Traveling solo was always something I heard people doing, but ALWAYS terrified me. There are so many fears travelling alone: will I like the people I meet? Will I feel lonely? Will I have fun? Will I be overwhelmed travelling alone?
The summer after i graduated, i decided to take that leap of faith and I signed up for the European Whirl Contiki tour. For any of you not familiar with Contiki – it is a guided tour for 18-35 year olds where you pay a flat rate, & everything is covered from accommodations & transport. The only thing you have to pay out of pocket is your plane ticket.
I had such mixed emotions leading up to the trip… excitement, fear, nerves…but backpacking Europe was one of my MUST DO experiences before starting to work full-time at my corporate job. The tour itself was 19 days, and it started/ended in London. i have a cousin who lives in London so i stayed with her a few days leading up to the trip.
Here is the full map of cities we toured over the 19 day tour:
i will go through each city & share my favorite experiences in each one!
Note that my trip had a bit of a curveball after my luggage got lost for TWELVE DAYS. Read more on that here.
Day 1-2: LONDON
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First stop of the trip! My cousin lives in London so I was crashing at her place for this portion. I had a rocky start with my luggage not arriving and cried all the way to her place in disbelief that this was happening to me. Fortunately, she had all of the necessities I needed including toiletries, makeup, hair products, warm clothes, and towels to freshen up. She had left the key for me at her place upon arrival to clean up and our plan was to meet up at Trafalgar Square once she got off work.
We met at Trafalgar Square to snap a few pics! This area is great for sight seeing and has amazing views of iconic places in London such as the Square Lions Statue behind us and Big Ben! I was beyond grateful to have the time to catch up with her and have a breath of familiarity before heading on a journey with a group of 40+ strangers. I can’t say enough times that I genuinely do not know what I would have done had she not been there that day one. We popped into H&M real quick so that I could buy a few basics to hold me over a day or two and then we caught up over dinner and drinks at a hole-in-the-wall pub.
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My first full day in London/Europe! I woke up feeling more at terms with my situation of having a lost luggage and decided that I would make the most of whatever happened. I was feeling optimistic at this point as the airport was relaying to us that my luggage should be arriving mid-afternoon.
Morning: Started off with a full tour of the Tower of London. This wasn’t my first time visiting London so I wanted to explore something I hadn’t seen before. My cousin recommended this as it carries the famous crown jewel exhibit and has over 1,000 years of history. I would recommend getting here early to beat the crowds. You can purchase a ticket on-site. I explored this part solo as my cousin had already toured this a billion times as a local.
I thoroughly enjoyed this tour and loved exploring the castle grounds. There was so much history to learn and they explained the story behind chopping of the King’s wife heads and showed you where it took place. The castle also hosted exotic animals which was interesting to read up on in addition to holding prisoners of war.
The Tower of London is close to the London Bridge, which I took some pictures in front of after. There are Bridge tour options which sounds really interesting, I was just pressed for time. I would love to tour this on my next trip to London. You can walk through the glass floor walkways and learn the full history of the bridge and how ships pass. On my list for when I return! If visiting London soon and interested, there is more information on times here.
Afternoon: After touring the Tower I met up with my cousin and her fiancee Nick. We walked along the Westminster Bridge starting from the Big Ben side to snap some pics and ended by the London Eye to grab lunch. The walk was so nice to soak up all of the views and check off the major sites.
We grabbed a late lunch by the London Eye and called it late afternoon that my luggage was NOT making it and I would have to begin my trip without it. I was beyond devastated and freaking out, and had to do some speed shopping to buy clothes to hold me over a few days before the stores closed. We said our farewells as I went to the Contiki Hostel for Check-In.
Night: After Check-In, I decided to go to the bar in the hostel and met a few people in my travel group for the first time. I was pretty distraught at this point as I was hoping that my luggage was going to make it that day and reality sunk in that I was about to travel across Europe in multiple climates with absolutely zero belongings. I tried to make the most of the situation and mingle with the group but I capped out pretty early in our hostel due to stress and jet-lag. I barely got any sleep that night as the stress of the situation was hitting me in full along with the jet-lag I was still experiencing.
