Day Europe Bus Tour With COSMOS
4th May 2009
may have different opinions but this is the way I saw things. I
genuinely liked everyone on the trip and had many long and
interesting discussions with everyone. Anything I say about
anyone is purely in fun. Some information I got from others on
the trip. I may have enhanced some of the information I gathered.
Anything that is blatantly incorrect please let me know. Some
information relates to optional excursions that not everyone
attended. All photos referenced have been converted to a smaller
size for faster downloading.
Frank & Phillip
Grayce & Lauren
John & Carole
Lynn & Peter
Joe & Lina
Glen & Sue
Sharon & Russell
Erin & Kevin
Tony & Nella
Dorota was the tour guide and
Carmelo the bus driver.
29 Australians, two Canadians and
one New Zealander.
See this group
photo which was taken overlooking Florence. Erin is not in
took 2,500 photographs and I took 7 hours of video which I
trimmed to 5 one hour DVD's..
It was fantastic. Visited 13 countries. I could
have hopped on the bus and done it all again.
About 8,000km on the bus. Another 2,500km on
the ferry to/from Greece and the cruise around the Greek islands.
Marino. Everyone on the tour loved it. Located in Italy, it is
the smallest sovereign state and constitutional republic in the
is a photo of what greets visitors. The main town of San
Marino sits high on a rocky mountain crag with fortresses and
walls around it. See this
photo of me and Ann sitting on the edge and this
photo of Ann with a fortress in the background. Other
villages surround the mountain. We stayed in the Titano hotel in
San Marino. See this
photo of the hotel with Ann sitting on a seat out front. We
had dinner on the
hotel terrace that overlooked the surrounding countryside and
watched a magnificent
sunset. There were very few tourists around. They were all in
Venice as we discovered later.
There were lots of shops
selling guns, crossbows, swords etc. Did not see this elsewhere
There is even a McDonalds there. See this
photo of the surrounding countryside at night.
in San Marino also had the largest array of fairies that Ann had
found so far. Ann had been looking for fairies for our
photo of Grayce waving from her hotel window.
Price of Water
people on the tour purchased bottled water and the prices varied
dramatically. The highest price I paid was €3.50
for 1lt (about $7 AUS). Cheapest was €0.39
Best Dinner Evening Out
Vienna, we drove to a small village called Gumpoldskirhen
in the Viennese woods and had dinner there. We ate outside beside
a group of stern
looking Germans. The music of Leo,
the accordionist, soon fired us up assisted by the unlimited wine
supply. We sang, danced and Graham
even did the haka. I don't think the Germans knew what hit
them. Their peaceful evening had been shattered. They were grumpy
at first but we eventually wore them down and some joined in the
fun. Matt even put a flower
in his hair to celebrate the fantastic evening.
are some photos of the dinner. Photo
two and photo
Leo tried to take Lauren down the wedding aisle.
Alf & Maureen enjoyed themselves. See this
Even Dorota joined in. See this
Some danced. See this
photo and this
photo of Tony and Nella.
It was Tony's birthday and he
got very excited. See this
Worst Dinner Evening Out
Lucerne (Switzerland) we went out for a traditional Swiss meal
and a show. The place was very crowded and hot. The food was OK.
The floor show was mediocre and not quite what I expected. The
yodeller was terrible. The only good part was seeing some members
group on stage doing silly things.
In some cases, dinner was included at
the hotel we stayed at. The best provided dinner was in Olympia
(Greece) where we had a buffet. The worst was in Signa (near
Florence) where we had meagre portions. This night happened to be
our 40th wedding anniversary. Lyn and Peter shouted us drinks.
Thank you very much.
Toilets Of Europe
most public toilets you have to pay. The most expensive we found
was in Venice at St Marks square. It was a coin
in the slot arrangement costing €1.50.
the Isle of Capri our guide pointed out this
person managing the toilet and said he was one of the richest
men in Europe from raking in €1.00
Most of the toilets in the eating places off the
motorway expect a voluntary donation of around €0.30.
See this sign in
Austria. In Germany, you pay €0.50
and get a receipt. If you purchase something in the Cafe you can
hand in the receipt and this is taken off the total cost. Also in
Germany, the toilet seat is automatically sanitised after you
press the flush button. The sanitising device pushes down on the
seat and the seat rotates.
toilet was very unusual in that your droppings are first
placed on a "shelf" and then flushed away. Why would
you want to do this?
toilet and this
toilet had unusually large flush buttons.
in hotels have both types of toilets as in this
These spiral stairs going to the men's
toilets were unusual. This was in a country area of Greece.
public toilets have the entrance doors propped open with a nice
view to the men's urinals. This
men's urinal in the
town of Arles in France had bar doors.
Most toilets have
automatic water dispensers. You put your hand near the tap and it
turns on. One place also had an automatic soap dispenser.
Athens, at the toilets near the Acropolis, I could not find any
way of flushing the urinal. Someone pointed out a pedal on the
floor that you push with your foot.
At a McDonalds in
Vienna, you had to use a key code on the toilet door which was
provided by the sales person.
In Greece, you are not allowed
to throw toilet paper in the toilet as this
photo taken on the ferry shows. You put it in the supplied
Showers Of Europe
The type and quality of showers varied
enormously. Where the shower is in the bath there is one set of
taps for both the shower and bath. You flick a valve to select
between the bath or shower. The problem is that the taps are
usually low down and when you turn them on and select the shower
you are instantly sprayed with water over your head.
shower in Nice had useless curtains causing copious water on the
floor and there was no soap holder.
In Sorrento, there was
just a hand held spray and no curtains.
