Top 10 Things To Do in Barcelona

1. Get stuck into the markets!

Where? There are SO many! Try Mercado de Santa Caterina (Av. de Francesc Cambó, 16), Mercat de la Concepció (Carrer d’Aragó, 313-317), and of course La Boqueria (La Rambla, 91).
Why go? Because there’s no better way to get to know a city than by visiting the markets! You can get a taste of the food, the people and the culture all in one hit, as well as some more unique souvenirs than what you’ll find in stores.
How long will you need? As long as you can spare! At least an hour per market is ideal.
Cost? Depends how much you’re planning to eat and buy! They’re pretty well priced, though, so you won’t have to blow a heap of cash to come out with a full belly.
Read more:
– La Boqueria food market, Barcelona

 

2. Stroll La Rambla with a gelati in hand

Where? La Rambla, a large pedestrian walking street.
Why go? Back in the ‘old’ days, people used to go out and promenade of an evening; basically, walk up and down the street, seeing who else was out, enjoying the fresh air. La Rambla is perfect for an afternoon or evening promenade, because not only is it beautiful and always busy, but there are lots of little gelati stalls lining the walk.
How long will you need? How much gelati can you eat?
Cost? A few euro will be more than enough for a gelati.

 

3. Enjoy a Gaudí day

Where? There are perfectly preserved sites all over the city – a few favourites are Park Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Amatller, Casa Milá, Casa Vincens
Why go? You don’t need to know anything about architecture to appreciate Gaudí’s work. These sites are all magnificent, all marked by that distinct, colourful mosaic tile work people so often associate with Barcelona. Walking through these places feels like a stroll through a movie set, and while the designs all have similar elements, they all feel so different. Maybe you’ve heard of Gaudí before, but after you visit, you’ll get why he’s such a big deal.
How long will you need? At least 2 hours for the bigger sites that require tickets.
Cost? Anywhere between free for places like Casa Amatller, where you can admire the façade free of charge, to around  €25 person for a fast pass entry to Casa Batlló.

 

4. Explore the Gothic Quarter on foot

Where? Stretching out from La Rambla to Via Laietana.
Why go? This is the best part of the city, for my money. The streets twist and wind in no real order, and there is SO much to see if you’re ready to spend the time getting lost there.
How long will you need? Spend at least half a day wondering the Quarter. But once you’ve been there, you’ll want to head back again.
Cost? Walking and window shopping are always free!

 

5. Eat tapas and drink sangria at Mesón del Café

Where? Carrer de la Llibreteria, 16
Why go? Tucked away in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, this is the perfect place to indulge in one of the best Spanish pastimes – the tapas are freshly made and the sangria is the best in the city.
How long will you need? Spend at least an hour to slow down and enjoy the time out.
Cost? About  €5 for a glass of sangria and a few euro per tapas plate.
Read more:
– Eat here: Mesón del Café

 

6. Get an education at the Barcelona City History Museum

http://ajuntament.barcelona.cat/museuhistoria/en/
Where? Plaça del Rei
Why go? Not only is this an incredible museum with fantastic exhibits, it’s also set in a palace. And it’s a palace that contains the remains of one of Europe’s largest Roman settlements below ground level, which are all part of the exhibit and open for you to see!
How long will you need? A couple of hours to see it properly.
Cost?  €7 per adult.

 

7. Do a little people watching in one of the parks or squares around the city

Where? There are more options than you’ll cover in a few days, ranging from the big, popular ones like Plaça Reial and Plaça de Catalunya , as well as lots of smaller and quieter ones like Montjuïc and Parc de la Ciutadella.
Why go? There’s a lot to do in Barcelona, so it’s nice to take a step back, sit in one of the beautiful public  spaces and take it all in!
How long will you need? As long as you need to rest and recharge.
Cost? Free!

 

8. See the Sagrada Família, inside AND out

http://www.sagradafamilia.org/en/
Where? Carrer de Mallorca, 401
Why go? I’m not a religious person, but this building took my breath away. While it may never be finished,  what is there is the most spectacular building you’re ever likely to see.
How long will you need? A good 2 hours.
Cost? Basic tickets start at  €15 per person.

