Lets just get straight into it. I’ll be piecing parts of the story over multiple days for this piece, and probably all the other ones. Maybe it’ll end up like my memories from highschool series that I never finished. Oh well.

Also note, I won’t be adding photos via upload like in the last post, so I’ll just link a flickr album of all the relevant photos taken during those days. WordPress only gives me 2GB to work with, and as my photos are 5MB to 8MB each (I’m gonna hit max capacity before I finish this series), unless I feel like killing photos from previous blogs (photos of which I probably don’t have anymore to self-host), it’ll probably be like this until something new. Note, these photos are not in chronological order. Don’t ask why, flickr didn’t want to arrange them for me, and neither did I.

Day 1: Paris to Lucerne

So picking back up from day 0 (because day 1 is the start of my trips with the GoEuGo tourbus), the Kyriad was not the best sleep I had on the trip.

I definitely woke up multiple times before I should’ve. Heck, when I woke up at 5am, I decided that was it, and I was just going to not even bother to sleep anymore. So, after waking up at 3am, 4am, and now 5am, I was ready to not sleep anymore.

Breakfast… was meh. I guess since this is the first hotel breakfast I had, I should explain it some more. It was kind of a standard continental breakfast. There was cereal, bread (baguette), yoghurt, coffee/tea/juice, boiled eggs, cold cuts (ham, turkey, and something else) and crackers. There also was a specially made croissant for everyone. You only got one though, which was disappointing since it was the best thing that breakfast had. French croissants are great, as expected.

After breakfast, we found what we thought was our tour guide was actually not, and was coordinating with other buses and other schedules to transfer us to the correct bus with the correct guide. So, it became our first interaction with Italy Square, in Paris. Kinda ironic, that a square named after Italy, would be in a country that is not Italy, and does not speak the same language as Italy (French vs Italian). I would quickly find out that this would be a reoccuring theme in Europe. They apparently just love naming places after countries/cities that aren’t in their country. It’s amusing.

So, we just stand by a french HSBC branch, with like 6 other groups, just waiting for the tour guide to find us and tell us where to go. I didn’t realize how far HSBC’s reach was. I didn’t expect to be using them as a landmark when I came to France.. So eventually we find our bus, and then we start to move. Soon after, the two girls sitting behind me (probably around my age) starting talking about one of them having lost their passport.

Shit.

Losing your passport is one of the worst things to do while you’re out exploring another country. It trumps having your passport stolen, because that was due to someone else’s misdoings, but losing your passport can only be blamed on your own incompetence. And that really sucks. I heard them say that they lost their passport when they went to the washroom at McDonalds, when we were looking to transfer. By the time they’ve started to talk about it, we are at least 30 minutes out from Italy Square, and with the tour guide saying how this tour bus line was the longest one the company operated (3300km+), it seemed highly unlikely that we would be turning back.

They talked to the tour guide about what they could do about it, and how they could get home. The tour guide (Kenzo) gave them a few options, and told them to decide on one themselves. The girl who lost her passport became very single sighted towards being able to get home on time (something about getting back before January 15th), while the other girl was trying to make the first girl realize that having 3-4 weeks to get a new visa approved so she could fly back home was incredibly likely. They started to argue a little.

The story has a happy ending though. Kenzo (the tour guide), comes back 20 minutes later saying that his friend visited the McDonalds and didn’t find the passport, but instead found a passport in the bar next door. Kinda funny that she lost her passport at the bar instead of where she thought she lost it (McDonalds). It’s even more funny once you realize she lost it at a bar she was at last night. Must’ve been incredibly drunk to leave your passport out on the ground. Anyways, the passport was found, and she would be able to go home.

What I did find interesting was that the first girl started to apologize to the other girl for getting upset at her. She explained a bit that losing her passport made her very nervous and unsure, and was not able to think straight. That was impressive to me. I probably would not have done that, or have been able to do it. I’m much too stubborn to say “I’m sorry”, and would have probably just let it sit there and blow over. People sure are different.

So the rest of the day was on the road. We had to get to Lucerne, Switzerland by the end of the day to make it to our hotels. Kenzo quickly explained that the EU has rules and regulations about tour bus drives, and that there were mandatory breaks every 2 or so hours. Drivers had to record when they took a break, and for how long, or they risked being fined 800 euro because of it. Crazy. So because of that, we had plenty of pit stops. Usually at every pit stop there would be this fast food/restuarant fusion called Auto Grill there. They were basically a sandwich store that was stuck to every pit-stop shop. They sold some decent food at decent prices (relative to the rest of Europe). In fact, their club sandwich was 4.65 euro, but was definitely better than the baguette sandwich I had the day before. Here is where I also learned how much Europeans love carbonated water, or ‘fizz water’. I never liked it, so I just bought the normal water, which was priced the same as carbonated water, and was done with it.

Said bridge.

Said bridge.

After we paid our traveler’s and country tax , we went into Switzerland. We got to Lucerne sometime near 7pm. The city was very beautiful for somewhere very dark on a day where most people didn’t come outside. It was nearing Christmas, so the plentiful lights littered the area. It was on the bridges (it looked really great on the main bridge), the stores, the signs… everything! There were also these star-shaped lights that I just couldn’t help but take too many pictures of.

