May 9, 2014
Au revoir, France!

We had slept in the previous day, so we weren’t aware of the quality of Hotel Busby’s breakfast until we got downstairs. I didn’t know it was possible to ruin yogurt and granola…it was. Combined with the croissants-in-a-foil-bag, and the room-temperature milk the cereal was served with, I decided to pass on breakfast all together.

 

Our next stop was the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in the town of Pisa, Italy. There is pretty much nothing else in Pisa except this tower, so we went straight there and walked through the shopping row that lined the path to the tower. This row was filled with vendors pedaling “genuine Italian souvenirs.” It reminded me of the little markets always positioned at cruise ship ports in Mexico.

The tower was a lovely sight, but the entire area was PACKED with people. It was tough to get a photo alone with the tower.

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This photo was selected for this post specifically because of what’s happening to my right. 

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Top: Nicole #1 & #2, Ashlee, Emily, Stew, Tom, Rosie, Me, Chris, Jenna, Gabe. Bottom: Chantelle, Dicky, Betty

After wrapping up at Pisa, we drove into the beautiful city of Florence. We were warned that the hotels in Italy would not be as nice as the rest, and this turned out to be quite true. Our hotel, the Auto Park Hotel Florence, was pretty average. The room was clean, but the decor was very old, and the shower was quite small. I could barely fit in it, so I have no idea how the guys on our tour managed!

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After checking in, we glammed up and prepared for our Tuscan Feast. On the way there, we stopped at a lookout point in the city for our official group photo.

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Dinner was another “Optional Extra” – a Tuscan feast ringing in at 39€, or about $52 USD. Again, this was pretty pricey for dinner, but SO worth it.

We arrived to this gorgeous Tuscan vineyard estate-inspired restaurant, and were immediately served cocktails on the terrace. Then, we were led inside to a large, romantically lit dining room, where we were served antipasto (bruschetta of all kinds!), salads, bread, pasta, ravioli, beef and potatoes, plus dessert. This was all accompanied by all the wine we could drink. I had learned my lesson at the Moulin Rouge though, so I went easy on the wine and chatted away with Kieran all through dinner.

Overall, this was high on this list of my favorite meals of the tour. The food was delicious, but the atmosphere was incredible. After dinner, the dance floor was open for a quick twirl. Jon Snow made good on the dance I had promised him after our waltz was interrupted at the Moulin Rouge, and let me just say, Pat had some competition. Our tour manager definitely knew his way around the dance floor!

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Tuscan Dinner. Left to right: Me, Kieran, Jacinta, Paul, Tom, Brett, Chris, Chantelle, Dicky, Pat

After dinner, we headed to the Space Disco in Florence to dance the rest of the night away. Following more bus karaoke, we arrived at the Disco where we indulged in more drinks, more karaoke, and more dancing.

One of my favorite memories from that night was when a country song came on, so everyone stopped dancing. But Brett (Canada) immediately grabbed me and and showed me how to two-step all around the dance floor. Those Canada boys sure can dance!

Jon Snow had the foresight to provide us all with cards that had the name and address of our hotel on it, because apparently he didn’t trust out ability to remember where we were staying. Fair enough, Jon Snow. We pulled out our cards around 3:00 a.m. and handed them to our taxi drivers, then collapsed into bed sometime just before dawn. #NoRegrets

Next up: A very foggy morning, dress codes, and Italian cooking


Check out my other Contiki posts:

Introduction: An American Girl in Europe
Day 1: Oh hey, London
Day 2: Bonjour, Paris!
Day 3: Parisian Adventures
Day 4: Lookin’ Good, Switzerland
Day 5: All Things Swiss
Day 6: Switzerland, Italy, France…oh my!
Day 7: Bond. James Bond.
Day 8: Buongiorno Italia!
Day 9: When in Rome
Day 10: That’s Amore
Day 11: Vatican City to Venice
Day 12: The Last Italian Adventure
Day 13: Hop-fer-gerten
Day 14: Soaring Over Austria
Day 15: München
Day 16: Bittersweet Symphonies
Day 17: Vienna to Prague
Day 18: Ahoj, Prague!
Day 19: St. Goar, Rhine Valley
Day 20: Amsterdamage
Day 21: Even more Amsterdamage
Day 22: Back to the Start
Day 23/24: The End of a Great Adventure
Contiki in a Nutshell: Know Before You Go
Contiki: What Should I Pack?