My cousin and I decided to book a trip through Contiki which is a tour group for people ages 18-35. I HIGHLY recommend this tour because they go out of their way to make sure you have the best time and experience. You also meet people from all over the world and make lifelong friends.
Our first stop was London. We stayed at the Imperial Hotel in Russel Square. Most of the hotels were between 2-3 stars. Our room had two single beds and a bowed window that overlooked part of the city. It was so nice we just slept with the window open every night. Our first day there we went for afternoon tea at a place called Sketch. They had an Into The Woods themed menu for the time we visited. The room we sat in was all pink. Pink seats, pink walls, pink everything ! I tried caviar for the first time here and it just wasn’t for me. Although it was pretty expensive I recommend getting afternoon tea at least once while you’re in London. That night we had our Kickstart meeting where we met our tour guide and everyone that would be traveling with us. This tour is great because you can go with a group of people or alone. I was surprised at how many people came by themselves. We had dinner at the hotel then shortly after we all took a sightseeing bus tour of London as the sun set.
Day two was a free day. My cousin and I did a little exploring of London and went shopping on Oxford street. We also went to the Tower of London. I’m a huge history buff so I loved it but I have to warn you, it’s A LOT of walking and stairs. If you don’t think you can do it don’t try. It was pretty cool to see the Ravens and the crowned jewels. We also went on the London Eye that night. We happened to be the second to last group to go on before they closed. It was around 8 pm. If you want to see a beautiful sight go around this time because it’s when the sun is setting. It was breath taking. It took about 30 minutes to go around but it was worth it. Contiki did offer an optional walking tour about Jack the Ripper and his infamous murder sites. I personally wasn’t about it but I heard from my fellow tour mates how awesome it was.
We started off the day with complimentary breakfast then headed to the lobby to meet up with our tour guide for a walking tour of London street art. The lady was very knowledgable and we saw so many different art pieces including some Banksy, which were my favorite. She also pointed out some hidden pieces of art that I would’ve looked right past if I was to do it on my own. The tour took about 2.5 hours total but it was included in the price we paid for the trip so we said “why not ?!” After the tour, my cousin and I met with a group of people in our tour group and we decided to go to the Beefeater Distillery. At the time I was only 18 so I was all for being legal and drinking in another country ! It was fairly inexpensive. They showed you all the ingredients they use, how it was made and you also got a glass of Gin and Tonic at the end…Yes a glass not just a little taste. After the distillery we headed back to the hotel for a little nap before we all went to see the play Mamma Mia which was 10 times better with British accents. Then we headed back for our last night in London before heading to Paris. I don’t think I really got used to the time difference the whole trip because we would get to the hotels late and wake up early to make sure we had time to see everything we wanted to. Let’s just say I slept for like 2 days when I got back.
This was mostly a day full of travel. We spent a couple hours driving from London to the French borders. We drove the bus onto the ferry where we spent a couple hours just hanging around. We got to see the White Cliffs of Dover which were very unique. When we finally docked we all got back on the bus and continued the drive to Paris. If you’re driving into Paris yourself I must warn you.. The traffic is horrendous. We spent close to an hour in traffic just to turn the corner. People were riding there motorcycles over the sidewalk as if it was a road. We stayed at an Ibis hotel which was a lot nicer than I imagined, although it was very tiny. We barely had enough room to put our bags. That night we ate at the hotel for dinner than we all hopped on the bus again and were dropped off at the Eiffel Tower. The ticket was included with the trip. It was around 8 ish when we all made our way to the top. I do not recommend walking those stairs… It is far too many lol. There are 2 elevators you have to take to get to the 2nd level where they had a gift shop and bathrooms. My cousin was afraid of heights so that’s as high as she went. Some friends and I continued to the top. I felt like I was on top of the world. The sun was setting as we were up there and I’ve never seen such a beautiful sight. We all were taking pictures of each other and the landscape but it was so windy you really had to hold onto your cameras. We were walking around when we found a ple that sold champagne. A glass of champagne in a light up glass was a little under 20 Euros.. Yes expensive but I told myself, “when am I ever going to do this again?!” We made a toast and drank !
Today a bunch of us did a bike tour.. We saw so many things I honestly couldn’t tell ya half of them. After a tiring morning we headed over to the Champs Élyseés where we did a little shopping at the Longchamp store. After we grabbed a couple of macarons from Ladureé. The Marie Antoinette and the rose one were my favorite. They have a lot of different flavors. I would’ve shipped some back but they didn’t have a long shelf life and I guarentee my family would’ve ate them before I got home (Luckily they had some in the airport so I got some before I left). We had a little time before we had to get ready then head off to see the Moulin Rouge. We hit a little bump in the road when we thought the bus time was a half hour later than it was so had to call a taxi and literally made it there as the group was going in. This part wasn’t included in the trip but it was the best $100ish I spent. We got to doll ourselves up which is always nice. We weren’t allowed to take pictures during the show, although I don’t think I would’ve anyway because there was so much to enjoy. Yes there were a lot of boobs but it’s France !! The food was out of this world and each person got a half a bottle of wine included with their 3 course meal. Our tour guide told us about this awesome bar next door named O’Sullivans where all the contiki groups would go after the show. It was so fun because the whole group went. They had music and it got more live as the night went on. I have to say though, the later it got the more drunk people were there doing very untasteful things.
This time we made it to the bus on time. We all headed over to the Palace of Versilles. The line was super long if you didn’t already have a ticket (which again was included). Our tour guide for that was very knowledgable, however she was very monotoned which made it a little less interesting to me. When the tour was finished we headed to the gardens behind the palace where we got drinks and baguettes. You could spend a whole day just walking around the gardens and looking at all the statues. As we were leaving the gates there were a bunch of people selling little Eiffel Tower key chains. They were 5 for 1 Euro !! I kid you not I bought about 25 of them and gave them out to friends and family as a souvenir. [A quick tip if you’re going to Paris: keep your eyes open and your hand on your bag. I was already warned about pick pocketters but I had a couple encounters this trip. The top of the Eiffel Tower was one place. You also have to watch out for people asking for you to sign your name. They usually work in twos.. One to distract while the other one steals. When we were walking down the Champs élyseès a lady and young boy waking up to an older couple and as the lady was talking the young boy took something out of the older woman’s purse. I was in shock as we were walking by I honestly didn’t know what to do. A YOUNG BOY stealing from an elderly couple. I was disgusted.] We didn’t have enough time to go to the Lourve or some other places. I guess that’s another reason to go back ! It was our last night together as a Contiki group before some of us went to Rome or back home. We walking a crap load of stairs up towards Sacré Cœur. The view from here was almost as good as the top of the Eiffel Tower. We ate at La Bonne Franquette which was one of Van Gogh’s favorite restaurant. It was a picture perfect restaurant. It was almost like a treehouse because it had string lights and a tree through the center. This again was not included in the tour but everyone spent the money and we ate together. We started out with an appetizer (I chose the French onion soup) which was good but my friend let me try her escargot and it was my first time trying it, it was delicious ! Don’t say you hate it before you try it ! Next up was a slice of Brie cheese then finally the entree. For some odd reason I can’t remember exactly what it was but it was some kind of beef. They then brought out some kind of chocolate cake followed by a shot of espresso. The waiters were so nice and funny. They were telling us stories and complimenting us. This one girl had some food allergies and she couldn’t really eat much so the waiter brought her an apple on a plate and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard. After dinner we walked around the cobblestone streets of Paris and bought some paintings from the local Parisian artists. When we got back to the hotel we all got a drink and said our goodbyes… Next stop, ROMA!