Monday, March 31, 2014


Valencia. was. insane. 

Las fallas was in full force, so there were parties, firecrackers and fireworks all day and night! We would see little babies lighting them off, it was cray. There were parades and music through the streets, and giant models of cartoony characters constructed by different artists, which are all burned down on the last night of the festival.  We ate paella and gazpacho and doner kebabs (x2 haha) and rented bikes to ride to the beach, and had popsicles for breakfast. At night we would grab €1 bottles of wine from across the street and share them on the way to the fireworks show and subsequent street dance party. I dont think ive ever heard avicii or the 'i love it' song more in one week.This city is so cool...las fallas made sure we saw barely any of it. 

On our last day, anaïs and i went to the Science centre, which is housed in a very futuristic-looking area. We got there an hour before close so we didnt have much time, but the best part was definitely the incubators with the baby chicks! Ah! 

I had so much fun in valencia, and i want to go back asap to see everything.  I guess i just have to redo spain sometime :) the people ive met in the last few weeks have been incredible, i cant even say.

Lisbon ;)

The people of porto are quite sure their town outranks Lisbon on all fronts, but i obviously still wanted to check it out for myself! I met a nice dude named eduardo in the hostel in porto (one of my faves, btw) who suggested i stay at his place in lisbon where he is currently studying law. We also took the train together cause it made the most sense.

Although eduardo is from brazil, i loved his enthusiam for showing me around his adopted town. We went to a regular spot of his for dinner and stuffed our faces, and we did a short tour of his area of chiado. He graciously gave up his own bed for me to sleep in, much to my opposition, and slept on the couch for like 4 days. Whatta prince!

The next day before school we went up the Elevador de Santa Justa which is right near his place. This is a crazy old elevator with an amazing 360 degree view of the city. After this we split up and i took a small bus up to the alfama (old town) of Lisbon. I visited the castle saint jorge, which in my opinion has the beeest view of the city. Its breathtaking. The castle grounds are rather sprawling. I visted the camera obscura that was installed in one of the towers (same idea as the one in edinburgh) and it was so cool! It really felt like i was watching a scene dumbledore would conjure up in harry potter, which is funny, cause there seem to be many similarities between edinburgh and portugal relating to jk rowling and harry potter fame. Bah! :) i went for lunch at 28 cafe which is a cafe in an old tram car. Bitchen kitchen. I then tried to visit a few churches, but they were closed because it was monday. I wandered up and down the hilly streets and finally wandered back down to the city centre, exhausted.

The next day is the day of the Alfama flea market, Feira da Ladra, so i headed back up by tram! The tram is really fun :) i tried my best to haggle but i still paid €10/dress. This is where i got my yellow scarf youve seen as of late. I went back to a few churches then headed back to apartment to change and put down some bags. Later on i walked up to the district of Barrio alto where there are tonnes of shops, cafes and restaurants...very few vintage shops to be found, but a beautiful and interesting area! For dinner, a few of eduardos friends came over and we headed to a joint run solely by the owner--she is the cook and server, and you either deal with the alower service or you dont. I had a dish with traditional codfish, potato and egg, and finished it off with delicious chocolate mousse. The owner didnt speak any english but she seemed pretty funny and made going there quite an experience!

The next day i headed to an impressive oceanarium, where i saw one of my fave animals: otters! Theyre so damn cute, holy crap. I walked around the dock and pavillion then took the metro back to city centre and walked around the praça do comércio and arca du rua augusta. This archway is amazing! Its really gigantic and stunning to see in 5-6pm light. 

The say after i headed to Belem via tram 15, which is a nearby district of lisbon. I checked out a few gigantic and impressive monuments and rhe monastery, botanical gardens (where i made friends with a duck), the coach museum (v v old, like the one cinderella used but way older and darker and real). I also picked up dessert at pastis de belem, which are supposed to be the best in lisbon...and they were! I couldnt stop eating them. Before taking the tram back i stumbled upon an intense community mural, of which i took a million pictures. Bah! I went back to the arch to chill for a while, until i became too annoyed by the guys asking if i wanted to buy drugs. Went home after that.

