In August of 2008 I was sent to Europe to blog about my experience on a Contiki bus tour. The European Discovery tour had us seeing 10 countries in 12 days. I was one of 6 paid student bloggers for the Royal Bank of Canada, and was chosen specifically because of my writing style. Here is my story.


I woke up in a prison today, with an achy body. The cell was hot and the bed was pretty small.

Ok, to be fair it WAS a prison and is now a hotel. Lucerne, Switzerland is the last stop before the final city of the tour – Paris. It has been a long trip thus far. SO much has happened that it’s difficult to keep track of it all. To be completely honest I felt terrible yesterday in Switzerland. There is a phenomenon on tour called The Contiki Cough, which is exactly what the name implies. It is not specific to Contiki tours, of course, but it just so happens that the fast pace combined with the large number of travelers (on a bus much of the time) makes it very easy to get sick.

I have fallen victim to TCC, and currently lack a voice for the most part. I have tried to make the best of it, but I’m disappointed that I forgot my cough medicine and didn’t bring more throat lozenges. Please do yourself a favour and bring these items if you plan on doing any traveling for a trip such as this one. Also, do everything in your power to keep healthy, so you can avoid this altogether.

Upon first entering Switzerland I was completely blown away by the beauty of the Swiss Alps. I’m from Cape Breton, so I know mountains. Or, rather, I THOUGHT I knew mountains. The first optional excursion was a ride to the top of Mt. Stanserhorn via a funicular train and aerial cable car. At an outrageous height of 6300 feet, I felt like I was on top of the world – both literally and figuratively. I could not have been more content, to be honest. With my head in the clouds, I also got to kiss someone at the top of the world. Life was beautiful, indeed.

Currently about 425km from Paris, I’m heading to the place where I absolutely wanted to kiss someone – in front of the Eiffel Tower. It looks like my wish has come true ahead of schedule. I can’t speak for all my tourmates, but the idea of a Euromance crossed my mind prior to getting here. But I suppose that’s a different blog entry altogether.

Back to the mountain. Having already been a little sick upon climbing the 6300ft, it appeared that one of my ears got plugged and would not unplug itself. My friend suspects that it was due to my congestion preventing the pressure from escaping. Whatever it was, it began as an annoyance and turned into legitimate pain. Even later last night it was still plugged and I felt a lot of pressure behind my face.

As of right now, I’m not even sure if it has unplugged itself, because my body has adapted to it. The pain and stuffiness made it difficult to appreciate the second optional excursion on the Lake Lucerne cruise. Had I written about it at the time, I would have had a negative attitude, but thanks to catching up on sleep in the bus and the special lady who has garnered my interest, I am now able to cheer up and see the positive. Switzerland is breathtaking and a nice stop on the way to my most anticipated destination!

Sleeping in a hotel that was once a women’s prison was quite an experience, I have to say. The accommodations thus far have varied from city to city, with a range of simple and functional to luxurious. The prison hotel is not really meant to be the most comfortable experience, so much as a wholly new one. Had I not been so miserable due to my sickness, I’m sure I could have better appreciated it. Looking back, however, I can say I slept in a prison cell without having gone TO prison. Sleeping on the 3rd floor (no elevator) and carrying my suitcase up so many flights of stairs while feeling as I did was not so pleasant. They gave us the option of packing an overnight bag, but I prefer to have access to all my things at all times because you just never know. Again, this had more to do with being ill and less to do with it being THAT bad.

One last tip I will pass on that relates to my Switzerland stay is to pack earplugs. These come in handy in several situations, like when your room is right above the hotel bar and the patrons party until about 5am, disturbing your off-an-on sick sleep throughout. Or when you need to catch up on your sleep while traveling on the bus. Prior to writing this entry, I slept for almost 3 hours on the bus with earplugs in, and it helped tremendously. Paris, here I come!

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