5 Things I Learned in Chetwynd and Fort St. John

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1. Before leaving for Chetwynd my coworker and I decided to peruse Urbanspoon to see what our dining options were going to be for the 5 days we were there. Upon looking it up we quickly realized that Subway was the #1 rated restaurant. My coworker is a twenty something male who literally eats McDonald’s every day and gains absolutely no weight (I take solace in the fact that if we were to cut him open Big Mac sauce would probably come oozing out), and there wasn’t even a McDonald’s in this town over just over 2600. So if you are planning on going to Chetwynd, make sure your taste buds are ready for mediocrity.

2. In this past year I’ve been so lucky to do some extensive travelling throughout the world, 8 countries and 14 different cities to be exact. I’ve been able to cross a number of things off my bucket list: watching Les Miserables in the West End; experiencing the World Cup in Europe, specifically Germany; devouring dim sum in Hong Kong to name a few. Well, little did I know but one more was going to get crossed off when I arrived in Chetwynd. Chetwynd is the chainsaw art capital of the world! The entire city (which is basically one main road) has various chainsaw sculptures lining the sidewalks. We went and looked a number and I must say they are incredibly impressive and chainsaw artists from all over the world did a number of them. Every city needs something to put it on the map and for Chetwynd it’s chainsaw art.

3. Living up north is definitely no for everybody and if you have an affinity to small cars or small little sports cars, don’t move up there. Not only does everyone own a truck, all of those cars are also lifted and completely covered in mud. Our rental SUV was never that muddy, which definitely made us stand out especially in Chetwynd.

4. Our first day in Fort St. John gave us lots of time to explore this emerging city so we decided to go on a self guided tour. That tour took under an hour. We hit up the Peace Valley lookout, which provided a nice view. Things we noticed: everything is brown in Fort St. John, you would never use lush to describe the landscape; it was CRAZY windy… we tried to take selfies but the wind was impeding our basic; and this is apparently the spot where men in big trucks like to eat their lunch.

5. Another place we went on our self-guided tour was the Fish Creek Community Forest. Coming from Vancouver the lack of evergreen trees takes a little getting used to. So to satisfy my need for coniferous trees we headed to the community forest. We were definitely the only people in said forest and most of it was covered in snow and ice, a fact I knew only too well when I fell and covered myself in mud. Also, people of Fort St. John: PLEASE PICK UP AFTER YOUR DOG.

5 Things I Learned in Cabo San Lucas

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1. No gracias. If you go to public beaches in Mexico you need to become very familiar with this phrase. There are tons of locals there trying to get you to rent skidoos from them, take their boat, use their paddleboards, buy their jewelry, bags, bowls, t-shirts etc. While it definitely can be annoying you just have to say no gracias once and they leave. To be honest most of the time I would be lying there with my music in and my hat over my face or reading a book, so they rarely bothered me. On our last day though my aunt and I both ended up buying some souvenirs from the people on the beach (bracelets and beach bags). Just be ready to barter.

2. I take eating really seriously. Like, really seriously. In Vancouver one of my best friends Emma and I regularly get comments from servers and chefs about the amount of food we can consume in one sitting. Some people can run marathons; we can eat five beef rolls in one sitting. So needless to say I was pretty excited about the food opportunities in Mexico. I wanted to try anything and I was lucky that everyone I was with felt the same. When we went out for dinner or lunch we would all order something different and then share the food amongst us. This included tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, quesadillas, rellenos, burritos, chimichangas, and empanadas. Right off the bat I want to say that if you have a sensitive stomach, take the necessary precautions before you travel. I have a pretty strong stomach but even I had moments of uncertainty. If you love flavourful food like I do you will be in flavor heaven, especially if you like spicy food. Also, randomly I had some of the most phenomenally fresh sushi, and this is coming from a Vancouverite who has grown up with only awesome fresh sushi. Although it was much more expensive than what you would find in Vancouver the tuna sashimi was off the chain.

3.Continuing on with the theme of food, some of us did a Mexican cooking class, which we all would recommend. If you are in Cabo do this class for Donna alone. She is quite the character whose enthusiasm and passion for Mexican cooking creates a fun and inviting atmosphere. We did the “Mexican Comfort Food” class and we made salsa, guacamole, a soul with meatballs and dumplings, potato cakes, and a Mexican salad with cactus. Fun fact, apparently everyone who lives in Mexico eats cactus. We did the class near the end of our trip and we all wished we had done it near the beginning so that we could have tested out our new skills throughout our trip. http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g152515-d2180486-Reviews-Casa_de_Colores_School_of_Traditional_Mexican_Cooking-Cabo_San_Lucas_Los_Cabos_Ba.html

