Results tagged “Tours” from Europe 2016

Slept mostly ok - the cooler temperature certainly helps.

Breakfast options were pretty limited, but the bacon was nice.

After breakfast we headed out for a tour of Oslo. We stopped opposite the Opera house for a photo stop. Drove around town for a bit. Went to the Vigeland sculpture garden which I quite enjoyed - the sculptures were quite interesting.

Then to the viking ship museum to see a couple of very well preserved viking ships which was pretty cool.

Then to the Fram museum to have a look at and on the Fram, a ship that explored both the north and south poles around the turn of the century.

Then got dropped back at the hotel.

We dumped some of our stuff then headed out for a good long wander around Oslo - alll the way from our hotel at the east central station up to the palace, then down to the water front, had an ice cream (Oslo was *hot* yesterday - 27C!!) then back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

Had the "farewell" dinner which was nice enough, although I struggled to get through my food. Chatted to some people for a while longer and suddenly it was 10:30pm ?? So pretty much just collapsed into bed without doing any photo or gps stuff.

I think I slept a bit better last night. A bit hard to tell because there was no powerpoint by the bed so I couldn't run sleep cycle for the night.

Pretty standard breakfast again.

Headed out around 8am. We headed one hour south east to the Ranua Zoo, which is an Arctic wildlife zoo which was super cool. Had a really great two hours there.

Then back into town to pick up the others that didn't come out. Had a brief false start getting away again because someone left their purse in the toilet at the hotel. Fortunately, like last time, they discovered just a few minutes out of town so we could easily go back.

Then we just continued to drive north.

Had a brief pitstop in one little town with a very old wooden church, and ended up saying there for a full pitstop which took the full half hour for people to get through the single toilet we found. hrmm.

The only other stop was a drive up onto a small hill which had ski lifts at the top, and which overlooked Russia in the distance. There might have been a bottle of very nice Russian vodka which the entire coach shared.

We saw the trees start to thin out during the trip, and as soon as you get just a little elevation you lose the trees completely and it's just arctic tundra. Not that it felt arctic at all - it was postively warm in town and even up the top of the hill it was windy but not cold. I just had my thin jumper on and I was fine.

And we saw lots of reindeer by the sides of the roads.  No majestic mooses yet though (other than in the zoo this morning).

Then onto Ivalo to our hotel and dinner, which was a buffet dinner in the hotel. They had some very nice salmon and various sauces which were pretty yummy.  But didn't have any dessert because the only option was pikelets.

We also have a lovely view from our window tonight of the river by the hotel :)

Woke up in the middle of the night for an hour last night. Dunno why. Other than the static electricity I was comfortable enough, just not sleeping.

Breakfast was pretty decent. After breakfast went for a walk down to the river to photograph the Lumberjack Candle bridge.

After breakfast we had a tour of the town of Rovaniemi with a local guide. She took us to the Lutheran church in town and we got a very detailed explanation of the fresco there.

Then we headed up north of town to Santa's "office" and the whole tourist kitsch. It's advertised as being on the Arctic Circle, which I thought was pretty cool at the time.

Except.

It's not.

Not only is it a couple of kilometres south of the Arctic circle, it's not even on a horizontal line to match up with any meridian. If you look at it on your favourite mapping application it's on quite a sharp diagonal.

But I didn't discover than until later.

In the meantime, they gave us some time to explore Santa's village there. We wandered into Santa's "office" where you can have your photo taken with the "real" Santa. Mum wanted to do it so we did. Me, I took one look at the prices and declared it *completely* ridiculous. It was 30 Euro for a large print. 35 Euro for five small prints. Or 40 Euro for a digital copy of the photo.

What. The. F@#k. ?????

How can they get away with charging 40 Euro for a digital file that they don't even have to expend any media on?? It's criminal. Needless to say I was not amused. I said I'd given them 10 Euro for the file. The girl wasn't amused. I'm sure she gets it all the time. I certainly wouldn't be doing that job.

