To Europe and Beyond

It felt like any other day, except for the fact that I was walking down the streets of London, with my best friend Madi and not my family. Madi and I had been traveling around London for three days, since our tour took off from London and only provided one day of sightseeing in London.

Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz

We were headed to a hotel to meet our tour group so that we could start our European Discovery Tour. Our trip was booked through the company Contiki which provides travelers with hotels, meals, a tour guide, and a bus driver. The other individuals on the tour were ages 18 to 35 years old.

Once we arrived at the hotel we had to check in with the Contiki travel agents. We were then sent on our way to meet with the rest of our group. We walked up to meet our group and were instructed to load onto a bus. Once everyone was loaded onto the bus our tour guide stood up and said “Hello, my name is Dom and I will be your tour guide for the next 13 days.” Dom then filled us in on the plan for the day, we were going to load onto the cargo ship while still on the bus and the cargo ship would take us to Belgium.

The Contiki Tour Bus and Dom sporting a pink wig. Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz

After the ship arrived in Belgium, we had to drive to Amsterdam, which was when Dom decided it was time for our group to meet one another. Everyone sitting on the outside seat had to get up and move to the seat behind them and start introducing themselves. I met so many people just by moving seats, the tour was made up of Americans, Australians, and South Africans.

After the meet and greet game I peered out my window and saw Amsterdam. After arriving in Amsterdam we headed to the river by foot to start our tour of Amsterdam by boat. We went all around the city and into the red light district. After the river tour Madi and I decided to walk around town and ended up spending the walk with Luchelle, Johan and Martine, who were a family from South Africa. Luchelle was Martine’s older sister and Johan’s wife. Around midnight we all decided to head back to the hotel, since we would be exploring more of Amsterdam the next day. The next day Dom told us to explore Amsterdam by ourselves until we had to board the buses at 1:00 p.m. The only thing I wanted to see before leaving Amsterdam was the Anne Frank House. Once in the long line for the Anne Frank house, I looked back and realized the rest of my tour group had joined in the line. I started talking to the other individuals on my tour; Sam who was from Boston, Laura who was from Denver, Australian cousins; Kymmy and Sammy, California brother and sister; Nicole and Matt, couple; Mae and Rey, and friends; Amber and Andrea. There of course were others, but Madi and I hung out with these individuals the most. We waited in line at Anne Frank for an hour and a half. After going through the house we only had two hours left to walk around Amsterdam. Those two hours flew by and before we knew it, we were on the bus headed to Germany.

(Left) While on the boat tour, we drank Flugel. (Middle) The outside of the Anne Frank House Museum. (Right) The river where our boat tour took place. Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz

We first stayed in the Rhine Valley, which was a small town in Germany. After exploring the town for a day and participating in a wine tasting we all headed to bed. The next day we left for Munich and took a guided bike tour through the city. In the middle of the tour it started pouring rain and then my bike chain fell off. Luckily a couple of the individuals on my tour helped me fix my chain and we all finished the bike tour soaking wet. After the bike tour we headed to Hofbräuhaus, a well known restaurant that serves beer, pretzels, food, and has live music. Matt got so drunk at Hofbräuhaus, he could not find his room and ended up in a strange German man’s bed. Once the German man woke Matt up, he fell asleep in one of the booths in the hotel restaurant. After we found Matt the next morning, we all loaded onto the bus to head to Austria.

(Right) Dom is dressed for his day out in Germany. Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Hofbräuhaus. Photos taken by a kind German waitress.

Many individuals from the tour signed up to take the White Water Rafting Excursion. I myself opted out, since I get sea sick and did not know what the motion would do to me. During their River Rafting I walked around the area with Mae, Rey, and Laura until the others returned. After everyone returned from River Rafting, we headed to the hotel and walked around town.

Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz

The next day we headed to Italy, the first stop was Venice. After arriving in Italy, we took a boat over to Venice. We spent the day walking around Venice, taking a Gondola ride through the canals; Rey purposed to Mae on the Gondola ride, eating Gelato, shopping, and then an on foot tour of the city. Our group headed to dinner and celebrated newly engaged couple Mae and Rey. After dinner and around sunset we took the last boat back to to our hotel. The next morning we left for Rome and got a tour of the city while still on the bus. We then departed from the bus and walked around the city, we ate Gelato, threw coins in the Trevi Fountain, and then like all good tourists do, we got some Spaghetti. The next day we toured the Vatican, Colosseum, shopped some more, ate more Gelato and pizza. The next day we headed to our last stop in Italy, Florence. We got a tour of a leather factory, I caved and bought a leather Journal and then we headed on to tour Florence by foot. During the tour I purchased some more Gelato, since it was our last day in Italy. After spending the day in Florence, we all got dressed up went to dinner and then headed to the clubs in Florence.

Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Mae and Rey celebrating their Engagement after a Gondola Ride Proposal. Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz

After managing to get everybody on the bus after a night out at the clubs we headed to Switzerland. We were supposed to take a ski life up one of the mountains, but it was canceled due to weather conditions. Instead we toured the store where they make watches and pocket knives. Since it was rainy and foggy, our next activity was a boat ride around the city. Before leaving Switzerland, we stopped to take a tour of the Swarovski Crystal Factory. After touring the factory and making some regrettable purchases we headed to France.

(Left) The view from the Swarovski Crystal Factory. (Middle) The entrance to the Swarovski Crystal Factory. (Right) The horse is made entirely out of Swarovski Crystal. Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz

France was our last stop on the tour, but the most awaited stop by everyone. The bus ride took the longest and our whole group ended up on the floor playing card games the entire way.

Matt fell asleep, since he spent the night partying. Photo taken by a Contiki group member.

By the time we got into Paris it was getting dark out. We all headed to the Eiffel Tower and spent the rest of our night there. We took the elevator up the Eiffel Tower and peered over the city as the night was rolling in. After staying in the Eiffel Tower for two hours we all decided to walk down to get to the bottom. Matt and Sam decided to make it a race and started running, while the rest of us walked down. The next day in Paris we explored the city, went to the Louvre, the Lock Bridge, and tried to see as many sites as we could. We ended up getting lost on the train and asked for some help. Once pointed in the right direction we were on our way to finding the rest of our group. We had our last meal together as a group and said our goodbyes to the individuals staying in France to extend their trip.

Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz
Photos taken by Tamra Smalewitz

The next day we packed onto the bus to ride back to where we started in London. After saying our teary goodbyes we got off the Contiki bus and headed home.

European Discovery Summer 2013 Group. Photo taken by an Italian Photographer.

I had traveled all over London, Amsterdam, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France. Seven countries in 13 days, this was a trip to never be forgotten.

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