London | 20th July 2013

Today was probably one of the loneliest days I had on my trip, mainly because most of the people left in London were heading home on this day. I woke up pretty early this morning because I wanted to get as much into the day as possible. First up was breakfast, which was pretty bland but sustained me for the morning, then after that I got ready for my solo bus tour around London.

The tour company that I got a ticket for was the Original Bus Tour and it was pretty cool because it had a stop right in front of the hotel and came around every 10 – 15 minutes or so. Also you had the chance to hop on and off at any stop at anytime of the day. The ticket was good for 24 hours so I made marks on my map of the places I wanted to see in particular. First thing I wanted to see was Buckingham Palace and watch the changing of the guard, which was scheduled for 11am. I was really good with timing and got the hang of the route changes pretty quick, but when I got to Buckingham Palace there were so many people, I was getting worried I wouldn’t be able to see anything. But I managed to bob and weave my way through all the people and get to a spot right up against the gate. I don’t know if I got the times mixed up but we were standing there for quite a while before anything started and once it did everyone had bunched up again so it was hard to get a spot where you could see things clearly. I did get some photos but I also had to ask some random person to stick my camera through the gat to get a clearer one!

After that I got back onto the tour bus and headed for the ticket office on Leicester Place, where I could claim tickets for a show on the West End. The tickets that come with the package are usually for smaller shows but I was told that I could use them to get a discount off of other shows so I chose to get tickets to Wicked for 7:30pm. I think I ended up paying 50 Pounds or so extra for the ticket but I wasn’t too fussed because I always wanted to watch it anyway and what better way to watch than in London!

Back on the bus I just rode it around the city taking pictures of the big tourist attractions and listening to the audio information as we saw each landmark. I really wanted to get down and take a closer look at most places but I didn’t have enough time to really see everything up close because I still wanted to eat and make it back to the hotel so I could get ready for Wicked.

I did however make time to go to Harrods! I hopped off the bus at Hyde Park and took a little walk around then went to Pret to grab a fruit salad and a drink. I was a bit confused as to where Harrods actually was from the place I got off the bus so I had to ask one of the people in the shops near to point me in the right direction. If ever you’re lost, seriously don’t hesitate to ask people because they all seemed so happy to help out and it made me feel super safe while I was going around by myself. After walking down a really long road and doing some window shopping in the high end designer brand stores I finally cam to Harrods! It was just a big as I expected and the outside looked exactly like in pictures I had seen, with the green tarps with Harrods written in a goldish colour.

Inside was even more amazing, with an emphasis on the ‘MAZE’! it is so big that they even have information desks with maps and booklets letting you know what is on each level and where you can find everything. I walked around for quite a bit looking at things that have been on my “lust” list of things to buy when I win the lottery and seriously even the displays are just so memorizing I could have spent the whole day there! But I did want to buy some souvenirs form the gift shop and yes they have their own gift shop! I always wanted one of those shopping bags that had Harrods written on it and boy were there many to choose from! The original bag is the green on with gold writing, much like the tarps outside of the building but there were so many other pretty ones it took me a good hour to decide which one I wanted to buy! I ended up getting a pink shopper bag with gold writing and crowns and I also picked up the white one with the building illustrated on the front. They were pretty pricey but I can’t buy them anywhere else so I just got them and was so excited to take them back home to Sydney. Before I left the store, I made my way to the food hall and was just so shocked at its size. Everything looked and smelled amazing! I was particularly fond of the pastry section because I love sweets! There were gigantic meringues and donuts on display, making my mouth water so I ended up buying some of those. They were by far the best I had ever tasted and if ever I go back there those will be the first things I would buy!

Up next was Piccadilly Circus, which is kind of like London’s time square and some shopping on Oxford street! I didn’t actually buy much on this day because I was pressed for time so I pretty much just made a mental list of the shops I wanted to go to the day after so I had a good idea of where the shops were. After I walked around for a bit, I don’t know why but I got back to the hotel via the tube. I think it may have been because the bus stop was pretty far away and the station was just near where I was standing so I opted for the lazy way back.

