Wednesday, September 9, 2009

All good things must come to an end

This is also true of good travels. They must finish and I must return home, to reality. I am currently sitting at an internet cafe in Geneva, Switerland writing what will probably be my last blog update from the road. Perhaps when I return home I will try to add one more giving reflections to the things that have stuck with me. I don't even know if there is interest out there for it. Let me know... But the last few days in this beautiful country have been some of the best of this whole trip. Partying with the friends I've made in Interlaken were too much fun, even though they left me physically exhausted on more than one night. Not even naps could re-energize me fully. Spent 13 hours yesterday travelling in the western part of the country visiting Luzern. I was meant to stay there for the day and travel back to Interlaken for the night and couch surf in Liechtenstein the following day. After spending a few hours in Luzern, I felt like I saw what I needed to see and that I could accomplish the same thing in Liechtenstein on the same day. This is another benefit of the European rail system...just hop on a train and you're there in no time! I came on this trip wanting to visit 5 countries, and I am proud to say - mission accomplished!Within 2 hours, I was in a whole other country! They even stamp your passport at the Liechtenstein tourism office! I know full well I could have stayed at least another day to hike the many trails in this tiny country, but to be perfectly honest, I am ready to go home. Travelling so much is quite draining physically, emotionally and certainly finacially. It doesn't help to do it all alone as well - at least when having a travel companion you can rely on one another to support you when you're feeling tired and take charge. But this is all me, all the time. I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation lol Now I don't want to make it sound like I am lonely or miserable. Quite the opposite actually. I have loved my 2 week trek - every moment of it. I have met so many wonderful people and I hope to have made life-long friends! I am certainly glad I did it, and all that I had set out to do. Ok, so I didn't get to Pisa, or do the Jungerfrau, but those will always be there to visit (well, so long as the tower doesn't fall over or the glaciers don't melt); and I definately plan to come back to do them someday! Back to the present though; as mentioned, I am in Geneva. The large city along the border of France. It is quite lovely in its own right, but for me at least, pales in comaprison to where I just was in Interlaken. The mountains are distant and ghost-like in the horizon. The town is dominated with offices and banks rather than toursit shops. The people here dress in suits and ties on their way to their bank jobs, rather than dressed in outdoor adventure gear heading off to jump out of a plane. Even the languages are competely diffrent. You would think I was in an entirely different country. But I guess that is the beauty of this land. So many differences under one flag. It makes me think of home, and makes me wonder if they have similar political issues as we do here. But, that research will have to wait until I am home. I will be leaving tomorrow out of Geneva at 12 if all goes according to plan. Once again, I will be flying standby and so will have to keep my fingers crossed that I even get on the plane. Fingers double crossed because my bank account is yelling at me to go home and stop abusing it! I have more souvenirs than I have space I think, and the craziest part of all: most of them aren't even for me! With over 20 people on my list to buy gifts for, it takes up a lot of space, even if I have tried to keep them all small! But I think it is worth it. A small token to show my gratitude of friendship and to show that you are in my thoughts. Isn't that what it is all about? As I wrap up this blog of my trek across Europe, I guess it's only appropriate to say thanks for reading it. It hardly seems worth it otherwise. While I may have kept some stories from the eternal memory of the internets, I hope you have enjoyed the ones I have shared, but it will cost you at least a drink, if not dinner to hear the ones I haven't ;-) See you all soon!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Yet another country checked off the list - this one is the best so far!

