Contiki Day 4 – Stop in Innsbruck on way to Venice

4L1A3131This morning we were on the coach at 8:45 so we could drive from Munich Germany to Venice Italy. After 3 hours we arrived in Innsbruck Austria and stopped for a few hours to have lunch. The town is very small and quiet but also very cute. Our first stop was Swarovski crystals which started in a town nearby. We looked at all the expensive art, scopes, and jewelry before leaving with a small Christmas ornament. We then went to a schnapps shop to try some locally made schnapps. I got a sweet apricot one to bring home.4L1A3106 4L1A3104 4L1A3101

We then stopped at Piano where we had lunch. It’s a little cafe on the main drag. We all tried an Almdudler, which is an Austrian pop, and found that it tasted very similar to ginger ale but with more of a citrus flavor. I had potatoes with bacon and cheese. It was like super amazing breakfast hash browns covered in cordon blu stuffing. Chris had schnitzel which he says is very similar to what we get at home. 4L1A3111 4L1A3113 4L1A3115

After lunch we went to find me a key chain and stopped at the strudel shop to get strudels. We haven’t had a chance to eat them yet since we’re planning to save them for later. We then got back on the bus to finish driving to Venice. 4L1A3117 4L1A3116 4L1A3098 4L1A3099

Our hotel is a ways out of the city and typically Italian. We got in pretty late so we dumped out stuff in the room and went to dinner. It was blah. They started with lettuce with no dressing that was super bitter. Then lasagna that had very little meat or sauce. The noodles were so over cooked they were indistinguishable from the cheese. Then we had ice cream. One was lemon which is super popular but very strong and not yellow so it catches you by surprise. We then went to bed since we will spend a full day in Venice tomorrow.

Contiki Day 3 – Munich

In the morning we had breakfast in the hotel then met at the shop next door where we saw a beer stein demonstration. The shops then opened for us and we could buy beer steins, coco clocks and Birkenstock. I got a pair of Birkenstock before we took the coach from St. Goar to Munich.4L1A2979

In Munich we did a bicycle tour of the city. It was 3hr long but we stopped often and had lunch at a beer garden in one of the parks. We shared a pork knuckle, potatoes and a pretzel which were really good. Chris tried some German beer while I had a spritzi which is fanta and cola mixed together. I really liked my pop but Chris’ beer was pretty awful, he didn’t think so though. This was also the cheapest place in the city to buy beer glasses so Chris did the rest of the tour with two 1L beer glasses in the basket on his bike. When the tour ended we walked down to the beer house but decided to go inside later and instead went looking for a key  chain. We wandered around for awhile but it was so late everything was closed, plus the glasses were heavy. So we went back to the beer house and in their gift shop I found my key chain.4L1A3008 4L1A3013 4L1A3014 4L1A3016 4L1A3019 4L1A3020 4L1A3024 4L1A3029 4L1A3033 4L1A3036 4L1A3038 4L1A3044 4L1A3048 4L1A3056 4L1A3057

The bus then took us back to the hotel for the night.

Contiki Day 2 – Amsterdam and to St.Goar

The second day after breakfast we went back into Amsterdam. Our goal was to see the Anne Frank house, I Amsterdam sign and some churches. The tour bus dropped us off at Anne Frank were we immediately got in line, we were told the line would be about 20 min. Some 2.5 hours later we made it inside but due to time we had to rush thru the museum. I was able to stop in the bookstore and pickup a copy of the diary of Anne Frank. 4L1A2849 4L1A2850 4L1A2859 4L1A2864 4L1A2871 4L1A2872 4L1A2883

On the way back to the bus we grabbed some stroopwafels, sausage bun things, and a key-chain. Then we were back on the bus for the drive to St.Goar. Along the drive we saw many castles on the hillsides. Since we spent time in the morning in Amsterdam we got into St.Goar around dinner time. Dinner was at the hotel and was pork roast, spetzle, and gravy. It was good but not a very large meal, also the server was really sticky about manners. If you looked at your phone or didn’t say thank you he gave you attitude. 4L1A2893 4L1A2898 4L1A2916 4L1A2927 4L1A2928 4L1A2933

After dinner we walked around St.Goar, it was very quiet. We saw next to no one and all you could hear was the bell tower at the church. On one street as we went back to the hotel there was a class in a nearby building playing polka music. After so many big cities it almost seemed like we were the only people alive.4L1A2935 4L1A2939 4L1A2948 4L1A2954 4L1A2962 4L1A2964 4L1A2968

The hotel room was very simple. Cream walls and sheets, the bed was two twins pushed together with two comforters folded on top. No top sheet. The beds were new but it was odd.

