A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Tickets have been purchased, and destinations set in stone!

I couldn't be more excited!

Hello, everyone! This is my first entry into my new travel blog. I'm about to embark upon my dream trip around the world! I've decided to explore three different regions of the world; Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and North America! I'm looking so forward to being exposed to such drastically different cultures, and am hoping to gain my fair share of worldly knowledge while trying to make the most of this trip, and navigate all on my own. To be as brief as possible, I'm headed from Toronto to Ireland, from Ireland to the Netherlands, and from the Netherlands to France. Then, from France, I'll be off to the Czech Republic, then to Germany, and will finish my tour of Eastern Europe in Italy. I'll continue on to the North American stretch of the journey to the United States, where I will visit Washington, Nevada, and San Francisco. I can't even begin to imagine all of the incredible things I'm about to see and do on my dream trip around the world, but I can't wait! I must stop blogging, and start packing! Updates are soon to come! :D

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Posted by PublicRelationz 20:37 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Bags are packed, and my first flight leaves in the morning!

Ireland, here I come!

Hello, everyone! I'm officially packed and ready to leave on my dream trip around the world tomorrow morning. For anyone who's curious, I booked all of my flights on kayak.com, and found through my own experience, and from speaking to other frequent fliers, that this site truly does find the best deals.

My flight from Toronto, Ontario (YYZ) to Dublin, Ireland (DUB) leaves tomorrow morning at 10:01 am from the Toronto International Airport. At 10:42, we're scheduled for a layover in Chicago, Illinois (ORD), and will have some time to sight-see around Chicago, because the connecting flight to Dublin, Ireland doesn't leave until 6:45 pm that evening. I will then arrive in Ireland at 8:15 am, seven and a half hours later. The ticket to fly from Toronto to Ireland cost me $911, and I'll be flying with Aer Lingus.

Although it's needless to say, I must admit that I'm slightly apprehensive about travelling around the world on my own. I'm preparing myself to run into small problems such as navigation, language barriers, and whatever else life decides to throw at me while I'm on this trip. Regardless, I've never been more excited to embark upon what I'm sure will be quite the adventure! I'll be sure to frequently update my blog so you can all keep up with my travels! Expect postcards, guys! :Dtravelblog1.jpg

Posted by PublicRelationz 09:52 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 1: Toronto, Ontario to Dublin, Ireland

(Layover in Chicago, Illinois) Sunday, July 1st - Monday, July 2nd

Hello, again! Here's my first post-flight update. What a lovely way to start off my dream trip around the world! I arrived at the airport early Sunday morning, and made my way through the busy airport. Toronto International Airport is always so full of life, as people bustle around, trying to figure out where they're supposed to be. I've always found people watching fascinating. Once I had checked my luggage, and was seated in the waiting area my mind began to wander to my not-so-far-off destination of Ireland, and I giant grin came over my face as I daydreamed of all the adventures that awaited me in a few short hours.

The passengers started to load themselves on to the Airbus A320, and I had the pleasure of being seated next to a kind, old gentleman with whom I had a lovely conversation throughout the flight to the layover point in Chicago, Illinois. The plane took off from the runway at 10:01 am. The man, who's name was Dennis, had worked as an office assistant at a travel agency, and had quite a great deal of experience with a wide variety of tourist destinations. He explained thoroughly a great deal of things that might interest someone visiting Chicago for a short period of time, which, in our particular circumstance, was exactly where we were headed, and forced to wait until 6:45pm that evening. I was now ultra-prepared for the upcoming layover in Chicago, with Dennis' handwritten list of hot spots around the big city.

