Saturday, 27 November 2010

Taking a Break

I am now officially a terrible blogger.
I have so much to say about Prague, Krakow and Budapest and am starting to feel overwhelmed since I have so many things to write down. I think I want to just wait until i'm actually in the mood or inspired because i've tried a couple times and it felt like a chore.
I was doing so well for so long!
It will happen eventually... but for now i'm taking a break.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


I guess it's been a while since I've sat down to write anything.
Sometimes i just get in the mood to read instead of write and i guess that mood has been lasting for a while.

I didn't really talk about Vienna yet. It was very beautiful! I got lucky with the weather for a couple days so during my walking around i didn't even have to wear a coat! Yay! My hostel was about a 30-45 minute walk to get anywhere so i got my excercise in those few days. I went to the Hofburg Palace and walked all around the Museumquartier. It's basically just an area of town that has all the sights to see. My friend Alycia used to live there so she gave me alot of suggestions about things to do. One of them being to go to the Sacher Hotel and order a sacher torte. It's a kind of cake that Vienna is known for. After i tried it for the first time i bascially tried to eat it as many times as possible. When in Vienna? I think i succeeded about 4 times. Not bad! I also went to the Jewish Museum. It was much different than i expected... it was mostly just a bunch of Jewish religious items that were preserved throughout the war. The people who donated any of the items to the museum went to great lengths to hide their things and keep them until the end of the war.

Besides walking around and taking pictures of all the beautiful buildings and art work i decided to take a fun day and go shopping. Window shopping. It was tough... but i enjoyed going through all the good shops along the main street. I'm almost at the point where i want to throw every last piece of clothing that i have out of my suitcase and buy all new stuff. If i had the money i just might.

I was in Vienna on Sunday and sometimes I still forget that most of Europe still shuts down on Sundays. So i made this little trek to go see the food markets and when i got there everything was all borded up. I still decided to walk all the way through until the end although all i got to see was menus of food that i really wanted to eat. Poor planning on my part!

As i was exploring one day i saw the sign for an english cinema - no subtitles. I got really excited because there was a movie that just came out that i was wanting to see before i left home. So i decided that i was going to go to the movies... by myself. It really shouldn't seem strange to me by now since i do so many things on my own but going to the movies alone is one of those things that i never understood. I think i get it now. There was a movie that i wanted to see, no one else could go with me, so why not go? It was fun! Also, i counted... there was about 5 other people who were on their own as well. I like to assume that we were all in the same position.

Vienna was really nice and i had a great time apart from the bed bugs. Yes, i got bed bugs again. Really badly! So i actually spent half of my last day washing every last piece of my laundry. Again. I really really hope it's the last time that i have to mention bed bugs because i might go crazy if i get them again. Not fun at all!!

So now i'm in Prague and i've actually been here for a week. It's about one-third the price of anywhere that i've been so far and so beautiful. The hostel i'm at is really nice and everyone is so friendly. Also, i'm back with Virginia and it's so nice to have a travel buddy again. She ended up quitting her job in Venice because she said she would cry any chance she got while she was there. So right after she quit she came straight to Prague and we ended up booking the same hostel without even knowing it. We're also in the same room and it's been great to have her around again.

She's already hooked up a job at this hostel in December so she'll be staying here. In the meantime until December we're going to do Poland and Hungary together. It's kind of funny how i didn't even really plan on coming to Eastern Europe at all but now i'll be spending almost a month here. Plans change i guess and that's one of the good things about not planning too much in advance! So we're going to go to Krakow and Budapest. We just watched Schindler's List last night to prepare for Krakow and our trip to Schindler's factory and Auschwitz. It's going to be a hard trip but i think it will be worth it. I'm very lucky to be able to go to these places and see all these parts of history.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Snapshot of the scenery

The train ride from Switzerland to Austria may have been the prettiest scenery I've ever seen. Then again, i think about about everything pretty thing i see. The train drove right on the edge of this huge lake just outside of Zurich. I was on one side of the lake, so close that it looked like the train was gliding right over the water. On the other side of the lake was mountains with their jagged tops all covered in red, orange, yellow, brown, and green leaved trees. The odd white building would pop out from the side of the mountain and i would envy the people who got to live there. The sun was rising out of my window to the right over the mountains on the other side. Although i know it was cool outside it looked warm enough to want to swim in the water. As we drove on for a ways i couldn't stop staring out the window at the soft looking mountains. Then suddenly they just seemed to end and new mountains started. The new mountains looked dark and hard, covered with ice and snow. What looked like resort type buildings were all crowded together at the bottom of the moutains with the lake no longer anywhere in sight.

As many trains rides that i've now taken and as long as most of them usually are... I kind of like the time to just sit and see the non populated sides of each country. I find it a good time to write, or read, or just enjoy my own thoughts. I've noticed since being alone so often that i often tend to narrate my own life... telling myself stories or exaggerating to myself about what i'm actually experiencing. I find it kind of fun! It's good to exercise our imaginations - that's not all for little kids only! When the rides get too long i usually just sleep. I have an incredible ability to sleep during travel but i actually try really hard not to so that i can get as many mental pictures from outside my train windows as possible.

On the topic of being on my own... i've started to really enjoy going to cafes and writing. Finding my own little corner and bringing a pad of paper and pen. Or I'll even do that when i go to restaurants by myself. I started doing it only because i started to feel creepy only going out to eat so i could people watch. I like to see the other kinds of people that come to the same cafes. Mostly couples... as is the case with most of Europe. One of my pet peeves is seeing the couples who go out together and don't talk or barely look each other in the eye. I hated serving people like that and i still hate to see it. To me, that is one of the worst things... i never want to end up with someone who i don't even want to talk to. I sometimes get strange looks from tables. Most likely wondering why a girl who can't even speak Italian, German, fill in the blank is sitting in a restaurant all by herself. I don't mind because at least i look happier than the couples that hate each other!
I know i'm exaggerating... i'm sure they've just run out of things to talk about :)

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Oh the joys of hostel living!

I'm not really sure if I've ever had such violent thoughts towards another person before.
There is a man in my hostel room that seriously has a problem. I didn't even know that it was physically possible to snore SO loud. He does more than snore. He scream snores. It's a whole new type... and apparently Indian men in their 50's have pretty much perfected it.

I met this really sweet Australian girl named Maggie. I actually met her at my hostel in Florence but as it turns out we're in the same room here in Zurich. Her and I both barely got any sleep the first night we were in our room because of this man's obnoxious snoring. It's not even like it has any sort of rhythm to it to give us any hope of falling alseep. He will snore, grunt, stop breathing, gasp for air, continue snoring, and never ever ever stop. It's exhausting! After the first night i was so tired during the day and Maggie and I decided to go take a nap to try and get a bit of rest before probably another terrible nights sleep. However, ten minutes after we layed down our least best friend walked in the room and decided to take a nap as well. Obviously snoring his little heart away. That's when my violent thoughts started.

Sometimes my imagination is sort of funny. I think up scenarios in my head and take my time playing them out. I imagined working up the guts to just sit up in bed and yell at him to read a book or something because the only reason we were having a nap while in beautiful Zurich was because we didn't get a wink of sleep the night before thanks to his scream snoring. (imagine that whole thing typed in capitals for effect.... also imagine me with my arms straight at my sides with my hands in little fists and my cheeks all red). I also imagined taking all the pillows in the entire room and placing them on his face while i sat on the pillows. Legs crossed, arms folded, and grinning slightly. (I'm scaring myself) I then imagined making a recording of myself... not snoring, not scream snoring, just plain screaming... and placing it in a very secret spot and turning it on the next night when he started to snore again. However, in that case i wouldn't get to sleep either. I just think it would be funny. My imagination went on for quite a while like this... then i gave up on my nap, shot him a couple if-looks-could-kill kind of looks, and left the room.

I am losing my mind.

Besides my horrible roommate... Zurich is great! The hostel is quite tiny and in a great location so i love it. I think i prefer smaller hostels because then it's much easier to meet people.

