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As of January 31, 2012

YEAH, it’s been over A YEAR since I left Canada!  How did THAT happen?

After spending a couple of months in the Middle East throughout the summer of 2011, I returned to Belgium in mid August to be with my fiance.  Alas, I could not obtain a visa to stay to SAVE MY LIFE so November 21st I boarded a plane and visited my homeland 🙂  I did not get as far as planned BUT the “Mystery Tour isn’t over yet…

But let me backtrack for a moment; June 21 to August 10 I did, indeed, go to Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Israel.  Beautiful countries, all of them.  And I have never been hotter in my life *grins*  My hottest day was about 50 Celsius in Egypt.  And where was I?  Oh drifting down the Nile on a felucca http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felucca.  There wasn’t even a breeze!  Of course I think Toronto reached 50 this summer, but you didn’t have the Nile to jump into…yes, yes I did.  No crocodiles and I did have the presence of mind to wait until  there was a current to lessen the chances of contracting bilharzia…gross.

Egypt is also where I had my very first panic attack; which I realized sometime later safely tucked into my train berth.  I was dropped off at the Cairo train station early evening.  The plan was to take the Sleeper Train to Aswan departing 8:30 p.m.  As soon as I walked by the soldiers yelling at me as I went through “security,” I had that “bad” feeling.  I kept asking which platform I had to wait at, showing my ticket and not feeling real confident about the dismissive nods and fingers pointing every which direction.  Greaaaaaat.  And for the first time on my travels, I felt “the eyes.”  Not only was I a woman traveling on my own in Cairo but in this train station I was THE only traveler – you know – big ass backpack with that “where the hell do I go” look.  Every move I made was followed by “the eyes.”
So at this point let’s throw in my racing heart beat, shallow breathing and my acceptance of being on death’s doorstep.  I put my back to a wall, called my fiance to say my final words and stood on guard.

As the clock approached 8:30 p.m. a train arrived.  YAY!  Some people are getting on…most are not.  But is this MY train?  I approach a soldier hanging out one of the cars, showed him my ticket and asked with my 5 words of arabic if this was the right train.  After a disinterested glance he handed me my ticket and motioned with his head for me to get on the train…he may of shrugged his shoulders…bad feeling getting worse.   After a few moments of fearful hesitation I decided OKAY I’m getting on this train.  So I go to step on and this old man abruptly moves and blocks my path!  He doesn’t say a word.  He looks me in the eye and with is hands motions for me to stay where I am.  Alrighty then!  Soo…I do.  He gets on the train and it chugs off into the night.   I turn around and see the other 300 people all looking at me…and then…another train comes…and on every single car in big print:  “SLEEPER TRAIN.”  I was the first one on. 🙂

But really I loved my time in the Middle East.  I will have to share some more stories as time goes on.

I had a great time in Toronto seeing as many people as I could.  It was so good to be with my friends again.  And with it being the holidays and having to be separated from my fiance…it was good not to be alone in some foreign place.  I had contemplated going to Thailand instead but I needed love 🙂

So now, I am in Atlixco, Puebla Mexico staying with Daniel and Pepe.  They have the cutest place here and I must say I love January when it’s around 24 Celsius every day.  And I get to Skype everyday with Kevin (sorry honey, but you’re name had to come out sooner or later :P). AND, I bought 5 Kilos of grapefruit for 20 pesos [12 PESOS =1 CAD].  OH, and the 1.75 litres of Vodka for 99 pesos!

Daniel and Pepe are graciously allowing me to stay with them for about a month and I’m going to try and see my aunt and uncle who live in Mexico as well.  They are sailing until the end of February so we shall see.  And then…well I have some planning to do 🙂  Panama for sure, maybe some crazy countries along the way, South America….

I’ll get back to you on all that.  I better study my Spanish now.  Buenos Dias

CARPE DIEM. 😉

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Did you ever see “The Shawshank Redemption?”  Absolutely one of my favourite movies; and the title of this blog entry is one of my favourite quotes…from that movie of course 🙂  If you haven’t seen it, do.

