Friday, October 28, 2011

Eurotrip 2011: The Beginning

Around 12:30 PM on Friday August 5th (2011, of course), Steve and I loaded two backpacks, a duffel bag, and two giant suitcases into my parents' SUV. A few minutes later we were on the road from Greenville to Charlotte, ready to embark on the 17 day Eurotrip that we had been planning for nearly three years.

That's right - three years. And during that time it had evolved a lot. In the beginning we thought "hey, we'll do it all on our own. Maybe start in London, visit Amsterdam and Paris, end up on the southern coast of France to visit Steve's old stomping grounds in Marseille, and maybe even trek down to Morocco.

Unfortunately, even thinking about planning a trip like that started to give me a headache. Which brought on phase 2: a cruise! And we found one, over a year in advance - roundtrip Rome to some Italian ports, some Greek ports, some Israeli ports and even Egypt. With of course, the scheduled stop in Marseille for Steve, either pre- or post-cruise.

Fast forward a few months, though, and I'm adding up cruise fare, tips, and flight prices and thinking "this is just getting ridiculous". On top of that, one thing a cruise wouldn't really allow was for us to truly experience the culture, food and nightlife of the places we were visiting. Then, thanks to a conversation with a friend of mine who lives in Australia, a new idea was born - a second Contiki trip!
Said friend, Natalie, quickly agreed to meet us on the trip of our choice. Because she's awesome like that. And choosing a trip actually wasn't much of an issue - I knew that this time around, I wanted less hours on a bus and more nights per city, so Contiki's 12-day Berlin to Budapest tour was right up our alley! Of course we still planned on tacking on some days in Marseille, but we had our Contiki tour booked before 2010 was over - and in January 2011, after much fiddling with our exact pre- and post-tour ideas, we purchased our plane tickets as well. The schedule?

August 5th: Fly Charlotte to Berlin via Frankfurt
August 6th - 16th: Contiki Berlin to Budapest tour (Berlin, Prague via Dresden, Vienna via Kutna Hora, Budapest via Bratislava - all by bus of course)
August 16th - 19th: Fly Budapest to Marseille (via Munich) & Aix-en-Provence
August 19th - 21st: Fly Marseille direct to Frankfurt, spend two nights and fly direct back to Charlotte on the 21st

As you can see, our plate was full (and after buying all of those plane tickets, my wallet was really freaking empty)...but after months of guide-book reading, money-saving, and clothes-purchasing and we were ready.

So folks, get ready. Because for the next couple of weeks, this travel blog is going to be Europe-heavy. Just like all that food we ate in the Eastern Bloc.

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