Days 3-4: Amsterdam
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Woke up bright and early for our bus’s departure to AMSTERDAM. I felt so ridiculous strolling up to the full group with just a backpack but did my best to make the most of the situation. I sat next to a blonde Aussie named Jeremy, who was super friendly and fortunately ended up becoming one of my close friends in the group. We all had to get off the bus at Dover to ferry over and this is when I started to meet other people in the group. I was so grateful to meet two other solo girl travelers my age (Cassidy and Adair – one from Maryland the other from Australia) who were so much fun and another Aussie Amelia who was traveling with her boyfriend Damon. There were a ton of Aussies on this tour as doing a Contiki is almost a rite of passage for Aussies.
As we rolled up to Amsterdam, our tour guide Kim (who was incredible), noted that they generally like to END the trip in Amsterdam after the group was more comfortable with each other, but that this would be a nice little ice breaker to get the group closer real quick. Amsterdam is know for sex, drugs, and alcohol so enough said there.
I was so fortunate that I clicked with the three girls so quickly as we decided to room together (4 were assigned a room). Once we arrived and settled, the four of us went to a bar close-by to grab some drinks to kick-off the trip and release the edge of the “show” our tour guide mentioned we would be seeing that night.
We ate dinner at the hostel which is when I started to feel some sharp pains in my stomach and was not feeling too hot all around. Cassidy gave me a Tums to help the pain, but I ended up not eating too much at all before heading out.
Kim took us into the city that night and I quickly fell in love with the canals and the vibes around us. We explored the Red Lights District then stopped in a “coffee shop” to hang-out for a bit. I took one or two hits from a joint because when in Amsterdam right?!
As we were walking over to our show, I started getting incredibly dizzy and light-headed and started to panic. Thoughts were streaming into my head with feelings that I was actually going to die in Amsterdam. I had only taken a few hits of a joint so I couldn’t believe how horribly I felt once we were walking on the street.
All I remember is thinking that I needed to tell our tour guide immediately that something was going on inside even though my pride screamed at me not to. As I attempted to walk up to her, everything happened in a dream-like state. Before I knew it, I was sitting on the side of a building with one or two people in the group hovering over me and everyone else casually standing around doing their own thing.
After soaking in what just happened I began to hysterically cry and panic. I had fainted, for the first time in my life, with 40 strangers I had only met less than 24 hours ago. This felt like icing on the cake of everything of could possibly go wrong on this trip actually going wrong. I felt beyond alone at this moment, and didn’t feel like the girls I had just become “friends” with were really watching out for me or concerned with what had just happened. Someone gave me some sugar water to sip on which is supposed to help you feel better. It took me a while to calm down and I decided to proceed with the show even though I felt absolutely horrible at this point.
After the show the group wanted to go out but I was done with everything at this point. I wanted to go back with the group going home (mostly the couples of the trip) and sobbed my eyes out the entire way back. I can’t even describe to you how horrible this part of the trip was. I felt alone beyond belief. I was in a foreign county and had just fainted for the first time in my life and I had an entire month left of this. I didn’t feel comfortable with the group and nobody really made much of an effort to console me on the ride back. I’m sure people were at a loss on how to handle me as nobody really knew me at this point. I arrived back at the hostel and was grateful that my roommates had all stayed out as I face-timed my sister immediately and dumped everything on her puffy eyed and in hysterics.
The most comical thing looking back on this is that this was the lowest of the low points in this trip, BUT the next day on felt like the highest of the highs day after day until the very end. I wanted to share this part of my trip to anyone reading as things are not always what they appear to be. From an outside perspective it looked like I was having the time of my life. On the inside, at this point in the trip, I was having so many doubts, fears, and pain of my decision to do this trip solo, and couldn’t believe how horribly everything had gone up to this point. The only thing I knew that night was that it couldn’t possibly get worse than that moment, or so I would hope.
I woke up optimistic and ready to take on the new day. We had a jam packed itinerary for the day and I was ready to take it on full force. We started with a cheese, clog, and bike tour through Edam in the Countryside.
