TRAVEL – topdeck’s europe express: venice

travel - topdeck europe express day 5 and 6 veniceWe left Verona and arrived at our accommodation for the next two nights; the Camping Village Jolly just outside Venice.

Like the Swiss Alps, we stayed in cabins but this time we got our own keys and had our own en-suites! Our first night was spent doing our laundry – living the dream I know! The next day we had breakfast and headed into Venice to see those famous gondolas and do some exploring!

travel - venice photo diary - st marks basilica 1

travel - venice photo diary - st marks basilica 2

Our tour leader Marshall took us on a little walking tour where we came across the Daniele Manin statue (below) in Campo Manin. Created by Luigi Borro in 1875, the statue is in honour of Daniele Manin – a great patriot and politician. After taking photos we were then led to the famous St Mark’s Basilica (above). Despite being under renovation, it was one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen, and was a definite highlight of the trip.

travel - venice photo diary - mask shopping and Camp Manin statue

We couldn’t come to Venice without going on a gondola ride! Marshall got us a cheap deal for around €20 each (some of us asked for another go around and they were gonna charge us €80!) As nice as it was exploring the canals and the little islands, the gondola ride highlighted just how not very clean the city is. There were dead rats in the water and there was a pungent aroma in the air. 

travel - venice photo diary - gondolas

After the gondola ride we all split off into little groups. We were told that we were gonna have a masquerade party at the Camping Village that night so me and a few others went in search for our masks. On our search we came across Rialto Bridge – one of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal. It’s famous for its many shops as well as being a landmark, and it was nice to see a more modern side of Venice.

travel - venice photo diary - venetian mask

Once we were done exploring Rialto Bridge, we came across La Maschera Del Galeone, a quaint little mask shop. I chose this pretty lace detailed mask above for 12. It was 100% made in Italy so that added an extra authentic touch. We also attended a glass making demonstration, which was pretty amazing, before heading back to the Camping Village. That night we all dressed up and played drinking games. It felt so nice to let our hair down, although some of us were feeling a little worse for wear the next morning!

But there was no time to dwell as we were back on the coach and heading to our next destination: Dachau in Germany!

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – topdeck’s europe express: swiss alps

travel - topdeck europe express day 3 and 4 swiss alpsAfter two days in the City of Love, it was time for the next stop on the Europe Express tour, the Swiss Alps.

Travelling from one of the busiest cities in the world to the quiet mountains of Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland was a definite contrast. We went from the hustle and bustle of Paris to being surrounded by beautiful mountains and rivers.

travel - swiss alps photo diary - view of swiss alps and river

Instead of a hostel, this time we stayed in Schuetzenbach Backpacker & Camping lodges. The four-bed cabins were tiny (I’m pretty sure our hostel room in Paris was bigger), and there were no keys to lock the doors! Another downside was the communal showers – my first experience! They weren’t actually that bad, although we did have to pay 1/2 swiss franc to use them – if you wanted to shower in hot water that is!

Aside from the cabins and the showers, there was a pretty cool but expensive bar! Note to self – Switzerland is very expensive! Thinking that we could find a cheaper place to drink, a few of us went for a walk around the area. However, we soon realised that there wasn’t a lot to do and the bars we found were just as expensive as ours, so we headed back and joined the rest of our group for some drinking games. I wasn’t feeling very well so I headed to bed for an early night.

travel - swiss alps photo diary - jungfrau train

travel - swiss alps photo diary - view of the swiss alps on the way to jungfrau mountain

We had one full day in the Swiss Alps. Some of the group hiked, whilst others wanted to skydive (unfortunately for them it got cancelled due to the weather) and me and a few others went to Jungfrau Mountain, one of Europe’s highest mountains.

travel - swiss alps photo diary - welcome to jungfrau mountain and me on top of jungfrau

travel - swiss alps photo diary - lindt shop and switzerland snow globe

We took the train there which passed many houses and stations on the way to Jungfrau. We also got a ‘passport’ telling us the history of the mountain and what we were to expect. There was an ice palace and Europe’s highest ever Lindt shop. Safe to say that was one place I definitely visited! It was such a nice experience and the Aussies on the trip got to see snow for the first time!

travel - swiss alps photo diary - cute swiss alps cafe

Once our trip to Jungfrau was over, a few of us headed to a quaint little cafe on the way back to our cabins. I had a delicious hot chocolate and we all used this opportunity to connect to the internet! Let’s just say the area that we were in was very remote and this cafe was one of the only places which provided internet access. That evening, we all got merry at the bar and celebrated our final night in the Alps!

Tune in for my next entry – a short stop in Verona, Italy!

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – topdeck’s europe express: paris

travel - topdeck europe express day 1 and 2 parisIt’s finally here! Here is a photo diary of my first stop on the Europe Express tour – Paris!

After a long journey from London (we set off at 7.30am in the morning) we arrived at the first destination on our tour, Paris, and the first of many hostels. We stayed at The St Christopher’s Inn in Gare Du Nord which was a great first hostel for a newbie like me. We had our own ensuite (although there were communal showers on every floor) and we even had our own under-bed locker space, curtain and plug socket! Aside from the room, the hostel, which has chains in Amsterdam and Barcelona, had two bars (great for getting to know other travellers) and was only a stone’s throw away from Gare Du Nord train station.

Travel - paris photo diary - St Christophers Inn and escargot

After checking out the rooms we headed down to dinner and one delicacy which I ticked off my list was escargot! Marinated in a garlic sauce, it surprisingly tasted really nice! We ended the night with a bit of group bonding (i.e drinking games) and partied in the downstairs bar.

travel - paris photo diary - opera national de paris and arc de triomphe

While some people were in bed recovering from the night before, the next day I got up early and joined a few others on the coach for a whistlestop tour of Paris.  I had been to Paris once before and visited most of the attractions such as the Louvre and Notre Dame. This time around I aimed to soak up more of what the ‘City of Love’ had to offer besides the Eiffel Tower! On our coach tour we got to pass the Opera National de Paris and the Arc de Triomphe (two other sites ticked off my list) before finally arriving at the Eiffel Tower.

Travel post - Paris photo diary - Notre Dame and Eiffel Tower

After taking lots of Eiffel Tower selfies (standard), we split off into smaller groups and did our own thing. Me and a couple of others decided to walk down the River Seine to Notre Dame. The two hour walk was so refreshing as we got to take in the beautiful surroundings on both sides of the river, such as the Musee d’Orsay and we came across a cool ‘be your own DJ’ music system under one of the bridges. You could connect your Bluetooth on your phone and play your music through the speakers – there was even a disco ball!

Travel post - Paris photo diary - Bridge on the River Seine

On our tour we had the choice to take part in optional activities. One activity I couldn’t recommend more was the bike tour. We all hired bikes and got to see the city through someone else’s eyes. We went past an old military school and cycled along the River Seine before making our way back to the Eiffel Tower for a delicious group picnic!

travel - paris photo diary - dj system, bike tour, old military school and group picnic at eiffel tower

When the picnic finished, some of us opted for an early night, as the next day we would be waking up early to visit our next stop on the tour – the Swiss Alps!

Look out for the next installment of my Europe Express series. I’d love to know what you think!

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – exploring europe

travel - exploring europeTomorrow I get to go on an amazing journey around Europe.

This eleven day trip will be a solo mission for me (being just a tad scared doesn’t cover it) and I will get to visit some beautiful places including Paris, Venice and Rhine Valley.

If you want to see what I get up to I will be posting as much as I can on instagram – @sazwatson. And there will be plenty of posts when I get back!

If you could visit anywhere in Europe where would you go?

sigyhl

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