Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Excerpts from a Travel Journal

Now that I'm a homeowner (condo owner, actually), there is no money for traveling. :*( So, when I miss my travel days, I tend to read my old travel journals and look at old travel pictures. I know my days of travel are not over. They are just temporarily on "hold". (i'm trying to take some small weekend trips to keep me from going insane)

I thought I would share some excerpts from some of my old trips. I'm not a writer, so I hope I can get my point across about how wonderful my trips have been and what amazing things there are out there to see. I want to inspire YOU to go out and see the world!



A poem written in my journal by a good friend of mine at the time. It was written right before my first trip overseas.

To Laugh is to risk appearing the fool
To Weep is to risk appearing sentimental
To Reach out for another is to risk involvement
To Expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self
To place your ideas, your dreams before the crowd is to risk their loss
To Live is to risk dying
To hope is to risk despair
To Try is to risk failure
But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing
The person who risks nothing, has nothing, is nothing
One may avoid suffering and sorrow, but one simply cannot learn, feel, grow, live or love
Chained by certitude and safety, one becomes enslaved
Only the person who risks is free

London 1999

Jan. 11, 1999
"Right now I am at the airport in Toronto, Canada. I’m sitting in some sort of cafeteria where everyone around me is speaking French. I guess I should have listened better in my 2 years of High School French! I still have 2 hours to wait. Outside is freezing and the ground covered in snow."

Jan. 12, 1999
"The flight from Canada to London was horrible. It was very crowded and cramped. No room to breath. The food was horrible and my stomach hurt really bad. Then, as the plane was finally getting close to the ground, the plane tilted and it was so beautiful. It was pitch black outside except for the city lights. I forgot about my horrible flight and got excited again."

Jan. 13, 1999
"The Polish girl showed me to the tube station where I bought a week pass. I love the Tube. I’m learning all of the tricks. Like on the escalator, you stand on the right side so people who are in a hurry can walk up the left side."

Jan. 26, 1999
"Today Jee and I went to Trafalger Square. Okay, not my favorite place. A million pigeons! I’m not even exaggerating. It was so gross." (FYI, since this first trip, Trafalger Square has become one of my favorite places in London. Minus the pigeons.)

Jan. 28, 1999
"Well, I’m in Canada again on my layover. I was really sad to leave, but this morning I was stressed out about my packing. It just wasn’t fitting. I had to take 2 carry ons and hope they wouldn’t say anything. And my luggage is soooo heavy. You should have seen me get it down the stairs this morning. Horrible!"

Europe via Contiki Tour 2000/2001

Dec. 27, 2000
"I just flew in to London. When I arrived in London Heathrow, I went directly through customs then directly to the underground on the Picadilly Line. It was all coming back to me now. Everything felt very familiar."

Dec. 29, 2000
"I am sitting on the ferry on my way to France. Bright and early this morning (actually it was still dark). We all met at the hotel and we left about 8am. There’s a lot of people on this tour. About 45. So far there seems to be some nice people, but we haven’t done too much talking yet."

Dec. 30, 2000-Amsterdam
"We rode the tram to get to Anne Frank’s House, the museum. I was disappointed that I couldn’t be there longer. It was so interesting. It felt weird that we were in the same house where all her stories took place. She has the same birthday as me, June 12. We saw the book shelf that hid the door and behind it, the steep stair case (that was more like a ladder!). We also saw her actual journal and the pictures that she had cut out of magazines and glued to the wall. It was so cool."

Dec. 31, 2000-St. Goar, Germany
"Outside our hotel was so beautiful. The Rhine River was right outside and we could see 2 castles. I read that right around here along the Rhine River, they built castles (a bunch of them right in a row) along the river so that the barges would have to pay each time they passed a castle. And everyone wanted to make money, so they all built castles."

Jan. 1, 2001-Munich, Germany
"Well, New Years in Munich was awesome! Very cold. We only had 45 minutes to get ready in the hotel. That is so not enough time for a bunch of girls to get ready for New Years Eve! But we made it."

"Our dinner was being held at a huge beer hall where we had our own room. We brought our music from the bus. We had a yummy dinner and huge beer steins. You need two hands just to pick it up. We drank, laughed, danced and mingled. We had a great time. Right at New Years, there were fireworks outside. Lets just say, New Years in Munich was amazing!!"

"It was the most beautiful place ever. All of the snow capped mountains of the Austrian Alps and the trees covered in snow. It was breathtaking. We stopped on the side of the rode just to take pictures."

