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Florence - Italy

My Contiki Tour - GE502

GE502 March '85 - May '85

Jan (my friend) phoned me one day and told me that she had booked herself onto a Contiki tour and did I want to go along with her?! Well, hell yes!! What a stupid question and she knew that since she knew that all I'd ever wanted to do was travel to Europe. Sure my trip to Australia was nice, but it just felt like I was going across a state border, not actually travelling overseas!! We departed New Zealand late in February (okay, I think it was late February, we're talking about 20 years ago here, memory fades with age!!) and had a few days in Singapore on the way to London. It was the first international trip for both of us and it was all very overwhelming at times. Our flight to London was not exactly direct: Auckland to New Caledonia: New Caledonia to Singapore: Singapore to Kuala Lumpar: Kuala Lumpar to Shri Lanka (where we found out that they'd lost Jan's baggage!!!): Sri Lanka to Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi to London ... I think that was it! It took DAYS to get there! When we were finally heading to London we were both excited. They announced we were above London. We looked out the window, we couldn't see anything! The fog was too thick. We literally saw London 30 feet before we touched down! Oh well, we were there. We stayed with her relatives for a few days. It was amazing, being in England after dreaming about it for so many years! Then we headed for the Contiki Rendezvous Hotel the night before we had to leave for our big European tour. It was the longest tour at that point, 61 days. The tour bus was full, we were told, so there wasn't going to be any lying across the seats to get any sleep during the tour. I won't go through our itinerary with you, for a start, I can't remember it all. But our first stopover was in Paris, where we spent three days.

During the course of the tour everyone got to know everyone and we had an amazing array of people. Our tour leader (Mike) said that ours was the best tour he had ever had (or do they say that to all of their tours - tour sluts that they are?!?!), and our driver, Spermy, also said it was the best he'd been on. I don't recall anyone NOT getting along with anyone else. Of course people had their little cliques, but nobody fought (even the couple that were on the bus and ended up breaking up during the tour!) and it was filled with wonderful moments, memories and fun times.

A few of the highlights that my aging mind can remember:
Arriving in Venice and the 'boys' taking over the bus. The guys were definitely outnumbered (I think there were 53 on our tour bus, 11 of which were men) so they decided to take matters into their own hands. When we went to get onto the bus to go to our next destination, the front five rows had "Reserved" tags on them (you weren't allowed to reserve seats - one of the few rules that were set by Contiki). We didn't know what was happening, but happily just headed to the back of the bus. When we were seated the guys got onto the bus and put up a sheet to cordon off the girls from the guys! They then got to pick all of the music we listened to for the day and make other decisions that were generally chosen by the ladies since we outnumbered them so drastically!

Another vivid memory was the final day together. Unfortunately we had to leave Spermy on the European side of the channel so our last day all together was our time in Amsterdam. We had a tour of the Heineken factory (my first taste of the stuff), Mike and Spermy dropped us off at the factory and when they came to pick us up afterwards, they had gotten 'dressed up' in matching clothes and had a rose for each of the girls ... and I don't know what they had for the guys! I don't recall many dry eyes after they had delivered their thank you speeches. It truly was a wonderful experience and something that will live on in my memory. Unfortunately I don't have many photos of it as when I moved to America my photos were lost. Luckily my best friend, Janette, let me borrow her photos and I have scanned in some of them to put on this site.

By the way - if you happened to be on the tour, PLEASE drop me a line as I would honestly love to hear from you. It was the trip of a lifetime and I met so many wonderful people on there!

Click here to see some photos of the GE502 Tour!


Thanks to Graphic Garden for the wonderful graphics!!