Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Day 28

Tyler and I made it home safely yesterday on Day 28. Did we land in Montreal or Toronto?

Well, way back on October 6 (Day 5), I e-mailed Air Transat to see about changing our final destination to Montreal from Toronto, since our plane stopped in Montreal on the way to Toronto. The reply I got back on October 7 said that it was impossible due to the "Terms & Conditions" of our tickets. Well, that didn't stop us because on October 28 (Day 27), I phoned Air Transat and asked the same thing. This time the woman on the phone informed me that it's possible to do, but only 22 days before our flight. Interestingly, I had actually e-mailed them about it 23 days before our flight, so Tyler and I decided to print out the e-mail I sent on October 6 and argue with them when we checked in for our flight on October 29. On October 29th, we arrive at the airport and ask the lady at Air Transat if we could change our final destination to Montreal from Toronto. The lady replies: "Yes, no problem." It just goes to show you that it's always better to speak to someone face to face, rather than over the phone or e-mail.

Our flight was delayed an hour and a half due to fog at the airport in Paris, but once it got off the ground the flight was smooth and uneventful. The movies were Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. Both good movies.

We finally touched down in Montreal at 3:55 PM, after a 7 and a half hour flight, and made it out of customs and baggage at 4:20 PM. If we were going to Toronto, like we were originally, we would have only arrived in Toronto at 6:00 PM and then would have had to drive back to Ottawa (another 4 and a half hours).

I appreciate how Ottawa has welcomed us back with cold temperatures and 15 cm of snow on the ground. It really makes me feel at home ;).

Our 28 days in Europe was a great experience and I'd certainly go back to some of the places we went. All of our destinations were very interesting and offered us a unique cultural experience.

Europe also made me appreciate Canada more. Why? Here are some reasons:
1) Europe (with the exception of Switzerland) is very dirty and polluted.
2) The smokers outnumber the non-smokers. In some countries, you can even buy cigarettes from a vending machine on the sidewalk.
3) The houses and apartments in the cities are very tiny.
4) In some places, one litre of normal gas in Europe costs 3 euros. We can't complain about our gas prices in Canada anymore.
5) No parking spaces. When Tyler and I were in Paris the first time, we witnessed a car parking. Unfortunately there was no parking space available, so the driver backed his car up into a small VW Golf and pushed the Golf into the next car behind it. Basically the golf was sandwiched in between 2 cars and was riding up the hood of the car behind it. That's the parking situation in Europe. Oh, and make sure you don't buy a VW Golf, or some bigger car may beat you up.
6) The cost of living is very high and on average people only make 500 Euros a month.
7) It's just not Canada.

Thank you to everyone who has read my blog and also to those people who left comments. It was a fun experience and I'd probably do it again if I went on another long trip.

13) BEST PLACE WE VISITED: Barcelona, Spain.
WORST PLACE WE VISITED: Carcassonne, France (see Day 06).

14) MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE WE VISITED: Gimmelwald, Switzerland.

15) BEST CASTLE/PALACE: Schonnbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria.
WORST CASTLE/PALACE: Residenz in Munich, Germany (although it was still pretty good).

16) BEST TRAIN STATION: St. Pancras International in London, England.
WORST TRAIN STATION: Budapest-Keleti in Budapest, Hungary.

17) BEST AIRPORT: Charles de Gaulle in Paris, France.
WORST AIRPORT: Gatwick in London, England.

18) BEST DAY: Day 22

Blog you later,


Day 27

All we did today was go to the Charles de Gaulle airport to try to change our flight, but unfortunately Air Transat was closed, so at the moment we're still arriving in Toronto. We'll be trying to change it again tomorrow morning when we check in for our flight.

I hear there's a Nor'Easter storm hitting Ottawa tonight and tomorrow. Tyler and I will probably miss the storm, but we may have some shovelling to do. It doesn't affect our flight as the storm is not hitting Montreal or Toronto, but that could always change.

I also noticed that the Sens won for once. I'm surprised!

Continuing the best and worst lists from yesterday:

7) BEST SUBWAY SYSTEM: Paris, France.
WORST SUBWAY SYSTEM: Budapest, Hungary (we had to pay for another ticket each time we changed metro lines)

8) BEST SUBWAY TRAIN: Barcelona, Spain.
WORST SUBWAY SYSTEM: Budapest, Hungary (it's supposedly the oldest underground system in Europe, unfortunately it also looks it's age).

9) BEST CULTURAL EXPERIENCE: The Romanian Guy who sat across from us on the train from Salzburg to Vienna (see Day 14 (continued)).
WORST CULTURAL EXPERIENCE: Tyler losing his wallet on the train from Munich to Salzburg (see Day 12).

10) BEST COINCIDENTAL EVENT: Tyler finding his wallet a couple of days later on the same train he lost it, but missing the Euros. (see Day 14 (continued)).
WORST COINCIDENTAL EVENT: The France train workers going on strike (see Day 06).

11) BEST WEATHER: Rome, Italy.
WORST WEATHER: Vienna, Austria.

12) BEST STORE: Any store that sold lederhosen.
WORST STORE: The tie store (see Day 12).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Day 26

We are now in Paris at the Goldas' house once again. Tyler and I are exhausted so we're not going anywhere today. Tomorrow we'll be going to the airport to see if we can disembark in Montréal instead of Toronto. After that, we'll be staying and relaxing at the Goldas.

