Sunday, August 24, 2014

I don't care if we never come back from the night.

I've been taking it easy since I've been back from Europe.  Library trips, coffee, errands, reading, a trip to St. Ratford to get Miss Rilo from her country home, a little bit of friend time, and a Jays game.

My parents and Rilo make me laugh.  She really is happy there, and they love her, and I feel really bad taking her back home to Toronto.  She's happy in her home environment too.  I guess she's a pretty lucky cat from going from a life on the streets to having two homes.

My mother likes to point out that Rilo is extremely well behaved except for when I'm around.  As soon as I was there, she started digging her claws into the carpet, and I was informed that she only does that when I am there.  I've been told that Rilo is undisciplined before, but I guess it's just my bad influence on her.

Last night, all I felt like doing was staying in with a book.  Today was more fun: a Jays game, a trip to the mall, and then dinner/drinks with a friend. 

Now I've been chilling with the VMAs and Beyonce just hit that out of the park.  Love her.

Tomorrow is my last day until I go to school on Tuesday to start preparing for the new year.  Summer flies.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The tricky part is to come back home.

Transoceanic travel always blows my mind.

How was it just *yesterday* that I hopped on the tube to London Bridge station, where I then transferred to a National Rail train to Chislehurst to visit a friend?  A colleague from many moons ago moved to London with her husband, where since she's gotten her Master's, changed careers, and had a baby.  They have settled in a country-esque village in SW London, where she took me for walks along the horse paths, into the forest, and then to the local pub for lunch.  It was a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of London, and it was fabulous to reconnect with an old friend.

And, if that wasn't enough, it was just *yesterday* evening that Claire and I met up with Kaz, another member of bridal squad who is now a new friend of mine, for drinks at Vertigo 42, a bar at the top of one of London's taller office buildings, which gives you a great view of the city.  After that, we had dinner at Wagamama's, and then Claire and I polished off a bottle of Malbec in Leyton watching the worst of the worst TV has to offer.  It was bittersweet in the fact that it would be the last silly time I'd have in London on my trip, but I'm thankful to have had these silly times.

And then just *this* morning, after having coffee with Claire, my suitcase and I were off on the tube with the morning commuters, all the way to Heathrow, where I boarded my plane to Toronto.  And now I'm here.  I managed to take myself out for sushi and get some groceries.  I'm going to curl up in my own bed watching missed episodes of Dateline with the strange reality of the fact that I woke up in London this morning on my mind.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Brussels, and #thebadgerwedding

Hard to believe a week ago, I was meh in München. That seems like a lifetime ago. Since then, I've sped across Germany in a high speed ICE train (such fun for a train nerd like myself), taken a less impressive French train from Cologne to Brussels, and then Eurostarred it beneath the English Channel to London.

Brussels was a fun, relaxed time. A pal from work was there at the same time as I, so we met for dinner and drinks and wandered the city together. I love Belgian food, architecture, and beer, and thus had a great time.

London has been great! I've had so much fun here being part of #bridalsquad for Claire & Matthew's #thebadgerwedding. It's been so great catching up with old friends, meeting new friends, eating cake, drinking wine, celebrating, and starting up new silly inside jokes (#2legit2quit, Fish Christy, it's cultural).

I could go on, but I think I may make myself more coffee and then do some London exploring. In 48 hours, I'll be on a plans back to Canada (boo/yay). Boo because I'm having so much fun, and yay cuz I miss home and am tired of living out of a suitcase.  But I'm so happy that I've made such great memories during my summer 2014 holiday in Europe.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Meh in München

Munich was okay, I guess.

The train ride was lovely through picturesque and lovely countryside. When I arrived, it was blistering hot out, and the streets were filled with people. Luckily my hotel was right next door to the train station, so finding it and getting settled was a breeze. However, I completely failed at finding somewhere for dinner, and as I was starving, I settled for disgusting fast food.

I walked around a bit, and found a pretty garden to relax in for awhile. Then, as the sun was setting, I decide to return to my hotel as I didn't feel comfy enough for an evening walk.

The next day was pouring rain. Oh good, perfect weather for the bike tour I booked. Three other poor souls joined me. It actually wasn't that bad. I always figure once you're wet, you're wet, and just go with it. Over the tour I got to see the very deserted English Gardens, museums, the university and the old town city centre. I picked up some good tips that were useful for my afternoon, and heard some interesting stories about resistance to the Nazis during WWII.

I was soaked to the bone after the tour, grabbed a latte, and then headed back to my hotel for a hot shower and dry clothes. Then, I headed back to the city centre, where I found a covered patio where I had beer, a pretzel, and the most delicious tomato soup of my life. As I was waiting for my meal, a loud family with what seemed like 14 screaming children say beside me. Oh Munich, I thought, you really do want to be enemies with me. However, it was just a joke because the family left five minutes later, and I was in better spirits during the rest of my afternoon.

I climbed the tower of St. Peter's Church for an amazing view of the city, including the New Town Hall that is seriously one of my favourite pieces of architecture ever. Then, I stumbled across the German equivalent of Indigo, and I was happy looking at German books and stationery. It was perfect, because as I left the store, it was just in time for the 5pm carillon of the bells at New Town Hall which was very cool.

I wandered some more, and then returned to my hotel for a rest. I was planning to head out again to get night-time pictures and check out the famous tourist trap beer hall, but then I realized I didn't really feel like doing either of those things. Instead, I bought a snack and a bottle of Radler (beer plus lemonade) and read a book until I fell asleep. I know the rest of my trip is going to be jam packed, so it was good to have a chill night.

And with that, I'd better head off to catch my train to Brussels!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Oh, Austria.