We landed in Chicago, Illinois at 10:53 am, giving me roughly six hours to visit the many places Dennis had suggested I visit. The first thing I noticed about my first layover destination was the fact that they weren't kidding around when they dubbed Chicago 'The Windy City'. Needless to say, my hair-do was ruined. But nothing could dampen my spirits at that point, and I decided the first thing I'd like to do while visiting Chicago was to find something to munch on. I didn't have to look far to find the glorious sight of a hot dog stand, where I experienced without a doubt the most mouth-wateringly delicious hot dog I've ever tasted. Just as I was beginning to feel as though I'd never need to eat another thing again, something else caught my attention. Dennis had mentioned that tourists to Chicago are given the opportunity to take a wide variety of fun, and educational tours, and are able to experience and learn about virtually any aspect of the city that interests them. Tourists are able to explore the history, and culture of Chicago, by doing things ranging from going on a historic walking tour, to experiencing a delicious cuisine tour. What intrigued me was the 'Chicago's Magnificent Churches' tour, where we explored and learned all about some of the most important and ageing churches that can be found in the Windy City. By the time I was through with the church tour, I had worked up an appetite, and was making my way back in the direction of the airport when the heavenly smell of a Chicago deep dish pizza found it's way to my nostrils. Needless to say, my will power failed and I was lucky enough to have a slice of the best pizza I've ever eaten, (and that's a profound statement..I've eaten quite a few pizzas in my day).

It was nearing closer to 6:45 as I arrived with a full stomach at the O'Hare International Airport (ORD), so I took a seat in the waiting area and once again took to people-watching, and day dreaming. The people bustling around Chicago's O'Hare International Airport seemed no different than those that frequent Toronto International Airport (YYZ). I've always found it interesting that regardless of where you are, the population always looks the same, whether it be in an airport, waiting for the subway, waiting to catch a cab, whatever. People are in their own little worlds, and forget to stop, look around and realize that the crowd moves as a whole, regardless of how many people are in it. I can feel the impact this trip is going to have on me creeping up, already. Travelling the world can make a person feel so small, and still so significant at the same time.

I snap out of my day-dreaming state when I hear my flight called on the loudspeaker, and board the plane. I was seated next to a quiet young man, who had already fallen asleep when I arrived at my seat. I was beyond pleased to have gotten a window seat, and spent the remainder of the flight gazing out the window, and taking short naps until we arrived in Dublin, at 8:15 am, Monday morning. The flight from Chicago to Dublin was roughly 7.5 hours, but I wasn't feeling the slighest bit jet-lagged. I was far too excited!

I checked into the "Hollywood Bed and Breakfast" in Dublin County, just a 15 minute cab ride North of Dublin Airport (DUB), where I'd pay a low fee of $99 per night. The four-star bed and breakfast was very lovely, and clean, with friendly staff members, and a strict policy of no children allowed (which I secretly adored, because kids are NOISY). I spent a while getting settled in; putting a few things in drawers, using the awesome high pressure shower head, and changed into some fresh clothes before embarking upon some hardcore tourism around the county.

It was around 10:00 am when I left my hotel, and began my Irish adventures.

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Posted by PublicRelationz 12:33 Archived in Ireland Tagged toronto ireland chicago Comments (0)

Day 2: Touring around Dublin, Ireland

Visiting Dublin Castle, The Pig's Ear, The Dublin Zoo, The National Gallery of Ireland, and the Parnell Heritage Pub and Grill! Monday, July 2nd, 2012

overcast 13 °C

It was a brisk Irish morning when I set out on my sight-seeing journey around Dublin, Ireland. I was feeling refreshed, and ready to explore the drastically new environment in which I now was. My first destination of the day was Dublin Castle, located in Dublin City, just a short cab ride from my hotel. I was beginning to experience the hospitality of the Irish people, as my cab driver was nothing but lovely, and had an even more pleasent accent. I arrived at the castle and was blown away by the beauty of the exterior of the building. I snapped a few photos, and continued on to join my tour group. A guided informational tour of the exterior, and interior of the castle costs €4.50 for adults, (1 Euro is equal to 1.2834822 Canadian dollars), and gets progressively cheaper the younger the visitor is. Our group consisted of roughly 16 people, a few children included. We began with our tour guide, Arthur, taking us around the outside of Dublin Castle, and giving us a detailed history of the castle, and its grounds. I learned a great deal, including the following facts; The castle was built on the orders of King John, in 1204, on land previously settled by Vikings. The castle sufferred fire damage in 1673, and went through rebuilds throughout the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The only remaining original structure of the building is the Record Tower (dating from about 1228-1230). Our group was fascinated with the heritage of the area, and became even more interested once we actually entered the Dublin Castle. The interior of the castle is beautifully decorated with a variety of important, and expensive decor, and consists of a great many gifts given to the Irish from other national leaders. Photos were not permitted in certain rooms of the castle, but I was too enveloped in the fantasy of what I was seeing to remember to be 'snap-happy', anyway. It was as if I was plopped into the middle of a Disney princess' castle. It's not hard to imagine that the castle is now used for State receptions and Presidential inaugurations, considering the beautiful state it is kept in. As the guided tour ended, our group said our goodbyes to eachother, and to Arthur, and tried to shake off the magic I'm certain we were all feeling. I gave a silent farewell to the Dublin Castle, and knew that I would remember the first experience of my dream trip around the world forever.