It's been an exhausting trip but we've seen and experienced many interesting things and cultures that we will remember for the rest of our lives.

Today I'll start listing my best and worst things that have happened to us on this trip:

1) BEST HOSTEL: Ante Portas in Salzburg, Austria
WORST HOSTEL: Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald, Switzerland (only because we were in a dorm)

2) BEST FOOD: The Goldas in Paris, France. The food never stops!
WORST FOOD: Gimmelwald, Switzerland (because there were no restaurants open when we wanted them)

3) BEST MEAL: Ribs and chips in Barcelona, Spain.
WORST MEAL: Spaghetti in London, England (it was still ok).

4) WORST CROSSWALKS: Italy. Because you just cross the street and pray the traffic will stop for you.
BEST CROSSWALKS: London, England. Because they tell you on the street which way to look.

5) BEST WEATHER: Rome, Italy.
WORST WEATHER: Vienna, Austria

6) BEST TRAINS: Switzerland.

to be continued tomorrow...

Day 25

On Day 25 we went to Vatican where we waited 40 minutes in a crowd of people just to get into St. Peter's. After looking around the church, we went up to the Cupola, and yes it gets really narrow and is kind of scary. But we survived!

That's all we had time to see at the Vatican as we had to go catch our train to Paris. Even though we got beds this time, the night train was uncomfortable (we're 3 for 3 on night trains this trip), and we only managed to sleep a few hours. The train ride was approximately 16 hours long and after we disembarked we were still swaying like the train was all night.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Day 24

Today we were feeling lazy again, so we just went to the beach and stayed around the hostel (and played pool and ping pong). Tomorrow we'll be going to the Vatican, then heading back to Paris on the night train.

The beach had lots of garbage laying around, so we didn't much feel like laying out on the sand or playing frisbee. Instead we just walked along the shore and skipped rocks. We also saw a live jellyfish in the water, and don't worry we didn't get to close to it. Tyler was throwing rocks in its vicinity to get it to move. The sand is black, not white. I think that this means that the sand comes from ground lava swells, rather than sea shells.

4 days left...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Day 23

We are completely and utterly exhausted so we didn't do anything today.

Tyler did laundry in the morning, but I'm sure you don't want the details of that. I on the other hand did not do laundry because I like wearing smelly clothes. (Actually, my clothes aren't that bad, but it seems like a waste to wash clothes when we have only 5 days left.)

Tomorrow we plan to go to the beach (if it's not raining), followed by a trip to the Vatican for our meeting with the Pope. It should be exemplary. The weather here has been great so far. Today was 20-something degrees and sunny, as was yesterday. I can't really make fun of your weather in Ottawa as its still looks pretty warm, though rainy. I do see that in the long term forcast they're calling for snow showers on the 29th and for the next 4 days after. Unfortunately, we'll be back in Ottawa by then.



Thursday, October 23, 2008

Day 22

Today we toured around Rome and saw many sights. First we saw the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, both are archealogical sites and have lots to see, including some still-intact temples and arches. We also went into the Colosseum which was very impressive.

We also saw the Circus Maximus, but it just looks like a field, not the way it was.

Then we made our way over to the Castel Sant'Angelo. It was originally built in the 2nd century AD as a mausoleum, but in the 14th century it was converted into a fortress for the popes. It's an interesting looking building with many statues of angels standing guard. We didn't go in the fortress, but we walked around it on the outside.

Then we walked over to the Pantheon and quickly saw the inside. It's also very beautiful and has a very large dome that has a hole at the very top to the outside sky.

Shortly before arriving at the Pantheon, I had noticed some police standing on a street with riot gear. Later after leaving the Pantheon, we come to a road that is full of police with riot gear. We quickly cross the road, and not a moment too soon as I hear a rumble in the distance. A protest march quickly came around the bend and had hundreds of people involved. We overheard from someone speaking English that it had to do with public school vs. private school funding. That was an interesting experience and Tyler took some video of it, so you can experience what it was like where we were.

We then left to see the Piramide. Yes, there is a pyramid in Rome! It wasn't built by the Egyptians, but constructed as a tomb for someone important.

We got hungry so we ate at a restaurant near the Piramide. Tyler and I both got a pasta called, well I can't remember the name, but it had large spaghetti noodles with hot pepper sauce and bacon. It was pretty good. They also had a TV on and a game show was on the air while we ate. The game show started off innocently enough as a type of quiz show with about 8 contestants. There was a male hst who would ask the questions, and there were also 4 girls/models who would also occasionally ask questions or demonstrate things. When the game show was down to 2 contestants, as some kind of segway/reward, the 4 girls/models, who's only purpose so far on the game show was for sex appeal and cleavage, were sitting on a couch and rubbing their hands up their legs. Then they all jump up and start seductively dancing and rubbing themselves. At this Tyler and I burst out laughing. That is certainly not something you see on a North American game show. The audience consisted of men, women, and children, plus the remaining 2 contestants were women. (This wasn't some kind of male game show or anything). Unfortunately, before we could find out what the models would do when one of the contestants won, the channel was changed to an Italian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, that unfortunately was not nearly as interesting.

And I noticed that the Sens lost once again last night, this time against the Panthers. It looks like they'll be fighting with the Leafs for last place lol
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