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S: Berlin, London & Paris 2011

FC: Berlin, London & Paris September 15, 2011 - October 1, 2011

1: The adventure begins.... | I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to travel to Berlin for the 27th International Papillomavirus Conference. I would be presenting a poster on the work I did as a Co-Op Student. After finding out that I would be going on this trip, I decided that since I would be in Europe, I might as well see other European that I've always wanted to see! So I frantically booked a Contiki tour for London and Paris. This was my first time leaving Canada by myself and of course I was nervous. But I knew I couldn't let that stop me from having an adventure of a lifetime!

2: After flights that took me through Montreal and Brussels, I finally made it to Berlin on September 16, 2011. After a short taxi ride with a driver who spoke no English, I got to my hotel the Ivbergs Charlottenburg. | My Home Away From Home

3: This is where I lived for one week in Berlin. Although my feet didn't touch the floor when I sat on the toilet, it was very comfortable. Best part about this room: Free Wifi! | My Room

4: September 17, 2011 On my first full day in Berlin, I decided to do a bike tour. It was with the Fat Tire Bike Tour Company and the tour was called Gardens and Palaces of Potsdam | To get to the tour, I had to take the S-bahn. At first I was really nervous, but after I got the hang of it, it was really easy!

5: The tour started off from Alexanderplatz and from there we took the S-bahn to Potsdam, where we picked up our bikes

6: Gates to 'Old Potsdam' | The first Brandenburg Gate

7: Sanssouci Palace | Built by Frederick the Great, Sanssouci is said to be the 'Versailles' of Germany.

8: One of the last standing windmills in Potsdam | Chinese Tea House

9: The Guest House | The Servants' House | The Orangerie

10: Cecilienhof Palace

12: The 'Spy Bridge' between West and East Berlin | I probably would've never ventured out to Potsdam on my own, because I would've been too scared. So I'm really glad I did this tour. It was a really neat way to see Potsdam Learning all the history behind everything was really cool too.

13: The Conference | The conference was from September 17 - 22 and it was held at the Internationales Congress Centrum Berlin (ICC Berlin)

15: September 22, 2011 | On my last full day in Berlin I decided to do another bike tour. It was with the same tour company but this tour was called All-In-One City Bike Tour. | Berlin City Hall | Neptune Fountain | Marienkirche - Berlin's oldest functioning church

16: Balcony from which the movement towards Communism was announced | View of Tv tower.

17: Humboldt University & Opera House | Humboldt University is the oldest university in Berlin. Many famous people such as Albert Einstein, Max Planck and Karl Marx attended or taught at the University. This is also the site where the Nazi book burning took place.

18: Checkpoint Charlie

19: The Berlin Wall | Sniper Tower | Under this apartment and parking lot is Hitler's bunker

20: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

21: Brandenburg Gate One of the main sites of Berlin. Unfortunately, on this day we couldn't get closer to the gate because it was all blocked off. It was blocked off because the pope was in the city and he would be visiting the gate later that day.

26: Auf Wiedersehen Berlin! | After a week in Berlin, it was time to say good-bye! I really liked Berlin. The conference was really interesting and I'm glad I got to experience it. The area that I stayed in was very quiet and I really felt safe walking around by myself. I was really glad I did the bike tours because it was a great way to see the city in such a short amount of time. While in Berlin I got to try bratwurst and currywurst, which were actually pretty good. Also, I tried a few German beers, but I definitely didn't finish them because I am not a fan. I did get really homesick while I was in Berlin, but it helped that I had Internet access and I could talk to people back home. I did find it hard to be in a city where the primary language wasn't English. Also, I had a real hard time falling asleep! Every night I would fall asleep around 2 or 3 in the morning! Despite all this, I would definitely come back to Berlin Having only seen a small part of the city, I love to come back to see more!

