When in Rome (do what the tourists do, but eat what the locals eat)

For the past two days, Gord and I have been very diligent tourists, wandering, photographing and taking in all the wonder that is Italy’s capital.

Arriving late Tuesday night from Athens, Gord and I decided to leave the country on the morning of our first day.

Fooled you? Probably not. Our first visit was to the Vatican City, the world’s smallest city-state. We were in three countries within 24 hours. Pretty impressive, n’est ce pas?

Now, you can’t visit the Vatican without making note of the modesty police. This is the name Gord and I gave to the dress code enforcers of Christianity’s holiest place. No knees, shoulders or inappropriate cleavage were allowed, lest you make the handsomely dressed Swiss guard fall in love with you.

Once we were modesty-approved, we began our visit in the Vatican Museum, home to Michelangelo’s neck-breakingly beautiful Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Overall, the Vatican was really cool, albeit insanely, INSANELY busy. I obviously took lots of pictures in St. Peter’s Square/Basilica and pretended I was Robert Langdon a la Angels and Demons searching for antimatter.

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Of course, one cannot visit the Vatican without making note of the stunning art and architecture housed within. The only problem was that there was just SO much of it. Every room was so ornately decorated, floor to ceiling, that it was actually too much for our unrefined artistic minds to take in. After much early admiration and appreciation, Gord and I spent the last few gallery hallways speed walking around the slow-as-snails tourists, disregarding the painted frescoes and century-old tapestries. Perhaps Gord described our apathetic art views best when he said “you can only look at so many baby cherubs.”

After the Vatican, we started to wander back in the direction of our bed and breakfast, hoping to stumble on more tourist checkpoints as we went.

Gord’s stellar navigational skills found us in front of the Pantheon, which was amazingly well preserved. We both had to wonder: do they close the oculus when it rains? Have they installed some secret, SkyDome-esque closing mechanism? Clever, clever Romans.

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Walking further, we rounded a corner and were met with by the sight of the Trevi Fountain, Rome’s most famous water attraction.

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It was PACKED (with tourists and pickpockets, I’m sure) and, after making a wish which I valued at 1 euro coin, we scurried off beyond the crowds and into the open air.

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At this point, Gord and I decided to separate for the rest of the afternoon in favour of a little independent wandering.

From here, I proceeded to do the two things I do best: get lost and eat. More on that on my blog soon.

For supper that night, Gord and I reunited and decided to investigate one of the restaurant recommendations I got. Katie (@tinymurders) suggested we try the spaghetti carbonara at La Pigna, a restaurant located not far from the Pantheon.

It was here that we encountered our first “Roman Holiday” closure, wherein Italians use August as a time to flee the city and summer heat. La Pigna was closed for the month, leaving a barren and lonely space in the piazza where the patio would, I suspect, normally have sat.

The closure was a blessing in disguise, however, and we instead dined on delicious homemade pasta dishes and tiramisu down the street at Osteria Pizzeria di Agrippa.

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Day two started with a trip to the Colosseum. After an hour worth of waiting in line, we finally proceeded into the ancient gladiator theatre, the upper, inside levels of which have been transformed into a museum. Here, we found out more about the Colosseum itself – did you know they could flood the entire floor area in order to hold marine battles? So cool.

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Once the obligatory Colosseum photos were taken, we headed next door to the ruins of the Forum, the old Roman public square.

I’d like to say that something funny happened on the way to the forum, but alas, it did not.

This was also true for the rest of our Forum visit which, although once again impressive, was not assisted by our “sick of ruins” state (see Athens post for more).

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Determined to fulfill at least one of my Twitter food recommendations, we walked south to get gnocchi for lunch at La Fraschetta.

Possible movie title for this meal: The Curse of the Roman Holiday Strikes Back.

You guessed it, La Fraschetta was closed. We drowned our sorrows in bubbly water (my new favourite thing) and lunch nearby.

Splitting again in the afternoon, I trekked back to the Vatican area to buy dresses from one of the many vendors that lined the street. Mission accomplished, times three

To celebrate (MOURN) our last night in Rome, we decided to try our hand one last time at my Twitter recommendations. This pizza suggestion from @hellokaitlin was the biggest gamble location-wise – about a 35 minute walk from our B&B. After reading rave reviews online, we decided to take our chances. It paid off.