4. Cabo San Lucas is a fairly touristy spot. If one is looking for an authentic Mexican experience this isn’t necessarily the place you would go. About an hour outside of Cabo is the town of Todos Santos. This is the home of the actual Hotel California that the Eagles sing about and a really quaint little town. Tons of art galleries and little restaurants (we had really good food in the restaurant across from Hotel California… I believe it was called Tequila Sunrise). On the way to Todos Santos there is a blanket factory that you have to check out. They have really good prices on authentic Mexican blankets and rugs. We compared how much we paid for a rug there with another store and the rug in the other store was almost triple in price! Now I’m no rug aficionado and could not tell you what a fair price for a wool rug is, but everyone else I was with seemed to know their stuff and couldn’t walk away from the awesome prices.

5. Just down the highway from our condo there was this building that we drove and walked past all the time called Artesanos. At our cooking class Donna kept raving about it so we felt we had to go, especially cause it was so close to us. Holy. Friggen. Moly. This place was outrageous. You immediately walk into this expansive room just filled to the brim with artisanal Mexican kitchenware. Then you quickly realize this place is bigger than this one room and has everything you could need for your house. It would be so easy to spend at least an hour walking through. The number one problem is it isn’t practical to bring back most of the items, but we all stocked up on a number of smaller kitchenware to take home with us. Not a place to be missed. (Also, there is a glass factory in “downtown” Cabo that shouldn’t be missed)

*I know I already wrote 5 things but I can’t go to Mexico and not mention the tequila. So many margaritas. My cousin learned quickly though to not ask you server, “bring us a shot of your favourite tequila”. It’s always the most expensive.

**I know I already wrote 5 things +1 but that antidote of my cousin reminded me of the fact that once again on my travels I was immersed in sporting events that I knew nothing about (see 5 Things I Learned Watching The World Cup In Europe). This time though it was American Football. The evening would start with watching a game in the condo, and then we would finally get to leave! … to watch another game in a bar.

***I know I already wrote 5 things +2 but I can’t believe I gave no mention to the fact that I got to spend New Years Eve in Mexico. For an evening that tends to be the worst for everyone we had an awesome night. My Aunt and Uncle took us out for an incredible dinner on the waterfront. Can’t beat that.

5 Things I Learned Packing for Europe

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So I don’t have any appropriate photos for packing so enjoy more photos from my European adventures!

  1. Having never backpacked before I was slightly apprehensive about how quickly my backpack would become disorganized. We all have experienced it with our suitcases… we take them on vacation and it takes less than a day for them to become disorganized and no longer neatly folded. At least with a suitcase it is easy to find everything, but when I thought about this with my backpack I envisioned pure anarchy and chaos (also if you have ever seen the amount of clothes I own and how many end up on my bedroom floor you would understand). Luckily I have a sick obsession with reading travel blogs and I quickly realized my saving grace was going to be packing cubes. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like without them. They helped keep my absurdly huge backpack organized and honestly alleviated a lot of stress throughout my travels. I got them from Target, and I can’t even tell you the name of them right now causes my Aunt is actually borrowing them for her upcoming trip. They came in three sizes and I put all my jeans/cardigans etc. in the biggest, tops in the middle, and intimates in the smallest one. If you are planning on backpacking, get these cubes. I don’t want to say they will change your life, but your life will never be the same.

    2. ROLL YOUR CLOTHES. You always read about people saying this is the best way to pack your clothes but you think to yourself, “how dare you suggest that folding isn’t the one and only option! I will always fold my clothes”. Well, I caved. I rolled my clothes when I went to Asia earlier in the summer and all the rumors are true… you can fit more clothes and your clothes don’t wrinkle as much. So when space is precious and you don’t want your clothes to wrinkle from hostel to hostel ROLL YOUR CLOTHES.

    3. So for forever and a day I always have complained about the weather in June. In Vancouver at least, it’s that awkward in between weather where it’s not hot enough for just shorts and a t-shirt, but also not cool enough for a jacket. Or during the day you are all right in a t-shirt but by 5pm you need another layer. Or out of nowhere it’s raining, but a warm rain. With all this in mind it was a struggle for me to figure out what to pack. The answer is layers and having thin clothes that you can easily throw into your bag. I LIVED in two of my Banana Republic cardigans as well as a thin North Face shell jacket that I was lucky enough to get from Sport Check before I left for only $45. The jacket was such a saving grace… it was the perfect weight for the June temperatures but also thin enough that when it did get warmer I could take it off and put it in my purse.

