Thursday's Child: The Contiki Tour

Thursday, May 17, 2012

For the last two weeks, I’ve written about my first trip overseas, when I spent a month living with a family in France.  Today I’ll be sharing some of the experiences I had the next time I visited Europe, in my twenties.

By that time, I had finished my undergraduate degree and worked a couple of years.  I was going back to school that fall to get a masters’ degree, and decided to take a few months off in the interim.  Through extremely frugal living, I had managed to save some money both for school and for travels.  This time, I planned a one-month trip with Contiki Holidays, followed by six weeks of backpacking.

Contiki’s tours are for young adults up to the age of 35.  And if you’re looking to see new countries while having a great time, it’s definitely the way to go.  Reading my journal, I was astounded at the late nights I had; going to bed at 11:00 or 12:00 was early.  I have no idea how we all had the stamina to get up the next morning to get on the tour bus, but we always did.  Apparently, it wasn’t enough to see the Vatican, the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Via del Corso, the Pantheon and Hadrian’s Castle in a single day; we had to follow it up with a dance in the evening.

One of the joys of this part of the trip was meeting my fellow tour mates.  I’ve written earlier about Jennifer (enjoying sacher torte in Vienna’s Demel café) and Ruth (sharing dreams in front of Munich’s Glockenspiel).  But there was a busload of us, many from Australia and New Zealand.  One of my most unforgettable taste sensations was eating vegemite on French bread.

We definitely encountered our share of hardships.  It was a particularly wet and cold season, and my umbrella became a constant companion.  The weather, the constant travel and (dare I say) those late nights conspired to give me a terrible cold.  In Europe I discovered that most potent of cough drops, Fisherman’s Friend, and learned how to buy them in three languages.  And I never did find out how early you had to get up to guarantee a steamy shower.  One particularly bleak morning I made it to the washroom by 5:45 am, only to find both a lineup and a dearth of hot water.

But the great moments more than made up for those troubles.  I’ll never forget standing in a valley near Interlaken, Switzerland on a Sunday morning, listening to church bells chiming and echoing through the mountains around me.  And I was astounded by the culture of Vienna, the history of Rome and the mystery of Venice.

The small moments were special too.  Who would have guessed that our bus driver would accept a dare to drive down the winding streets of Monaco, only to arrive at a hairpin turn he couldn’t quite manoeuver, and have to back up the whole way?  My friends and I developed a rating system for the gelaterias in Italy that would rival the Zagat system.  And the late-night chats, card games and hijinks were a reminder to enjoy the moment, because we’d never travel quite like this again. 

Next week, I’ll share some of the great moments I had while backpacking.

27 comments:

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds absolutely perfect! I've been to Scotland to visit grandparents - but never did get to mainland Europe. One of these days!

Looking forward to tales of backpacking!

Belinda said...

How fun!! I LOVE that photo - nowadays, 12 seems late!!

Valerie said...

Traveling creates some of The best memories! (I want to hear more about that "dancing" you did in the evenings.) :D

From the Kitchen said...

Ah, the stamina of youth! What lovely memories of a time gone by. I'm with Valerie--let's hear more of the dancing!! Ah sacher torte, a delicious memory.

Best,
Bonnie

Barbara said...

You have some great travel memories, Beth. Only the young can rough it like that and love it! :)

Rita said...

You have the talent with your words to make us live your travels. To be young again and have that energy would be so nice. Later today My post about your Chocolate cake will be published; we sure enjoyed it.
Rita

Carol said...

Sounds like the most wonderful trip, well maybe not a cold shower and a bad cold :) I'm enjoying reading about your travels, I was not as adventurous!

Beth said...

Thanks, Rita! I'll be sure to check it out. I'm so glad you liked it!

lisa is cooking said...

Sounds like you had some great moments, indeed! I'd love to taste enough Italian gelato to develop a rating system. Delicious!

Claudia said...

You just always had "itchy feet," didn't you? I love the experiences that you made happen. Rain or no rain - touring with others is unforgettable. Shared experiences will always be shared memories.

Janet Johnson said...

Oh, interlaken is so beautiful! You almost convince me to sign up for a tour right now. (Though I may or may not be too old anymore . . .) ;)

cookingmisadventures.com said...

I went on a tour of France at 18 with Contiki and loved it! And you're right, I met so many amazing people and had the best time.

love2dine said...

wonderful photos.

CJ - Food Stories said...

I love how you were able to buy cough drops in three languages ... What great memories ... Happy Weekend :-)

julie said...

You're bringing back so many amazing memories of traveling as a young adult. Those were definitely the days. I'm looking forward to hearing about your adventures in backpacking!

yummychunklet said...

Great photo!

Mary said...

I heard of Fisherman's Friend drops years ago and I had completely forgotten about them! Thanks for the reminder. You have some truly amazing travel memories, Beth. I love hearing about your visits.

gobakeyourself said...

Wonderful photos of travelling my friend - I love revisitng memories like this :D
Thanks for sharing!

Cheers
Choc Chip Uru

Medeia Sharif said...

What a great thing to travel as well as bond with people. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Have a wonderful weekend.

Kathy said...

Love reading about your traveling adventures! Such a fun and exciting time in your life!

Elaine said...

Great memories, Beth. Isn't it amazing what we can do in our twenties, but not later in life?!

Claire Davis said...

Love hearing the stories about your Europe trip. What a great opportunity and fun people :)

Angie's Recipes said...

You sure travel A LOT!

Miriam said...

You are so fortunate to have been able to travel so much, and at a young age!
Looks like it was fun :)
Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

Beth said...

You're right, Miriam. I've been very fortunate.
And yes, Claudia, I've always had itchy feet - and how it's enriched my life!

sally said...

Sounds like my Contiki tour! One of the things we use to say on our tour was that every night was a Saturday night and every morning was a Monday morning!

Ruth said...

Oh my... I'm just catching up on all your posts as I haven't been very diligent in the past couple of months. I'm glad I didn't miss this one! Gotta love my perm... One of my favourite memories is the Interlaken one - I clearly remember the different church bells echo through the valley, and the bleating of the little sheep. And the bronchitis! Everyone got sick. Ah, good times... :)

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