Monthly Archives: October 2014

buds, bikes and a windmill

Oh what a time.

Amsterdam is really lovely (that’s right I called a drug ridden, prostitute filled city lovely). It is though, especially if you check out the local markets, tree lined streets away from the center and ride a bike to try some local craft brews. oh wow, and lets not start on the cheese.

I don’t know where the idea hit from but arriving in the Netherlands and being so close to Belgium I was dying for a waffle. I made a discovery of waffles covered in melted chocolate a the Albertcyup market. These waffles, cheese and cheap Birkenstocks are unfortunately the only redeeming features of Amsterdam’s largest street market. walking past cheap tourist crap and crappy cheap clothing is an unforgivable waste of a market.

Still.

Waffle magic

We set out the next day to the waterlooplein market which contained less food but a lot of stuff-everything you want in a market like tons of random clothes and shoes heaped in piles, old books, cool postcards and, of course: bike parts.

If I had the power to buy anything i would’ve snatched up the old gramaphone and these amazing teapots (ironicaly those two things actually sum up my personality quiet well.)

teapots

 

 

After this market madness it was time for something even more crazy:riding a bike in Amsterdam. Myself and my buddy (bud-get it?) rented bikes from a rental place run by a guy with non-non-existant customer service skills. really, probably the most awkward time i’ve had paying money for a thing…wait. Amsterdam.

Anyway! we took those two dutch bikes on a adrenilin-filled ride to make it out of the red light district; some lady attempting suicide by stepping off the curb directly into my path; me attempting to fray my bud’s nerves by stopping randomly, aggressively crossing busy roads and turning sharply. It’s a lot of ride or die on the shared roads. Probably the two of us have never been happier to get to a brewery.

 

Pretty

Delicious friend drinking pretty beer.

Amsterdam brewery

Windmill

After biking through Vondal park alternately past groups of stoners and swarms of joggers we made it back to the rental shop to return our bikes. Which was not possible since the shop was closed. Remembering this spastic half hour still makes me angry so short story: we locked our bikes to a tree. Very, very, very well!

At least we got to enjoy a free meal at the christian youth hostel my friend was staying at. mostly free: both of us a firm believers in nothing and we had to sit through a very informative video after our meal explaining to us how Jesus is the perfect plate.

It’s a metaphor guys. I don’t know how i made it through the presentation. I’m not anti faith but i am against over the top dramatic presentations with an agenda.

At least I got some good information on the way out.warning


Madrid

Madrid was full of looking at amazing food and a walking tour designed to squash as much information as possible into our heads.

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Madrid is not full of old, opulent buildings except for the old royal palace. Modelled on Versailles, I can say with assurance it’s very impressive from the outside

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We spent a lot of time walking around the city but, after 6 months of museums in my case; 3 weeks for my sister and for my mom 8 weeks free of city crowds, no one felt like visiting a museum (not even a museum of ham)

My sister and I started off by figuring out the bus to town and taking a ride on the gondola from oeste park

IMG_2683.JPG it was a fun (and cheap) to ride over the trees ending up in the middle of the largest park in the city. After Barcelona even this touristy attraction felt wonderfully calm. We walked through the park a bit admiring the different trees and trying to spot parakeets and parrots in the foliage.

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We returned on the gondola to the city for some authentically terrible diner food. I won’t go into too much detail (fries should not taste like fish) but it appears being choosy about where to eat is actually necessary.

We made up for it the next day by buying the best churros con chocolate ever! I’m not joking, amazing. plus the cafe itself was old and fancy (the way all cafes should be)

Family time It may be good that I didn’t stay in Spain any longer. as a vegetarian who loves chocolate staying in a country where ham is in everything would probably have led to some questionable dietary decisions..

 

 


Best bits of Barcelona

For me the highlights of this trip were Casa Batllo (gaudis dragon house); eating tapas with some cool ladies; our last evening of flamenco dancing and churros with chocolate at midnight with those same ladies.

Casa Batllo is a house you almost swim through. Gaudi used the story of st Geordie and the dragon for inspiration. All the walls undulate and natural light enters through the central light well to bounce off stained glass and bright tile.

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Compared to other art nouveau styles a lot of elements appear very simple. Here the beauty in the design is in the architectures reflection of nature and the vibrant colours of the tiles an mosaics.

Tapas were just all the time in Barcelona. I’m actually a little tired of tapas. Mostly it’s just challenging when you’re a vegetarian- although patates bravas is delicious it’s one of 3 tapas I can eat.
Oh but the cheese. Montego is a wonderful thing. I think Margaret tried the ham once-tried to convince her to try more to no avail (she did drink a glass of red wine though!).

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Through the magic of trip advisor I found flamenco dancing at a small bar for 10 euros. Margaret and I met our trio of new friends there.

Ho man. Talk about amazing.
The guitarist had the fasted fingers and just felt every inch of music he played. At first I was concerned his eye was twitching so much.
Accompanying him the vocalist belted out songs at the top of her lungs.
After two songs the dancer began. I don’t think any of her dance was choreographed, it looked like she just felt the music and fell into it. At a later point the guitarist stopped and the flamenco dancer led.

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After five minutes of watching I was thinking to myself “I have to learn this”. It’s the perfect combination of grace, strength and stomping. You just get to dance around the stage stomping and look amazing!