    4. Let me set the stage for you: I was returning home from Asia on June 10th, had my university convocation on June 13th, and then left for Europe on June 14th. There was very little time to do what I really wanted, which was binge watch the rest of Friday Night Lights on Netflix. Instead I was knee deep in laundry and our living room became the communal packing/unpacking space. To make all of this even less stressful Air Canada was nice enough to misplace my luggage from Hong Kong. Luckily, nobody over thinks packing as much as I do. While I was packing to come home from Hong Kong I thought to myself, “Wow it would suck if I lost my luggage and all the things I wanted to take to Europe would be gone”. So, I packed everything I knew I couldn’t live without in Europe in my carry on. Crisis avoided. I really encourage this practice to everyone when they travel. Always put at least one extra outfit and other things you can’t live without in your carry on… as long as they aren’t liquids over 100ml, cause in that case tough luck.

    5. I am so conscientious about not looking like the biggest tourist possible whilst travelling. I quickly realized the fastest way for people to know I was North American was to essentially dress exactly how I would dress in Vancouver. In Vancouver we dress so casually. Luckily, I had already been privy to this knowledge in Hong Kong so I was prepared for this in Europe. I don’t understand why people don’t embrace wearing shorts when the temperature creeps above 22, but that’s just me. Anyways, I’m so happy I brought two pairs of closed toe shoes (Toms and Chucks) cause everywhere you look people are wearing sneakers (especially in Hamburg, Amsterdam, and Salzburg). While we were in Berlin, Munich, and Prague the weather was warmer and I made the bold decision to wear sandals a couple times. There was even one day in Berlin where it was warm enough I wore a sundress. It also didn’t help that my travelling companion had this weird vendetta against shorts so he was always in jeans and sneakers.

5 Things I Learned Watching the World Cup in Europe

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I’m slowly coming down from my Europe high and feel like I can now compose coherent sentences about my trip without crying or becoming over excited.

1. Being from Canada I am, of course, an ice hockey girl through and through. Also being from North America soccer, or football as I plan to forever properly call it now isn’t as big of a deal. This being said I am half British and both my Grandpa and Uncle follow the English Premier league closely and I overhear their conversations at Sunday dinners. Also, I was really excited that I would be in Europe for the majority of the World Cup so I could get a pretty authentic experience of all the hype. So when I arrived in London at the beginning of the World Cup I was naturally going to be cheering for England. I watched the England vs. Uraguay game at my families house and listening to my family members yell and curse at the TV felt pretty similar to watching hockey back at home. While I was still in the UK, the England squad were disqualified which was met with much disappointment from my family members, lucky for me I was headed to Germany the next day and I had a brand new team to cheer on!

2. What is honestly the number one thing Europe/The World Cup taught me… how to drink beer. I was not a beer enthusiast before I left for Europe but the evening I arrived in Hamburg the Germany vs Ghana game was on. I literally got off the train, met Finn, quickly dropped my stuff off at his place, and then we immediately left to meet some of his friends at a bar to watch the game. They were only serving Jever beer at the bar and I was meeting new people and a drink was necessary so that I could keep up. After that watching a game without a beer seemed so incorrect. That feeling was further confirmed when I arrived home and the semi-finals were on and I had no one to watch them with and it was 1pm on a Tuesday. It was a weird experience as I had no one to watch the game with and I didn’t have a beer to drink, pretty much the complete opposite experience to what it was like in Europe.

3. I have never felt more German than when we watched the Germany vs. USA game at the Augustiner Bierkeller in Munich. I already mentioned my experience in my “5 Things I Learned in Munich” post. It was the craziest atmosphere with over 5000 people there and litre beers all around you. I had a pretty eclectic variation of places that I watched World Cup games but this will always be my favourite.

4. Like I previously mentioned I watched a lot of games in a lot of different places. Since I was travelling with a German, watching the games was always a priority (I should also clarify this wasn’t limited to only games that Germany was playing in… we had to watch all the games). I watched games in a bar in Hamburg, beer gardens in Munich, in apartments in Salzburg, in Irish bars in Prague, in outdoor restaurants in Berlin, and in every single hostel we stayed in all over Europe. Since I’ve been home and told people about my trip and mentioned that I was there for the majority of the World Cup everyone is so jealous and when I list of the dozen or so places I watched the games their jealousy only grows.

5. My interest level in the World Cup went from probably a 2/10 at the beginning of my trip to a 10/10 by the time I touched back down in Vancouver. I was so committed I even decided to have a favourite player (Özil, who was on the German team and plays for Arsenal in the Premier League). Even Finn said he could see with each game my interest level getting higher and higher. I will be the first person to admit I am a bandwagoner but it’s impossible not to become really excited. It was electric everywhere I went, but to have watched as many games as I did in German cities was really once in a lifetime.