 

The tour guide took us to a wooden bridge in the shopping mall area that we were dropped off at. Sadly, a combination of it being 7pm and also Christmas holidays made it that the stores were all closed by the time we arrived, so no shopping for us. That didn’t stop my mom from insisiting that we had to go shop, even though there literally was nowhere to shop. So, even though we were told we had about 80 minutes to find food from one of the rare actually-still-open restaurants in the area, we quickly paced around the mall to find the closed stores that my mom guaranteed she saw were open.

Said stars.

Said stars.

So when we finally decided to look for food… we quickly realized that we only knew 1 place that was open, and that was a 100% cheese fondue place. Surely there were other open stores, as none of the tourbus people were at the fondue place, but with time slowly (as slowly as time can go, considering it moves at a constant speed…) ticking down, we just decided to eat there.

Lemme start by saying I’ve had fondue before (thankfully). I can only bless Clay’s and Tiffany Law’s souls for taking me to fondue at Capstone so I could know what the hell it really was. The tourguide described it as “Swiss hotpot”, which I guess isn’t exactly wrong, but if you know what Chinese hotpot is, fondue is definitely not on your list for what weird things white people would do with a hot metal pot. I also knew my parents were unable to tolerate a lot of cheese (because I can only tolerate a bit more than them, and I can’t have that much), so this wasn’t shaping out to be the best of ideas.

 

Ordering… was interesting. I wasn’t sure how the ordering works for a place that only offers cheese fondue but had a menu with 10 pages, each with over 30 items per side. I definitely got lost, and should’ve order some other, non-bread/potato things. I thought there would be some like… basic stuff to go with the cheese fondue, considering a pot was like 25$, but I guess I was wrong. Each pot came with some bread, and each person needed a “share”. Multiple shares could be combined into a pot if they’re the same flavour fondue, so at least there wasn’t 3 pots of cheese. There was some extra potato that came with one of the fondue bases, and I also asked for some tomato bread appetizer thing. I actually do not remember it too well, but I remember it was good, and distracted me enough from the crazy amount of cheese I had to consume. There was also a chocolate fondue for desert, cause I didn’t want only cheese, also it was cool. I really do regret not ordering something else to add to the bread and potatoes in the cheese. Maybe some meat or veggies, but just something else, as after the potatoes were gone, it was a kinda painful experience of just having too much cheese on bread. My parents ordered wine, which wasn’t too bad, but wasn’t too memorable. This was the first time water came in a huge glass bottle though. It was basically a wine bottle, but a bit thicker, and had normal water. Amusing.

Bill came out to be some like 150 swiss francs, which is basically 1-to-1 when compared with euro, which is a lot of Canadian dollars. Yikes.

Went back to the rendezvous point, and got back to a hotel (Holiday Inn… EXPRESS!). The hotel was pretty great actually. Sleeping here when compared to the prior day’s in the Kyriad would be the hotel equivalent of going from economy class stuck in the middle area between 2 people, to business class, where the seats beside you are empty, and you can really just relax. I think it was a 4 star hotel, but I can’t remember, I didn’t make note of it in my daily Google Keep (god bless them) files, and I don’t think I took a picture. I did excessively mention how much I loved it. The place felt very modern and up-to-date. Hotel wi-fi does suck, but Holiday Inn’s was above average, albeit average internet isn’t hard to achieve.

It was amusing that there was an extra door connecting my hotel room (INDIVIDUAL ROOM, I’M LIVING THE LIFE) to the next door suite – which were my parents. My dad joked about how he tried to give me independence, but my mom was having none of it. Oh well.

Day 2: Lucerne – Venice

We wake up, eat breakfast, and get on the bus. Breakfast wasn’t very notable. I didn’t write anything about it, didn’t any pictures of it, and don’t remember it really.

The bus quickly pulls out of Switzerland. It’s to be expected for a small country. We stop at a gas station, and the tour guide says that this is the “last place you can get Swiss items in Switzerland.” A lot of people take that as a chance to buy souvenirs, my mom included. I thought about getting some swiss army knives (why they are selling them at the large pit stop is beyond me), but then I realized where I am. I’m in a god damn break location at a highway. Why in the world would I buy “Swiss” army knives here of all places? They are overpriced, probably knock-off/worse quality, and not very useful for someone like me. I guess it would be for the memories, but I didn’t get one. I almost caved as we were leaving, but then I just thought to myself that I’d use this as a lesson for future things. If I regretted not buying anything today, I wouldn’t miss out on this feeling the following times. And after a month, I can tell you I don’t regret not buying anything. It was for the best… probably.

Once we’re in Italy, there’s more driving. We stop at our first real destination, Milan.

We’re out of the bus, and walk a little bit before reaching a large plaza. The Cathedral Square, as google tells me, is where we found ourselves at.

Honestly, it was a very beautiful place. I felt a bit lost. I guess that’s to be expected when the incredible amount of beautifully designed things are squished into a little small area. The irony of all this, is that I don’t have an actual picture of the square, only of the Cathedral (which is HUGE!), and some of the surrounding buildings/streets.

