Must See/Do in Europe

Hi OzFam

I've booked 3 weeks in Europe for end of year school holidays. As I have never been to Europe before, I am struggling to come up with an exciting itinerary to make the most of the trip.

If you have been before, what were some sights or things you did that you would recommend?

FYI I've travelled in Asia (seen enough religious sites for a lifetime) and am mostly looking at the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Completely open to suggestions though.

Comments

  • +1 vote

    We are going to europe in august.

    Out itinerary is
    Paris
    Nice
    Milan
    Rome
    Pisa
    Sorrento and Near By
    Zurich
    Bern
    Amsterdam
    Brussels

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    Where are you flying in and out of ?

  • +3 votes

    A lot of Europe is gray, and icy/slushy/rainy in winter. I'd either lean into it and seek out mountains and proper snow, or away from it and concentrate on the more temperate south.

    Perhaps spain or Italy for 2 weeks, then one week in southern germany and the mountains of austria where there will be a better chance of snow, and christmas markets. Lots of castles, like Neuschwanstein, interesting things like Berchtesgaden salt mines.

    • +2 votes

      Neuschwanstein is nice in some pictures and rather unimpressive in others. Also seems like a lot of trouble to go there. Worried about being bored in Germany after seeing everything in Berlin.

      Keeping fairly warm sounds like a good idea.

      • +1 vote

        It's in a beautiful part of the world and there's plenty to see around there. Not far from Munich. Google "German romantic road" for inspiration.

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          Isn't Munich just a university town? Does it offer much that Berlin doesn't? Have you done that drive in Southern Germany?

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          @tomkun01:
          I've done lots of bits and pieces but not in one long stretch. (work impedes!) IMO it could make a great part of your greater roadtrip.

          Munich is gorgeous. Different feels from Berlin. Much more than a uni town.

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          @thevofa: Thanks. Hard to gauge the "feels" without actually going there

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          @tomkun01:

          Indeed. I'm sure they are unique to all. There's only one way to know your own.

          Bon voyage.

        • +1 vote

          @tomkun01:
          munich is beautiful

          Berlin is grungy… they are literally still rebuilding from the war (but to their credit they're rebuilding slowly so they do it right). Also, communism didn't do east berlin any favours architecturally.

          Everyone tells me that Berlin is an amazing city, but i didn't enjoy it. Munich is a traditional german city, Berlin is good if you're keen to rave for days. But maybe i just missed whatever makes it special.

          I don't recommend neuschwanstein - not worth the detour for a trip as packed as yours. It's a castle that was designed to be beautiful - it has no historic meaning, which devalues it for me - if you want a good photo maybe it's worth it, but it's packed even in winter.

          Edit - to put it in context, i spent 3 weeks in Germany, Berlin was my least favourite place. I really enjoyed taking a week and travelling from the south to the north, at a leisurely pace, stopping at towns off the tourist trail. once again, probably not possible with your timeframes. I loved Cologne and Munich, which are old German towns that were relatively untouched through WW2

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          @tomkun01: Germany is divided by what they call the Weisswurstequator. North gobbles up pork and are arrogant, South eats beef and are more hospitable but can be drunkyards. You will see it clearly by the Aldi stores. North has crappy Aldi blue. South has Aldy Yellow lucky they came downunder!

  • +1 vote

    Amsterdam is a good start to get "mushroomed". Brugge is about the only place I would go in Belgium, unlike you like the Atomium in Brussels. Quick up the Eiffel and Champs Elysees then head south for warm ups. Lisboa, Madrid, Seville if you like large medieval centres. Barcelona, Nice or Cannes, Pisa, Colosseum, Florence, Milan, Venice, Dubrovnik, Vienna, Budapest, Munich, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and if you love the cold Zermatt might get you up into the snow a bit. Zurich is not going to make you wow forever, end of year is a bit hit and miss but clothes are cheap so one travels light to more places.
    Efficient airports beside Amsterdam are found in Frankfurt and Geneva.

    Give us more of your interests.

    •  

      Flying into Amsterdam. How long would you suggest staying to get over jet lag and get "mushroomed"? Was thinking around 4 days, but perhaps that's too long.

      Croatia seems very beautiful, but I know next to nothing about it.