Maggie and I have hung out for the past 2 days and had a great time. We went to the supermarket and decided to buy some healthy food and eat for cheaper for a change. Our hostel has a kitchen as well which is a nice treat! Especially since being in Switzerland is a bit ridiculous as far as costs go. As i was leaving the train station i looked into a Burger King and saw that a burger alone was 15 franks. Franks are pretty well equal with the Canadian dollar which is kind of nice so i don't have to try and convert everything in my head but also annoying because everything is so expensive! So supermarkets are the perfect solution to still eat well and for a bit less money.

I did splurge one night! Maggie and I decided that while in Switzerland we might as well try fondue since they're pretty famous for it. A restaurant just 2 doors over from our hostel had a cheese fondue that we had be eyeing all day. We had to make a reservation and it was very well worth it. Expensive... but i figure that's ok if i don't do that all the time.

Zurich is a very charming place. I'm staying right by the river which is beautiful right now because all the leaves on the trees along the river are changing colour and falling. I was walking along the street and recognized the same smell of autumn that i smell at home. There's all sorts of unique shops and restaurants. I've mostly done alot of window shopping but i really enjoy walking down the street and people watching.

I went to a design museum which i expected to be much more impressive than it was. It was just a small display at the moment about make up. Not make up as in cosmetics but more or less about materials and design. It was probably really neat but i think it was a bit lost on me.

I found out that the Lindt chocolate factory is just a little bit out of Zurich and got so excited! So i looked online and found out that the factory wasn't open for tours at this time. That's the bad thing sometimes about travelling during non peak seasons. So i just went to the supermarket and bought a bunch of chocolate and decided to do my own sort of taste testing. When in Switzerland...

So i leave already for Austria tomorrow. Kind of hoping that i'll have the same kind of luck with weather that i've had since being here. It's not nearly as cold as i was expecting! Always good news for me.

Also, Maggie and I decided to meet around the 14th of November in Poland. We met so many people at the hostel here in Zurich who were absolutely raving about Poland so we decided that we should go together. It wasn't even on my list of places to go at all... but that's the nice thing about not being organized. I haven't planned my whole trip out so i have a lot of flexibility to change whatever vague plans i did make. I'm excited to meet up with her again and explore Poland. Also excited because it's supposed to be cheap for a change! My bank needs a bit of a break. The food is meant to be really good in Poland as well. While in Krakow i really want to make a trip to Auschwitz. It will be interesting to compare it to my experience in Germany when i went to Dachau.
Now... to pack my bags... again and prepare for another night with the dreaded roommate.

Saturday, 30 October 2010


I fell in love!!!
Don't worry mom and dad, it's not with a boy. I fell in love with Venice! Probably love at first sight. I've never seen anything like it!
I loved how the second i got off the train i felt like i rewound the clock a couple hundred years and stepped into a different time where backpackers weren't supposed to exist. The water was a strange cloudy colour probably from the boats and the algae. The buildings all looked totally different from one another and weren't all necessarily well kept. Some had paint chipped off and bricks showing under the cement that time has worn away.
I know that to some the small picture i just painted doesn't sound like anything spectacular but with the sun shining it was probably the most charming first impression that any place so far has given me.

Virginia and I hopped onto a boat bus to get to our hostel and were pretty much silent the entire ride. That doesn't happen very often! The whole feeling was so strange... I felt like there were more locals than tourists (yes!) and that i was one of the only people floating down the river with my jaw dropped. I completely forgot to even take pictures. I just watched all the buildings that came straight out of the water as the boat cruised past while other boats with taxi drivers and garbage men drove in the other direction. Bizarre that this is just some peoples reality and everyday life.

After we checked into our hostel we decided to go get lost. We've heard from everyone that it's almost impossible not to get lost in Venice because the roads are so narrow and confusing. We walked around the area and found out that almost every 5 shops is a gelato shop or a mask shop. The masks are incredible! I guess that Carnival started in Venice and that's why all the masquerade masks are such a big deal. Virginia studies theatre at home and has her own collection of masks so she was totally in her element. We didn't actually end up getting lost but we found some neat little areas to explore.

At night our hostel holds a dinner that you can pay 5 euros for and they give you pasta, pizza, and dessert. Everyone sits in the dining room at one long table like a big family. The owner actually lives at the hostel and helps the girls who work for him cook.

While on the topic of the hostel... it's for sure one of the strangest places I've ever stayed! We got here and had to ring on a doorbell outside. Normally if we have to do that the door will buzz and we'll be allowed in but nothing happened so i rang the doorbell again. Eventually a girl was yelling "Ciao, Hello! Do you have a reservation?" from the balcony above the door. Then she said she'd unlock the door and that we have to go to the first floor. We walked up and there was a massive empty room with a table at one end with a little notebook computer and a couple chairs. We had to sit down and she recorded our information with a pen and paper then showed us to our room. Basically the whole hostel is one floor with big rooms and bunk beds in each room. I think the owner has one of the rooms to himself. All the doors are left open and there's no lockers or anything. There's about 3 washrooms that everyone has to share... 1 for the boys, 1 for the girls, and 1 that i'm pretty sure is unisex. The girl brought us to our room but said that she just had to add a few more beds. I guess they just set up more bunk beds in each room depending on how many people are staying that night.

We were only able to book one night online because we couldn't find anywhere in Venice for Saturday night - not even hotels. So, when we got here we asked the girl if there was anything available for Sat and she said she'd let us know later. She still didn't know by last night before we went to bed and said she'd let us know in the morning. The hostel has a lock out between 10am and 1pm everyday so that the staff can clean and before 10 she said she didn't know for sure but that it shouldn't be a problem. I told her that it was really important that she let us know because if there wasn't room available we didn't have any back-ups since there was no availability anywhere. We had to leave the hostel so they could clean and by the time we came back at 4 in the afternoon after exploring all day she informed us that we had nowhere to stay! She also informed us that she moved our bags and things into a closet because she had to change the beds since new people were coming and needed our beds.
I sort of lost it. Maybe sliiiightly freaked out on her. I feel kind of bad now and i really don't think she likes me but i was having just a little bit of anxiety about sleeping on the streets. I grabbed my computer and frantically started to search for accommodations. When that wasn't successful i started to look up the next trains out of here and if i could book a hostel is another city. I was thinking that i might just have to leave for Zurich a couple days early. Mid-anxiety attack, Virginia was being all sweet and nice to the lady and she said she would just put together another bunk bed and make an 8 person room a 10 person room. Thank goodness that Virginia is so nice because i was not being the most pleasant person to deal with. She agreed to let us stay and my fears of being homeless oversees for a night are now all gone.

After my amazing day of wandering the streets of Venice with the biggest smile on my face i almost started to resent it. I'm so thankful that it was a short lived moment of distress because that would have been such a shame. Now all is right in my life and i'm just hoping that the same thing doesn't happen again tomorrow because i don't think i can handle it.

On a good note Virginia has been looking for work at a hostel and this place offered her a job! It's been difficult since she doesn't have a working visa but i guess this place is sketchy enough to not care.
She has vowed to make it the best hostel ever and up the organization level by a million. Good girl!

Tomorrow the plan is to head to Verona! I'm hoping to find an english copy of Romeo and Juliet and bring it back with me. I'm very excited!
I end here because it's dinner time with the hostel family! mmm

Thursday, 28 October 2010


Florence has been exactly what i've needed for these past few days - slower paced. We took a couple mornings to sleep in and a few lazy days to just shop and wander the streets. Florence has this big leather market with a bunch of other stands set up with souvenirs, clothes, jewelery, scarves, wallets, belts, and stuff like that. We took a full afternoon just walking around looking at everything. I bought a scarf because it was so cold and i was able to talk the guy down into selling it to me for cheaper. I almost bought another ring but decided that might be a bit excessive.

So I've decided that i've seen my fair share of strange people since being in Florence. My most favourite might be the crazy guy yelling and dancing on the street corner. He was dancing around and then decided to do a ninja roll into the middle of the street and crouch down on both knees and elbows pointing his finger guns to challenge the oncoming traffic. Still yelling while firing off a couple rounds he jumped up and started to skip down the street.  Other strange people i've seen have been much less dramatic but a typical trend i guess is that Italians just enjoy yelling to themselves... or others, i can't understand them... as they walk down the street.

