This is super long so I apologize in advance but we were there for 2 weeks and I want you guys to know everything ? For those that don’t know, Contiki is a tour group for people ages 18- 35. They have an array of different tours for places all over the world and everything is planned for you. There are normally 25-50 people in your tour group and they are from all over the world! The tours range from laid back to high energy depending on how many countries you want to see and how long you want to be in each country. The trip that we ended up choosing was the “Mediterranean Highlights.” We did 5 countries in 13 days and me and Anthony used our tax returns to pay for it. The tour included 12 nights in a hotel (not always in the city center but that cuts costs and the tour bus often times will take you into the city anyway) 16 meals, the majority of your site seeing, and transportation on an air-conditioned coach with WiFi and expert tour manager the whole time. There’s a ton of optional add-ons that you don’t have to do but I would highly recommend doing them. If you are looking to visit multiple countries in a short amount of time, experience new cultures, and make friends from all over the world then you need to do one of these tours! I want to share my experience with you and hopefully, it inspires you to take a trip outside of the US.
Landed in Rome and we were extremely jet lagged but we headed directly into town to get our first real Italian pizza at Gusto Ristorante!
It was honestly the best pizza I ever had, the cheese was strong and the sauce was rich. It paired perfectly with a glass of red ?
We were taken to a beautiful restaurant that night where we were taught how to make pizza and had an endless supply of food and wine delivered to our tables. Then ended the night at the Trevi fountain.
After the group activities, Ant and I went to a local bar called “G bar” and they played the best music. We ended up making friends with a bunch of locals and it was a blast!
Tour of the Vatican and Collasium (when you go with Contiki you skip the entire line, and the line wraps around the entire city)
You’re not allowed to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel, so try something like this.
Italy was having a heat wave this time last year and honestly, it was the hottest I’ve ever been. Hence my rolled up sleeves.
Our day ended at an Italian opera where we had dinner and drank endless wine then ended at an underground club where everyone really got to know each other.
En route to Florence, we stopped in San Gimignano for lunch
At the top of Castel San Gimignano!
We finally arrive in Florence. We have dinner at a small restaurant where we ate a lot of steak and then went to the Red Garter which is a popular Karaoke bar. Anthony rapped Nothin but a G thang and it was hilarious.
We toured the city of Florence. Did some shopping and saw how real Italian leather is made.
Michelangelo’s work is all over the city. Here is the Statue of David ?
We also had lunch in front of Piazza Del Duomo. There’s a bunch of restaurants all around it and you can just sit on the street. That’s the interesting part about Rome. There are no sidewalks so people walk and drive on the same streets.
That night we all went out for a dinner in the Tuscan Hills
Dinner with a view ??
On our way to Club Space, our tour manager Peppe came around the bus and took selfies with all of us. When we got to Space the entire upstairs was rented out just for Contiki groups and all of the flat screens were flashing pictures of our selfies. It was like our own elite party!
It was pretty rough waking up after Space to go see the leaning tower of Pisa, I think we were still drunk so trying to get the shot with the tower was hilarious but an awesome memory.
Then we were off to the Italian Rivera. So we caught a train that took us through Monterosso.
Hung out on the beach for a bit
Got lunch at one of the multiple restaurants on the beach
Then we were back on the train and on our way to Cinque Terre!
The craziest part about this town is it’s such a huge tourist attraction but there’s not one commercialized hotel chain. The feeling you get when you walk through is so genuine.
We end our day in Portoverne, “the land of pesto” you can’t even get to this place by car you have to catch a shuttle.
People get around by boat and there are restaurants and shops all along the water where you can enjoy wine and cheese. I bought the best olive oil here that I still have today and use it for all of my cooking.
We ended our night at a Mom and Pop bed and breakfast far up in the hills and they made us a pesto dinner ?
This was unbelievable! I’m not going to lie though. At this point in the trip I started to feel sick (lack of sleep and drinking) I was coming down with what’s called the “Contiki Cough” it’s from partying, no sleep and being on a bus together all day. I recommend you pack your own cough medicine because the Italian stuff wasn’t working for me. Seriously it’s common on these trips all the reviews said it would happen so just pack your own meds.
We roll into the French Riviera- Nice. Out of all the places on our itinerary, I knew the least about this. I didn’t know anyone that had ever been to the south of France but my god! This place is like the Miami of France but better. The first day was pretty open and we went to a public beach so you don’t have to pay. The beaches are not sand they’re big pebbles and it hurts so be prepared to wear your sandals down to the water.