Not only that, but you could tell the queue lasted for hours at certain times of year. They had a whole huge setup for the queuing. What made it so bad was that you went in and sat with "Santa" but instead of just taking a photo he makes all this small talk, which later turns out you can buy as a video.

?!?!

If they wanted more money:
1) charge less for the photos
2) cut out the crap and just churn people through instead of making them wait forever

Anyways.

I'm not cynical at all.

Honest ;)

After that we had a wander through all the little souvenir shops which was fun.

Got back to the hotel and given a small lunch break so I had Subway. Because it was across the road. So sue me.

Then we headed out again for the first of our optional tours for the day.

The first stop was the Arktikum, a museum of Arctic life. We had over an hour with the guide which was good, but then only got twenty minutes of self exploration of the museum. Ridiculous.

The second stop was a "pioneer farm" which was an old family farm house which had been preserved and turned into a museum. That was a great experience too, but again, ended with only a super short time to explore all the stuff there. Frustrating.

Once back in town again there was a couple of hours to kill before dinner, so mum and I went down to the river to see the bridge, then ended up doing the whole bridge to bridge walk. Whoops.

Then we had the next optional tour, which was out to a reindeer farm. We got to see one week old baby reindeer which were so adorable, and got to feed some young male reindeer. Then we headed up to dinner which was reindeer with mashed potato and berries. Quite tasty and quite a lovely evening.

Then back to the hotel to do computer stuff.

As it turns out, we did actually cross the Arctic circle tonight when we went to the reindeer farm.  I saw a sign on the road, and later confirmed it on the map.  So I have actually been to the arctic :)

Slept reasonably well on the ferry. It was super calm so could barely feel the ship moving at all. Except we didn't close the blinds so could see a red glow on the horizon at 2am, and it was super sunny at 4am. Which is when we woke up. Whoops.

Breakfast was more chaos but otherwise pretty good.

Arrived at Helsinki at 10am and disembarked quite easily.

We had a local guide did a bit of a tour of Helsinki, driving around and seeing quite a bit.

We had a short photo stop at the Olympic stadium from 1952.

Then down to the Sebalius monument. Which was quite pretty in the morning sun.

Except. Could not get a clear photo of it. An Indian tour group turned up at the same time and they can't just take photos of things, every single one of them needs to have multiple photos of themselves taken. Which means I couldn't get a photo without annoying people in it. I was fuming by the time we had to leave.

Next stop was the Rock Church, which is a pretty cool church they built into a granite hill and put a roof over the top.

Continued driving around for a little while longer before being dumped in square next to the Lutheran cathedral and told to entertain ourselves for an hour and a half. hrmm. So mum and I went into the Lutheran cathedral, wandered through the waterside markets, and went into the orthodox church before meeting back at the square.

Got taken to the hotel next where we dumped out stuff and I checked out how the local public transport system worked. Decided to go back to the Sebalius monument by bus. Found the little kiosk that sells tickets and got ourselves a two hour ticket for EUR 4.30. Got the bus with no problems.

We had the monument almost to ourselves for a little while and it's quite photogenic. Then another couple of tour groups turned up so we got out of there.

Walked over to the trams and caught one back into town.

Walked around the foreshore a bit, taking photos of the old sailing ships, and then we watched the ferry leave back to Stockholm.

Took another tram up to Central to see the station, then another tram to near our hotel. So three trams and a bus - pretty good value for our two hour ticket!

At the hotel we dumped more stuff then headed out for dinner. Found a Japanese restaurant and had some very nice teriyaki salmon. Then back to the hotel where mum went and used the internet and I reorganised the suitcase and general got myself feeling more in control.

So the day started grey and rainy and miserable. Decent breakfast at the hotel then we headed out into the rain.

We had a tour with a local guide. Got driven around Stockholm to the town hall, where they have the receptions for the Nobel prizes. That was all quite nice.

Then to a spot to see the old town from another island.

Then into the old town for a walking tour.

By then it was mid morning and the program was done for the day.

Yeup.

