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Still. Dre

...aming of future vacations, though I have nothing booked at present. I have been negligent in posting to this blog since I returned from Europe, as I couldn't think of anything to put down that was worth writing or reading. I've decided to refocus this blog to future plans, and various tips and ideas that I have come up with/discovered during my various trips and (mis)adventures! Whenever I book another vacation (hopefully in the next year?) I will move back to posting from location.

This brings me to the topic of this post! There are MANY places that I want to see, and things to experience, but there is a more select list of "must-do's". May I present: Laura's Bucket List of Travel

1. Machu Picchu (Peru)- this has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. 
2. The Pyramids of Giza- my grandparents visited Egypt in the 1990's, and I vividly remember all the interesting stories they told. This is a dream that I will have to wait on-though I am adventuresome, I am not going to put myself in harms way when there is significant civil unrest.
3. Greece - My parents met in Greece. Most romantic thing ever.
4.  Australia -a) the people are so friendly (see past trips with Contiki) b) amazing environment, animals c) Sydney
5. The Calgary Stampede - As a Canadian, I am desperate to see more of my country. The Calgary Stampede is probably one of the coolest events in Canada, drawing thousands from across the world! 
6. Galapagos Islands- The wildlife on the Galapagos Islands is reason enough to visit. Also, Darwin's Finches anyone?
7. Go up the EIFFEL TOWER. ARGGH! I have been to Paris four times, and still, this evades me. Curse you long lines! One day, I will go, and it will be magical (or the biggest letdown ever...hard to say!)
8. Visit Spain extensively- After my brief stint visit to Barcelona, I am desperate to go back. In general I have really enjoyed visiting the various euro-mediterranian countries, but Spain was by far the shortest stop. I loved the paella, tapas and sangria (including a fishbowl of the champagne version), the music, the history, the fun jewellery and La Rambla, but I want to see more! More Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Seville- let's go!

Hasta Luego

Paris, j'adore


This will be my last blog from Paris/Europe. When I get home I will go over some of the highlights of my trip, add to some of my more hastily written posts and such. But all that can wait, as I'm very excited to write about today, the day I finally went to Versailles. People that know me are aware that not only have I been to Paris before, but I have been multiple times and seen an extensive part of the city and it's attractions and culture. What has alluded me (besides the eiffel tower, but I'll live) on every trip has been a visit to Versailles. Not this trip. This was my contingency for going to Paris, my one hands down, no ifs ands or buts, must see of the trip. Here goes....

This morning I got up bright and early, as I wanted to arrive by opening and Versailles is a bit of a trek to get to. Being at St. Michel-Notre Dame, it was going to be presumably easy (minus making sure you got on the right RER C-C5 and no other, and get off at Rive Gauche, no other) to get there. Ha. We walked to the entrance to the station and saw a man standing there who was some sort of transit official. I told him that we wanted the RER C, and his first response was 'the RER C is not not going, they are doing construction.' I almost died right then and there. All that I could think of was that I wasn't going to be able to go.... Again.

After some discussion with the man, it came out that the RER C was closed for several stops but that a shuttle would take us to Place des Invalids where the train started again. Couldn't he have opened with that?? We hopped on the shuttle, got to invalids, and successfully got to the correct train (multiple people now stand pointing in the direction of the right train. I still watched nervously as we passed by stations, hoping that when we hit thatsst split, we'd be in the right side. Success! We were, and arrived just before nine!

After the line for tickets and then another line for entrance (funny to see people who didn't buy tickets try to go through the entrance) we were there! It was beautiful! Our first stop was an area about the palace history.

Next we went upstairs where we saw the royal apartments, including the hall of mirrors (freak out!), Louis XIV's rooms, and the gallery of battles. Downstairs we also saw dauphins apartments.

After lunch at a cafe in the palace, we headed out to te gardens. I could not believe how vast they were! We walked down past the green carpet to the Apollo fountain before the grand canal. As we had bought the full pass, we also gained entry into the other buildings on the property.

We stopped at the Grand Trianon and te Pettit Trianon, famous for its association with Marie Antoinette. We then wandered the temple of love before headed back to the main gardens.

Beside the grand canal there was a stand selling creeps! Sarah and I both bought one and sat at the edge of the canal, enjoying the beautiful weather and surrounding gardens. Once finished our creeps, we walked back and got in the train to head home.

Though sleepy after a long and exciting day, we went to have our last French meal! We had selected a restaurant the night before to go to tonight, so we would not have to worry about hunting down something tonight. We both went French and had eacargot for our appetizers, and duck for the main course. It was very yummy, a nice end to a lot of great food in Paris.

Not a bad way to end a trip I think. I am glad to be going home to sleep in my own bed tomorrow, but I am going to miss the excitement of being somewhere new and seeing different things every day.

