Back to Barcelona

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Font Mágica de Montjuïc, the Magic Fountain

On our first night back in Barcelona we decided to save money by buying food to make dinner. The hostel we were staying in had two kitchens side by side with two large fridges for food. We went to the local grocery store and bought some quick pasta with pesto, fajita mix, and some breakfast foods. We found some bacon that was kind of like home, except that it was in little cubic strips. We picked up the bacon and headed back to the hostel to make dinner. After some yummy fajitas we went to see the Font Mágica de Montjuïc, the Magic Fountain located at the former central pavilion of the World Fair in 1929. Leading to the fountain on both sides of the street there were mini fountains that were lit up for almost 200meters. Once you reached a set of stairs leading to the Fountain and more stairs leading to the former pavilion and current Museum of National Art. Between the steps leading up to the pavilion there was a waterfall of water with lights, it was so pretty and looked like diamonds falling in the water,

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Neomudéjar bullring

The Fountain was quite large, about 15 meters across. When the show started an array of light and different water lit up and danced to music; it astounded us. Look up a YouTube video of it, Magic Fountain Barcelona, it was really cool! Afterwards we walked towards the Arenas de Barcelona which was a shopping mall that used to be a bull fighting arena called the Neomudéjar bullring, the facade of the building was preserved and the inside was gutted and made into the shopping mall. We took an elevator to the top of the building where there was a lookout surrounded by restaurants. The strangest thing about being on the rooftop was that all of restaurants were pretty inexpensive. We looked over the city; all of the important buildings in the city were illuminated: the Sagrada Familia, the Agbar Tower, and the Museum of National Art. We took in the night scenery and headed back to the hostel.

The first hostel we stayed in while we were in Barcelona, Hostel One, was cool but there was not enough space. The hostel we stayed in while we were in Madrid, 360 Hostel, was almost perfect in terms of spaciousness and sociableness. Instead of researching hostels we just went to the 360 hostel in Barcelona. This taught us to always research hostels because the two hostels shared the same name, they did not share the same experience.

Our new hostel was kind of downtown but difficult to get to. It was spacious to the point that it seemed almost wasteful. Our first night was spent in a private room with high ceilings and balcony access. I didn’t get much sleep because there was a restaurant downstairs that was banging and making a lot of noise followed by a bright light shinning through the skylight above the bedroom door. The next morning we switched to a different room. The second I walked into the next room my heart sank. The room reeked of sweat and body odour. There was a window in the room but you could not open it. Suddenly I was exasperated at the idea of having to spend another night sleeping with random people.

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The Barcelonetta

Gavin coaxed me into leaving the hostel and seeing the Arch of Triumph. From the Arch of Triumph we walked down towards a beautiful park. From the park we found ourselves at the Barcelonetta, beach front. We ate crepes, tosta’s and drank Sangria while watching a mime and magic show on the beach in the sunshine. After a long day of wandering we found ourselves back at the hostel. I sadly crawled to bed to share a room with 6 smelly men and to a surround sound chorus of snoring. The only way to make the room not smell awful was to have the air conditioning on which was not pleasant.

The next day I was rudely awoken with bright lights and loud chatter from the men in the other beds, who to my happiness were checking out that morning. After they left the room Gavin and I opened the bedroom door to try and air out the room. After making a yummy breakfast of Spanish bacon bits and eggs we headed off to the Park Güell.

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Park Guell

The Park Güell was an urban park that was originally supposed to be a housing development. The famous architect Antonio Gaudi (he designed Sagrada Familia) had designed a home for the development and he lived there until his passing. The house is now a museum created in his honour. The park features a glorious entryway in Gaudi’s style with his famous dragon greeting you on the steps. We climbed to the top of the park where we could get a fantastic view of Barcelona.

When we returned to our hostel we were greeted by Australians in our hotel room. We were excited because up until this point anytime we met Australians we were greeted with an upbeat attitude and friendliness. This did not happen. Although thankfully the Australians were not smelly they were loud and obnoxious. We told them we were going to bed and they took this as a cue to leave….then come back and party. We were annoyed because we had a 6am wake up call for a train out of Barcelona. When we woke up the next morning we were so worn out from being with people we were excited to be off to Port Aventura.