 

5 Things I Learned in Hamburg

 

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1. When I was younger I used to get very homesick when I spent nights away from home. Luckily for me I got over it and have had minimal pangs of homesickness whilst I have been away. This probably has something to do with how easy it is for me to communicate with people back home whilst away… I may have talked to my mom more while Ive been gone than when I’m at home (JOKING my mom’s the best and I talk to her regularly when I am at home… She is my roommate after all). If I ever felt homesick for Vancouver the city I needn’t have as Hamburg is so similar to Vancouver. It’s a port city so that’s obvious, on my last night there it poured rain also pretty typical Vancouver, and I think there is just another indescribable quality about coastal cities. Although I can’t even begin to describe my desperation at this point for sushi. I refuse to pay exorbitant prices for sushi when it is so cheap and delicious in Vancouver. I’ve already forced my best friend to get sushi with me the day I arrive.

2. For all the reasons that Hamburg is similar to Vancouver there are equal number of reasons why it is so different. The first thing that comes to my mind is the locks on the doors. Why do you have to turn the key so many times to unlock it?? Also, it’s the summer time people… It’s okay to wear sandals. It is not necessary to wear jeans and sneakers 365 days of the year. The time I felt like the biggest tourist was when I went out on my own in Hamburg wearing jeans, a cardigan and dare I say it… Sandals! I would also like to mention that it was like 22 degrees and if I had been I Vancouver it would have been a sundress and sandals all the way. Then obviously the biggest difference when I walk down a busy street there aren’t 56 sushi places.

3. Finn is a lover of all things old, especially buildings. If a building is made from anything but brick he just isn’t interested. So my initial tour through Hamburg consisted of a lot of “look at how much better these buildings look over those!” This all came to a head at the new concert hall being built in Hamburg the Elbphilharmonie. I don’t want to state specific numbers, mostly cause I am tired and can’t remember the numbers Finn told me and can’t be bothered to look them up, but essentially the building is waaaaaaaaaaaay over time and waaaaaaaaaaaay over budget. I mean like more over budget than the Northwest Transmission line. Anyways, the building is nice enough to me (definitely not worth what it costs) but I understand why Finn has such a soft spot for the older buildings. They add to the atmosphere and character of a city.

4. I feel necessary to bring attention to our beloved Anton. We were at a flea market in Amsterdam and as I previous mentioned Finn loves old things so we were at this one stand with old postcards and pictures for quite awhile. Finn had been looking through what felt like 50 000 postcards and I was looking through this box of old movie stills when he finally came over to tell me he was ready to go when he started flipping through the movie stills with me and all of my sudden came across perhaps the most awkward photo ever of Anton Geesink. It was an almost immediate reaction from both of us that there was no question that he needs to buy this photo. Every time we looked at his face it just made us laugh no matter what. As we made our way to Munich I mentioned that I thought Anton should accompany us on our travels and have a photo shoot throughout Europe, which is what happened. Anton got to go up all the buildings and see all the views. When we got back to Hamburg it had been decided that he would require the most ornate and beautiful frame that we could find and had to come from a flea market. The frame we found is perfection and Anton gets to live out his days mounted on Finn’s wall watching over his apartment incase of intruders.

*we had decided that we weren’t going to google who Anton was until we arrived back in Hamburg. All we knew was that he was an olympic champion of some sort of martial art, we had no idea if he was even still alive. Well we have since found out that he was a Dutch olympic champion in Judo who revolutionized the sport by being the first non Japanese to win gold. Also, sadly he died in 2010.

5. I’ve mentioned many times in my blog posts of my travels how lucky I have been to abuse so many peoples generous hospitality. There is one persons hospitality, patience, and kindness that I will forever be indebted to, Finn. Heading into our travels I was a little apprehensive of how our 15 days together would be as we have been friends for 8 years but other than the year he spent in Canada we have only spent an additional 14 days together and now we were going to be together 24/7 for 15 days. Luckily, we immediately caught up as if no time had passed and were on our way. I can only imagine how frustrating it is travelling with a sarcastic and opinionated Canadian who is relying on you to translate all the German for her, and needs you to constantly help lift her unusually large backpack, and liked to constantly complain about the current state of her feet and legs. This isn’t a post gushing about how we are going to be friends forever and what not, but instead just of how much I appreciate our friendship and appreciate him taking two precious weeks from him incredibly busy schedule to hang out with me, and that if another 4 years pass before we see each other again it will be like noting has changed (except that we will be 28 years old and that is reason enough to start freaking out).