By the time the walking tour of the Dublin Castle had ended, it was around 12:30pm, and I still had quite a few things to do and see while in Ireland. I had worked up an appetite, and decided to check out some of the local cuisine I had heard so much about. I chose a restaurant called The Pig's Ear located on Nassau Street, in the city centre, not too far from Dublin Castle. The restaurant itself was beautiful, both inside and out, and the menu consisted of classic Irish cuisine, with a slight modern touch. For lunch, I ordered the organic Irish salmon with crushed potatoes, radish, sweet peas, broad beans & little gem lettuce. Not only was it mouth-wateringly delicious, the presentation was near par with what you'd expect to see on the Food Network. I was certainly pleased to have chosen The Pig's Ear for lunch in Ireland, although I've never been too big a fan of eating alone in a restaurant. Oh, well. Sacrifices must be made during my dream trip around the world, if I want to get everything done that I've set out to!

Now with a full stomach, and a belly full of Irish enthusiasm, I set out to discover the remaining sites of interest in the city. The next thing I packed into my glorious Irish adventure was the Dublin Zoo, located in the Phoenix Park in Dublin City. I learned that this is one of the world's oldest zoos, and is home to more than 600 species of animals within its 70 acre grounds. It cost me €15 for admission, and I went wild viewing and learning all about the various species present in the Dublin Zoo. This was a special experience for me, as I am a season-pass holder at the Toronto Zoo, and visit quite frequently to meet the zoo keepers and animals, so being able to contrast the two was very interesting. I expected it to be blatantly obvious that I was in an Irish zoo, and anticipated different species of animals, or at the very least, different animal enclosures, but to my surprise, the Dublin Zoo is very similar to the Toronto Zoo, and this warmed my animal-loving heart. Aside from the parrots asking for crisps in an Irish accent, I couldn't tell the difference. Haha, just kidding.

My next stop was a guided tour of the National Gallery of Ireland, located in Merrion Square West Dublin. It cost me a total of €25.00 for a two hour informational tour of the gallery, and all it's works. Our group was 6 people, myself included, and our tour guide, Cathy, led an exciting and very informative tour, chronologically around the gallery. We learned about the history of the works present, as well as the history and folklore of the National Gallery itself. If I had to choose one event in Ireland that I will hold as my favourite or most enjoyable, I'd have to go with this guided tour. Aside from the fact that I am ultra-interested in post-impressionist art, the delivery of the information from our guide was one of the things that made it so memorable. I am learning more and more as this trip unfolds that it's not so much what you do in your life that counts, it's the experience of it all. Our tour group was wonderfully interested and in great spirits, along with our guide who virtually made the trip with her wit, charm, and obvious knowledge of the art works, which she shared with us. I left the National Gallery of Ireland with a fulfilled sense of self, great inspiration for my next art composition, and a head full of information regarding the artists and works of this world-renowned gallery.

