European Odyssey 1995

Prologue and Preparations

1st October, 1994
2nd October, 1995
13th February, 1995
16th April, 1995

Saturday, 1st October, 1994

Well, here we go again! Today we went to the Travel Agent to enquire about and possibly book our Insight trip to Europe next year. It is so exciting! The Insight Book is not out yet for next year so we are working on this year's book which Annette, the travel consultant at Penrith Jetset, says will be much the same as next year's. (Except for an increase in price, probably, but we are expecting about 5% more) We always seem to want to book much earlier than people seem to think necessary but we want to travel in April next year and that is only seven months away. Annette seems to think it is advisable to at least be on the lists for Insight and has indeed booked our flights to Europe and back so we will be top of the list when it opens.

The tours we want are "Grand Tour of Italy", "Grand Tour of France" and "Alpine Splendours", together with a four day London package, extra accomodation in Rome and possibly Paris, a Europass for trains in France and Switzerland and accomodation in Geneva and Interlaken. Just typing those names gives me a thrill.

Colosseum cartoon

The trip will start on 27th April when we fly out for Rome by KLM in business class! We arrive in Rome (via Amsterdam) on Friday 28th April and the tour actually starts on the Sunday. So we will have an afternoon and a full day to get over jetlag and see the sights of Rome. Then down to Southern Italy, visiting Pompeii, Naples and Sorrento, Capri, Sicily, Venice, Pisa, Florence and lots of other wonderful places I've been dreaming of. 16 days in all. I hope there will be enough time to see some of the places properly but bus tours do tend to be go-go-go.

After we return to Rome we fly out (a free flight , I hope) to London for four days, where I hope to see "The Phantom of the Opera" and a few other things, then we start out on our French tour, another 16 days. We will see Rouen, the Bayeux tapestry, Loire chateaux, Lourdes and Carcassonne, Avignon, Monaco, Alsace and of course, Paris.

Eiffel cartoon

We will leave the tour in Paris, not going back to London, and get a train to Geneva to spend a couple of days getting to Zurich, where the Alpine Splendours start. This takes in Vienna and Strazburg in Austria, and Munich, Neuschwanstein and Oberammagau in Bavaria then returns to Switzerland. We fly out from Zurich on 21st June.

So there it stands so far. We paid a small deposit ($1900-00) and are therefore on the lists. It all sounds so exciting, I keep getting shivers of adrenalin . More later.

Back to Top Blue up arrow

Back to Contents Yellow up arrow

Wednesday, 2nd November, 1994

We are running true to form again. Already we have adjustments to report. We decided that the "Alpine Splendours" would be too long and give us too many extra days in Switzerland (the dearest country in Europe). So we decided to cut that one out and spend a few days in Switzerland under our own steam with a Swiss Rail pass or something of that nature and work out our own itinerary.

However, the Insight book is now out and wonder of wonders, the prices have gone down instead of up! We will have a few hundred dollars extra to put towards our extra nights and London package. So we are booked on the Italian and French tours and, although the hotel in London that we wanted (the one our French tour leaves from) is no longer contracted to the Welcome Package that we wanted, Insight is finding out for us if we can have the same package with them anyway. It would be more convenient. So now we have to read the books and brochures, and look at the maps to plan our own tour of Switzerland. Should be fun.

Wednesday, 23rd November, 1994

Still running true to form! We now have the new Insight book and a careful perusal of it shows a few changes. For a start, the French tour no longer begins in London! A rather radical change. It starts in Paris and a free transfer to the hotel from the airport is included. So the London hotel is irrelevant. We decided to stay at the Grosvenor Thistle right next door to Victoria Station, very convenient. We have tickets booked for the "Phantom of the Opera" and have a number of other things we wish to do. As for getting to Paris, the company offers a London start which travels to Paris via the Channel tunnel! I always said that I wouldn't want to go under the channel,( I haven't even been in the Sydney Harbour tunnel) but Mac is very keen so we have decided to do it that way. There is a free transfer to the hotel from the Paris railway station so it makes it all very easy, hopefully.

Train cartoon

Our Paris hotel is the Novotel Gare de Lyon which is also very convenient because the TGV to Geneva leaves from the Gare de Lyon, making luggage humping less of a problem.

We have worked out a tentative itinerary for Switzerland, using the Swiss Rail Pass, and should be able to see a fair bit of the country. The hotels are very expensive and Annette at Jetset seems to think that the Frommer guide should be taken with a pinch of salt with regard to the quality of its cheaper hotels. However, we shall see.