 

9. Visit Camp Nou

https://www.fcbarcelona.com/tour/buy-tickets
Where? Carrer d’Aristides Maillol, 12
Why go? Even if you’re not a football nut, the team means a lot to the city, and it’s a pretty impressive stadium and museum. It’s also really well set up for non-football fans, so even if you don’t know the first thing about the game, it’s still worth the visit!
How long will you need? Half a day.
Cost?  €25 per adult.
Read more:
– Visitng Camp Nou

 

10. Take in some shopping & architecture on Passeig de Gràcia

Where? between Avinguda Diagonal and Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes
Why go?  If you’re a shopper, you’re going to love this area. Ditto if you love some good architecture – buildings like Gaudí’s La Pedrera are on every corner!
How long will you need? Spend a few hours exploring and looking and shopping.
Cost? Free.

Advertisements

How To Day Trip From Dublin to Giant’s Causeway (without a tour guide)

Fun fact: I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I remember watching Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and being absolutely stunned at the cave Harry and Dumbledore battled it out with one of the horcruxs in. Everything about the setting (other than the magical zombies) was stunning. I also remember a few days finding an article online with a list of places around the world that were “Harry Potter inspired locations,” and Giant’s Causeway was on that list. The more images I looked at, the more I knew I needed to see if for myself some day.

When we added Dublin to our itinerary, we decided to add a day trip out to Giant’s Causeway. It was going to be a long trip, but if I was that close, I couldn’t really pass up the opportunity. And the selling point to husband was the Old Bushmill’s Whiskey Distillery close by. We vetoed the overpriced, big group, organised 15 hour day trips we saw online and decided to just hire a car and do it ourselves.

The more I looked into it and trying to find other stuff in the area (so I could justify hiring a car and spending the day driving all the way there and back), the more my inner nerd got excited – turns out there’s a few Game of Thrones filming locations on the way, too!

Long story short: some rotten weather meant we had to adjust our plans a little and miss a few stops, and Giant’s Causeway actually wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, but we still had an awesome day and would definitely recommend the DIY route over the group tour. Here’s how to do it…

 

OUR PLAN:
Collect the car and start driving north, then make our way around to see:
– Castle Ward
– The Dark Hedges
– Old Bushmill’s Distillery
– Dunluce Castle
– Giant’s Causeway
– Dunseverick Castle
– Ballintoy Harbour

WHAT WE ACTUALLY ENDED UP DOING
– The car hire places in the city didn’t open until a bit later in the morning, and we wanted to get started early, so we caught a bus from city (we stayed near Dublin Cathedral and there was a pick up point just around the corner) to airport to collect car. This was going to be cheaper than a taxi, and cost us €7 each – just have correct change ready to pay for your tickets!

– We picked up the car at 7.30am and got started without any issues – navigating was pretty easy, thankfully!

– First stop was Castle Ward, the site of some of Game of Thrones’ Winterfell scenes. A beautiful 18th Century mansion sits on the enormous grounds, which were something else when we visited – autumn leaves + castle grounds = magic. We only saw two other people on our way in, both groundskeepers. And the lovely lady working in the bookshop. Otherwise, we were the only visitors. It may have been because it was low season there was no one there to take our admission fee (£8.60 per person), and we didn’t actually go into the mansion, but instead we wondered around and enjoyed the gorgeous grounds in peace. Great idea heading there first!

 

The Dark Hedges was our next stop, which starred in Game of Thrones as the King’s Road. I guess we were lucky that the weather played it’s part – it was grey and overcast and a little somber when we arrived, so it looked even more dramatic and foreboding (even though they’d recently been pruned and the branches remaining were losing their leaves because we were there in November). What you don’t realise from the photos is that it actually is a road. Lots of people walk it. And plenty of cars will drive up and down in while you’re trying to take your lovely photo. There’s nothing else around it, either, so if you’re just going to get the shot, you’re probably going to be a little frustrated! We took a few snaps in between groups, but honestly, it was just really cool to walk to walk through these giants planted back in the 18th Century and look out over the fields alongside them!