Innsbrook, Austria
"Myself, Louise (South Africa), Alli and Amy (Australia) and Becky (Wisconsin) could not believe how beautiful it was. We wanted to move there. It was such a cute little town. We even saw a horse and carriage. We were also able to enjoy some yummy hot chocolate. It was so thick like it was just melted chocolate. A little too sweet for me but a nice experience."

Jan. 2, 2001-Venice
"We took the ferry to Venice, which is sinking! They said it sinks 1 foot every 10 years! They’ve called in experts to try and help them. Venice was dirty, but it looked pretty cool with all of the canals and architecture"

"So then we went to another organized dinner. Oh my gosh! It was so fun. We had bread and bruschetta and vegetables and pasta. And endless bottles of red wine, white wine and one more kind of wine. Some fun Italian men came in and sang for us. The tour manager and bus driver had roses delivered to each of the girls in our group. After the dinner, the vino, the roses and the singing we all went crazy. It was an amazing night in Venice."

"We got back to the hotel which was a Holiday Inn and really nice. But you have to leave the key in a slot for all the electricity to work. So when my roommate left, she took the key with her. I was on the toilet and then the lights went out. I was a little drunk so it wasn’t making things any easier."

Jan. 3, 2001-Rome
"Looking out the window, it was so dirty. Once we got off the highway, it was so curvy and the drivers were horrible. There are no rules in Rome."

"We walked to the Spanish Steps and the Barberini and the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain was beautiful. They say if you throw a coin in the fountain, you will come back to Rome one day. There were shops around and little pizzerias and cafes. We were warned about the scam artists. One in particular where women throw their babies at you and pick pocket you while you are saving/catching the baby! Apparently that happens quite often! I sure hope they don't use their real babies. We got to have dinner wherever we wanted, so we went to one of the pizzerias. So good."

Jan. 5, 2001-Florence
"Oh, Florence is so beautiful! I could live here in a second. We were driving to Florence and it was pure Italy. The villas, the vineyards and the hills of Tuscany. Bella!"

"In the excitement of being in Florence (and getting a new leather coat), Anna from Australia said, ‘Don’t you just know right away when a city is "you"?’ How true. Florence is so me."

Jan. 8, 2001-Paris
"It was a bittersweet night. I’m really sad we’re almost finished. Tomorrow is our last day. Gosh, that’s horrible. I want to stay here forever."

Words I learned:

From the Aussies:
no-oi (no)
mackers (Mc Donalds)
Hey? (What?)
Dawling (darling)
pissed (drunk)
piccys (pictures)
uni (university)
loo (bathroom)
heaps (loads/tons)

From the South Africans:
yah (yes)

From the Brits:
Dirty Slapper
Slapper (slut)
arse (ass)
bloke (guy)
mad (crazy)
Mind the Gap

From the Irish:
oh noi (oh no)
happy day
fecken (fucking)
codgy (not from Dublin)
toilet (bathroom)
Oh for fucksake
tunder (thunder)
tirty tree (thirty three)

From the Wisconsin’s:

New York 2003

Jan. 9, 2003
"This one man was selling paintings he had done of the city. He painted himself into one of the pictures. In the picture, he was waving."

Jan. 9, 2003
"While we were standing on the bench to take a picture, a gust of wind came up and blew my hat right into the Hudson River! Damn it, I really liked that hat."

Jan. 10, 2003
"I only fell once. But now I can say that I’ve ice skated in Central Park. I have the pictures to prove it."

Jan. 13, 2003
"We were on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade when this pigeon was kind of hopping towards me. Well, I was about to shoo it away, but then I noticed that it only had one leg! How sad! Diana wanted to take a picture of it, but I thought that would be mean. I hate pigeons, but sad."

Jan. 14, 2003
"We took a town car back to the airport and now we’re on our way home. New York City, oh how I will miss you!"

Vancouver, BC 2003

Aug. 21, 2003
"We must have been a sight to see. Riding around Victoria Island on mopeds dressed for tea at the Empress Hotel."

New York 2003

Oct. 1, 2003
"We accidentally walked into a filming while in Times Square. They were standing about 1 foot away from us. I recognized the actor and at first I thought it was Peter Gallagher, but then we figured out that it wasn’t him, but another actor from one of those cop shows. When I figure out who it was, I will write it in here." (It was Mr. Big from Sex and the City! It was when he was filming Law & Order.)