It happened. I totally stayed out until 4:30 am on my last night in Venice and missed my 9am train! The great thing about European train travel, is that there is always another train. Although I had to pay a bit of extra money to change my reservation. C'est la vie. So what did we do on our last night in Venice to stay out so late? Party on the beaches of Lido with all those hitting up the film festival of course! The beach was soft! The wine was crazy cheap at the hostel (6€ for a bottle!) so I split one with another girl, then we went to some wine fest and had a FULL glass of wine for 1€ then bought another bottle on the walk to the beach at Lido. Needless to say, most of the rest of the night is fuzzy, but I do know it was awesome. So after cursing myself for getting up so late (still got up at 9), I hoped on a train to Milan, then to Brig, then Speitz (sp?). I was tired enough to sleep, but I was always to nervous to miss my stop, so I didn't get much rest and I finally arrived in Interlaken at 6:30 excited but exhausted. I tried to take a nap when I arrived, but that didn't happen either. I had a quick dinner at the thai restaurant next door (yes, not very Swiss, but it was quite tasty!) Did some socializing with other travellers and met two guys who are from Ottawa! I dont know them at all, but its neat to be able to talk about places back home and they actually know what Im talking about! Had an early night 1-beacause of the night before and 2-because I had an early morning the next day because I was going canyoning! Found in only a few places in the world, Canyoning is in one word, crazy! Its all repelling, jumping, sliding and ziplining through glacier waters in a canyon. I went on the middle difficulty level one and it was easily the most terrifying thing Ive ever done! Im not one for heights, and this didnt help. Not to mention the fact it was so cold here yesterday! (though we did have wet suits) The van pulled over to the side of the road...a tiny road that hugged the side of a mountain and said, ok every one out. We then had to repel the side of the cliff, which I had never done before and don't think I will again! lol Then like I said, it was jumps and slides into the water. Terrifying because if you land wrong you hit a rock and are in big trouble. I guess thats why its considered an extreme sport. (Trivia moment: Interlaken is the extreme sport capital of Switzerland) The ziplining was probably the scarriest part of all. They loosely tie a rope around your harness and tell you to use all your strength to hold it tight. You only hold rope for a few seconds before plumetting into the pool below. Nuts! Its definately a once in a lifetime experience because I really dont plan to do it more than that! I spent much of yesterday afternoon warming up and relaxing. I met up with the Ottawa guys for dinner and we actually made our own meals because the cost of everything in Switzerland is crazy expensive! A meal goes for at least 15francs (and we're not talking anything fancy), which is pretty close to Canadian dollars exchange wise. Its too bad too beacuse I really wanted to have an actual Swiss meal (like fondue or raclette) but they're just too far out of my price range and the longer I stay on this trip, the more aware I am of my dwindling finances. So home cooking it is! Good thing I'm a good cook! After dinner, it was another fun night of socializing and drinking. Met some other Canadians, some Australians and a couple American guys in the US Air force who are currently based in Germany. One told me he's been stationed there for 3 years and hasn't done much travelling in Europe in that time. I think I looked at him as if he had two heads. lol My intention today was to take the train to Jungfrau...the highest train station in Europe. The view is supposed to be spectacular. But for some reason when I woke up this morning. I wasn't super keen to go. Its quite expensive (135francs) and I really just wanted to relax all day. This is one of the benefits of travelling solo. You don't need to talk to any one about changing the day's plans. So, I walked around the town of Interlaken this morning. Its ridiculous here. Ridiculously beautiful. The mountains surround the town and are so majestic. The sky is clear and blue. The river is a light turquoise colour, and I'm quite sure it runs down from the glaciers. I love the Canadian Rockies, I love the Swiss Alps - I need to move to the mountains! So that's been my time here so far. I was to stay in Luzern tomorrow night, but decided to stay here instead and travel there as a day trip. They say this hostel (Balmer's) is one of the best in Europe for good reason. I dont want to leave!