I completed both of my goals while here in Florence... i went to see Michelangelo's David as well as the famous Duomo. I have to say that both were way more impressive than i expected. Almost all sculputes that i've seen so far have been big but maybe just slightly larger than life size? The David was massive and so perfect! Being able to see it up close was really cool to see all of the detail that went into it. I have no idea how Michelangelo would have done anything else in his entire life. The number of works of art he completed in his lifetime is so incredible. He pretty much put his fingerprints all over Italy. Now for the Duomo, i thought the dome was impressive but i actually thought that as a whole the outside kind of stole the show. Green, pink and white marble cover the entire building and it was definitely a jaw dropper. Please google image search it if you don't know what it looks like because i think it is absolutely stunning. We also went to the Basilica Santa Croce which holds the tombs of Michelangelo, Gallileo, Devinci, and a bunch of other famous people. That was neat... kind of strange to think that they're all kept in a church. Some people's tombs are actually carved marble slabs in the floor.

We also went to the food market. It basically just reminded me exactly of a farmer's market at home except alot cheaper and alot more graffic. I didn't know what half of the stuff was but i saw organs, full large pig's heads, dead baby pigs, and other gross things that i've completely blocked from my memory. I enjoy eating meat and i really didn't want this market to ruin it for me. Very gross! We got a bunch of fruit though so that made me very happy! I was beginning to think that i might become malnourished from my carb only diet.

We leave tomorrow for Venice and i'm excited to explore a new place. We had an incredibly hard time finding accommodation. Apparently there aren't many hostels in Venice but there sure are alot of apartments to rent. It would make sense if i was travelling with 4 people but that's just not how it's working for Virginia and I at the moment. So it's a bit more expensive than i thought and almost completely booked for the weekend but we're just going to show up and hope they'll have rooms available for the next 2 days. After that Virginia and I split paths and i'm on my own again. Off to colder and unfamiliar territory. I'm more comfortable with the idea of unfamiliar than cold... oh well, all part of the adventure!

Also, i found another pair of boots. Bad me! But they're really cute and not very expensive. I'm going to sleep on it and see if i still have it in me to justify an unnecessary purchase to myself. I'm leaning more towards having a new pair of boots tomorrow ....  :)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

SO much learning!

If i can say a few things about Rome it's that it was complete knowledge and sensory overload! We did alot in the 5 days we were there and the day at the Vatican especially completely exhausted me! Virginia and I met this Aussie guy and other Canadian girl from Toronto and we all decided to take a group field trip to check out the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. We opted again for the audio guide because tours were way too expensive and none of us knew enough about anything to make it worthwhile just walking through. There was SO much information and a ridiculous amount to look at. As we walked through from room to room filled with art from famous artists and scultures the detail was completely overwhelming. Each room seemed to out-do the other. The Popes have all had so much say in every detail of the Vatican and it was really neat to see how all the styles have changed over the many years. Every section of each room had so much going on and there seemed to be meaning behind absolutely everything. After 2 solid hours of facts i started to sort of go the more speedy route and just stop and learn about things that looked especially interesting to me. The main goal at the end was to experience what all the buildup led to - the Sistine Chapel. It was much smaller than i was expecting but had a very calm and familiar feel. I was looking at original paintings from Michaelangelo that I remember seeing all my life. The final judgement was very impressive. I stood there and looked at it for a solid 15 minutes which is probably a record for me. I don't know much about art at all and normally find it hard to appreciate it as much as some others... but listening to what each part meant and the thought that went behind painting it was very incredible. We weren't allowed to take pictures or talk but most people i think got totally lost in the moment and forgot both of those rules.
I took a million pictures but in no way will they truly capture the beauty. I would look at the screen on my camera after i took each picture and just be disappointed with the results.

The next day we took a 2 hour train ride into Naples and then a half hour metro ride to Pompeii. It was much more impressive than i expected! Pompeii was a city that got completely buried when a volcano erupted many years ago. Apparently they didn't even discover the city for many years after and since then have been doing excavation to learn more and reveal what's left of Pompeii. Most of the buildings were only half the height that they used to be but it was very interesting how they were able to restore it so well. They even have moulds of the people that were buried alive. I have pictures of children and adults all laying down probably while they were trying to hide from the explosion. It was very very interesting! Also a very exhausting day between all the walking and learning and combined 5 hours in travel time that it took to get there. However, it was very well worth it!

That ended our time in Rome. It was very expensive! Since there are so many tourists and so many things to do they kind of take advantage of the fact that people are willing to pay. Since we got 2 free meals at our hostel a day we only bought lunch every day and besides that paid for transport and admissions into all the places we wanted to go. However, Virginia and I found that our money just seemed to fly away.

Right now we are in Florence and very happy to be spending a bit less money. There's also lots to see here as far as art, history and culture but we're going to try and take a bit of a slower pace. Good news is that this hostel is very organized and actually one of the nicest places i've ever stayed in! Our Canadian friend that we met from Toronto recommended it to us and we are both so glad that she did. We are staying in a 6 person female dorm that is very big and clean. They gave us our own towels and little kits with shampoo, body wash, nail files, and stuff like that. The hostel has a restaurant, pool, jacuzzi, work out room, laundry, and is just a massive place! AND the best part is that it's 10 euros less per night than we were paying while in Rome! Also free wi-fi with a solid connection! Finally! Today we plan on doing laundry and wandering around to maybe do a bit of shopping! Florence is supposed to have amazing leather markets so we might go check that out! Since i have no room in my bag and hate my life every time i have to put it on my back i'm hoping that will be enough motivation to not buy anything. We'll see...

The only 2 things that i know i want to accomplish while being here is going to see Michaelangelo's David and the Duomo. Other than that we're hoping to make some friends and get some tips or motivation from them! We have booked 3 more nights but i have a feeling we might try to extend our stay... i'm kind of enjoying having a few luxuries :)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

When in Rome...

I re-read a few of my blogs and i should probably start to use spell check. Sorry for my ridiculous spelling and grammar mistakes. But to be honest... i'm too lazy to proof read and i'm just hoping that everyone gets what i'm trying to say. That is my disclaimer...

So far Rome has been an adventure.
My first impressions were shady because everyone kept warning me to watch my purse at all times, don't let cab drivers rip you off, don't hop into the wrong kind of cab, don't let people help you with directions because they'll ask you for money, and pretty much don't let anyone help you do anything or they'll try to rip you off. I was told that a cab from the airport to anywhere inside of Rome was a set value of 40 euros by law and that if anyone tried to say it's more to just find another cab. We had to ask 3 drivers before we got the correct amount quoted to us. We ended up meeting this American couple at the baggage carousel and decided to split a cab between all 4 of us because we were staying by the same main train station. I found it really funny because besides solid lines there aren't really any lines on the road. The cars all swerve and drive staggered down the street and when they come to a traffic light they form kind of crooked lines. I haven't seen any accidents yet so i guess it must work alright for them! It was dark by the time we got to Rome because our flight was delayed almost 4 hours. However, it was really neat because as we were driving all of a sudden we saw the Colosseum to our left. Very impressive even in the dark! Then i got really excited and it hit me that we were really here.

Our hostel is much more expensive than we wanted to spend but it offers free breakfast and free pizza every night. The only things i've eaten so far since being here has been pasta, pizza and gelato. I'm kind of sick of pizza but thankfully i'm constantly craving pasta so i think that will last for a little while yet.

Apparently the Italians have a reputation for being extremely unorganized. I think i get it because so far... all 5 nights we have booked at this hostel we've had to change rooms. I like all of the rooms and so far we've been extremely lucky with roommates but it's just annoying to have to stay packed when i know i'll be in once place for 5 days. At least it's all been on the same floor because all the steps we have to climb to get to the 4th floor is a bit of a mission. Dragging bags up and down everyday would be a nightmare. I should hopefully have some nice legs by the end of this.

