By Nick Simard
on August 21, 2008
Lover of words, design, creativity, apps, cake and learning new things. And puns.
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 cities in 12 days. I was one of 6 paid student bloggers for the Royal Bank of Canada, and was chosen to take the tour and write about it. Here is my story.
There’s something almost magical about crossing the English Channel on a ferry akin to a cruise ship, with the white cliffs of Dover behind me. Seriously, the ferry has a games room and a food court. Although I’m moving forward towards Calais – in France – I’ll take a look back at the experience in London.
Upon first arriving at the airport, I realized that it wasn’t much more hectic than the Pearson in Toronto. Sure, the surroundings were different, but I managed pretty well. The Contiki tour pack included a pass for the London Underground, which took about an hour to get to downtown London. The hotel I stay in is right around the corner. So far, pretty good.
At this point it’s about 11:30am and I don’t have to meet the tour manager and fellow travelers until 6pm. What to do, what to do. I tried to take a nap, due to my incredible tiredness, but felt guilty that I wasn’t outside enjoying the city that I would have to leave the following day.
I embarked on a brief walk through the surrounding area, as I didn’t want to venture much farther and get lost. The map with which the reception staff provided me was just a black and white photocopy and confused me more than anything. So I just walked. I snapped some photos, took in some London-y sights and checked out the British Museum. It would take a solid 2 days to truly appreciate all that it offers.
After meeting the Contiki staff and my tourmates, I contemplated (once again) trying to catch up on sleep. It was either that or go adventuring again. I began to walk away but then decided to go back into the café and get to know some people. I can honestly say that it was the best decision I could have made.
As a group we decided to grab some food, and then most of the group went to a pub while a handful of us went to see Big Ben. I expected a fairly large building but I was blown away by its majesty and beauty. It was nighttime so it was all lit up. Good thing for making friends and seeing something so monumental. Make friends, and lots of them, and you’ll have a much better tour.
My impression of London is a bit mixed. I know that the slight annoyances have more to do with what I’m used to, rather than there actually being problems. The biggest shocker was the currency, and the dismal exchange rate with the Canadian dollar. But it’s my first (and potentially my last) time in London, so it’s just something that I have to expect.
Overall, London is a great experience and I’m glad the tour started there. Being the “appetizer” tour, it’s expected that I won’t be able to see as much of any given country as I’d like to. But as I edge closer to France, I am looking forward to all the fun that is ahead rather than focusing on the missed fun from my previous location. For now it’s time to look up from the laptop screen and take in some of the amazing view.