Arrival in Lake Como

2 Aug

It was a truly magical moment: as the mini van sped out of the tunnel and rounded the last corner, we were suddenly greeted by thousands of little lights twinkling across the lake at us, as if to say “welcome” . Since it was already nighttime, we couldn’t see much more than the light streaming from houses and casting silver lines across the lake, but the view was already enough to render us all speechless. “Ooooh” and “aaaah” was as far as we got.

When we arrived at our hostel in Menaggio, the owner Fabio immediately sat us down for a late evening meal. After devouring 3 courses of delicious homemade Italian food, none of us could keep our eyes open any longer – one of the few times everyone went to bed early…

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Lyon

1 Aug

To make the most of our time in France, we took a day trip to Lyon, which was only an hour away from the chateau.

After strolling around in the old  part of the city and browsing a few shops, we had dinner in a cute little bistro called “L’épicerie”. Since Lyon is known as the gastronomical capital of France, our expectations were high. But as you can probably tell from the beaming faces on the pictures, we were not dissapointed at all…

On our way back to the chateau, we were all sure that this wouldn’t be our last visit to Lyon.

Chateau de Cruix

1 Aug

Wine tasting at 9am? Pas de probleme, madames et monsieurs… We live in a chateau, after all!

After 5  consecutive days of sleeping in tents and listening to reggae music, we were more than ready for a change of scenery. Our next stop was the Contiki Chateau, located smack down in the middle oft he famous beaujolaise wine region. Instead of air mattresses, sleeping bags and plastic cutlery, we suddenly shared rooms with a panoramic view of the vineyards and were served 3-course meals. Yes, our days in the chateau were like living in paradise!

As if we weren’t spoiled enough already by staying in this beautiful place, the chateau came with a pool. Most of our time was spent tanning and lazing by the poolside… and playing around with Linden’s underwater camera!

Of course, we had to seize the opportunity and sample the afore-mentioned beaujolaise wine. Because of our tight schedule, the only available time to do so was right after breakfast on our very first day. Luckily, the beaujolaise wine doesn’t age and therefore has a very light, fruity taste that made drinking so early in the morning bearable 😉
After a quick and funny demonstration of how the grapes are harvested, Contiki staff members Evan and Fergus continued to explain to us how the wine is made, bottled and finally drunk at a huge festival to mark the end of a successful harvest season in the Beaujolais.


 

LIMBO

30 Jul

Dance the LIMBO! We had so much fun promoting Contiki – nobody escaped our limbo stick and prizes were waiting for those, who “GOT TALENT”

Nimes by the Sea

29 Jul

„Let’s go to the sea, it’s just 50km away from here“ was Muriel’s suggestion

Long story short: one day later a bus loaded with six giggling girls and one patient driver, Nick, were on the way to Nimes by the Sea.

Nimes – when the street sign appeared, the group of girls were singing and applauding, looking forward to spend the day on the beach and escape the reggae-festival for a day.

According to the GPS, we had reached our target destination – yet the sea was still nowhere to be seen! We cruised around the city for a while, looking for any kind of indication that would lead us tot he Mediterranean.

„Now just drive straight ahead, and I’m sure we’ll reach the beach in no time,“ Muriel said. Obviously, she was was still quite convinced the directions she had given us were correct, and everyone believed her…. UNTIL…. we realized that „Nimes by the Sea“ was actually not by the sea, but another 50km away. We were faced with a dilemma: spend another hour in the heat-filled van with the hopes of actually reaching the coast, or giving up and heading back to the camp.

Needless to say, the girls overruled Nick, and we decided to drive all the way through the Camargue to St. Marie de la Mer. Once our eager eyes caught sight of the water, all troubles were forgotten. We ended up having an amazing day at the beach (complete with a fabulous seafood lunch), and Muriel’s little white lie turned out to be quite a blessing. Without her false assumption, we would have never attempted to head to the beach. Thanks to Muriel!