The second room we stayed in was actually quite nice. Only 4 beds and a nice big bathroom. However, Virginia took a shower one night before bed and i guess while she was in the shower the toilet water was overflowing and she didn't notice. By the time she was finished she said it was almost up to her knees. It wasn't draining and she didn't know what to do so when she opened the door all the water poured out into the room and flooded it. There was a good coat of toilet water all over the place. The bottom of my bag got soaked and she said my shoes were floating. She tried not to wake me and the other 2 people in the room but eventually had to because she had to grab the guy from reception to come help us clean up. I was sort of mad but the guy said it's never happened before. In the morning i went down to reception and told them about it and how my bag was wet and they offered us 50 percent off our next night and free laundry service. I didn't complain because at least it was only the bottom on my bag and not where all my clothes are... so at least i got a cheaper night and hopefully i don't walk around smelling like a toilet.

The first day we decided to be the most touristy tourists alive and get on one of those city sightseeing buses. We got an ok deal because we paid the regular price and the lady agreed to let us use the pass for 2 days. It was a hop on and hop off kind of deal. So it was good to get some history of Rome while driving around and some explanations as to what we were actually looking at. We hopped off at the Colosseum and waiting in line for about an hour to get inside. We opted to do the audio guide and i'm very glad that we did. It took us another hour to walk around and look at everything while the guide explained exactly what we were looking at. It painted a very interesting picture of what it would have been like when the Colosseum was up and running in full force. The guide said on average it would fit from 40 to 70 thousand people and they were all organized by class. They would have gladiators fight animals or each other in competitions. Othen they were slaves fighting for freedom and if they won 10 battles they were set free. In other words, they would have to kill 10 people in order to gain freedom while everyone sat there and watched for entertainment. Some men would join to fight in order to gain fame and win alot of money. Other fights they would compete against animals... mostly common would be lions but they would bring in other animals as well, even hippos.

After that we went to the Trevi fountain which looked exactly how i pictured it to be from the movies. I was holding onto my purse like an old lady because everyone had made me so afraid of pick pocketers. I've actually heard so many horror stories since being here of many other travellers who have had their purses or passports stolen. I guess i don't mind looking paranoid if it saves me from being targeted by theives. I tossed a few coins in the fountain over my back and made a couple wishes. The first time i tossed a coin, i was basically just doing it for a picture and actually forgot to make a wish so i had to do it again.

From there we went to the Pantheon which was a very different but beautiful church. I always feel disrespectful taking pictures in churches or cathedrals but there were so many tourists in there that i felt it was just expected. That's one thing that i've found so different about Italy... i'm for sure reminded that i'm a tourist because everyone else is too. I was quite happy when i knew i was coming to Europe outside of the busy season and thus far i've seemed to miss most of the lines and avoided packs of tourists. Rome is a bit of a different story, there seems to be huge groups of people everywhere i go. So far, i've only done the big sights so i guess that's probably a given but i know for sure that i prefer fewer people... i take better pictures that way.

Today we woke up early and took the metro to Vatican City. We went to the square and waited to get in through airport type security so we would watch the Pope give a Wednesday mass. We were there at a good time so were able to seats in a small area where they offered them for free. After we grabbed our seats we had just less than 2 hours to wait for the Pope to make his appearance. He stood as his car drove through the crowds and he made his way to the stage. We didn't know when we picked our seats but we were only 2 rows from where he drove by. It was very cool to get so close and grab some good pictures. I think we made eye contact but i can't be completely sure. The service was very impressive and formal... priests would read passages from the Bible in all different languages in between him giving his sermon in latin, italian, french, english, german, and spanish. They read a passage from II Corinthians and we were able to watch him read his message from on the big screen. I was so surprised by how many people showed up. I figured alot of them weren't even tourists... maybe just people that come over Wednesday to see and hear the Pope speak. I was so so glad that i was able to be a part of it. Definitely something that i may never get the chance to do again and it was fully worth it!

Next is a full trip to the Vatican and Sistine Chapel and the next day we plan on seeing Pompeii. There's so much to do in Italy that i may need to take a days break after just to catch up with myself.

Saturday, 16 October 2010


I don't even know where to start describing my day yesterday. It was my favourite day by far since I've begun my trip.

Virginia and I woke up early and decided to take the ATVs we rented the day before and take them to find breakfast. We found this cute cafe and i ordered the best omlette with strawberry juice to drink. I LOVE strawberry juice! It was then that i decided it would be a great day! The sun was shining and it was about 26 degrees. After that we were walking around the town and spotted a gelato shop... naturally i had to have some even though i had just eaten breakfast. I had a flavour that was cream with baklava. Probably the best ice cream i've ever had!
We drove around and explored the island for about 2 hours on our ATVs. We found this gorgeous beach with black sand and huge rock cliffs. We kept stopping every few minutes to take pictures and soak in the views. We ended our drive at the top of the island where there was a gorgeous view of the sea and the volcano.
After that I drove back to my hotel because i had a skype date with my parents. Although skype was being difficult it was really nice to get to talk to them. My internet connections have been terrible most places i've been but Santorini was great so i figured i should take advantage of it while i could. I didn't get to tell dad that i was homesick yet... only that i'm having alot of fun.

They day before we booked a catamaran cruise that left at 3pm and ended with watching the sunset over the water. It took us past the red beach, white beach, and black rock that's made completely from lava when the volcano exploded. The boat took us around the volcano and stopped at the hot springs. The trip there we sat on the front of the boat as we went over all the waves and basically got soaked! It was hot out and the water felt kind of nice and made my body all salty once the water dried. That was probably the best moment of my day... just sailing across the sea with Santorini to one side, water as far as i could see to the over side, and the sun high in the sky making the water and waves sparkle. I probably described that in the worst way but it was so beautiful!

Embarrassing story for the day: As most of you know... i can't really swim. At all. So when we pull up to the hot springs, the lady working on the boat informs me that we have to swim to get to the hot springs. Obviously this is a bit of an issue for me so i ask if she has a floaty device. (I need to grow up and just learn to swim already) I was kind of expecting one of those cute rings that would go around my stomach and keep me afloat... or even a life jacket. Instead i got the most awkward and way too small for me kind of thing that slipped over my head and basically just strangled me to death the entire time i was in the water. Not only did i find it hard to move my arms with this stupid thing on, but it was way too small so kept trying to pop off over my head. I hopped in the water, which was cold, and tried to swim... it took me as least double the time as everyone else to actually make it to the hot springs. Which, by the way, i think were falsely advertised... they were more like mostly-cold-but-sometimes-there's-a-warm-spot springs. After i awkwardly shivered my way around for a while they were calling us back to the boat. Poor virginia tried to drag me back so i made it in time while the majority of the boat that was parked next to us watched me. They were probably wondering why an adult such as myself not only needed a floaty but why it didn't help me swim any better. Moral of the story... i'm embarrassing. BUT i'm glad i did it... when else can i say that i "swam" through volcanic "hot springs"?

After we got back on the boat, we drove to this little cove and parked it for some snorkelling and dinner. I decided not to snorkel... my earlier romp in the sea was enough water ambition for one day. Dinner was incredible! They barbequed on the boat and gave us chicken, kebab sausage, calamari and the kind of shrimp that still looked like shrimp. We also had bread with tzatziki and eggplant salad for dipping and greek salad. I actually tried one of the shrimp and thought it tasted really good! However, i got someone else to pull the head off and peel the skin and legs away because that really grossed me out. After dinner we sailed back to the port and watched the sunset from the back of the boat.

From start to finish that was probably my best day yet. I now understand why people say that Santorini is so beautiful. When we first arrived i thought it was only average... the streets were kind of dirty around where we were staying and the hotel was probably the least nice out of the ones we have stayed in so far. I'm so glad we decided to rent ATVs because then i was able to see way more and actually discover why people say that Santorini is the most beautiful island. The boat ride was definitely a perfect finish to the end of my trip through Greece... i couldn't have asked for a better day.