Friday, September 4, 2009

It doesn't look like its sinking

When we last left Andrea she was spending her last night in Rome. It was a simple quiet night in to relax and rejuvinate. Emi and I went out for a quick breakfast (it was forced upon me!), then he drove me to the train station, which was awesome because I sure have grown to hate my massive bag! I had to make a quick stop and buy new luggage because a) I was running out of room and b) he knew where to get a good bag! I got one with wheels that go in all 4 directions so i could push or pull it. It has the Italian colours on it too so it doubles as a nice souvenir for me. I have to say, it's pretty awesome. So after a quick goodbye, it was arrivederci Roma, and I was off to Venice. I arrived here mid afternoon, had a quick chat with the staff (all of whom seem to be American), got changed, then went out to dinner and took the water bus to Lido to experience my very first film festival! I had no idea where to go or what to expect when I got there. But I had my ticket in hand and found my way to the Sala Grande for the movie premiere. It was awesome. Just like you see on the entertainment shows: the red carpet, the press, the throngs of screaming fans! I made my way to one part of the stage where a guy with a camera was setting up. Turns out hes based in LA and works for Getty Images. He gets to travel the world and go to all the big festivals. We talked for a bit and I think we were both a bit jealous of each other: I of him because he gets to live the big hollywood lifestyle (all paid for!), while he said he was envious of me to travel the world on my own. The grass is always greener on the other side I guess. After an hour and a half trying to get back to the hostel, I crashed and didnt get up until late this morning. I haven't been feeling quite right the last couple days, so I decided to hit up the local hospital as my first tourist attraction. Nothing to worry about. A quick visit from the doctor and I was done. Compared to other foreign hospital experiences I've had (ask me about Bangkok someday), Venice was pretty dire straits. Really old fashioned wheel chairs, not well equiped for foreign sickies. Then there was the trouble of paying. The cash was closed for the day (it was 2pm) so I had to go to a machine to pay. Of course it was all in Italian, and you know what? I don't understand a single word! So I asked a woman who was walking past if she could help me. She didn't speak any english. But after a fun game of sherrades, it was done and I was able to go out to actually see the city. And what a beautiful city it is! Everything is magical here. The gondolas, the music, the canals! Some one said to me Venice was smelly...not true! Interesting things to note about Venice: there are no cars and no real roads. Only alleyways and bridges that bring you from one square to the next. This whole city reminds me so much of the film Labyrinth (if you haven't seen it, you MUST! Its a classic and one of my favourites!) So after wandering around San Marco square and seeing the Palace and boating along the canal, I started doing what I do best: shop! I have a long list of people to buy souvenirs for and Venice has some of the best souvenirs I've ever seen! Apparently, they're quite known for their hand blown glass and their Carnavale maks (ever seen Eyes Wide Shut? A really awful film, but the masks in the movie were made by a guy in Venice). I made sure to get lots of both! I finally made my way back to the hostel carrying at least 6 bags and arranged all my stuff to make sure it fits...success! Tonights plan is to partake in the communal hostel pasta dinner and then they all go out to party. Apparently last night they didnt get home until 4am. I dont think they'll be re-doing that tonight, but I expect to have a fun night, none the less! Must remember to be some what responsible to catch my train to Interlaken, Switzerland tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