Eduardo and his friends had decided last minute to spend the weekend at the algarve, so i bought a ticket to madrid on a sleeper train and was off that night. Eduardo was so great for letting me stay! It was decided even before i knew his name. This is the sweet thing about travelling, especially alone...anything can happen, and people are amazing. Lisbon was so different from porto, but i enjoyed them both. I did really miss all the people i met at my hostel in porto, though! I definitely need to go back asap :)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Madrid, a silent killer

Madrid! Aw lawd. I had so much fun. I arrived in the morning, so i was able to have a shower, get a few groceries, and join the 11:30am walking tour. The tour left a bit to be desired. Although the guide reminded me of jen from It crowd, i felt like she basically said, okay heres this church, i know it looks pretty plain and not that interesting...and here's why. I know madrid missed the enlightenment but man, not really rooting for this town. Haha. A few of us went for lunch after where we got a 1st and 2nd course, dessert and coffee for €10, which turned out to be a common deal in spain (and for even less!) it was good. We them headed to jardines del buen retiro, which is a sprawling, beautiful park. We had a nice siesta looking over a topiary garden where i chatted to a calgarian dude about winnipeg, then we beaded to the nearby museo del prado. This museum was v louvre-ish, and the portraits were very impressive. That night, we went out with a bunch of different hostels for tapas, and it was amaaazing. We went to this busy restaurant where we stood at tables and they brought plate after plate of tapas and sangria and we just went to town. The waiters were carrying plates upon plates upon plates so seriously and quickly. It definitely felt like we were eating after bar food, but before we went to the bar. It was so good! I loved the atmosphere. After dinner we went on a bar crawl, and while the bars were pretty shitty (aka the music) i had fun. I really hate bar crawls that you have to pay for, because it rarely ends up being worth it. I did one in budapest that just had a tip at the end, which was a good scene. Ah well!

I met a dude from california who i hung out with the next day. We went to caixa forum, a hanging garden and gallery, where they had an exhibit called genesis of black and white photos of untouched areas of the earth. I was so inspired in this place! The photos were amazing, and so was the modern building. Such a good time. Afterwards we went for coffee, ate some food, ten i went on a wander by myself and ended up at Centro de arte reina sofia, the modern art museum of madrid. I got in for free with my student card ;) They have cool glass elevators and a lot of sweet exhibits, but the only one that blew me away was one by ed templeton, who i found out later is a skater and artist and works for Vice. The exhibit was about his adolescence and family life, and it brought me to tears, which is a first for me in any gallery, i think. After that i didnt need to see anything else, and i left back to the hostel.

Sunday morning was El Rasto fleamarket. I picked up several really cute things including my beatles shirt and a few doodads. I ate aome tapas and wandered in some antique shops then headed back to the hostel. That night i joined a group going to a flamenco show, which was really cool! The dancer had on quite a modern outfit with flamenco flair, and she was gorgeous. I had no idea how much the dancer directs the singing and guitar, and what an unrehearsed, collaborative effort it is. Really cool. 

When i got home i booked a few flights and a hostel for down the road, and decided to go to valencia with my new friend anaïs for las fallas festival. We planned to take the train the next night so we would have another day to check out madrid. Then i went to bed.

The next morning i woke up and struck up a conversation with my bunkmate, a british fellow named sam. I told him our plans, and it turns out he had the same ones, but he was driving his car there. He asked if we wanted to join in, and we totally did. We had been planning on havjng another day in madrid to see more sights, but we didnt really wanna pass up a ride so...just gonna have to go back to madrid? ;) We went and got some snacks for the road and went to the garage to find a bright blue mercedes. Anaïs and i were like, what are our lives? Are we princesses? It was amazing. We all needed to pee halfway there so we stopped in a small town of mangililia( sp?) that was so dead (probs siesta time), and found only bushes to pee in. By a castle. After that we were dead set for valencia. Arriba!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


The next day i headed to rome by train to catch my flight to porto. Im pretty sure i took the wrong train there because i arrived in an hour rather than 3 hours, but i didnt get caught, and i was happy to have the extra time to get my thangs in order. Lucky accident! I was on my plane to porto in no time :)

I ended up at one of the best hostels of my whole trip, the spot hostel. Everyone who worked there was so so friendly, and i actually hung out with the staff quite a bit. The pub crawl was a no-go that night, so i headed out on the town with a bunch of dudes once their shifts were over. Id hit porto when carnival was on, which just means its party time and there are a tonne of people wearing costumes like it was halloween. Some of the bars were pretty fun, really good music etc. nice!