Contiki Day 1 – London to Amsterdam

Today we woke up extra early so we could pack our things and make it to the bus. We made it one time and so far our luggage is under weight. We then all boarded and took our seats but two people hadn’t arrived yet. At the last minute one arrived but we were ten minutes late so we left without the other one. 4L1A2768 4L1A2779

We drove to Dover where we caught a ferry across the channel to France. When the ferry left we got a good view of the white cliffs of Dover and Dover castle. Once back on land we drove through France and Belgium to the Neatherlands. We got into Amsterdam I the evening where we checked into the hotel and had dinner at the hotel. Nothing Dutch and all very salty. After dinner the bus took us into Amsterdam where we got onto a boat for a cruise of the canals. It was neat to see all the houses and shops from the water. 4L1A28074L1A2831 4L1A2830 4L1A2824 4L1A2817 4L1A2815 4L1A2816

After our canal cruise out tour our tour manger took us through the red light district. It reminded me a lot of Vegas. In Vegas they have men handing out little cards with a picture advertising women. In Amsterdam the women are just standing in the window. It was odd though. The rest of the group continued on to see a live sex show but we made our way by tram back to the hotel.4L1A2837 4L1A2835 4L1A2842

London Day 2

Our first full day in London we slept in since the ticket office for the London Passes didn’t open until 10am. Then we went and picked them up and headed past Tafalfar square to Wearminster Palace and Westminster Abby. Since it was raining there would be no changing of the guards so we skipped Buckingham palace. After our walk through of the Abby we headed across the Thames to the London Eye. I bought day and night tickets so we could go twice and see London in both lights. The views were quite amazing and the capsule you are in didn’t rock or sway at all. 4L1A2492 4L1A2494 4L1A2510 4L1A2517 4L1A2533 4L1A2527 4L1A2541 4L1A25434L1A2557 4L1A2564 4L1A2590 4L1A2596 4L1A2600

Once I got some nice pictures and the ride was over we went on a boat tour on the Thames. The boat took us from the London Eye to the Tower Bridge with commentary along the way. 4L1A2604 4L1A2644

On land we toured the Tower of London and saw the Crown Jewels before heading to the Tower Bridge. There we climbed up the bridge and walked along a platform connecting the two sides of the bridge. 4L1A2663 4L1A2677 4L1A2680 4L1A2685 4L1A2688 4L1A2694 4L1A2698

As soon as we finished we rushed back to the metro to make it to our first Contiki meeting. It took over an hour and like four lines to make it but we did. We got our instructions for the next day then left. Since it was now dark we went back out to the London Eye to ride again and take more photos. 4L1A2746

For dinner we tracked down (on Google) where some fish and chips were, the nearest happened to be a Indian restaurant.

London Day 1

Our last morning in Rome we tried to sleep in but our neighbors decided to throw suitcases down the hallway (like I said Rome=rude). But once they left we fell back asleep. We ate breakfast at the hotel and got ready to leave. Our driver arrived early so we scrambled a bit but made it to the airport with plenty of time. We had to be bussed to our plane since all the terminals were open but Rome just seems to not like British Airways. The flight was good. Our pilot told us where we were and what we would see.

We flew over Nice and the French alps.

The night before we left we realized we were given directions on how to get from Heathrow to the hotel in London but our flights actually landed in Gatwick. So we had to take a train into London transfer to the metro and then walk to our hotel. Once checked in we took the train to Harrods were we looked around and then shared a pizza and had a pop. We were not told to buy pounds so we didn’t have any and used the credit card. We saw the exchange rate later and realized we paid $60 for a pizza.

