Day 1: We woke up at 5:15am in London to pack up and were down in the lobby by 6am to have our bags weighed and to check in before departing on our bus at 7am and headed to Dover for the ferry to cross the English chanel where we saw the white cliffs of Dover. The bus trip and ferry took around 10hours to Paris but the trip was entertaining and at one point our tour guide made us speed date around the bus to get to know everyone which was a tad scary and Jesse sure learnt quickly how to talk to strangers. It was a fun and interesting way to get to know the 50ish people on the tour which consists mainly of Aussies and Canadians with a couple of Kiwis and one hilarious Irish fellow named Tommy who seems to have instantly bonded with us and I can now see why Amber loves the Irish soo much. We were taken to a turkish restaurant beside the hotel for dinner and then on a 3hr driving tour of Paris which was fantastic because our tour guide studied history at university and was able to tell us the history of the buildings etc most of which I wouldn't be able to repeat but that is how I have always been with history. During the tour we stopped off at a french restaurant and had french champagne while eating snails which is a must when travelling to France, very impressive. We arrived back at our hotel at 10pm and Jesse went for a quick beer with tommy before we finally could sleep, the weather is beautiful and it doesn't get dark until after 10pm which means we are going to have very late nights and early mornings so my body clock may have to re-adjust somewhat.
Day 2 we had a free day to do whatever we liked around Paris so we all got up and had the free breaky at the hotel and then boarded the bus to be dropped at the Eiffel tower which was fabulous. We made friends with another couple Dave and Sarah who are Aussies as well and we managed to find our way to the Arc de Triumphe which was closed off because it was the french national liberation day so there were parades and ceremony's going on. We then walked down Avenue Des Champs Elysee which had amazing shops and we stopped at a french patisserie for croissants, baguettes and the most awesome food I have every had in my life which was a vanilla macaroon. After some more walking we had crepes with nutella and banana and saw the Louvre which was closed because of the public holiday and Notre Dame Cathedral. We then walked across the 'Pont des arts' which is the bridge between the Louvre and the Notre Dame Cathedral and it is otherwise know as the lovers bridge where you buy a pad lock, write your names on it, lock it to the bridge and throw the keys into the river. Apparently there was a movie where they did it to symbolise love and that the key could never be found to unlock it. For those Sex in the City fans it was also the bridge where Big went to find Carrie when she was there with Patrovski. At the end of the day as we were walking back to the bus a man bent down to pick up a ring and asked us if it was ours, Sarah didn't know what was happening but I told her to hurry up and get away from him because Jo had warned us in Scotland that their latest trick was to do that to get your attention and then harass you for money or have one of their friends pick pocket you while you are talking to them. That night we had a 3 course perisian dinner and I never thought I would have seen Jesse eat snails for an entre and a main of duck while drinking the unlimited wine that came free with the dinner. We also got a chocolate cake for desert and then cheese and I had french onion soup as my entre instead of the snails. We then saw a caberet show which was amazing though I wasn't prepared for them to be topless and our table was right up the front in the middle. The show finished around 11:45pm and we went to a bar near the Moulin Rouge and partied into the night getting home about 3am.
Day We got up at 7am, packed, had breaky and were all at the bus by 8am for our departure time. Contiki have really strict timelines and if you are late for the bus they just leave and you have to find your own way back to the group. The night before had been our first massive night and it was not surprising that 3 people did not make the bus including Tommy. The bus left on time without them and we headed to the Louve for a quick look at the mona lisa which was interesting. We were about to leave the Louvre for a 7hr trip through the french countryside when Tommy turns up in the same clothes as the night before, very funny. He had woken up at 8am in a strange house and had to figure out how to catch public transport back to the hotel to get his gear and get to the Louvre before we departed which he somehow managed to do. Two other boys were not so lucky though and had to pay 110 Euros each to catch a train to Thieze. After a day on the bus with a few rest stops for food we arrived at a Chateau that contiki owns which is pretty much a mansion that we are all staying in and it is amazing with a pool and beautiful weather. At 6pm we went wine tasting and learnt a bit about the process of making wine. For dinner we had another 3 course meal and Jesse was on the 'cookies and dishies' team so he had to serve out the meals to everyone. We then had quick showers and got ready for the 'P' Party where you had to dress us as something starting with a P so Jesse went as Peter Pan and I was Pippy long stockings and it was great fun. One girl fell down the stairs at 2am though and had to go to the hospital and she had broken both bones in her ankle and had to have surgery so she can't finish the rest of the trip the poor thing.
Day 4 was a free day at the Chateau where we could relax and they put us into groups of 7, packed us all an awesome picnic and we walked about an hour up hill to an area that had a beautiful view of the French country side. The picnic basket had fresh baguettes, ham, brie cheese, chips, apples, oranges and a mars bar each so we did't go hungry at all. As we were walking though one boy got attacked by a massive dog that he patted and had to go to hospital and have a tetnus shot because the puncture woulds were so deep and there was blood dripping everywhere. Two girls in our group are nurses from Sydney so they have definitely had their work cut out for them and it is only the 4th day. We got back to the Chateau around 2pm and all went swimming in the pool and hung out for the afternoon and had a quieter evening.
Day 5: Another 6:30am morning to get packed, have breaky and get back on the bus by 8am for a drive south through France to Antibes (the French Riviera). We arrived at a contiki camping place and were lucky again to get our own room although we share a bathroom with another couple but so far the accommodation has been much better than I was expecting. We both tried frogs legs for the first time and they pretty much taste like chicken so were better than snails. We then got dressed and headed to Monaco which took over an hour because the traffic was so bad due to the road closures for the formula one. Monaco is soo beautiful and is the second smallest country in the world at about 1.9km2. We had a quick look at the Palace and the Monte Carlo Grand Casino before heading back to our camp site which has its own bar facilities and there was another Contiki group there for the night.
Day 6 was our free day at the French Riviera so after breakfast our tour guide walked us all to the train station and showed us how to buy tickets and get to wherever we wanted to go. Majority of the group including us went to Nice for the day which was lovely, we did some shopping and walked down the main st which leads to the beach. We were there on a Saturday so there were markets which had flowers, fresh fruit and different things which was interesting to walk around. The highlight of the day was hiring rollerblades and skating along the boardwalk especially because we managed to avoid injuries. The beach was terrible though because they have rocks and no sand so it is unconfortable to lie on and hard to walk bare footed into the water, very strange. We all managed to find our way back to the campsite late in the afternoon and after dinner headed out again to Antibe Land which is similar to a theme park and it was very fun going in such a large group especially when all the dogem cars were pretty much filled with our group members. We eventually walked home at about 11:30pm so have had some long days.
Day 7: Again we were up, packed, had breaky and at the bus with our bags for an 8am departure and after an hour we stopped off at Fagonard's which is a French perfumery and had a tour where we learnt about the process of making perfume, soaps etc which was very interesting. We then got back on the bus for another few hours and stopped off at the leaning tower of Pisa to get some photos which was great. We then continued onto our camp site in Florence where we unloaded our gear, had quick showers and dinner and then headed to a Karaoke bar for a couple of hours which had a happy hour with cheap drinks and lots of people got up and sang which was really funny.