Happiness is a package from Amazon.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
This is not easy, not easy at all. I've decided to only choose from cities that I visited this trip and I am excluding Paris because I was only there for about 3 hours. So it comes down to two cities. But because I have to choose just one I will choose... Barcelona!! With Amsterdam coming up as a close second.
I loved Barcelona and I feel like you could take a month long holiday there and never get bored. There are so many things to do and see and generally the city is a buzz with activity AND it has huge stretches of beach! Well the sand isn't the best, very dusty but I loved loved loved my time there and it is definitely somewhere I desperately want to go back to!
If you ever get the chance I would suggest spending a week (at least) there!
My honourable mention is Amsterdam. I loved Amsterdam. It is beautiful and there is lots to do, and a lot of what you do in Amsterdam is sit in cafes and bike around! A laid back beautiful city!! A must see :)
Monday, July 25, 2011
Favorite Groningen Moment
Well I wouldn't call it a moment and I had lots of great times in Groningen, but I would rank Queen's Day Weekend as a high moment. People flood the streets to listen to numerous bands on many different stages all the while wearing orange and drinking beer. Nothing wrong with that. It was a great weekend with my Groningen friends and one that I won't soon be forgetting.
Friday, July 22, 2011
By far my favorite mistake happened in Austria. Tess and I had taken a trip out to the Austrian countryside for an adventure I will be sure to tell you about in another 'favorites' and we were heading home. It was kind of a misadventure and we just jumped on the first train that said it was heading to Salzburg - where we were based. It was leaving within minutes of when we arrived so we didn't really look into many details, we just hopped on.
We quickly discovered that we were on some sort of slow train through mountains and extensive countryside on some sort of milk route train that stopped at all the small towns along the way. The train ride that had taken us about an hour in the morning took us about 4 and a half hours on the way back. We also hadn't eaten that day - due to the misadventure.
We thought it was going to be awful but we quickly discovered that this train ride boasted the most wonderful scenery, winding through mountains, seeing castles, rivers, huge rock walls, rolling hills, and all other beautiful things. It turned out to be the most beautiful train ride I took my entire trip. Awesome mistake!!
I didn't take many pictures on the train and the ones I did didn't really turn out. Here's a few:
Thursday, July 21, 2011
I read this book in a week. Sure it is pretty short and is printed with large spacious print because it was written for kids, but I'm a busy girl. That means that I didn't want to put it down and I made quite an effort to find as much time to read it as possible.
The story is as such; the government puts on a show of dominance every year by selecting one girl and one boy from each district (there are 12) to be put into an arena - somewhere in the wilderness - who are made to fight to the death. Only one can live and be the victor.
It was engaging, the characters were good, and it definitely kept me turning pages! The best part, it is the first in a three part series so although I probably won't have time to pick it up tonight I'll surely be buying book two as soon as I can.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Favorite Nature Experience
Plitvice Lakes in Croatia was AMAZING! I don't think there is anywhere like it and I have never seen any place so beautiful. Going up the Alps in Switzerland would come second, but Plitvice is like nothing else. Stunning. And not surprisingly so, the pictures don't even nearly do this park justice.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I quite enjoyed 'The Help' - it was a nice easy read. It is the story of Jackson Mississippi in the 60s from the perspective of the help. Nice story, I'd recommend if you are looking for a nice simple story and an easy read. Hey, it is summer time and this is just the book for that sort of thing. It is interesting too because it switches narrators and that almost always interests me.
They are making it into a movie, or more accurately, the movie should be coming out shortly so you should go grab this first.
Favorite 'I'm without words' moment:
Standing at Bernauer Strasse in Berlin staring up at the wall. It overwhelmed me with how high and overpowering it was, such helplessness must have filled the people on either side. It was so real. Very very moving. I was speechless at how debilitating that wall made me feel, I can't even fathom what it was like to have that be a reality.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
So since I've been back I've had a lot of people ask me what my favorite place was, which if you have traveled, you know is an impossible question to answer. Sure I've come up with some easy stock answers but I really feel like I am not giving everything a chance. So for that I have created this list. A list of my favorites. If you have any other favorites you'd like to ask me I'd love to answer them in future posts. For now I'll just be posting my favorites day by day.
