October 15th, 2007
Categories: Uncategorized

Contiki Hard & Fast Tour 2007


Wa. Wa. We. Wa. What a holiday. A week ago was my first day back in work, so after a period of reflection (so much for avoiding Post Holiday Depression. Le Sigh). I will use this post to talk you through the wonders that was each place I visited, the people who I met and miss terribly, and the two weeks of my life that were life changing and rather fantastic.

Top Tip: Click on the images to see full size!

Day 1-2: Paris

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Tip or Fact: Paris is the capital of France, where it is illegal to sell Red Bull

We arrived in Paris at around 5:30 French time at our campsite, and was greeted with pink champagne and snails. Yes I ate a snail, was rather tasty actually, like calimari (yes, I’m quite aware of the irony of me eating snails, those who’ve known me for ages). We were then taken on a brisk evening tour of Paris, but I really wanted to hit the bar, and was gasping for the loo. Also learnt my first bit of Aussie slang: “busting” means the same as “bursting” (as in “busting for the loo”).

The next day we headed for a tour of Paris, I could bore you with the details of Eiffell Tower, Champs Elysses and La Louvre, but it really got good in the evening, where we had a French meal with Accordian player playing happy birthday to one of our tour (it wasn’t her birthday), and then La Nouvelle Eve, which is like a cheaper version of The Moulin Rouge. It was fabulous. Not a big fan of cabaret shows (holidays in Butlins from years gone by have scarred me), but it had amazing acrobats, comedians that weren’t pretentious and dancing and singing. Yes women got their boobs out, but trust me, once you got over the fact of seeing boobs, it was fabulous.

Day 3 – Beaujolais

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Tip or Fact: Whilst famous for it’s red wine. Beaujolais also produces white and sparkling wine, as well as “Eau Du Vie”, a shot which is fucking lethal.

Beaujolais is a French Wine region famous for it’s red wine. We had a little wine tasting and wine appreciation session, before having a “Freaks and Geeks” party with a new found friends. It was good fun, but I was feeling a bit shakey from Paris, so I didn’t stay out too late.

Day 4 & 5 – French Riviera/Monaco

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Tip or Fact: Monaco is home to the famous street Grand Prix. However, due to a one way system, you can’t drive around the track the right way around.

One of the highlights of my tour was Nice. I love the campsite where we stayed in Antibedes, it had a great bar and a good vibe, it was also close to one of our only days off, and I spent most of the day on Nice’s beach. It was so picturesque, and I didn’t want to leave. The only regret is that I left my swimming trunks at the camp site, as well as my towel, so I couldn’t join my friends in the sea, which looked gorgeous. Nothing really noteworthy – just spent the day drinking beer and sitting on the beach – but it was so enjoyable and a highlight of my tour.

In the evening, we took a trip to Monaco, which is a separate country from France, to the Grand Casino. We were all suited and booted and looking forward to some gambling, at least I was. Alas, I was a bit put off by the prices of the tables: €25 a hand at Blackjack, so I stuck to the fruit machines (or, as Aussies call them, “Pokies”). Surprisingly, I did quite well, I won €90, which paid for a few red wines at the bar (I learnt pretty quickly that beer in France was expensive compared to wine, so I stuck to the wine). It may not be much, and I couldn’t afford any of the cars in the parking lot (the nicest was a silver Ferrari 456. With a UK numberplate I may add), but I left that night as a winner (and one of only a handful in our group).

Day 6 – Florence

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Tip or Fact: Florence is known for it’s statues everywhere. They fall under two types: replicas of Michaelangelo’s “David”, and statues called “The Raping of the _________”.

Day 6 we crossed the border into Northern Italy, and the historical city of Florence. We were an hour late arriving due to an accident on the motorway, but still high spirits. On the way to Florence I had the nicest pizza I have ever tasted, ironically in a service station. Nevertheless, it was fabulous.

In the evening, we went for a tuscan meal, which was 4 courses, and stupidly filling. It was immense, and so tasty! At the end of the meal, we had a shot of a digestive spirit, which settled stomach right down, so we could continue drinking. We went to a place called The Red Garter, which was a kareoke bar. It was just such a fun night, and I got royally battered and ended up back in the campsite dancing topless on a picnic bench. Oh deary deary me.

Day 7 & 8 – Rome

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Tip or Fact: In Rome (and I think the rest of Italy), it’s illegal to “Guide” people. Made it very difficult for our tour manager, as she had to run off at certain points.

I hated Rome.

Don’t ask me why, and I think we just hit a bunch of bad people who were by and large rude to us, but the city just grated with me. It began early on in the day, when – whilst queuing to be let into the Vatican, we were yelled at in Italian by some woman who thought we pushed in, this was 2 hours into the queue. She tried getting a policeman to move us to the back, but we stood tall and together. When we did finally get in we had the quickest of quick looks around Rome and the Vatican.

We were told early on not to be miserable, or moan, so instead of doing it, we wrote a song, to the tune of “Don’t you know that Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day”:

“You And Me
And Contiki
Walking Free
Except for Danni (she almost got arrested)

One shit day
We want away
Don’t you know that Rome was a fucking shit day
Hey Hey Hey”

Incidentally, we stayed in a fantastic campsite, with a service wash, so whilst I left Rome at the earliest opportunity, I enjoyed myself on the site. An exciting moment for me was getting a lift to the reception on the back of a moped without any helmet. That was exhillerating. I also in a drunken state graced the pole dancing pole in the nightclub underneath the bar. Alas, I fell off and grazed my knee, which still hurts 16 days after the incident.