All roads lead to Rome

...apparently train tracks do to! I made it safely to Roma yesterday, although getting to my final destination in the city was another story and quite a stressful adventure! I was planning once again to couch surf for my stay in the city. I had confirmed with Emiliano (Emi) and all I had to do was call him when I arrived and he would meet me at the metro station. No problem right? That's what I thought too... I arrived at the station at the time I had thought and got my cell phone out to pay the ridiculous fees to call overseas, only to not have service for nearly 30 minutes! Usually it takes no more than 5 to find a network. So then I decided to find a pay phone and just call from there. A message in Italian and English told me his phone wasn't working and to try again later. When I attempted to try again, the pay phone itself wasn't working! Finally, I found a nice British family who allowed me to send him a text from their phone to tell him where I was and to turn his phone on so that I could call him. Just as I was about to press send, I noticed I had service on my phone finally. So I called and lo and behold, a voice on the other end! He told me that he was giving a tour to some friends of the Vatican Museum and that I should meet them there...there was a baggage area to leave my backpack and stuff (which is very good because my back is really starting to hate lugging that thing around! Yes, I know that the hip straps are supposed to even the load out, but heavy is heavy no matter where the weight is! I think this will be my official "stereotypical backpacking across Europe" trip. After this, I'll stick with my giant suitcase on wheels...I'm getting too old for this! lol) Anyways, I then set off, sans map, to find the Vatican Museum. Now, I should also mention that he had told me where to meet him, but I was so frazzled I completely forgot if he said inside or outside. So I got there and saw no sign of any group of people waiting for a girl with an enormous backpack with a maple leaf sewn to the back (thanks again, Amelie!). So I decided then that he must have said inside. Went through security (officially stepping into the Vatican City-State at that point), dropped off my bags and looked again for a group. Still no luck. And wouldn't you guess it, my cell phone once again decided to stop working. It showed I had bars, but I couldn't call out or send text messages. I asked around if they had any pay phones, but unfortunately, you needed special Vatican cards to use them. At this point I was starting to worry. It had been a good 30 minutes since I last spoke to him and who knows how long they'd wait before giving up on me? So I decided to find another pay phone outside the museum to try to reach him. I tried 3 phones (all of which were out of service) before finally running into the local Best Western and asked to use their phone. When I got a hold of Emi, he told me they were waiting in a court yard in the museum, that I should go in and find a girl with bright red hair...that I couldn't miss them. I guess he was wrong, because I totally did. I went into what I thought the courtyard he was talking about and saw no one with bright red hair. I'd even asked another couple that were sitting if they had seen a girl with bright red hair. No luck. So I went to the cafeteria on the ground floor where they had a pay phone and hit the same brick walls I had hit earlier: Vatican only phones or messages in Italian saying the customer was unavailable) Since that message wasn't repeated in English, I asked another visitor if he spoke English and Italian. Finally, I stroke of luck! A British guy who knew Italian. I got him to listen to the message and confirmed what I suspected them of saying. He was then kind enough to let me use his phone to call Emi directly. Turns out they had been sitting in the courtyard right next to the one I had been in, and had only been separated by a wall! If I had turned left rather than right I would have found them 20 minutes earlier! Thanking the British man, I ran back upstairs and met with Emi and his friends Eva (from the Czech republic) and Dominico (from Rome). Needless to say, I felt like an idiot for being so incredibly lost and making them wait an hour for me. After saying our hellos, Emi, a tour guide by profession, took us around the Vatican Museum telling us the stories of the statues and paintings. It was interesting, but I was exhausted. Not only from the lack of sleep, but also from the running around of trying to find these guys! I tried my best to be enthused, but I think my tiredness showed. The last stop of the tour was the Sistine Chapel. It was very lovely. Dead centre was the famous picture of Adam and God's fingers out stretched and almost touching. Unfortunately, you won't see any of my pictures of it because I didn't take any. Apparently due to copyright, photographs in the Sistine Chapel are forbidden. Not sure I really understand the logic behind that one, but whatever. Emi was amazing at telling us about Michelangelo's masterpiece and the meaning behind some of the pictures. He definately made the visit so much more enriching. When I got to the apartment, I could barely keep my eyes open. I had to lay down for a couple of hours to take a nap, after which Emi made us a delicious pasta dinner. Now I know how to make a really great tomato pasta sauce from scratch in less than 30 minutes with no more than a frying pan. Awesome. I'll definately be doing that at home more! Later on in the night, we took his scooter for a quick ride to meet with his friends again for a drink. The bar we went to had really comfy lounge chairs for their patio set up. Very chic! We didn't get home until quite late, so I decided to sleep in this morning, the first time I've even had the chance to do so this whole trip (with the quick stops in Marseille and Paris, 11am lock out in Nice and early morning wake up in Florence I haven't had the opportunity!). Emi had some work to do in the morning and then he planned to give a tour of the city on the back of his scooter in the afternoon...sounded good to me! We went to a (supposedly) very traditional restaurant for lunch in the city centre. Our meal was a big tray full of meats, cheese, cold pasta, bread, etc etc And apparently it was just the first course! Once we finished everything I couldn't believe there was still more so we decided to stop there as we were both quite full, but we did have some fruit for dessert. Very tasty, even though I'm not such a fruit fan! This would be the time that an emergency came up at Emi's work and he had to take off. So I was left to wander the streets of Rome on foot. Luckly, all the of the major sites are within walking distance of each other. And when I say walking distance, I mean about 2 1/2 hours to walk from the Spanish Steps to the Trevi Fountain to the Panthenon to the Colesium. And all on cobble stones no less. My back is killing me! But it was all worth it to see the sights I had read about in books or seen pictures of. I didnt go into the Coliseum, 12 Euros just to walk inside? No thanks. Even though I had been to the Vatican the day before, I still hadn't see the world famous St Peters Square or the Basilica. So I hoped on the subway and went. I wandered the square for a bit, but just didn't have time to go into the Basilica (had to get home before Emi left for his soccer game or I would be locked out!). Oh well, there's nothing stopping me from coming back to Rome again, is there? So that's been my time in Rome thus far. I leave tomorrow late morning to head to my next destination: Venice. Let's just hope I get there before it sinks!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Working on my Italian...its a little non-existant