5 Things I Learned in Berlin

 

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1. Even before this world trip had even been conceived I had a discussion with my mom about how much I love Vancouver tap water and how weird it is to go somewhere else and either a) not be able to drink water straight from the tap or b) have the water taste different. So here I arrive in Europe fully prepared to accept that my beloved Vancouver tap water will have to wait for me for 3 weeks and what do I discover… Everyone loves sparkling water. I, on the other hand, do not get the fuss about sparkling water and find it the opposite of refreshing. My good friend Troy would love it here, he’s one of those people who bought a soda stream because why not? The worst part is my travelling companion prefers sparkling to still… What the actual heck. The number of times I’ve had to go against everything I believe in and buy a bottle of water (bottled water is another rant for another time) I’ve accidentally picked up sparkling each time. What is it Europe… What are the secrets you hold about sparkling water?!

2. Another European city another museum. This time we visited the Pergamon Museum and armed with our audio guise we learned about ancient times ranging from Ancient Greek, to Mesopotamia, to other parks of the Roman Empire and as well about ancient Islamic art. Essentially we looked at a bunch if intricately carved rocks that were beyond old. Looking at this old relics and reconstructions of incredibly detailed gates and other things further emphasizes a point that both Finn and I have talked about at least once a day since our travels began. As you walk around these old European cities and look at these beautiful buildings or ornately decorated churches it’s hard to imagine the time, precision, skill, and dedication it took to carefully craft all of these buildings. Without any of the technology we are accustomed to today or even technology they had available 100 years ago. The same can be said as you look at the friezes that were carved so carefully depicting stories thousands of years ago. Blows your mind.

3. Our last day in Berlin before we caught the train back to Hamburg we went to the German Natural History Museum as they had an exhibition on World War I, due to the 100 year anniversary. Having visited the Churchill War Rooms in London I figured I might as well get a well give WWI it’s fair go in my European adventures. It was a good exhibit with amazing audio guides. I am seriously a museum audio guide connoisseur at this point and I have to say these were the best, like better than my iPhone5 good. After the exhibit we went to the Topography of Terror to continue our day of depressing war information. The Topography of Terror is located….We both left the exhibition feeling so depressed. I was saying that it was interesting learning about the Nazi regime from the German point of view. In school I’ve only ever learned of WWII from the Allied point of view and in that case the dichotomy is a lot of, “we knew of the atrocities and we were there to save the people” and “we succeeded in winning the war and abolishing the injustice!” But reading about it in Germany (in great detail I might add) is more like, “look at thee absolutely atrocious things that happened and all these people who believed in these atrocities and the number of lives them deemed not worthy to continue living, and then look at them lose the war”. Depressing stuff. Immediately afterwards we both decided that we deserved ice cream after a day filled with world wars.

4. Canadians sometimes get a bad rap for not being very patriotic. No idea where that comes from cause all you need to do is go travelling outside of North America and there is honestly no other nationally more excited to tell everyone where they are from than Canadians. This has been a running joke because in Amsterdam I saw a group of people wearing T-shirts that said “Canada” across them and I mentioned that I thought it was pretty embarrassing. You wouldn’t wear those in Canada so why would you wear them now, Canada wasn’t even in the World Cup (duh) so there really was no reason. Finn simply turns to me and says, “Don’t you have a Canada luggage tag on you on your backpack…” I then had to explain to him that was completely different and that I received it as a gift and that everyone does that anyways! After that he continued to give me a hard time about it and I had to admit that I never saw any other luggage tags on backpacks with any other flag than the Canadian one. So, we arrive at our hostel in Berlin and two of our roommates were from Quebec and the first thing Finn asks them is if they have Canadian flag luggage tags and sure enough… They both did, cause duh.
5. I rode a bike. Enough said. I didn’t cry.

*I just realized that none of these five point really pertain to Berlin specifically but instead my experience in Europe as a whole…. But as I feel like I have walked around the whole of Europe 3 times at least I don’t really care. Get off my back okay! I’m on vacation!

5 Things I Learned in Prague

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1. While we were in Salzburg, Sarah who we were staying with, gave us a map of Prague. It was a Use It map and probably the best map ever. We used it so much it ended up tearing in half. One of the things that is mentioned in the map is tips on what food to eat. Pretty much all we took away from the blurb about the food was that, “Czech food is heavy, get over it!” So that became our mantra for all of our quests for food while in Prague… And they weren’t lying. The food is heavy. There is a lot, and I mean A LOT of meat with potatoes, with dumplings, with gravy, with sauerkraut with cabbage (always with cabbage). This being said we both enjoyed the meals we ate and the beer we drank.
To ensure this was a proper cultural experience we also decided to eat Chinese food for lunch one day cause as we all are aware… There is nothing more authentic and culturally significant as eating Chinese food in Prague. All I will say is that since I recently spent 3 weeks in Asia my standards are impossibly high and unfortunately we’re not met.