Edam really set the tone of the day well after such a horrible night. It was such a a cute & quaint town, and we had a blast seeing a different side of the city and get some fresh air. The tour was amazing which I would recommend squeezing in if you ever find yourself in Amsterdam. It began with learning about the process of making clogs which was incredible to view real-time. They start with a wooden block and with pure skill shape it into a wearable clog for your feet. I was seriously impressed. This was followed by a cheese tour and sampling. We ended the tour with a bike ride through the canals and windmills which was so green and beautiful.
The tour gave us the rest of the afternoon to explore Amsterdam to our liking. A few options you can explore when in Amsterdam:
- Rijksmuseum: Full of Dutch Art including the famous work of Rembrandt. This is also where you can snap pictures in from of the iconic Iamsterdam sign. We chose this option as we did not have a crazy amount of time to explore the city before our River Cruise.
Heineken Experience: My sister did this when in Amsterdam and had nothing but great things to say! They offer a tasting and there are also combo packs adding a river cruise to explore the city.
Anne Frank House Tour: Still on my bucket list! Make sure you reserve a tour far in advance of your trip. Tickets are only available online and are generally released about 2 months out from your trip date.
Canal Cruise: This was a group excursion option with our trip at an additional cost which I opted in on as most of the group was doing it. I was not crazy excited for this as I didn’t understand why we would pay to see the city on boat when we could already explore just walking around. However I was PLEASANTLY surprised and really enjoyed this part of the trip. We had a few glasses of wine and it was fun bonding and starting to feel more comfortable with the group.
That night we had an amazing local dinner through Contiki and then went out on the town. If you ever choose to do a Contiki tour, I would recommend coordinating with people in your group to find your own dinner spot. We loved the meal they coordinated for us, however we probably could have found a local spot with better food and a lower cost. I was so relieved overall though to be smiling all day and was feeling all of my stress slowly wash away with new friends and clothes to carry me through the trip.
Days 5-6: Berlin
Our next stop was BERLIN. We drove in that evening and had a group dinner then the rest of the night to do our thing. We walked along the Berlin wall which was really cool to see in person and then hungout at a bar close to our hostel for the night.
We had a full day to explore the city and woke up bright and early to take it in. We started off with a walking tour of the city which I would definitely recommend if visiting. The views were not as stunning as other cities in Europe but the city was full of history and interesting stories that our tour guide provided in detail. My favorite part of the tour was walking through the Holocaust memorial. No stone was the same size and open to interpretation of the significance behind it. Many say it reflects a graveyard with unmarked stones and others say it marks the rise and fall of the third Reich as the stones get taller and then short again as you walk through.
Once our walking tour finished, we had the rest of the afternoon to explore the city. We wandered around the parks soaking in the views and took pictures by the main buildings. We stopped by Checkpoint Charlie, additional parts of the Berlin Wall, and strolled through the parks.
We got dinner near the hostel and then had the rest of the night to explore Berlin. We went to some outdoor beach bars along the river and then went to a club with the group and danced the night away.
Days 7-8: Prague
After the trip I was frequently asked what my favorite part was. This was definitely a tricky question to answer as every city had something unique to offer. However, although I loved each part of the trip for its unique reasons, Prague always came to top of mind as my favorite city that we toured. mind you i STILL did not have my suitcase at this point, but everything about this city was like a fairytale.
We arrived early afternoon from Berlin and went straight to some main attractions to knock things out before cleaning up for the evening.
Our tour guide took us straight to Prague Castle in the Castle District which had one of the best views in the city. Walking through the castle is free and we were in awe of how beautiful the buildings and views were.
After we walked through this area, our guide took us back to the hostel to freshen up for the night. what I loved about contiki is that they always were surprising us with fun ways to entertain us. During the bus route to Prague they polled our group on who we wanted to get “engaged” and the guy and girl chosen executed the mock proposal by the water.
Following the mock proposal we split the girls and guys to celebrate a mock bachelor/bachelorette night. Our tour guide surprised the girls to the cutest cocktail bar called Bed Lounge. It had massive white couches and fun bucket drinks with the straws for sipping. We had a blast hanging out and snapping some pics 🙂
After cocktails at the Bed Lounge we made our way over to Five Story Club to dance the night away. This was a really fun spot to check out as every floor had a different theme and there was also an option to go to the Ice Pub and Oxygen Bar. We really enjoyed this spot and it was fun to explore every floor as the vibes were so different on each one.