Australia 2004

Aug. 27, 2004
"Meeting Alicia tomorrow! We’ve been writing since freshman year in high school. About 11 years! We’ve never met, but we feel like we have since we know each other so well. I’m excited! Going to sleep now. It was a 14 ½ hour flight. And I lost a day due to the time/day change."

Aug. 28, 2004
"The Rocks is the gateway to Sidney. It’s where all the convicts were sent in to live years ago. Now all those old warehouses are converted into restaurants and shops. Since it was Saturday, they had all the markets at the Rocks set up. It was like a huge craft market."

Aug. 28, 2004
"Then it was time to go to her parent’s house in Wollongong. They kept calling her to see if we were almost there. They were really excited for me to come. I recognized 41 Nebo Drive right away. Once there, they asked me about a million questions. They were asking me everything from the President to movie stars to Las Vegas. I should have studied. ;-)"

Aug. 28, 2004
"They were all deciding where we should go for dinner. They were trying to think of a good place to take me. Their dad mentioned his favorite place but everyone said no because they go there almost every Sunday. I told them that’s where I wanted to go because I wanted to be like a local and do what they do. When in Rome, right?? So we went to the Collegians Rugby Club"

Aug. 28, 2004
"Alicia’s brother, Adam came home today from a guys trip to Queensland. He brought me a big stuffed Koala Bear which he carried all the way from Queensland on the plane. I think he was a little embarrassed (carrying a stuffed Koala around with a bunch of his buddies), but now my Koala has a nice/funny story. Ha ha."

Aug. 29, 2004
"After our day of site seeing, we came home and Alicia’s mom prepared us a huge dinner. Lots of things to choose from. Including many vegetarian options for myself which was so sweet of her. It was awesome. Later on, Adam (brother), Debbie (Adam’s girlfriend) and Matt (Alicia’s boyfriend) came home and all the "kids" hung out in the family room. Randomly, the MTV Music Awards was on. We chatted more and now it was Adam’s turn to ask me a million questions. Matt and Alicia had warned me about his silly questions, so I came into it prepared! It was a really good time. We also had tea and biscuits! It was good to get to know everyone."

Aug. 30, 2004
"This morning I said good bye to my Australian family. Adam and Debbie work in Sydney, so I drove with them. Everyone had to remind Adam to make sure he was going to take me to the "departures" and not to the "arrivals". Well, I made it and now I’m off to Melbourne."

New York City (again!!??) 2005

Jan. 5, 2005
"We flew from Long Beach to JFK on Jet Blue. The best airline ever! I took two dramamines while waiting for our flight.....which got delayed. I pretty much knocked the heck out for the entire trip. Note to self: One dramamine is sufficient. We both had our brand new iPod mini’s with us, so we had unlimited music the whole flight!"

"When we arrived to the Marquis Marriott, we checked in and found out we had been upgraded to a suite for the night! It’s good to know people. ;-) We even received a ‘Sex and the City’ themed amenity of chocolate covered strawberries and all the supplies to make your own Cosmos! Awesome!"

"We found a cute little Italian restaurant near our friend’s apartment (around 82nd and Amsterdam) called Al Dente. It was so good! We were there for like 2 ½ hours just chatting and eating. Our table was right next to the window and in the middle of our dinner, it really started snowing. It was such a perfect New York night!"

Jan. 6, 2005
"We were near Wall Street and had lunch by Trinity Church at Champ’s Deli. We watched all of the Wall Street guys in suits walking by. It was great!"

Jan. 7, 2005
"We went to Wollman’s Rink to go ice skating. However, I ice skated and Anna ice walked holding on to the side wall. She was so scared. It was pretty funny. But at least she can say she did it!"

"We went to Studio 54 to see an off Broadway play called ‘Newsical’. There were 4 actors and they just did a bunch of sketches about current events like Martha Stewart, President Bush, Michael Jackson, botox, etc. It was really funny. And it was inside Studio 54 which made it even cooler!"

Jan. 9, 2005
"So, we got to go to Serendipity today. Serendipity has been in lots of movies, including ‘One Fine Day’ and of course, ‘Serendipity’ with my BF, John Cusack! I should have asked for the "John Cusack" table. Ha ha. Anyways, they are famous for their Frozzen Hot Chocolate. It was huge. Kind of like blended chocolate milk. Really good."