The restaurant, Dar Poeta, was so popular that a long line twisted outside the entrance. I LOVED my pizza, which was topped with zucchini slices, spicy pepperoni, garlic and cheese. Gord was less than mesmerized by his, however. I felt sorry for his lack of delicious pizza, so I decided to share mine.

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The night ended with us wandering about an eclectic and lively street market on the bank of the Tiber River – a great way to spend our last few hours in Rome.

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Gord and I both bought new wallets and, with the purchase of a knock-off (but real leather) book bag, I officially became the biggest tourist ever.

Rome, you have made my backpack burst at its seams and my camera pray for forgiveness. One day I shall return.

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Athens: The city that launched 1,000 “ruin” puns

“Gord, you RUINED the picture.”

“Turkey really RUINED ruins for me.”

Etc. etc. There are a lot of really old stone ruins in Athens. They drove us kind of crazy.

ANYWAYS.

This post will likely have the greatest “words per hour spent in city” ratio.

Gord and I were in Athens for 24 hours. Not an hour less, or more.

After an extremely classy and unnecessarily expensive ferry ride in from Santorini (apparently the only difference between economy and VIP seats is a red leather, a table and an extra 30 euros), we arrived in Athens, ready to use what little time we had to take the city by storm.

But first, we needed to find the subway. An adventure in and of itself. Unlike France where we could decipher the language into something that sort of resembled english, the complicated Greek alphabet characters were lost on Gord and I. It took approximately 30 backpack-sweaty minutes of searching to find the subway station, which was in the exact opposite direction of where we originally started walking. Whoops.

Once found, we navigated our way through the Athens subway fairly easily, noticing quickly how clean and empty the whole place was.

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I didn’t know whether to be impressed or weirded out. It was a relief to get back to normal subway scum when riding the metro in Rome today.

Arriving at our hostel, Athens Backpackers, we quickly dumped our bags and went off to explore.

Since our hostel was super close to the Acropolis (seriously, best location ever!), we wandered over there to start our sight-seeing. Five minutes later, we were looking up at Parthenon, lit from behind by the late evening sun. Naturally, we decided to walk further into the grounds, our hearts set on looking down on Athens at dusk.

On our way up, we passed through the ancient Theatre of Dionysus, where we made sure to take tacky tourist photos sitting on the crumbling marble thrones.

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Just as we were about to reach the final uphill stretch, drama set in.

Okay, not really drama, but Gord and I like to exaggerate because it makes us sound cool. Apparently we needed tickets to enter the Acropolis. Yes, in hindsight, this made total sense, but we swear there was no one selling tickets anywhere along our route. After much wide-eyed innocence and groveling, we were kindly escorted down the side of the Acropolis hill by a stern Greek official.

Plans foiled, we consoled ourselves with a dinner of delicious Greek salad, oven feta (our new favourite thing), moussaka and some weird tubular pasta thing (for Gord).

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It was just what we needed and was super cheap. All part of the Greek “crisis” menu, as the restaurant liked to call it. Yes, that’s a thing.

We ended the evening by making new friends on our hostel’s rooftop patio, sipping on Mythos beer and staring out at the beautifully-lit Parthenon.

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The next day, we registered for our hostel’s walking tour in order to find out more about our ancient surroundings. In the end, we found out LOADS more than we had to, and our very-informed, very-chatty Greek guide kept us out in the blisstering sun for a sweltering two hours.

Some lessons? Well, we learned a lot more about the tensions between the Greeks and the British Museum. In the early 17th century, the British Lord Elgin decided to strip the Parthenon of its artistic glory in order to impress his bride-to-be. As a result, the majority of the Parthenon’s glory now sits in London. The Greeks are not pleased.

We also learned about the history behind Athens itself. The myths made me reminiscent of learning about ancient Greek mythology, circa grade six. I won’t go into detail, but lets just say I am stunned with the amount of godly self-impregnation that occured (seriously Zeus, you REALLY needed to grow Athena in your mind? That’s just begging for attention.).

Stunning sights of Athens were also a given. This one was taken atop the point where the Greek Supreme Court once stood.

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After our tour’s gyro/souvlaki stop (I finally got one!), Gord and I decided to ditch out of the tour early to actually go up to the Acropolis.

Once again, we stubbornly refused to comply with the proper ticket-buying procedure. Here’s the thing. You could get to the Parthenon for free if you were a student studying in the EU. Thankfully for us, Carleton University just happened to be in Cork, Ireland for the day. Imagine that. Hey, we need to save all the money we can. It’s not our fault Greek ticket officials are very trusting…

Here’s what we saw at the top:

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On our way down, we decided to stop at the New Acropolis Museum, which we were told was the place to go. The building itself is very modern looking and is cleverly designed to reflect the remains of the Parthenon on its glassy outer walls.