So here I am sitting in Frienze aka Florence. Its been quite a whirlwind trip here. I arrived in town last night at 630, and walked a few blocks to find my couchsurfers' apartment. It's in a good part of town and is super nice inside! Lenny (real name Andrea - apparently a very popular boys name here in Italy, but he goes by nickname of Lenny) was very nice and made us a nice italian dinner of salad, cheese, bread and meat-quite tasty even if it was stuff Iwouldnt normally eat...see, I am trying new things! :-) After dinner another couch surfer from Australia (Wendy) who was staying at a nearby hostel came by for a few drinks. Aparently theres a "rule"in Italy that once you open a bottle of wine, you must finish it. Andrea and I had already had half a bottle each by the time Wendy arrived, and I was already feeling it hard, so the extra third of red was, I thought a little risky, but it wasnt as bad as I thought it would be! Once the vino was gone, we decided to take a walk around the city since I hadnt really seen any of the sights yet. We walked to the Duomo, the River Arno and a couple other places I dont remember the name of, but at least I took pictures. I sure am glad that I've been able to master my camera on this trip! Since I figured out how to use and set the white balance, Ive been able to take some pretty awesome shots, even at night...some of which will definately be worth enlarging and hanging on the wall at home! They also have a replica of Michelangelo's David in one of the squares, so while I didnt get to see the real thing (its in one of the museums in town which was obviously closed last night) it was a good consolation prize. We walked for quite a while and didnt get to bed till quite late. Andrea had to leave for work early this am, so here I am in an internet cafe waiting for my train to Roma, where I will meet my next couch surfing host at the Vatican. I am quite tired and imagine I will sleep for the 1 1/2 trip on the train. First class train travel can be quite comfy!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A lesson on how to be flexible

Up until about 1am last night my plans were going along just fine. Nice for three nights then onto Florence. Perfect. Then I got a text from my couch surfing host saying that he couldn't host me tonight after all but suggested another cs friend i could stay with...15 mins outside the city centre. Not so interested in that... So thats when I decided to stay an extra day in Nice and go on the party boat this afternoon and make a day trip to florence tomorrow. So I wont get to see nearly as much as i had hoped to, and if i cant get a decently timed train from genoa to florence, i may just head straight to rome. For those of you that know me well, you'll know that this lack of a plan is driving me crazy, but it is a good life lesson, and is teaching me to go with the flow. So here I go...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Only sort of looking forward to tomorrow...

Pretty quiet day here today. Didnt end up going out last night and slept for 11 hours instead...clearly I needed it! Went to the perfumerie in Eze and got a new scent! As well as souvenirs for people back home...dont take it to mean i think you smell bad! much of the rest of the day was spent figuring out my next stay and its logistics. The trains are pretty full because every one in france and italy are on holidays. So now I have to take a train from Nice to Vetimetia (or something like that) to Genoa to Florence. Itll be a long 10 hour travel day (boourns!) Then I had to confirm my accomodations. I will be couch surfing for the first time (although i have hosted a couple times already) and needed to find out from him when/where to meet. Turns out I get in at 10pm, but hes not around until 11pm so we'll see how that plays out...hopefully well! Hence the title of this post: im looking forward to seeing new places and continuing on my journey, but it will be a long and stressful day Im sure! My plans tonight have changed...i was supposed to go on a party boat cruise...all you can drink in the middle of the sea for 5 hours. But they pushed the date back til tomorrow night, you can imagine my disappointment! So Ill be meeting up with some girls from the pub crawl the other night at about 12 30...I think before then I will pack up my stuff so I can just wake up and leave tomorrow. Thats called being efficient! I hear its quite chilly back home right now. I sure hope it cools down here...Im sweating more than I did in Thailand, which I never thought it would be possible!

Friday, August 28, 2009

5 cities and 2 countries in 3 days!