As far as my goals for Santorini... i pretty much failed all across the board.
- I saw the volcano but didn't get to touch it
- I didn't get to rent a donkey because i never even saw one besides the few i saw following a man down the street... none of them offering rides to tourists
- I never had a mud bath because i never found any mud
- I didn't really get that much sun because it was cloudy and hazy for my first 2 days
- But i DID do laundry and thus have stopped scratching myself :) I guess that's something to be proud of! I took my clothes to the laundromat and they did everything for me. Even shrunk a few of my clothes (grrr)... but folded everything, even my underwear, which was a nice little treat.

Now i'm on my way back to Athens to organize my next week. Virginia and I looked into the rest of our Greece trip and basically decided that it was going to be way too expensive for what was going to turn into only a 4 day trip. So, we have decided to continue on together to Italy. I think our first stop will be Venice. All i have to say is... look out pasta and gelato, i'm coming for you!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

1 month mark

I can't believe that it's been a month since i've been gone. It has gone way too fast so far. I'd like the days to go just a little bit slower so that my time away seems less like a blink when i look back at my trip.

Ios is a beautiful island (i sound like a broken record). We are staying at this hotel that is in the middle between the main beach and town. Today we went to the beach and ate breakfast at this restaurant then spent the whole afternoon just laying there and enjoying the weather. It was kind of hazy so the sun wasn't as strong as i'm sure it normally is but i liked it that way. It was a little red riding hood kind of day - not too hot, not too cold, just right!

I was able to talk to Cale on skype today and it made me so happy to talk to a familiar voice. The internet was terrible so the call got cut short but we still probably talked for a good half hour.
This hotel doesn't have bed bugs, which i am sooo thanksful for! My last hotel in Mykonos was beautiful and looked clean but i got destroyed by bugs! My arms and legs got most of it, but my hands and face also got quite a few bites. When i figured out that my bed had bugs i talked to the lady at reception and she switched my room but i'm still so terrified to wear any of my clothes that might have bugs in them. So i've been a dirty girl and keep wearing the same outfit that i know is free of bugs. I need to wait until i'm back on mainland i think, otherwise laundry is kind of a mission and i need to so a huge load so i don't really want to be dragging my bag all across town looking for a laundromat.

I met the owner of the hotel i'm staying at here in Ios and he said if i'd like that i can come back during the busy season next summer and work at the hotel. He said i would have my own accommodation and that i could make between 6 and 7 thousand euros in 4 months. I have to say... the opportunity to come and live on the side of this island overlooking the beach and Mediterranean Sea doesn't sound like the worst thing ever. The money woudln't even be the thing for me beause i just keep looking at servers who work on a restaurant overlooking the water and think they must be so lucky. I've talked to a few and they all say they're just used to it... but i'm sure that if i got to work and see the most amazing scenery surrounding me, i would try my best not to take it for granted. Who knows, maybe working in Guelph is someone's dream and i'm taking that for granted... but i doubt it!

Every local i've talked to has said that the busy season just ended so lots of shops are closed and restaurants no longer have everything on their menus. I think i probably prefer it. I guess i've never experienced busy season but it's kind of nice not having to fight for a spot on the beach. Quiet is good sometimes.

I've been thinking about my plans for heading to Italy once my ferry brings me back to Athens and i've decided not to leave Greece so soon. There's so much more on mainland Greece that i haven't seen yet. Virginia (the girl from Montreal that i'm travelling with) and I decided to go see some more of Greece together. Apparently there are some cool monestaries as well as other famous places so i figured i might as well get a better idea of Greece outside of Athens and the islands.

One thing i was telling Cale about today was how many stray animals are all over the place. Cats pretty much run the show over here. They will fully come up to us while we're eating and grab a seat at the table with us. Dogs were all over the streets of Athens. At almost every street corner i'd see a dog just passed out as traffic and people are all around. Most of the animals look very mangy but i've seen a bunch that actually had collars so they must belong to someone. On the islands, goats are everywhere! On front lawns, on the side of the road, or fenced in where i would expect to see them. Today as i walked down this massive hill to get to the beach i noticed a horse just hanging out on the side of a cliff. So strange! I feel like i'm walking through one huge petting zoo... all day long.

Next, we're off to Santorini. On my list of things to accomplish is:
-ride a Donkey, just because i can rent one
-go see the volcano and touch it
-have a mud bath
-get as much sun as possible
-do laundry and be bed bug free so i can stop being paranoid, shaking every two seconds, and scratching my body like i have a disease

Saturday, 9 October 2010

I'm a softy

So as most people probably know... Greece was my full reason for wanting to do this Euro trip in the first place. I guess it was the same reason why i always knew that i wanted to go to Australia. It's one of those places where i saw pictures and just realized that i needed to see it for myself in person. I can say honestly that in no way have i been disappointed so far.

Athens was beautiful! Well... most of it. Seeing the acropolis and walking all over town trying to visit every kind of sight i could see was very fun. The rest of the city was sort of run down and dirty but the parts worth seeing are definitely worth the trip. It's definitely a work out climbing all those steps and hills but totally worth it once i got to the top and was able to snap the most amazing scenic photos. I spent one full day in Athens walking through the Parthenon, Agora, and all those famous sights and another 2 days shopping! I had so much fun walking through all the markets and then checking out the other types of shopping and exploring the greek styles. I bought a ring at the flea markets and a couple tops at the stores. I'm starting to have to be very smart about packing and already starting to think about what i woudln't mind leaving behind.
My hostel was really cute and small. I think i liked it though because then i was able to meet alot of people. On my first night i met these 2 American guys and the second night i met a French Canadian girl and another American guy. On the second night we all decided that we wanted to go to the greek islands and figured it would probably be cheaper if we booked it together. The next day we went to the travel agent and booked our ferries and hotels for 3 different islands. We ended up getting an amazing deal and talked him down into charging us the same as we would pay for hostels.

Our first stop was Mykonos. It's only about 22 degrees here and kind of windy so a bit chilly but stunning and gorgeous! Half an hour after we checked into out hotel we decided to rent atvs and explore the island. There's a number of beaches we could visit and cute shops to check out. Probably the most amazing feeling was cruising around on the windy streets overlooking the sun shining off the water with the white buildings crawling up the side of the island. That moment was exactly what i had pictured this whole time when i imagined what my trip would be like. I coudln't wipe the stupid grin off my face and coudln't help but wish that i never had to leave. I've heard even better things about Santorini and i can't imagine anything topping this feeling that i have.

When we were on the ferry on our way here i went onto the back of the boat by myself and just sat there for ages trying to take in as much as possible. I watched the wake behind the boat as we cruised past massive islands that popped out of the sea. The water was a deep kind of clear blue but in the wake had more of an aqua colour. The sun was high in the sky with a lighter shade of blue all over the sky. Only a few small puffy clouds floated by and i was left with such a calm feeling. As much as i just wanted to get to Mykonos and go exploring i really enjoyed the trip. It sort of reminded me of when i sailed around the Whitsunday islands in Australia... except i was sailing on a much bigger boat.
Maybe at home i just never take the time to enjoy the scenery or smell the roses but i can't remember feeling this happy or this fulfilled in a long time. The whole time i sat out there i kept feeling so blessed that i was able to be here and see a part of this crazy world that God created. He must have had so much fun putting it all together. I at least know that i'm having alot of fun checking it out.
As i write this i'm sitting on a balcony at my hotel overlooking the pool that sits right in front of the water of the Mediterranean Sea. I think i'm turned into a bit of a sap but if there was no one around i might cry. It would be the happiest cry and i just know that this is exactly where i'm supposed to be. The only thing better would be if my butt was planted in the sand...
That being said, I'm off to enjoy my day. I have 2 more days here then i'm off to Ios for 2 days and Santorini for 3. The plan after that is to head to Italy. However, i'm trying to not plan too far ahead but i'm too busy taking in every moment that i can while i'm here.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Schwimm Schwimm Schwimm

It's a strange feeling... i know that i've only been in Germany for 12 days but it feels like alot longer. I don't mean that in a bad way at all because in another sense it has completely flown by! I guess i feel like i've covered alot of ground and done everything i wanted to do here. If anything i wish that i had spent more time in Berlin. The amount of history in that city is amazing and i think i only got a quick glance.