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Since we got away with the Irish student scam once, we thought we would try it again. It worked, 2/2. Wonderful.

The museum itself was worth the short visit. As impressive as we’re sure the stone remains would be to antiquity studiers, Gord and I were a little bit tired of seeing ancient artifacts. It was a bit boring. Sorry, history buffs. I did, however, love the top floor – it was an exact to-scale replica of the Parthenon, complete with a 16×8 metal columns outside. I took many pictures, despite being yelled at on numerous occasions by both Gord and officials at the museum.

Conclusion: Athens is a city of rule-breaking.

And that was our very short visit to Athens! We avoided riots and saw the Parthenon. Mission accomplished.

H

PS: This is the tan difference between Gord and I after a week in Greece. ūüôā

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Greetings From a Grecian Isle

Hello Everybody.

While its been a while since I’ve blogged about anything, I want to assure you that our blogging absence is not because Hilary or I have been in some tragic accident but rather because we have been having too much fun!

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For the past five nights Hilary and I have been staying on Santorini, the most picturesque island you could imagine. If you haven’t heard of Sanotrini you have probably seen it in some movie. It’s famous for its white-washed houses and bright blue roofs. I have to say that Santorini has lived up to its reputation as being the prettiest of the Greek Isles.

Our five days have gone way to fast and we will be sad to see the island go tomorrow morning as we move on to Athens.

Our time here as been spent catching-up with one another bragging about all our travel adventures, beaching and exploring this surprisingly large island.

I first arrived on the island days ago, one day ahead of schedule due to my own incompetence at reading ferry timetables. One perk of arriving a day a head of schedule was being able to surprise Hilary at our hotel. Boy was she surprised! We spent the rest of the day catching up, exploring Perissa (the beach-side town we are staying in) and having what is sure to be the first of MANY delicious meals to come.

The next day, we woke up early and joined a full day excursion tour of the entire island. Our first stop was off to visit the monastery which sits perched atop the tallest mountain on the Island. From the stop you have a great view of the rest of the island and it was a good way to get ourselves oriented to our home for the next five days.

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From the monastery we head to Pyrgos a cute traditional-styled greek village in the middle of the island. We got the chance to explore the town for a bit and check out some other awesome vistas.

Our next destination was to the port of Santorini where we boarded a ship which would be our transport for the rest of the day. We sailed out from the harbour and straight for the active volcano which the island surrounds! Our ship docked at the volcano and we got the chance to climb up to the top. Both Hilary and I got a bit excited because our guide explained as we climbed we would get the chance to see different colours of lava. We both imagined that we would get to see great torrents of magma oozing down the side of the mountain, but in reality we got to see different coloured rocks, which apparent pass for “lava” here on Santorini. Perhaps our guide forgot to mentioned it was cooled lava…

From the volcano we headed for some hot springs which are directly beside the volcano. These naturally occurring hot springs, are a product of the still active geothermal processes that are shaping the island. While nice and warm, the springs STUNK of rotting eggs because of the sulpher that is being released. The sulpher also has the nasty side effect of dying all of the white bathing suits a rust colour. Apparently it comes out in the wash, but since I wash most of my clothes in the shower, it might be a while before my bathing suit is looking its best again.

From the hots springs we sailed for Thirissia, another island right beside Santorini. This tiny island has a small village that is perched 300m up a giant cliff. There are two options for climbing the cliff. Option 1: walk the series of switch backs that connect the harbour with the village. Option 2: ride a donkey/mule up the same switchbacks. Being a proud Albertan that’s spent most of his childhood in the Rockies, I bullied Hilary telling her that the climb wouldn’t be that bad. Twenty minutes later and a LOT sweatier, we made it to the top of the cliff and looked down on our ship we left behind. At the top, we enjoyed a severely overpriced Fanta and then marched our way down the hill we had just climbed.

Our final stop of the day was Oia, probably the most picturesque of the towns on Santorini. Our mission for our stop in Oia was to watch the famous sunset. After eating a delicious dinner which included baked feta that will forever be remembered by both Hilary and I, we found our way to a tremendously romantic parking lot, where we watched the sun slowly make its way in to the Aegean. All in all, we had a great day with our excursion.