À la prochaine...

Bonjour from Paris!

It has been several days since my last posting, and a lot has happened on that time!

To catch up.... After getting off the ferry, we had quite a long bus ride ahead of us. We went across wales but did not have time to stop. I did take a few photos from the bus though! We arrived back in London at 6:30 in time to check in and have a quiet dinner. I went over to the London pun to say goodbye to some people on our tour the headed up to bed.

Next morning we walked to St. Pancras to get our train to Luton, a small airport for mainly shorter flights. Once in Charles de Gaulle in Paris, we grabbed the RER B to St. Michel, just up the road from our hotel (Best Western Notre Dame).

For the last two days we've been exploring the city and enjoying the beautiful weather that has accpompanied us for much of the trip. Instead of gettin a 'carte orange', we opted to use the 'l'open tour' hop on, hop off company that has over fifty stops in Paris! We got the two day so we could both see the sights and get most places easily. It is also great because there are 4 different tours of the city, each focusing on different areas.

First thing in the morning we hopped on the main tour and travelled along the left bank past the Louvre and Musee D'Orsay before coming onto the right bank and going around Place de la Concorde and on the Champs Élysées up to Arc de Triomphe. We then headed on the the tour Eiffel, which we got off at. The line was astronomical though, so we opted to take pictures and continue on.

Next we passed by hotel des invalided and then transferred to another bus line at at Marie Madeleine to get to Montmartre. On route we passed by the opera house which was spectacular. We hopped off at Moulin Rouge then walked down boulevard de clichy towards the steps to Sacre Couer! Once st the top of the steps we got a great view of the city, and then got to enjoy the church. We then went to buy some yummy macaroons and some lunch, wandered around the artists painting in the square then headed to catc the bus.

Our next stop was the Louvre, but on the bus heading back to it we got to see Gare du Nord, Gare d'Est (stations) and Place de la Republique.

When we arrived at the Louvre we did not have a terrible amount of time to see the gallery (as if you could in a few hours haha... That place needs a good week to see properly) so we hit up some of the top highlights for Sarah (I've been a few times so was not desperate to see anything in particular). Of particular note was our experience at Mona Lisa, where about half of the people in the Devon section appeared to all be congregated. I had to literally squeeze my way through people then pull Sarah through. She gr to see it though, so all worth it. I will be skipping that part of the Louvre next time that is for sure!

After the Louvre we walked through the Jardin des Tuileries, and started walking to the hotel. We crossed the seine on the bridge where couples put locks on available space and through the key into the water. We then where on the left bank and saw some of the people sellin paintings, books, souvenirs and various other items out of the infamous green boxes.

For dinner we went Spanish and had tapas, paella and sangria!

Today we firstly walked up to Norte dame to see inside, and the see the rose windows. After, we hopped on another route of the bus and headed down through the montparnasse area of Paris. We did intend to see the catacombs, but the line was huge (we got there before it even opened!) that we had to pass. Instead we hopped back on the bus and saw more of the area, came up past galleries Lafayette, up to Les Invalids and then down St. Germain.

After this tour we went to..... Musee D'Orsay!(aka my favorite gallery in the entire world). The line was huge!!!! But it only Tom about half an hour for us to get in and get our tickets. I had done some research before coming do found out we could get a reduced price ticket as youths!

The museum is the home of he old train station on Paris and holds many of its old features, including the old hall and large clocks. We saw many impressionist and post impressionist works from artists sch as Manet, Monet, Degas, Gaugine, Renoir etc erc etc etc... It was spectacular!

After this we rode the bus back past the concergerie where Marie Antoinette held and then took the final bus tour, of the Bastille and bercy areas of the city. This also had some interesting places of note, including gare de Lyon, the library that looks like four open books facing one another, the July column, ad the hotel de ville.

Once home we found an Italian restaurant where we had a lovely dinner.

Tomorrow is our last day in Paris, so we are off to Versailles!!!

Of a day I-ay I-ay

I'm on a boat.

The ferry today taking us eastward is very steady. And big. And doesn't rock so far back and forth so much that you think you are going to go the way of Poseidon. Nice change from the boat to the Aran (not Arab.... Damn autocorrect) islands trip the other day, where it was the opposite and very Poseidon like! Anyways we have a 3 hour ferry ride from Dublin to... East? All I know is that at some point we are going to drive through wales.

Last night was the best time! We went to the Merry Ploughboys Pub for dinner and musical entertainment. Everyone was sressed up and going 'green' so scott and i painted shamrocks on our faces and had sheep stickers on as well! I had an awesome root vegetable soup, lamb (yummy) and my specially made fruit plate care of 'smashley', the nickname of our tour manager when she gets pissed... They told me that I couldn't have dessert because the main one was cream and berries (lactose) and the backup was fruit cup (citrus). Anyways, smashley came out when she asked if I got anything and I hadn't... A few minutes later a special fruit cup sans citrus appeared and I got dessert! This is second in food excitement to the jurys inn in Dublin that had soy milk. I also enjoyed some Irish beer- smithwicks and bulmers-no Guinness, had enoug in the morning.