When I got back to the hotel I got ready for the show and just got some dinner at Nandos which was in the same shopping place we had Japanese the night before. After eating i took the tube to Victoria station. By this point I wasn’t worried about taking public transport or walking around in a new place on my own because I had gotten use to it from the big Contiki tour. The theatre that Wicked was being held at was the Apollo theatre and it was pretty small compared to other theatres I have been to. Nonetheless the play was outstanding and the actors were amazing in it too! Fiero was really hot and I don’t blame Glinda or Elphaba for falling for him! I’d actually really like to see it again someday if I can maybe here in Sydney! I picked up a t-shirt from the show and took some photos of the headline posters out the front then walked back to the tube station to get home. There were lots of people on the train coming from different shows and a lot of them were heading back to the Royal National, so again I felt pretty safe even though it was dark. The show ended late at night so I just went straight up to the room and fell asleep, ready to do some major shopping before my flight home the next day! xx

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Hi there, just wondering where in Dubrovnik you stayed?

We stayed at Hotel Adria in Dubrovnik on my Contiki Time-out tour :) it’s a really nice place and was one of the best hotels we stayed at on the tour xx

Hi Erika! Thank you so much for putting all your time and effort into making your blog so wonderful. I'm off on contiki/travelling Europe for 3 months. I leave in 8 weeks and whenever I'm in need for a little reminder why I'm working my butt off 24/7 I read your blog. I was just wondering how much spending money you took? If you don't mind me asking, and whether you took a bank card, travel passport or something similar? x x

Hi lovely! Thanks for the cute message! You lucky thing, a three month holiday sounds amazing! 

I budgeted around 150 Euros for each day of my tour (i went for about a month and a half) which included food, drink, shopping and emergency costs. The suggested amount if 100 Euros a day but i know how much i spend usually on holidays so i over budgeted. In your case since you will be going for a long time, i suggest aiming for 100-150 euros each day so that you have money left over in the end to spend big! but with this in mind, many of the meals are included like breakfast and most dinners so you will just need to pay for lunch/snacks. most of the time you will be running around exploring and just want to eat gelato or something so you might save that way or like me and some of the others, we took fruits and bread from the hotel breakfasts when we could. I actually came home with quit a bit of money because i over budgeted but it was good because when i was in london i did lots of shopping :)

I took a commonwealth bank travel card (Australian Bank, incase you’re not from where i live) and it worked well for me. I loaded my money onto it around a week before i left for Europe and had Euros and Pounds on there. if you are a student there are no load or initial card fees but when you want to reload i think its $15 for the fee. i brought cash with me for the first week so i had emergency money, but when i wanted to withdraw i would take out enough for the next 4 or 5 days because the ATM charges a fee and i think $2 gets taken off of your card for the commbank fee. I had no problems with it and they give you two cards, one is the primary card and on is a back up card. But you hold know that some countries are a bit behind and still ask you to sign and some shops ask for ID with signature to check so make sure you bring your photo ID with you when you go out :)

If there’s anything else, you know where to find me! xx

London | 19th July 2013

It was my first official full day in London and I was super excited to see the city. The night before some of us had planned out what we were going to get up to during the day so after breakfast we met up at the Contiki basement to get some information. I also got to pick up my “London Explorer” packet, which is what I paid for to stay in London for an extra 3 days after the “European Explorer tour”. My add on tour of London included 2 nights at the Royal National, an Original Bus tour ticket which would take me around the city to see all the major landmarks and a ticket to a theatre show or musical. Once we all finally met up at the basement, we purchased tickets for the London Eye and London Tower of Terror. I believe at the time the London Eye was about 19 Pounds and the London Tower of Terror was 20 Pounds.

First up was a tube ride to the London eye, which was quite easy considering we had mastered the most confusing train lines in other countries that weren’t even in English. Once we got off at the station we headed up to the giant Ferris wheel, which was just that GIANT! The line was pretty long but it seemed to be moving along at a pretty okay speed. But we didn’t know we had to line up to collect our actual tickets first at the ticket office so the wait turned out to be a lot longer than expected. Once we got our tickets we just went straight through to the gates and into our pod. The whole pod was clear so you could see the entire surrounding city. It was so amazing from the top and we all took a mass amount of pictures to remind us of the city’s beauty. I’m not to sure how long it takes to do a full revolution around the ferris wheel but I think they said about 30 minutes. Also just when you are about to get back to the gates and off the pod they take a picture of you all in there. Our picture was so cheesy but it was cute because it still had some of us Contiki goers on there!