We had a pretty open day for our last day in Prague. My close group of friends and I on the trip really just wanted to just relax and have no set plan to just explore and soak in the city. We decided to opt out of both of the Contiki add-on options (Lunch Cruise and Bunker Tour) which we had zero regrets skipping. We hit up the main square in the morning to do some shopping (especially me considering I STILL did not have my suitcase and needed to stock up for additional days on the trip).
We later hopped into Thai Paradise to get a fish pedicure. This was something that had been on my bucket list for a long time and I really wanted to try it out. Note that there are mixed reviews on the cleanliness/safety of it but we did not have any issues when we went.
eIt took my friend Adair and I (pictured below) a solid 15 minutes to be able to sit through the experience without giggling. Putting your feet into the tank is a scary experience as the fish begin to swarm your feet. The sensation definitely took some getting used to and it tickled a bit. I had to avoid looking down as every time I did, seeing the fish chewing away at my feet definitely freaked me out and I would kick them away. They especially loved my feet after all of the strain I put them through from walking a crazy amount over the past week.
After we finished our pedicure, we stopped into a local spot to grab some food and then finished it off with the infamous trdelnik (donut pastry stuffed with ice cream). Mine had some fresh fruit mixed in and chocolate drizzled on top which was delish. When I’m on vacation I want to treat myself and enjoy the local food the city has to offer, so I enjoyed every single bite with zero guilt which is, in my opinion, the best way to enjoy a city and food.
That evening we freshened up and got dinner in the main square and then did one of Prague’s bar crawls. There are a bunch of promoters walking through the square so you can explore your options and pick the one that seems like the best fit for you. Give yourself extra time before the crawl starts as finding the bars could be a bit challenging. Also make sure you wear thick heels or wedges as a high percentage of the city is cobblestones and you will ABSOLUTELY get stuck if you wear any sort of stiletto heel.
Day 9: Munich
Next stop was MUNICH! At this point in the trip many people get what is known as the “Contiki Cough.” We were all super burnt out, hungover, and exhausted but still having the absolute time of our lives.
We had a jam packed itinerary in Munich. This began with an 11:30 AM bike tour which was a great mix of seeing the sites and learning about the history of the city. Would absolutely recommend Mike’s Bike Tours if you visit Munich as they did a really great job showing us around. This was an add-on option through Contiki to purchase and most everyone in our group did.
The tour ended at an outdoor beer garden called Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower). Naturally I ordered a big pretzel and beer which was bomb. We hungout there for the rest of the afternoon which was a blast. We had a pretty tame night at the hostel which was needed on my end as I was starting to get pretty sick and we had a big itinerary planned in Austria.
Day 10-11 Austria
Munich was a quick stop and we were on to Austria the next morning. We were staying in a Contiki owned cabin in Hopfgarten which was a beautiful spot up in the countryside.
Austria was all about embracing the outdoors, so Contiki incorporated three different add-on options to the tour: mountain biking, paragliding, and white water rafting. Unfortunately, I was starting to get really sick at this point so I opted out on the mountain biking tour to rest up.
Leading up to Austria, we were told that Paragliding would be possible only if the weather held up. We lucked out as the weather was suitable to go so we were split into groups to go. This was something I had been looking forward to the entire trip, and I was beyond excited to finally be able to check it off the bucket list.
I was grouped up with Cassidy and we went up the mountain together with the guides who we would be riding tandom with. I didn’t have a GoPro, but they gave you the option of paying additional to get footage which I opted in on. We went up the mountain with our guides and got strapped up at the top. The view was incredible at the top and the air was so crisp and fresh. Once strapped up, to take off, you began running down the mountain for the parachute to catch air and send you flying. Once we caught air, I was in awe of the views and enjoyed every second of it.
After we finished Paragliding we had the rest of the day to hangout and explore the town. We grabbed a bite to eat at a local restaurant and then went up the Skischule Hopfgarten ski lift which turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. The views at the top were seriously incredible, and we spent a lot of time up there hanging out, taking pictures, and having a few drinks. A rainbow appeared as we were leaving which was such a pretty sight to see and was the perfect way to end the afternoon.