The best shower was
in the cabin on the ferry from Patras (Greece) to Ancona
Many bathrooms had a cord hanging down above the
bath. None seemed to do anything but I was intrigued as to what
they were originally for.
It was my first visit. I had gained an expectation from films and
writings that Paris was a dynamic metropolis with lots of
character. Thus the term "Gay Paris". However, I was a
little disappointed and maybe expected too much. The locals were
sometimes rude and they don't like you talking in English. Take
away the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and there is not much left.
photo of me and Ann in front of Eiffel Tower.
redeveloped in the 1800's so there is not many historical
buildings left. It is inland so there is no port or beach there.
No mountains around.
Dame Cathedral was spectacular and we were lucky because
scaffolding at the front had only just been removed after 20
years. Our guide pointed out the carving
of Quasimodo placed in an outside corner of the Notre Dame.
The Eiffel Tower is beautiful at night. See this
photo of me and Ann. On the hour for ten minutes the lights
on the tower flicker to great effect.
The so called
"Bohemian" district was not that exciting except when
someone on our bus had to make an emergency toilet stop there.
had dinner one evening in a restaurant and tried frogs
legs and snails. Not
very appetising. The atmosphere in the restaurant was very good.
There were two guys playing music and we all sang along.
went to a cabaret evening at the Lido de Paris on the Champs -
Elysees. It was a high quality production with some semi nude
performers and very entertaining. We arrived at 9.29, We were
instantly escorted to our seats right beside the stage and given
a complimentary glass of champagne. The show started at 9.30. See
this photo of me
outside. I noticed a McDonalds nearby there but no golden
Apart from around the Eiffel Tower, there are not
enough car free areas and the traffic is terrible. Too their
credit, they are introducing more trams like
this one. There are also lots of small electric "Smart
Cars" buzzing around. They do have a system for hiring
photo of Ann waving from the window at the hotel we stayed at
A few weeks after we arrived back in Australia we
were talking to a friend about Paris in the local Post Office. To
my surprise, the postmistress (who we know very well) had
overheard my comments about Paris and piped up that she agreed
with me that Paris was overrated.
Our niece, who stayed in
Paris in Sept 2009, was also not that impressed. She complied
this list of weird, interesting and annoying facts about Paris:
have apple juice in cans.
do NOT put onions in their kebabs nor is it available to be put
in as an extra. There is no garlic sauce either.
cannot get a GLASS of water ANYWHERE you have to BUY a bottle
with every meal when you're eating in.
have to PAY to use the loo in most places.
can buy alcohol at the supermarket; not the liquorland next door
(like in Australia) and they don't ID anyone, anywhere in this
serve chilled RED wine. It's not bad actually, quite refreshing
on these hot evenings.
have to change trains and swap lines about a million times to
feet end up black every night because it's so dirty and there's
dust and sand everywhere and NO beaches!! They have a fake beach
thing on the river with banana lounges and umbrellas. Crazy
since you can't actually swim in the river.
has picnics on the bridges every night. Cute. It gets really
packed. But no one ever cleans up after themselves and they
leave bottles everywhere. Sad face. I call it Bridgestock (like
Woodstock get it) but no one thinks I'm funny.
people think its the guests job to wash up because they're doing
you a favour. Not the host clean up because you are a guest.
drinks water with 'gas' (bubbles). It's disgusting.
Metro stinks like pee and makes me feel sick. I even miss
you go to tourist attractions you always get harassed by
bootleggers trying to sell you stuff and when the cops come they
all run away and it's hilarious and all their key rings jingle
and all you can hear is running and jingling. And when you say
no they follow you anyway and don't leave you alone until you be
horrible and yell 'I said NO!' I had one guy trying to do a
caricature of me and he was yelling after me 'you have sexy
body' and was being feral. He made me feel sick. They're so
annoying! GO AWAY!
supermarkets! Don't get me started! They stink. The cashiers are
slow and rude.
jewellery shops are fantastic though, they always ask if you're
buying as a gift and they gift wrap everything beautifully for
you!! And they're so friendly and helpful.
put mint in the fruit smoothies (they do in Berlin too) it's
AMAZING I am in love! I never want another smoothie without
fresh mint for the rest of my life! And it's all fresh fruit
just loads of fresh fruit and that's all YUUUUUM!
over 300 and something kinds of cheese. I LOVE cheese so that's
apartment's are tiny. They don't have baths. They're so small.
doesn't get dark until 9.30pm.
have these amazing cheese cubes that I'm really going to miss!
exchange rate sucks.
smells a little bit everywhere.
in mind I'm staying in the city. Who wants to live in the city?
It's only good on holiday because you're near everything you
want to see.
still have one and two cents coins. So annoying. Maybe I'll give
them all to one of the many buskers I see daily. People get on
the trains and sing with backup music and microphones. Or play
accordion or violin then walk up and down the carriage asking
don't have hot chips anywhere.
get me wrong. I liked Paris, it is a very interesting town but a
the ferry from Greece in the morning just before arriving back to
Italy. It was a beautiful day and we were sitting outside at the
rear of the ferry with the Adriatic sea in the background. It was
very pleasant. See this photo
of me and of me
Roslyn & Robin as shown in this
photo. Matt told me he never slept on the bus. He would have
been the only one. I don't like sleeping on the bus because you
might miss something but I did nod off a few times.
Lynn and Tony
sleeping on the boat in Venice.
Of Our Lady
vision of Dorota, our tour guide, on the bus.
Can Adjust The Bus Seats Sideways
Robin showed us how to
adjust the seat closest to the aisle sideways. Everyone knew that
the seats reclined but this was a best kept secret. Even Dorota
did not tell us this.
They Really Want Tourists ?