After the London Eye, we just walked straight down the river to the London Tower of Terror. At first I thought this was going to be one of those really scary, make you want to crap your pants and cry type of thing but it turned out to be pretty funny and well worth going. I do seriously suggest doing this if you’re in London after the London Eye because its so much fun! We even got funny group shots of us getting our head chopped off and screaming our lungs out on the very last part of the experience, which is a drop ride.

We were all pretty hungry after both of those activities so we decided to grab some lunch at another Asian restaurant. At first we thought it was a noodle house but when we went upstairs it turned out to be completely different. But since we had already asked them to rearrange the tables and sat down we didn’t want to be rude and just walk out. This happened a numerous amount of times to us on tour as well so if ever you’re unsure about a restaurant just ask! Anyway, the people at the restaurant were kind enough to let some of the other get their noodles and sit upstairs while the rest of us just ordered off of their menu. I ordered pretty much the same thing as I got the night before which was teriyaki salmon with rice and a side of gyoza. It was the most expensive Japanese I have ever had, but it was very tasty so I didn’t complain.

When we all finished with lunch we parted ways and said our goodbyes incase we weren’t going to see each other again. Myself and the two sisters, Sarah and Lisa decided to go to Camden Markets to do some shopping while the others went to Oxford street or back to their hotels. The three of us hopped back onto the tube to Camden Lock and had a blast looking around at all the eccentric stores and experiencing the cool vibe down there. I picked up a couple items from there that I adore and cannot find anywhere here at home.

After shopping the three of us decided to head back to the Royal National and meet up with some of the others at the Pub again. I was really hungry so I went to get some food from Pret and just ate in my room. That night I didn’t have a room mate so I had the room all to my self! xx

Thank you so much! You've been a great help :) Mixing and matching is definitely what I'll do

No problem lovely! if there is anything else let me know! xx

I love your blog! Your pictures and stories are wonderful!!! I'll be backpacking Europe this summer and was wondering if you can offer me any tips on packing. You have great style and look so fabulous in all your pics. How did you pack and did you shop alot while you were there?

Hello! Thanks for the sweet message! Wow you are so lucky! i wish i was going to Europe again, i loved it over there :)

Okay so i don’t know how much help I’m going to be because i’m such an over packer and i took a suitcase with me, but i would say plan out what you are going to be doing on your trip then pick outfits based on that. I was super obsessive and wrote out an entire itinerary of what activities/countries/weather i would be experiencing then figured out what would be best to bring and wear. 

For example i brought clothes that were basics like a plain black skater skirt and plain black shorts that could go with lots of tops. I also took summer dresses that were super light and airy so they would’t be to heavy to bring or wear. with shoes i brought 2 pairs of sandals, 1 pair of converse, 2 pairs of flip flops and 1 pair of black flats. No heels! you don’t really need them because you’ll be partying hard and the cobblestones aren’t your friend! hahaha but i did buy some while i was over there so i used them once :P

I think it really all depends on the weather and what you are doing. But also if you are a big shopper like me, i would definitely pack, then repack, then re pack again! i brought a good amount of stuff but there are somethings i could have left at home. Looking back i’m pretty sure i wore all the clothes i brought because i didn’t want to do much washing, but that back fired and i did washing in the sink every night hahahaha!

If you need any other help don’t hesitate! xx

Hey :) I just found your blog and it inspired me to make a blog just dedicated to travelling stuff. Did you go through a Contiki tour to see Europe?

Hey! Aww thanks so much that is so sweet! It’s such a good thing to keep because when you read back on all your adventures it brings back heaps of amazing memories :) and yes I did a contiki tour because it was my first time visiting Europe and also my first solo trip so I wanted to make sure I had a safe and enjoy payable experience! And it was much more that I had ever imagined! Xx

Heyy, we are going to be doing the European Explorer including the greek cruise and I kinda wanted to see your take on it? Are there more younger people on it, because I am a bit turned off by the 30+ situation and how are the accommodations? Thank you! I'm just super excited about it!