Our cabin in Austria solely hosted Contiki tours and there were a few other tours that overlapped with ours. There was a tight ‘n bright neon themed party at the cabin we were staying at with the group. We all got dressed up in black and white and painted ourselves with neon paint. I loved that they would coordinate events like this for low-key locations like this as it was nice to still be able to do have fun at night with our group.
The morning we woke up and went straight to white water rafting! I was so excited for this portion of the trip. Austria all around was just a blast getting to enjoy the outdoors and have high adrenaline activities with the group. I don’t have any pictures from this part of the tour since I didn’t have a go pro, but the views were absolutely stunning. We all took a plunge in the water, which was so much fun, but probably not the best idea considering I was still trying to bounce back from being sick and the water was FREEZING. Nonetheless we had a great tour and had such a blast this part of the trip.
After rafting we warmed up with a hot meal and got cleaned up to hit the road to VENICE!
Days 11-13 Venice
We arrived in Venice late evening and had a pretty chill night with the group to hangout and get rested up. Italy is more expensive than other European countries so our accommodation was not nearly as nice as other cities. We were in a trailer campsite which was definitely one of my least favorite places we stayed at.
I was beyond excited to arrive in Venice as we had word that my SUITCASE WAS WAITING FOR ME AT THE AIRPORT. At that point I pretty much had been able to purchase everything I needed, but the relief of being reunited with my belongings was so amazing. I took a cab to the airport and waited for what seemed like forever before finally being taken to a room full of luggage where I was reunited with my long lost luggage that had trailed me across Europe the past 11 days.
We took a ferry into Venice the following day and had a full day to explore the city. Venice is absolutely doable in a day and I would not recommend extending your stay too much longer.
What to do in Venice:
Gondola Ride: We started off with a gondola ride through the canals which was so iconic for Venice and we had a blast floating through the city.
St. Marks Basilica – Entry is free but it is recommended to either buy tickets online to skip the line or get their really early to not have to wait. Definitely recommend going all the way up the Campanile for the most incredible views of the city. We only paid 8 Euros and it was absolutely worth it. Luckily an elevator takes you all the way up which was not the case in later cities we visited.
Bridge of Sighs: Pictured above – rumor has it that kissing under this bridge will grant couples eternal love and happiness.
Rialto Bridge: One of the oldest bridges in the city and full of shops and restaurants. Definitely worth passing through!
EAT: There are a ton of restaurants and gelato spots to pop into. Keep in mind that restaurants like to take advantage of tourists so don’t fall prey to overpriced spots when there are just as tasty low-key spots. They will try and charge for extras such as bread baskets which are NOT FREE.
Days 13-14 Rome
Rome was one of the cities I was most excited to visit which ironically enough turned out to be one of my least favorites. This might be contrary to popular opinion, but I found the city to be entirely too touristy for my liking. I may have also been influenced by the fact that this was about halfway through the trip when my health was in a seriously decline and the hangovers were too real, but the surplus of selfie sticks and tourists took away from the charm. Despite this, I was incredibly excited to check the Colosseum off of my bucket list and explore the Vatican.
Upon arrival in Rome, our tour guide immediately took us to the main tourist spots.
Our first stop was at the Altar of the Fatherland. We did not have time to freshen up after traveling on the bus all day, so I made sure to have on a cute outfit for pics 🙂 The Altar was a fun place to start our tour and it had some amazing views of the city. This was built to glorify the first King of Italy. First floor is free entrance and to go all the way up costs ten euros which I would definitely recommend if you have the time.
After we finished exploring the Altar, our tour guide took us straight to the Trevi Fountain. This is one of the most iconic spots in Rome and I was incredibly excited to see it firsthand with my own eyes. I was beyond grateful to have our guide as I know we would have wasted A LOT of time getting lost in the city without her. She knew the city inside and out and took us directly there.