Easy, hands down Tess' and my conversation in Salzburg with three old men who only spoke German at a brewery while they fed us cheese and salami. I'm pretty sure we only exchanged about 5 words that both parties understood, but the conversation lasted about half an hour and kept us laughing the entire time.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Monday June 27: The End
Monday was a very, very long day. I had to get up nice and early to ensure I caught the necessary train to get me to the airport. I woke up, did your average 'getting ready,' finished packing every last thing from my room and went to go meet the girls for breakfast. Mostly it was me eating as they just woke up to say goodbye to me. After breakfast I called a cab and had to say goodbye. That was no fun at all. It was so weird to leave that place and those people knowing that it would never be like that again. Once I left that was it, I couldn't go back and visit. A teary goodbye and a a hop in the cab (because I had too much stuff to roll across Groningen's cobbled streets) I found myself at the train station.
I intentionally took the earlier train (about 45minutes earlier) because it was a direct line and the last thing I wanted to do was lug my two 50lbs suitcases and my backpack from train to train. I also wanted to do some souvenir shopping at the airport because Groningen doesn't really have that sort of thing. The train left shortly after 9:00 and I was lucky to get there and easily get my bags on with no problems. I slept a lot, even though I felt like I should be taking in my last opportunity at the Dutch landscape - I was really exhausted.
Eventually the train stopped on the tracks, not outside of the Schiphol Airport, but outside of some other town - I wish I could remember where. When I asked what the announcement said, even though I was pretty sure I knew, I was disheartened to hear that the train would not be going any further and I would have to switch. And this is where the train travel starts to take a turn. I find out that 'trains to Schiphol aren't running' and I will have to take a train to Utrecht, switch again, and then go to the Airport. So though elevators and packed trains I go. This trip usually takes 2.5 hours and one train, my trip took 4 hours and 3 trains. Instead of arriving early at 11:30 I arrived late at 1. Good thing I left early.
When I got to the airport I went to check my bags in, one was overweight, one was not. I was that person in the airport line with their suitcases strewn open moving things from one bag to the next. Another good start to my day. I did it though, I made my bags both weight 50lbs. I went to go to my gate. Now because I was late I didn't get to do my souvenir shopping which consequently meant I didn't reaaally bring anything back for my family - sorry family, I had good intentions. I had time to find a few boxes of stroopwafels and a grande iced cafe latte from Starbucks before I had to get to my gate (for interest sake, this would be coffee 1 of 7). At this point I was elated that I had eaten breakfast as it was nearly 2pm and I hadn't had a chance to eat anything yet - it was going to be a long day.
The Amsterdam Airport main terminal has a great deal of shopping and restaurants and it also has security at each gate as opposed to one security for the whole terminal - I wasn't really a fan of that because I didn't know how much time it would take to get through so I basically just went right through out of fear I might miss my flight.
From there I flew to London Heathrow - my flight was delayed and arrived late, this meant I wouldn't really have time to get much for lunch as I would need to transfer to a different part of terminal 5. When I arrived at the gate boarding was seriously delayed and it was seriously hot. I went for my second iced cafe latte of the day, this time venti - serious business. We boarded late because the plane's cooling system wasn't working properly and therefore the plane was too hot for us to be on. When we did board the situation wasn't much better. Once we were all seated we must have sat there for about half an hour before we heard word that the cooling system was still not working properly, while they fixed it the plane would get very hot, then they would cool it, then it would get very hot again. I think we sat there for an hour and a half. Misery.
After that it was fairly fine. I didn't really sleep much, we traveled about at pace with the sun, or at least the sun was always shining bright through the windows. It was unfortunate that they didn't make everyone shut their blinds - which they usually always do. Instead I watched four movies. 1. Rango - it seemed pretty good although I kind of dozed in and out because I was so tired. 2. True Grit - I really enjoyed this, but that doesn't surprise me, Jeff Bridges and the Coen Brothers? Classic. 3. The Fighter - This movie was awesome. I didn't have much interest in seeing it besides the rave reviews, and I will say they are totally founded. A great film. And finally 4. Harry Potter 7 part 1 - which I'd seen already so I half watched, half slept through, we landed before it ended.
