After attending the travel show yesterday and networking with many new people that share the same passion to explore different cultures all over the world, I got the desire to share about a fabulous trip I had the opportunity to take 2 ½ years ago. Part of the journey for my fabulous trip I took was made possible by the company Contiki. Contiki is a tour company that offers 18-35 year olds different ways of travel that include Superior (hotels), Superior Easy Pace (hotels & relaxed pace), Budget ( a mix of
cabins, hostels, and budget hotels), and Camping. In addition to the different ways of travel, there are also different types of trips, such as short breaks, festivals & events, winter getaways, beach trips, cruises, trips over the holidays, and ski trips. Contiki destinations include Europe, Asia, Latin America, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand & Egypt. There are 260 tours that range anywhere from one day to forty-eight days! All of the tours offer different sightseeing experiences, excursions, some meals, and optional excursions.
I was very excited to participate in a Contiki Adventure in June 2010! I had first heard of Contiki Tours when I was in high school because my mom wanted to send me as a high school graduation present on a Contiki tour to Europe. I was quite resistant in that I was afraid to travel alone, but I must say after completing a Contiki tour myself as an adult in my 30’s I was very excited to see that there was such a wide variety of people in our tour group ranging from age 18-35. I literally came home with 36 new facebook friends and a lifetime of memories I will treasure forever. The people that I met in my tour group that I spent 12 lovely days with came from such different backgrounds and came on the tour for different reasons, but we were all there to explore new cultures and territories throughout Europe on our tour, which was called, “Amsterdam to
Barcelona.” In our tour group there were people that came alone, in groups of friends, and couples. We really all melded together as a family as we set out to explore new sights, experience new activities, taste new foods, and meet new people. My husband and I went as a couple for our five year wedding anniversary, but I must say we never once felt excluded..We even took on the 18 year old Canadian girls (a group of sisters and friends) as our surrogate children 🙂
To start our European adventure, my husband & I started our vacation a little early in London, England prior to meeting up with our tour group in Amsterdam. We extended our holiday by adding on three days in England at the beginning and an extra day in Amsterdam prior to the tour groups’ meeting day. Before we set out to Europe, I had the opportunity to network on the Contiki discussion board on their website and socialize with future people I was to meet in my tour group. Ironically, there was one person that my husband and I ended up meeting with for drinks prior to our travel experience because she lived only 35 minutes away from us. This was exciting. We ended up meeting up with our Orange County, California connection on our first day in Amsterdam for breakfast and to go to the Heineken Brewery tour, since we had all arrived a
day ahead of schedule.:) With Contiki tours, an awesome feature is that you have the option to add on days at the beginning of your trip to the first city in which you arrive as well as to add extra days at the end of your trip in the last city you visit. This is a nice perk because Contiki has pre-purchased fixed hotel rates in their group code which are a better price than if you were to select a hotel and purchase a room on your own. In our tour there were also 10 breakfasts and 5 dinners included in our low price of $1800 I got booking through Affordable Tours. (They are an awesome company that always has discount travel rates).
Our first city we hit as I said was England on our own which was a fabulous place to explore. We both had never been to London before and set out to see the London Bridge, the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, Get lost, ride the subways, ride the double Decker bus and get dropped off at different landmarks to explore, meet the people and hit the local pubs. We had a great time in London and tried many fabulous restaurants. It was nice that we spoke the same language. While in London, we found a Contiki office, as most cities in Europe have these sorts of offices for Contiki travelers. There is a lounge area to hang out, free wifi, and knowledgeable staff that can direct you and tell you different areas to visit and how to get there, as well as the best type of transportation to use.
The next city we hit was Amsterdam in the Netherlands, which was the city in which we met up with our tour group after spending the first day settling in and going with our friend we made from home that was on our tour group to the Heineken Brewery tour. The Heineken tour was awesome in that when I went to Amsterdam with my family, I was unable to enjoy the beer at the end of the tour because I was only 15 years old. The Heineken tour was only $15 and we had the opportunity to see how beer was made, check out some art work, make a video singing Dutch music, and get 2 beers at the end of the tour. Everyone is given a green bracelet with 2 tabs for beers and most people throw one or both away that don’t drink, so you can easily sit in the brewery and continue to marinate for free if you choose to do so.