      Will probably stay out of the mountains because I'm not impressed by snow.

      Barcelona, and Spain in general, seems to just have a lot of churches and beaches.

      Generally I like to see historical sites, eat specialty food, and take it pretty easy most days while travelling.

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        I would skip entering Amsterdam and just jump onto a connecting flight south. It will be bitterly cold in northern Europe and you can avoid carrying heavy clothing if you don't leave the airport. With a couple of hours flight you can be on the Mediterranean shore. Leave those cathedrals and towers for a spring or autumn trip. Go to France, Spain, Portugal or Italy for the food. You don't say what kind of shopping your missus wants.

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          It's non stop flying from here to Amsterdam. Not sure I can take any more.

          Mrs wants to go clothes, shoes and bag shopping. Looking at Spain for that and Milan

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          @tomkun01: In fact why Amsterdam and Paris? There are other gateway cities, e.g. Barcelona, Madrid, Milan, Rome. You could leave from Milan with your shopping loot.

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          @greenpossum: looked at prices and figured we can do an anti clockwise loop around western Europe

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          @tomkun01: Direction doesn't mean much if you're using budget airlines to move between countries like Spain, Portugal and Italy where the train services aren't as developed or comparable in cost to flying.

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          @greenpossum: yea i noticed that flights are cheap and plentiful.

          People ive asked have raved about France. Obviously Paris is a must. And perhaps Versailles. Anywhere else worth visiting?

          I'm trying to avoid finding out about interesting things I could have seen after the trip

        • +1 vote

          @tomkun01: Bear in mind the season. The pictures you've seen of Versailles, etc. will have been taken with sunny skies, not grey ones so adjust expectations accordingly.

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          @greenpossum: was looking at the palace in Versailles.

          Good point. Lots of indoor activities if i hear you correctly

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          @tomkun01: Yes, good weather for museums (watch out for curtailed hours), shopping, dining, etc.

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          @greenpossum: thanks a lot. very helpful info

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          @tomkun01: We went shopping at a place called FoxTown just inside the swiss border from Italy. I bought my (now) wife a handbag for ~$800aud which back here in aus is ~$2000, i think if you go shopping in Milan, you will just buy the same things for 1200euro, and the shopping probably isnt any better than heading down to your local westfield (that was my wifes opinion anyway)

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          @geoffs87: thanks. wife will want to have a squizz there for sure

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          @tomkun01: Give her a bundle of Euros in Amsterdam so she can enter rag stores while you get sore eyes looking thru them endless glass doors. (starting around 4pm) Magic mushrooms are optional, suggest if you insist that only one at a time else you might lose control of what you do.

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          @geoffs87: I was not very fussed with Foxtown. If that near then might as well sample the posh bitch streets of Milan. Sure same things sell 6 months later for a third in Torino etc.

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          @tomkun01: The McArthurGlen outlet stores are great if you want to do some shopping. I went to the one at Roermond near Amsterdam, but they are located all over Europe: http://www.mcarthurglengroup.com/our-locations.aspx

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          @Becsavers: thanks. wife will love it!

      • +1 vote

        I'm not impressed by snow.

        And you are going WHEN ? LOL

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          yea. I mean i'm not going to europe for the purpose of seeing snow. going during school holidays

    • +2 votes

      There is plenty more to The Netherlands than Amsterdam (and plenty more to Amsterdam than drugs). Most Australians seem to think it’s a country with one city, and that they speak Danish.

  • +2 votes

    I have been to Europe during the peak of winter and another trip during autumn. I would very much prefer not to go in winter because it is super cold, dark/grey and miserable. And if you go to London, you can add wet + miserable.

    It is best if OP can give us more information about his interest. Like if he enjoys skiing, castles, food, shopping, Game of Thrones, driving along the coast line, etc.

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      Yea, unfortunately that's the only time of the year I can get a month off.

      Not planning on going to London this time. I like skiing, but am travelling with Mrs Ozbargain who doesn't like skiing at all. Big on food and wife is big on shopping. Driving is a possibility but it seems like a big hassle when it's easy enough to take buses, trains and short flights between places.

