Topdeck Europe Uncovered Tour Review – Part One

Last summer I went on my second Topdeck tour – the Europe Uncovered 22-day trip. Below is a review of the trip to help you decide if its for you!

If you’re looking for a shorter tour or for a look at the European Wonder tour check out my review here. Just to note, a lot of couples were on our Europe Uncovered tour, whereas the European Wonder is great for if you’re going on your own or with friends.

Day 1: London, UK to Paris, France

The first day started with an early morning wake up call (the first of many) and a drive to Dover to catch the ferry to Calais.  The hotel we stayed in the night before (Burns Hotel Kensington) was pretty average but fine for an easy pre-trip place to stay and close to a tube station. The drive to Calais took a couple of hours but  gives you time to have a chat with other people who are joining the tour, meet our tour guide and have a nap before the fun begun! Also, the coach and driver you travel to the port with aren’t the ones which you will be spending the next few weeks with so if they look a bit old school don’t be too concerned!

The journey from Dover to Calais takes about 1h 30m, plenty of time to grab some lunch, take a look around the shops and to go up on deck to get your first glimpse of France!

Upon arrival in Calais we jumped on the coach on which we spent the rest of the trip and met our driver. Our driver Deansey had years of experience and had driven all kinds of huge vehicles, including road trains, so we knew we were in safe hands.

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving to Paris. The hotel we stayed in was the Hotel Campanile Paris 14 which was clean and comfortable. In the evening we headed with the rest of the group for dinner at a local restaurant and then ended the evening with a Paris ‘City Lights’ Tour. We stopped at the Eiffel Tower just in time for the evening light show – an amazing end to our first night in Paris!

Day 2: Paris

The next day is a free day for you to go out and explore the city. I headed towards the River Seine for a cruise, whilst my partner got up early to beat the crowds to head to the Catacombs which was fairly near to the hotel. The cruise lasted about an hour and it was great to get an alternative view of Paris.

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River Seine cruise ©2015

Following the cruise we headed to a veggie cafe (recommended compared to restaurants which can be expensive if you just want a snack/light lunch) and then went on to a Topdeck optional bike tour. I would recommend this if you’re confident riding a bike in the city, but not so much if not as there is a lot of traffic!

After the bike tour we visited the Rodin Museum which is well worth a visit. There’s some really interesting sculptures and a beautiful garden to take a relaxing walk through.

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Rodin Museum ©2015

After a visit to the museum it was time to head back to the park by the Eiffel Tower for the Topdeck provided Gourmet Picnic. The food was fresh, and dietary requirements were well catered for. We even got to try a macaroon and it was a good opportunity to catch up with what others had been up to that day. Once the picnic was finished their was an option to head to the Latin Quarter to watch a cabaret show. As I’d already seen the show we headed back on the Metro to check out the bars nearby and watched as the road was briefly closed off for the Pari Rollers to skate by – an interesting sight to see!

Day 3: Paris to Engelberg, Swiss Alps, Switzerland

Day 3 was spent travelling to Engelberg in the Swiss Alps. Although this takes another full day, it’s good for catching up on some sleep to recover from Paris and when you do reach Switzerland the views of the Alps are absolutely breathtaking.

We stayed at Ski Lodge Engelberg which has a chilled-out vibe and is decorated in an apres-ski style to match. There is a bar downstairs with a variety of drinks on offer and an outdoor seating area with fire pits and blankets surrounded by mountains in the distance – perfect to check out after dinner.

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Ski Lodge Engelberg ©2015

A group dinner was served in Brasserie Konrad, the on-site restaurant. The food was fresh and delicious and I’d definitely recommend the vegetarian option which even made the meat-eaters jealous!

Day 4: Engelberg, Swiss Alps

The optional on day 4 was a trip to the summit of Mount Titlis. A series of gondola rides, including a revolving gondola gets you to the very top and you get to see incredible views of the surrounding scenery on the way, all to the sound of the jingle of cowbells. Once we reached the top we checked out Europe’s highest suspension bridge (slightly nervewracking!), visited the glacier cave and took the Ice Flyer to the Truebsee Snow park where we played on snowtubes and mini sled-type things! There are a number of food places that can be found at the top of the mountain – we tried out the pizza place but you can also try out more chocolate-y options!

You can get back down the mountain the way you came, by the gondola, or you could combine it with a walk or hire a devil bike. We opted for an alternative, Troti bikes, which are like super speedy and larger scooters. All I can say is watch out for the cars on the way down and get to know your brakes (if you’re as inexperienced as me you should also expect a few cuts and bruises by the time you reach the bottom – say that it is fun though!

After a long day out we headed to the on-site hot tub and sauna at our hotel with a drink surrounded by amazing views!

Day 5 Engelberg, Swiss Alps to French Riviera, France

The following day we headed to Nice on the French Riviera. We arrived at Hotel Busby in the afternoon giving us some time to spend some time on the beach (the beach is stony and the waves are pretty rough so make sure to take footwear and swimwear to suit if you plan on spending a lot of time here!). Later that evening we headed with the rest of the group for an included dinner at a local French restaurant, which was followed by a walking tour of Nice. Nice isn’t too big so this didn’t take too long, then we headed to a local shisha bar whilst the rest of the group headed out to bars or to bed!

Day 6 French Riviera 

On our only full morning in Nice we decided to climb up to the Colline du Chateau overlook before it got too hot (although it was still very warm for us, considering we barely get a summer in England!). From the overlook you can see over the city of Nice and across the whole promenade which the beach runs along. There are a few other things to see if you continue further on from the overlook, including an archaeological site whilst we were there and a waterfall. It’s well worth the climb.