2. As I previously mentioned Sarah had given us an awesome map of Prague and within the map they gave some awesome routes for self guided walking tours. In keeping with the theme of the trip so far of course we planned to walk around Prague at least 25 times before we left. In previous cities we had visited we were perfectly happy to just wander and turn down random streets, preferring to avoid the busy main streets packed with tourists. Lucky for us one of the walks outlined on the map was called, “off the beaten track” which was perfect. We still hit all get main sights (Prague Castle, the Jewish Quarter etc) but the route we took to these places was definitely filled with minimal tourists and lots of locals. If you are visiting Prague I highly recommend getting picking up one of the Use It maps when you arrive.

3. After walking through Prague Castle and St. Virus Cathedral our walk directed us to Královská zahrada a park located behind the cathedral. While walking through the park we came across a greenhouse. For Kč20, or around $1CAD, for some reason we thought it would be a worthwhile experience to walk through this greenhouse to look at various citrus trees. It was maybe one of the most random things I have ever done in my life. There weren’t even any fruit on these trees. Pretty much the only piece of information we took away from the experience was that it used to be said that the cure for small breasts and hips is to eat lots of citrus so all you ladies who want plastic surgery save yourself some money and just eat an orange.

4. By the end of my Europe trip I will be able to dedicate a whole post to “5 Things I Learned as a North American Watching the World Cup in Europe” (a post I may actually do thanks to a 3hr45 layover in Toronto on my way home). After watching the Germany vs. Algeria game in an Irish pub in Prague (talk about globalization) I said I enjoyed watching that game more than others because it was in English and Finn said he could tell due to the number of “aiyahs” I said in comparison to other games.

5. There is a running joke in my family about my sisters love of random crap. Seriously, she is a sucker for some pretty tacky things. She would be in heaven in Prague. More than in any of the other cities we have visited so far the number of souvenir shops is exponential. It’s not like these are your average souvenir shop filled with some magnets, shot glasses and postcards, these shops are PACKED (I don’t think even I can be hyperbolic about how much stuff is in these souvenir shops) with such random crap it is comical. More often than not though the main feature of these shops is the “bohemian crystal”. I decided I had to go into one of the stores just to know what it was like. Now I know that if I need a crystal monkey eating a banana while swinging from a palm tree, I know where to go.

5 Things I Learned in Salzburg

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1. The Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is a big deal, especially in Salzburg where he is from. You don’t have to travel far between various points in Salzburg before you see either a statue of him, or a plaque dedicate to where he or a family member lived, or some sort of random figurine of him for tourists to buy. Just to ensure that everyone knew we were tourists of course we had to stop for picture in front of statues and the plaque in front of his house. It doesn’t get more Austrian than that. I am also a connoisseur of random Mozart knowledge. For example, does the Mozart (over the course of the day Mozart transformed himself from just plain ol’ Mozart to “THE Mozart”, one of his many talents) have any descendants? AND for a bonus, does his sister have any descendants? This are the kind of culturally significant facts one needs to know when visiting Salzburg.

2. If you are ever like, “Wow I feel like travelling to a foreign city and standing out as the biggest tourist as humanly possible!” You should travel to Salzburg and just mention the Sound of Music. Considering I was spending my time with three Germans, one of whom lives in Salzburg, they all enjoyed how foreign I was by my mention of my deep love of the Sound of Music. Full disclosure, Julie Andrews is my spirit animal and I went against everything inside of me to stifle the songs I wanted to belt out every 5 minutes. Next time I’m going to Salzburg I’m going to make sure am with a fellow North American who will indulge me. Although, we did go to the cemetery where they filmed the Von Trapp family hiding for the Nazis and stinky Rolf selling them out. That was pretty exciting.

3. You can’t go to any European city and not step foot in at least one Church, I’m pretty sure it’s like a law or something. So in Salzburg we went into the famed Salzburg Cathedral and in keeping with all the other churches it was absolutely massive, quite different from my favourite little church in North Vancouver, and very ornate and honestly very ostentatious. In keeping with the Mozart theme I learned that this was the same church in which he was baptized and the same baptismal font is there too. When we went inside there was a huge choir practicing so we sat and listened to them practice. There is something about choral music in a church that is beyond relaxing. I had a similar feeling when I attended the Evensong service at St. Paul’s in London earlier. We then went downstairs and I said it looked like something out of Indiana Jones. We are on our way to Prague right now and I can only imagine how many churches we will go into.