      Current ideas look like this: fly into Amsterdam, visit Berlin, Prague, Rome, Venice, Milan, Barcelona, Nice? and fly out of Paris, more or less in that order. The absolutes are Milan and Paris. But perhaps it's better to go east and see Slovenia, Croatia etc. I just have no idea.

      • +1 vote

        I think your current proposed itinerary will probably take up most of 3 weeks comfortably. You are covering the key places of Italy, Spain, France and Germany.

        I have been to Slovenia and Croatia. Personally, unless you are a huge Game of Thrones fan, it might not be worth travelling so far to Croatia this time. The highlight of Slovenia for me was the Postojna Cave, it is probably the most beautiful (touristy) cave i have been to. You could probably leave this to a 2 weeks eastern Europe tour during spring/autumn next time.

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          Yea I was thinking that the Croatian part of Europe is probably a different trip, as is Eastern Europe. Winter is also somewhat of an impeding factor when it comes to enjoying beautiful water scenery.

        • +1 vote

          Postojna Cave has great reviews. Looks fun!

        • +2 votes

          Small tip for Rome, buy all your tickets online, print and queue early to enter Vatican. The queue is freaking ridiculous. No shit.

          https://youtu.be/jxDJMuGlxmU

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          @tomkun01:

          Postojna cave is really fun. You sit this 15min train ride into the heart of the cave. Really beautiful.

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          @KaTst3R: Wow. The Vatican museums look absolutely beautiful. Must go?

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          The Postojna Caves were a highlight but I found just strolling around lake bled was amazing.

        • +2 votes

          @tomkun01:

          Vatican and Colosseum should be the top of your list.

          Do note that the Vatican itself has 2 main parts to it. The Vatican museum which is a paid entry and the St Peters basilica (church) which is free. Both have long queues and both are a must go. I would spend at least 3 days in Rome. There is soooo much to do there. Mainly arts, history, archaeology stuff.

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          @sandgroper94:

          Yea Lake Bled is a must go too.

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          @KaTst3R: cool I love stuff

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          @KaTst3R:
          What would you recommend as an itinerary in Rome? Have never been there, looking at options for a few days after Tuscany before going on to Lyon area.

        • +3 votes

          @kiitos:

          The below is my itinerary. I tried to cover the key areas in Rome but the city is pretty big so I missed out on a couple of other interesting ones given the tight schedule. You also have a look on tripadvisor to see if anything else interest you. You can swap the days around to suit your own schedule.

          Day 1 (early 8am start)
          Vatican Museum + Sistine Chapel (paid)
          St Peter's Basillica (free, but if long queue come back in the evening an hour before it closes)
          Castel Sant Angelo (paid, small castle)
          Piazza Navona + Fumi Fountain (free)
          Pantheon (free)
          Fountana di Trevi (free)

          Day 2 (10am start)
          Colosseum (paid 3 in 1 ticket)
          Palatine Hill (paid 3 in 1 ticket)
          Roman Forum (paid 3 in 1 ticket)
          Free and easy. You could either go back to Pantheon, Trevi Fountain area to cover more things or do some items from Day 3 as they are relatively near by.

          Day 3 (10am start)
          Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II (paid, nice view of the city)
          Capitoline Museums (paid)
          Foro di Cesare (paid)
          Free and easy

          The other question people always ask if it is worth hiring guides. I didnt hire any throughout as the going rates were pretty expensive for 2 person (Euro50 per person, 4 hours, more than 2 person is negotiable) but I did pay for an audio guide at Vatican Museum (Euro7). However if I could negotiate a good deal for the Colosseum I would hire as I thought that is one place that a guide could come in useful. There will be many local guides touting for business outside each attraction.

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          @KaTst3R:

          Great, thanks for that. Did you use public transport to get been the place, eg to the lookout, or was that part of the paid aspect?

        • +1 vote

          @kiitos:

          Sorry I didnt explain clearly. When I wrote paid, I meant you will need a ticket for entrance. Ideally for Vatican and Colosseum (3 in 1 ticket, includes entry to Palatine Hill and Roman Forum), you buy the tickets online and print a copy. The rest of the attractions you can buy it at the location. As for transport, I took a train (Euro 1.5 each way) to Vatican (red line Cipro station) and Colosseum (blue line Colosseo station) at the start of the day. I stayed near Roma Termini which is the main central station. The remaining lookouts you can cab or walk there from the first lookout, but do note there will be quite a bit of walking.