The next day i went sightseeing alone and stumbled upon a charity shop, where i picked up a few things including the tan print dress ive been wearing quite a bit. Next i went to try a "Francesinha" sandwich (translates to French lady), which is a triple decker sandwich with three kinds of meat, covered in cheese and a spicy sauce. I heard it was the most popular place to try them, but later found out its not the tastiest place. After lunch i wandered to Centro Português de Fotografia (Portuguese Photography Museum) which was alright, but id just missed an additional exhibit by 2 days. TG it was free entry. Then it was Torre dos Clerigos (Clerics' Tower), with 240-steps. They were in the middle of a live bell performance, starting with 'you are my sunshine' (one of my fave jams!) pretty good view of the city, too! Afterwards i checked out praca de lisboa, which is a cute outdoor shopping area with some fun shops and cafes. Keeping with the randomness of this trip, i spotted a guy named george who does walking tours and pub crawls (who had been part of the group the night before) and joined the tour fir the afternoon. George is a great tourguide, very chill, and the tour itself was really interesting. We ended up at a small funky mall where we had a bite to eat before i headed back to the hostel.

The next day was beautiful! I set out on foot and checked out the school of music building, then headed to Serralves (museum of contemporary art). The museum wasnt that expansive, but the gardens behind the museum were crazy big! So big there were cows there! Really beautiful and more impressive than the museum. So the museum was actually pretty far away, and when i was there i started having a stomach ache. I started walking back and began to feel pretty shitty. I thought maybe i was really hungry so i stopped at a restaurant and all i could have was a bit of soup and sprite. Somehow i trudged back to the hostel in the heat and went straight to bed. After a few hours i went to spew, then slept a bit longer. Not the most fun thing ever, surprisingly! It actually took a few days to feel normal again...i have no idea what happened.

One of the guys from the hostel invited me out for the next few days to go sightseeing around porto, cause im a princess, i guess? And he had a fricken car, so no more walking 4 me! Some things we saw/did included:

-cheese castle
-crystal palace
-the beach
-a tea house
-port wine tasting
-amazing views!

Note: Theres a pretty cool bookshop with an interesting spiral staircase called Livraria Lello, which is said to have inspired the bookstore in the Harry Potter movie. Had a very 'shakespeare and co' feel to it. 

On my last day in porto i went on a morning walking tour (weird order of things, i know), which secured my love for porto. The traditions are so interesting and fun, and the city is absolutely beautiful. Some of the university students choose to wear traditional robes and uniforms and seeing them makes you feel like youre in an HP movie actually. They say jk rowling took inspiration from porto for her books when she lived here. I need to go back to porto. Its so cool.

Monday, March 3, 2014


Naples started off rather slow, due to the time of my arrival and the rainy weather. I arrived at my hostel, owned and operated by a man named Giovanni, who welcomed me with a heaping bowl of pumpkin pasta and water. After eating, he gave me an hour-long run-down of the to-dos and to-not-dos of Napoli and the hostel. By this time it was pretty late, so i hung out at the hostel and befriended a new guest brendon. We gathered a few others and headed out for our first napoli pizza, in the city that pizza was born! We both enjoyed this pizza the most out of all others (there were many!) but we agreed it may have been because it was our firsts...i could tell the first night that napoli is a small, intense little town.

The next day brendon and i, along with a few hostel friends, took the metro to pompeii. We were there for about 5 hours, and it was raining for about 4 of them. The last hour was a steady pour-down! Pompeii itself is giant, and i felt lost for the most part. A majority of the streets look the same. The grounds were lacking any creepy ash-covered human corpses (save for 3 that i believe were replicas), but it was still pretty cool. It would have been more enjoyable on a sunny day, but my company made the trip more fun! After pompeii we headed to a pizza place called L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele, from the movie Eat Pray Love, which was an experience in itself. the pizzeria runs a tight ship: they only serve marinaira and margehrita pizza with or without extra cheese. only 3 types of beverage, and no dessert. The walls are filled with old family pictures and shots of the staff with julia roberts and her signature. To be honest, the pizza was pretty oily/moist and was not my fave of the trip, but i can attest that i definitely would have needed larger jeans after eating, if i wore jeans.

The next day we took the Naples underground tour which shows you the old fallout shelter, aqueduct and an underground portion of a very old theatre that had been hidden up until a few years ago. It was pretty cool and our guide was  entertaining. It was also rainy that day, and after walking around a bit more and having lunch we went back to the hostel to dry off and relax. That night i went for a walk with brendon and found a few vintage shops and some wine. We decided to go out on the town after much prodding from b and ended up staying out pretty late and checking out a bunch of different bars. Italians really know how to party...lets just say that!

