland and the Yungfrau the highest mountain range in Europe. You take a train up to the top where there is snow all year round. As we drove into Switzerland it was a strand feeling as we climbed up a steep valley side in the bus, only to get to the top and have to climb another! We just seemed to go up and up. Lucerne was a very pretty city on the edge of a great lake and then it was bye to Switzerland.
In Munich we arrived in the Octoberfest and as is the custom with the famous beer festival we spent the evening in a beer hall, drinking beer. As you sup your stein and listen to umpapa music. We also had a Chinese meal in a floating restaurant, very in-keeping! This included a disco with the Loveshack again. Then onto Heidelberg which is a really nice looking city, after this we headed up the Rhine Valley past loads of castles and the Black Forest, but we didn? have and gateau.
After this it was onto Amsterdam via a Dutch fishing village. In the dam we were treated to: the van Gogh Museum, I had never been much of a fan but seeing his paintings in front of my eyes changed my mind, and a sex show, which did not make me a fan of sex shows.
Then we had two partings as the trip that joined us departed first and then we were on our way back to London. One more night in the Russell Square hotel and I made my way back to Thetford with my massive suitcase and lots of memories.