So I have been busy living…in Belgium…since March 5 believe it or not.  I was hostel hopping in Brugge for about a month before moving into a “lively” apartment in Oostende.  It’s on the North Sea.  Why lively…well…I am staying with my fiance…yep 🙂  And it’s above this store…the bread man comes about 1:00 a.m. and at first it really sounded like he was coming into the apartment.  Nice.  And since I am not up and at work in the mornings I am also here for the 9-10 a.m. deliveries Monday through Saturday.  Without fail people are lined up every morning before the store opens at 9:00 a.m. for the latest and greatest deals.  And I admit, I WAS there last month JUST after 9:00 so I could get the coffee maker on sale 🙂  Come on…we ARE talking COFFEE here!  There is also a playground right across the street so more often than not there is a cacophony of childish squeals and screams…so you see…lively.  And when we moved in there was wallpaper on the ceiling of the bedroom…don’t ever do this…scrapping it off was indeed cruel and unusual punishment.

So yesss, I have been most European; biking around with my basket and playing Euro Millions…no luck yet 😛    I even spent a night at sea on a wee fishing boat.  Sure I spent most of the time trying not to be seasick but it was still cool.

But, the tour has to continue so come 6:30 a.m. Belgium time, June 21, 2011 I fly to Antalya Turkey…and begin again.

Until next time, carpe diem 🙂

 

How DOES she do it?

Well it’s been a while since my last confession, and since I am chilling in Pisa, why not?  Where have I been since Morocco and what’s been going on you ask?  Well, even if you are not asking, you KNOW I’m going to tell you.

I spent a lovely week in Barcelona.  Aside from the robbery it was really was a good week.  YES, I am the WORST TRAVELER EVER OKAY?  BUT, I am apparently insanely lucky.  I took OFF my bag and put it BEHIND me.  I was enjoying the sun and writing a letter and listening to my iPod, you know, just hanging.  THEN, some GUY came and sat beside me asking me if I spoke French and if I knew what some damn building was blah blah blah…then he went away.  AND THEN, Ben the Saviour as I call him got my attention and said, “ah, run, that guy just took your bag.”  Sure enough, my bag was gone.  Neat.

…there was a pause there…it is now February 19 and checking out The Rome…

So anyways, after running around looking for jerky mc robby, the police just happened to be right there and saw the guy taking off with my bag.  They caught him and I got my bag back; everything intact.  Talk about LUCK. And all this transpired in 15 minutes, I didn’t even have time to panic. So I settled for going into shock right afterwards will signing all the paperwork so the officer could represent me in court.  OY.  After that I took Ben the Saviour out for some sangria 🙂

What else is new?  I got my hair done in Barcelona.  I spent a few days in Nice where I left my travel buddy C.  Nice is GORGEOUS by the way.  I did some weird karaoke there.  I met another travel buddy in Barcelona, J, who also came to Nice and now we are going to tour Italy for a couple of weeks by Eurorail so that is something different.  The train is cool save for the day going to Pisa where we had to run around like lunatics trying to find trains; 4 trains in 6 hours.  On your mark, get set, GO.

I am going to be in Rome for a few days and totally be a tourist; there is just so much to see here.  It truly hit me that I was in Rome today as I emerged from the gritty subway and came upon The Colosseum bathed in sunlight.  I have those moments where I have to give my head a shake because I just can’t believe where I am sometimes.

Another first for me; I fell last night…nooo, as we all know THAT is definitely not a first..anyways, I hit my head REAL GOOD and this morning I woke up with one purple eye. Hot. LOOOOOSER.  So needless to say I had to get some overpriced reflective aviators to camouflage my stupidity.  Lord love a duck.