There was an optional tour to go out to the Vasa museum so we decided to go on that. I'd toyed with the idea of doing it myself, as it would have been a lot cheaper. But then we would have had to negotiate public transport. But given how little time we had there on the tour, I'm regretting that. It would have been better to have done it ourselves and not been so rushed. We could easily have spent a lot more time there :(

Got dumped in town and told to entertain ourselves. We really had no idea what to do so ended up wandering at random. We thought about going up a temporary tower thing, but they wouldn't take credit cards (and we had no cash) so gave up on that idea. Just wandered around at random. Bit silly really.

Got picked up at 3pm and driven to our hotel for the night - the Baltic ferry the Silja Serenade. Quite nice for a ferry. Also probably the biggest passenger vessel I've been on. And it has free wifi!!

We went for a wander around the ship before the 5pm dinner sitting. Quite a big buffet of food, although pretty chaotic. After dinner we went to the Grease stage show. We'd gotten seats once we got on board, advertised as "obstructed" viewing. We expected to be behind people, but still be able to see. But no, you literally could not see the stage at all. So we moved to somewhere we could. Mum sat on the floor and I stood for the entire thing. Silly really. Although it did mean we missed pretty much all of the view - either while at dinner or while in the show.

Pretty late by bed time, and we lose an hour moving into Finland's time zone.

So this room has a thermostat on the wall but it doesn't actually do anything. Had to keep the window open all night to get any cool air. Which means a massive picture window letting in the light super early. I'm dreading getting further north where the sun doesn't actually set and sweltering because we can't open windows because we need to block out the light. What a strange thing to be concerned about - overheating past the arctic circle. There's another lady on the trip (from Brisbane) who feels the same way.

Fairly good breakfast range. Although I wasn't in the mood for being sociable with anyone.

We had to be out the door at 8:00 this morning. On the coach we went through the whole introduction and safety spiel. Then headed off at nearly 8:30.

We had a local guide for the morning and we drove around Copenhagen looking at some things.

Our first get-off stop was Amalienborg palace (we didn't get to go in), just for a photo stop.

Then up to The Little Mermaid. Going first thing in the morning meant we were looking straight into the sun which was a bit of a poo. Not that my photos from last time were much better.

Yet again I'm reminded how different tours are to doing things yourself. I think I crammed about five times as much in my three hour walk around last time as I did today on the tour.

Although today we did get to go into Christiansborg Palace which was very cool.

And then we were done for the day.

Yup, we did three things and were done by 10:15am.

!?

They left us to have some free time, or could get dropped back to the hotel if we wanted. This afternoon there was an optional excursion. For 51 Euro. So basically we pay for an expensive tour (not nearly as expensive as Outback Sprit though) and just get left to our own devices and if you want to see more things it costs extra. Seems a little rude to me.

Mum decided to go on the optional tour, starting at 12:30, so we filled in some time walking around until then. Went up to the round tower and went up it, then up to the botanical gardens, although really didn't have time to look around there because we had to get back so mum could start the tour. But I really needed some down time so had decided not to go. After leaving mum, I watched bits of the Copenhagen Carnivale which was wandering through town, then tried to find something to eat. Ended up grabbing something in 7-Eleven (not the first one I came to because I couldn't get any service).

Then walked back to the hotel where I washed my jeans, backed up my photos and had a little lie down. Even slept a little!

At 6pm we headed out for an optional dinner. 65 Euro, to a little restaurant in the old town. It was a "Christmas" dinner, so there was roast pork and various sides, and a rice pudding dessert. And a couple of drinks :) The pork was up at least in the top ten of pork I've had - lovely and tender with lovely crispy crackling. Yum!!

Then down to the canal to have a shot of Aquavit (weird right!) and then back to the hotel.

Managed to cool the room down a little bit last night by having the balcony door open. But I didn't like the idea of leaving it open overnight, and the aircon was hopeless, so ended up waking up hot :(

Went into Augsburg first up. Met up with a local guide and went on a walking tour of the city. Had an interesting walk through the Fuggerei settlement, then looked at various buildings, and finished up at St Anna church, where Luther stayed for a while in the cloisters.