Hi! That’s so great I’m so jells I wish I could do that tour again! As for the age situation, I wouldn’t be too worried because most people are young or young at heart! Haha the oldest person we had was 35 and he was probably the most childish out of all of us and made me laugh everyday! But I guess it all depends on when you are going, I went during the peak of summer in Europe and the start of the australian university holiday season so I was lucky. Also you meet other people on other contiki tours in different countries so you’ll most likely bump into lots of other young people :) xx

Amsterdam to London | 18th July 2013

Waking up on this morning was pretty hard. Not only because most of the group had partied a little too hard the night before, but also because some of the group was leaving to go home. At breakfast there were some tired faces and then as we said goodbye to some of the early leavers tears started to roll down. For those who were heading back to London, all of our bags were loaded onto the coach for the last time. We said goodbye to the ones being left behind to catch their flights back home, and we waved good bye from our seats.

The drive to the ferry port was very quite and most of us caught up on misplaced sleep. The coach was so empty that everyone pretty much got their own double seat. Once we got back onto the ferry in France we were onto London. Since leaving the UK, we had no idea that there was actually a heat wave that had taken over so we were all pretty surprised to arrive back to sunny weather and shirtless pale men.

When we got back to the royal national we unloaded our VERY heavy bags from our 33 day trip and headed to the check in desk. I got put into a room with another contiki traveller who was leaving the next day, early I the morning. She was really nice but the room we stayed in was not the best. I think I said this before but the Royal national is made for those who want to travel on a budget. Its pretty clean but you will not get the best sleep or air conditioning in the middle of a heat wave.

After I got settled, I headed down to the lobby to meet up with some of the girls to grab dinner at the nearby shopping complex. We were all pretty much craving Japanese food because we had not gotten anything Asian for a month. The food was great and the company was even better. We also planned out some activities for the days ahead so we could explore London together. Back at the hotel, we had a little get together at the pub to talk about all the funny memories we had on tour and just chill for the night until it was time to sleep. Xx

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33 Amazing days with my Contiki Family <3 CONTIKI AND SHIT FOREVER! x

Amsterdam | 17th July 2013

This was our very last full day as a Contiki group. Waking up this morning we were all pretty sad that this was our last outing on the tour but we all set that aside at breakfast to “gear” up for what was going to be a very memorable day/night!

The first thing on our day plan was a visit to the place where cheese is M-A-D-E backwards! In case you didn’t catch that sly joke, the place we went to was EDAM which is MADE spelt backwards. Lots of us didn’t get it the first time Lee said it but when we eventually did we all burst out laughing. Here we all took a lovely stroll through the countryside, which was a very big change from the city sites. There was so much greenery (not the kind you light up!) and the canals and streets were just so much more different to what we saw the day before.

After our walk we came to “Dijk a Bike” to hire some bikes for the morning as an optional activity. We all filed into the place and then came out with a bike each. We were all so excited to explore the area and the guy who was our bike guide was pretty cool too. We rode around in circles for a bit near our starting point then we got to go around the village. We stopped a few times to check out some of the cute spots in town and took some awesome pictures with our bikes. I actually almost fell off mine trying to take a selfie (standard Erika!). I also noticed that our bike guide was wearing clogs the whole time and definitely fulfilled the Dutch stereotype! Our last pit stop on our bike tour was at a traditional Dutch windmill. We all took our pictures and got our very last group shots in front of the windmill including a jump shot that seemed to be a running theme with us. Then it was time to head back to the bike place and back onto the coach.

Next up was our free time in town. We all pretty much split up during this time of the day because we all wanted to check out different stuff. Most of us opted for the Anne Frank House, while others went to NEMO the science museum or went to check out the Heineken Brewery. The Line for the Anne Frank house looked extra super long so some of the group was turned off by the wait, but some of us stuck it out and it only took about 1.5 hours to get in. I suggest of you’re going to want to visit it, ask your Tour Manager what time you will be getting into the city so you can plan out your day and see if you will be up for the wait. I personally don’t regret waiting in that long line because it was such an experience to go and see what happened in that house and put the story to an actual physical setting.