Venice. See this
sign and this
sign in the St Marks square area. The only rule missing was
"No walking". These rules are there for the local
traders so you can only sit and eat at their seats. I did
observe the "Fun Police" walking around telling off
people who were sitting. We were told later that if you move
away from the main tourist centre, it is more friendly and there
are parks and seats.
What really bugged me was the illegal
traders selling their wares brazenly beside this
sign and nothing appears to be done about them. We were told
that if you buy fake items from these traders YOU can be
In some places on mainland Venice, graffiti is
Streets in Venice don't have names displayed.
In a few places there are signs with arrows pointing to well
known places like St Marks Square. I stupidly asked how they get
their mail delivered if there are no street names and was told
that the post person knows where everyone lives. I believe the
truth is that streets do have names, they are just not
In contrast, on the island of Burano, a short
boat ride from Venice, there was grass that we were allowed to
sit on. Many houses on this lace-making island are painted
bright colours. It was much more tourist friendly than
Venice. Some of our group had a taste of some unusual drink on
Burano, but I did not record its name.
had a few Italian speakers on the bus. They overheard many
restaurant staff in Italy making disparaging remarks about
tourists which upset them considering they are of Italian
some of the small Italian towns we stayed in we walked around
the town in the afternoons or evenings looking for a coffee
place. Men congregate outside these places standing on the
footpaths smoking and giving you the evil eye as you walk past.
You don't feel like going into those places because it is
intimidating. This happened in Greece also.
found where Carmelo, our bus driver, had written
his name on the side of the Colosseum in Rome.
very impressed with Carmelo's driving. In Vienna, he went down a
one way street that came to a dead end. He could not turn the bus
around and had to back up about 1km.
In Greece, near
Olympia, we went through a village with a narrow road,
overhanging buildings and cars in the way. Still don't know how
he got through it.
this sign in
Amsterdam reminded us. My first experience with a pickpocket was
in the Versailles Palace near Paris. I was walking along in a
crowd and noticed a man pressed hard up against a woman with his
hand in her handbag. I banged and yelled at him and he ran away
very quickly. One local tour guide pointed out a few pickpockets.
We were warned of some of the tactics used by pickpockets and
people trying to get money out of you.
hand you a note and ask if you can read English. Whilst you are
reading the note they are checking your bag.
hand you a flower and you are expected to pay.
gold ring is dropped near your feet. It is picked up in front of
you and you are asked to look at it to see if you know who owns
it. Then you are asked to pay for it. Ann actually saw this
happen in Barcelona.
Adult asks you to hold a baby whist someone else is checking
told me he was going to buy a new vehicle for his work (he is a
concreter). His was intending to purchase a Holden Commodore Ute
but I think this
vehicle would be better suited. However, it may not be a good
chick magnet in Lygon or Chapel Street. In Italy, there are lots
of these zooming around.
Agony and the Ecstasy
Barcelona, we went out for dinner and to a Spanish Floor Show. It
was a good show and the passionate expressions on the
dancers was matched by me later on when I was busting to go
to the toilet when waiting for our bus at the end of "Las
Ramblas". Whilst everyone else sheltered in a bus shelter
from the rain I relieved myself in an alley. The only person
watching was Christopher
Columbus on top of his column.
I had another painful
experience after our evening out in the Vienna Woods where we
drank too much wine. On the way back in the bus I was absolutely
busting but there was nowhere to stop until we got to the hotel
parking bay. We did have a toilet on the bus but we were
discouraged from using it. I never found out why.
Light At The End Of The Tunnel
We went through lots of
tunnels. Along the French and Italian Riviera, the motorway is
relatively flat. When they were planning the motorway, if a
mountain was in the way, a tunnel was bored through. If there was
a valley, a bridge was built.
To get in and out of Monaco
there were lots of tunnels. Northern Italy and Switzerland also
had lots of tunnels. The longest we went through was over 15km
with a small break somewhere.
Are All The Beaches
the French and Italian Riviera I expected to see lovely beaches
like we have in Australia with wide stretches of golden yellow or
white sand. But no, most of the ocean frontage is rocks with
occasional stretches of pale screenings (small rocks). These
screenings are what they call a beach! This was the case in most
of the ocean places I saw. In some places they truck in real sand
but they have to replace it every year. They love putting their
deck chairs on the screenings and in some places you can be
charged up to €3.00
to sit in one.
We don't appreciate what we have in
Australia. Any beach that does not have a wide expanse of golden
or white sand is considered crap. Like Surfers Paradise for
The only place I saw yellow sand was at Callas,
where you catch the ferry to/from England.
Along some rivers
they cart in sand and stick in some deck chairs. Like this
one in Vienna. But you are not allowed to swim in the water.
Best Local Tour Guide
We had local tour guides in most
major cities and they were all good. Leonardo, who guided us
around the Isle of Capri, was the best. He would greet us with an
"aloha" and salute and bow after giving instructions on
where to go and what to do next. He was meticulous in giving us
details on where to meet next and at what time. He claimed to
speak 5 languages and is a guide at many other sites. My only
criticism is that he did not give us much time for photos.
reckon he had a vested interest in one of the local cafes in
Capri. When we entered the one he recommended for lunch, there he
was out the back chatting with the workers.
in Pompeii. Dorota found him. He admitted he was getting worried.
We also thought that he was lost in Sorrento but he didn't think
so when he finally turned up.
Roselyn lost an earring in
Lucerne but Dorota found it on the pier. How lucky can you
Ann lost her coat but we never found it.
If you kiss your loved one in the
situations described below, legend has it that you will have
eternal love, you will be together forever, or some variant of
that depending on which situation you are in. Well, Ann and I
kissed in all those places.
a boat going through the
hole in one of the three rocks that epitomise the Isle of
Capri. We did this on a boat trip around the Isle of Capri and
the boat passed through the hole.