In meeting up with our tour group in Amsterdam, we had the opportunity to do a canal cruise with a buffet and unlimited drinks. While this was not a Contiki included activity, it was well worth the canal cruise for 30 Euro. While in Amsterdam we also had the opportunity to check out the Red Light District, visit a cheese farm & clog maker’s house, take a bike tour through the city of Edam and see awesome canals and windmills.
From Amsterdam we traveled on to Paris and were excited to see Paris by night as we arrived in the evening. I must say, it was a gorgeous city with many beautiful lights and buildings. Our day in Paris was really at leisure to explore what we decided to see, but there was an optional group Eiffel Tower Photo and the optional dinner and Moulin Rouge Show. We took advantage of both of these and to this day, I have the group photo in front of the Eiffel Tower on my mantel.:) The Moulin Rouge Show was also a fabulous
night to remember and we all trekked into a local bar following the show and had a blast! On our second day in Paris, my husband and I decided to seek out Jim Morrison’s grave which was an adventure in itself, but that is a whole other story…Let’s just say, it is very hard to navigate your way around Paris upon arrival and it takes awhile to learn their system and it took us awhile to find someone that helped us find our destination..
Upon leaving Paris, we went on to Lucerne, Switzerland where we had the opportunity to stay in a hotel that was a former jail, which I must say was quite interesting…Lucerne is a gorgeous city where we had the opportunity to do an optional cruise around Lake Lucerne that was fabulous!! This river cruise gave me some of the most breathtaking views of the city! In the evening we were fed dinner by the local jail hotel. (It was ok food..not the best) and then we walked through the cobblestone streets to a local dance bar that was super fun and we all had a
few drinks, danced, and let loose..Good times for sure. In looking at the Contiki website and this specific tour, I see it has now changed and there are two new optional excursions in Lucerne that have been added. These two options are a Swiss fondue dinner (apparently not many people liked the jail hotel food…hahaha) and an option for seeing Mt. Pilatus, an Alpine mountain, which I am sure would be gorgeous.
From Lucerne, we next traveled to Nice, France along the gorgeous French Riviera. This was really a gorgeous sight for the eyes. Nice was a fabulous place to visit with gorgeous beaches and friendly people. We stopped at a French Perfumery on the way and got to sample and buy products. These were fabulous memories. While in Nice, we had some free time to wander the city and hit the gorgeous beaches (these are nude beaches might I add.) There was also some fun nightlife. There is one bar in particular that we all fell in love with called Ma Nolan’s. Our tour guide, Emmo was notorious for partying with us
nightly, but on this one night in Nice our bus driver, Hans that was from Rotterdam, Netherlands came out to party with us! Great times again and great people…we all had so much fun.. My pictures definitely show that!
A close drive from Nice is Monaco, where we saw the gorgeous Monte Carlo Casino and the port of Monaco with many boats and blue waters. We all decided to take part in the 35 Euro optional dinner in a nice restaurant and it happened to be my husband and I’s official five year anniversary and was a very romantic night.:)
Our last city that we arrived at on our exciting fun – filled trip was Barcelona. Barcelona is a very lively city with a lot to see and do. It reminded me of my adventures in Rome back in 2003, but that is a whole other article. Upon arriving in Barcelona, we got to make a stop at the famous Sagrada Familia Catholic Church that has been in construction since 1852 and was designed by the famous Architect, Antoni Gaudi. After stopping at the church we made our way to our
hotel which was in the Catalonia area and very close to La Rambla, which is a long street packed with street acts, shopping, and small tapas & sangria places that had some of the best food ever. We thoroughly enjoyed 3 nights in Barcelona with our Contiki group, than sadly said goodbye. Some of the people stayed an extra 2 days like we did so we continued to explore with them which was great, but all good things come to an end.
I definitely recommend Contiki Tours to anyone in the 18-35 age group that is interested in travelling with a fun group of like minded people that want to enjoy both day and night activities. I met some great people and we did dinner with one of the friends we made in Australia when he happened to be visiting California. We also stayed in touch with someone that is here in the Los Angeles area from our group. I
am happy to say that there are still people I interact with on facebook that are all over the United States, Canada, and Australia. Contiki is truly an awesome way to meet new people, travel the world, and have a blast!! If you are planning to travel and are between the ages of 18 & 35, definitely check out Contiki Tours! For the shortened version of this post go here: Short Version This post is also featured on the Contiki Blog website! Go here for their post: Contiki Blog Website
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