Magical Madrid

The train ride from Barcelona to Madrid was 3 hours long. The train hit speeds of 300km/h, which was the fastest train we had ever been on. We arrived at our hostel which was at the centre of downtown Madrid, the best location possible. We were at the centre of everything. We wandered around town for a bit before joining our hostel for a tapas tour. The tour took us to three places. The first took us to a place known for the best croquetta’s, deep fried creamy potato ball things. The second tapas place had the best tapas with so many varieties and styles. I had a smoked salmon and gulas (not really sure what gulas is…) Gavin had meat in crispy rolls with egg on top. The last place we went to specialized in seafood tapas. We had a selection of mussels, calamari, octopus, potatoes and Sangria. When the tour was over we went to a nightclub where we paid €10 to have as much sangria or beer as we wanted in an hour. After an hour and a lot of Sangria we went to another bar which was fairly empty. At around 2am we decided to head back to the hostel and get some sleep.

The next day was probably one of the best days we’ve had so far in our trip. The previous night we had made a new friend, Grace. We bargained with her to come see the free walking tour with us and we would go to the Palace Real with her. Our day started off with free Churros from our hostel. These Churros were nothing like the ones at home, they didn’t have any sugar and wrapped up into a closed “U” shape. The Churros came with a thick chocolate dipping sauce. Breakfast Churros are a spanish custom, to help nurse a person back to health after a long night out. Grace had unfortunately missed out on some Churros so she disappeared upstairs while Gavin and I cleaned up our breakfast. Meanwhile our tour group had left without us so Gavin and I ran to find Grace and catch up with our tour.

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Sparkles, The Wonderbeast

We raced to the Plaza Mayor and came to an abrupt stop when we noticed a man in sparkly goat costume. It was very bizarre and we had never seen anything like it before. We reached our walking tour and signed up. Somehow we couldn’t stop watching this magical goat thing. We took pictures with it and laughed as it played its little whistled tune and clapped. Every time we were in Plaza Mayor we made sure to stop by and see Sparkles.

Since the last free walking tour Gavin and I did was in Munich with Ozzy, we had high hopes for the Madrid free walking tour. Before long we realized that the tour we received in Munich was beyond exceptional and no other tour would match it. The walking tour of downtown Madrid was informative, but lacked the magic and the local dishes of Oz Tours.

Our tour started off at the Guiness book of world record holder of the oldest restaurant in the world: Restaurante Botìn, which opened in 1775 and has been operating ever since. We learned some history, saw the ugliest Cathedral in Europe (designed by three architects who all wanted glory, it took 100 years to build). We also went by a convent where nuns who aren’t allowed to see people outside of the convent baked sweets and sell them without being in the presence of the customer. They were out of sweets so we didn’t get a chance to see the nuns not see us.

Later we went to a Granville Island like market and I bought the biggest macaron I have ever seen, it was the size of a mini hamburger. It tasted fantastic but I can see why they don’t make them that large.

Gavin, Grace and I shared some Paella at a restaurant across from the Palace Real. Grace noted that he Paella tasted exactly the same as one she had in another restaurant. I noticed that this restaurant had 5 different menus for some reason, and that was when we noticed a trend. At least 75% of restaurants in Madrid sold the exact same Paella, frozen pre-made crap. Apparently the locals don’t even eat Paella. This revelation was disappointing to say the least.

After waiting for about an hour we finally got to go into Palace Real of Madrid. This was the most extravagant palace I had ever seen, we weren’t allowed photos, but everything was bigger and grander than any other palace I had seen. There was an entire room, floor to ceiling, made of porcelain and gold!

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Gavin, Grace and I at Flamenco Show

Later that night we went to a Flamenco show. None of us had seen Flamenco before so we did not know what to expect. We sat down in a dark room and ordered Sangria and Tapas. Suddenly three men standing behind three women in chairs started clapping. Two guitarists started playing classical Spanish guitar. Everyone on stage started belting out loud passionate Spanish and each of the women and one of the men stood up one by one and dancing to the music. After the song was done, each dancer had their own solo, one more passionate and angrier than the last. The quick movement of their feet dazzled us, we had never seen anything like it before.

 

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Catholic Procession

After the show the three of us wandered back to our hostel to find a large sum of about 5 thousand people had gathered in Plaza Del Sol. It was from what we thought a regular Wednesday night before Easter, and we saw a giant Virgin Mary surrounded by lit candles in altar being carried around the plaza with a band playing. We had remembered seeing some partitions near our hostel and realized that the partitions were for the Easter procession. We decided to run ahead of the Virgin Mary procession by taking a side street to our hostel. Instead we found ourselves faced with an equally elaborate Jesus altar being carried followed by an even bigger band. We were a bit bored of the procession until something caught our eye. Several people dressed in what looked purple and white KKK outfits. We had seen this image during other catholic processions in our travel book. It shocked us to see children and infants in these hooded costumes. The white capes and pointed purple hoods were shocking to us but had a different connotation in Spain. The procession was long and moved slowly, it stopped occasionally so the people carrying the altars could rest. It looked like each altar was carried by about 30 people all hidden beneath the altar. After the altars would pass, spectators joined the procession leaving the street sides empty. When the procession had ended the three of us were exhausted from a long day.