Then we got given some free time, so went up the tower in one of the churches, then had a look at the shiny "Goldsaad" - gold room in the Rathaus. Had a bite to eat from maccas (because it was at our meeting place and I knew I could get a small serving of food).

Then we headed to Dachau. Very sad place. Especially the cremetoria. Our guide, Ute, was born in 1938 and had stories to tell about her childhood which was pretty cool.

And finally onto Munich. Our hotel is in the middle of an industrial area, so there's nothing of any interest around. We walked into our room and the first thing I said was "this room stinks". Even though it says it's a non-smoking room on the door, there's an ash tray and matches in the room. We opened the window up wide and the door as well to get some air through which has helped. Others weren't so lucky - they got actual smoking rooms. We were all not very happy at all. And to rub salt into the wounds, they charge ten euros a day for the wifi!!!! Which I flat out refuse to pay given our awful experiences so far. It's worse that we're here for two nights right when I need it for organising the next part of our trip (although for the most part that's mostly organised so not the end of the world). But seriously, what hotel in Germany in 2016 doesn't have free wifi? I think this calls for an uncomplimentary review on TripAdvisor. I went down to reception to start asking questions (like, how can I get into the city? where's the nearest station?). Then moved onto where's the nearest laundromat, which of course he couldn't answer, so I said can we look one up, because I have no resources, to which he said, oh there's a business centre computer I could use. I was hoping for some wifi, but whatevs. Decided it was entirely too difficult to get to a laundromat from here (being in the middle of nowhere and all) so gave up on that idea.

Had dinner in the restaurant downstairs. Ok but very salty. Then back up here to find the desk doesn't have any spare power points. You have to disconnect either the lamp or the tv to get power. So after being spoilt by generally good hotels with all the sorts of services you'd expect, this hotel really ended this particular tour very badly.

Why do Europeans insist on everything being so damned hot?? Last night I had no doona at all, and air conditioning on max cold, all night, and I *still* woke up at 4am feeling hot and miserable. Just ridiculous. And the "desk" for working on has a glass surface, so is completely useless with a mouse, so have been using the bench under the tv, but it has a shelf right at knee height which I've banged into a couple of times already. Grumpy making hotel.

So after waking up at 4am hot, I then started stressing about today. So didn't get much more sleep.

The hotel breakfast was pretty average. The rosti were cold and disgusting, as were the crepes and the waffles. Blerf.

Anyways, so got ourselves ready and headed down to the Key Tours ticket office just down the road from out hotel. After having read so many negative reviews, I was very dubious about going with them. But they assured us that if the lift was closed we'd at least get a refund for that.

So out we headed to Chamonix. Took about an hour and a quarter to get there, although we had to queue for about forty minutes to get up the cable car to the top.

But oh my. It was so good. We had the perfectest day you could hope for - clear blue skies and not much wind. I might have gone a little crazy taking photos of the mountains!  And snow!  We also managed to get good positions on all four cable car rides.

After we got back down (several hours later!) we had a leisurely walk through the town of Chamonix, then stopped at a place just opposite the meeting place at the station for a drink/snack. They said they could do a cheese platter, so we asked for *small*, but ended up with a lot more food than we wanted :(

At 5pm it was back on the coach and back to Geneva.

And the fountain was fountaining.  It looks exactly like ours.

So all up a pretty awesome day. Yes it was expensive, but I really couldn't find any suitable alternatives on such short notice. It turned out to be super convenient and hassle free.

Got back to the hotel with just enough time to do my hair before heading out.

Dinner was at La Nasse, but we really weren't hungry. Entree was a salad, mains was lasagna. But after seeing the serving size of the dishes they brought out for the other tables, we asked them to half the sizes for our table. Even then I struggled to get through it. Couldn't even face dessert (a fruit tart). The lasagna was pretty nice, but the restaurant service (at least from the waiter we had) was very average. Was not impressed.

Back to the hotel to try and catch up.