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The next day to compensate for all our activity from the day before, we decided to slum it on the near by beach. What was crazy about the beach we chose was the colour of the sand! Perissa is located on the black beach of Santorini. The dark coloured sand means that the sand can get painfully hot throughout the day but it also means that the water is a bit warmer for swimming.

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After our day at the beach, Hilary and I decided to rent ATV’s so we could explore the island at our own leisure. ATVing was a lot of fun and it gave us the freedom to explore parts of the island we hadn’t seen yet. Our first stop was to check out the red beach, which I’m sure you guessed it had red sand! The beach was lots of fun and both Hilary and I snorkeled around and checked out the cool fish that live in the waters around the beach. After the beach, we headed out to the southern tip of the island to investigate the lighthouse that sits there. While the lighthouse itself wasn’t all that interesting, the views along the way were amazing and we were able to take some really nice pictures.

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After the lighthouse, we stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant which had some amazing views of the cliffs below. After our delicious meal, we decided to head to Fira the capital of Santorini. Unfortunately just as we were pulling into Fira our ATV began to die. Every few metres the engine would cut out and we needed to restart the engine. Finally we pulled off to the side of the road, and started looking for a WiFi connection so Hilary could call the rental place. After a fruitless search for Internet, we ended up going to the nearest ATV rental place to see if they could either help us, or call the place we had rented our ATV from.

Thankfully the man from the ATV rental place was extremely helpful. After disappearing for a few minutes, which we learned later was to buy credit for his phone, the man called our rental place and explained what happened. For the next 45 minutes Hilary and I sat in silence as he blared Greek house music while we waited for someone to help us with our ATV’s. Once someone from our rental place showed up, we thought we were out of the woods, but apparently the problem was more severe than originally thought and the guy told us he would have to drive back to Perissa to get us a new ATV. Hilary and I decided to take the time we had to explore Fira, which turned out to be a fairly cute town. An hour later, we had our new ATV and we roared home to make ourselves dinner. Upon returning the ATV to the rental agency, I learned that apparently it was a grain of sand in the carburetor that had done our vehicle in. All terrain my ass!

Last night we had the pleasure of spending a fun evening with some of the other guests here at the hotel. We met two Swedes, two Norwegians, two Americans and 5 Aussies, and spent the evening, swapping travel tales and drinking.

Today was a bit of a quite day for both Hilary and I. We went to the beach in the morning, but because it was so windy it made it hard to spend too much time on the beach. I spent some time relaxing and reading my book and Hilary head back to Oia to do some shopping.

Well, that its for our time in Santorini! Tomorrow we head for Athens and the day after that we are off to Rome! We will be sure to update the blog as we move from city to city, but both Hilary and I are excited to hit the road again!

Later Days

G

PARIS DAY 1: Natalie comes to visit! (ft. guest appearances by pickpockets, home-away-from-home galleries and a spectacular view

I’d like to take this time to offer a major kudos to all those who somehow find the time to blog whilst traveling. I arrived in Europe with the best of intentions – the desire to document and photograph my adventurous tales. So far, I’ve only done much of the latter.

Time to stop slacking.

Now, a week into my European vacation, I will attempt to explain to you, one day at a time, my journey so far.

PS: part of this is to blame on the fact that I have no computer, and only an iPhone with a detachable keyboard. This is the cause of my partial blogging avoidance and extreme laziness.

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My first full day in Paris was an eventful one. My friend and old roommate Natalie kindly came in to the city to visit. Lovely Ottawa reunions occurred. Since I was still recovering from the mortifying advances of forward French men, it was nice to have the company of a French-speaking friend who could help me ward off the creeps.

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Since Natalie had already done the majority of the tacky tourist stuff I had on my agenda, we decided to spend the first half of our day vintage shopping in a neighbourhood just north-east of the Notre Dame (the name is lost to me, at the moment). Here, we encountered cheap (but strange smelling) garments selling for a single Euro, poorly chosen store soundtracks, cavernous bargain basements and completely unnecessary shoe purchases. We also stumbled upon a variety of cool boutique shops, the likes of which sold Lego-themed waterbottles, Playmobile figure pendants, paint chip-inspired wall deco and colourful clothing hooks. I wanted to buy a Parisian apartment that instant, just so I could furnish it using the store’s overly priced, designer furniture.