27: Next Stop....London! | Although I enjoyed my time in Berlin, I was ready to move on to the next city. A two hour flight brought me from Berlin to London. I was very relieved to be in a city where everyone spoke English! | After a very long (and expensive!) cab ride, I finally got to my hotel. Only to find out that my hotel booking got moved to another hotel! Luckily it was only down the street. So I huffed and puffed down the street, with my very heavy suitcase and got settled in. The hotel only had Wifi in the lobby so I ended up spending a lot of time there my first day. I ended up meeting other people who would be on the same tour as me, and we went out for dinner that night. I was so happy to finally have people to talk to! | September 23, 2011

29: September 24, 2011 | The tour meeting wasn't until later, so me and a fellow Contiki-er decided to go Windsor Castle for the day. I was really glad to have someone with me that first day. We had to take the Tube and a train and I definitely would've gotten lost.

30: Windsor Castle

31: At the tour meeting I met some of the other people that I would be traveling with for the week. There were people from Canada, USA, Australia, South Africa & the Philippines. We also met our tour manager, Krista and the bus driver, Yorkie (his real name was Matt). We went over how everything would work and what we would be doing. Then we all had dinner together, then went to a Pub to have drinks and started to get to know each other. | September 25, 2011 | The day started off with a bus city tour. Krista & Yorkie showed us the sites of London. Then we were off to Stonehenge...

32: Stonehenge

33: After Stonehenge, we headed of to the city of Bath. There we visited the Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths. We also had time to just walk around and explore. | Bath Abbey

34: The Roman Baths

36: September 26, 2011 | Today was a free day to explore London. I was completely on my own and it was pretty fun! I got to navigate through the Tube system like a pro. Occasionally I would see a fellow Contiki-er at the sites I visited, which was nice. | Trafalgar Square

37: The Mall | This is the road that leads up to Buckingham Palace. The cement is tinted red because they wanted it to resemble a red carpet.

38: Buckingham Palace

39: House of Guards

40: Big Ben

41: Westminster Abbey

42: The Monument | This monument was built to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666.

43: The actual 'London Bridge' actually isn't that great. It's just a normal bridge. The more famous bridge - the Tower Bridge, is often mistaken as the London Bridge

44: St. Paul's Cathedral | St Paul's Cathedral

47: Cheers London!! | My time in London definitely flew by! There was so much to see in such a little amount of time. But, I managed to see most of the tourist sites, so I was definitely happy with that. While in London I got to try authentic Fish and Chips, which were delicious! Also, I drank a few different types of ciders which were yummy and way better than beer! I got to go see a West End musical - Legally Blond. I went Oxford Street, where I could've done some serious damage, but I managed to control myself. I got to experience taking the Tube on my own. I had lots of fun trying to figure out which lines to take to get me where I wanted to go. Although the British accent is lovely, sometimes I had trouble understanding it. Also, I was definitely confused and puzzled that people drove on the 'wrong side' of the road. I had a hard time figuring out which way to look when crossing the road. Luckily, I always got it right. Another thing I had trouble with was the currency, specifically the coins. It just didn't make sense. But all in all, London was awesome. I would definitely come back!

48: Bonjour Paris! | After the days in London flew by, it was time to go to France! I was definitely very excited about going to France. We took a ferry from London to Paris. I usually get sea sick, but I took Gravol beforehand, which helped. There were only a few times where I though I thought I was going to blow chunks! The ferry ride was about 90 minutes and then we had about a 4 hour drive from the ferry to actually get to Paris. I took advantage of that time to catch up on some sleep! | The White Cliffs of Dover

49: When we finally got to Paris we checked into our hotel and got settled. Then we got back on the bus for our night tour of Paris. It was on this tour that I can honestly say I fell in love with Paris. Even though I was super tired, I instantly felt alive. It was magical, amazing, beautiful, stunning and everything you could think of. I was in complete awe and I couldn't believe I was finally there.

50: Pandemonium at the Arc de Triomphe. The meeting point of twelve different streets, no proper lanes or lines. Pandemonium.

51: La Tour Eiffel

53: September 28, 2011 | The first full day in Paris started off with a bike tour of Paris. Again, it was with the Fat Tire Bike Tour company.

57: The Lock Bridge Couples bring locks with their names written or engraved on locks. They lock the lock onto the bridge and throw the key into the river. Doing this means their love will last forever.

58: L'Arc de Triomphe | After the bike tour, I made my way to the Arc de Trimophe. I had my first experience on the Metro, which like the others was easy to use!

