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Kate's European Adventures.

21 days of camping fun across Europe (aka: my 21 day bender across Europe) - Bonjour France

FRANCE | Thursday, 23 July 2009 | Views [805]

With my 3 months of summer holidays from working in Dublin, I was always going to take the opportunity to travel across Europe and see as much as I could. And being a relatively young Australian what better way to do this then with the great Aussie tradition of a Contiki tour.

I chose the 21 day camping trip for two reasons really – 1: it was a cheaper option and fit in with my budget and 2: there would be no pretentious giggly girls that can’t be without their hairdryers and straighteners for longer than 2 hours.

Despite the fact that I never want to see a tent or a self-inflating blow up mattress (self-inflating, yeah right!) for quite a while, I had a blast. So the next several entries are going to detail the rain, the drinking, the eating and of course the sight-seeing that took place for my 21 day camping trip around Europe.

Bonjour France.

It’s always funny when you start a tour watching everyone doing the sizing up deal. Thinking about who they would like to be friends with, how old people are, how geeky they are and more who would end up hooking up by the end of the trip.  At the meeting the night before our trip left, this is exactly what was happening. Then after a stay in the noisiest 1970’s decor hotel in London, we boarded our coach extremely early and left England bound for France.

The day involved massive driving, having the same introductory conversation with the 40-odd other people of the bus, but we eventually got into our camp site in Paris where we were introduced to our homes for the next 21 days. I discovered why the camping groups get to know each other so well compared to some of the more luxurious tour groups. The tents are basically only canvas and you are so close together that coughing, snoring, farting and any other nocturnal noises can be heard, and shared, by all, whether you want them too or not. Oh and I can’t start chronicling this trip without mentioning the self-inflating mattresses. Excuse me for a moment – self –inflating my arse! But let’s not start complaining too soon into the trip.

We jumped back onto the bus after a feed to see the highlights of Paris. Here we encountered Jonny’s (our illustrious tour leader) prank number 1. Driving up past the building where Napoleon himself lived we were told to keep our eyes peeled for Napoleon’s teddy bear that is still kept in the window (yes, yes, I know we  really should have seen it coming). Here’s a bus load of people, eyes peeled to the left for this teddy bear and wondering where it is, when Jonny says, ‘Oh maybe it’s on the right.’ So we turn to the right of the coach, and there’s the Eiffel Tour. Thanks Jonny, thanks. Didn’t we all feel like idiots (note that I wrote, Jonny’s prank number 1 – keep reading for the doozy). The walk under the Eiffel tour at dusk was well worth the embarrassment of the prank though. All I want to do know is have a picnic at sunset underneath the Eiffel tour.

Night one meant a few 'quiet' drinks at the campsite. At some point after midnight I learnt how well we were going to get to know each other in our little tent city. I could hear one of the boys, Duro, yelling at his tent buddy, Daniel to move over so he could get in. This drunken argument went on for a while, with a bit of laughing by everyone listening and I think the problem was resolved when Duro literally pushed Daniel out of the way. The following morning there was no sign of the boys until Cam, our super cook, yelled 'Who wants some more breakfast?' and then from the tent closest to the cook-tent popped two bleary eyed heads in search of food.

Day 2 meant a mammoth amount of sightseeing to be had in Paris. Thankfully, Paris turned on a lovely day for us and for the first time in months my legs got some sun and air on them in a skirt (whoo hoo). Hopefully my newfound Irish paleness won’t last too long.

I headed straight to the Louvre with my tent buddy Tonia (from Chile) and we met up with some fellow campers to spend the next 2 hours getting lost and stumbling across some amazing works of art. We did the highlights walk basically, saw the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, both well worth seeing. I can completely understand how people spend days and days wondering through this place in awe. There is so much to see and the building itself is as amazing as the artwork it holds.

We were all in desperate need of some Parisian coffee so we found a little coffee shop to sit and pretend we were real Parisians looking out over the streets. A baguette for lunch on the go went down a treat while we walked to Notre Dame Cathedral. It was great to take a moment to sit and pause in the calmness of the cathedral after the craziness of the hoards of jostling tourists at the Louvre.

A quiet afternoon was in order so, after finding more fellow campers we ambled our way back up along the River, looking at the street vendors random items (everything from books to souvenirs to French pornography) for sale. A great way to spend the afternoon and to pick up some souvenirs for people, certainly a must if you want something really Parisian.

We had a high class evening prepared for us with a Parisian Dinner (quiche, escargot, duck, beef and desert, and of course lots of wine). This was a great way to get to talk to some of the other people on our trip, with everyone all glammed up. Next stop was a Cabaret show at La Nouvelle Eve. We got some real French Champagne and laughed our way through the trip. It was hilarious when Sam the Kiwi farmer, got pulled up on stage to be the acrobats assistant. Or perhaps it was the French Champagne?

Paris had turned on some great weather for us and a perfect start to our trip. The following morning we had our first go at packing up the tents and coach, and left Paris headed for Switzerland, leaving the dry weather behind.



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