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Having gone straight to France in April to start her job at Vimy, Natalie hasn’t been home to Winnipeg in some time now. Due to this, she was particularly eager to visit out next stop: a Parisian gallery featuring, get this, all things Winnipeg. In Paris. Oh eccentric French art enthusiasts. The gallery was short walk from the Place de la Bastille, right across from the Seine. Inside, overwhelmed by Canadiana nostalgia, Natalie wandered through the exhibit, chuckling to herself like the entire studio was a giant inside joke. There was just as much quirky Canada-themed art to appreciate as there was Winnipeg stuff: beavers munching on desk legs, snow-filled images of frigid winters and many references to Louis Riel. I don’t think the French got the ironic nature of some displays.

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From here, we did something completely different, and went to Ladurée, the famous French bakery which I make reference to in many a post, tweet and Facebook photo. You can see more photos from the wonders of that tea room visit (as well as my gluttonous second visit) on my blog, Hilary Makes.

Next, because we hadn’t done nearly enough shopping earlier, we walked over to the Champs-√Člys√©es to complete my obligatory window shop down the street. Okay, not so much window shop. More clothing was bought (on my part) and an H&M was found. Just as we were figuring out ways to get our European chic on, disaster struck.

Natalie got her wallet stolen.

It almost happened to me too. The pick-pocketing technique was seamless: as fast as you could say “macaron,” two girls surrounded their victim (i.e. distracted girls like Nat and I) and just sort of…well…walked into you for an extended period of time. It happened to me first. Being the easily annoyed, get-out-of-my-way-stupid-people-who-can’t-walk person that I am, I elbowed my way on through. Being the paranoid, neurotic freak that I am, I automatically felt my purse. The twisty buckle that normally clasps the flap shut was open. LE GASP.

Alas, my wallet was still there and tears and breakdowns were averted.

Shortly after, a similar situation happened to Nat. Unfortunately, she didn’t get so lucky.

Thank heavens she is fluent in French (I, for instance, do not even know the French word for wallet). After some undiscernable French chatter with an H&M employee and much searching around the store, we walked out, our otherwise brilliant day shrouded by the occurrence of the stolen wallet.

(Don’t think I’m leaving this hanging on a depressing note. The next day, Nat called the H&M, and was happily met with news that her wallet had been tossed and found. All was safe and, although she was a few Euros shorter, she was once again in possession of her attractive Manitoba driver’s license and her other plastic lifelines. So relieved).

After dropping Natalie off at the train station for the night, I decided to trek back over to the Champs-√Člys√©es and check out the view from atop the Arc de Triomphe. My mood was lifted rapidly from here, especially after I found out my admission to the top was free (hello $15 saved!) thanks to my European Union passport. It was also later in the evening, so there was very little of a line. Once I climbed the 284 spiraling stairs to the top, I was met with a breathtaking view, not only of the 12 streets (including the Champs-√Člys√©es) circling the panorama, but also of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre Coeur in the distance. Even though I didn’t pay to access the view, the experience was priceless.

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Paris, day 0.5: sleepy plane delays, pigeon pick-up lines and French architecture so gorgeous it makes you want to cry

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Rather than tell you the story about how my flight from Montreal to Paris was delayed by four hours last night, I’m just going to skip to the fun part: Paris itself. (all you must know about my delayed travels is that I miserably gravol-ed myself prematurely last night and paid the cost by passing out several times in different positions on airport chairs) (thank god they were leather and comfy).

I landed in Paris today at just after 3:30 local time. Following what seemed like endless signs to the Paris train station to go downtown, I finally got to the main transport terminal. Here, I was met with the task of purchasing my metro tickets, something which took me all of half an hour and caused several exasperated sighs. After about five attempts to walk into the I-will-not-budge-ever metro gates, I realized that I needed a different, more expensive ticket to take me from the airport downtown. I blame my lack of rationality on my sleep-deprived state.

ANYWAYS, I successfully navigated by way through the surprisingly easy to understand Paris underground system and found myself, a short hour later, at my hostel in the 14th arrondissement.

Since I had been in commute for more than 15 hours, I took a well deserved shower before deciding to head back out and explore.

After much negotiation over where to visit, I finally settled on taking the C-line train along the Seine, in hopes of catching a late evening view of the Musee d’Orsay and the Eiffel Tower.

Rule #1 about travel: things never go as planned.

Meaning to transfer onto the yellow C-line at the St-Michel Notre-Dame metro station, I was distraught to see that every sign that once held directions to my desired route was crossed off with some sort of electrical tape.