Monday, 13th February, 1995

On Saturday last we paid for the vast majority of our trip, nearly $20,000-00!!!! If I say it quickly enough perhaps I won't notice it too much! We still have a few details outstanding, for example five nights in Swiss Hotels, very expensive regardless of the book's thinking they are moderately priced. Hope they are alright. We still have to book and pay for the TGV from Paris to Geneva, like British Rail you can't book too early. There is still a Visitors Rail Card in London to pay for, as well. The trip from Interlaken to the Jungfraujoch also has to be paid for but we will wait for Switzerland for that because if it is not good clear weather, we won't waste the money.

Monday 13th March, 1995

We are beginning to see the way now. We sent off two letters to Switzerland for hotel accommodation in Zermatt and St.Moritz, the two jetset towns joined by the Glacier Express which we plan to travel on. The St.Moritz one, Hotel Languard-Garni has faxed back and offers a double room with bath and a rich buffet breakfast included for SF100 per person per night. Sounds alright. When the Zermatt hotel replies we will have all the accommodation settled and send them bankdrafts . We still have to settle on which currency to take our travellers cheques in . We had hoped that our Natwest cards with the Maestro/Cirrus facility would do most of it but a list from the Commonwealth Bank shows very few outlets in Italy, not even in Rome, Venice or Florence! and none at all in Switzerland. France seems well covered and of course, London has no problems. Just one or two loose ends now.

Tuesday 11th April, 1995

I Spoke too soon! Here we are in April, with only 16 days to go and we still have not heard back from the two hotels in Switzerland to whom we sent bank drafts! We sent them reply paid coupons too. Also we still have not received our tickets and vouchers etc. from the Travel Agent. They say soothingly, "it's all coming together" but the vast majority hasn't! The brochure says we should have our tickets etc by 21 days before flying. I can't cope with this worry as well as having the rest of the arrangements to finalise at home. Not that I really think that we won't get them but I really would like everything signed, sealed and especially delivered!

Back to Top Blue up arrow

Back to Contents Yellow up arrow

Sunday 16th April, 1995

We lost patience last night, as usual - and telephoned Switzerland! The Hotel Alphubel in Zermatt (which Mac persists in calling the Applestrudel) has received our bankdraft, so I imagine they will be expecting us. The other, the Hotel Languard in St.Moritz, has not. I can't understand it, we sent it by airmail over a month ago! However they are prepared to confirm our reservation so that is alright. I would like to know the whereabouts of our draft, though. I ordered $3000 worth of American dollar travellers' cheques last week for a sort of backup, and we intend to buy as much Italian currency as we are allowed to and carry it very carefully!

Arch cartoon

We have no problems, of course, in London and we should be able to use our account in NatWest to buy French and Swiss currency before we leave there.

Since we will be spending a few hours at various times during our flights in Amsterdam we will get some Dutch guilders as well for coffee and souvenirs etc at the airport. Tomorrow we will go to Jetset and jump up and down on Annette, poor thing! but it is her job to worry about all these things for us.

Tuesday, 18th April, 1995

Annette phoned this morning. Our Insight vouchers, tickets etc have arrived!!!Frabjous day! So we only have to get the train details and passes organised and we will be able to go.We have ordered over a million lire in currency to take with us - it's totally unbelievable the amount of cash Italians must have to carry. It is only about $1000 Australian. We have also ordered $200 worth of guilders. Tomorrow I can pick up my travellers cheques from the Building Society, check with the Commonwealth about that bankdraft and things are looking up.

Wednesday 26th April, 1995

Well, here we are. The night before we leave and things are just about ready! Annette finally delivered the Swiss passes, train bookings etc on her way home from work on Monday night. We have confirmed our flight and hope to be on board tomorrow. The bags are packed and weigh at least a tonne each. (well - not above 20kg. anyway) we are both feeling a trifle apprehensive because unlike going to England (which is really like going home) this is a step into the unknown. I had my hair cut and permed this morning so now at least I look more like my passport photo. We are really looking forward to trying Business Class, hope it is worth the extra bucks. Mac says I should record my physical feelings this time for future reference. I have been very tense, so my arthritis is playing up. I also feel slightly sick in the stomach but I am sure it is nerves. Why do I do these things to myself? Because I have looked forward to this trip for so long - I couldn't give it up now. Tomorrow it will be up up and away. Claude and Geoff are also apprehensive. Claude attacked the luggage this evening. I will finish this prejourney diary here and from tomorrow it will be my travel diary proper. Back in June.

Aeroplane cartoon

Back to Top Blue up arrow

Back to Contents Yellow up arrow

Forward to Next Green right arrow