Let me start off by saying that I am being forced to type using a french keyboard which is annoying because some of the key letters have been moved, so i will be forced to look at the keyboard while I type and still go back to correct bear with me! Anyhow, Ive been quite busy these last few days. Of course I started in Paris, and from there I stopped in Lyon for a few hours. Thank God for storrage lockers at the train station! I was quite surprised by Lyon. I'm not quite sure what I was expecting of the town, but it wasn't what I found. What I found was much better! I spent most of my time in Viex Lyon, wandering the streets and visiting the Notre Dame church and the outdoor roman style theatre. I had received an email from my work shortly after i had left with a message from my boss saying that Lyon is the gastronomic centre of the world. I can just hear him saying it now. I didn' t have time to eat there and I know he will be disappointed to hear it. After collecting my luggage again, it was off to stay in Marseille overnight. I arrived around 730, which is apparently the time that things in the city start shutting down. I had to go to a few places before I was able to find a room, but eventually I did. Just something basic, but it did have a shower and sink in the room. Toilet was down the hall others think that is weird too?? After settling for a bit, I decided to go out and grab dinner and maybe a drink at a local bar. But I had to find the internet first because mom would be worried about not hearing from me that day. I looked for a couple of internet cafes but every one was closed...not very traveller friendly if you ask me! Anyways, I had a bite and a drink at a pub and then walked around the harbour area. It was really nice. I was debating about going to Cannes the following day, as I hadn't really seen much of the town I was currently in, but decided to do it since I wanted to spend a day lounging on a beach and the beach isn't right in Marseille. So it was an early night then off to Cannes the next morning! Now I knew from pictures Id seen and from what others had told me that the french riviera was beautiful, but wow! It was just spectacular! I decided to make the most of it, splurge and rent a lounge chair on the private beach rather than stick to the chair-less, parasole-less public one...totally worth it! Sun/shade, beach/surf what more could I want? They even had waiters who would bring you drinks, and when I ordered a bottle of water, it came in its own ice bucket...fancy! Sadly, all good things must come to an end and I had to peel myself away and train it to Nice. Like the rest, Nice is a really pretty town! I found my way to the hostel, dropped off my bag wandered around the town a bit and had dinner. I had asked the hostel staff about possible pub crawls that go on in town and found out they had one going on that night. So I made my way to the pub where they started and joined the group. What a night it turned out to be! At each of the bars we got a free shot and we also did shots in between the bars! Pictures to come...needless to say I was in MUCH pain this morning! It didn't help they lock out hostel guests from 11 until 3. Ugh... So I tried to make the most of it and went to Monaco. Its only a 40 minute bus ride away with an incredible route that hugged the coast line. When I first got there, the bus dropped me off at the Monte Carlo casino which is really something! Even the cars outside are amazing! Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Maserratti (sp?) from there, did more wandering and finally made it to the palace where i took a train tour of the city. I know you're supposed to tour the city when you first get there not just before you leave! but anyway, it was still nice and i learned more than just walking aorund myself. When I got back to Nice, I was exhausted to say the least. But I still forced myself to do more sightseeing in the form of street wandering and had dinner. There was talk of going out again tonight, but Im not sure my poor old body can handle it. But then again, how often am i in southern france??? We shall see! So thats my latest update. I hope all is well...keep those emails coming!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A very full day indeed!

Since my last post this morning, I have been all over the city! My feet are killing me! But it was a day I would certainly call a success considering I only have a day in the city. I had to start with a short nap though to recharge. But as of 3pm, I hit the streets. I wondered down to the Hotel des Invalides, which I still have no idea what it is...but it looks pretty. Followed by the obligilatory stop at the Eiffel Tower. I tried at least a dozen shots before I actually got a nice photo with me and the tower (I am just horrible at the self shot, and there aren't very many good photographers in tourist form.) I then walked along the Seine river then tried to find my way to the Arc de Triomphe. The key word in that phrase being "tried". Now, I consider myself to have a good sense of orientation and can read a map really well. Paris though, is a whole other ball game. I can't figure these streets out. You start off on one street and continue straight and the next thing you know, according to the map you've made a turn. Not only that, but half the streets aren't labelled. It's really quite annoying. So I caved and took the metro two stops. Yes, I've been able to master the metro, but not the streets...go figure. So after seeing the Arc, I took myself out for dinner along the Champs de Lysee (sp??) Nothing too fancy, but I made sure to avoid the McDonalds restaurant. From there, I went to the jardin des tuleries (another sp??) where I relaxed by the pond, followed by a wondering to the neighbouring Louvre (didn't go in as I had already been there, and didn't feel the need to see it again). From there I walked up to the Opera for a short email check in. (yes, I'm addicted, so keep sending them!) At that point, dusk had started, so I decided to head to see the Eiffel tower at night (which is really the only thing I REALLY wanted to do in Paris) and then head back to the hotel as I was really tired. That was my plan. I saw the tower lit up and it was lovely. But I still wanted more. Leslie had been bugging me to go to the catacombes, and while I didn't want to go in, I figured standing outside would suffice. I got on the metro to head over there, when I saw it: the Eiffel tower twinkling in a million lights, as if lit by diamonds. I had to see it closer so I got off at the next stop and ran towards it. Sadly, by the time I rounded the corner to see it again, it was over. I had noticed two other girls doing the same thing I was doing, so I went over and asked them if they knew if or when it would happen again. They didn't but based on the time, we figured it happened every hour on the hour. They told me they were planning to meet with some friends under the tower to have some bread, cheese and wine and asked if I would be interested in joining. It sounded like too much fun to pass up, although my feet disagreed. It was a fantastic time! The two girls I had met due to our mututal attraction for things that sparkle like diamonds were from Australia (Naomi and Katie), while their friends were from Sweden (Anton, Philippe and Markus), South Africa (something that started with an H that I couldn't understand) and Spain (Christina...I didn't ask if that was her middle name and if her first was Vicky or last was Barcelona). I definately felt like a world traveller drinking with random strangers under the tower. How much more Parisian does it get than that?? So, that's been my day. Now, I get to take my tired feet back to the hotel for a much needed full night's rest, ready to start again tomorrow. Until then!

