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Two Unbelievable Weeks in Europe

Author: Kathryn B.
Date of Trip: July 2006

Day 1 - Chicago to London July 25th

The journey began in Chicago O'Hare airport where I met the other four people I was flying with. We all were expecting security to take a while so were there way too early. We left Chicago on British Airways (go row 42!) and the flight to London Heathrow took about 7.5 hours. Since we left late afternoon in Chicago, we landed at Heathrow at 7am in the morning and missed the nighttime.

Day 2 - First Day in London!

We all took the tube to Russell Square and dropped our stuff off at the Imperial Hotel. This was the only hotel we had single rooms at, but the rooms were very cute and tiny. In the lobby, we met some more fellow Contiki-ers and we all decided to go explore. We're tired and exhausted, so what better thing to do than go get drinks at a pub!

I enjoyed a lovely Strongbow (a cider drink, similar to fruit flavored beer). Couldn't get any food at the pub, so found a little bakery. Wandered around the city some more and eventually wound up at the park across from the hotel again with some wine. This was also in the middle of Europe's heat wave, and London doesn't really like air conditioning. Quite warm. After some chilling in the park, I went back and took a much-needed nap.

6pm was our designated time to meet the entire group for the first time in the lobby. We met all of the 45 that were on our trip, our driver Aaron, and a tour manager Pete, later deemed Petey Pablo, made for a very large group. A big group of us went back into the city for dinner and ate fish and chips at another pub. The owner seemed a little daunted that a huge group of Americans overtook the bar, but he agreed to give us food. We all moved to the upstairs part and enjoyed some more drinks and food.

After dinner we took some pictures in Trafalgar Square, bought more wine, and from the advice of a few police officers, headed to the river to "drink to our heart's content". Enjoyed the sights of London and had a very fun first night.

Day 3 - Full day in London

The first group event was a coach sightseeing tour of London and saw all the big sights, including: Big Ben, London Eye, Tower of London, London Bridges, and Trafalgar Square. It was a great way to see the entire city quickly and not waste a lot of time walking around lost, almost being hit by cars coming at you on the wrong side of the road. We were dropped off in the middle of the city, got some lunch, then a group of us walked to Buckingham Palace. Took some pictures, then me, Anne, and Kate walked through Hyde Park and down Oxford Street back to the hotel. Lots of walking. Thought we might kill ourselves a few times crossing the street and not knowing where the cars were coming from. Due to jetlag, the heat, and an hour of sleep the night before, took another quick nap at the hotel, then met everyone for our first group dinner.

Dinner was a very traditional British meal of soup, meat pies, and a strange sponge cake dessert. Probably my least favorite meal of the trip. Took the coach to Contiki sponsored Battle of the Bands, but dinner took so long that we only saw the last band perform. Danced and had a great time then headed back to the hotel in a taxi.

Day 4 - London to Paris

Left early in the morning for our first long coach drive. Took about two hours to get to Dover, England where we boarded the ferry. I was amazed by how big the ferry was and how many cars and buses were loaded onto it. Saw the White Cliffs of Dover and the Dover Castle as we left the shore and ate lunch during the 80 minute ride across the channel. The ferry took us to Calais, France where we got back on the coach and drove about 4 four hours to Paris.

In Paris, we stayed at the Ibis Hotel in the more northern part of the city somewhat near Sacre Coeur. The hotel was really nice and I was roommates with Caitlyn, who was my roommate for most of the rest of the trip. The group ate dinner downstairs in the hotel, then we went on the "Illumination Tour" of the city of Paris on the coach. Although my digital camera broke on the tour, it was beautiful to see the city all lit up at night, and it really deserves its nickname of "The City of Lights".

When we reached the Eiffel Tower, we were surprised to get out and be able to go to the top without even waiting in the long lines. It was awesome to go up there and experience it. In London I was still getting over jetlag, and it's not all that different from major US cities, but Paris is such a contrast. Paris is still probably my favorite European city so far, it's just gorgeous. I didn't go out that night and got a decent night of sleep for the first time in 4 days. Lots of partying still to go.

Day 5 - All day in Paris!

Today we had the entire day to do what we wanted. I didn't really want to go see the museums since I'd seen them the year before when I was in Paris, so I went off on my own to see how I'd fare by myself in a foreign city. I'm happy to say I did quite well. I walked everywhere around the city. Started by going to see Notre Dame, went inside, took some pictures, then headed back by the Louvre. I stopped for an awesome chocolate crepe. There is nothing like a nutella filled crepe in Paris for some reason. I decided some shopping was in order so walked up the Champs D'Elysee. I had a lot of fun shopping for souvenirs for my family in the chic stores. After finishing the trek up the Champs D'Elysee I ended up at the Arc de Triomphe for some more photos. I wanted to head towards the Eiffel Tower and ended up on a street that had all the big expensive stores on it like Chanel, Gucci, Jimmy Choos, etc. I was too scared to go in because I was in a t-shirt and gym shoes, but the window shopping was superb.

By the time I made it to the Eiffel Tower I was exhausted from all the walking so got some sort of slushie thing from a vendor and lay down on the lawn for awhile and people watched. Since I was by myself, I got a bit of unwanted attention from some French guys, but I assured two different gentlemen I was not interested in going out with them that night and was much too busy to stay any longer. It was getting later in the afternoon so decided to go see Napolean's Tomb since I never saw that before and it didn't look too far away on the map. The army museum was kind of scary, but the tomb itself was cool. I left to go find the nearest metro stop and figured I'd transfer a bunch of times, but I picked the one that went straight to my stop somehow. Got back to the hotel and slept for awhile.

Now comes my favorite night of the trip. We were going to the Moulin Rouge! I'm a little obsessed with the movie, so actually going to the real thing was so exciting. So we got all dressed up and headed to the very Bohemian artist's corner next to Sacre Coeur for dinner. The steep steps were interesting in heels. Dinner was great though and definitely worth the climb up. We were entertained by this crazy looking old singer during the huge meal with unlimited wine.

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