We went to dinner where I tried duck for the first time! Then we were taken a bar where everyone stands on a table and dances- it’s called Wayne’s bar. They have amazing live music. Everyone drank Long Islands and needless to say we ended up at a club with our favorite Aussie couple in bottle service ??♀️
Due to some miscommunication, we thought we were getting this table a lot cheaper than we did lol. But bottle service for four is always a good time, am I right?
This was the first day of our entire trip that we had nothing planned. This time instead of a public beach we went to a private one called Opéra Plage but there’s a private beach every other block. You pay 10 Euro to enter, get an Adirondack chair on the sea and a waiter walks around all day to serve you. Because it’s the sea there’s no tide or waves so you don’t have to worry about moving your chairs around.
After a relaxing day, we were taken to the country of Monaco! We ate dinner right by the royal palace and this is what the streets looked like:
Monaco’s Royal Palace
After looking out from the Royal Palace it was time to head to the other side of this yacht filled water to the Monte Carlo casino.
This place just makes you feel like a celebrity. The streets sparkle and the most exotic cars in the world are driving around.
We ended up hitting the slots and winning our money back from the table service experience the night before lol. Then ended the night with some cocktails at Nikki Beach
On our way to Avignon, we stopped at the French perfumery, Fragonard, to see how perfume was made and to buy some of our own. You get to smell different scent options and then they bottle it for you there.
Then stopped in Aix en Provence for lunch
We finally arrive in Avignon late afternoon. Timing was awesome because our friends were in France with family so they met us in Avignon and got a hotel where we were staying.
We grabbed a drink in the city center and tried Escargot for the first time! It honestly just reminded me of a buttery clam but less chewy. They put some pesto on these which was very good.
There was nothing planned for the night so we took it easy in town and ended up making some friends with locals and hanging out at a hotel bar. The locals introduced us to some French Rap that occasionally comes up on my shuffle every now and again.
This day was our longest day on the coach. We traveled most of the day and arrived in Barcelona just in time for dinner and Sangria.? We ate at Arenas de Barcelona which is any old bullring turned shopping mall but on the roof is a bunch of restaurants with some great views.
I had studied abroad in Barcelona during my junior year of college so a lot of the site seeing we did this day I had seen before. However, Sagrada Familia the famous church architected by Antoni Gaudi has been under construction for hundreds of years so there were brand new parts of the church that I had never seen before. It makes me want to keep going back just to see the new additions to this church.
We went on to do a tour of FC Barcelona’s stadium.
We hit the beach after this with some of our new friends
This beach had sand like ours so my feet weren’t in pain! It was a very similar situation to Nice. You pay 10 Euro to lay out on these chairs and a waiter comes around to serve drinks and food. This beach was called Platja Del Bogatell.
We had a big night. We did dinner with a Flamenco dancer show at?? Tablao de Carmen then went to see Oliver Heldens (popular DJ) at Opium. The nightlife in Barcelona is insane. Most of the clubs are located around the same area and if you are into dance music in addition to Opium I would suggest these: Catwalk, Razzmatazz, and Sutton.
It’s normal to not get to the club until after midnight and it stays open until 6 am! So make sure you wear your comfortable heels.
One more stop, Madrid. What I’m about to share with you I want to share for transparency and for anyone thinking about traveling to the EU. Not even 20 minutes outside of the city on our way to Madrid we received news that there was a terrorist attack on Las Ramblas (a popular street that we were touring the day before.) You might remember from the news that someone drove down the street with a truck running people over. It was very scary and definitely a wake-up call. Europe is a beautiful place but there is a lot of terrorism, so I just urge you to be cautious and know your surroundings.
We finally arrived in Madrid for dinner and called it a night.
This was our last day of tours. We were so exhausted at this point we were going to skip but I’m glad that we didn’t. Although I did not know much about the royal family of Madrid at the time, touring through their Palace was incredible!
Then we hiked up a mountain to enter the church that honors the fallen soldiers of the Spanish Civil War.
We ended the night with a group dinner and night out on the town where we said our farewells to our Contiki family ?
Anthony and I actually extended our tour a couple of days to go back to Barcelona to catch a game.
The night we got back we went to dinner at Cervecería Catalana which I would highly recommend. Be prepared for a bit of a wait but the wait is totally worth it.
Our final day in Europe, we ended with a Barcelona opening futbol game. There was a moment of silence to pay tribute to those that were affected if the terrorist attack and it was a really special moment to be a part of. It was completely different then a sporting event in the US no one is really drinking or eating, everyone is there to see the game and are true fans of the team, so my beer and I were a little out of place, but this was an awesome way to conclude our trip!
I know this was a long blog post and I probably won’t do something this long ever again haha. But the reason I did this was so you could get the real details behind some of the Instagram posts and see what Contiki is all about. Even if you don’t decide to do a tour through a group like them hopefully you can utilize some of my suggestions.