4. Don’t even get me started on how I feel about tipping at restaurants. That is a whole other rant for a whole other blog. So coming to Europe and not being forced to tip 15% all them time has been such a foreign concept to me. I always feel so guilty when I leave the restaurant. That being said the customer service in Europe is very different than that in North America, most notably in Salzburg. Sarah had already discussed how frustrated she gets with how rude some of there servers can be in Salzburg and we got to experience this at a coffee shop in Salzburg. Finn and I have since named this man Hans, but I named him that after the villain in Frozen not sure if that was Finns reason too… I have a feeling not the same. Anyways, I’m pretty happy I couldn’t speak german at that moment as I could tell he was being rude but didn’t know how much.

5. All of my travels this summer I have been so blessed to meet some of the nicest and kindest people who are willing to take this raging North American under their wing and show her around. This hospitality did not end in Salzburg. We were lucky enough to be able to stay at Finns friend Sarah’s flat and her boyfriend who goes to school with Finn was also in Salzburg at the same time. Both Sarah and Christoph jammed packed a day for us so that we could soak in all the sights in such a limited amount of time. Sarah seriously know all the things about Salzburg and it was so nice being able to go around with someone who knew exactly where they were going and what they were talking about. Even though some of thing we did were pretty touristy and probably not that exciting to someone who lives there Sarah took us around to all these places with no complaints. I also have to give major props to Finn, Sarah and Christoph for speaking in English 95% of the time for me instead of German. I can’t express my gratitude enough and hope that one day I can extend the exact same kindness to her.

5 Things I Learned in Munich

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1. During my time in Europe I have now watched three World Cup games, and nothing can compare to watching the recent Germany vs. USA game in Munich. Knowing that it was going to be a popular game to watch, and also being used to how stupid early you have to lines up for things in Vancouver, we set out to the Augustiner Bierkeller in Munich. By the time we arrived with about an hour and 45 minutes to go before the game it was already packed. I mean like 4000 people packed. We found a spot waaaaaaaaaay in the back and then Finn set off to get beer and food. This resulted in tons of pork and litre beers. Those who know me know that I am not a beer drinker at all but I have enough self awareness to not be that girl ordering cocktails (I’ve actually only had beer the whole time in Europe so go me). The atmosphere was pretty electric and to me, just watching all these people was entertaining enough, which ended up working well because I couldn’t even see the screen.

2. You can’t really go to Europe and not go to at least one museum. We made our way to the Alte Pinakothek, which according to Wikipedia houses the largest collection of “Old Masters” paintings. As I mentioned in an earlier post both Finn and I have discussed how we sometime struggle when it comes to appreciating art. This is what I learned: prior to 1800 the only things you painted were either depictions of the birth of Christ, the crucifixion, or portraits of nobility and I mean ONLY these things; due to the frequency of these paintings when there was something different it would really stand out and pretty much the only painting both of us came away remembering was one that had these mutants in hell eating those who where condemned so you know… A painting of real cultural significance; I also don’t understand people who walk through without listening to the audio guide. Museums can be pretty boring even with the audio guide. Come on tourists… You’re doing it wrong. Finally, we met one of the nicest museum workers. He really loved his job and he wanted to make sure that we loved the museum as much as he (physically impossible I think).

3. Another European city, another park. So far though, I think this one is my favourite. Obviously describing atmospheres is impossible so I won’t try but it just has a great atmosphere (yes I have a degree in communications and yes that was maybe the most embarrassing sentence I have ever written). We went to the Biergarten beim Chinesischem Turm located by the Chinese Tower (cause duh why wouldn’t there a chinese tower in Munich). There are 8000 seats at this beer garden and the whole situation was pretty german if you ask me. They even had a band playing traditional music. Afterwards all we wanted to do was sit, because as in keeping with the theme of the previous 6 days we waked another 1000 miles and our bodies were so tired. We found a bench and Finn wrote some postcards and then we both subsequently fell asleep (more on my sleeping experiences below).

4. At home when I sleep I like to sprawl out in my double bed while surrounded by all my pillows that I have rationalized to myself are necessary. Most importantly though, I need to sleep in total darkness. This includes any light that may be coming off clocks etc. This is a characteristic common of the Chan side of my family so I’m not alone in my strangeness. Well since arriving in Europe I’ve been sharing rooms with loud sleepers, sleeping in rooms with no blinds, slept on an air mattress that deflates throughout the night, attempted sleeping on an night train that was potentially the loudest train in the whole entire world, and slept in hostel rooms that were the equivalent of sleeping in a sauna (Europe has made me very hyperbolic). So that’s why when we found this bench in the English Garden I promptly laid horizontal on it and fell asleep. What I would like to know though is how can I fall asleep on a bench in broad daylight with people talking all around me, but can’t fall asleep on a night train to save my life?