Venice on top of the Ponte de Rialto (Rialto
Bridge). See this
photo of me and Ann on top of the Rialto Bridge.
Venice in a Gondola going under the
"Ponte de Sospiri"
(Bridge of sighs).
under the "Skinny Bridge" canal bridge in Amsterdam.
picked up a "pop out" map of Amsterdam that I thought
was very clever. As you opened the cover, the map inside folded
out automatically. They are also available for other cities. See
Lynn & Peter brought with them from
Australia a number of small kangaroo badges. Whenever they
thought someone gave them good service they presented them with
one of these badges. Most recipients were very appreciative.
interest, I checked using my mobile who on the bus had their
bluetooth enabled and open. I detected four devices.
Nearly Missed It
The "Castle in the Rock"
nears Tours in France. It is carved out of the rock. We glimpsed
it from the bus.
Austria, we were stopped for a police check of the tachograph on
the bus. This device records the driver’s periods of duty.
Europe has strict regulations on the periods that drivers are
allowed to drive. I noticed that Carmelo had a few days off and
we had substitute drivers.
It was a brand new bus (lucky us). The only
short hold-up in Carcassone where Carmelo changed something.
Greece the air conditioner was not fully working one day. It was
repaired the next day.
Lucerne in Switzerland, the wind was very strong and it poured
rain. The front windscreen of the bus fogged up and I don't know
how Carmelo could see. He eventually stopped and fiddled with
something under the bus and it was fixed.
We started taking scenic photos of things on
our mobile phones and sending these to people. We even used the
mobile phone camera to take photos off the digital camera. The
good thing about this system is that you can sometimes get an
instantaneous response from the person you are sending to.
In Athens, I was waiting on the bus
ready to leave for Patras to catch the ferry to Italy when I
heard some yelling outside. I got off and discovered our driver
was under the bus yelling "Get out, get out!". He was
prodding something with a long stick. It turns out the there were
3 people stowed away under our bus attempting to migrate to
Italy. We were told later that this is very common and all buses
and trucks that go on a ferry are checked as we discovered later
at the ferry terminal. I tried to video one of the stowaways
getting out from under the bus but they got out the opposite
side. Dorota, our tour guide, got a bit prickly with me about
filming in case it showed the COSMOS bus logo and I later sold
this footage too the press. As if I would do that!
neared the ferry terminal at Patras, there were groups of people
milling in a park. Our bus stopped briefly at some traffic lights
and someone ran over and attempted to get under our bus but the
lights changed before they got underneath.
illegal immigrants are a massive problem in Italy. Nearly
everywhere you go in Italy there are illegal immigrants trying to
sell you their wares. They can be very persuasive and pushy. I
noticed that they nearly always have their wares displayed in
something that they can quickly pack up in case the law appears.
Given the number of sellers and the variety of wares, the whole
operation appears to be controlled at a higher level.
Venice, we went for dinner in a typical Venetian restaurant
called the "Ristorante Colombo". The dinner was OK and
we were given a sample of a local sparkling wine. Ann thought
that one of the organisers reminded her of a typical Mafia person
with his pin stripped suit, dark complexion and slicked back
hair. This is his photo.
On the way back from the restaurant, we noticed that water was
seeping onto the
pavement in St Marks Square. We heard later that water has
been up to 0.5 meters above the pavement.
Venice, we took a boat from the parking area to the island of
Venice. The boat was designed to just carry passengers from one
place to another, it was not tour boat. We were inside a covered
area, the windows were small and you were not allowed outside
(something about public liability). There was a local guide
outside with a microphone giving us a commentary about the scenic
sights we were passing. "If you look to the left you will
see this and if you look to the right you will see that" he
kept saying. Well, I could not see that much and I felt like
going outside and telling HIM to sit inside and I will do the
commentary. It would not have made that much difference.
believe the boat was either owned or rented exclusively to COSMOS
so they need to fix this up and get a boat that you can see out
of like this
one in Amsterdam that we did a tour of the canals in. Oh, and
they need to clean up the
rubbish in the water near the car park boat terminal.
had few rain spots hear and there, We had heavy rain whilst
driving towards Lucerne in Switzerland. The wind was very strong
and it poured. The front windscreen of the bus fogged up and I
don't know how Carmelo could see. He eventually stopped the bus
and did something underneath the bus and fixed it.
rained in the evening whilst we were on the ferry from Patras to
Most cities in Europe had excellent public
transport. Here are some of the things I noticed:
London underground is very good but the infrastructure is
getting old. In particular, the trains are very old.
used the underground in Barcelona and it was very good and
modern. I was particularly intrigued by the strip map above the
doors that shows the train position in relation to the stations.
The map has light for each station. As you are approaching a
station the appropriate light flashes.
At the ticket
machine there was an "info" button with instructions
in three languages and a microphone. Above the button it said
"Press this button for info". I did that and a person
answered in Spanish and he did not speak English. That was
useful for visitors I thought.
Athens there are trolley buses, trams and buses. The buses have
the route number displayed on the back so you know which bus you
for 15mins in a cafe.
Most hotels we stayed in offered Wi
Fi. A couple were free and others varied in price and some were
relatively expensive. Many tour participants had small computers
and used the internet including Skype. Some used McDonalds as Wi
Fi is free as long as you purchase something.
Highways Of Europe
have the best tolled motorways. They are very well organised
except they don't have electronic tolling. Its expensive though.
For example, approx 200km on the bus was €69.00.