Because of the delayed departure we were obviously delayed at arriving - by just over an hour I believe. It was wild to be home, I was greeted by the friendly volunteers in cowboy hats, then talked to some friendly customs workers who didn't give me a hard time at all, and when I made it to my bags they had just come off the turnstile. I loaded to the top one of those carts: two big suitcases, a full backpacking pack, a handbag, and a bag from the AMS airport. When I made it to the second customs guy he just laughed at me - I also got some strange looks from people waiting to pick up their friends/relatives at the gate. My Mom and brother came to the airport to collect me and handed me Tim Horton's coffee and a Maple doughnut - it doesn't get much better than that. From there we drove home and I went off to bed. Strange because as soon as I was back in the house it felt like I never left, like time stood still. Strange.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Thursday June 23
Thursday morning I spent with my cousin walking around her adorable town. We stopped for coffee, perused the shops, stopped for toasties and tea, then I dropped her off at work and I continued to walk around a bit. Eventually I made my way back to her flat to grab my bags with just enough time to take her key back to her, say goodbye, and catch the train. I took the train from Shrewsbury to Liverpool in order to catch my flight back to Amsterdam. This entire process was rather uninteresting except that the Liverpool Airport kind of sucks. Well once you pass security it is nice, but the rest of it wasn't. Otherwise, it went quite smoothly, well there was a Starbucks that didn't have ice and therefore couldn't serve me a cold drink - seriously? No ice?
My flight arrived into AMS around 9:30, I bought some snacks, and got on the next train to Groningen. Fortunately for me Tess was in Amsterdam and we made plans to meet on the same train for the ride home. We met about half an hour into my ride - and she brought beer! What a forward thinking girl! This was ultimately a life saver as we had two drunk 17 year olds behind us and a half an hour train delay - it made it much easier to handle.
Otherwise I arrived home quite tired and went to bed.
Friday June 24
I didn't get up to much during the day Friday, some stuff to get ready for packing, like laundry, some packing, some cleaning, nothing too exciting.
That night, however, was a bit of a different story. As the school year was coming to an end and many people were leaving there was a bit of a general farewell party in our common room, and this party was an 'elegant farewell' so lots of people dressed up, it was nice. It was quite a party to remember, it lasted all night, eventually we made our way into the city. I'd love to say the evening ended as elegantly as it had started, but then my stories would not have been nearly as good. Lets just say it was ridiculous and hilarious and I fell asleep on my floor around 8am. Keepin' it classy.
Saturday June 25
Naturally due to the previous night's shenanigans no one was really moving too quickly, well to be honest no one was really moving at all. I woke up around 11, and went to buy pancake ingredients as I had promised to make fluffy "North American" style pancakes. Now, this didn't happen on Saturday because no one was awake and I needed McDonald's more than was appropriate. I watched Misfits for most of the day before going to find people around 3pm, most people were still asleep.
I packed for most of the day, slowly but surely getting it all in - well not really all, I did leave a bunch of stuff behind. That evening I team dinnered it with Tess before hanging out with Josefin's friends from Sweden for the night. Basically they just make you do shots after singing some sort of Swedish drinking song.
Sunday June 26
I successfully made a batch of very fluffy, very delicious blueberry and a batch of chocolate chip pancakes, I even splurged and bought maple syrup. This was a considerable feat because I did not have any means to measure things out. I had one bowl with vague markings. The pancakes were a hit! Yes! They love'd 'em. Which was good because I didn't know how they would turn out. You see, pancakes everywhere else are more like crepes, thin.
Post pancake binge I went with Tess into the city for one final bike ride, one final stroll, one final cafe, one final trip around Groningen. We walked around which was nice because you don't often meander the streets of a city you live in, especially when I was there I was always biking to a place yet I never really stopped to look around too much. Being Sunday most things were closed but we found some nice streets and shops - that we would have liked to go into. Eventually we stopped for a coke and took in the lovely sunshine. This was the first day of sunshine we had in a very long time, it had been consistently rainy and muggy. It was really nice to just relax in the city.