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After the pizza we walked to see Big Ben and some of the sights before heading back to the hotel for the night.

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Rome Day 3 – Vatican

After getting in so late the night before we had to get up bright and early to start our tour of the Sistine chapel. We had purchased a tour that got us into the Vatican museums and the Sistine chapel before the other tours. This meant seeing a lot of the exhibits without huge crowds. When we were in the museum there was only a handful of people. When we made our way through later it was packed. This tour also skipped the line which had already started forming at 7am even though the museums didn’t open for a good 2hrs.

Our tour was short but the tour guide was friendly.

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After exploring the museums, eating some cafeteria food we purchased our first souvenirs and visited the Vatican post office to mail them. I have heard the Vatican postal service is efficient and quick. But that our postcards may arrive home after we do or never at all so fingers crossed.

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We then walked to St. Peter’s square. The lineup for the Basilica were huge so we skipped that. We then went to the hotel to change into shorts. Then we took the metro to see the Piazza de Poapolo, Spanish Steps, Piazza de Novella, and Fountana Trevi. The fountains were under construction so we had to stand in line to use a walkway to see them. We then walked all the way to the Tibre river to see Castle St. Angelo.

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At one point during our walk around Rome we noticed a building with a large military presence. There were cement pillars in the road that could be lowered if needed. We could hear people off in the opposite direction. As we got to the street a police officer stopped pedestrians and traffic and let a police escorted motorcade onto the road. Chris snapped a picture and the flag was Armenian. There was talks between Rome and Armenia today and they visited the tomb of the unknown soldier.

After taking photos in Rome we took a bus back to the hotel to have an accidental nap before supper.

I looked on trip advisor and found Angrypig which had really good reviews. It was a short walk from the hotel so we went there for dinner. The owner (assumed) was really friendly. He asked if we liked puchetto and gave us a slice to try. Then asked if we knew about the bread. He then explained that it was black because of vegitables in the dough that burns when baked. This makes it good for your heart and counteracts the pork. He gave us a slice to try. We placed our orders and he made us chicken salad sandwiches to eat while we waited. We ate our sandwiches back at the hotel. They were good but the chicken ones were better.

After dinner we relaxed and got ready for our trip to London the next day.

Rome Day 2 – Florence

Our second day in Rome started bright and early. We were up, showered and out the door by 7am! We went to the train station which was a gong show. Some lady helped us find what platform our train would be at, then wanted money. Uh nope don’t got any. Then some guy came validated our tickets and showed us the train which was at a different platform. Chris was sure it wasn’t the right train but the man insisted that it was and guess what? That we should give him money. There was a couple minutes of back and forth till I said we only have credit cards. He left and the people who were actually in our seats showed up. With their help we sorted out that we were a train early, so we got off and waited. We got on that next train with no problems until we arrived in Florence, there I realized the train that we were booked went to a different station than I expected. So we bought a map and started walking to the nearest info center. Of course that info center was ran by a man that spoke zero English. He made hand gestures and pointed on a map where an English info center was. Its odd everyone talks to Chris but really I am the one who understands the most Italian it seems. I then explained the directions to Chris and we started walking. The new info center was great. They spoke English, they sold us the Firenze pass we needed and we were off to see Florence.

Our first stop was the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. We got in quite quickly since the Firenze Pass got us into the reserved line. We also looked at some of the other art in the museum but the David was the highlight by far.

Chris made me do it!

Chris made me do it!

4L1A1847Next we went to Basilica Sainta Maria del Fiore in Piazza del Duomo. The first thing we saw was the Baptisterium which was basically a small church. Then we went  and stood in line for the bell tower but the line was long, didn’t move much, and was in the sun. So we left to go see the Basilica and dome. That line up had an express line so we didn’t have to wait long. As soon as we got inside we realized we were in the wrong line. The line imediatly went into the wall and led up a spiral staircase. Up we climbed stopping once on a landing before climbing even more stairs. We then got to a catwalk. The catwalk went around the edge of the dome and looked over the church 200 feet below. We made our way around the edge and entered another stairway. This one went up and then started going around the dome. There were uneven stairways connected by narrow corridors spiraling at an angle towards the center. In these stairways you could feel how you were between two layers. The dome roof above you and the dome itself below. 