5. I honestly can’t think of a 5th thing as we were in Munich for such a short amount if time but I will update the biking situation. The update is I still haven’t ridden a bike. Enough said. Also, Finn replaced his cell phone without any hassle. Being from Canada I obviously assumed that whole situation was going to be the biggest headache and super expensive. It wasn’t. What the heck Canada.

5 Things I Learned in Amsterdam

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1. My fourth biggest fear is dropping my cell phone and breaking it. This also includes dropping it in water, naturally. Since Amsterdam is pretty much exclusively canals I had constant paranoia about this. Finn and I were sitting near the water and I repeatedly mentioned how much anxiety I had over this. Later in the day we were sat down by the edge of a canal and, naturally, I took my phone out to take some picture and stopped paying attention to everyone around me. As I am taking photos Finn turns to me and says, “I dropped my phone in the water”. Since we had just talked about it earlier in the day I just looked at him as if he was trying to fool me and I kind of brushed it off and said, “No you didn’t” and just kind if laughed. Well, he actually did. Less than 24 hours of travelling together and one of us had already lost an important piece of property. I must say Finn handled it so well. He stayed so calm and rational. Where as if it had been me I would have started crying, and probably would still be crying right now a day later. Luckily we are on our way to Munich where he can get a new phone but seriously, what an inconvenience.

2. I have to give some pretty big props to my mom for finding the hostel where we stayed. It was on a boat. Enough said. If you have been following my travels on this blog you will know my intense love of views and drinking while looking at views. Well being able to get back to your hostel, sit outside on the deck of the boat and drink a beer in the harbour is pretty spectacular. Our room was really nice and the lady there had the nicest dog who would just lay there and get petted all day. For anyone travelling to Amsterdam I highly suggest staying here.

3. In Vancouver we like to think of ourselves as a bike city. This is false. There is no greater bike city than Amsterdam. I could try to describe how many cyclists and bikes there were but you wouldn’t even believe me. In our first day we walked what felt like 8000 miles (I don’t even feel like I am exaggerating) and decided that the next day we would ride bikes. Full disclosure, I have no ridden a bike in like 9 years and although Amsterdam is pretty much flat I was still feeling anxious about it. So after our first day of walking we both returned to our hostel with various ailments in our lower half. I had huge blisters on one of my feet and my shins were hurting and Finn’s knee was feeling sore and his shins were also hurting. Suffice to say, we were a little worse for wear. As day 2 dawned I woke up with my feet not feeling any better and honestly all I wanted to do was sit by some water and drink a beer. But as we were leaving Amsterdam that evening we had to make the most of the day. We planned to go to a museum, get lunch and then rent bikes. As our day progressed I had come to the conclusion that I was not getting on a bike, and spent most of my time trying to figure out how I was going to break it to Finn. Finally at lunch the bikes came up and he just looked at me and was like, “you’re not going to rent one are you” and I was able to breath a sigh of relief and say no. In the end he still rented a bike and I went to a flea market and did some work I needed to do. I’ve been warned that I’m not going to leave Europe though without riding a bike. Stay tuned.

4. We walked through Vondelpark and pretty much every 50 ft there was some sort of modern art installation. Prior to leaving Hamburg Finn and I had discussed how we sometimes struggle to appreciate art, especially modern art. I’m not going to lie there were some pretty weird statues but they contributed to the atmosphere of the park and were pretty good conversation pieces.

5. When I travel to different countries I’m not going to go there and order sushi (unless I am in Japan, duh) I’m going to want to try some of the local cuisine. Well walking through Amsterdam there is no shortage of Asian restaurants to choose from (as well as Argentinian randomly) and this proved to be a problem for us as we seemed to spend forever walking up and down these streets looking for Dutch food, both of us refusing to have food that we could just have back at home. This then brings me to the next day where I am sitting in the common area of our hostel doing some work and I overhear a conversation between an American couple and two girls from the US as well. Here is the transcript:
American Couple: Have you guys found any good places here to eat yet?
US Girls: No, we just got here today we haven’t really explored yet.
American Couple: Yeah, the food here is awful. We haven’t had anything good to eat yet. Last night we had some awful Mexican food. Did not taste good at all.
While this is happening all I can think is, “OF COURSE THE MEXICAN FOOD IN AMSTERDAM IS GARBAGE. WHAT ARE YOU DOING COMING TO AMSTERDAM AND GETTING MEXICAN FOOD. YOU ARE SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR DISAPPOINTMENT” End rant.
Side note, this same couple told me earlier that they never use maps. I don’t trust them.