We made it back to Winscho later that afternoon and I finished packing, stressfully weighing my bags that both appeared to be over weight. As such I had to reevaluate and I ended up taking a bunch of stuff out and packing it in my backpacking pack that I would take on the plane. I also left a number of things behind. We hung out outside for a while, I said some goodbyes, then dragged some people to my room to give away a bunch of my stuff. We just hung out and chatted for quite a while. It was difficult to imagine leaving that place. We made plans to see each other for breakfast before I left and I headed off to bed. Staying up late and needing to be up early for a full day traveling meant I was going to be getting hardly any sleep, but I was a-okay with that.
Monday, July 4, 2011
Because I've left it so long I'm going to have to do a very quick run down of the rest of my time in Europe. Apologies for leaving it so long, but with the traveling, packing, the last weekend, jet lag, and family camping trip I've been totally busy for the last two weeks.
So I think the last time I left you I was somewhere in Scotland about to head to England to see my cousin.
Sunday June 19
I took the train to Stirling to go to Stirling Castle - which had been under renovations and restorations for the last four years. It is supposed to be one of the best castles in Scotland to visit, and it has tons of history as it was the main castle of the ruling members of the Scottish monarch. It was gorgeous and a good quick trip. Provided with entrance was an audio tour which was really good.
After a few hours of wandering around the castle and taking in the gorgeous scenery I took the train back to Edinburgh and decided to skip town early and go down to my cousin's place that night. Through a series of emails, tweets, and facebook messages I let my cousin know I was coming early and boarded the train. The process was mostly smooth except that the connecting train I was supposed to catch didn't actually exist making me about an hour later than I had intended. No harm done. I made it and my cousin collected me at the station.
Monday June 20
It was nice to have a full day instead of the half day I had initially planned. It was also nice to be staying at my cousin's house - which was considerably nicer and more comfortable than the hostel in Edinburgh. It was also really nice to be with someone again. I don't mind traveling alone, but hanging out with someone else is way better - especially when that someone is your cousin.
Monday my cousin showed me around her town - Shrewsbury - which is totally adorable and the perfect size. I really like it. We wandered around the streets, stopped for lunch in the dingle (ya, that's a thing), walked some more through the shops, I got to see the castle, stopped for tea. It was really just lovely.
I was spoiled by having dinner cooked for me my entire stay.
Tuesday June 21
We decided to take a short trip to Ludlow - a town quite close to Shrewsbury - for the day. Ludlow is supposedly the 'cutest' town in the area - or something to that effect, but I have to say I'm partial to Shrewsbury. Ludlow, though cute, was considerably smaller. It also just so happened that on Tuesday's in Ludlow most things are closed. There is a market in town every day of the week except Tuesday. So we wandered around, went into the church, stopped for lunch, went through some charity shops before grabbing the train back.
When we arrived in Shrewsbury we quickly made our way over to the river for some Pims. I understand it was a rather disappointing glass of Pims but it was alright by me. From there we headed back to my cousin's flat to make dinner and watch some tv before heading to bed.
Wednesday June 22
My cousin had to work on Wednesday so I decided to take a little day trip down to Oxford. It was just under 3 hours on the train, one way. When I arrived it was pouring rain but it took all of about 20 minutes for it to stop. Oxford is quite adorable with many interesting buildings, most part of the university, and lovely streets. Most of the university buildings were closed to the public because school was still in session and there appeared to be some graduation ceremonies taking place. I basically just walked around the streets, enjoying the scenery, stopped in a few shops, and finally made my way to Corpus Christi College which is an interesting building because it is both a college building and a church that was commissioned by Queen Mary - but I could be wrong on the particulars. It is also interesting because there is a dining hall which was the inspiration for Hogwart's dining hall and there are steps that were in the movie - I believe.
I took the train back around 4pm making it into Shrewsbury for about 7 - at which time my cousin had supper ready - see, so spoiled.
After dinner we both decided it would be a good idea to go to a few local pubs. In the first one I tried a lemon beer and we met a man who lived in Calgary for seven years, in the second pub we had a cider which was very tasty as well. It was a great last evening in England.
And I will leave it there and give you more details tomorrow.