The next day Grace had travelled on to Barcelona and the two of us hung around for a quiet day. We went and had some more Tapas at that amazing place we went to two nights before, we then stopped by the Chocolateria, this famous Churro place that made the best Churros in Europe and was visited by many celebrities. We then went to the Praggo Museum of Art and saw many local paintings. That night we had decided to stay an extra night in our hostel but unfortunately there was not very much space so we ended up in separate rooms on separate floors. My room was shared with two girls from Austria, Gavin shared a room with 9 other people.

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Aquadect in Segovia

We woke up the next day to do a day trip in Segovia, a town 35 minutes away by high speed train. Segovia was home to an aqueduct that was an international historic civil engineering landmark. It was completed in the first century. It started pouring rain and we decided to get down to business; we walked up hill towards an elaborate Catholic Church. We toured the church to get out of the rain, then we jumped back into the pouring rain and walked to the Alcazar castle.

 

 

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Alcazar Castle in Segovia

The castle was one of the most classic fantasy type fortresses we had ever seen. It is said to be one of the castles that inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle, with pointed blue slate towers, a plummeting moat protecting the entrance, and a central rectangular keep accented by at least 8 circular towers along the top. It was all built on the edge of a hillside, with the rear protected by steep cliffs. We were able to tour part of the palace, including the old throne room, dining area, sleeping quarters and grand hall, with numerous balconies. Paying a bit extra allowed us to climb a tight winding stone stair up one of the corner towers to the top of the keep, allowing us to get a breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside. This fortress served as one of the worlds best artillery academies for about one hundred years from the mid 18th to 19th century, and so also had a museum dedicated to the science and manufacturing of cannons and mortars. It included many preserved weapons, scale models of manufacturing processes, preserved original textbooks and a small mineral collection thanks to the chemistry lab that was dedicated to improving gunpowder.

After touring the castle we caught a train back to Madrid. We spent one last night in Madrid before catching a train back to Barcelona.

Barcelona At Last

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Sagrada Familia

Our flight to Barcelona was routine and uneventful. When we landed we were distraught to see thunder, lightening and rainfall. Happy to be out of Athens we didn’t let the miserable weather get to us. We took the regional train from the airport to Barcelona Sants. We then took the subway to our hostel, Hostel One Sants.

We were greeted by a friendly face and a free vegetarian dinner of chickpeas and something else made from the hostel managers grandmother’s recipe. We ate the amazing Spanish dish then crashed in our hostel bunks.

The next morning we needed to go back to Barcelona Sants and book our reservations for a train to Madrid. We decided to walk to the train station because Gavin and I were too cheap to pay the €2 euros to take the train. As expected we got lost so we ended up taking the train anyway. We eventually made our way to the station and booked our reservation.

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La Pedera

We then made our way to the Sagrada Familia, the famous cathedral that was taking well over 200 years to build. Gavin had heard of the cathedral, but didn’t think anything of it until he saw it. The church was so elaborately designed and intricately constructed. You could easily see why it took so many years to build it. Sagrada Familia will not be finished construction until 2020. We then walked to the Robson Street of Barcelona, Passing de Gracia. Passing de Gracia had all the pricy stores you would expect except it also had buildings with fantastic architecture like the La Pedrera and the Batiló. We ventured briefly into the Old City where we had Spanish Tapas for the first time.

Before long we had realized that we spent the entire day walking around Barcelona and we were immediately hit by a rush of exhaustion. We took the train back to our hostel, ate some of the free late night dinner (something like scalloped potatoes) and went to bed so we could get a early start on the next day.

Escape From Athens

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This post is mostly a rant but generally a description of how terrible our trip to the Athens Airport was. I have included a map of the Athens Metro so you can kind of see our journey.

Yesterday, March 23 we noticed a sign in the Metro saying the train drivers were on strike, so we had to take a bus to the airport. Which, was fine because we already knew which bus we could take, the x95 at Syntagma Station. Normally a strike wouldn’t phase us, it happens, right?

This morning the  check out time from our hostel was at 10:30. We decided at 11 we would leave for the airport. Even though we didn’t have to be at the airport until 2 and the x95 takes an hour to get us to the airport. We didn’t mind the idea of hanging out at the airport because we just wanted to get out of Athens.