After heading back down to the beach we headed into the city and grabbed some food at a pizza restaurant near the fish market. There are plenty of options for food so it’s just a case of deciding where looks best!

We then headed to Fenocchio, a local gelateria that sells every flavour gelatoyou can think of, and you’ll want to try them all! I opted for cactus gelato as I’d never seen it before and I’d definitely recommend it.

By this point the temperature had got up into the high 30’s so we headed back down to the beach for the rest of the day. There are a few water sports you can try down at the beach such as parasailing if you feel like doing something a little more adventurous than sunbathing!

In the evening we visited Eze for an included perfumery tour, before heading to Monaco for a walking tour up to Prince’s Palace to watch the changing of the guards and for a look out across the port filled with yachts.

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Monaco ©2015

Next we headed towards the casinos, seeing the F1 Grand Prix Fairmont hairpin on the way as well as many supercars.

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©2015

The Casino Monte Carlo costs around 10 euros to get in and is pretty grand looking, yet a bit small if you don’t have the cash to visit the super high-roller tables in rooms at the back of the casino.

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Casino Monte-Carlo ©2015

After a quick look at Casino Monte Carlo we decided to visit the Sun Casino in the Fairmont Hotel, which is free to get in, has plenty of tables and I ended up trebling my money! After a bit of a gambling we went up to the pool bar (as recommended by our guide). The bar is super chilled with comfy beds and sofas, and there are some great views over Monaco.

A quick tip: If you plan on visiting the casinos remember to take a passport as checks to make sure you are not a resident of Monaco usually take place (as they are not allowed to visit the casinos!), and remember the smart dress code!

Day 7 French Riviera to Florence, Italy

Day 7 is the drive from Nice to Florence, visiting Pisa on the way. Pisa is a small place and as you only get a short time there, there isn’t time to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa. You can definitely squeeze in some photos and grab some gelato whilst you’re there though. If you do any shopping stick to the stalls and shops, and watch out for the guys selling fake handbags, sunglasses etc on the streets as it is illegal to buy from them!

After the stop in Pisa we continued our journey to Florence eventually arriving at the Columbus Hotel . That evening we headed out for an included meal with the rest of the group, walking alongside the River Arno on the way there.

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View over the River Arno ©2015

Day 8 Florence to Rome 

Day 8 started with a walking tour of Florence with a local guide. This lasted about two hours and covered the main tourist sights. There was plenty of opportunities for photos at places including the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio and the Piazza della Signoria. At the end of the tour we visited a local shop for an included leather demonstration (not really my thing considering I’m a veggie!). We then had time to grab lunch and gelato (there are plenty of options) before heading on to Rome!

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Florence ©2015

Upon arrival in Rome there is an opportunity to do a walking tour of the city. This lasts about five hours,which seems long (and it is, so make sure you wear some comfy shoes!) but I would definitely recommend if you have never visited Rome before. As you are only in Rome for a short time it will help you to decide what you want to visit the next day.

As my partner and I had already been to Rome before we decided to head off on our own and ended up in an amazing small traditional restaurant not far from the Trevi Fountain looking to find shelter from a heavy downpour. The pizza, wine and spaghetti were all delicious. There are plenty of places to eat in Rome and the food never fails to impress. That evening we stayed in The Church Village Hotel.

Day 9 Rome

Whilst in Rome there is the opportunity to visit the Vatican City (and why not as it is another country you can tick off your list!). The tour lets you take in sights such as the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica and is another one worth doing.

As we’d already visited on previous trips, we headed to Villa Borghese Gardens. Here you could rent segways and other vehicles to get around the park, but it was easy enough to see everything on foot.

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Villa Borghese gardens ©2015

After a day of wandering around the city we headed for food at another restaurant, this time near to the Spanish steps. If you get the chance to try lemon spaghetti whilst in Rome I’d definitely recommend it – it tastes so fresh!

Day 10 Rome to Venice via Verona 

The following day we set off for Venice via Verona. Verona is another fairly touristy city, but you get the chance to see Juliet’s balcony (Casa di Giulietta) and the thousands of love notes stuck on the walls in the entrance to the courtyard. In the courtyard itself is a bronze sculpture of Juliet. You’ll find plenty of people rubbing her right breast which apparently brings you luck in love!

After a short time in Verona we continued on our journey to Venice. We didn’t stay in Venice itself, which can be expensive, staying instead at the Hotel Centrale in Mestre which is right on a main bus route into Venice itself. That evening we headed out for an included meal with the group and had a few drinks in bars close to hotel.

Day 11 Venice

After a morning walking tour of Venice we headed out on a gondola ride with the rest of the group. This starts and ends just near Hard Rock Cafe close to Piazza San Marco and takes you down the Grand Canal allowing you to catch a glimpse of the Rialto Bridge.

Next we headed back to Piazza San Marco for a lace demonstration in a local shop with the rest of the group. The lace is the type that resembles your Nana’s curtains rather than the sexy kind (although they have a few items that may be good for a wedding if you’re planning one!). If there’s something else you want to do I would say you wouldn’t be missing out on much if you decided not to go to the lace demonstration.

We spent the rest of the afternoon eating and wandering the many streets and canals of Venice. You can get fairly lost but its generally quite easy to get back on track if you keep some of the main square names in mind.

That evening we walked down to a small square close to our hotel where we had dinner. It was fairly quiet in Mestre so we decided to get some rest back at the hotel before heading to Croatia the next day.

Part Two (days 12-22) can be read here.

 

 

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