Alright, you win some you lose some. There will be plenty more days for tourist sight-seeing. Instead, I decided to wander.

Turns out that I had landed in the perfect Parisian neighborhood. Everything was exactly as I would have thought it to be – detailed architecture, cafe and restaurant patios, couples making out EVERYWHERE, Vespas and pigeons.

At the same time, there were also the not-so-romanticized parts of the city – girls eating McDonald’s on the edge of ornate flower beds, a woman in purple sweatpants chain smoking out her window…

Nonetheless, Paris is what it is, and I am already starting to love it for that reason.

Lost in translation (and just lost)
Continuing my wandering, I promptly got lost. I have slowly began to realize that my life is in shambles without 3G access and the guiding light of Google Maps.

But do not fret.

I swear that Paris must be the only city in the universe where you can be completely lost, and somehow still find yourself eating a crepe while sitting on the bank of the Seine. If this is lost, I never want to be found.

Oh right, I also stumbled onto a major Parisian landmark, the Notre Dame Cathedral. I’m not sure how that happened, but I made sure to take enough touristy photos to make my dad proud.

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What’s the French word for creepy?
In other news, Paris is certainly living up to its reputation of being the city of love (and not just because couples were making out everywhere).

I’m chalking this up to the fact that I’m a young girl strolling around Paris with map and camera in hand (read: I am the ultimate tourist), but I got picked up an insane amount of times tonight. And by that, I mean twice. Which is pretty good for me, okay?

My first courtier was Antonio, a creepy old man who led me around to the back of the Notre Dame touting its “photographic aesthetics.” I promptly told him I had to go and meet my family, and ran away to take refuge in a group of children who were playing with bubbles.

The next lover-boy, Sammy, was the perfect example of a smooth-talking Parisians. He ACTUALLY used a situation in which a pigeon almost flew into me as a pick-up line. After discovering my French left something to be desired, he continued to speak to me in broken English for the next half hour, lead me to the correct metro station entrance and frequently touch my arm in a way that only the French can touch strangers. Mon dieu.

Overall, I had a great first day in Paris. My hostel is AWESOME (pictures to come tomorrow) and I can’t wait to explore more of the city. Also, I’m meeting Natalie tomorrow and we’re going vintage shopping and macaron-eating. Can’t wait.

PS: sorry about the pictures, I looked ridiculous trying to snap shots on both my iPhone and actual camera. This is the result of the former.

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Greetings from Turkey!!

Hello World,

I realize the Hilary JUST posted something, but I’ve been neglecting my duties as co-blogger, but as you will hopefully see, I have some pretty good excuses for not blogging.

Now, where did I leave you guys last?  Oh right! Asia!

After my quick sojourn over to Asia, I returned back to the hostel and decided to take a quick trip over to the Grand Bazaar and Spice Markets.¬† I have to say after the Souqs of Marrakesh, I was a little disappointed with the markets in Istanbul. Because I wasn’t in the mood for leather, knock-off handbags or jewellery, I was¬† a little out of my market (if you pardon the pun), but none the less it was pretty exciting to explore this marketplace that’s been there for hundreds of years.

The following day was filled with visiting most of the touristic sites in Sultanamet, the old city district of the city with my new Ozzy friend Chris. First stop was visiting the Ayasofia, probably the most famous of the sites in the city. Dating back from the 500’s AD this cathedral turned mosque turned museum, was one impressive site!! With six minarets, this building stands out from the rest of Istanbul despite being surrounded by mosques on all sides.

Ayasofia

After the Ayasofia was the Cisterns of Istanbul.¬† I have to say this was hands down my favourite place in Istanbul. This underground facility was used to collect water for the different cities that have stood where Istanbul is today. Before going to the cistern, I had no idea what it looked like nor what I was getting myself into, and to be honest that made it 10 times better. Therefore, I’ve made the executive decision, not to post my pictures from the cistern to maintain the element of surprise for you budding travellers.

Once we were back above ground again, Chris and I headed to the archaeology museum which was pretty cool! The museum is filled with TONS of crazy artifacts from the Babylonia, Egypt, Roman and Greek empires.  All and all a pretty cool experience.

Now after all our touring, both Chris and I were pretty tired. We split up and found ways to beat the heat. Chris decided to watch the finale of the Tour de France and watch his fellow countryman win the race, while I decided to nap.  That evening we met up with two German girls, Evi and Michaela and we became fast friends. The girls told us that they were heading to the Black Sea to check out a small fishing village that was supposed to have an amazing beach, something which Istanbul sadly lacks. After they extended the invitation to join, both Chris and I happily accepted.