Slept til 6am this morning. Had to have the window open all night though so we wouldn't overheat as much.

Breakfast we were quite stressed because mum had lost her jacket somewhere and we couldn't find it and noone had handed it into reception. But after breakfast we asked reception again and this time they had it. So that was a relief.

On the road at 9am, stopped at a reststop for morning tea.

Then onto Geneva. We got to the city at lunch time and got dumped and told to entertain ourselves for an hour. So Glenda and Mum and I went for a walk along the waterfront. As you do. Lunch was ice cream. Sadly the fountain wasn't going as it was too windy :(

After lunch went on a very meandering tour of Geneva by coach, then a very meandering tour of the old town by foot. Apart from the cemetary where John Calvin is said to be buried, the cathedral, and the Reformation Monument I don't remember much else.

Then back to the hotel to try and figure out what we're going to do tomorrow.

Dinner was at the Edelweiss restaurant nearby. Entree was molten cheese, potato, onions and gherkins - cheeeese! Mains was salmon (nicer than the salmon we had the other night). Dessert was strudel (I was too full to really enjoy it).

So I'd figured out a basic plan of attack for tomorrow (Gruyeres) when someone said we should do Chamonix. Except I hadn't done any research for that had I?? So then it was back to the hotel to waste an hour of my life trying to figure it out. It was ten o'clock before I could even start my evening routine which means a super late night, on top of an early morning tomorrow. Tired and grumpy. And if we do go to Chamonix it'll be on a overpriced tour bus that doesn't get good reviews on TripAdvisor. *sigh* But how else are you supposed to get there? Trains are extremelly complicated, as is driving yourself. I haven't even found a coach/bus service that goes from Geneva to Chamonix, and I'm too tired now to even think about it. *sigh*

The hotel in Strasbourg was too damned hot. There was no airconditioning, only a heater (that was on when we arrived). Left the window open all night which helped a little. But also in the bathroom there was a hot water pipe heater that kept the bathroom super hot (we kept the door closed to contain the heat - which of course my washing all dried overnight which was a bonus!). Woke up at 6:15, which was a sleepin!

Breakfast in the hotel was also complete chaos an there wasn't enough seats for everyone. We eventually found a table for six, but noone else from our group joined us.

We had a different coach driver today - our previous one (Dorrell sp??) had to have a mandatory break day, and then was going to pick up another tour. The new one had the radio on which was a bit annoying (talk shows and advertising in foreign languages made for just noise. Someone eventually asked them to turn it off which was good.

Had a pitstop north of Basel, then crossed the border into Switzerland. Had to wait about ten minutes at the border crossing.

In Basel we picked up another local guide and went for a bit of a walking tour. Didn't really see that much, just walked past the Fish market, the Rathaus and up into Barfüsserplatz and then it was lunch time and we had an hour off. But we had no idea what there even was to see. So we asked where the tourist information was, and also toilets. But the guide just said go to a cafe to go to the toilet (not much use if you weren't going to any cafes) and pointed at the wrong place for the tourist information. Not a terribly useful guide. Anyway, I saw a big i so we headed for that, and got ourselves a map. Walked past the Münster and down to one of the bridges to look along the Rhine, then headed back. Found a free toilet next to the tram ticket office.

Then the tour carried on. But all it did was take us to the Münster (which we went inside) and the cloisters next door. And then it was raining. Quite heavily. So we tramped down the hill to where we could take a tram up the hill to our hotel, and that was the end of the tour. And at that stage it would have been the end of the day and it was only around 3pm. So it would have been a complete dud of a day.

Except.

The sun came out.

So we headed out again to take advantage of the sunlight.

Took a tram all the way down to the other side of the Rhine over Mittlere Rheinbrücke, then walked all the way back, stopping at many of the things that were in bad lighting earlier, and seeing a couple of extra things too. Added another five thousand steps to the day.

The hotel is fairly nice, with a double-sinked bathroom and toilet with separate door. Although we have a courtyard-facing room so the view is nothing special.