Our hostel was next to the “Akropoli station” on the red line. we needed to get to “Syntagma” on the red and blue line, but we decided we would walk to Syntagma. Gavin had walked to Syntagma earlier that morning and noticed about 50 or so nicely dressed police officers and assumed it was security for something. By the time we arrived to Syntagma to catch our bus to the Airport we saw almost every police officer Athens had lining the streets. Streets were blocked off, officers were wearing gas masks and riot gear. We had reached Syntagma square only to see the entire square was barricaded off and the street where our bus should have been, was filled with armoured police vehicles and and armoured busses.

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A Photo of some tourists in Syntagma Square

Gavin and I were terrified. We didn’t know if there was a riot that was going to happen or if there was something to do with civil unrest. All we knew was that we couldn’t take a train to the airport and that the bus we should be taking was not stopping where we needed it to. We decided that we would walk to the train at Monastiraki station on the blue and green line and ride the blue line as far as we could to the airport then take a bus.

Unfortunately, we got lost trying to find this other train station and after a while of wandering ended up at “Omonia” station on the red line. We hopped a train from Omonia station trying to get to Syntagma Station so we could switch to the blue line And get to the airport. Unfortunately again, we took the wrong train and went to “Larissa Station”. We got off that train hopped onto another train towards Syntagma. As we were on the new train there was an announcement. Completely in Greek of course. We ignore the announcement and waited to get off the train at Syntagma….which unfortunately cannot happen because the train skipped Syntagma Station. Turns out that announcement was saying that not only was Syntagma square closed but the train station below was also closed.

Somehow, after 40 minutes. We ended up at the stop after Syntagma on the red line. Akropoli station. We actually went in an unintentional circle and ended up right where we started. We realized that since Syntagma was closed the only way we could get on the blue line to the airport was to go back to Omonia. Meanwhile Everyone else was having this same problem so the trains were packed with rush hour traffic on a Sunday morning. We rode from Akropoli to Omonia, switched to the green line and got off at Monastiraki (the train station we got lost walking towards). We jumped on a blue line train at Monastiraki to the airport.

Which if you remember, there was a strike. So we couldn’t get all the way to the airport. The PA systems were so kind to remind us in two separate messages that a) the train was on strike and would not take people to the airport, but you could get the x95 bus at Syntagma station instead and b) on a completely unrelated note, Syntagma station would be closed on the same days as the strike.

As we rode the train to the airport we were so stressed out and kept thinking about how the cab driver had stiffed us ten euros when we first arrived in Athens, and here we were pretty sure that we were going to get ripped off again.

We arrived at the last station the train would take us, Doukissis Plakentias. We got off the train and hailed a cab. The driver said the price would go by the meter and not a flat rate so we were a bit relaxed since we knew we were a 15 minute ride from the airport.

Once we arrived at the airport the rate said €14. But the cab driver handed a receipt for €20 saying we had to pay a tariff. But then he asked for €25 because we had luggage. We relented knowing that we were thankful to even be at the airport.

As we walked into the airport we exchanged heavy sighs and noticed that the time was 2pm. We had taken 3 hours to get to the airport. We reasearched what was going on in Syntagma and it turned out it was the Greek independence day parade for students. The police had blocked off the route so people could not see the parade and to prevent protestors. We were shocked to know that a parade was the reason a city centre was closed down. But honestly we shouldn´t have been surprised, It was Athens…

Cruisin in the Aegean Part 3

The next day we woke up in Heraklion (Crete). I was so excited because Crete had so much history, until I remembered that cities with a lot of history tend to be industrialized….so we literally walked up the Main Street by the port. Nothing else happened. There are a total of three pictures.

Santorini

Santorini

Later that day we ended up in Santorini! I was super excited to be in Santorini because it is the what people think of when they think of Greece. It was supposed to be the complete opposite of Athens. Which it was, because everything was clean and every store was closed and we were facing dangerous winds. We tried to make the best of Santorini but it was very difficult. We were supposed to stop by and take photos of the island but it was too foggy…we were supposed to stop by the town of Thera but the wind was so dangerous we ended up going back to the boat as soon as it got dark. Santorini was really disappointing but what can you do?

We went back to the boat and once again we were approached by the cruise director to nominate a gentleman for the Ms. Orient Queen Peagant. Gavin sat down pleased that he had humiliated himself the night before so Adam from South Africa got nominated. He refused to dance like Gavin the night before but he was told that there would be no dancing, which I hope was comforting.

When time came for the Ms. Orient pageant, it turned out that Adam had tricked the cruise director into nominating his older brother Alex into the pageant. Adam and the rest of the Contiki tour sat back and watched Alex, a man from Colombia, a man from Argentina and our +1 try to win the title of Ms. Orient Queen.