Day 9 – Venice

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Tip or Fact: Everybody says Venice smells, it doesn’t.

Venice was probably one of the only parts of my trip that I left my bubble, when Rick rang me to say that Wales had been eliminated from the World Cup. It should’ve been a dampner, but it wasn’t. I enjoyed Venice so much. I went on a gondola, and got fairly merry on the champagne, I was feeling a bit down at one point after Wales was eliminated, and was eating in a restaurant on my own. However, our tour manager walked in, as well on her lonesome, and had a fantastic meal, even if I wasn’t quite sure exactly what I bought. I bought Scampi, which is always battered and deep fried. Not this meal, instead they look like they had just caught and killed it, and was still in the shells. I had no idea that Scampi was a shellfish! Still, was a nice meal. I’m not going to mention what I talked about, as it involves people who may read this, but I’d like to say that meal changed my outlook on life.

Leaving the restaurant, we headed back to St. Michaels square. It was beautfiul and such a laugh. The couples were being all smoochy, whereas some of the group went bought out a rose seller and sold them to various people. It was a magical place, and some of the looks on people’s faces when they were there was incredible. I decided that the future Mrs. Wynne-in-pending will be asked to marry me in Venice.

Day 10 – Munich (For the Oktoberfest)

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Tip or Fact: I will be doing a special “Three Tips” post this Thursday about how to get drunk at Oktoberfest.

Day 10 I woke up with a dicky stomach, not the best way to start, but an attitude adjuster the night before (Bacardi Breezer and 4 or 5 white spirits in a pint glass) probably wasn’t the smartest thing. I thought “Shit, Okky is going to be ruined for me!”, but thankfully it wasn’t, as once the beer started flowing then I was happy.

I loved Oktoberfest. For the unaware, it’s the biggest beer festival in the world. We were lucky, we got straight into the main tent (The Hofbräuhaus Tent) pretty much straight away, and – after a brief loo stop – we found a table to sit at. Beer began flowing at half 4, and by half 5 I was battered, but having an awesome time. It’s not like the traditional British way of drinking which largely involves fighting and being perverted, it’s more of a drink, smile, have a laugh and talk to anybody and everybody you can. It was awesome. I wish I could remember more about it.

Day 11 – St. Goar

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Tip or Fact: St. Goar is in The Rhine Valley, and has what they call the Lorelie Rock, which either saved or killed sailors, depending on who you spoke to.

St. Goar was supposed to be a quiet night after the delicacies of Okky, but it didn’t turn out that way following the wine tasting evening. It was nice wine, and we bought a few bottles of it and played drinking games back in the hotel. Also, St. Goar was home to my most expensive purchase of the holidays. A Contiki Bierstien, worth €120. Oh well, was only there once, and it is lovely.

Day 12 & 13 – Amsterdam

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Tip or Fact: Try to buy bottled, rather than draught beer in Amsterdam, the heads they put on the beers there is absolutely shocking.

The final official stop on our tour, the Damage. We stopped beforehand in Edam for a cheese and clogs demonstration, as well as a bike tour of the picturesque town. To be brutally honest, I’m not going to win the Tour De France anytime soon.

Following our bike tour, we headed into Amsterdam. Yes, we did go to the Red Light District, I remember when Rick went he said it was scary, but I was disturbingly quite comfortable with it all. Following a “Contiki Cultural Experience Show” (which will no longer be talked about) , we headed to a place called The Grasshopper, which – like the name suggested – was a “Coffee Shop”. Now, I stuck to the Alcohol, but generally also got pretty high from the fumes. The Grasshopper was expensive, so we headed into the central area to find a bar. We found an English pub showing the football, so we watched that, and gerally had a few beers and eventually met up with the others.

The next morning, I woke with a hangover and headed immediately to the Heiniken Brewery. For €11 we got a free gift and three free drinks, result! We then spent the next part of the day trying to find Anne Franks place, but it was a bugger to find, and we got stupidly lost and went to the pub. No wonder the Nazi’s took 2 years to find it.

The final night we had a huge Chinese meal, and got drunk in a bar. Result!

Day 14 & 15 – London

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I‘ll be honest, I cried so much on the bus home and in the evening, I didn’t want the holiday to end, but needs must and I was fast running out of money. I was however ready to show off the new confident, happy Rhys to everybody, so a quick ring around people saying “Meet me in London!” was carried out, in the end, only Celeste – who was on a date at the time – took me up on the offer. Her date was a brave man, looking immaculate (as did Celsete), being surrounded by a bunch of travellers in various stages of stinkiness. It was so cool catching up with her, and she, like my tour manager, gave me a huge confidence boost. We met up for lunch the next day for beer (for me) and some grilled steak, was lovely, and proved myself that I had put on weight this holiday (which I have, about 4 kilos. Ouch!)

Later that day, I met up with Han for the first time since we split up in March. Surprisingly, it was not as awkward as I thought it would be, but conceded that if I had met up with her before – rather than after – the holiday, it probably would’ve been more awkward. Nevertheless, we went to Lido’s and O’Neills (where Han got IDed), and we said our goodbyes and I returned to the pub to meet up with some of my tour mates who stayed an extra day in London. We ended up going to Walkabout in Shaftsbury Avenue, and I got rather lost on the walk home, in the end, giving up and getting a taxi home.

All in all, it was probably the best holiday I could ever hope for, and it was completely life changing. I feel I have become a more confident person because of it, and will go back to Nice, Amsterdam and definitely the Oktoberfest. I also want to do more travelling, I have been bitten by the bug, so whilst unsure exactly what I want to do yet, I want to do something.

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