A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: jonaway

So long Madrid and Europe!

It has been a blast.

sunny 23 °C

Well, we are back in Calgary and reminiscing over the fabulous study tour this year. I wanted to update you on the last day in Madrid and share some photos, actually lots of photos because the upload from here is quite a bit faster than on European WiFi.

Sunshine and bit cooler weather greeted us on our last day in Madrid. This is a city that is much busier than what we had encountered during most of the trip. And our driver and coach needed a day off so we were on a local coach - it was not as nice as our Contiki coach. After a quick stop to the statue of the Man of LaMancha we were off to the Royal Palace. I have seen many Royal Palaces over the years. This palace was awe inspiring. Each room was tastefully decorated. I spent much of my time trying to take it all in. Beautiful! Unfortunately only shots of the outside and the front entry were allowed.

From the Royal Palace the group walked towards the Plaza Mayor. The rest of the day was free to wander and explore the city. Some went for churros and hot chocolate. Others stopped at the local market. From my perspective the best part of Spain is the food. The market we stopped at had a specific stall for each food or drink. You just wandered, picked up what you wanted, found a seat and stayed as long as you wanted. Enjoy the visual feast!

It was time to say goodbye to the group. After some thanks (and presents) to Emma and Firo is was time for all of the wonderful parting photos. What a great adventure we have had. For many of the students the trip has been life changing. For some this has been their first trip without parents so it has been a learning experience as well. Whatever they have taken from the trip I hope they can appreciate how lucky they are to be able to travel and what a wonderful world we live in.
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And finally, after an incredible two weeks and a 2 AM wake up call and transfer to the airport this is what we look like!

Posted by jonaway 07:51 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Thoughts for the day

sunny 20 °C

Well, it was a day on the bus as we made our way from Barcelona into the heart of Spain and the capital, Madrid. A bit of an uneventful day with two service stops and a quick stop in Zaragoza. This town has been inhabited for many many decades by the Moors and their architectural influence was certainly evident. A quick look at the enormous cathedral and we were off.

Love the mini cars that drive up and down the street selling lottery tickets.

Arrived late into Madrid, dropped our bags and headed for a dinner.

The students spent some time writing about their experience so far. Here are their thoughts. I hope you enjoy some insight into their experiences.

Please leave some comments about your trip, what you liked, what surprised you, shouts outs, etc. Please leave your name if you want.
- Firio and Emma have been an amazing driver and tour manager! This trip has been such an awesome experience, a nice reminder of the trip last year. Made some great friends who will hopefully stay in touch as I and a few others pursue our careers while some head back for studies. My favourite parts of this trip have been seeing some of the worlds most famous sights, eating all the great food, and of course, hanging out with my friends. See you later Europe, I can guarantee that I'll be back very soon :)

- This is my first big trip and thanks to Emma and Firo for making this trip a memorable one! Every day keeps getting better and better it's just sad that the trip is almost over. I will definitely go back to Europe again with Contiki and bring some of my friends.

- I wouldn't change nothing about the trip really no regrets, and I just want to say keep up the good job guy's (Firo and Emma) this would never be the same experience with out you guys!!!!!

- This trip allowed me to explore the European civilization with my own eyes instead of from media.How wonderful to visit so many places in these two weeks! Thank for Emma and Firo for their hard work to make this trip goes smoothly!

- This has been a memorable experience thanks to Emma and Firo. Traveling with SAIT is an experience that I will never forget. I learned allot about myself on this trip and I would love to travel with friends or a school group again some day. Italy, France, and Spain were beautiful and Europe will always hold a place in my heart.

- This was the best trip I have had and Firo and Emma are the best. The best places the we want that I enjoyed were Rome and Florence.The colosium was very interesting with the history and the exciting tales of what happened. The food and wine were also very good. Can't wait for more fun.The history was awesome and I would like to learn more history now And travel more.

- This was a great trip! First time traveling with Contiki and it was a great experience. I will be keeping them in mind for any of my future travels for sure! Trying all the different food and being in the different cultures was by far the best parts of the trip.