My two jam-packed days in Austria were amazing, and have left me wanting more. Perhaps one day, I'll pair more time in Austria with Budapest, Croatia, and Poland.

I adored the wine bike tour I did on Friday. Tours are sometimes fun to do because you don't have to think, and you meet new people. Everyone on the tour was wonderful; there were Americans, Aussies, and a couple from Malta. The guides were Spanish and Dutch, and were super hilarious and nice. As soon I said where I was from, Rob Ford jokes abounded. At one point, a guide explained that the Danube was brown and muddy, instead of blue like the song, because it was high like the mayor of Toronto. I replied "not anymore! He went to rehab. He's a changed man!" Oh thanks Rob Ford, you've finally made Toronto a world class city that's on the tip of everyone's tongues.

We took the train from Vienna to a town called Drems, where we picked up our town bikes from a garage. We biked out of town into the Wachau Valley, where we were were treated to views of vineyards on the sides of mountains. Most of the biking terrain was flat, but it was a pretty hot day, so I'm sure I sweated out all of the toxins I've put into my body on this trip.

We stopped at three wineries in total, plus a longer stop in the lovely town of Dürnstein for lunch and an optional hike to see castle ruins on a steep hill. I swear, this hike felt like the first quarter of the Grouse Grind, but I made it! The view was lovely, so it was worth it.

After biking around 25 km in total, we returned to Drems and took the train back to Vienna. When I got to my hotel, I had the best shower ever. I was too tired to bother with dinner, so I just grabbed a banana yoghurt frappucino from Starbucks (multinational chains are a godsend when you are traveling and don't want to think about food) and drank it while watching the sunset over the river.

Saturday in Vienna city was a busy one, and a hot one. I swear, there is not a toxin remaining in my body. In the morning, I visited my first palace of the day, Schloss-Schöbrunn. It was a summer retreat for the Austrian dynasty, and is reminiscent of Versailles. Then, I headed to a The Belevedere, which houses Austria's national art gallery. I bought a ticket so I could mainly see Klimt's "The Kiss" but enjoyed much of the other work, and the spectacular gardens.

After that, I inadvertently set about exploring the many gorgeous buildings, monuments, gardens, and fountains of central Vienna by foot. Vienna is so gorgeous you almost get desensitized to the beauty. I would notice a beautiful building and decide not to take a picture, because I already have a tonne of nicer pictures.

I somehow wound up by a Viennese restaurant that I'd passed on my first night in Vienna, and was ready to eat. I had a "half" plate of schnitzel, which was enormous. This resto had free wifi, and I was tweeting some hilariousness under the influence of exhaustion, probable sunstroke, and beer, my pal Aliemalie suggested I go seek out a Sacher torte, and I did. It was delicious. Then I headed home for another great shower, and early bed. I tell you, travel me is a strange creature: up early to do as many of the things as possible, then passed out by 10pm.

Today's a chill day, as I'm currently on the train to Munich. I've planned this trip well: when I require a rest day, I get it, but as I rest, I'm moving to another location.

I only really have Monday in Munich. I've booked a bike tour to get acquainted with the city, and then I plan to wander around. On Tuesday, I am off to Brussels.

And now, for a delicious train nap.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Prague in point form

I have a few minutes to blog as I sit here in Vienna enjoying my breakfast. Even though I just got here yesterday, I'm leaving the city to do a biking wine tour of the valley. Doesn't that sound amazing?

I loved Prague. I was sad to leave it and upon arriving in Vienna, I have to admit that I held it against Vienna that it wasn't Prague. I have to walk down a very modern crowded street to get to the good part of Vienna, and upon my first walk down that street, all I could think was ugh. But then I reached the cathedral of St. Stephen, and the ornate narrow windy streets, and all I could think of was Mozart. I fell for Vienna last night.

But this post is supposed to be about Prague. I guess I felt the same way about Prague. My very nice hotel was at the edge of the city centre, and my first views of the city were also less than impressive. The first place I discovered was their central mall, the Palladium, as I waited for my room to be ready so I could shower and wash the flight off of me. However, that evening I discovered the old town and fell in love.

In point form, here is what I did in Prague:

- Visited Charles Bridge both at night and during the day to enjoy its gothic statues.

- climbed up to the castle to enjoy the city view

- walked a lot and saw most of the city by foot

- went on a river cruise

- took a day trip to the town of Kutná Hora so I could see the "bone church"

- drank a lot of cheap beer

- got one of those fish pedicures where fish eat the dead skin off your feet

- attempted Czech cuisine but abandoned it and ate French food and Italian food

There's more and I have pictures, but it'll have to wait because I have some biking to do!


Monday, August 04, 2014

Frankfurt Layover

Well, I've made it to the EU. I am sitting in the Frankfurt airportwaiting for my connecting flight to Prague. It was a smooth flight over, and so far all of the airport hoops have been easy to jump through.

I have been feeling all of the feelings in the past 24 hrs. When I left Becca T at a Starbucks this afternoon, I got a little choked up. I had a great weeklong visit w her and I will miss her. The days when she lived a couple subway stops south of me seem like forever ago.

When I was waiting for my plane in TO, I felt sad because if my mom was healthy, I bet she and I would have traveled together sometimes, leaving my hermetic dad home with the cat.

I got choked up watching the movie "Labor Day" on the plane. It was a pretty good movie; I'd read the book earlier this year, and it was a decent adaptation.

I also was destroyed while reading "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry" too. What a very nice little novel; I highly recommend it to all book lovers.

However, even though I've been feeling all of the feelings, I've feeling super excited as I look through my Prague travel guide. It looks like a beautiful city and I can't wait to see it in a couple of hours.