Fuel prices are displayed on the motorway a few hundred km before
the turnoff like in this
photo. Fuel prices everywhere in Europe are displayed in
Euros to 3 decimal points like in this
photo whereas in Australia they are shown in dollars and
cents to one decimal point. The speed
limit is 130 for cars and 100 for trucks and buses. Trucks
and buses are very disciplined. They did stick to the speed limit
and stayed on the RH side of the 3 lanes.
Motorways in all countries have lots of
eating places off the Motorway. We stopped at many for morning
and afternoon breaks and lunch.
In Italy, to buy a snack or
coffee you first go to the counter displaying the goods and
decide what you want. You then go to a cashier, pay for it and
get a docket. Then go back to the counter, hand the docket to
someone and they give you the item. It is a very silly system
when the place is busy because the cashier is usually not close
to the counter where you get your purchase and you are pushing
through people to get from one place to another. All places have
separate entry and exit doors. You are forced to go through the
whole shop to get to the exit door. If you buy anything, you must
hold onto your receipt until you are well clear of the place. You
can be challenged outside about what you purchased so you need
In Austrian motorway eating places, after you
order and are given your item, you are given a slip of paper
describing the item or later on someone comes around and gives
you an electronic card. Neither have prices on them. You pay as
you exit. Austria has a GST of 19%.
tolling and did not have as good surface as France. Despite this,
there is no speed limits for cars and I reckon some past us doing
over 200km/hr. With cost of fuel in Germany around €1.50/litre,
at 200km/hr you would be using lots of fuel.
Greece had the
worst roads. However, near Athens, there are some good tolled
roads complete with tunnels.
I don't think they have
supervised children's crossings in Europe.
The best donuts
we have ever tasted were purchased in a restaurant off the
motorway in France. They were delicious.
Represented Professions On The Bus
Three teachers and
Heard Words On Bus
"Has it got a gym" and "Has
it got a pool". There was a pool on the roof at the hotel in
Barcelona but it was being cleaned. Phillip got his wish on the
last evening in Amsterdam where there was both a pool and a gym.
Even I had a swim in the pool.
Most Fascinating Historical Sites
We walked around with a local guide who explained things very
well. The details and sophistication of the site were
fascinating. Even 19 year old Phillip told me he enjoyed it when
most other places he thought were boring. Sue, a secondary
school teacher, is always on the lookout for interesting things
to show the children that will capture their interest (in
history). She thought this
object may interest them. The area around Pompeii and Naples
is still very dangerous because Mt. Vesuvius is an active
volcano. However, we did not see any smoke coming out of the
mountain as we passed.
Here are photos of Ann
and me in
had many interesting historical sites and we went to most of
them. Here is me and Ann at the Colosseum
and at the Trevi
Fountain. Ann at the Spanish
Steps. That evening we had a 5 course meal in a typical
Roman restaurant which was very good. At the end of the evening,
all the ladies were presented with a
rose. Alf was also presented with one but the stem would not
stay erect and it kept falling over. Obviously a message there.
has the Acropolis which is a flat-topped rock which rises 150m
above sea level in the middle of Athens. On top of the Acropolis
are a number of major archaeological remains some in the process
of restoration. We had a guided tour of the Acropolis and it was
fascinating. Here is me and Ann in front of the Parthenon,
one of the buildings being restored. We also visited a few other
places in the city. The museum in Athens looks good although we
did not visit it.
That evening we went for a Greek feast at
a local restaurant. To get there we boarded this
train which went places that cars don't go. Like narrow
streets full of tables and chairs with people eating and past
the markets. The train trip was interesting except for the
terrible PA system used by the guide. She sounded like a
Lots of interesting historical areas. We visited most of them.
Took the obligatory photo
of David. Discovered that David has something out of
proportion on his body. His hands of course.
Peruzzi Leather Shop for a demonstration of leather fabrication
and a wander around the shop. Very expensive but high quality.
photo of me and Ann overlooking Florence.
Best Concert Evening
Vienna, we went to an orchestral
performance of Mozart and Strauss music at the Vienna
Kursalon. It was fantastic and much, much better than I
Here is a
photo of some who attended taken during the interval on the
outside terrace and nice photo of Nella
The next day we visited the house where
Strauss lived. Here
is Ann dressed up in old time clothes. We caught
Sue listening to some Strauss music on headphones and
dreaming about the previous night's orchestral performance.
visiting the house where Strauss lived we visited St. Peter's
Church and I climbed up circular stones stairs to the top. Very
narrow stairway and difficult to pass people. Good view from the
Australians Recognise Each Other
Venice, we went up the Bell Tower (via a lift) in St. Marks
Square. See this
photo of Ann at the top. At the top I noticed a guy wearing a
T-Shirt with "Round the Bay ..." on it. I instantly
recognised it as referring to the round the bay bike ride in
Melbourne. He was in the lift coming down and we spoke. He had
recognised my KT26 sneakers suspecting that I was also from
We were told that the bells in the tower ring on
the hour. However, we were there at 1.00 and they did not ring
but I did hear them ringing later.
Vienna, John forgot to hand in his hotel key. It cost him €27.00.
That seemed a bit excessive. Hotels that still use keys should
have a tag attached with a return address on it. The key can then
be posted back. This is done in England.
Maximum And The Minimum
In Paris, there is the high
class restaurant called Maxim's. When we drove past it in the bus
it was pointed out that near Maxim's is another restaurant called
few got sick. Sue, Chris and Lina were probably the worst. Both
Sue and Chris had a doctor call to the hotel we were staying at
and issue a prescription. Sue even had a mobile blood/urine test
vehicle call and they took a sample away for testing. Don't think
we have that in Australia. Pharmacies in France (and a few other
European countries) have a distinctive flashing blue cross
Phillip went to a dentist in Sorrento.
had a haircut in Sorrento. A very expensive haircut (travelling
all the way to Italy) so that is sick.