Lastly, it has been four months since I flew away from Toronto.  Sometimes it feels like longer…and then like no time has passed at all.  But, the days go by, waves of missing people crash over me and…this is still an adventure.  My Bacetti chocolate told me to “Never refuse an adventure.” 🙂  Sooooo…

Carpe Diem,

Until next time…M

Life changed forever Tuesday, January 18, 2011.  Why?  Easy.  I entered the madness that is Marrakech, Morocco.  I slept on the plane and woke up as I landed in my unchartered territory: Africa.  The sun was setting and the sky was a confusing colour as I blinked awake and realized, I – HAD-ARRIVED.

Lining up for border control I realized I had to fill out some weird piece of paper so I rapidly filled it out as I moved up the line…holy Arabic.  I was actually nervous BUT they let me in and I stumbled around Marrakech airport trying to find money and a map…and…the nerve to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

After a short bus ride and realizing everyone else was getting off I confirmed with the bus driver that indeed I was now in Djemaa el Fna and grabbed my back beast and stepped into another life.  I seriously just stood there and gaped at the sight before me.  People zigzaging everywhere, horses, donkeys, monkeys, snakes, the harshsoft glow of the lights mesmerized me as I began to go forward into the endless maze. I had NO idea how to find my hostel and therefore did the one thing they tell you NOT to do; I followed some guy into the abyss of chaos and hoped to hell it would all turn out all right.  After  some scary dark alleys sure enough he showed me the way.  And as with everything in Marrakech, there was a price to pay.  Apparently what I gave him was not enough and he promised to be back tomorrow…greaaaat. Note to self, don’t leave hostel 😉

The next 3 days were simply a blur.  I felt constantly dizzy as I kept getting lost and literally had to practice finding my hostel.  Because if you know me, you know I always go the wrong way first.  The first night I went out for a drink with a guide.  Just Coke Light, no alcohol is sold in the “old town.”  The second night I went out for a drink with another guide…and little did I realize that that was the beginning of trouble and my moniker “The Canadian Woman”  Some guy had been eavesdropping on my conversation with Simon and followed me back to my hostel warning me about “that guy with the hair.”  I said thanks…and met my friend later anyway…and “some guy” was following me again. Day 3 I made friends with C. aka The French Guy and we hung out.  Later Day 3, “some guy” came to the hostel asking to see me and demanding money from the hostel owner as he was doing them a favour by warning them about The Canadian Woman-she was doing “bad traffic” whatever the hell that is…and to clarify he mentioned that I was with The French Guy so obviously he had been following me again.  Remember note to self:  “Don’t leave hostel”  The hostel owner showed “some guy” the door and simply said, “Don’t worry.  This is just Marrakech.”

Welcome to Marrakech.

So after that, I fled to the desert *GRINS*  Honestly, if you don’t have a link to my pictures, shoot me an email because Morocco has some of the most amazing scenery I have ever had the privilege to gaze upon.  Up up up into the mountains we climbed stopping here and there among ruins and gorges and then, on the send night; it was camel riding time.  I don’t like the getting up and coming down part, I kind of girly screamed and held on for dear life.   Riding a camel through the dunes of the Sahara as the sun sinks and the sky is alive with colour…what can I say…I will never forget it.

After two hours and a fairly ungraceful dismount, well come on, you can imagine your ass it going to be a bit numb after that, we stumbled to the Berbere camp, tossed our stuff into a tent and waited for our dinner and took turns going to the pee bush.  I am quite proud, I did not fall backwards nor did I pee on my shoes 😀

So after eating from the community plate, and playing drums with our hosts, and spending countless moments spellbound by the star crammed night sky, we slept with about a billion blankets…yes the desert is a little frisky at night.  Five am  was go time, to see the sunrise of course on the way back.

And then;

The Canadian Woman, The French Guy met The Spanish Boy back in Marrakech so we decided to barely catch a bus to the lovely town of Essaouira.  An old town and much more relaxed.  I just decompressed there with the ocean air, horse back riding on the beach, walking through the vendors of the medina…just…being.