Anyways, around dinner time, the Merry Ploughboys band came out. They played a couple tunes including 'my bonnie lies over the ocean' and 'the Galway girl.' after them the Irish dancers came out. There were very good, much more intense than the Irish dancing I've seen! It turned out that there was a part with audience participation! Guess who got approached by one of the male dancers to come on stage! While the women dancers were onstage with their picked audience members the guy asked me my name and where I was from. He said to me, 'Laura, did you come all the way from Canada to dance with me?' my answer? 'Yes!'

Afterwards a bunch of the group was dropped of at a pub (the one Hilary swans character goes to in ps I love you) and the we headed to our hotel... Or so we thought. We were staying at jury's inn, a chain of hotels around Europe, and a handful in Dublin. Because of the number of hours our driver simon has to do today, he couldn't drive us home so contiki hired another driver and bus. Even though Ashley told him whic one it was and tried to show it on a map, he brushed her off and said he knew where it was (found this out when I talked to her this morning) but no he didn't know that one. When one of the Gus cingular to the hotel tried to give directions the guy looked really confused, which was dummy because we were stayin on Parnell off o'Connell which are 2 major streets in Dublin! Anyways we eventually got home and got ready for bed as it was an early morning today! (breakfast at 630)... A few people didn't make the coach in time... Oops! Never fear, Sarah and I made the bus!

Tomorrow we take the train from st pancreas to Luton then fly to Paris!

Farwell Ireland! May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back.

Guinness pourer extraordinaire

Yesterday our first stop was  cobh, formerly known as queenstown, the last port of call for the Titanic. We went to the Heritage Centre, which had info on the city as well as titanic.

We then stopped at the rock of cashed apparently where st Patrick converted the king and accidentally stabbed him!

We then went to  Killkenny and went on a cool walking tour of the city, and saw where the witch of killkenny apparently lived. After dinner in a room in the hotel that looked like a hunting lodge a few of us had a drink in one of the hotel bars that was built around the remains of a stone building, it was super cool.

Today we left Killkenny and headed back to Dublin. Our first stop was at Guinness! They had a whole lead through of how the beer is made. You also get the option to learn how pour your own pint, which I did! Apparently the shape of the glass and the placement of the harps on the glass are very important to pouring it possibly.  I also learned that it's important to take a big mouthful for the first sip, otherwise you don't get the right mix of flavors. We also got to obviously drink the beer and get a certificate of pouring a 'perfect pint'. After we went into mainland Dublin and saw the castle and trinity college(not the book of Kells and library though).

Tonight we are going to the Merry Ploughboys for dinner drinks and entertainment then hitting the town. Tomorrow is a 3 hour ferry ride, drive through wales and back to London to get ready for Paris! 

You killed my father, prepare to die!

Today we left the lively city of Galway and headed to cork. We stopped first at the cliffs of mother which are huge and beautiful. Some of Harry potter and the half nlood prince and the princess bride were filmed there!!!

Next, we continued on and got to the blarney castle. I now have the gift of the gab, having kissed the blarney stone! The castle itself is in ruins, but still has lots of walk able staircases (pretty steep and small) and passageways to explore!

We arrived in cork a few minutes ago and are going to a pub for dinner. Off to Kilkenny tomorrow!

Aran, Aran so far away

Yesterday We started the day off with a tour of Londonderry. Our tour guide was half  Irish half Chinese, and consequently half catholic half Buddhist. A interesting mix for northern Ireland! He was very informative, the best tour so far, other than the one at tower of london. 

He started by leading us onto the city walls, separating the new and old Londonderry. Like Belfast, Protestants and Catholics are separated by a peace wall.  From the wall we could see the painting of a young girl who was the first child to die because of the troubles.

Farther along we saw St. Augustine's church, the site where Christianity was founded in Ireland. Coming Dow from the wall we walked through more of the town, seeing the Presbyterian church, and murals of Bloody Sunday.

We stopped for lunch in a small town in the north of Ireland then headed on to Galway! We had a few hours to wander the town.  I saw the jf Kennedy park with a bust of him. I also walked down the main street where there were loads of gift shops and pubs. I went into the local church which was quite nice, but more exciting was that the gift shop sold crests of your family name and history! Apparently the Midddletons came from England to Scotland in 1200 AD and were s border clan originally. I got the printout with all of the information and the original crest!