The first part required the men to show off their muscles. Alex was embarrassed, our +1 of course took it too far and made things awkward…especially when they had to show their abs. The second part required the contestants to run across the lounge and kiss as many women on the cheek in the audience as possible in 30 seconds. When it was Alex’s turn the cruise director encouraged the Contiki girls to help him out so the 9 of us lined up so that Alex could kiss the 9 of us on the cheek. Alex won the kissing competition!

The next competition required the contestants to grab a woman from the audience and then run to her cabin and get dressed in her clothes. When the men came back they were given make up and were told to walk the runway. After a gorgeous strut Alex walked away with the crown and a bottle of champagne. We went to the Disco Disco bar to celebrate his win. We all sat down and after ordering glasses we were joined by our +1 who brought a bottle of his own champagne to share with us. Everyone felt obliged to return his kindness and we all sat quietly sipping champagne with him while the boat tipped back and forth. Our + 1 as expected kept making awkward comments the point where most of the girls slowly left the bar. The boys on the other hand thought he was hilarious and stuck around to see what other strange things he would do. This was when he ordered a special margarita that had the words, “I Love You” for Courtney, our tour manager. Courtney kindly accepted the lovely drink, which was followed by our +1 telling her he loved her, making the situation once again very awkward for everyone.

After the exciting afternoon everyone went to go pack our bags because we docked in Athens the next morning. Later we decided to spend one last night together at the Disco Disco bar, it was pretty uneventful until our +1 declared his intentions to marry our tour manager with a 3,000 year old ring, despite their “recent rough patch”  a patch that Courtney did not know exist.

The next morning the entire Contiki group had breakfast together before we went our separate ways. After the cruise ship docked we got on our coach and Courtney passed on last remarks and played “Summer of 69” one last time. Most of us got out at Syntagma square and hugged eachother good bye. Gavin and I grabbed our bags and headed to our hostel to spend another two days in Athens….AUGH!

Gavin and I reached our new destination, a hostel that had a 96% score on hostelworld.com. When we arrived with our heavy bags in tow we were shocked to learn that our booking for a 3 bed hostel for €23 each had been moved to another hostel that was “around the corner”. More like, around the corner up, the street, to the left, and down a block… When we arrived at the new hostel we got rebooked into a 4 bed hostel for the same price. Gavin and I were dumbfounded, we had booked a completely different hostel online with a smaller room and then they decided to change our booking to a different place and charge us the same for a room with more people in it!? We were frustrated and asked for the room that we had booked, a 3 bed hostel. Unfortunately the only room with three beds was a private room for €34 a night each…we were paying €30 each a private hotel room a week previously and they wanted us to pay more to stay in a hostel!? Gavin talked the hotel manager into giving us the 3 bed hostel room for €23 each, the bonus was that we didn’t have to pay for the third bed which was nice.

Gavin and I settled into our hostel room. Gavin took a shower and noticed a dirty towel had been left in the room. When we were about to sleep I noticed a small bed bug crawling on my pillow. We jumped out of bed and looked for more bugs. We didn’t see any but we did however notice that the sheets on the mattress were filthy. Gavin and I went to the Hotel manager and demanded cleaner sheets and placed the cleaner sheets on the plastic wrapped mattress. We then pulled out our private sheets from home and placed them on top of the bed and slept in them. The next morning we woke up to eat the “free” breakfast that we got from the hostel.

At the President Hotel we got hot eggs and sausage and cakes and spinach pies and Milk pies and salad and fruit and so much amazing stuff. At the hostel we got a roll and a boiled egg. Everything else we had to pay for. At this point we just did not care anymore and desperately wanted to get out of Athens, but we had to wait until the next day for any such luck.

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium

We decided we would spend our last day checking out the Olympic Stadium. Every surface was covered in Graffiti, glass walkways were destroyed and had cones directing people away. An artificial pond was brown and filled with Garbage. When we reached the train station we were informed that the Greek Train workers were on strike, and refused to drive the trains to the airport on the day we had to leave. Gavin and I sighed with frustration, It was just another day in Athens.

Island Hopping in the Aegean Part 2

When I posted my last blog article I neglected to mention that we were in Patmos that afternoon after leaving Kusadasi. I also for lack of remembering names did not list any of the people on our Contiki tour:

Left to right: Lollie, me, Essy, Aliesha, Gavin, Elysia, Adam, Alex, Lauren, Sean, Victoria, Alyssa

Left to right: Lollie, me, Essy, Aliesha, Gavin, Elysia, Adam, Alex, Lauren, Sean, Victoria, Alyssa

 

Courtney, our Contiki tour manager from Australia (not pictured)
Adam & Alex, Brothers from South Africa
Sean, from London
Alyssa, from Toronto
Victoria from Calgary
Alicia from Terrace
Elysia and Lauren, cousins from Tasmania Australia
Lollie and Essy, friends from South Africa

 

 

 

Patmos was regrettably not as exciting as our previous islands so we decided to not do an excursion. Patmos held a religious importance to many in Greece. It is said that Patmos was where Saint John was sent into exile in a grotto. While he was there he wrote the Book of Revelation. At the highest point on the island is Saint John’s Monastery. We took a bus to the top of the mountain to see The Monastery then took a 40 minute hike down the mountain, past Saint John’s Grotto and back down to the Town.