The myth is that throwing a coin the proper way into the fountain is with your right hand over your left shoulder. One coin leads to a return to Rome, two for love, and three for marriage. We each took our turns throwing coins into the fountain and then popped into a gelato shop nearby because when in Rome right?!
Lastly, we explored the Pantheon which is one of Rome’s best preserved Ancient Roman Monument. The inside was absolutely stunning and pictures definitely do NOT do it justice. It was a large dome shape with the famous hole at the top. Entry is free and it is a silent space inside. You can take as much time to look around as you desire, some people only needed a few minutes while others may want to look around for an hour.
Our last full day in Rome! We woke up bright and early to have breakfast and head to the Vatican. We explore the Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and the St. Peter’s Basilica. You must purchase tickets to visit the Vatican while the Basilica is free but many ticket packages combine the three.
Make sure you wear modest clothing and have your shoulders and knees covered when you visit. Additionally, photos are prohibited in the Sistine Chapel but the art inside was absolutely incredible. It was wall to ceiling paintings by Michelangelo which was amazing to soak in.
Following the Vatican Tour, we made our way to the infamous Colosseum. I know for many people on our tour, this was the attraction they were most excited for of our trip. This was something myself I had been looking forward to for a long time. We did a full tour of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You will be doing A LOT of walking so make sure you are comfortable so that painful feet does not ruin the experience. The ground can be pretty uneven and there are many stairs so make sure your shoes are nice and sturdy. These sandals from Steve Madden are one of my favorite pairs for long walking days with a thick sole for comfort.
- Bring water – if visiting in the summertime it is hot. I recommend having a refillable bottle on hand to stay hydrated and not get over heated. There are a few water fountains around the grounds to fill up.
- Bring a change of clothes – After visiting the Vatican where you have to be covered up, it is nice to have a lighter set of clothes to change into, especially in the summertime when it gets hot.
We had the remainder of the afternoon to explore Rome as we desired, and Cassidy, Adair, and I just hung around the colosseum for the remainder of our time.
We went back to our campsite to freshen up for our Roma Party that Contiki set up for us. We had all purchased I love Roma tanks/t-shirts and we all had signed each others shirts to remember the trip.
Day 15 Florence
Florence was my favorite city of the three we visited in Italy. I struggled with the heavy touristy feel of both Venice and Rome as beautiful as the cities were. Florence felt very authentic and like a real city, not just a tourist trap where you saw tour guides and selfie sticks left and right.
We had one full day to explore the city. Although it was quick, we felt like we were able to get a great feel for the city and see the main sites. If I were to go back to Florence, I would probably spend more time exploring the museums, but I loved exploring the city with no real agenda in mind. We decided to venture up to the Cathedral which was known to have some of the best views of Florence. This was a 414 step climb with no elevator but the view was BEYOND worth the hike to to the top!
After hiking up the cathedral, we walked around a bit longer in the city before heading back to the hostel to freshen up for the night. If you want to see the Statue of David, you would need to head to the Galleria dell’Accademia. You can buy tickets online or get a private tour. If you want to see the Statue of David without spending time in the Gallery, you can head over to the Palazzio Vechio where there is a recreation of the statue (pictured below).
We also (naturally) had to stop and try some gelato in the city. We went to Gelateria Edoardo per our guide Kim’s recommendation and it was UNREAL. When I travel, I never want to feel like I missed out on what the city has to offer. I generally consider myself a health nut, but I definitely made sure to get my share of pizza & gelato during our time in Italy. This is what Italy is KNOWN FOR, and I never want to look back feeling like I missed out from being “too strict” with my diet and restricting myself from enjoying what the city has to offer. Everything in moderation right?! This gelato shop was conveniently located right by the Cathedral which was the perfect treat after our long hike up the stairs.
After exploring the city all day, we freshened up at the hostel and freshened up for dinner and karaoke that night. Our bus driver made a stop on the way to dinner with the most incredible view of the city. We stopped at the Piazzale Michelangelo which I absolutely recommend stopping there for the most incredible view of the city (pictured below). After taking pictures & enjoying the view, we made our way to dinner, and then to a karaoke bar in the city. This was all planned by Contiki, so unfortunately I cannot remember the names of the places we went to to share.