After a long day of sight-seeing, and learning, my Irish experience was nearly over. I headed back to my hotel, showered, got in to a change of clothes, and then went down stairs to the restaurant that is virtually attached to my accommodations. I expected to simply order some delicious Irish grub, vacuum it all up, and return to my room for a good night's sleep before checking out the next morning and making my way to my next destination, but that is not at all how my night played out. I had ordered my food, and was waiting for it to arrive when a group of 5 ladies, around my age, sitting at another table invited me over to sit with them. I was a little apprehensive first, but eventually accepted their offer. Once we got to talking, all 6 of us hit it off, and the evening quickly became much more enjoyable. After our meal, my new found Irish comrades suggested that we go out for a drink at a local pub, the Parnell Heritage Pub and Grill, and I decided that it wouldn't have been a trip to Ireland without partaking in a bit of classic Irish fun. We 'cheersed', and continued our conversations over some authentic Irish beer, (which I have to admit, I'm not the biggest fan of, haha), and eventually ended up back at our hotel around 1 in the morning. We said our goodbyes, exchanged information, and promised each other that we really would keep in touch. I intend to hold true to that. I assured myself that I had not drank enough to feel sick the next morning, and was soon fast asleep, dreaming about all the adventures I would soon face, in my next foreign destination, the Netherlands!

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Posted by PublicRelationz 05:54 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Day 3: Dublin, Ireland to Amsterdam, Netherlands

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

sunny 19 °C

My flight from Dublin, Ireland to Amsterdam, Netherlands left at 9:40 am on the morning of Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012, and arrived in the Netherlands at 12:15 pm of the same day, meaning that I had to be packed, checked out of my hotel, and at the airport by 6:45 am. My plane ticket cost me a total of $207 Canadian dollars, and I was flying with Aer Lingus on an Airbus A320, narrow bodied jet. After a long wait in the airport, which I survived solely from remembering to pack my book in my carry-on luggage, we finally boarded the plane. It was a 1 hour and 35 minute, non-stop flight, and since I was completely exhausted from my adventures the previous day, and a lack of sleep, I slept the entire flight. When I awoke, I was slightly disappointed that I neglected to take advantage of the opportunity to converse with the people sitting next to me, as I am always eager to learn and discover new things from locals or even other tourists. But at least I was now well-rested, and ready to take on my day in Amsterdam!

When I arrived in Amsterdam, Netherlands, I took a taxi (driving on the opposite side of the street is a little nerve-wracking, to say the least) to my hotel, the Lloyd Hotel and Cultural Embassy, located close to the Oosterkerk, Artis, and Amsterdam Chinatown. Here, I paid 73 Euros a night, and was able to use the free wifi, and downstairs restaurant and pub, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. I settled in to my room, which was spacious, but still very cozy, cleaned myself up a little, and then set out on my first day of sight-seeing around the beautiful city of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The first thing I chose to visit in Amsterdam was the Tuschinski Theater, located only .7 kilometers from the city center, where my accommodations were located. The famous cinema theater was built in 1921, in blatant Art-Deco style architecture. There were no guided tours available on the day that I visited this fabulous theater, and the patrons were free to explore both around the exterior of the building, and the gorgeous interior atrium. I snapped quite a few photos of the Tuschinski Theater, and spoke to as many informed locals as possible to try and piece together the history and heritage attached to this site. I even came across a great many informational packages, and soon realized that this theater was home to a large number of world-class film premiers in the time that it was prominently used, and is continued to be a facet in the culture of the Netherlands, while modern films are still regularly shown, despite the fantastically renovated interior of the building. I was blown away by the pride taken in even a movie theater in Amsterdam, and thought back to my home town, and the drastic contrast between the things we take for granted and what I'm discovering the European citizens value most. Although I didn't spend a great deal of time at the Tuschinski Theater, I will hold with me the message that I've taken away from it throughout the rest of my travels, and that is that we should take pride in what we have, because we truly are infinitely blessed to have the opportunities we do, whether it be an extravagant movie theater, or the simple fact that we have a roof over our heads every night.