Garance Reggae Festival

27 Jul

First stop of the amazing Guerilla Army Festival Tour: Garance Reggae Festival in Bagnols-sur-Ceze, Southern France. So far, our knowledge of reggae music didn’t stretch much further than Bob Marley, weed-smoking rastafaris and Jamaican flags. Surprisingly enough, all of these stereotypes proved to be true! When we got to Bagnols, it took us quite a while to find the entrance to the festival camping site. One had to climb down a steep pathway next to a bridge, walk under a tunnel and continue down the small road until a small entrance appeared on the left side. There were already quite a few tents pitched, but we managed to close off a pretty large area for ourselves – GO CONTIKI!

Life on the campsite proved to be less like your average festival and more like living in Jamaica… when the weather became too hot to bear, we had a dip in the lake or showered in the „jungle showers“ – water-spurting pipes disguised by bamboo sticks and leaves.

Although we did our best to integrate and adapt a ‚reggae’ lifestyle (or at least what we thought that meant), one could easily spot us amongst other campers. A horde of girls among the mainly male visitors, bobbing blonde heads among dark dreadlocks, the electro pop music blasting from our speakers at night… quite the giveaway. Obviously, our extravagant costumes didn’t help, either.

For a few hours everyday, we donned the fancy dress and took control of one of the main paths on-site. Everybody who intended to pass by was encouraged to pass underneath our limbo stick and showered in Contiki flyers and promotional gifts. At first we were unsure whether our tactic would work, but it turned out to be highly successful. Most of the people at Garance were French, so we couldn’t possibly convince them by speaking English or broken French. Getting people to dance and laugh about our silly costumes, however, always managed to break the ice. Young and old alike, at the end oft he day everybody loved their Contiki hats and shirts, and we managed to make a lot of new friends.

Nightlife at the reggae festival:

Meet the Guerilla Army

25 Jul

The group was chosen through a month-long recruitment process in which each applicant had to explain why they are perfect members for the Guerilla Army, along with a photo showing off their wild and outgoing personalities. I was lucky enough to see some of the applications, and the quality was amazing! It appears Europe is full of crazy, excited people all willing to go the extra mile to be part of the Army… It was nearly impossible to nail it down to just 8 people.” – Michael, Group Captain, works for Contiki Travels

The members of the Guerilla Army will spend 3 weeks traveling Europe, attending various music festivals and promoting Coniki Travels on-site. They will use creative and unusual marketing strategies to spread the word amongst their peers.

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These eight individuals were convincing enough to make the cut:

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Muriel (Germany)

Without Muriel and her iPod, our camp just wouldn’t be the same. Apart from supplying the tunes for our mischievous activities, she constantly comes up with new promotional strategies.

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Eline (The Netherlands)

You will never see this bubbly surf/skate chick without a huge smile plastered across her face. Thanks to her innovative DIY tricks, the entire army now has super cool pimped up Contiki outfits to parade around the campsites.

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Elin (England)

You won’t have trouble communicating with Elin as she speaks English, German, French, Chinese and a bit of Italian. Has a self-confessed weakness for cheap wine and ‘hairy french men’.

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Krissy (Australia)

Forgot to pack something really vital? Do not despair, this girl’s got it all… in her tiny backpack! Krissy embodies glamping (glamour camping) as she always looks fabulous, even after hours of lugging around equipment and pitching tents.

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Ina (Germany)

Never fails to entertain the group with one of her many funny stories and anecdotes. Ina is notoriously afraid of getting sunburned, and she may just have the longest legs you’ve ever seen…

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Linden (New Zealand)

Without his handy skills, there would still be large amounts of unopened canned goods standing around our camp. As one of the few male members of the group, Linden has the responsibility of calming down the girls when they get a little overexcited.

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Marie (Germany)

Whether it’s through a fish-eye lens or with an underwater housing, Marie has so far managed to capture every memorable moment on her camera. She is by far the queen of fancy dress and provided the whole group with crazy costumes.

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Also part of the team are Michael and Nick from Contiki Travels…

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Michael (Australia)

Michael is the official Guerilla Army Captain. He is obsessed with pink glitter and has been seen running around the festivals wearing a fugitive’s outfit.

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Nick 

Its only thanks to his hard work and never-ending efforts that we are able to take on Europe as the Guerilla Army. He still needs to work on his dance moves, but apart from that Nick is a great guy!

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