One of our readers shares her experience of touring Europe through an organised group tour package
For most families like ours a Europe trip is a lifelong dream. Your parents are always saying”after we retire we will tour around the world starting off with Europe”. However our generation with more exposure to the world and the means, want everything early in life.
Me and my husband love to travel and luckily for us so do our parents. So this year we planned the long awaited trip to Europe. Mostly the “tourist spots” in an organized group tour. Not something I would have liked, I always dreamt of backpacking across Europe, being more frugal in our travels so we can see more, be more and experience more in less. However when old folks are involved, an organized group tour with major attractions is preferred.
Day 1: London
So it all began in London, after a long plane ride of God knows how many hours but felt like forever. The city is not my personal favourite, it is more urban than I would like, however you do catch the old among the new here and there. Our very first stop was the Buckingham palace with its grand gates and if one has sometime one can also tour the inside or catch the change of guards. After the palace we toured around the city and saw the London bridge, Parliament square which has among other famous world leaders like Nelson Mandela, our very own Gandhiji then went to Madame Tussauds wax museum with statues of our Bollywood actors and of course Mr Modi. However among all these the most I enjoyed in London was while riding London eye, our last stop for the day in London. The engineering of the whole thing is amazing. I have ridden on large ferries wheels before but nothing quite like it, it’s a ferries wheel and cable car all in one and the views of the Thames, Big Ben and beyond, are just spectacular. It was a nice way to end our day before heading back to our hotel to rest.
Day 2: London & Paris
From there our journey continued to Paris, the city of romance. A nice boat ride from port Dover to Port Calais was part of the journey. It was less of a boat and more of a cruise with everything aboard from restaurants to shopping to slot machines. We sat up on the roof until we could see the shore and then enjoyed the many services offered aboard. Once in Paris we had some time to ourselves to walk around the Champs Elyees, the central shopping street of Paris. As some of you urban design enthusiasts may know that the urban design of Paris is radial, there is a central node and radiating streets, one such central spot being Arc De Triomphe. It was quite relaxing to walk on the streets do some souvenir shopping, eat some gelato and soak in the city spirit. Then we headed for an early dinner and back to our hotels. It was bright outside till around 9PM so we got to walk around our hotel and enjoy the fresh air before hitting the sack.
Day 3: Paris
Day three was the much awaited attraction of this trip the Eiffel tower. We got to go up the tower and enjoy the beautiful city views. The real beauty of Eiffel tower is revealed only at night once it is light up. During the day to most eyes it just seems like a large iron structure, however for those of us who can appreciate the engineering it is as beautiful in the daylight. We had a choice to spend the day on our own in Paris or go to Disney World. Since most of us were adults we decided it would be best spent visiting the Louvre and enjoying Paris by night. The Louvre in itself is an architectural beauty and of course it houses painting of world famous painter and one such painting which we all know is the Monalisa which we got to see up close. This museum is more for the art connoisseurs however we did enjoy parts of it. After the Louvre we relaxed a bit in the gardens and then headed for the boat cruise along the Seine river. This boat cruise gives you a different view of the city something you cannot experience from another other angle, we passed 22 bridges all with different character and got to experience first-hand the life of the Parisians. Some of them were picnicking along the banks of the river were others were taking dance lessons. By the time we were done with the cruise it started to get dark and we got to see the Eiffel tower light up. One of the better views of the Eiffel tower specifically for pictures is from on top of the Arc the Triomphe which is where we headed next. Atop the Arc we not only were able to enjoy the tower but also the rest of Paris by night. It was a long day but waiting to see Paris light up was worth it. This aha moment concluded our stay in Paris.
Day 4: Paris & Belgium
Our journey continued onwards to Brussels in Belgium the city of Chocolates and my happy place. Once in Brussels we went to see the famous 17th century Bronze statue of Mannequin Pis. We enjoyed the square and ate some Belgium waffles and of course bought some truffles. It was a day for the ones with a sweet tooth. In the afternoon we headed to see Mini Europe. This is a park where all the famous monuments of Europe are replicated at a scale of 1: 25. For someone who cannot see the whole of Europe in one lifetime this is a perfect place to get a glimpse of it.
Day 5: Belgium & Germany
On Day 5 we headed to Germany, first stop being Cologne which where the cologne we use come from. After visiting the Cologne cathedral with its eccentric Gothic architecture and glass painted windows. And ofcourse after which we did a ton of shopping for perfumes and Cologne. Our next pit stop was in Black forest, yet another place which is famous for the Black forest cake we eat. It is amazingly soft delicious and totally worth trying. This is also the place where cuckoo clocks are made and there is a giant clock to celebrate the city’s local trade.
Day 6: Germany
Day 6 was the most relaxing of them all, we strolled along the Rhine falls in Heidelberg and then headed to Rhineland to take a cruise along the fairy tale Rhine river. The banks of this river is out of a Disney movie with castles and wineries. Today was a short and charming day.
Day 7, 8 & 9: Switzerland
Last 3 days of the trip was the much awaited Switzerland, the heaven on earth. The first day in Switzerland we headed to top of Jungfrau on Mount Alps. The whole ride to the peak is in a huge cable car with amazing views that you would see on a postcard. And luckily it was a cloudy day and the temperature had dropped enough for us to experience snowfall. Up top the peak we got to see the Ice museum, play in snow and enjoy a lunch with a view. The second day we went to Engelberg, where we made it to the top of Europe on Mount Titlis in the world’s first rotating cable car. One takes a smaller cable car from the bottom to the lake and then a large rotating cable car from there to the top of Titlis. Today we got to enjoy a lot more in the snow as it was nice out. We also got to walk over a bridge on the cliff and get an experience of the depth of the cliff. The last day before heading to the airport we had some free time to do some shopping in Zurich and experience the Swiss city life. After relaxing for sometime in Zurich it was time to bid goodbye to our group and our wonderful guide and ofcourse the beautiful Switzerland and head to the airport. The trip surpassed our expectations and we will definitely be heading there again, soon perhaps this time on our own.