Bonjour Paris!

Here I am, finally in Paris! When I arrived at the Ottawa airport yesterday, it was still unsure if I would be able to get a seat on either flight out of Montreal. Things were looking pretty tight. When I arrived in Montreal, my mom told me that I was 20th on the list of standby passengers...out of 20 total. Luckly, there was 20 seats left! Now, I don't know if it's really because my mom pulled any strings (probably more cause she's a nice lady and if her colleagues knew her nice daughter was travelling, they'd want to do something nice for this nice lady and her nice daughter) or if it's because I'm just really lucky when it comes to these sorts of things, but I ended up getting a seat in business class...executive class...whatever you want to call it! I was thrilled to say the least! Not only did I get the fancy treatment excutive class brings with it, but they even had the fully flat beds!!YAY! So I had a nice dinner, watched a movie, then slept...fully streched out...for a full 5 hours! Customs was uneventful, the baggage claim area, a bit crazier. So many people in such a small space all wanting the same thing - to get their bags as quick as possible. After dealing with a few annoying people, I got my bag and headed for the train to bring me to the city. Another uneventful event. Once I got to my first metro stop, I had to transfer stations. I had thought that I could transfer stations underground, but, since I wasn't able to find any indication where to go, I asked a lady who told me to go outside for the next station as it was only a short walk away. My first sight in Paris after leaving the metro: Notre Dame. Not too shabby! After asking two people for directions to the metro station, I was able to find my way to the hotel. Wasn't able to check in as it was too early, but I dropped off my bags, covered the dark bags under my eyes and left to see the town. First stop: the local boulangerie. I had to get petit pain au chocolat - a baguette with chocolate chips in it. Paris is the only place I've ever seen it (and trust me, I've looked in every bakery I've been in since I was last here in 2001!) So, I can now check that off my list. Next up, I wanted to find an internet cafe to update every one and let them know I'd arrived safely. After asking at least 10 people and walking for a good 30 minutes, I finally found one! Impressions so far? The city is more romantic than I remember it. There are restaurants and cafes every where and all of their patio chairs face out on the street to encourage you to watch the world pass you by. I feel really funny speaking french here though. No one seems to understand I that rusty?? One guy actually said "Oh! Un petit accent!" Next up for my day, get to the nearest train station to make a reservation for my trip to Lyon tomorrow, then...who knows? It's Paris!

Monday, August 24, 2009

T minus...

...three hours and ten minutes, or one hour and ten minutes depending on your countdown. I'm out of the office, and officially on vacation, as of 1pm today to head off to the airport to catch a 3pm flight to Montreal. A few hours of waiting and visiting with my mom (who works at the YUL), then I get to find out if there's room for me on the Montreal-Paris flight for tonight! I checked the flight loads this morning, and while economy is currently over sold, there are still a few seats in business class. Here's to hoping I'm lucky enough to get on the flight...and extra lucky enough to get business! That would be sweeeet! They even have those fully lay flat beds! Wouldn't that be a great way to start my trip! One could only hope... So long as I don't get a middle seat between screaming kids, I'll be happy! Next update will either be from Paris, or Brownsburg while I crash at my mom's and try my luck for a flight again on Tuesday. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

In the beginning...

Ok gang, here we go again! Another trip, another blog. I figure this is still the best way to keep every one up to date on my adventures around the globe, but since I'm now living the single life, I had to start up a new one! In only a few short days, I will be travelling to Europe for two and a half weeks. Since I wll be flying stand by, I found out tonight I will have to leave a day earlier than anticipated because the flights are looking a little full on Tuesday. During my trip, I plan to visit France (Paris, Nice), Monaco, Italy (Florence, Rome, Venice), Liechenstein, and Switzerland (Interlaken, Lucern, Lausanne, Geneva). Since I have an extra day, I now need to decide where to spend it....I think it'll either be Lyon, France or Luxembourg (another country checked off the list that way!) There's still much to do (like pack) and so little time to do it in. Best get on it!