Back on the boat we had a toga Karaoke party. Things got a little awkward when a guy ( who shall hence forth be referred to as our “+1″ ) sang a song dedicated to us Canadians, ” All by myself”  by Celine Dion. For some back reference, our +1 had been around since day one but his presence in the blog up until this point was unnecessary. +1 was really just a weird guy who tried to tag onto our Contiki group and eaves drop on any information our tour manager gave us. It was awkward because clearly all the members of our group didn’t appreciate him taking advantage of the tour insights we all paid for, never mind he always made sure to make every moment he spent with us awkward and uncomfortable. Not to mention he spoke in the most monotonous serial killer voice this side of Hannibal Lector!

Anyways, I guess he was feeling neglected and decided to send us some passive aggressive message about how abandoned he felt by us….which you know was weird because we did not know this person and he was not a part of our Contiki group. Everyone always tried to be nice but then he would ALWAYS make things awkward…

Toga Party

Toga Party

Despite the awkward moment, our toga party went on without skipping a beat. The group divided into two groups and we had a karaoke battle! The other group sang Blink 182s ” all the small things” and we killed it with “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Then the entire group sang the theme song for our trip, “Summer of 69”, which we all got the magical score of 69 on! Later Gavin got roped into a traditional Greek dance and I sat back and laughed.

The next day we woke up in Rhodes. Gavin and I decided to not do the Rhodes Acropolis excursion because we had seen quite a bit of ruins at this point and preferred to sleep past the 6am departure time. Rhodes is considered a world heritage site, it has classic Hellenic ruins, medieval castles and a mosque. This was the only island where we spent the entire day at the dock.

Gavin and I wandered the town and found ourselves at a medieval castle. We hadn’t seen any castles on our trip yet so we decided we would check it out. Since it was early tourist season in Rhodes. The entire castle was empty so Gavin and I ran around having photo shoots and enjoying the freedom of wandering an entire castle on our own.

After touring the castle we walked from the old city to the new city, went to the part of the island where people could jump into the water and swim and saw a lone diving board about 300 meters into the ocean.

Later we saw the place where the “Colossus of Rhodes” once stood. The colossus was a giant statue that stood at the opening of the Rhodes bay. It is no longer there but ancient texts around the world talk about how massive this statue once was.

Later that night on the boat we had a fancy meet and greet with the captain of the cruise. We had to dress very well, I unfortunately had nothing nice to wear and neither did Gavin. We took a photo with the captain (which cost €10 so we did not buy it). Afterwards we sat for dinner and were approached By the cruise director. She needed a couple to take part in a ” rock and roll couples contest” Gavin and I were the only couple in the group so we were voluntold to do this mysterious contest after dinner at 9pm.

It turns out it was a Grease (yes the movie not the country) themed contest. Gavin and I were forced to dress up with two other couples! I was put into a crepe paper poodle skirt with pigtails and rouge, Gavin wore an Afro wig with drawn on moustache and side burns and a soul patch. We had to do the choreography to the song, “You’re The One That I Want”, Some crazy jumping dance moves with the help of the staff and do a huge random dance number where we ran across the lounge. It was embarrassing and exhausting to say the least…We did not win but we won a shot glass and a crappy hat.

Island Hopping in the Aegean!

Our time in Athens had been plagued with longing to escape. We were only in Athens for our Contiki cruise and if the cruise was no good it would have made our stay in Athens fruitless. Luckily the Contiki tour so far is amazing.

Our first night we all went out to this local restaurant to bond. The price of the restaurant made us cringe a bit at €35 each, which roughly translates to $50 dollars canadian each. The restaurant was in a cozy corner up a long flight of stairs that Gavin and I had missed. The area was so pretty with steep steps lined with chairs tables and lights. We walked into the restaurant and sat down.

Our restaurant featured live music and live greek dancing. Our table was filled with so many different greek appetizers from fried zucchini to pita to greek olives. We were served chicken and pork souvlaki. After our amazing night we went back to the hotel.

A couple of the people from our Contiki tour stayed up and hung out in the lounge while everyone else wanted to get an early night for our super early morning.

