Wednesday, April 20, 2011

European Magic

Huge gratitude to Contiki for sending me and my sister on 9 days European Magic tour to 6 countries that was amazing!

Start from the preparations which is from Singapore, I met Tina, a representative of Contiki Singapore to get all the stuff done, some pebbles are met along the way such as visa requirement (I'm Indonesian so most countries I went need visa), flight, and since I can't go to London first I will meet the group in Amsterdam. 411: Most Contiki tours start from London, they have like a headquarter there.

Finally after all things are settled we just wait until departure time. Tina was a great help, she even help my sister with her Visa, she even call the embassy to help smoothing things up. It was a stressful time for us but the result is worth every sweat.

We fly with Malaysia Airlines to Amsterdam on 14th of January 2011. We were super excited. For you who don't know what is this all about, me and my sis are the winner of Dynamic Duo Competition held by Contiki.

Since we lived in Indonesia during the departure, we provided our own return flight to and from Singapore.

After 40 minutes flight to Singapore + 1 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur + 13 hours flight to Amsterdam (not including all the transit time), we finally reach Amsterdam's Schiphol. And it was cold there.

There we are, me and my sis, so happy to finally touch the ground to our land of destination, we know that we got a lot of excitement going on. We check in at ibis Schiphol and it was a breeze. While waiting, we take a shower, a nap (to say good bye to our jet lag and effect of the cramped seat on our flight). And we went back to the airport since ibis have a free shuttle bus going on and we love to shop, there are so many brands that we are looking for like H&M, The Body Shop and many more. Since it was cold I was entertained to see the Body Butter sold need to be mixed first.

Around dinner time we finally met the groups, the first couple that we greet they are from Philippines, they are friendly, well most are. I have a good feeling it was gonna be a fun was.

Then we met Rachel, she was the tour manager with a sweet British accent. After the prep, we gather at the bus and on with the tour. There are many option open for the tour for extra money, we didn't take it all since I guess I was more interested in free and easy, and my sis want to save her money for shopping. So like the canal tour, wine excursion, etc she prefer spa inside the hotel or have an adventure on our own.

Amsterdam is a picturesque place, so many beautiful buildings, spots and it's just lovely. Many knows Amsterdam just for the red light district and cannabis, but it was so beyond that. They have many historical buildings, cultures, and the natures are just gorgeous. They have theme parks too and the food is delicious. Indonesia was under Dutch for 350 years so some of our food and language is influenced by them. Word like Apotik, kantor, parkir, gratis, are all there. First I found it so funny, like I'm in the middle of a mall in Jakarta.

Then after staying a night at Amsterdam we head on to Germany, a small town called St.Goar where it was flooded when we went there. While the rest of the group party at the bar downstairs, me and my sis are sleeping. We were exhausted, I couldn't even hear a thing while my sis said they are so noisy, I guess it's just us and the Japanese girl name Chizu that sleep early.

So the next day when we were on Munich, we pay back by having beers at Hofbrauhaus.

There's a like almost all the varieties of young people there (Contiki is for 18-35 only), couples, married couples, singles, family (like cousins), sisters, friends, and solo travelers. So wherever your selections goes too, join up! There's always a place for you.

In my group tour I met people from so many places and we all just blend along. South Africa, New Zealand, Japan, USA, but most of them are from Australia. I bet Contiki are really famous there.

This is my picture with Minyu and Rachel. Outside the Hofbrauhaus.

On the next day we stop by in Austria, a very lovely city and nice people. I bought a girl's traditional dress for a half price. They have a famous Chocolate Cake there called Sacher Torte, it was crisp on the outside with citrus flavor and a bit more moist inside. They served it with a coin of dark chocolate and whipped cream. It was a delightful dessert for me. 5 Euro for a slice I say it worth the prize. We have that dessert at cafe that Rachel told us. Everyday she would gives us a sheet of famous places, famous culture, simple local words, maps, we found it helpful since we like to walk on our own.

And in each time we hit the hotel, Rachel ask us to make a day sheet of our schedule, things to do and prepare. Always read them and you can keep up. Some hotel doesn't have elevator so Rachel told us to bring an overnight bag and leave the rest in the couch. We go everywhere with that bus.

I thought I have to stop in every city for a passport check, in Schengen countries it seems like you just need to check in and out at the first and last country.

Looking at the Gondola you know where it is....YUP, Venice, Italy. A romantic country that was so cold when we went there.

We join a local tour and take a walk around the small town. Many stores catch our eyes, until this day I'm still regretting for didn't buy that boots there. Thanks sis!

There's no way we missed the famous pizza, it was superb. Best pizza I ever tasted. They are thin and wide. The olives, the cheese, the crust, I guess it's right, you haven't try pizza until you went to Italy, it was different. They say the water is different there, so even thou' you went to the famous pizza place outside Italy with an Italian chef if all the ingredients not from Italy, it is different, and I stand by it.

After Venice, we went to Lucerne, Swiss. A night in a jail hotel was something to remember alright. It was snowing hard, and I love it! My sis love it! It was our first snow fall. We've seen and tasted and felt snow before but not the fresh one that drops from the sky. It was beautiful. We didn't feel any cold, just happiness. It's a magic thing snow can do.

Then it was Paris. You want to see pics of Paris? Google up, it was that pretty. It was surreal, I thought Swiss was my highlight, it was Paris as soon as I landed my foot on. My sis was confuse what happened to me, but she got the germs too ^0^

If you haven't visit Paris, you're missing a lot!

After a breakfast at the hotel, it was a free day for us. So we walk on the street of Paris, we bought a tourist card so we can enjoy RER, subway, bus, etc, for 2 day. We went here and there so we get all the Paris and beyond.

We bought French perfume, eat their crepes and even almost got mugged on the subway. The shocking part is girls like 15 years old that try to pick pockets, thank God she didn't made it.

So watch out travelers, no matter where you are, stay safe, be safe and always in alert mode.

This is Michael (Geordie) our driver. He was hilarious. He joke a lot and I see he have a fan from our group. I think many tour managers and drivers in Contiki are a very attractive people, some in their own ways and some just obvious, I see in their website they have a forum and on the Facebook you can see what they look like. Many pretty people there ^_*

Contiki website provide me with many info regarding my trip to confirming the trip too. So make sure you check them out. After the tour we can also gather at the forum, some even have gathering again.

Last but not least is Disneyland Paris. While some of the groups went Moulin Rouge, we are more 'young' at heart choose Disneyland and shop shop shop.

The next day is the last day. We departed before everyone waking up. So we made our own way to Charles De Gaulle Airport by train. Some went back to London, some stays, some continuing their adventure in Europe.

We have a blast of fun with Contiki, so if you fall in the category of their age limit, you are in the lucky zone.

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