And then…yeah…Casablanca!  One night and one night only and thank god because the traffic was nutzoid.  My friend and I walked and walked and walked through scariness and finally found Rick’s Cafe.  Yes, I know, kind of cheesy but shut up.  It was cool and the food was wicked.  One more dish of couscous and I was going to lose it. 😛

So that was Morocco.  I celebrated day 100 of my travels waking up in the Sahara Desert with the moonlight..and sand dunes..and yeah..that was some sort of magic.   🙂

Until next time,

Carpe Diem

Ciao

Another foggy morning in Venice, day 4…but the sun did eventually come out yesterday and maybe today too so a nice change from WEEKS of grey drizzle…ah Europe in winter…

So what’s been going on..let’s see..I finally left Brugge Belgium Jan 4 after TDCanadaTrust FINALLY sent me my bankcard…after nearly a month.  They also sent one to Toronto which Doug sent to me as well…they both arrived on the same day..funny.   My Brugge friend 😉 took leave and we took the train to Amsterdam…with a brief delay in Antwerp..time for a drink and a wee look around..neat city too.

So Amsterdam was pretty cool.  Beautiful..and sleezy…and 220 “coffee shops” heehee.  And it is pretty amusing walking about around 4 in the morning…the streets, even in January, were teeming with people stumbling about drunk and/or high but just relaxed and laughing and buying food out of these vending machines – FEBO – bizarre but I tried it..not that bad.at 4 am anyway 🙂

The red light district was as you expect:  prostitutes – of all kinds tapping on the glass of their windows with the invitation of  “a little fun” for a mere 50 Euro.  Apparently that gets you…well , the basic stuff 😛

We actually did some touristy stuff:  some Amsterdam dungeon “experience” which was amusing and had a wee rollercoaster ride at the end!  And, since I went to the Guinness Brewery in Dublin, we also had what is called The Heineken Experience..what the hell, it comes with a couple of beers at the end 😉

What can I say about Venice…it is ancient and lovely and good for the legs and the butt – up the bridge and down the bridge…up the bridge and down the bridge.  It is super expensive, apparently the most expensive city in Italy, yeah, of course it was the only place in Italy I planned to visit.  BUT the wine is cheap in the grocery and my hostel – A Venice Fish – includes dinner so it’s all good.  It’s actually better than breakfast because you sit and meet the other travelers, hang out and swap stories…very cool.

And, as per the Venice experience, I got lost yesterday.  Sigh, but it was an easy correction..I simply took the water bus the wrong direction for about 20 minutes.  I was making a quick get away from a weird situation and wasn’t paying attention.  I started talking to this old Venetian gondolier and thought a drink would be interesting…but nooo.  I was thinking –  hearing about life in Venice and gondolier stories…and he was thinking…well, something else entirely.  Good grief.  Lesson learned.  And ick by the way!!!!!!

So today, perhaps an art gallery, but really walking about Venice alone is amusement enough when you are a freak magnet.  And no, no gondolier ride for this girl – 80 Euro for 30 minutes….nuts to that.

What’s next?  I am actually going back to Brugge for a few days *grins* and then – I am ditching my weird ugly 5 Euro second-hand coat from Finland and turning my face to the sun:  Tuesday=Marrakech and all the wonders that Africa has to offer.

Until next time,

Carpe Diem

Magsy

And yes, I know, I am wicked behind on photos..they are coming I promise ❤

 

 

 

I walk outside my hostel and light a cigarette.  The street is quiet this morning.  I stand there and wait for…I don’t know what I am waiting for anymore.  Then the music starts…it just blares out along the street.. startling me out of  my Brugge Daze.  Today is day 17 in Brugge.  On my first day – I lost my wallet.

The second day – the wallet is returned but I have already canceled everything via harrowing phone calls..you know they say you can call collect from outside North America…BOLLOCKS! I finally did figure out how to call collect from Belgium though:  there is a secret code that only 3 people know and it only works from payphones that are outside when it is freezing cold.  But it is all automated you see and…then…American Express refuses the call….over and over and over again.  But, I do manage to get through to two credit card companies and my bank before I use up $40 dollars of phone credit.

