Tuesday – Wednesday, March 10-11: Victoria to Switzerland
Today we rise at the ungodly hour of 3something AM in order to be at the airport by 4:30am so we can check-in and clear security in time for our 6:30am flight to Toronto. We were originally told by EF Tours to be at the airport 3 hours early! When we checked with Air Canada they thought that was pretty funny given that they don’t even open the check-in counter until 4:30… Good thing we checked.
We’ll land in Toronto just 2pm Toronto time and will have a couple hours to kill before our overnight flight to Frankfurt departs at 6pm. Assuming all goes well, we should touch down in Frankfurt around 6:30am their time (which if I remember correctly is 9 hrs ahead of us so that should be about 9:30pm our time).
After clearing customs, etc. we’ll board a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Zurich where we’ll meet our EF Tour Director and the group from Ontario that will be traveling with us.
Hopefully by this point we will all have our luggage, will have made it through customs, and will have had a chance to “freshen up” after our restful overnight flight and have grabbed a bite to eat… Because as soon as we meet up with the EF folks, we’re piling on a bus and heading for downtown Zurich or maybe it was Lucerne or… It’s someplace in Switzerland for sure.
We’ll spend some time exploring Zurich and Lucerne or maybe just Lucerne (at this point it should be coming clear that we aren’t in charge of the itinerary and that we’ll be going with whatever EF has planned for us for the day… That will be the case for most of the trip. We have some input into the activities and places we go during the day but these are pretty much “canned” trips and we’re along for the ride).
After a bit of exploring we’ll head to a restaurant where we’ll enjoy watching the kids eat dinner after having been up since 3:30am on Tuesday morning… Apparently it’s quite common to see kids falling asleep at the table…
Thursday, March 12: Lucerne
We’ll wake up at an ungodly hour again this morning (probably around 6:15) to make sure that there’s plenty of breakfast for everyone and to make sure we’re all ready to pile on the bus for the day’s activities. Today we’re doing some sightseeing and taking a cogwheel train to the top of Mt. Rigi followed by a gondola ride down the mountain. There should also be a few famous landmarks and some shopping time (although we’ve heard that prices are very high in Switzerland so that might be limited) thrown in for good measure. Then it’s back to our hotel (quite literally in the middle of nowhere it appears) for a good night’s sleep.
Friday, March 13: Lucerne to Venice by way of Verona
Today we’re busing from Lucerne to Venice, Italy. We’ll be making a stop at Verona (where Shakespeare set his famous “Romeo and Juliet”) and possibly at Sirmione along the way. Given that there are no washrooms on the bus, hopefully we’ll be making a few other stops along the way… Once we arrive in Venice we’ll probably have a bit of free time to explore but at this point I don’t know for sure if we’ll be in Venice proper tonight or if we’ll just be in the Mestrino area where our hotel is… As long as there’s gelato and a few shops, I think everyone will be pretty okay with wherever we end up.
Saturday, March 14 – Venice
We’ll be exploring the Doge’s palace, checking out St. Mark’s square, seeing a glassblowing demonstration (hopefully somewhere with decent prices as Venice is renowned for their Murano glass and it’s stunning!), going for a gondola ride and soaking in the atmosphere of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Sunday, March 15 – Venice to Rome
Today we’re back on the bus making the trip to Rome with a stop at Orvieto along the way (hopefully). We should have some time left in the afternoon to explore Rome on our own and will probably do guided bus tour of the city followed by a self-guided walking tour of the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazzo Navona and, of course, the gelato store near the Spanish Steps that sells pink grapefruit gelato!
Monday, March 16 – Rome
Today we’re visiting the Colosseum in the morning and then are over to the Vatican for the afternoon to visit St. Peter’s, the Sistine Chapel and a guided tour of the Vatican City. We’re also hoping to squeeze in a visit to the Basilica of San Clemente (a layer cake of churches with a 12th century basilica built on top of a 4th century church built on top of a 1st century temple).
Tuesday, March 17 – Venice to Florence
Today we pack up again and pile on the bus to make the trip to Florence where we’re scheduled to take a guided tour of the main sites (Piazza della Signoria, Ponte Vecchio, Chiesa di Santa Croce, etc.) and then will have time to explore the Duomo and the Gates of Paradise (hopefully the museum housing the originals will be open this time). We’re also trying to work in time to see Michelangelo’s statue of David in the Accademmia but that will depend on how long the lines are…
Wednesday, March 18 – Florence to French Riviera
Today we’re back on the bus heading for the French Riviera with a stop in Pisa to visit the Leaning Tower, the Cathedral and the Baptistry. Our destination for tonight will be Nice but we haven’t really fleshed out what the evening is going to look like.
Thursday, March 19 – French Riviera
Today we’re scheduled to visit Monaco, tour a perfume factory in Eze and take a walking tour of Nice. I’m sure there will be lots of cool things to do and see along the way. Maybe they’ll have gelato too!
Friday, March 20 – Nice to Paris
Today we’re up early again to board the… wait for it… Train! That’s right no more bus. Today we’re on a high speed TGV train for Paris. Our plans for Paris are still a bit up in the air but tonight will probably include a trip to the Louvre (it’s open late on Friday nights) and an evening climb of the Eiffel Tower (if the line’s aren’t too long). There could also be a boat ride on the Seine tonight…
Saturday, March 21 – Paris
Today it’s a walking tour of Paris, a visit to the Musee d’Orsay, visiting Notre Dame Cathedral (and the Latin Quarter nearby hopefully – home to a bunch of delicious kebab and donair restaurants!) and then over to Montmartre for our last night in Paris and our last night in Europe…
Sunday, March 22 – Paris to Victoria
Our flight is scheduled to leave Paris at 1pm which means we’ll have to be at the airport by 10am… Which means we’re going to be leaving the hotel around 9am which means… yup… once again we’ll be dragging out butts out of bed around 6:30 to pack, eat breakfast and get ready to fly home.
We should be landing in Montreal by 3:30pm EST and have a couple of hours to kill before boarding a 7:40pm flight to Vancouver (arriving at 10:30pm our time) and then on the 11:45pm flight from Vancouver to Victoria. By the time we get our luggage, say our goodbyes and drive home, we should be tucking into our beds around 1:30am… Just in time to get a few hours’ sleep before heading to classes at 8:30 on Monday morning… Or not… EF is paying for a TTOC for me to be away on Monday and the kids will likely be way too jet lagged to make it to classes… Which leaves only Marie who might actually have to drag herself into work for some or all of the day on Monday.