London and Paris! 2005

Nov. 10, 2005
"I was looking for my name out in the crowd of people at the arrivals gate for my ride, but did not see it. I had the info booth page them. It turns out, the guy had a sign with their company name instead since he gets people who aren’t the correct person trying to get a ride. I wish I would have known that BEFORE."

"So he dropped me off at 22 Hippodrome Mews to the Bed and Breakfast I was going to be staying at and no one was home. He just dropped me off and left. After about 25 minutes hanging out on the cobble stone drive of my host's house, my host finally arrived. She thought my flight was later. Phew, I thought I was going to be stranded."

Nov. 11, 2005
"This morning, the lady I’m staying with had croissants, fruit and orange juice all set up for me, so that was lovely."

"Then we went to Abbey Road. (The BEATLES!) We ended up passing it and walking forever. But a nice guy who drove a double decker took us where we needed to go and we had to jump off the bus because he said it wasn’t an actual bus stop! We finally were able to take our pictures. Let me just say, Abby Road is a super busy street. Not an easy task."

"At Madame Tussauds, they had a ‘Death Chamber’ which was live actors kind of like a haunted house. It was unbelievably scary. We made a couple go in front of us. Kelsey was clinging to them and I was clinging to her. I haven’t been that scared in a long time!"

"We went to see the play Chicago. I know I’ve seen it a million times but I love it! And Linda Carter played Mama Morton! You know....Wonder Woman! Who knew Wonder Woman could sing??"

"Then we went to King’s Cross station because we heard they have the Platform 9 3/4 like in the Harry Potter books and movies. Well the movie is really filmed there. So I actually went up to a guy that worked there and asked him where Platform 9 3/4 was. He looked around and let us through the gate and told us how to get there. Well, we didn’t quite understand his directions, but we finally found it and it is right between Platforms 9 and 10 and it has a sign and a Trolley, you can take pictures with. Which of course we did. It was totally embarassing but so hilarious."

"I picked up some groceries for dinner and came home for an early night. I watched a show called The X Factor which is kind of like American Idol. It even has Simon Cowell in it. Along with Sharon Osborne. They have one channel that shows a lot of American shows. I got to watch CSI, Law and Order SVU and House. Nice! Those are some of my favorites. The girls are coming tomorrow morning so it’s going to be a long day. I’m going to surprise them at the airport, so that will be really fun."

Nov. 16, 2005- Paris
"We arrived at our hotel in Paris. It’s very cute and very European. The elevator fit me and one piece of luggage and literally that is all. Then the elevator got lost somewhere between floors and we couldn’t find it. So we had to lug up the rest of the luggage up four flights of stairs! The wonderful thing is that we have an amazing view."

"Me, Lisa and Anna went to a little bar next to the hotel. I was able to order our drinks in French! Woo hoo, I’m so proud."

"We had dinner at a restaurant down the street from the hotel. I had french onion soup. Or is it just onion soup here??"

Nov. 17, 2005
"Today we went to the Sacre Couere. We walked from our hotel and had to keep asking for directions in French. We had to take about a million steps to get there not to mention how hilly Montmartre is. We were dying. But we made it to the top and it was beautiful. Sidewalk cafe’s, painters and street performers.... it was soooo Paris."

London/Paris/Scotland 2006

Sep 26, 2006
"On the train....can you tell? So we woke up this morning at 5:30am. Not much sleep. We had to catch our train at King’s Cross station at 8am. Now we are on the train and it’s pretty nice because we have our own table. Will write more later."

"We arrived in Edinburgh at about 12:30pm. We took a taxi to the hostel, which is about 10 minutes from downtown. I am so glad we picked this one cause the hostel looks like a castle. And it’s on the water. It has a bar, a market, internet, tv room, movie room and you can even do laundry here."

"We are now at the hostel pub and writing in our journals about the busy day we had. Ha ha, some guy just bought myself and Amanda a shot. It was a nasty shot of Malibu Rum. Jokes on him when he wakes up in the morning with no money and a bad hangover. ;-)"

Sep 27, 2006
"Train ride from Edinburgh to London. Not much went on this time. Lots of iPod time. The ride was beautiful, though. Lots of green, water and sheep!"

"We went to Leicester Square for dinner and ended up running in to the Premiere of the movie Click! It was awesome because we got to see Adam Sandler and Kate Beckinsale. We also found a yummy gelato place. Mmmm."

"Tomorrow off to Paris!"