The next day we got onto our cruise. The cruise was nicer than what I expected and not as extravagant as what Gavin was expecting. The cruise departed and we were on our way to Mykonos. When we arrived to Mykonos unfortunately it was raining and grey. We walked around the island and had some local crepes.

Today we had a 6am wake up call to go on a walking tour of the Ephesus ruins in Turkey. The ruins were astounding and way more intricate than the ruins of the acropolis. We were impressed by how large the city was. We visited the terrace houses, which were the ones of the wealthy in the town. The Terrace houses were recently discovered.

We then went to a Turkish rug store where they showed us how they made Turkish rugs and how I almost got trapped into buying a five thousand dollar diamond ring that was forced onto my finger by the sales person, and would not come off of my finger for a few minutes….

We bought some authentic Turkish delights which are fantastic!

Tonight we look forward to a toga party with our Contiki tour and Rhodes tomorrow.

Athens < Great

Two days ago we ate a wonderful buffet provided to us by our hotel. The free buffet almost made up for the fact that our hotel charges for wifi…almost. After hitting up the local Starbucks we headed back to Syntagma Square where we hoped to wander by the Acropolis and see the Parthenon. We decided to travel off the beaten path and ended up in a terrifying and sketchy area. The sketchy thing about the area wasn’t the people it was the buildings, everything was decrepit suddenly the sidewalks were motorcycle lanes and everything smelt bad. Buildings were abandoned and covered in graffiti with stray cats and dogs everywhere. We hurried towards Monastiraki Square, (where we were yesterday) and decided to take the train to the Parthenon instead. In the midst of this decision we got approached by a beggar woman with flowers. She gave me a rose and told me I looked like Angelina Jolie (of all famous people in existence she is someone I do not look like) and told gavin he looked like George Clooney (when oddly Gavin looks more like Brad Pitt). The woman told me my rose was free then gave Gavin a rose to give to me. She then said that Gavin’s rose was not free to which we tried to give the roses back to her and she’s says, “I have a baby to feed, I have a baby to feed” we tried to give the roses back and she refuses to take them insisting that Gavin give her money to pay her. Gavin relented and gave her two euros. To which she says one more. So Gavin pulls out a handful of change and he tries to hand her one euro she then digs through the change in his hand and takes at least four more Euros…. Gavin and I were dumbstruck. We got swindled for at least 5 euros from a beggar…. This moment pretty much changed our outlook for the day. We almost ran back to our hotel with embarrassment over what had happened but changed our minds at went to the Acropolis anyway.

The Acropolis is famous ruins on the top of a hill. Unsure of how to even get to the ruins and also not particularily interested in the trek to the top of the hill We went to the Acropolis Museum instead. The Acropolis museum is the nicest place in Athens. There is no graffiti everything is modern, it appeared as if the government poured all of the money they had into this one building. The museum was a detailed look at what the Parthenon used to look like as well as how it was changed into a church and mosque over its 2,500 year history. While we enjoyed the museum we did not enjoy being kicked out at 4:45 because they planned to close at 5:00.

After the museum we tried to see how we would even get to Parthenon and saw a gate to the entrance. What is particular to this gate was that there was well over two dozen feral cats hanging around, I have never seen so many feral cats before in my entire life.

We went to dinner at a local restaurant then headed straight back to our hotel.

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The Parthenon

Yesterday we went back to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon. We were cocky and decided we didn’t need our jackets because the weather had been so nice. As we traveled we noticed everyone wearing down coats and giving us strange looks for wearing t shirts in 16 degree weather. Unfortunately for us as we climbed the Acropolis we got rained on. After the bit of rain we saw the Parthenon and got to see other sites on the hill too. Gavin tried some Greek coffee. It came in a small espresso cup and packed a punch, though was unfiltered so half the cup was just coffee grounds.

We are not pleased to be here another few days before our Contiki tour. This city really has nothing to offer other than the ruins and food and decently warm weather. Unless you are VERY interested in the ruins we suggest you don’t waste your time or money on coming to Athens (especially money it’s more expensive here than in Germany!). I can’t wait to leave Athens And see the Greek Islands. Santorini is supposed to be beautiful, and the others should be interesting. But Athens….not my cup of tea.

After three days in Athens our visit can best be described by the tourist information lady we spoke with: “You only need to spend two days in Athens, one for the Acropolis, one for the park. If you are here longer It’s good to take a bus and see else where.”