Dinner in the hotel restaurant was quite nice. But even though I hadn't eaten anything more substantial than an apple since breakfast, I still couldn't finish it.

5:37 wakeup. Blerf.

At breakfast I stocked up on veggies to make up for yesterday's lack thereof.

After breakfast mum and I walked up to the university church to get some photos of it in the morning sun.

Our first stop for the day was Colditz Castle. We had a guided tour of the place so got to see things like the solitary confinement cell, the chapel, and the tunnel some French officers dug through solid rock.

Stopped for lunch at a roadside rest house.

After lunch continued on to Dresden. I was really really missing the sweetie at this point, on account of last being here with him on our honeymoon. We had a walking tour of the town with a local guide, and got to see a couple of things we didn't see last time (like inside the palace courtyard which is now a museum complex, and inside the Church of our Lady). But there was a heap of things we didn't get to see, like even a basic walkby of a lot of the buildings, and we didn't even get to go down to the river to have a look. It really highlighted the difference between doing things on a tour and doing things yourself. It made me wonder what else we've been missing out on by doing tours. In some ways I actually felt quite ripped off that we didn't get to see as much as we should. So that and missing the sweetie made me feel somewhat depressed.

Headed back to Leipzig, and were a bit late for a 6pm service at Thomaskirche. All in German of course, but the organ playing was nice.

Then on to dinner. We went to the Auerbachs Keller which was pretty cool. The food was pretty good. We had a small salad for entree, a very tasty chicken and mushroom dish with rosti, and ice cream and cherry sauce for dessert. The problem was it was all very slow, and by the time they brought out a birthday cake for two of the guys, we didn't leave the restaurant til after 9:30, getting back to the hotel at 10pm :(:(:( Far far far too late when I have so much to do in the evenings. In the end I just downloaded my photos and gps, but left the blogging til the morning.

So yeah, slept pretty well last night.

Breakfast was down in the hotel restaurant. Ate plenty so we woudn't need lunch.

Then we had a local city guide and did a big tour of the city.

First stop was the Reichstag. Didn't go in, just had a look from the outside.

Then walked up to the Brandenburg Gate. The sun started peeking through the clouds by this point.

Then to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Spoilt somewhat kids and other young people screaming and making heaps of noise. Bruce did a little bit of an Anzac Day ceremony there which was nice.

Back on the coach and down to a piece of the Berlin Wall on Niederkirchnerstrasse - something we didn't see last time. Had only a very short time to look at the open air part of Topographie des Terrors (Topography of Terror). Really only got time to look at about a third of it :(

Then onto Checkpoint Charlie. Really just a photostop.

Then Bruce decided we should see inside the Berliner Dom instead of Marienkirche, so they got us there in time for the daily service, which is actually free, instead of something like seven euro to get into otherwise (although if you pay you can go up the dome apparently).

They gave us nearly an hour and a half after that to have lunch and explore, so we went down to the Marienkirche anyway.

Wandered up to Alexanderplatz to find the world clock, and look for snipers on the rooves. And it snowed. Really.

Back to the Dom, and a short walk to the Pergamon museum. Cool place, and we had quick entry on account of being a tour group. Although the entrance foyer is super chaotic. Sadly the altar from Pergamon is closed off at the moment due to renovations. But the market gate and Istar gate and procession way are amazing.

Back on the coach, and onto the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Turns out you can just go into the new church, so went in there. The blue stained glass is just stunning. The building looks *much* better on the inside than the outside!

At this point (it was about 4:30pm), they were going to head back to the hotel and call it a day. But I didn't want to just waste a couple of hours sitting around the hotel (even if I *did* have a lot of computer work to do), so we went for a wander back down the KaDeWe (via LEGO!!). Lots of yummies to be had on the 6th floor. I did end up getting a couple of macarons, which were ok but not super epic awesome. Then we walked back to the hotel.

Dinner was downstairs, but didn't get back up here til nearly 8:30pm, and there's still gps and photo downloading and blogging to do.  Too tired for this crap.