With all the sick
people around Graham resorted to wearing this
mask in the bus.
Two Houses Of The Pope
Rome, we visited the Vatican museums, the Sistine Chapel, St.
Peter's Basilica and the Grottos. Unfortunately, the Pope was not
in residence that day, so we did not get a wave from the
balcony. I was intrigued as to why you are permitted to
photograph inside St. Peter's Basilica but not in any other
areas. Turns out that the paintings inside St. Peter's Basilica
are actually mosaics, so camera flashes don't affect the them. In
any case, its generally a waste of time photographing. You are
better off buying the Vatican book which has superb photos.
evening we drove through the Alban Hills to the town of Castel
Gandolfo and observed the summer
residence of the Pope. He was not there either but we soaked
up the atmosphere of this lovely town that overlooks Lake Albano.
Here is a
photo of us overlooking the lake beside the town.
then went for a 4 course Italian dinner in the "IL
Pergolata" tavern in a town called Cantina complete with
musical entertainment. Robin
was excited about the entertainment but me
myself didn't appear that excited. On the bus back to the
hotel, Dorota handed each man a ticket to win something. I won
and the prize was a "Pupazze
Castellane", a pastry in the form of a woman with 3
breasts. Legend has it that the 2 outside breasts produce milk
and the middle one wine. I did eat some of it but it was very
hard and not particularly tasty.
Coffees Of Europe
Austria in some cafes, coffee is served with a small glass of
water like in this
In Greece, the coffee cups have very small
handles so you cannot get your finger through the hole and we
even found some with the holes filled in.
We were told that
coffee in Venice would be very expensive but at the cafe Dorota
showed us it only cost €1.50
as long as you stood at the bar and drank it. It cost more if you
sit at a table.
The ancients seem to like rain falling on a
roof to fall to the ground via a mouth. In Paris, at the Notre
Dame Cathedral, the water comes out the gargoyles mouths. In
Athens, at the Parthenon, the water comes out of the lions mouth.
Sorrento, Italy, we stayed two nights in a lovely hotel with
balconies. See this
photo of Ann on the balcony of our room. In view of the
balcony was this
small chapel. Late one evening Ann observed a lady approach
the chapel and light a candle inside. We saw many of these small
chapels in Greece also.
At this hotel, Matt, Graham and
Erin & Kevin had the biggest balconies with the best views
which I didn't think was fair.
Sorrento is a beautiful
Italian village with lots of interesting places to shop. We had
four course dinner one evening in Sorrento and had our first
taste of an Italian drink called "Lemoncello". It has
an unusual taste. Later, we purchased a 1 litre bottle in San
Marino for €6.50
there are no taxes and brought it home.
The hotel we stayed
in was about 10km from Sorrento and the road to the town was
interesting. It is very hilly there and the road is narrow and
windy. One side of the road is often a rock wall or a cliff.
There is a walking area denoted by a white line along the edge of
the road but you would be taking you life in hand walking on the
road. The drivers are maniacs. Particularly the motor bikes which
are numerous. Bus stops are denoted by a sign affixed to a rock
wall but there is no special safe area for passengers to wait.
Carmelo, our bus driver, had fun negotiating the bus along this
road. When we went for dinner in Sorrento and to the ferry for
our trip to Capri, a smaller local bus was used. Even this bus
had trouble getting down the narrow road to the ferry terminal in
Swiss Are Doing Us A Favour
the countries around Switzerland use the Euro and they still use
the Swiss Franc. They will accept Euro notes (not coins) but only
give change in Swiss Francs and they reckon they do this as a
favour. Some excuse about the Swiss banks not accepting coins.
Switzerland, we stayed in Lucerne, a nice town. See this
photo of Ann in Lucerne with the famous wooden bridge in the
background. We did a boat cruise around the lake. It was cold
with occasional drizzle. Mildly interesting.
feature in Lucerne is the Lion
Monument carved into the rock.
We also made a trip to
Mt. Titlis, a ski resort. We first drove to Engelberg and then on
three different cable cars to get to the top of Mt. Titlis at
about 3,000 Meters. The last car was a rotating
cable car. The floor rotates as it moves along.
top is a 5 story building. On the ground floor you can walk
into an ice
cave carved out underneath a glacier and on the top floor you
can walk outside.
are photos taken at the top of Ann
& Nella, me
and Ann. In an igloo me
and Ann. On the way down we were the only ones in the last
lift and we took this
photo. Saw silly girls walking in the snow in high heels and
thongs. It was an interesting day.
Tiny Republics and Independent States
Monto Carlo is the town within Monaco and we visited it one
evening. We were staying in Nice that evening and had to drive
about 1 hour through many tunnels to get there. We first had
dinner in the "Saint-Nicholas"
restaurant which was OK. We then walked up to the Casino area
and had a drink in the bar near the entrance to the Monto Carlo
Casino and then wandered around. Lots of "wanna- bes"
there. It was quite interesting to watch the comings and goings
of people. See this
photo of me and Ann outside the Casino.
City. See earlier.
Marino. See earlier.
We passed through Liechtenstein and stopped in Vaduz, the
capital, for about 1 hour. Wandered around the central area.
There is not much to see except the castle
on the hill. Had our passports stamped for €3.00 each. See
photo of me and Ann.
Venice, which I did not particularly like. It was
not tourist friendly (see earlier) but for some reason there were
lots of people there.
The Murano glass blowing
demonstration in Venice was very hot. We were stuck in tiny room
with a red hot furnace for about 20 mins. It was worth it though
because it was fascinating to watch a piece of glass sculptured
by a master glass blower.