Here’s a bit about the Milan Cathedral.

This is where I would have put a photo dumb, IF I HAD ONE (if I still could)! So just take this time to click the flickr album at conveniently re-linked here, and browse around.

After taking pictures of the Cathedral, we decided to go get some food before we had to meet up at 3:30pm.

We just walked inside the buildings to the left (from the photo) of the Cathedral, and stopped at the 2nd or 3rd restaurant that didn’t need us to walk upstairs. It was a nice place, honestly. They had a “Christmas” menu (it was the 26th in Europe) for all the tourists, which was nice. I didn’t have to try to parse through a 10 page menu of Italian, and only had a double sided sheet to deal with. I ended up getting a steak (questionable choice, I know, but it was really the only meat dish), my dad got a lasagna (which didn’t look very appetizing, but tasted great), and my mom got a pizza (which tasted pretty good, and was pretty large for the price). We also got a coffee, which was basically just an expresso shot. I have never been one for coffee, but I wouldn’t be opposed to drinking that every morning (it was also 2 euro, which is cheap).

Because even in December, people buy icecream.

Because even in December, people buy icecream.

So we explored some more in Milan, mainly around the square. We basically walked maybe 3 or so blocks around the cathedral, before coming back to it to explore the small bazaar they had going on (you can kinda see it to the bottom left of the Cathedral photo).

There was a beggar there, and I felt really bad. Here I was (and so was the hundreds of other people there), a tourist spending lots of money to explore areas that were far away from home, while someone tried to get by to the next day. I didn’t give him any money, because like I’ve probably explained before (I feel like I have, but I don’t know which post, or how long ago it was), it isn’t my money. Neither did anyone else. After 10 minutes of being on his knees, he moved away. The scene was very ironic. A beggar surrounded by people much more well off than he dreams of being, and no one pays him any mind.

Eventually, we explored the inside of the Cathedral. Initially I was told by the security guards that there was no photography allowed, but once I saw how many people were taking pictures inside (with no one giving a damn either), I took pictures too.

The stained glass windows are amazing. Honestly, I think I may just be a sucker for stained glass. The colours look so much more vibrant when they have light shining through them. There’s no way my watercolours, acrylic paints, or paint bucket tool could match that warm feeling.

And my camera can’t either. I didn’t know how to properly capture stained glass windows, so they look a bit weird in photo. I also don’t know anything about post in order to fix it. Oh well. These are the things that make me want to get better at photography.

The inside of the Cathedral had a very somber atmosphere. Everything felt so… heavy. There were graves and memorials for church-related people (none of which I knew), but you could just feel the weight of their duties just by standing there. It was very impressive. I’m not a very religious kind of person, but being in the Cathedral, a work built by devote followers, really makes you appreciate and respect what they did. That feeling did make me hold back on the photo-taking. I felt like I had to respect the people who put work into the building and the faith, I couldn’t just tarnish their important religious places with the joy of tourism. Gotta be a bit classy.

So eventually 3:30pm rolls around, and we all met up beside the Cathdral, and walk back to the tour bus. There, we set our sights on Venice, and drive for a nice 5-6 hours before arriving at the hotel (near Venice) at 9pm. I forget the hotel name, but it wasn’t as great as Holiday Inn. I’ve developed a great appreciation for Holiday Inn over this trip, as you’ll probably see in the remaining posts I’ll do about this vacation.

We got dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, which was kept open specifically because they knew a tourbus of 60~ people were coming. That didn’t mean the place was good, because it certainly wasn’t. The food itself was mediocre when compared to lunch. Which isn’t a bad thing really – lunch was just really great. What wasn’t great, was how everything took a long, long time. It couldn’t even be blamed on them being busy, as we got there when there was only 1 other table. We left when there was maybe 8 tables in total. Our food took forever to arrive… in fact, one of our dishes actually just did not arrive. We ate the ones that did come, and tried to wait a bit to see if the other one was coming. After being ignored by the waitress for 25 or so minutes, she came to tell us that it was “coming shortly”. So unless Italians work under the assumption that an extra hour (on top the first hour) is “coming shortly” for a damn apple crumble, I would think that it was not “coming shortly”. In fact, I would think it wasn’t coming at all, and I asked the waitress to just forget about the crumble, and let us pay. She said something along the lines of “let me check on the status of the crumble” and returned with “I’m very sorry, they forgot about it”. To which I said it was okay, we’d like to pay now. To which she replied, that they would give it to us for free, and insisted we stay for it. It would look bad to argue over their generosity, so we stayed, but I really did not want to stay any longer. Another 30 minute go by, and the crumble arrives. It was much better than the other things we ate for dinner, so I wasn’t too upset over it. They also gave us some extra dessert (of which I forgot what it was, I think it was something related to ice cream) as an apology for the long wait. We finally finish our meal, maybe about 2.5 hours after starting it, and quickly go upstairs to shower and sleep (it’s basically midnight).

And then we moved to day 3 of the tour.

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