Sep. 28, 2006
"London to Paris! OMG! What a day. We had a horrible morning. We started by taking a taxi to Waterloo station so we could catch our train. Well, we thought we had cash but didn’t. And of course, the driver did not take cards. So, Amanda ran inside to find an ATM. Well, she was taking a while and the driver was pacing and getting frustrated. When she got back, she told us that the machine ate her card!! Can you believe that? So then I go up to find another ATM and I’m running because the driver has the meter still running and our train leaves soon. I finally found an ATM and there are literally 15 people in front of me. SERIOUSLY! So I finally get the money and run down and give him the money. I found out later that he had been giving Amanda a hard time and she was losing it with him. Seriously what did he want us to do?! He threatened to call the police if we didn’t pay. What the hell did he think we were trying to do? He also said he was losing money by waiting for us when he clearly was not losing money as we were being charged for every second. Moving on. We ran to our station and get where we need to be and of course our train was at the END of the terminal so we were running with our bags. We finally got on the train and the doors shut right behind us. We totally thought we were gonna miss it."

Sep. 29, 2006
"We started out at the Louvre Museum. We saw the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and the Winged Angel. I’ve seen them all before, but now that I’ve seen the movie Funny Face with Audrey Hepburn, everything is a little more fun to see because it reminds me of her and makes me laugh. I love that movie!"

"We went to La Tour Eiffel. It was the perfect time to go because we were able to see it during the day and as the sun set and then at night all lit up. It was so beautiful!! We also found this cute little restaurant nearby the Tour Eiffel and had the best onion soup and salad. So delicious."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Edinburgh, Scotland!

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle
Home to the nation's crown jewels!
*last tickets sold 45 minutes before closing

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Admission is FREE!

Mercat Tours
-history tours
-ghost tours
Explore the Old Town's haunted history

Royal Mile
Street that leads up to Edinburgh Castle
*nice shopping area

Palace of Holyroodhouse
Working Royal Palace. The Royal Apartments are used by the Queen for State, ceremonial and official entertaining.
*located at the end of The Royal Mile

Deacon Brodie's Tavern
Named after Deacon William Brodie, who inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He was a respected cabinet-maker and a member of the town council. He lived a secret life of crime making copies of all of the keys he manufactured to come back at night with accomplices. He escaped to the Netherlands. He was later caught and arrested. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang on October 1, 1788.

Places to Stay:
Globetrotter Inn (hostel)
46 Marine Dr.
Scotland, UK
Perfect for backpackers, independant travelers and families are also welcome. Lots of amenities and a great water view of the Firth and Forth. Very simple accomodations. Budget friendly! A few of the amenities include:
-24 hour internet cafe
-tv room
-cinema room
-continental breakfast
-use of kitchen
-small arcade
*they also provide a shuttle into the city for a small fee

My Video Log (VLOG)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Vancouver & Victoria Island

Oh Canada....

Vancouver, British Columbia

Capilano Suspension Bridge
450 foot suspension bridge that sways 230 feet above the canyon floor!

Grouse Mountain
15 Minutes from downtown Vancouver
Peak elevation 4,100 feet
General Admission includes:
-Sky Ride- 8 minute ride up the mountainside
-Grouse Mountain's World Lumberjack Show
-Mountaintop Eco Walk
-Grouse Refuge for Endangered Wildlife- Visit orphaned grizzly bear cubs!
*Great views of Vancouver

Stanley Park- 1,000 acre park
-Vancouver Aquariam Marine Science Centre
-Rose Garden
-Totem poles
-free shuttle bus circles the park (June-September)
-horse drawn trolley tours available for fee

Gas Town
Tourist area

Gas Town Steam Clock-
Built to cover a steam vent. Powered almost completely by steam.

Victoria Island
*Capital of British Columbia

Fairmont Empress Hotel
-Afternoon tea has been served since 1908!
*reservations advised

Butchart Gardens
5,000 types of flowers, shrubs and trees

Parliament Buildings

Government House
-Queen's residence when visiting.

Cycle BC Rentals
-Rent scooters, motercycles and bicycles
*they provide you a map with various routes to choose from. It's an inexpensive (fun) way to see the city! Little hint. Make sure you know how to park the scooter before you take off. ;-) They'll let you practice in their lot.

Visiting Family! Tante Edith (Opa's sister). Her apartment has views of the harbor!

We had time before tea at the Empress so we rented the scooters. Should explain the outfit....Embarassing!