After the demonstration we went
into the showrooms and a few (including us) purchased authentic
Murano glass pieces. We also purchased a non authentic Murano
piece in San Marino.
The Rich And Famous Live
Isle Of Capri. We spent a day there. Local bus took us to
Sorrento and we caught ferry to Capri. We caught a bus up to the
higher town of Ana Capri via a narrow road that zig zags and
winds its way up the mountain partly along the edge
of a cliff. Then took a chairlift to highest point. See this
photo of me and Ann at highest point and this
photo of me and Ann at a viewpoint in Ana Capri.
in the afternoon, we took a boat trip around the Island which
went through the hole in one of the three rocks that epitomise
Capri. The boat trip was extremely interesting. Particularly
around the side of the island where the rich and famous have
Capri is a fascinating place. Claimed to be
one of the most expensive places in Europe. We were told a taxi
from the lower town of Capri to the upper town of Ana Capri costs
The most exclusive hotel costs €800/night.
Land is €20,000/sq
meter. Ann looked at some shorts in a shop that cost €190.
Italy, Austria and Switzerland. In particular, the town of
Innsbruck is nestled in a valley with snowy
mountains on both sides and a fast flowing river running
through the town. We stayed there one night. See this photo of me
at the window of the hotel. Caught Nella
ironing at the hotel.
The next day we visited the famous
Swarovski crystal ware glass shop in the centre of Innsbruck. See
Pile Of Rocks
Olympia in Greece, which was the site of
the Olympic Games in classical times. Lucky we had a guide who
explained things very well so each pile meant something. The
museum attached to the site was very interesting.
Ann Could Not Find
A Cherry Ripe. In every country, we
looked in all the motorway shops and restaurants that we stopped
Much better than expected. A clean open city. Lots of pedestrian
only areas and historical places to view. There is a lovely
harbour. Modern public transport. The 1km street known as "Las
Ramblas" is very tourist friendly. I particularly liked the
people doing character impersonations.
Montjuïc, which is a broad shallow hill with a relatively
flat top that overlooks the harbour and the city. An array of
interesting buildings and parks on the hill compliment the rest
of the city. See this
photo of me and Ann on the hill.
And we did see Manuel
(of Fawlty Towers fame). A guy who looked similar to Manuel was
on the reception desk at the hotel we stayed at. The only
downside of Barcelona was the water. It tasted yuk.
Speak A Different Language
gondola rowers in Venice. We had a number of Italian speaking
people on our tour and they could not understand the rowers. They
had their own dialect. However, most rowers could speak normal
Italian and English.
We did the traditional gondola cruise
complete with accompanying music
Because there were 5 gondolas in our group, we got separated in
the canal gondola traffic which there was a lot of. In some of
the canals, the environment is depressing. Rotten timbers,
smelly, rubbish, slimy walls, collapsing buildings etc.
this photo of
Robin and this
photo of Lauren, Grayce, Sue and Glen.
stayed in dozens of hotels each with its unique beds, covers and
pillows. Some pillows were very hard.
In Olympia, the bed
was two 3/4 mattresses pushed together with giant sheets covering
In Athens, the bed was two 3/4 mattresses
pushed together with separate sheets covering each mattress.
Innsbruck, the hotel had a unique bed
one of the Greek Islands we visited on a day cruise out of
Athens. The day cruise was on a large
boat carrying 500 passengers. It sailed directly to Hydra
which took about 3 hours. On the way back we
had lunch on board with some
entertainment and then the boat called into Poros and Aegina.
On Poros, we climbed up a mountain to the Bell Tower. On Aegina,
we went on a bus tour around the island and then had a sample of
the local fish and Ouzo. People at other tables did not drink all
of their Ouzo sample bottle so we commandeered them. Some did not
do the bus tour and checked out the local beach (of pebbles). I
noticed that there is a small island called "Kira" near
Aegina which is the name of our dog.
When we first boarded
the boat, we were told that by the time the boat got to Aegina
the shopkeepers would be having a siesta and there would be few
shops open so they advised to do one of the bus tours around the
island. However, this was not the case and lots of shops and
stalls were open. This annoyed me a little because they gave us
misleading information in order to encourage people to go on the
bus tours. The lie they told reminded me of this
photo taken in San Marino.
Hydra is a very quaint
island. The sea around is so blue and clear. We walked up around
the houses with their narrow walkways and steep steps. There is
no mechanised transport on the island (except garbage trucks) and
used to transport goods. See this
photo of me and Ann in Hydra.
Belgium. We only drove through Belgium on
the way to Calais in France to catch the ferry to England.
Stopped for about 20 mins at a motorway servo for a coffee.
We went on boats many times.
to Calais on a ferry. Lunch on board.
the Isle of Capri.
Bari (Italy) to Patras (Greece). We stayed overnight in a cabin
with an outside port window. The ferry vibrated a lot so
sleeping was intermittent. These ferries are Greek owned and
smoking is allowed in certain areas inside. However, you can
smell smoke everywhere inside and it is most annoying. We spent
as much time outside as we could. Dorota advised us to purchase
some party items before boarding the ferry and we had a
get-together at the rear of the boat in the evening. Click
here for some photos of the evening. It was warm and
pleasant on deck. Dinner and breakfast on board.
day cruise around three Greek islands.
Patras (Greece) to Ancona (Italy). We stayed overnight in a
cabin with an outside port window. A larger ferry than the trip
over and it was very smooth. Had a get-together at the rear of
the boat in the evening. Dinner, breakfast and lunch on board.
Venice to/from the bus parking area to the island (twice),
to/from the island of Burano and around the canals in the
around Lake Lucerne in Switzerland.
hour cruise on the Rhine in Germany. Mildly interesting.
