European Encounter (Winter 2013/14)
Depart for Europe
Jet off to the trip of a lifetime awaiting you in Europe!
Check-in to your hotel after 2pm and the remainder of the day is free to relax before meeting your fellow travellers for your Kickstart meeting this evening. Afterwards why not grab some dinner at one of the local restaurants or take a short walk to explore nearby Covent Garden
London to Amsterdam
Meet up with your Contiki team before we hit the road and take a ferry past the White Cliffs of Dover. Next stop: the buzzing, free-wheeling city of Amsterdam. Check out Amsterdam’s eye-opening Red Light District, where the creative and wacky come together on narrow cobbled streets, 24/7. Get some pointers on the city’s hot spots from your Tour Manager and head into town for a fun night out.
In an intro into Dutch culture, see how clogs are made and try some of the famous Dutch Edam at a cheese farm. There’s free time this afternoon to experience Amsterdam’s coffee shops, museums and quirky, cool boutiques. Wander along the canals and past gabled houses or experience Amsterdam’s multi-ethnic cuisine. Tonight, try some of the traditional local cuisine at a restaurant in a nearby fishing village. With an optional evening canal cruise, there’s a chance to get to know the group, unwind with a few drinks and uncover Amsterdam at water level as you drift past the city lights. Get some pointers on the city’s hot spots from your Tour Manager and head into town for a fun night out.
Amsterdam to Rhine Valley
Chill out while the coach follows the Rhine River, weaving through valleys dotted with castles and vineyards. Next stop - the pretty, old-world village of St. Goar, complete with fairy-tale castle and even a free-hanging cuckoo clock! Learn about local know-how and get savvy on the craft of beer steins. Kick back with a glass of local wine and find out more with our included wine tasting in a candlelit underground cellar.
Rhine Valley to Lucerne
Next stop: the jaw-droppingly beautiful alpine town of Lucerne. Get above the clouds on the world’s steepest cog railway with an optional excursion up Mt. Pilatus. You can see massive mountain ranges with a bird’s-eye view over this spectacular region.
With covered wooden bridges, cobbled lanes and quaint buildings, Lucerne’s centre is perfect to explore on foot. Also to stock up on lots of genuine Swiss chocolate! Your Tour Manager can give you pointers on where to pick up the best-priced watches Switzerland is so famous for.
Lucerne to Innsbruck
Today, wind through the Alps and travel past the stony cliffs of Liechtenstein into the capital Vaduz, where you can grab some lunch and enjoy it in the shadow of the Royal Family’s 12th century castle. Then continue on through Austria into Innsbruck, a down-to-earth student city. Walk around the medieval streets of the easy going old town, and check out Innsbruck’s landmark Golden Roof and Royal Palace. Your pace will race when you see the totally impressive Olympic Ski Jump.
Innsbruck to Venice
This morning, roll on to Venice. Take some time to practice your Italian phrases on the coach as we travel through the Brenner Pass. Known as the “floating city”, Venice is packed with character, crammed with hidden lanes and linked by a network of canals. Jump on our private boat and travel through the waters of the lagoon to visit the city’s historical heart. The limestone Bridge of Sighs, the gothic arches of Doge's Palace and the expanse of St. Mark’s Square (pigeons and all!) show Venice’s unique beauty and way of life. Take some time to explore the floating city and lose yourself in the backstreets. You’ll see historic monuments, hidden treasures and the Rialto market - a local favourite for food shopping. Maybe grab a table on St. Mark’s Square and eat some delicious Italian food al fresco. Cap off the day with an optional gondola ride & share this amazing experience with your friends - seeing Venice from on the water is unforgettable!
Venice to Rome
This morning, it’s your chance to splash some cash, with our stop at Barberino Designer Outlet mall for our exclusive Italian fashion experience. You can use this opportunity to get some gear to show off to your friends at home. This outlet mall is amazing, with your chance to pick up some designer fashion at incredible prices. With between 30%-70% off regular retail, the savings are epic, and because you’re with Contiki you’ll get up to an additional 10% off! From labels like Missoni, Bose, Dolce & Gabbana to name a few – there’s going to be plenty to tempt you today. With no doubt lots of bags in hand, we’ll hit the road en route to the ancient city of Rome. Stylish Rome oozes energy and overflows with relics from another age. Our special access coach tour gets you right into the thriving atmosphere of this living timeline as your Tour Manager shows you the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia. Continue on foot to check out the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. Honour tradition at the Trevi Fountain and throw a coin in the fountain’s waters (it’s meant to improve your chances of returning to Rome!) or maybe hang out with your new friends at the Spanish Steps, sit back with a few slices of pizza and people watch.
