Our first stop. We boarded a bus in London, all 46 of us on the tour. Standing in the foyer of the hostel at 7am, looking around at this group of people we were going to spend the next 3 1/2 weeks with. Being sleepy on the bus till we got to Dover, where we caught a ferry across to Calais, in France. Eating breakfast on the ferry and starting to talk to people, learning names and brief introductions as the boat sailed across to the mainland. Getting on the bus that would be our home for the next 25 days, meeting all the crew (tour leader, driver and cook). Driving to Paris, which was about a 3 hour drive. Getting room assignments, finding out about the optional activities we could do the next day, our free day in Paris. Meeting the 3 girls who would become my close friends for the remainder of the trip - Kelly, Carly and Nicola. I had such fears of not making friends on the trip, but I was lucky, and met people straight away. We pretty much remained a four-some the entire time, which made things pretty easy (like rooming together). Taking a driving tour of the city by night, staring awestruck at the Eiffel Tower when it sparkled on the hour, fell in love with Montemarte and ate crepes in a little sidewalk cafe and pretended we were really Parisian.
The next day - taking a bike ride for 4 hours around Paris, crashing into a car (luckily it was parked), making friends with an American student who was over studying in the city. Having a french waiter tell me he loved me (but only because I spoke better french than the other girls I was with). Going up the Eiffel Tower to a spectacular view from the top level. Eating snails for dinner at our champaigne picnic next to the Tower, then going to a Parisian cabaret which featured singing waiters, trapeze artists in the middle of the restaurant, classically trained dancers performing topless in a way that their mothers probably did not expect them to dance when sending them off to ballet school. It was different, that's for sure.
Breathtaking scenery as we approached the Swiss Alps. Introducing ourselves at the front of the bus during the drive (about a 7 or 8 hour drive from Paris to where we were staying in the Alps), playing a trivia game and getting to know each other a little bit more. Choosing a "theme song" to play on the bus each morning (Paris to Berlin - not sure who the artist is but it's a semi-annoying dance/pop song that somehow seemed fitting) and hearing the song that would soon become a theme for everytime the bus was stopping for a break (the cue to get our stuff together). Staying at the base of the Swiss Alps, to a magnificant view of white mountain tops, frost, and amazing serenity. Setting up the cooktent for the first time, where our cook would make wonderful meals for us on the trip, and where we had to take turns washing and drying dishes. Catching a train up to the Jungfraujoch Mountain, the highest peak in Europe (I think), and seeing it snow for the first time ever. Having a snowball fight, visiting the Ice Palace, walking back from a little village partway up the mountain; a traditional Swiss village. Going to the pub at the campsite and getting some flack for not drinking (for those that don't know, I don't drink alcohol, it makes me too sick).
A gorgeous, traditional french town in the South of France. It's a city surrounded by walls, known as "the city of popes" due to the 9 popes who lives there during the 14th century. The town square with cobbledstones and market stalls, the carousel and the accordion players. Eating french bonbons and wishing we had longer than 1 night in this town. Going to a kareoke bar at night and starting to feel the strain of not being a pub/party girl like so many of the others on tour. Running out of phone credit and having Noel and alex_faerie come to my rescue by working out a transfer between the 2 of them. Drinking hot chocolate with the girls after leaving the bar early. Broke down in tears on the phone to Noel after confiding how I felt out of place and not sure if I would make it through the entire 25 days.
Driving to a perfume factory on the way to the French Riviera and seeing how it was made. Having lunch at Cannes, and sitting by the beach getting covered in sand. Staying in a dodgy area of town, feeling unsafe especially after 2 of the girls on our trip got mugged on the first night. Having a free day to ourselves and getting some much needed time to myself to wander the streets and shops (by day). Driving to Monaco, to the Monte Carlo casino. Still feeling awkward and uncertain about the remainder of the trip, although the bright lights driving through Moncao made me happy.
[to be continued: Italy]