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July & August, 1997

eiffel Since we don't travel nearly enough, we decided to take a big trip and go to Europe. Although I travelled to Europe five years earlier with two friends, Julie had never been there. We decided to take a Contiki tour of Europe, to reduce the amount of hassle involved in travelling (Contiki plans the transportation, accommodations, and some of the meals). It was a lot of fun, although very grueling at times. And don't get me started on the bathroom facilities.

itinerary
Our European itinerary. (Map courtesy of Contiki Holidays)

We saw a lot of sights during our three weeks in Europe. Some of the places that we visited in Europe include the following:

Julie ate a snail! (Well, it was escargot)


I had a lot more time to spend in London this time, as compared to the last time I visited. Last time, London reminded me of "Coronation Street" (bleak and depressing). This time I saw a lot more of the city. Julie and I were impressed with the efficiency of the London Tube ("Watch The Gap!"). Shopping in Harrods was interesting, to say the least. And the British Museum was on par with some of the other great museums I have seen, including the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Natural History. Seeing the Magna Carta in person and actually touching the Rosetta Stone (when the guards weren't looking) was an unforgettable experience.

arc
The Arc De Triomphe in Paris, France.


From the cliffs of Dover, we then took a ferry to the northwestern tip of France, then quickly through Belgium and into Amsterdam. Julie had no idea what to expect, but an evening walk through the Red Light District (with a few other couples from the tour) made for an interesting evening. We even managed to walk back to the hotel on our own without getting lost.

From the Netherlands, we took a quick stop in St. Goar, Germany (just off the Rhine River). Compared to the hotel room in Amsterdam, the room in St. Goar was heaven on earth. We even got to watch Jay Leno on the Tonight Show (this enabled us to catch up on current events in North America). From St. Goar, we went to Munich to see the Glockenspeil (a glorified cuckoo clock). Alas, most of the shops were closed by the time we got there.

vatican
St.Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Italy.


From Germany, we visited the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria; a sobering experience. We then went to Vienna. Vienna is a grand and beautiful city. One can understand why illuminaries such as Sigmund Freud and Amadeus Mozart lived here. We even got to see an opera. The only downside was that there was NO AIR CONDITIONING in the opera house. I almost passed out from the heat.

Culturally, Italy probably had the greatest history and variation in all of Europe. Unfortunately, that also applies to their bathrooms (ugh!). Also, it was unbearably muggy and humid in Italy. Yet tourists were required to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts if they wanted to enter any churches. I would recommend to anyone travelling to Italy to avoid going during the peak summer times (July and August). Not only to avoid the heat, but also to avoid the incessant crowds everywhere.

I had a "Royale with Cheese" in Paris.


venice
Julie standing over a canal in Venice, Italy.


In terms of hygiene, Switzerland was the polar opposite of Italy. It is a very clean and tidy country. Although the one thing that Switzerland had in common with Italy was prices - expensive! As an example, a can of pop was typically between $3 and $5 (yikes!).

swiss
Julie and I with the Swiss Alps behind us.


Paris is my second favorite city in the world, after New York City. Nothing beats the history, beauty, and glamour of Paris. After seeing the Champs Elysee at night, one can understand why Paris is called The City of Lights. It was unfortunate that we didn't have a few more days to spend in Paris. We would have liked to explore the city a lot more, plus perhaps take a day trip to Euro-Disney.

contiki
A photo of the whole Contiki gang (taken in Florence)



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