So yes, I had emergency funds and 40 Euro – thank you Susannah! and I get by until my two credit cards arrive.  The bank card…where is that?  OH…you didn’t bother SENDING ME ONE ?  Of course not, that would be helpful for a traveler stranded in a foreign country.  So, ergo…day 17  – In Brugge…waiting…waiting…

But, Brugge will forever be in my heart.  I have made a friend and he has shown me a Brugge I would not have seen otherwise.   Oh I have laughed…It really is a beautiful little city and the people are warm…just don’t ask them what time Brugge closes….

And the beer is good…I have lots of experience with THAT now 😉

So Christmas in Brugge it is..my own Charlie Brown Christmas…and I will be thinking back to my Thanksgiving dinner back in Toronto as I…remain Brugged

Carpe Diem,

Magsy

Oh yeah…I forgot to mention I was in a bus crash…and I saw my first football game…and Brugge always has to have 21 swans…or something like that 😉

 

The Magic that is Finland <3

What can I say…I love it here.  Yes, there is snow EVERYWHERE and it has been minus 20 celsius and I have had to relocate my toes a few times…but wearing my slippers in my shoes seem to help 😛

It all started on the crazy party boat last Wednesday…hundreds of 20 year olds just taking the boat to have a good time:  buy slightly cheaper alcohol, pull out those 6 inch heels and 3 inch mini skirts and STRUT from one end of the ship to the other.  There was a disco and a piano bar and a cigar club…and me perching here and there taking it all in as I sailed away from Stockholm to the unknown Finland, the port of Turku first stop.  Let me just say I’m glad I shared a cabin…because by midnight after a couple of drinks that I could  ill afford and the boat literally pitching back and forth from the high winds, my head was mush and I could barely walk in a straight line…and I was wearing flat shoes!  When 7 am rolled around, the party was still going on…sorry I missed it…but..after chatting with some drunk people and boat staff, I finally figured out how to get OFF the ship and step gingerly into the frigid Finnish air.

So last Thursday was a day in Tampere .  This is where I found my 5€ coat of wonder, stayed in the awesome Dream Hostel…room to myself…wicked.  I met up with a friend for a few hours in the evening which was wonderful.   We drove about, had really sugary doughnuts and a Mexican dinner 🙂

And then Friday I was driven to Espoo in a newly purchased car…see…I have James’ everywhere heeheeheee.  I have been staying with my friend Ritva and her family since then.  I have ventured into Helsinki a couple of times but really I have had no desire to be “the tourist” here.  I just wanted to BE here.  And it has been amazing just getting to know my host family, making them laugh as I try to speak Finnish (they have a rrrr sound I just CANNOT DO), revelling in the ritual of sauna..and glögi :P, walking in crunchy pure white snow and…I guess…just walking in someone else’s shoes for a while…it is a rare gift.   I will never be able to thank them enough.

Daniel asked me, now that I have shed the vestiges of “normal life”…what has been revealed..I couldn’t answer…I don’t know yet…but I think my time here may be the start of finding out.

Kiitos..and I can count to 10 too 😉

As always, Carpe Diem

Moomin :D

Hattifatteners 😀

“City of My Dreams”

“It was waiting for him, the city which had for so long been in his dreams.”  It is a quote from Anders Fogelström…he was referring to Stockholm…and I can see why.  This city is absolutely majestic.  The beautiful old buildings and surrounding waterways really do take your breath away.  I keep catching myself just standing and gaping on some corner…until the bite of cold snaps me to attention 🙂

(Holy, I am using the FREE computer/internet in the lobby and 10  million students just came in…how come I  never had a class trip to Stockholm?) 