- I had a great time on this trip. This was my second time traveling with Contiki and it never fails to amazes me. Emma and Firo are great to travel with and we all had so much fun seeing everything. I will definitely use Contiki again.

- My favourite part of the trip so far was definitely spending time in Florence. I found the city so beautiful and I liked the amount of free time and getting to see what we wanted in the city. I have also enjoyed getting to know the other people on this trip. It has been such a blessing getting to meet and get to know them better and making life long friends in all of them! :)

- Going on this trip was one of the best decisions that I've made. It's my first time going on a Contiki trip and I'm so glad I had the chance. My favourite places were Florence and Vernazza of Cinque Terra. I learned about myself and how different I am from other cultures. Being able to immerse myself in the culture that I've learned was a great experience and I will never forget the people I've met on this trip. Thanks to Emma and Porfirio for being amazing trip leaders and I hope the best for the both of you!

- Apparently you shouldn't attempt to travel to Barcelona and expect to get a good nights sleep. Or Rome for that matter. And Nice. Also Florence. What you should expect is a great time with plenty of stuff to see and drink. Then there's the food and drink. If you're lucky you might get to see half of the things that you wanted to. Just make sure you get to go back.

~ This is my first time going on a Contiki trip or a guided tour in fact but this is my second time leaving my homeland. I have to admit that this was a really great experience I have ever had. Really organized and I didn't feel rushed to do everything unlike when I went individually with my family. There really isn't a favourite thing for me during this tour because I just LOVED EVERYTHING we did thanks to Emma and Porfirio for being awesome trip leaders. I will for sure go to Contiki when I decide to make any future traveling plans.

~ This has been a trip of a lifetime and absolutely amazing! There's been a lot of firsts in the past two weeks, like parasailing, dancing on tables, singing karaoke in front of a crowd... These are all memories I'll have for a lifetime and experiencing it all with classmates and friends makes it so much better. I'm definitely impressed with Contiki for the amount of cool stuff that was included and recommended for our group. I hope I can come along again next year, wherever we go! (Julia)

~ This trip was a serious adventure for me, I went parasailing, ate snail and frog legs. This trip was really mind blowing and because of it I found a skill I never knew I had! Emma and Firo were wonderful and deserve a bonus like right now. I will for sure use Contiki when I visit New Zealand And Greece!

~I love love loved this trip! I enjoyed meeting a lot of people I never would have otherotherwise. Emma and Firo were amazing, and it was great having activities already planned because I wouldn't have done a lot of the stuff we did had I needed to plan my own trip, although having some free time was definitely a plus. Going back home now I am going to be disappointed in my meals consisting of Kraft Dinner compared to the awesome things I got to eat while abroad. I am for sure going to find and master a Sangria recipe to pretend I am still in Europe when I'm sitting at home watching the snow fall!

~ this has been best two weeks of my life, hands down. I have fallen in love with so many cities and made so many lasting friendships. I loved trying new things and experiencing things I would never experience at home in Canada. One of the things I really enjoyed was going to the Red Garter in Florence and getting up in front a bunch of people and sing karaoke, with friends of course. I never thought I would show the world how okay-ish my, drunken, singing voice was.

~These last two weeks have been some of the best in my life. I love the multitude of experiences that I got to experience that I would never get to experience back home. After visiting Florence I have vowed to go back again and hopefully throw in Venice as well. I have a strong feeling that once I get back home I'll be drinking a lot more red wine and will remember this trip, especially during the harsh Canadian winters.

~For the last two weeks, it was really a trip the I will forever remember. From the first day to the last day all the places and the activities we went and did were all a first of me, and I am really glad I got to do them with the most amazing people in the world. I enjoyed every minute and lots of memories were made. I am looking forward to travelling more and see more than half of the world I have never seen yet. Thank you SAIT for the opportunity and to Contiki, especially a big shoutout to Emma and Porfirio for making our school trip a special one!

We finished the night with a fireworks show looking out over the train station, from my room. Two fireworks shows in one trip! I am happy!!!