Frankfurt was nice... not too much to do besides eat but some of the buildings were cool and there is this massive park in the middle of the city that i found really nice. It's the financial capital of Germany so the reputation it holds is kind of dull. However, it has old buildings, a big lake that runs through the city, friendly people, and cute little markets.

Munich was a beautiful city! At first when we got there the streets were all dirty and i kind of got the impression that it was just a run down trashy big city. I guess i was just in the wrong spots! The area around the main train station is like that... not to mention very hard to find German food! Natalie and i met a couple Americans who were raving about an area called Marienplatz and said if we wanted to see a beautiful church and amazing buildings that we should go there. We did and they weren't exaggerating. The buildings were all massive! Lots of pillars and grand open space with courtyards in the middle of buildings. All cobblestone of course - it's definitely not normal to me yet and i think it won't start getting old any time soon! We didn't know what half of the buildings were but they were still just as impressive. We saw this one huge building that was an ugly yellow colour. The doors were dark brown and gigantic... i was starting to feel even shorter than i normally do. I felt as if the city was like one of those growing dinosaur toys i got when i was younger where all you do is put it in water and it grows! We saw a couple people enter from a side door so Nat and i decided to see what was inside. It was one of the most beautiful churches that i have ever seen! Totally different from the cathedrals i saw in England. It was all white on the inside! Walls complete with the most intricate details and bright stained glass windows. It seemed like most of the people who were in the church weren't there to stand with wide eyes and jaws dropped like we were. Most people were there to pray, light a candle, or just sit. We were very glad we decided to go see what was inside because that was easily the most beautiful church i've ever seen. Munich actually seemed like a very wealthy city. The shops were all brand name and very expensive. I was scared to look through the window incase i saw something break and had to pay for it.  Speaking of wealth... the cars here are amazing! There are so many Mercedes, Audis, and BMWs. Even the buses are Mercedes! I've seen so many Bentleys and Rols Royce cars it's ridiculous. Germans have a bit of an obsession with nice cars i think.

While in Munich i decided to go visit Dachau which was a former concentration camp. It was actually the first concentration camp that Hitler had up and running only 2 short weeks after he gained power of Germany. Visiting a concentration camp was one of the things i knew i definitely wanted to do while in Germany and i'm very glad i had the opportunity to go. It wasn't easy... i've heard tons of stories and learned all about the Holocaust growing up but to actually walk through the same places where prisoners walked only 60 ish years ago was completely different! Dachau was mainly a working camp... meaning that most of the prisoners died because they were literally worked to death. They were made to make amunitions for the war or farm and grow food for the soldiers. It also had a massive hospital and state of the art facilities for medical research with the newest and best of everything. They used it as propaganda in a way and invited the media to come through and look at the nice parts of the camp to try and persuade the public that they were doing a good thing. The clothes they were given were merely thin linen and they were forced to work outside in the cold German winter. Most original prisoners were political leaders or influencial men that stood against Hitler and what he believed in. Over the 12 years the camp was open from 1933-1945 other types of people were brought into the camp - criminals, homosexuals, mentally disabled, and the last 2 years women and children. The camp was meant to hold 5,000 people and in 1945 when it was liberated they found 80,000 were there. I got to walk through some of the old barracks, the showers, ovens where they burned the bodies, and gas chambers. It was a very sobering and real experience. It probably isn't as tough to go through as maybe Auschwitz, which was mainly an extermination camp... but very difficult nonetheless.

Berlin was another amazing city! I didn't realize all of the history involved or the fact that Berlin is Germany's capital. I mainly wanted to go so i could see what was left of the wall. I knew a bit of the history about east and west Berlin and east and west Germany but definitely learned a lot more walking around and seeing everything else there was to see. The wall was so different than i expected. I sort of pictured this thick tough wall that was mostly gone but crumbling down... maybe some barbed wire and graffitti. It was so much different and well preserved. Kind of tall... but thin walls with full chunks still intact. Covered in paintings that artists painted on after most of the walls were torn down. Pieces of the wall are all over the city probably just to remind the people where they've come from in just a short 20 years. The one big part that is still standing was about 1km long and i was able to walk along and take a million pictures. I also made it to the famous checkpoint charlie. I didn't find it all that exciting but it was cool to say i've been there. I walked through the monument for all the murdered Jewish people. It was also much different than i expected but very cool. It was a lot of blocks of concrete. All the same length and width but different heights and slants in rows on uneven ground. I'll have to put pictures up because i don't know how else to describe it. I got to see parliament and was actually there on the weekend that they celebrate German Unification day when the walls came down. Lots of streets were closed and i think there were probably more food vendors out than normal.

Overall, Germany was an amazing country. The trains were easy and made alot of sense. Most people could speak English very well and seemed to enjoy speaking with me. The food was awesome and the country has such a rich history - always something to do or go see!

Now i'm in Athens... and that will be for another day of typing. So far it seems like i've completely crossed the world and ended up in a foreign place when in reality i just hopped on a place for less than 3 hours.
Don't mind the change in weather :) Feels like home! I swear i was born in the wrong country.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Frankfurt, Germany

I guess i should rewind a little bit... I never even mentioned anything about London! It was too bad i was only really there for 1 full day because i'm sure there was so much more that i didn't even get to see. Steve's friend Dave toured me around all day to all the typical sights. We walked through this park and it was a beautiful day! Nice and sunny just like i asked for. As we're leaving the park we can hear all this music and see crowds of people in front of and behind these huge gates. Then it clicks in that we're at Buckinham Palace! I guess i didn't really expect that it would be right in the middle of the city with a huge public park just a short walk from the front gate. We had amazing luck because we arrived just in time for the changing of the guards! Dave didn't know what it was supposed to happen but it was pretty cool to see. So elaborate and intense! The outfits were all exactly what i expected to see. Perfect, red, with gold buttons being worn by serious men with excellent posture. After that we walked through another park on another side with a pond and a bunch of birds. Geese, pigeons, ducks, swans, and pelicans. Yuck! I don't know what it is with England and their birds! After that i saw Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. I got my picture taken with a guard... i guess did all the normal touristy things. Then we went to Covent Garden which basically just had a bunch of shops and buskers. We watched this one really great Charlie Chaplin immitator. At night we went to a comedy show in town. It was free but they took donations. I guess it's just what a bunch of comics do to test out their material on an audience. They were all actually pretty good! Then it was off to bed pretty early so i could wake up at 4 in the morning to get to the airport for my flight to Germany. I liked London alot better than i thought i would. I thought it was clean and beautiful. I also liked how it seemed as if i only have to walk a few  minutes in any direction and it felt as if i'm in a whole new city. All the buildings are unique and seem so much more extravagant than anything i'd see at home.

So, Germany so far? I've learned that you can smoke, drink, and bring your dog anywhere you want. I have also learned that i will most likely be about 20 pounds heavier when i get home because i haven't stopped eating since i got here. Sausage, gelato, schnitzel... or anything that i can't pronounce. If it looks good i'm going to eat it! Yesterday we went to a market on the street that kind of reminded me of St. Jacobs except it was stictly German food. Natalie and I kept asking people what they were eating and ordering it for ourselves. We had these potatoes that were served with a green sauce that's Frankfurt's specialty. It had yogurt, egg, and a bunch of herbs and was delicious! We also tried this flat waffle that had a chocolate and caramel sauce all over it. As well... mayo goes on everything! I don't know how i haven't seen more obese people in this country. It's probably a good thing that i'm only here for 12 days because none of my clothes will fit me.

When we were exploring Frankfurt one afternoon we were walking along the sidewalk and started to hear this techno music that kept getting louder.  We finally figured out that it was coming from this box on the side of the street. Probably 14 feet by 10 with a sign on top that said U-Bar. No one else walking by seemed to notice or really care but I obviously got my camera out to take a picture. Just the strangest thing! We couldn't believe that there was a bar on the sidewalk with people probably just partying like crazy on the inside at about 2:30 in the afternoon.