Today was the visit to the Arab Islands! We visited the largest of the three, Inis Mór.  To get there we passed by Galway and drove for 40 minutes to a ferry. The water was very choppy ad the ferry was small, so it made for an interesting combination! We half thought we were going down with the ship!

On the island there are several ways to get around. You can walk (but you don't get very far that way) bike, take a tour van or take a horse and carriage. Myself, Sarah, Kelsey and Narissa chose to take the horse and carriage! The man driving was named Mac, and his horse was Jack!

We got a great view of the island from the carriage, which is about 9 miles long and hosts a lot of limestone and fields! We passed by thatched roof houses (only a handful remained and newer 'plastic' houses have taken over) the remains of several churches and the Dun Arann Lighthouse, up on the highest point if the island.

Our real destination was Dún Aonghasa, a circular Celtic stone fort that is apparently the 'most spectacular in europe'. It was built by tribesmen circa 2000 B.C!!! Our tour guide dropped us at the bottom of the hill and we walked to the top to see the fort. It was full of stones on the path and was a but precarious! At the first level we could peer over the edge of a cliff that went down hundreds of feet to the water! There were no fences to keep tourists from getting right to the edge, some even lay on the cliff with there heads over the side! I declined to do this! Above we walked through another set of walls and could see over more of the cliff'! The view was phenomenal, though a bit scary!

We walked back down, grabbed our lunch and then found Mac to take us back. According to two other girls on our trip who were in a tour bus, their driver told them that our driver is the most eligible bachelor on the island and owns half of it! We were completely shocked web we found out because he was like all the over carriage drivers, and didn't overcharge or anything. On the way back we went on the coastal road , it was rainy, but we did see a seal pop his head out of the water! When Mack returned us go town we did a little shopping, and saw the 'Aran Sweaters' Which have various stitching to depict what kind of person you are!

Next was the ferry back to the mainland, and back to the hotel. On to Cork tomorrow!(apparently some Scottish Middletons settled there do I'm hoping to see something with my last name on it!

Northern ireland

This morning we headed off from Dublin back to North Ireland. Our first stop was Belfast, a place with quite the history that is evident on every street. We went on a bus tour of the town, which was best as it rained buckets! Our photos were not great though... We saw both the Protestant and catholic sides of the wall that still separates these two groups. Apparently until the peace treaty in the 90s anyone coming into the city would be searched In an attempt to stop the bombings and violence so prevalent. Many of the walls of buildings have paintings depicting important figures, as well as ira type images. The difference between the two sides is quite apparent, with the Protestant side with many British flags and signs of loyalty... Not do on the other side. The town was set for bonfires that take place in a few days (at least 10 meters tall and decorated with British flags and many a little close for comfort next to homes... Aka right beside). We also got to see the wall where people ca write their advice, and includes the words of people like bill Clinton and the Dali Lama. We also got to leave a message, so I wrote 'love and peace'. We had lunch in Belfast as well (first subway of the trip!), and tried to find a pharmacy as we've all got colds but Boots is closed there Sunday's, thankfully a corner store had cough meds! 
Next we drove further up the coast to the giants causeway. It is quite the marvel to look at! They are huge octagon shaped columns coming out of the ground. There doesn't seem to be a complete consensus on how they came to be. Google to see the myth behind their creation and for photos. It was fun to walk over them with the water crashing below and around us. I did not however do the entire path as I was worried about me knee, but Sarah did the whole thing and she said it was very enjoyable!
Our overnight stop is in Londonderry, we have some time to walk around the town but it is going to be a quiet evening, a good opportunity to catch up on sleep!

In dublins fair city

Greetings from the emerald isle! Not a particularly exciting day, so not much to report. However it was brought to my attention by my traveling companion Sarah that my blog has a ridiculous amount of spelling errors. Never fear I am not illiterate, my iPod touch autocorrects everything....

Anyways took a ferry ride from Scotland this morning and arrived I'm Dublin this afternoon. We took a walk around, saw the James Joyce statue, and the spire! Had fish and chips for dinner then went to a pub! We come back to Dublin at the end of the tour so we didn't have to rush to see everything. Hoping to see the Dublin castle and the college next week. Off to Belfast and Londonderry tomorrow to spend the last of our pounds!

The English are coming!!!

Scotland is my new favorite country. Sorry France! Today we left fort William ad went on a very scenic drive towards Glasgow. I had the most amazing view from my seat, didn't sleep at all on the bus today! Also saw a few h
'hairy cows' (or hairy coos with an accent) waterfalls and a load of sheep!

We stopped in Stirling for lunch, aka the home of William Wallace! We saw the Stirling castle then hiked up to the Wallace monument! Quite the hike but a great view. I also caught a glimpse of a statue of Robbie burns, no photo though. On to Ireland tomorrow!