From the Tuschinski Theater, I continued toward the Anne Frank House, a museum dedicated to the life and story of Anne Frank, a young girl who was forced to hide in the attic of a home for an upwards of two years, to avoid capture by the Nazi soldiers of World War two. It cost me roughly 19 Euros to embark upon the tour, and I was lucky enough to be part of a smaller, more intimate-sized tour group, which only added to the experience. Our guided tour of the museum explained the hardships that not only Anne Frank, but all non-Ariyan citizens faced at the time of the second world war, and much of what our tour group learned was not the easiest to stomach, to say the least. Although it was a very emotional experience for all of us, being able to be that close and connected to the little girl who wrote and shared her journal with the world was an experience that I will never, ever forget. Photos were not permitted within the Anne Frank house, but that meant little to most everyone on the tour, as we all left with enough information to be able to share the overall experience with whoever we please, solely due to the volume of what we saw and heard. The history and heritage is ever-present all around the city of Amsterdam, and I found that as I continued on, the more I learned, the more I almost didn't want to continue on to my next leg of the journey.

After building up quite the appetite during my first two stops of the day, I decided to have some lunch at a local eatery called the Keuken Van 1870, located in the Old City Centre, Amsterdam. Here, I experienced some delectable Dutch cuisine; I ordered something called 'erwtensoep' which is a a sausage-fortified, extremely thick pea soup, along with a slab of lamb, and roasted potatoes. There was much more food on my plate than I could finish, (as guilty as I felt, I thought it'd be even less polite to explode all over the walls, haha), the entire meal cost me only €9.50, far less than I was expecting to pay.

With a full stomach, I continued on to the Van Gogh Museum, something I had been looking forward to for years! It cost me €25.87 for admission, but I couldn't have cared less. I was far too excited to witness the world's largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh works. The museum is home to more than 200 paintings, and 600 drawings by one of my biggest artistic inspirations. For obvious reasons, photos were not permitted within the museum, but just like the Anne Frank house, I took thousands of mental photographs, which I will always remember. Guided tours of the museum were available, but I found it more efficient to make my own way around the museum, so that I could focus on the pieces I really enjoyed for as long as possible. I learned even more about Van Gogh's life, artistic inspiration, specific works and compositions, and truly felt connected with the artist whom I have idolized for years. I left the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam feeling inspired, and generally just blown away by the velocity of what I had just witnessed.

The final stop for the day was only a short walk from the Van Gogh Museum. The Museum Het Rembrandthuis or Rembrandt House is another site which I have been dying to sink my teeth into for years. The 17th century house is where Rembrandt lived and worked from 1639 to 1658. It has been restored and turned into a museum that is open to the public, and honors his life and artistic works. It only cost me €10.00 for admission to the museum, and once again decided to tour around the grounds on my own, learning, and actually getting fairly misty-eyed along the way. I lost track of the time while visiting this truly magnificent Dutch site, simply due to the fact that I was absolutely in awe of what I was lucky enough to experience, all in one day.

I returned to my hotel at around 9:30 pm, although I had left the Rembrandt House an hour and a half earlier. I decided to become familiar with the area, and took a decent chunk of time simply walking around, snapping photos of the beautiful local architecture, speaking with other tourists about their travels and experiences while in the Netherlands, and of course sampling some classic Dutch cuisine, as I became friendly with local merchants. Most people would agree with my mind-set prior to setting out on this trip, that there would be absolutely no way anyone could experience the full effect of the lifestyle of any country in only one day, but by the time I was lying on my comfy Dutch mattress, reminiscing about all the things I had done and seen in only a span of about 14 hours in the Netherlands, I realized that if you put your mind to it, and stick to the plan, one can do all there is that interests them in a certain destination, if they plan it out properly. I believe that if I had stayed in the Netherlands for a few more days, even though I'm sure I would have loved the food, people, and places that I got to see, I really had the right amount of culture infused into me in the one day that I had in Amsterdam. I saw and did things that I have been dreaming about since I was a young teenager, and don't feel as though I rushed through or was unable to experience all that I wanted to. Sure, I could have went out and lived the famous (or infamous) Dutch nightlife, woke up the next morning and went on a guided historical church tour, and finished the day off with a cheese sampling event, but that really wouldn't have interested me. I'm so glad I picked the nine destinations that I did, and decided to stay only briefly in each of them, as I would have spent the same amount of funds on extended stays in only two of three destinations! Eventually, I was able to shut my brain off enough to get some shut-eye, and likely dream about the exciting things I was about to experience in my next destination, Paris, France!

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Posted by PublicRelationz 06:31 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

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