The church with dome and cupola.

The church with dome and cupola.

Ugh more stairs.

Ugh more stairs.

4L1A1930 4L1A1935 4L1A1938 Once down on the ground we went into the Basilica and saw Giorgio Vasaris fresco Last Judgement. We then went to find food. We stopped at a little restaurant off the main road. There was no host so we knew it wasn’t to touristy. Chris ordered the spaghetti carbonara and I had the ravioli. It was far better than the meal we had in Rome. After lunch we walked the streets seeing the must sees along the way: Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Pitti, Muse di Zoologia, and Piazza della Repubblica. We then made our way back to the train station. We arrived early and had dinner at the snack shop across the street. Our train was 15min late arriving at the Florence train station. I fell asleep on the train and when I woke up the train was slowing down. Normally the train does 250 km/hr but it was doing only 45, turns out they were having technical difficulties and we were now 1/2hr late. By the time the train actually arrived we were probably 45 min behind, so we quickly got onto the metro to head back to the hotel and to bed. We finally got to sleep around 11:30pm.

Rome Day 1

Our first day in Rome started not to early. We got showered and dressed and headed to the rooftop continental breakfast at our hotel. From there we wandered around the Vatican until we located a shop that sold Rome Passes. Then we headed on the Metro to the Colosseum. We waited in line for a little bit but because we had our passes we were able to skip most of the line. We got inside and explored the Colosseum. After we were finished we shared a pizza in the piazza surrounding the Colosseum. Then we went and used our Rome Pass to get into the Roman Forums. The Forums are huge, they include museums, a ruined palace, and many other buildings. We spent quite a long time exploring all the paths and buildings.

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At the end of the forums is a staircase that takes you out into a piazza beside Monumento a vittorio de Emanuele II. It was at the bottom of the steps Chris got pick pocketed by little girls. I had gotten him a money thing to hide under his pants and a wallet to not look super creepy if he needs to buy something. They ran up and started separating us. I noticed the one next to me had a folded up piece of cardboard that she started unfolding and that there was no writing on it which strikes me as odd. I look at Chris who is like 5′ away at this point with one girl all over him the other with that dam piece of cardboard at his waist it clicks what they are doing. So I rush forward and slam my hand thru the cardboard pushing it to the ground. Then stood on it. The shock on cardboard girls face, lol. She starts yelling and pointing in Italian. I look down and there is Chris’s wallet. He picks it up I stepped back off the cardboard, they scooped up the cardboard and we left.

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After seeing the monument we walked back to the Metro station and headed back to the hotel. We had dinner at a pizza place near the Vatican. The food was ok, nothing to special. In fact I think Famoso makes a better pizza ;)

Tomorrow an early train ride to Florence.

We’re in Rome

Yesterday (I think it was yesterday) we drove to YVR checked Putter into park n’ fly and took a flight to London. Seems like forever ago. Half way through the flight, just passed Baffin Island,  we looked out the window (they had us close all the blinds) and we were over ice

4L1A1646.The flight from Vancouver to London was 8.5hrs then we circled Heathrow for another half hour before being able to land. Once on the ground their was nowhere to unload so they took us to the British Airways area unloaded us there and bussed us to the connections terminal. We rushed thru security and arrived at our gate at what should of been last call. Luckily that flight was delayed too. Exhausted and hungry we boarded that flight from London to Rome. It was newer than the last one but way noisier. We waited in an enormous line to have our passport checked. Which was just some guy stamping them. Customs had two lines you need to declare goods and you don’t. Head thru the declaration line only to find its just a door that leads to the same spot. We met up with our driver who drove us to our hotel. At the hotel we checked in, ate a tube of pringles and went to bed.

Tomorrow the Colosseum and Forums.