After that we split up again to do more exploring of our own. Sara, Leah and I walked around for the rest of our time in the city until we had to meet up with the others and Patrice at the coach.

When everyone got back to the pick up spot we all headed back to our accommodation to get ready for our very last dinner together. Everyone got pretty dressed up for tonight and as we made our way to the restaurant we sang our day song and took videos to remember our last coach ride as an entire group. Dinner was really nice, although I don’t quite remember what we ate! Patrice and Lee gave heart felt speeches and recaps of our time together which made most of us tear up.

The next thing we did on our last night was a canal cruise. This was an optional activity as well, which wasn’t the best but I wouldn’t miss it at all because the group time makes it so much better. On this cruise you get some shots and other drinks while you spend time with your Contiki family. This was also the time we found out who had taken some interesting stuff before the party started!

The final part of our night in Amsterdam consisted of partying at a club and some karaoke at the Bulldog. Let’s just say that the karaoke was full of laughter and smells while the club was full of dancing and hugs. It was an awesome night that I’m sure none of us will want to forget and probably never will! Xx

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St. Goar & Rhine Valley to Amsterdam | 16th July 2013

We were off to our last stop of the tour, after breakfast we all packed our bags and put then on the coach then we were off to Amsterdam. Our first stop in Amsterdam was a cheese and clogs place where we watched a man demonstrate how Dutch clogs were made then got to do some shopping. Everyone was playing around with the giant clogs and taking photos of the wacky designs. Then we got to try some traditional smoked cheeses! They were really tasty so I got two cheese sticks to bring home and I also bought clog slippers.

After that we got back onto the coach to go to the hotel and get ready for our walking tour of Amsterdam. This hotel was pretty far out from the city and was in the middle of farmland. It smelt like cow poop and grass everywhere so we kept the doors and windows shut. Most of the group was going to watch a show that night but Sarah and I decided to just explore the city centre instead. First up Lee took us around showing us the red light district which wasn’t that busy because it was a Tuesday and e even went down the lane where “big girls” windows were. After that we just went to a bar to chill until we all split off to look around.

When the others were at their sex show, Sarah and I just walked around looking at all the bong shops and the other funny hops around. Then we went to this random dessert restaurant in the middle of the main strip and had some waffles and chocolate covered popcorn. We were a bit skeptical at first to eat there because we thought the food had something “special” in it but It was all good because there were kids eating there too. At least we hoped it was hahaha! I bought a beanie that said Amsterdam and also got some socks with “leaves” on them. After that we met up with the rest of the group. Some decided to stay and go to the coffee shops and have some extra fun while others just opted to go back to the hotel and eat. It was a quiet night in for most of us until everyone else got back hahaha. Xx

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Lucerne to St. Goar & Rhine Valley | 15th July 2013

Our drive to the Rhine valley was not long, first we had some breakfast then lugged our bags back across the bridge to the coach. The scenery was all green and we some castles along the way which was cool.

When we got to St. Goar we dropped our stuff off at the small hotel, which was nice because there was a bar underneath. Then after we got settled we hopped onto a boat for our included river cruise. It was nice to see the town along the river and we even saw “Lorelei” the mythical story of a woman who leads sailors to a dangerous part of the river because she had supposedly been left heartbroken by one. The rest of the river cruise was nice and we took lots of pictures then got aff after about one and a half hours. Next up was the clock and beer stein shop. I just bought a mini beer stein that had Munich on it while others bought bigger ones and there was even a contiki themed on which was cool!

After shopping we all just hung out at the bar, some of the others went on an optional activity to do wine tasting in an underground cellar. I’m not a big fan of wine so I skipped this one. The others said it was pretty good though! When everyone was back we all played fun drinking games. One of them involved us all taking a shot out of a small bottle then we kept the caps and tried to get them into a bird house! I don’t remember who got them in but I’m sure someone did!

Lots of the others stayed up for while a while but the rest of us just slept to try and get better. xximage

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