Day 16-17 Switzerland (Lucerne and Jungfrau)
Day 16 – Lucerne
We left Florence early in the morning and made our way to Switzerland. The views along the road were absolutely INCREDIBLE. I made sure to stay awake during the ride to soak it all in. Here are a few pictures along the ride to Lucerne.
We made a stop in Lucerne along our way to our cabin in Switzerland and had a few hours to explore the city. This was plenty of time to walk around, snap some pics, and pick up some Swiss Chocolate (naturally). We also stopped at the Lion of Lucerne which was built to honor the Swiss Guards massacred during the French Revolution. The carving in latin translates to: “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss.”
Day 17 – Jungfrau:
We were staying at the most incredible cabin site in the heart of Switzerland. The views were unlike any I had ever seen before, and there were dozens of waterfalls coming down from the mountainside. It was absolutely breathaking. Switzerland was easily my favorite part of the trip from an outdoor and scenic standpoint. Austria was also stunning, but Switzerland had even more incredible views.
I was super excited to explore Jungfrau (top of Europe) at this point in our trip. This was an additional optional excursion that we opted in on and paid for. You took a train all the way to the top, which probably took about an hour to get up, and then could explore once up there. They had an ice sculpture exhibit, in addition to an area you could go outside and walk around. DEFINITELY dress warm as it is cold up there. We had a lot of Aussies in our tour which was fun to watch them see snow for the first time!! Unfortunately it was pretty foggy the day we went up, so we couldn’t see much while up there but we still had a blast. If you go up on a clear day, you can have the most incredible view of Switzerland. A few of us thought it would be hilarious to strip down at the top and snap a pic. We did not last long as it was absolutely freezing, but nonetheless a fun thing to check off the bucket list.
That night, Contiki organized a Swisco Disco party for us. We had all purchased some Switzerland clothing or dressed in red and white for a fun party at the cabin. Again, a reason I loved traveling with Contiki, as we were in the middle of Switzerland with no nightlife around, but they were always organizing events for us to make sure we had a great time!
Day 18-19 Paris:
We departed Switzerland early morning and had a full drive to Paris. This was one of the longest drives of the trip so we mostly lost a day here just riding on the bus. We had an included meal when we arrived that night, and we all capped out pretty early to rest up for our full day the next morning.
We had one full day to explore the city prior to returning back to London. Note that one day is not NEARLY enough time to explore Paris. I most likely would have extended my time in Paris had I not already been with my family. I absolutely love Paris, and was glad that Adair and Cassidy were on board having a chill day to just walk around, see the main sights, and enjoy the food.
Cassidy, Adair, and I walked around the Eiffel tour, snapped some pics, and ordered some nutella crepes by the tower that were UNREAL. We also walked by the Arc de Triomphe which if you have more time, you can also go up for an amazing view of the city.
Afterwards, we popped into Ladurée Paris which has the cutest macaroon bar in the back where you could nibble on any macaroon your heart desired with a coffee or cappuccino. I took a box to go to as a host gift for my cousin.
That night, we got freshened up to get a really nice dinner which we opted in on with Contiki. After the dinner, there was an option to go to a Cabaret show which many of us opted out on. I had already been to Moulin Rouge with my family, so I did not feel the need to spend money on a similar show when I had already seen the best one possible. We hopped around a few clubs/bars for our final night out.
Our bus driver took us back to London where we had a final day together to say our goodbyes before heading our own ways. We hungout at a local pub to eat and drink as people slowly had to trickle out. Eventually I took the tube to sleep at my cousin’s place that night. It was incredibly sad having to say goodbye to the group as we all realistically knew it was probably the last time we would be seeing each other considering we were half a world apart for many of us. Many people in our tour were continuing their travels to Sail Croatia, Oktoberfest, etc. I was ready to go home at this point, as I had burnt myself out with drinking, traveling, and not feeling 100% the entire time.
I woke up bright and early to fly back home. I couldn’t believe the trip I had been looking forward to for months had come to an end, but that is life. Beyond grateful for such an incredible experience to see the world, get to know new people from other cultures, and get way out of my comfort zone for the past 21 days. It definitely took me a solid week to recover once I got back home.