Not even a block away there was another box in the middle of the sidewalk. It was much smaller and covered in shiny silver reflective plastic. We saw this group of about 5 guys walk in then break out into laughter. So Nat and I got very curious and wanted to find out what was in this mystery box that was so funny! We waited outside until the boys left and peeked our heads in... and with much disappointment and confusion discovered it was empty. Not too sure what that was about or what the point of them are but we saw more than one around the town!

That's all i've had a chance to write so far... next i have tons to tell about Munich and my visit to the Dachau concentration camp and my trip to Berlin and visiting the wall!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

People Watching

I'm not too sure what's wrong with me... as i'm sitting here in the Frankfurt airport waiting for Natalie to arrive i've almost cried twice while people watching. I saw this man waiting for his wife and two kids at the gate. When his little boy walked through the doors they met and held hands over the glass barrier the whole way around until the little boy came to the exit and jumped on his dad for a hug. I have no idea what they were saying but German spoken by a little kid is just the cutest... whether i understand it or not. The second time, i saw this man in his 60s pacing back and forth holding a little bouquet of gerber daisies. I smiled at him but he just gave me a nervous look and half smile. I'm not the type to cry during commercials or usually cry for any other reason besides pain, but these little moments that i just observed actually made tears come to my eyes. If anyone saw me watching them they might wonder why that strange girl is crying and staring. I kind of wondered the same thing! I guess it just touched me and i got excited for when i come home and have the people i care about waiting for me. (NOT that i'm ready to come home yet!)

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Off to London town

It's been a busy few days! Newcastle was alot of fun! We woke up at about 6 on Sunday morning to drive from Carlisle to Newcastle so Steve could run his half marathon. It was a massive event! We got there early and ate breakfast before he had to go. It was a rainy kind of miserable day but cool enough so that was good for running. His sister and I walked to see him off and I couldn't believe how many people were there! Olympic athletes and other celebrities were also competing it in the run. (We heard that Johnny Depp was there... but i didn't see him) Once he was off Sheree and I went shopping! I was pretty excited to check out the shopping and styles in England. Since i was mostly with Steve whenever we'd go anywhere i didn't want to drag him through shops while i had a look. I was also on a mission for boots! I've seen all the girls wearing boots since i got here and felt rather out of place wearing my runners with jeans every day. (I looked especially cute when i wore my skinny jeans. Just the worst style! I may be backpacking but i don't have to look like it!) I was being very practical while packing and decided on only bringing two pairs of shoes... runners and flip flops. I quickly learned that my flip flops will probably only be good for hostel showers with this kind of weather. After a couple hours and much frusteration trying to find boots for my infant feet i was successful! Just in time for us to go back and meet Steve after his run.

The next day i headed off to the train station to catch the next train to Durham all on my own. I'm proud to say that i made it just fine! I caught the right train, got off at the right stop, found the bus i needed, and found the statue (the giant man riding the horse with the really ugly hat) that Dan told me he'd meet me under at the right time. How all of that worked out was total luck! They speak English here but i only truly understand every other word so asking for directions is a bit confusing.

Seeing Dan was really nice! He told me that I didn't grow at all but that i seem more calm and sure of myself. I told him that he looks more hairy and happy than he used to be. I'd say that both of us were correct.
Since i had no expectations for Durham it was a really nice surprise! It's a very small town with a massive cathedral and very old buildings with alot of history. Dan was a great tour guide with a wealth of knowledge about the town and how things have changed over the years.  The first day i got there we grabbed lunch at a cute cafe, then took a walk along the river that runs through Durham. It was a shockingly beautiful day! My jacket was hanging over my arm for most of it and i could have gotten away with wearing sunglasses because the sky was so beautiful and clear.

The town is mainly a university town and classes start next week so it was very quiet. I think i preferred it that way since i don't really like crowds of people very much anyways. It was kind of nice to take pictures and not have any people in the way. The cathedral was beautiful! I wasn't allowed to take pictures but i made a special case to remember as many details as possible. By the way, Dan informed me that the cathedral is where Harry Potter was filmed - Trac and Cait, that little tidbit was for you. We were walking down one of the halls and Dan spotted a little bat on the wall. I don't think i've ever examined a bat so closely before but it's wings were really cool! Then we saw another bat just doing laps up and around the hallways. I think they were confused because it was the middle of the day and a very sunny one at that! I thought they were supposed to be creepy little nocturnal creatures!

For dinner he took me to this really nice restaurant called zen. It was the first actual service i've experienced since being in England. Also, the first time that the servers didn't look like they hated their lives and would rather be doing anything else other than talking to me. Kind of refreshing! I had a really nice pad thai which made me very very happy since i've been craving thai food since i got here. Since i only have a couple days left i really need to find an indian restaurant to eat at. Jordan's mom told me before i left that the indian food was excellent so i guess i better try it out!

While i'm on the topic of food, one thing i found very untrue since i've been here is the myth that all English food is bland. So far it's been alright! I've mainly tried to eat traditional english breakfast as much as possible but everything else i've had i've really enjoyed! I'm so happy that i'm not a picky eater... makes life so much easier. A few days ago when Steve and i went for breakfast i apparently made a very difficult request - I asked for my eggs to be done over hard. The man taking my order looked at me with raised eyebrows and just stared at me for a while. I then asked if i was allowed to order my eggs any other way than just fried... had to explain to him what over hard meant and he told me he'd see if they could do that for me. I guess i was being a high maintenance, diva customer but i really don't like my eggs runny!! They managed to make them right and as far as i know it didn't kill anyone so i was very happy with my breakfast! :)

Also, i love love love the coffee! I'm not totally sure why i find it so much better than home but i can't say that i've had a bad cup my whole time here. It's also very cheap for Starbucks type fancy drinks... baristas are everywhere! Tim Hortons?? What's that?!

At the moment i'm on the train for a 3 hour journey to London. So far, no one has painted a very great picture of London for me so my expectations are super low. It's probably best because then i'm sure i will love it even more. Everything is such a novelty to me and i've really enjoyed seeing the variety of places I've been to in England. Steve has arranged for me to stay with one of his friends while i'm in London which is very nice of him! I spoke to him the other day and he said he would be more than happy to show me around and see all the big sights. I really have been lucky so far on my trip with my own personal tour guides and a more local view of England! So i'm not quite sure what's on the agenda for tomorrow but i know Buckingham Palace is definitely on the list! Lets just hope i have nice weather like i have the last couple of days. I woudln't mind if England made everyone a liar about it's rainy reputation. I've think i've seen enough rain so far and am ready for a little bit more sunshine. I think my tan has literally left my body running and screaming since I left my Canadian summer. I feel like i look a bit sick but im definitely blending in even more now with the rest of the country - boots and pale skin! Next all i need is to turn into one of the crusty English girls i've seen who wear 10 layers of makeup on their face and horrible fake eyelashes coated in way too many layers of mascara with dirty messy hair. (haha i wish i was exaggerating!) Meh! To each their own i guess??

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Change of plans!

I got in touch with Dan (a friend that Caleigh and I met while in Australia) and what are the chances but he's living in England at the moment! My plan is to be in Newcastle Sun-Mon and he lives in Durham which is literally 15 minutes away. So instead of heading back to Steve's house i'm just going to hop on a train and head to Durham for a day and go to London from there.
Very excited to have another piece of my Aussie trip in my Euro trip!!
Dan was the Australian that we met while in Melbourne who showed us around and helped us out alot, especially the first month of our trip. Should be nice to catch up and have a look around yet another lovely English town.
I'm sure I'll have lots to say after the next couple of days! :)

Friday, 17 September 2010

That Feeling

Before i start talking about what I've been up to the past couple of days....
Steve, his sister, and I headed off to this local place in their town to play pool. About 2 minutes after we get there 2 of his friends walk in and stand in front of me with huge smiles like i should know them already. It took me about 10 seconds but i realized that i did! It was 2 guys who Cale and I met while in Cairns, Australia. I worked with the one guy, Liam, and the other, Andy, just lived in town at the same time we did and often came into my work. Andy also dated one of the girls i worked with so i talked to him quite a bit since he was always around. I didn't realize but they both only lived a few minutes from Steve and met when they all were travelling. It was really nice to see them and catch up! Kind of a piece of my Aussie trip inside my Euro trip!