It is just after 5:00 pm…dark as sin outside and I decided this would be a good way to feel my extremities again.  I admit, it is not super cold like Winnipeg or Calgary but with the wind coming off that water and me with no winter coat, it was time to retreat and regroup and have some of my instant coffee that now travels with me.

Today I hung out in Gamla Stan…medieval Stockholm if you will.  Some of the structures date back to the 1300s…pretty wicked.  And another castle (The Royal Palace)…wish I could post a picture.  I watched the changing of the guard in the blowing snow then paid…I do not know…a lot…to see the guest apartments and the treasury; jewelled crowns and swords and orbs and the like…it was warmer than outside *grins.*

They also had a Christmas market going on in the centre of the old town so I tried me some Glogg…well… fake Glogg since they are not allowed to serve liquor out there..and some reindeer & pig sausage; pretty tasty really.

After sequestering myself in a small pub with a wee expensive beer to warm up, I was going to go to a museum but it is on another island and it was too late blah blah blah so in my attempt to find the bus back to the hostel I got lost –I am sorry but how many Central Stations can there be?  Well the answer is…at least 4 for crying out loud.  ANYWAY, I managed to find my bustop, without falling on the “icy everywhere!”

So yeah, tonight and tomorrow in Stockholm then I think it is the overnight boat for me to some Finnish port called Turku.  But before that, The Vasa Museum…apparently the world’s only surviving 17th century ship.  And tonight, I just don’t know…some nightlife?  Mostly inside-ish 😀

I may be back and go on about something else…it is crazy early still…and I am avoiding my dorm because there was just the two of us in there last night and he is not very friendly 😉

I partially blame myself really: maybe 2 hours of sleep in the last 36 hours, dehyrated, cold and hungry.  A  50 minute flight from Berlin to Copanhagen took a day of waiting for trains in Berlin, then waiting in the airport, then choosing every wrong turn once I got to Copenhagen…SHOULD I NOT BE DEVELOPING SOME SENSE OF DIRECTION BY NOW? *GRINS*

Once I was on the right train I decided I better hop out the stop before my stop because I didn`t validate my ticket…it`s a thing here.  But my ticket didn’t FIT in the validator aaaaaand my train left.  Neat.  But yesss, another train did come along and I arrived at the City Centre. 

Even after that minor glitch, I was feeling pretty savvy, I decided I didn’t need the “Tourist Information” and that I could find this hostel just fine on my own…sigh…of course…I turned left when I should have turned right…as is my destiny.  Apparently I am enraptured with tromping around unknown places, freezing, with 14,5 kilos of my life on my back.  BUT, I found it.  I was able to leave my bag but check in wasn’t for another 4 hours…out she goes.

I had to go to the post office, it’s in the rail station.  Then I had to go to the toilettahs…so subtle.  And then I started getting peeved.  I could wash my hands but if I wanted to put on some OF MY OWN MAKE UP or comb my hair…that would cost me a dollar. 

I did return to the Tourist Information…shut up…and got some junk but I was dying for nutrition at this point.  So a cafe latte and a danish…danish heeheeheeee.  Sometime later I realized I had paid about nine dollars for this wee cup of coffee and somewhat dry pastry of life.    And I was slightly irritated.

So, I was tired and cranky and everything is a million dollars.  Then I saw the Hans Christian Anderson statue..and I decided Copenhagen was my ugly duckling :).  I let tired and crunchie drift away, opened my eyes…but hid my wallet! And then it was better.

So here I sit, my best bargin internet cafe so far  here.  I am back at the rail station.  90 minutes=29 DDK…about 5 bucks…it’ll do rabbit, it’ll do.

I booked a wicked deal of a flight to Stockholm, exchanged a few messages with the people I miss and I got to share this day with you.  I have notes on things that have happened in the past month but…I guess those stories will emerge later when there is more time, and less “get me out of Europe I love it but it will be the death of meeeeeeee”

I also spend 20 dollars on a pint and a half of “christmas beer.”  That was stupid.

Carpe Diem, Magsy