The next morning, the four of us made our way (slowly) to Kilyos, about 2 hours north of Istanbul.¬† WHAT a day. That’s all I really have to say. It was so nice to get out of the city and avoid the hussle and bussle.¬† It was a great day, and so far is one of my favourite memories of the place.

Chris and Michaela

After my day on the beach, I sadly had to say goodbye to Istanbul, and head towards Echeabat, southwest of Istanbul.  The city is famous for being close Gallipoli a fairly, major battlefield during WWI. My time in Echaebat was split between snorkling over a sunken WWI transport ship and touring the battlefields. Snorkelling was an awesome experience!  After touring the sunken ship, we could explore the reefs for relics from WWI. After about 10 minutes of hunting, I was able to find a British bullet from one of the initial sieges. After showing it off to my fellow snorkelers, I tossed it back into the ocean for other treasure hunters to find. Overall my time in Echaebat was very informative. While Canadians played a very very limited (aka almost none besides Newfoundlanders) it was still an eyeopening experience.

Snorkelling!

My time in Gallipoli was fairly short, but I’ve made my way to Selcuk further south in Turkey and tomorrow I will tour the ancient ruins of Ephesus (google for some cool photos)

Well, I realize this post is a fairly monsterous one so I will leave it hear.¬† I meet up with Hilary next Wednesday and I CANNOT wait to see her! As much fun as it is to always be making friends, I’m excited for beaching and lounging with my bud.

Later days

G.

Twitter travel tweets

And just a quick post on why Twitter is awesome when you’re making travel plans and seeking international food/to-do recommendations. There’s plenty more where these came from, too. All have been written down and stored in my travel folder.

And my personal favourite, in response to a “what should I do in Europe” tweet…

Will do, Don, will do.

PS: I also got several French pastry shop recommendations from a Parisian baker in Ottawa. BAM.

Departure Day!

To many, this is just a normal Thursday, but to me, this is the day for which I’ve been waiting months.

It’s finally the departure day for my European adventure!

Right now, I sit in my oversized, cushiony papasan chair typing this last Canadian travel blog post. Tonight, I leave, all pop culture references aside, on a jet plane and, after a drugged-up gravol sleep, will (fingers crossed) arrive in Paris tomorrow morning.

But before I get to do this, I had to pack.

As an indecisive, sometimes neurotic person, packing is not my forte.

That’s why I brought in the troops to help me out.

Ariel and Alex – you can always count on these two to help you out. As ex-roommates, they know my wardrobe better than I know it myself (hey, why don’t you bring that flowery dress that you got with Britt that one time? It would be perfect for Paris!). They’re the best. Knowing that I would be stressed out, they also brought me an oat fudge bar. Like I could love them any more.

Ariel is also a particularly accomplished packer and, to this hour, I have still not yet had to place anything inside my backpack.

So what were some of my necessities? Well…

I very much can’t live without my collection of vintage jewelry. I wear it everywhere. I don’t care if I am backpacking and wearing a garbage bag, I insist it comes with me.

Sunscreen, because after six days in Santorini, girl is going to get tanned. Mom, take note.

Perhaps my most important travel companion (other than Gord) will be my Toms. I fully expect them to be falling apart by the end of the trip, but I will always keep them regardless and treasure the memories we shared. Also, to the left you see my Joe Fresh (bahaha $16 knock-offs!) birks. They will lead me through many a sunny day.

And so, while I do not yet have a photo of me with my human-sized backpack on my shoulders, I will be posting one as soon as I can. And by that, I mean as soon as I finish packing. Which will be never.

Eeeek.

Bon voyage, mes amis!

Au RevońĪr ParńĪs and Selam Istanbul!

Time for another update from the road! 

Last time I left you guys, I had just spent a pretty productive day marching around Paris. That night ended up being a bit more of a chill evening as both myself and the Aussie girls I had been traveling around with were exhausted.  To treat ourselves for such a productive day, we decided that we would sample some of the French cusine in the area.  We chose a restraunt called Marmite, not to far from the hostel and i had a delicious lamb dish that I would definitely recommend for anyone visiting Paris!  (num num)

Kirra and Cate on the Streets of Paris

The next day, the girls and I decided to split up as they wanted to check out the Louvre and I wanted to see the Musee D’Orsay.¬† Wow! what a museum! Some of the most beautiful works of art i have ever seen. What was really cool was the museum was hosting a Van Gogh exhibit so I got check some of his most famous works including his self-portrait.