Day 3 and 4:

One thing i now appreciate about England is the vivid green colours. I guess that's what we can thank the rain for - such bright green that it's almost florescent! I was able to see plenty of that over the past couple days.

The Lake District was beyond beautiful! Such picture perfect rolly hills and stone walls holding in herds of sheep. I've done more walking than i'm sure i've ever done in my entire life. It was definitely worth it for the views but i'm also hoping for the nicest legs and super fit bod to come out of all of it!

To my shock the night before our trip to the lakes, i finally understood that Steve planned to camp while we were there. When he said "we'll camp out in the lake district" i sort of took it as an english figure of speech... but when he started talking about tents i finally understood that he was speaking very literally. It didn't make sense to me since i think the weather is probably typical for the middle of October and to top it off it decides to rain every 20 minutes. BUT i am glad to say that i lived to tell the story - all toes and limbs still intact! It was definitely a mission to sent the tent up. It took us probably about an hour and 3 different attempts, however, we finally figured it out and brought enough bedding for the entire campgrounds so we slept quite warmly! :)

The little buildings that make up the towns that surround the lakes are mostly made of dark, moss-covered, slate type stone which gave it a very uniform, clean,  and comfy kind of feel.  I didn't really care to go into many of the shops because i loved the look of the outside of them so much! We went on a few hikes and strolls by the lakes. There were ducks and swans  by the water close to town and i saw a lady living my worst nightmare. She had pigeons perched all up her arm and even on her head then swans that were almost as tall as me surrounding her on all sides. I was severely grossed out!! No idea why she would put herself in that situation and i definitely did not feel bad when she started going "ow, ow". Yuck! That would probably classify as the worst day of my life. I took a few pictures but that might take a while for me to get them on my computer until i make it to an electronics store. I never looked before i left home but apparently my new little computer doens't have a slot that fits my memory card from my camera so i'll have to buy a cord or something.

Last night after we figured our tent out we went back into this little town called Ambleside and went to a local pub for a quiz night. We didn't come close to winning or even feeling slightly good about ourselves. I've never felt more ignorant in my life. Steve's been out of England for over a year and i've never been so we both weren't exactly up to date on our current affairs. Most questions were about English politics or celebrities and it showed me how little i know about any other country outside of North America. It was still fun but kinda makes me feel like i should buy a book and learn a thing or two!

So, I got "that feeling" today. The feeling i've been waiting for since i left Australia. We were walking on this path that had an amazing view of a lake to my right and a gorgeous view of the mountains and hills on all sides. The sky was blue with fluffy white clouds that cast the odd shadow over the hills changing the colours just slightly. The sun was on my face and i was overwhelmed with this complete feeling of peace and contentment. That is exactly what i've been looking for. It's hard to explain and i'm sure some people get the same feeling but just in different ways. For me, it's always when experiencing something new, not having a care on my mind, just truly enjoying what i'm doing and where i am. It's these moments that remind me why i believe in God because i just know that nothing this amazing in life could have happened by chance. It's also then that i wish everyone i knew could be right there with me so i don't have to try and explain "that feeling"... so everyone can experience it for themselves.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Just the beginning

Day 1:

The plane ride was nothing to really mention. I slept almost the whole way through - no surprise there. 7 hours fly by pretty fast when you have the gift of voluntary travel comas.
Upon landing I was sort of nervous because I wasn't sure how strict customs would be and I was just praying that they would be ok with me only having a one-way ticket into Europe. We landed at around 6 in the morning and it was still dark and no shock to me - pouring rain. As we're filing into the lines for customs they seperated the UK citizens from the Canadians. So I get in line and the family behind me is trying to explain to their probably 7 year old son that he can't have Tim Hortons for breakfast. The people just to the right of me were speaking in a thick accent and I so badly wanted to yell at them and say "YOU sound like you're from LONDON!" however, i felt that perhaps the people in charge of letting me enter the country might think i was crazy, so i refrained. BUT just thinking about it made me laugh to myself while standing in line staring at the people across from me. (also might have looked a bit crazy so i stopped).
She gave me a hundred questions about why i was here and how long i was going to stay and where i was going and who i was with and how i know him. Ended up giving my passport yet another stamp and off we went to get our bags.
Steve's parents were picking us up from the airport and they both greeted me with a hug and made me feel very welcome. They live in a nice town outside of Manchester called St. Helens. The houses all look so different and i already feel very very foreign. I feel a bunch of questions about stupid things are coming Steve's way in the next couple of days.
We got to his house and visitied with his parents and sister for a while. His mum made us an egg, bacon, sausage and bean breakfast with tea. Very English, Steve assured me. After we ate i was feeling tired again so i went and had a couple hours nap and now here i am waiting for Steve to get up. Our plan for the rest of the day is the head to Liverpool on the train and check that out. Tomorrow is Chester, a traditional old english town. So i better dust off my camera and start looking like a tourist.
Feels great to have my pack on again!! (not literally... it's much heavier than i remembered)
Liverpool was really cool! The train ride only took a little over 20 minutes and the town immediately impressed me. Steve was laughing at me because every 2 minutes it seems i would be pointing at a building with an "ooooo, what do you think that building is?!". His answer was usually "i don't know". I definitely have no shortage of pictures so far of beautiful mystery buildings. Very few have signs on the front saying what they are for. We stumbled across an art gallery and took a look through. There was a nice mix of modern art as well as traditional art that i expected to see all over England. (you know... the typical naked people with sheets draped over them, babies, dark colours, laying down or floating in the air. haha... i'm so cultured!)
We walked through the town and down by the docks as the english weather didn't let me doubt its reputation. They literally don't lie when they say it can be sunny one moment then cloudy and rainy the next. I really began to doubt my packing choices. I feel as though shorts may have been altogether ambitious and that i should have considered a few more sweaters. The coat i bought just before leaving has already become my best friend. It is not only cloudy but almost always windy which is the part that really gets me. So far i love England but all you friends and family don't need to have any fear about me wanting to move here permanently.
As some of you know, Liverpool is famous for the Beatles. Steve and i went to the Cavern Club where the Beatles used to play and enjoyed some live entertainment where this man was playing covers of all the old songs. It was a really neat atmosphere with pictures all over the walls of famous people that have played there before.
We got home at a about 8:30 and had a fish and chip dinner and decided to just relax and watch a movie with his family. I didn't last too long before i started to nod off and headed to bed to get a solid 10 hour sleep.

Day 2:

I woke up feeling amazing and looked out to window to find it cloudy and windy however i felt so genuinely happy. Normally a day that like would motivate me to do nothing but crawl back into bed but i was very excited to go to Chester.
After breakfast, off we went in Steve's mom's car down all the windy roads and motorways about an hour away to Chester which i found to be a very charming little town. The buildings were exactly how i pictured England to be. I was so excited to be there and experiencing traditional England that i was practically hopping down the cobblestone streets, camera in hand.
We toured through this amazing cathedral! I would have loved to be there for a Sunday mass and hear the organ and choir but unfortunately i had to imagine all of that as we walked through. The detail on the outside was matched or beat by the amazing designs and sculptures on the inside. Once i figure this site out i can hopefully post a few pictures and give an idea of how amazing this church was.
The city was surrounded by a big wall that you can walk all around. It took us just a little over an hour to circle the whole town but it definitely gave a few good sights from a higher vantage point.
I'm still a bit tired today and i'm not sure whether to attribute that to the jet lag or the cloudy weather. Our plan is to take it very easy tonight and maybe after dinner go meet a few of his friends for a game or two of pool. Tomorrow we head to the lake district for 2 days and i'm very excited to see the countryside. I'm sure i'll have a million more pictures after that!

That's all i have for now. I fully expect my posts to get shorter and shorter as i go on. I know how i am and usually get bored of  explaining details. So if anyone actually read till the end of this post - congrats and don't get too used to it!