Logically after the show was the perfect time for churros (ha, actually that’s all the time). I’d learned a recommended place on les ramblas was open until 2am on Saturday.

The churros appeared fresh and hot. I was worried two hot chocolates wouldn’t be enough but we managed to share. Yvonne helped the staff by cleaning most of her cup.

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Barcelona

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I feel like I’ve never spent more time walking and using the metro then I have in this city. This is supposed to be a chill place but holy damn it’s just walking walking walking and people everywhere and stuff everywhere. Park guell is so touristy in bits that rows of people set up blankets of cheap souvenirs and actually sell stuff. The beware of pickpocket cartoons played on the metro are super cute but it’s still exhausting always looking after your stuff (I do this usually but here it’s on another level- Constant Vigilince!)

Enough of my rant. The city is in fact really cool (the 8million-whatever-tourists have a reason for visiting). As the capital of Catalan Barcelona is almost a separate place from the rest of Spain: they have their own language and crazy traditions, in fact there is a referendum in November on whether Catalan wants to separate (whether this is even possible is another problem).

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It seems like the country might end up a bit fucked if they go it on their own but judging by the number of independent state flags I’ve seen the majority appear to be in favour..

The best parts of the city for me have been the parks. Of the 4 that I wanted to go to we made it to park guell and mount tibidabo. Guell was full of tourists but we stayed in the free park area and made it up to some beautiful views over the city. Not to mention someone busking nearby playing a sweet vintage resonator.

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Mount tibidabo is the highest point in Barcelona. The sagrada familia will be 1 meter lower than it’s peak when finished. I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to take the old tramline to the base of the mountain (it only runs on weekends), we did still take the old funicular to the peak where we found an old chapel and an old amusement park. Anyone could enter the church to admire some very lovely mosaics-not to mention feel what churches are like when not crammed with clicker happy tourists (sorry).
I was mostly excited by how cool old park rides become when placed on top of a mountain.

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Budapest: round 2

In deciding where to head to after Prague- sister in tow- Budapest was the obvious choice. Secretly..I just wanted a reason to find myself back in one of my favourite european cities.

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I risked a serious blow to my nostalgia and stayed at the same hostel as last time. At least there was less getting lost!

the two of us tripped in the first afternoon after a mildly mind-numbing 7 hour bus ride from prague. The only activity manageable was a trip to Humous bar (vegetarians hold in your tears of wonder).
After grocery shopping and recovery we went out in search of a craft brewery i’d read about. Naturally, it was housed in a ruined building the used to be a glass blowing factory/studio. The beer i had was some sort of IPA, (a real sign your at a hipster hot spot since IPAs find it difficult to exist in europe) it wasn’t a hoppy as a nice imperial from home but it was really good. I badly wanted to try the dark beer everyone else held lovingly close but there was a suspicious itch in my throat that warned against overdoing anything.

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A word about hippies:
I forgot if it was the second or first day but at some point our hostel was overrun by travellers fresh from the nearby rainbow festival (meeting? gathering?) . I like the philosophy of equality and sharing these guys have, after things calmed down i met some really nice people, but whoa, 20 extra people in a small hostel already booked full with a different sense of boundaries is a tough situation. especially when someone takes drugs and comes in with a bad trip at 4am. I have another word about hippies but i wont over-indulge in this post.
(p.s I think it really comes down to individuals but in this case the massive onslaught of rainbows squelched out a lot of breathing room)

Feeling ill, instead of going with my sister on the walking tour i went to the house of Terror, Budapest’s nazi/communism museum.upon leaving I felt both physically and mentally unwell! so not really a great plan.
I had a lunch/dinner of fruit juice, coconut milk and (probably) rainbows that evening in hopes of recovering.

Next day we went to momento park. it was a bit of a let down since you couldn’t learn anything about the statues without paying for a walking tour or guide (where did my entrance fee go then?). the free montage of spy training videos shown in an outbuilding was, however, golden.

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Other cheap things on the list for that day were Opera.
1500 florints (6 canadian, about). we hooked up with another group going from the hostel including: a neurosurgeon, 15 year long traveler and 3 hippies (all super sweet aspiring writers). Backpacking in a nutshell.

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A relaxing last day led us to Margrit island where Margaret finally had some langos. I could only manage a few bites but Margaret may have found her new favourite food.

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The Slav Epic

Alfons Mucha spent a decade working on this. I never imagined it would… Umm, so epic.

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How am I in Prague again?

Through a bit of peer and parental pressure and a bit of enthusiasm on her part, my sister decided to join me for my last three weeks in Europe.

After talking about meeting her for a week I realized it was suddenly only two days until I would see her in Prague.
Prague is many peoples favourite city: it’s beautiful, cultural and cheap. Also, it appeared to be close to Slovenia. Kind of. It doesn’t feel close when you have to catch a six hour train to Vienna then another from there to arrive in Prague at four-thirty in the am. Mmm.

It’s kind of super strange traveling with someone else. Almost as strange realizing I now have a piece of my family next to me again.

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We’ve been dividing our time between our interests which led to a trip to the Prague zoo on her second day here. Luckily we both like eating tasty food and I introduced her to kofola (better then cola)

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best looking birds

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great quotes on the Lenin wall

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IMG_2426.JPGsome traditional pastry and craft coffee (sister had the chocolatiest hot chocolate)

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