Munich and Athens (so far)

Our backpacking trip started only three days ago and so far it’s been pretty exciting. Our first stop was Munich. We took a train to Munich from my cousins home with relative ease. Our train traveled at 200 km per hour. Just when we thought we had the train system figured, the conductor told us we apparently took a slow train and that we should have taken a faster train! We didn’t mind the slow train, we enjoyed the scenic route between Ansbach and Munich. When we arrived in Munich we ate at this lovely little Italian place on the corner of our hostel. I had the most amazing ravioli! We tried checking into the Wombats Hostel (which was next door to the Jäger Hostel that I stayed in years ago and nowhere near the Cocoon Hotel we stayed in last time we visited Munich). Wombats said they were undergoing renovations so we could not immediately go to our rooms so we hung around the hostel and watched Argo until check in time. Check in involved getting a key card that let us get into our rooms and lockers, a free beer pass, and grabbing fresh clean sheets for our beds. We went up and made our beds like good little hostel dwellers then went downstairs and waited at the bar for anyone to talk to us. A few Canadians were at the bar but we found our home with a group who had met earlier in the day (some even met at different cities previously). Understanding that we all would only know each other for the one night we all identified with each other through the names of where we were from. There was Texas, Argentina, Estonia, and three Australians: Sydndey, Melbourne and Adelaide. All of us enjoyed Happy Hour at the hostel before wandering the streets of Munich to the Hofbrauhaus. The beer hall was less busy this time and we all had a great time absorbing the German tourist trap. Afterwards we headed back to the hotel and I went straight to sleep.

IMG_1401The next day Gavin and I decided we would go on the four hour OZ free Tour of Munich, and boy did we make Fantastic choice. Our tour guide Ozzy was the most charismatic and interesting person. Our tour was not just looking at sites with his commentary it was learning about local culture And customs while relating the history of Munich to everything around us. Ozzy was hilarious, insightful, and informative. After the tour he took us all out for a beer at a local beer hall. We laughed at jokes and got to know other people on our tour. After the beer hall we went to another beer hall where we met some of Ozzys friends. Before long a tour that had started at 11am turned into a hang out that lasted until 7pm. After hanging out with Ozzy we went to the hostel grabbed our things and journeyed to the airport where we would grab a shuttle to our airport hotel.

The next morning we woke up at 4am to catch a shuttle to the airport for our Air China flight to Athens, Greece. We expected the flight to be terrible, after all we got the tickets for $123cdn and all the reviews online were unfavourable. Shockingly enough the flight was great! It was two hours, they served us a delicious hot meal, I could watch a tv show, it was good. WAY Better than any American flight I have ever taken and better than some Canadian airlines *cough* Air Canada *cough* .

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We landed in Greece and were immediately given tourist cards that gave us a 50to 20 percent discount in Athens, which despite the economic crisis is expensive. It was strange going from the country with the top GDP in Europe to the one with the lowest. As we were driving into Athens from the airport we noticed every large billboard was in disrepair and that there was graffiti tags and litter everywhere. We arrived at our hotel (which had a nice lobby) and found ourselves a little disappointed after leaving Munich on such a high. We looked out of our hotel window and saw tons of smog, the mountain view was not even enough to bring our spirits up.

After a quick nap we wandered hoping to find a cheap food stand because we could see Athens getting expensive fast. Taking public transit was easy enough, given that the Greek alphabet is shapes and letters that we could neither say or read without confusion. We ended up at the public shopping centre where our spirits started to glow a bit. We saw so many mini markets and exciting food vendors and stores that sold local goods. The shop keepers we spoke to were all so kind taking the time to speak English to us and explain things to us. We ended up at a restaurant where the owner showed us photos of each dish and made suggestions. I ordered Calimari which came back crispy and flavourful whilst lightly battered and free of oil. Gavin got Lamb souvlaki which was juicy and flavourful. We even got a free desert, Semolina. After we went to a fruit stand and bought the juiciest strawberries we ever tasted, juicy tangerines, kiwis and bananas all for 5 euros. We walked around Athens with well treated taste buds and finished our evening with coconut candy. We went back to our hotel wondering what we would do next….

My backpacking trip begins tomorrow!

Tomorrow, March 11 we truly begin our backpacking trip!!!

At this point in time we are planning on hitting up, Athens Greece to do a cruise around the Greek Islands! Then we jet off to Barcelona, Spain where we will visit the Port Aventura theme park, Valencia and Madrid. Followed by a jaunt in the south of France where we will  check out some beaches, up north to Bordeaux for some wine then eat macarons from Laduree at the Eiffel Tower in Paris! From there we may to go to Brussels for Belgium chocolates then to the Netherlands, followed by Berlin and Prague. We will stop by at my cousins in Germany for a bit and then head to London where we will see the cliffs of Dover. This promises to be an amazing 2 months!