60: After the Arc de Triomphe, I made my way down Les Champs Élysées and then to Place de la Concorde which was our pick-up point for the day

61: Place de la Concorde

62: That night we went to a Moulin Rouge show. We got a three course meal which was pretty good. The show itself was interesting and was definitely an experience. If I had come to France on my own I would've probably never come to a show, so I'm glad I got to go. After the show a bunch of us went to a Bar/Club, where we danced the night away! I had a blast!

63: September 29, 2011 | After a fun-filled night, not every one made it back on the bus the next day. But I managed to! They day started off by going to a French perfumery called Fragonard. Then we got dropped off at the Louvre. We could stay there are as long, or as little as we wanted.

64: The Louvre I didn't spend that much time in the Louvre. I only went and saw the more popular pieces. The Louvre is massive and I got lost many times just trying to find the exit!

66: Notre Dame

67: Versailles

70: On the last night of the tour we went to an area of Paris called Montmarte. After, what seemed like the longest stair climb ever, we walked around the area and had dinner. When we got back to the hotel, a bunch of us got together at the hotel bar for some last drinks together.

71: Escargots | Soupe a l'onion | Boeuf Bourguignon

72: Katelyn | Katrina | Drew | Yorkie | Krista

73: Contiki Friends | Krista | Krista | Jay

78: I had an extra day in Paris which was spent buying souvenirs. I also walked down la Rue de Rivoli which is another main shopping road. I switched to a hotel closer to the airport, which was a really good idea. A shuttle to the airport was just outside the hotel. This came in very handy when it came time to leave.

79: October 1, 2011 Au revoir Paris! | Paris was by far my favourite part about this trip. Why? Because it honestly felt so magical to actually be there. I think the way we were introduced to the city with the night tour helped. The weather was beautiful. And it was fun being able to talk French. Seeing the Eiffel Tour was definitely the highlight of my time in Paris. I couldn't believe how big it actually was. Eventhough I loved Paris, I was really to go home. I left Paris at 9:30 in the morning and I knew it was going to be a long day! From Paris I flew to Dusselfdorf, from Dusseldorf to Toronto and finally, Toronto to Winnipeg. In total I was in flight for about 11 hours and I had about 4 hours in stop-overs. The waiting wasn't too bad because I knew at the end of it all I would be home! I finally arrived at home at 6:30pm. Mom and Kuya came to pick me up at the airport. Dad stayed home to cook steak for me. I was really glad to be safe and sound at home.

80: I am so incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to travel to Europe, and it was a trip I'll never forget! It was the first time I had left Canada and all by myself! I actually enjoyed traveling by myself because I could do whatever I wanted and at my own pace. Although at times I was scared I always told myself 'Suck it up! When are you ever going to be here again!' and I did! It was also a great feeling to know that, in the end, I could and did do it all on my own. It was also my first time on a really long flight. The best part about that was watching movies. Also, I actually enjoyed the food! The parts I didn't like were crying kids and the fact that I just couldn't get comfortable. And I found it really hard to sleep. I got pretty homesick in Belin, mostly because I didn't have anyone to talk to, so that made me miss home even more. But luckily I had Internet access so I could still talk to people back home. I was really relieved when I started the Contiki tour because I finally had people to talk to! Something else I had trouble with was adjusting to the time change. I hardly got any sleep in Berlin, but thankfully by the time I got to London I had somewhat adjusted.

81: I would definitely do a Contiki tour again. It was an awesome way to meet people from around the world. By the end of the trip, we all felt like family. I will definitely keep in touch with some of the people I met. Also, through Contiki, I got to do things that I probably wouldn't do if I had just visited the city by myself. There is no other feeling than coming back home from a foreign country. Even when I arrived in Toronto, just the fact that I was in Canada I already felt like was home. I had a smile on my face while walking into the connecting terminal because I could see all this Canadian stuff like maple leafs and maple syrup. And then Tim Hortons! And finally getting to Winnipeg was a relief! The first song that played on the radio when we got into the car was This City by Patrick Stump and it was so fitting for the moment. I will definitely go back to Europe, hopefully next time not by myself. The countries I visited were all so different and unlike Canada. I hope I'm lucky enough to get the chance to explore more of it! Until next time Europe....

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