After the art museum, I decided to wander about for a bit before I tried heading to the catacombs of Paris, where some of the bodies from the French revolution are buried. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the catacombs, they had already closed the line for the day. To cheer myself up, I decided to buy myself some Macarons, these cute colourful cookie-esque desserts that have become quite a fad around the world.  I ended trying three different flavours, including lavender, salted-caramel (apparently very French) and Mojito (not particularly French but still delicious).  

Macarons!

That evening, I reunited with Cate and Kirra and we made a delicious pasta dish that was the envy of all the other backpackers in the hostel. Unfortunately that I night I also learned the terrible news that I would  have to get up at 3:45 am to take a shuttle to the airport because my flight left before the metro started in the morning.

Note to all travelling friends, cheaper flights don’t always work out to be cheaper if you have to pay 37 euro to get the airport ūüė¶

Yesterday was spent, sleeping on planes and in airports. After arriving at Charles de Gaulle, I boarded my flight destined for Warsaw. Unfortunately for me, my flight was delayed by a few hours. My orginal intention was to leave the Warsaw airport and check out the city, but I neded up only having and 1 and a half hours until my next flight, and I still needed to clear through EU customs.

Arriving in Istanbul was completely amazing.  The metro/street car ride through the city to get to my hostel, was jaw-droppingly beautiful.  The thing that comes across instantly about the city is that it is OLD. And by Old I mean 700 years older than Senor Jesus Christo.

I got to my hostel, no problem and ended up making some¬†new friends at the hostel’s rooftop patio and¬†bar. So far today, I hopped on a commuter ferry and headed over to the Asian side of¬†Istanbul.¬† While less touristy¬†than, the region my hostel is in, it’s still nice to be able to say that I’ve been to Asia.¬†

 

Well, that’s about it for now, I’m planning on hitting up the huge market this afternoon, in search of some new treasures!¬†I’ll¬†give you an update as soon as I can!

Later days! 

G

Paris Round 1

NOTE TO HILARY (and everyone else) Before you chastise me for my lack of pictures on the post, the computer I’m using doesn’t seem to like my Camera so I will upload them EVENTUALLY
ALSO this computer doesn’t seem to like wordpress so I can’t actually SEE what i’m writing, so I apologize if there are typos

Now that clerical issue is over with, Greetings From Paris!
While I’ve only been here for less than 48 hours, I feel like I’ve accomplished so much in this bustling city! But before I get into too much detail about what I’ve gotten up to today, let me recount my travels from Canada to Europe:

Monday afternoon, I got myself and Frank (my backpack) to the greyhound bus terminal just in time to catch my direct bus to the airport in Montreal. After chilling for a few hours in at the Trudeau airport, I squeezed my way into the “cozy” Air Transat seat and promptly fell asleep. Lucky for me, my flight was overnight, so I slept for almost all of the trip.

Arriving in Paris was a pretty easy procedure EXCEPT when I almost walked away with the wrong backpack. Apparently, another traveller on the plane had the same model of backpack as me. I quickly realized that the backpack I was holding wasn’t mine and dropped it back off on the belt and waited for Frank to arrive.

Getting to Paris was a simple train ride into the city and then a quick walk to my hostel. Upon arrival, I dropped of Frank and headed to explore. My hostel, Le Village, is located in Montmatre, the district of Paris home to the Moulin Rouge and the famed catherdral Sacre Couer.

After exploring the district for a bit, I headed back to the hostel to check out my room. Upon opening the door to my room, I met two delightful Australian girls from Adelaide. Kate and Kirra have been living in the UK working ata pub near London. After we introduced ourselves we became quick friends and went out to explore more of Montmatre.

Our evening was spent drinking wine, swapping stories and quoting from our mutual favourite show, Summer Heights High. The next morning was a bit of an early one as we all had planned to go on a walking tour of Paris. The tour was lots of fun and we ended up seeing lots of the popular sites here in Paris and learning some interesting facts.

Not to Hilary: Definitely check out the walking tour whwen you get here!

And that’s about it! Tomorrow I’m hoping to check some other sites here in Paris, but my time in this city is almost done! I depart early Friday morning for Istanbul and I’m not lying when I say I’m SUPER excited!!