Unfortunately, it drizzled and got cold so sitting outside was
not that pleasant. We observed many small castles along the way.
Lots of barges going up and down the river. Trains on both sides
very busy. Nice scenery and old buildings. See this
photo of me and Ann on the boat.
cruise around Amsterdam. This was very interesting. We had a
very good local guide.
to England on a ferry. Lunch on board.
Two Leaning Towers
Mildly interesting but too many trinket sellers. We investigated
climbing the tower in the ticket office and could have got on a
tour but did not think we had enough time. We ran into Dorota
outside the ticket office and she said we would have time. Back
to the ticket office to get tickets but they only allow certain
numbers at fixed times and we were too late. Lynn & Peter
did the climb. See this
photo of me and Ann.
on the Venetian lagoon island of Burano.
Value Of Local Guides
We were lucky to have the use of
local guides in nearly every main city. In most cases when we
wandered around a city or walked through or inside a scenic
attraction, we were fitted with a receiver/headset and the guide
had a speaker/transmitter. We were expected to tip them at the
end and in most cases we did. Dorota told us that she is not
allowed to act as a guide and can be fined if caught. In places
like Olympia or Pompeii I did notice people wandering around
aimlessly with no audio guide or even a map. In places like those
you must have some guide or you are wasting your time.
Sound Of Music
visited Salzburg, where many scenes for the Sound of Music were
filmed. We visited most places including the place where one of
the final scenes
were filmed and we had to sneak in and quickly take photos
because something was going on in there. This is a lovely town
and I like that in the older area cars are banned during certain
hours of the day. See this
photo of Ann with the older area in the background. We found
playing a didgeridoo. Something we had not seen for a while.
Traffic In Italy
These are the 3 rules we were given
when crossing the road in Italy. The traffic in places like Rome
We visited two palaces.
a short distance from Paris. This is the biggest palace in
Europe with 1,000 rooms. The opulence of the palace is
unbelievable. No wonder the peasants revolted against the
monarchy. The gardens are huge and outstanding.
in Vienna. Not as opulent as Versailles, but quite lavish. See
photo of me and Ann in front of the fountain in the gardens.
Cousin Of The EU
The country areas were dilapidated. Many homes are built using
reinforced concrete pillars and slabs for the floor and the roof.
This must be a cheap way to build the shell of a
structure. However, the reinforcing for the uprights sticks
through onto the roof as if to make allowance for future
expansion. It looks ugly. See this
Country roads are in poor condition. Lots of
people still smoke and even though they are bringing in some anti
smoking regulations there is very little adherence. Prices are
cheaper than other parts of Europe. Nobody bothers wearing
Car Unfriendly City
See this photo
of me. Because they don't like cars I rate it as one of the
better cities. Maybe I am biased because my mother was Dutch and
I am anti car. One problem is that bikes have become more
important than people. There are designated bike riding areas on
the roads and footpaths and you must give way to bikes and there
is no requirement to wear helmets. It was strange to see large
structures full of bikes like this
one. Most bikes are very dilapidated and you see lots laying
this nearly in the canal. The bikes are dilapidated so there
is less chance of them being stolen which apparently is a big
We visited the "Red
Light" district and were told that the Government have
clamped down and the area is not as notorious as it used to be.
You are still allowed to smoke marijuana in some cafes but not
allowed to smoke cigarettes. See this
cafe and this
We did a tour of the city by bus and by canal
boat. We also visited the Coster
Diamond Centre and had a short tour and demonstration. The
ladies were drooling but I don't believe anyone purchased
Had our final tour dinner in Amsterdam at the
"Hasje Claes" restaurant which happened to be Ann's
60th birthday. Here are some pictures
of everyone taken on that evening. Erin & Kevin did not
attend but sent their best wishes for Ann's Birthday.
We were very happy with COSMOS. It is one of the
cheapest bus tours so you don't always stay in the best
accommodation but it was always adequate for us. Sometimes the
accommodation is not within the town but again this did not
matter because the bus ferried us around. The tight schedule
meant that sometimes you only had 10 or 15 minutes to change to
go out on an optional excursion and you had to cart your own
suitcases from the bus to your room.
Places We Visited
town of Tours in France. We stopped there for a long lunch and
took the opportunity to wander around the town and visit a
cathedral about 10 mins walk out of town.
near Bordeaux in France. One of the best preserved medieval
fortified towns in Europe. Wandered around the village, had
lunch then paid to go inside the castle and did a fast tour
including the battlements around the perimeter.
a small village in southern France. Wandered around the town and
visited a small Roman Colosseum.
factory called "Parfumerie Fragonard" in Eze near Nice
in France. We had guided tour of the factory, a smell tasting of
perfumes and purchased some items. It was interesting.
inlaid wood works factory called "Notturno Intarsio"
in Sorrento near Naples, Italy. It was interesting. Very
expensive but high quality.
here to see a collection of interesting and unusual photos.
the bus trip we found these
huge cups of coffee in a cafe at Euston Station in London.
After seeing that many people unable to use their
cameras after the internal battery went flat sometime during the
day, I suggest that for holiday purposes, people use a camera
that has replaceable batteries (usually AA). Use rechargeable
batteries, keep some spare with your during the day and have a
small recharger to charge them in the evening.
Fly Business Class With Etihad
We flew cattle class and
observed that the front cattle class seats are reserved for
passengers with young children. Unfortunately, Business Class is
directly beside these front seats. On the flight back from
England there were lots of young children making a lot of noise.
If I had been in Business Class I would have asked for a refund.
To everyone on the trip. You all contributed to
making it a memorable event.