This morning, make the most of our Local Guide’s inside knowledge with an optional guided tour of the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Then check out Rome’s imperial glory by visiting the Colosseum and Roman Forum. Take off into the city and absorb the atmosphere, as Vespas flash past timeworn monuments that are surrounded by fountains, pizzerias, cafés and bars. Before you hit the shops, let your Tour Manager point you in the right direction with some tips on the best buys. In your free time, live the local lifestyle by indulging in a long lunch on a paved piazza or knock back a shot of espresso at the bar, like the Romans do.
Rome to Florence
Next up: Umbria’s rustic hills and many vineyards. Travel past the iconic cypress trees of this olive oil producing region, to the Renaissance city of Florence. The scene-stealing Duomo Cathedral rises above the city. Get the inside track on Florence’s cultural beginnings from our Local Guide as the group explores streets crammed with artworks from masters like Michelangelo. Then, take a look into a skilful demonstration of Florentine leather making and understand this region’s traditional art. The city’s markets are a great place to hang out and bargain. Grab a gelato in your free time and enjoy the feel of this gorgeous city. Tonight there’s a choice of a group dinner – an authentic Italian feast in the Tuscan hillsides, where you’ll get to indulge in regional dishes & sip on local Chianti wine. Afterwards, take it up a notch & opt to head with the group to one of Florence’s top clubs where you can show off your moves on the dance floor.
Florence to French Riviera
We stop by Pisa’s iconic Leaning Tower this morning, before sticking to the Italian coastline and crossing over into France. Then we hit the rugged coast line of the stunning Côte d’Azur. Follow the beautiful sapphire waters to the palm trees and sun-soaked shores of Nice.
In your free time live a bit of the lifestyle with a visit to the local markets. Try out the region’s produce like lavender honey, aioli (garlic mayonnaise) and mouth-watering rosé wine. Window shop the chic boutiques or enjoy a relaxing afternoon in one of the many cafés. Tonight get a taste of the high life in Monaco, the glamourous principality packed into just 1.92km2 and home of the Formula 1. Indulge in a bit of glitz with the group by opting for a typically French 4-course meal just a few doors down from the Royal Palace. Get the inside story on the Royal Family and their place of residence from your Tour Manager, then try your luck at a casino later on.
French Riviera to Château de Fontager
Next stop on the Riviera and home to the French perfume industry is Fragonard Perfumery. Learn more about how perfume is made and some of its more surprising ingredients. It’s also a chance to pick up a bottle or 2 at a great price. Unwind on the coach, listen to your MP3 and take in the rustic beauty of Provence, known for its pretty landscapes of lavender, sunflowers and wild herbs. A lunch stop in the Popes’ former seat of power, Avignon, means a real taste of the Provencal lifestyle and a look into the town’s Roman heritage. Wander through the cobbled streets and learn about Avignon’s past as a spiritual superpower when you see the impressive Papal Palace. Arrive at Château de Fontager and settle into your room for our overnight stay in this medieval French castle.
Château de Fontager to Paris
With down-time on the coach, chat with friends while travelling through the scenic wine producing regions of Burgundy and Chablis. Tonight, the group kick-starts Paris with the 'Tour of Illuminations', which shows off the French capital’s transformation into the “City of Lights”. Lamp-lit bridges and cool little cafés give us a real taste of Paris’ romance. Your Tour Manager will fill you in on the world’s most recognised monuments, like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. Then get a stunning view of the entire city with included entry to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Oui, oui, Paris!
This town is loaded with possibilities. Discover its many bistros, museums, tree-lined avenues and diverse quartiers (neighbourhoods). Get a feel for French flair by window shopping on the Left Bank. Step into the Notre Dame or explore the endless galleries of the Louvre, where you can get up close to the famous Mona Lisa. In your free time, try indulging in some delicious pastries and relax in one of Paris’ many green spaces. Tonight is the last night with your friends, so make it special. Treat yourself to the full Parisian experience with a cabaret show, complete with can-can girls, dinner and Champagne. But don’t stop there – afterwards hit the clubs and finish up your travels with a big Parisian night out.
This morning after breakfast we transfer you to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (estimated arrival 10:00am) where your tour ends. Or choose to take a complimentary transfer to central London & extend your stay.