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          @KaTst3R: The human fish in the cave, also the Predjama Castle not far from it. very quirky but nice. The best part is Slovenia is not expensive as say Croatia to get about.

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        Fly in to Paris, visit the city, go to the south coast, Canne and Nizza, travel to Italy, visit northern part of italy ( Venice - Firenze ), come back through the Swiss alps, stop in Lucerne/Zurich, continue via Europapark, hit Amsterdam and Fly out.

        Or the other way !

  • +3 votes

    The top of my list would be La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
    Everyone should try and visit it once in their life.
    I have been three times with a few years in between each visit and the development that has taken place in the intervening years has been incredible.
    They hope to finish it by 2026, the centenary of Gaudi's death.
    Here's a great 360 video. Don't forget to look up.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8BJeuQM3vY

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    This thread is good. Seems like almost anywhere is worth visiting

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      It's normal to want to see everything the first time. After that you develop preferences.

      • +1 vote

        After a closer look, I've found that most days will be in museums and historical relics. Hopefully it doesn't get too boring doing that every day. I'll upload my final itinerary when I've decided on it. atm it's Amsterdam - Prague - Milan - Rome - Florence - Pompei - Rome - Barcelona - Versailles - Paris, and that's a pretty tight schedule considering jetlag, inter-city flights and day trips

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          Actually it does gets really boring if there are too many museums and churches. So try to split that around. I have also been to Pompei (drove there), personally speaking not very interesting. Actually it was one of the biggest let down because most of the interesting artifacts I was told have been transported to the main museum in Naples. What is left is just broken and run down buildings. When I went there, there wasnt much people also.

          If you are driving and the snow is not too heavy (coastline driving so be careful), I rather go to Sorrento and Amalfi Coast. Maybe stay one night at Amalfi and return to Rome. Really beautiful place and coastline. Not sure how it would look in winter, I just imagine a sky slightly less blue. Maybe there could be tour bus day trips?

        • +1 vote

          Just remember this sort of thing does happen in Europe in winter:

          https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/gallery/2018/feb/27/sibe...

          and flights get disrupted, driving becomes inadvisable, etc. so have contingency plans such as dropping destinations. I also think the Pompeii excursion is a long way for not much.

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          @KaTst3R: looks nice. might swap out pompei for a night in amalfi

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          @greenpossum: thanks. duly noted

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          @tomkun01:

          Are you stopping by Naples (the birth place of the margarita pizza)?

          How we did Pompeii, Sorrento, Amalfi was train into Naples, rented an automatic transmission car from Hertz at the airport, drove to Pompeii Sorrento and stayed at Amalfi, drove back to Naples city in the morning, dropped off car at the central station, stayed 1 night, train back to Rome (1.5 hours)

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          @KaTst3R: Is Naples worth a trip? I wouldn't mind driving if it's only a day here and there and if it's better than public transport

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          @tomkun01:

          Naples to me was like ticking the box. Since you are already at Pompei/amalfi area, it is worth just dropping by the city and take a quick stay. Anyway the best way to go back to Rome is training from Naples. You can drop by L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele, rumored to be the first shop that ever served the margarita.

          If you decide not to go pompei/amalfi then skip Naples.

          It is not difficult to drive around, just make sure you get an auto car 'cause there are a lot of up-slope driving. My biggest worry will be snow. I have never been to italy during peak winter so I dont know the road conditions.

          http://www.positano.com/en/e/amalfi-coast-in-winter

          http://www.ciaoamalfi.com/2016/11/amalfi-coast-off-season/

          Some interesting opinion if Amalfi is worth it during the winter.

        • +1 vote

          @tomkun01: I've not heard many good things about naples, we drove through it briefly on our way to amalfi and much preferred staying there.

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          @Heizenberg: Jesse trusted you, and look where it got him

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          @Heizenberg:

          I read a lot of negative stuff about Naples before going there. I didnt have much expectations but the food really blew me away. Great pizzas, great "local Naples style" food, really fresh seafood. There is catacombs there if that interest anyone.