Posted by jonaway 14:08 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Rambling on the Ramblas

overcast 25 °C

Well, as I write this we are almost ready to leave Barcelona. For some this will be a sad day because it is such a fabulous city and has so much more to do than our short stay allows.

For a large group our day began early with a walk to Park Guell which has on display a large park of Gaudi artwork. This is where you see the iguana who is featured in a lot of Barcelona material. The walk looked a little like San Francisco, having deep ups and downs to get us to our destination. Thankfully the uphill climbs had outdoor escalators. For some of us a taxi seemed like a reasonable choice to get back the hotel for our 10 AM start!

We were off for our walking tour of the Gothic region of the city. It is hard to walk on the uneven sidewalks and look at all of the fabulous architecture of the area. From there the group had the rest of the day to explore the city. Some headed for the beach! some took a trip to Camp Nou (home of FC Barcelona, soccer for those you who may not know), some went shopping and some happened upon the most amazing for market, just off Las Ramblas. What a day!

Guess where we headed to?

Last night we were treated to a tapas dinner and traditional flamenco show. There is an incredible physicality to this Spanish art. Words and pictures can't describe how hard these entertainers work.

And one last stop for the night was at the Magic Fountain. This "Bellagio like" show attracts thousands for the 30 minute show, complete with music. What a way to say goodbye to this vibrant and totally cool city!

Our longest drive is still to come today, Barcelona to Madrid. We are nearing the end of our trip. Watch for our next post, hearing thoughts from our intrepid travellers. Adios for now!

Posted by jonaway 21:59 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

New country, new language, new prices

sunny 25 °C

Hola from Barcelona. Just a quick post to catch up on yesterday. We had a nice drive from Avignon to Barcelona yesterday, arriving mid afternoon. It was time for a quick city bus tour to see some of the panoramic views of the city. Barcelona has hosted many world events, Expos and Olympics. The infrastructure that is remaining, buildings and monuments, is one of the great things about this city. Of course, Barcelona will be remembered for the Opening Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in 1992 where the archer missed his mark lighting the flame. This was also the place of the most scenic swimming and diving competition.

It was on to the most famous landmark, the Sagrada Familia. Gaudi's church is still not finished even though it was started in the late 1800's. Estimates are that is may be done by 2026, with the help of many donors! Stunning, beautiful and gaudy! What can I say.
Our tour guide Emma had to fish out some of the audio guides so as to not cause an incident.

I am not sure if this will work but here is a panoramic of the church. Stunning!

And the best part of Barcelona, and Spain (in my humble opinion) is the food. enjoy the photos.

Hungry yet?

Posted by jonaway 07:03 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Sur le pont d'Avignon

sunny 28 °C

Our adventure continues on our last day in France. Everyone was eager to get on the coach, saying goodbye to Nice til the next time.

Our first stop was in Grasse, home to the perfume industry. Fragonard has been in business for several hundred years and one of the major creators of scents. We learned that it takes 7 years of study to become a 'nose'. The final test requires the nose to identify over 3500 individual scents. The factory produces all types of Eau duu Toilette, colognes and perfumes. Lots of purchases were made.....


Our observation about services or rest stops. Italy's Auto Grills are far superior to the French version. We did stop for a quick lunch and then headed to Avignon, home to the Papal Palace between the early 1300's and 1400's. It seems the French Pope did not like living in Rome so he moved the palace to Avignon and built a place that is considerably larger than Vatican City.

Avignon, in the heart of Provence, is also know for the children's song, Sur le pont d'Avignon. If you don't remember it -google it! You will know it when you hear it. We have all been singing it all day!

We had some free time to walk around the town. Some interesting grafitti.

Our dinner option was on our own. Many delicacies were tried by our travellers, duck, frog legs, escargot and fresh fish. Thanks Trip Advisor for making good recommendations. Our recommendation is the La Petite PĂȘche.

Au revoir France - Hola Espanol!!!!!!

Posted by jonaway 13:44 Archived in France Comments (1)

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