Tag Archive | travel

Europe Express 2016

My Topdeck bus

The bus that took me through Europe

It’ s been a while, but now that I’m well into the planning stages of my next Europe adventure I’ve been reminiscing a lot about last years trip and figured I should get my butt into gear and share all the wonderful experiences I had (while I can still remember them – at the moment they still feel like just yesterday).

As part of our first time venturing to the UK and Europe Jess and I were discussing where we would most like to visit in our few weeks together; a few places came up which made me think perhaps a tour might be the best way to see a lot in a small amount of time. We also figured this would be a safer, time saving option as well as an opportunity to meet some new people.

(Both of us really wanted to see Ireland so we hired a car and spent a week driving round the South of Ireland – but that’s a story for another post).

Next began the process of narrowing down which tour company and exactly which tour would meet our criteria (seeing places we wanted, not too rushed and not toooo much partying with a lot of sightseeing opportunities).
On our list were a few places including London, Paris and Venice. After comparing a few Contiki, Bus-about and Top Deck tours, we narrowed it down to one of two Top deck tours; eventually deciding on the Europe Express covering 5 countries in 11 days. This option was most appealing as it had two nights in the most interesting places, so we could drive for a day, have an evening enjoying some local activities, then have a full day to explore, have another night to relax and then drive on to our next destination the following day.

The Europe Express begins with a pick up in London, a bus trip via the Cliffs of Dover, a ferry ride over to Calais, and more driving down to Paris. All the rest is bus trips (with a lovely driver and very interesting tour guide to keep us entertained) during the day between destinations stopping for two nights in Paris, two nights in the Swiss Alps, two nights in Venice, one night in Munich, one night in Rhine Valley, two nights in Amsterdam then back onto the ferry and finishing where we started in London.



  • Driving tour of Paris & gourmet picnic by the Eiffel Tower
  • Walking tour of Venice
  • Vaporetto ride in Venice
  • Walking tour of Munich
  • Visit former concentration camp Dachau
  • Stay in the scenic Rhine Valley castle region
  • Walking tour of Amsterdam
  • Canal dinner cruise in Amsterdam
  • Dutch cheese & clogs demonstration
  • 10 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 6 dinners
  • 8 nights in hostels & 2 nights in bungalows (twin share cabins) at European campsites

Optional activities (make the most of these if you can – although they do cost extra)

-Traditional cabaret show in Paris
-Scenic river cruise on the Seine
-Bike tour of Paris

Swiss Alps
-Scenic excursion to Jungfrau (‘The Top of Europe’)
-Scenic helicopter ride in the Swiss Alps
-Skydiving in the Swiss Alps (100% recommend this!! one of my top 3 fav moments from my 5 weeks in Europe!!)

-Gondola ride in Venice

Rhine Valley
-Rhine Valley river cruise

-Bike tour of Amsterdam

I will write more about each place we went to so if you are interested in doing either the tour, or the places on your own hopefully you can find some helpful tips there.

I highly recommend doing a tour like this for your first time travelling – especially if you are alone. I loved every minute, met some amazing people, felt I got a good taste of Western Europe and know where I would definitely go back when I next get the chance.  The tour guides and bus drivers were incredible, they have great knowledge of the countries with heaps of suggestions for extra things to see and places to eat in your free time. Also fantastic stories to share about other countries they’ve been and crazy things that have happened on other tours they’ve done.


When one door closes…opportunities await


Photo credit: AARC.org

Relationship endings are always bitter sweet.

You say goodbye to the life you knew for the previous how many years, reminisce on all the memories, happy and sad times, and think of all the things that you used to do, places you would go and people you knew that will now change. If you look at it in a positive light it means that there is now room for new beginnings, many opportunities that can lead to an entirely different life. A new chapter for the book of you.

Part of the reason my last relationship ended up parting ways was because I had a long hard think about what I wanted to do in and with my life and our paths just weren’t heading in the same direction. Fortunately for me the reason I had to have that honest conversation with myself turned out to be the first step in creating a new journey.

Some people manage to go through life and have it just happen to them. I want more from life; I like the adrenaline, the excitement, the satisfaction of setting a goal and achieving it and overcoming the challenges that I face on the way.

It may sound selfish, independent, or stubborn, but I like to do things for myself. If I have achieved it mostly on my own it feels like I earned it and can be truly content with the fact it is mine and I did it and no one else can take credit for it. I have always done that so i don’t feel like I “owe” anyone for helping me out. I even have a hard time having other people buy me a drink, or dinner, without me having to repay them in kind.

After the necessary grieving period was over, I began to focus on the things that had made me come to that life changing decision in the first place. I wanted to buy a house, I wanted to travel the world, I wanted to have good real friends, I wanted to be a good real friend…and many more. I sat down and started to work it out using what I had been taught in school and throughout rowing training, if you are going to set a goal it needs to be SMART. Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

I wanted to travel overseas. I thought about where I most wanted to go, how much time I could realistically go for, what the main things I “had to see” if it was my only time going over there. Then looked into the best way to fit those in, priced up the options, worked out how long it would take me to save/pay for the trip and started booking.

I also wanted to buy a house. Again I worked out what I wanted in a house, what area I wanted to and could afford to live in, how much I had in my Kiwisaver, what I could realistically afford that I would be comfortable living in and how much more I needed to save to get there, and also about the timing of it – whether I bought it before or after going overseas.

Fortunately I have a good job with a regular salary and a decent amount of leave. Because I had planned these two main goals out in a lot of detail I then spent the next year and a bit saving, booking parts of my trip, looking at the housing market – keeping an eye on the prices and how it kept changing. With goals and a plan I found it easy to see the end in sight and managed to go to Europe/UK for 6 weeks and come home to buy a house the following month at the end of 2016.

Both of these goals had the added bonus that I was focused on something different. I was learning a lot about houses, the market, the whole process and a lot about the world, places to go, what to do and see, which in turn meant I was surrounded with an entirely different group of people and it opened me up to a lot more conversations with the people I already knew. I met a huge range of different people just through thinking and talking about these adventures I was planning on having and while I was living them.

I look at every experience as an opportunity to learn a lesson, or three, then I look forward to using those lessons to create something even better in my next chapter.

Those were my main goals for 2016 and since I have accomplished them I am now figuring out what’s next and how best to achieve that. The past two years really have been a life changing experience and many many new doors have opened thanks to one door closing.

Bitter sweet, yet onwards and upwards.