My last day was one of my favourites of napoli. B and i set out with a hilarious dude from our hostel named Christian, and we saw so many sights! So many churches, the royal palace (amazingggg), the castle, the pier, mt vesuvius from across the river, and a lot of modern napoli town. We kept repeating the goings-on from the night before and i was cracking up the whole time. It was mostly our other hostel saying italian phrases in his super un-italian accent. Memories! That night a gang of us went for one last pizza and finished with beers. Bittersweet timez.

The hostel was cool and i was fortunate to meet some interesting people. The owner was pretty intense and was very interested in what we were doing (annoyingly so at times) but he really wanted us to get everything out of napoli. I also was not down with him smoking in the hostel... It was pretty gross. All in all it was a relaxed close-knit environment and  i had an amazing time in the city.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


It seems most of rome has been wiped from my memory, so ill have to write in a somewhat summed up fashion:

I spent my first night in Rome at a party hostel called The Yellow, that had a bar on the main floor and a dancey place in the basement. I had a blast. I met so many people, including two people from river heights! It was sweet.

The next day i moved to a cheaper hostel on the other side of the train station, which was pretty decent, except for the problems they were having with the lights on the last two days i was there (aka they didnt work some times). I headed to the colosseum after dropping off my things, and it wasnt a very long wait to get inside. Thank you, low season! It felt very strange experiencing it in person...very surreal. I find a lot of landmarks i see on this trip are at least partially covered with scaffolding. Kind of a bummer! After the colesseum i wandered around the surrounding area, where the architecture was AMAZING. Touristy, but still stunning. 

I made Monday a shopping day, hitting up a large market, where i walked away with one vintage skirt for €1. I found a cute shop called Pifebo where i got my cat shirt and a totebag with the stores logo on it, and i ended up visiting one of their other stores that had a tonne more stuff and was staffed with two sexy men. I picked up some things there that i paid for by weight. I wandered upon a little cafe where i had a yummy buffet lunch,  but i cant recall the name. That night i headed back to the yellow to see if i could find any friends from saturday night, and i did! I had dinner there and made friends with the dude behind the bar. They had a burlesque show that night (my first!) and i stayed up way too late.

In the next few days i visited Piazza Navova, Trevi fountain (wicked!) the Panteon (pretty rad), Basilica di San Marco, Spanish Steps (not a huge deal during the day but perhaps pretty at night), galleria nazionale d'arte moderna (large and confusing) and Villa Borghese park, which is an amazingly sprawling, beautiful and lively greenspace.

On my last day in Rome i joined up wiith a sweet lady from France named Aurore and headed to the vatican city. We had missed the pope by a half hour, and at this time they had barracaded to entire piazza control and clear the area, i suppose. To pass some time we headed off the main street to find some cheaper coffee and treats. We ended up sitting for a few hours and consuming two coffees each. Such a great time! After this we headed back to St Peters Basilica and waited in line for not very long, despite the length. Tour guides come up to you every minute or so, warning you that youll be waiting a long time unless you go on their tour etc, and they tend to follow you while youre walking away. (Im sure the wait time is monsterous come summer time.) the Basilica is beautiful, obviously, right? And gigantic. Very impressive. Aurore had the impression that the vatican museum (which houses the sistine chapel) was €40 for entry, so we didnt go, but its actually under €20. I suppose im a tad disappointed i didnt see it, but what you gonna do? After the vatican we headed to a cool little area called Trastevere where we ate a late lunch and drank some wine. We wandered around and looked at the shops and the people then headed home, getting caught in the rain halfway. It was still a beautiful night! 

When we got home i checked my bank balance and thought to myself, self, you have to pay rent and pay your visa, and then there wont be much left. Not in your regular account, anyways. So, i had to go on a quest to find an international telephone to call my bank to switch over shop money (money ive saved for my shop) into my regular account. As ive never used one of these establishments before i was unaware you had to press a button when it connected, so after reaching two different people, they both couldnt hear me and hung up. Finally i connected with someone and they made the switch, and i only had to pay like 0.50€. Crazy easy, but annoying. While i was around the station i purchased my train ticket to Naples, and the next morning, i was off.