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          @KaTst3R: same…heard the negative stories . Went there ( in september 2017) and absolutely loved it. The place is just so "alive" and has so much "life" for want of better words. Great food, history, day trip to island of ischia, pompeii etc. If you go stay at the hotel renaissance ..the view from the rooftop restaurant at breakfast is spectacular..Mt Vesuvius looming over the Naples bay…and then have a spa with drink in hand also at rooftop level (different level)

        • +1 vote

          @KaTst3R:

          Naples is a bit "rougher" than the other cities. Lot more crime.

          Florence is much nicer.

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          It can get boring - I went to the Louvre (Paris), Vatican and Uffizi (Florence) and while they had their own flavour, I recall seeing one sculpture and 2 reproductions of it in all three museums. Baccio Bandinelli, Laocoön and his Sons. Time may have been better spent on a different activity.

  • +4 votes

    We did a driving trip around Europe last August, was amazing - and really the best part about it was the driving! This was our itinerary

    • Flew into Rome, Overnight train to Sicily
    • 4 nights in Sicily, Fly back to Rome
    • 3 nights Rome, awesome. Went to all the historic sites, LOTS of walking in 50 degree heat :s
    • Rented Car and Drove to Salzburg, 1 night in Salzburg (schnitzel and a few museums (eg Mozart)
    • Drove to Budapest (my favourite place in Europe), 3 nights (Bath party / museums / food / walk along river / roman baths)
    • Drove to Prague (via Bratislava for lunch, because, why not!?) 2 nights in prague. Prague is a tourist trap in my opinion. Most fun we had was renting a paddleboat in the river, and drinking beers while kicking around the river
    • Drove to Berlin, but stopped in at Terezin (WWII prison camp), which was harrowing but interesting. Only stayed in Berlin for 1 night, nothing really to do there in my opinion (saw the wall, and watched some german WWII documentary they projected onto a govt building in the middle of town, that was pretty cool
    • Drove to Amsterdam, 3 nights there - museums, night life, walked the RLD, drank lots of beers, spent an afternoon in a cafe. All pretty fun
    • Drove to Burgundy, went to a couple of wineries, rode electric bikes through the countryside, had a BBQ at an old farmhouse we rented from airbnb and also ate at a couple of Michelin star restaurants
    • Drove to Mont Blanc, was cool to see, but overrated going up top. In winter, it could be better, but in summer it was colder than we were prepared for, and you have to be up there for ~3hrs (and theres not 3hrs worth of stuff to do up there)
    • Drove to Lake Como, 2 nights of relaxing, rented a boat on the lake and just hung out.
    • Drove to milan for a quick bit of shopping (not as fun or as good a city in my opinion as its made out to be) before flying home in the evening.

    We rented a renault SUV, which was a saviour, lane assist (driving at 170km/h on the wrong side of the road can be terrifying) and GPS with speed traps marked, even temporary ones/police cars show up). 6000km and no speeding tickets!

    Basically, when driving into a new city/town, we would load up tripadvisor on the phone, in advance, and look for the top 5 restaurants (by user rating) and top 10 attractions, and choose which we wanted to check out. The awesome thing about the trip adviser app, is you can create a 'trip' and save the things you're interested in to a list/map, and so you can plan your walking tour easily (this is what it looked like: Map)

    We did all this in ~3.5 weeks, was super busy, but awesome!

    • +1 vote

      I clocked 20,000 to 25,000 steps a day in Rome. Roughly translate to 16 to 18km of walking a day.

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      Burgundy looks like a good way to deviate from the churches and museums. Worth a night or two? I'm not a big drinker but can appreciate a good red.

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        In reality, they dont really have wineries like we have here. Most of the wine over there is co-op, so the town collectively farms grapes, and creates the wines. So we went to a couple of spots of really famous (and terribly expensive wines) and you could just stroll through the town, and stumble onto their farms. We were interested in seeing the winery for Romanee-Conti, we literally walked through their vineyard, which produces min $1000/bottle reds, and not a person was seen anywhere! In saying that, there are a couple of spots, but we were just enthralled by the castles / old houses and countryside in general. The bike ride took us a whole day, and was really, REALLY cool. Definitely worth a night or two. We bought a couple bottles of red and cooked our own bbq. I dont think people in the town we were staying in had ever seen an Australian before either, we were in the middle of no-where! (we stayed here

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