 

– By the time we got to Dunluce Castle, the weather was really starting to take a turn. The wind was enough to almost knock me over while I stood near the cliff edges to take some photos, and the water below was furious. That’s the only word I can think of to describe it; absolutely, viciously, furious. But it was stunning – even when you can barely stay on your feet, looking at this ruined castle up on the cliffs is a pretty incredible experience. Because the weather was getting so nasty, we didn’t stay long – we physically couldn’t, the wind was so strong! We were also getting pretty hungry, so we moved on to our next stop to wait the wind out a bit…

 

– … at the Old Bushmills Distillery. Irish whiskey is meant to be some of the best in the world, and husband is a whiskey man, so off we went! We didn’t really want to spend the time doing the tour (we’d just done the Jameson Distillery tour the day before and it set the bar far too high!), so we thought we’d just have a bite to eat and maybe try a few of their whiskeys. Lunch at the café was a great, quick bite, but husband decided that sampling would be a waste of time and money; he’d already tried one of their whiskeys, and there was only one other he wanted to try; he ordered that after lunch, and was suitably impressed. By then, it was starting to get a bit later in the afternoon, so we jumped back in the car.

 

Giant’s Causeway was to be our final stop of the day. And despite the horrible weather (it was starting to rain at this point, on top of the torrential winds), it was super busy.

To be honest, it wasn’t the wonderful experience I imagined it would be, for a few reasons:
* The Giant’s Causeway itself is a natural phenomenon. You’d think that would make it available to the public. You’d be wrong. The National Trust let you know once you’re already there that you can visit it for free, but you have to pay for parking. Given there’s no where else to park in the general vicinity, the extortionists are making a bundle from car parking.
* There were tour bus-sized hoards of people there, who were clearly there for no other reason than to take photos for social media accounts. To the point that I had a middle aged woman try to shove me out of her photo. Yup. All of this natural beauty and magic has been reduced to the perfect Instagram shot, and that took a LOT of the experience away for me. We’d come all that way and been forced to pay our parking, so I made my way out onto the stepping stones to check it all out a bit more, but that feeling of “wow, how incredible” just wasn’t there.

Given that experience, I’m actually not sure I’d recommend visiting too strongly, but the rest of the stuff we saw was fantastic! By the time we finished up at Giant’s Causeway, the rain and wind were both getting heavier, and we were conscious of having to drive back in such crappy conditions in the dark, so we decided to cut our loses and make our way back to the airport to drop off the car by 7.30pm. I guess Dunseverick Castle and Ballintoy Harbour will still be there for our next visit!

 

CAR HIRE TIPS
– We used Dan Dooleys and they were fantastic to deal with from start to finish! On the day, we went to their airport office, fixed up the paperwork, and  used their shuttle to take us to parking lot (which is the same location the car was returned to).

– There is an Applegreens about 10km from airport where you can stop to fill up fuel.

– In terms of fuel cost, we had a hybrid SEAT Ibiza, we drove 600km and it cost around €50 to re-fill the tank.

– We picked up our car at 7.30am, and returned it at 7.30pm – the 12 hours hire, including Excess Waiver Insurance and an extra driver cost just under €100.

– I’d highly recommend getting a small car for the narrow Irish roads!

– We went in November, and it gets dark early at that time of year, so you’ll need to be prepared to drive in the dark.

– Pack snacks and water! You’ll be travelling mostly on expressways, so there are not many stops unless you want to turn off.

– Have money ready for the toll booth – they weren’t expensive, but the booth attendants will like you a whole lot more if you have some change on you!

A Introduction to Mardi Gras – and a visit to Mardi Gras World, New Orleans

Happy Mardi Gras!!! Ok, so I’m a day early, but it’s Monday morning and thought we could all do with starting the week on a high! Other than flashy parades and copious amounts of drinking, those of us who don’t hail from New Orleans really don’t know a hell of a lot about the big day. Husband and I knew a little more about it from books we’d read and some documentaries we’d seen, but we knew there was still a lot we didn’t understand. So when we made our return to New Orleans late last year, we decided to visit Mardi Gras World to learn a little more. Before we get to that, let’s look at the basics…

WHAT IS ‘MARDI GRAS’?
Those of you familiar with Easter celebrations have probably heard of Ash Wednesday. And if you’re an Aussie kid, you’ve definitely heard of Shrove Tuesday and ate pancakes for breakfast at school to celebrate; Mardi Gras, which translates as “Fat Tuesday,” is the same thing as Shrove Tuesday, falling the day before Ash Wednesday.

GREAT, BUT WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH THE PARADES AND PARTIES THAT GO ON IN NEW ORLEANS?
Ok, let’s break it down as simply as possible for those who don’t have a Catholic background…

– Ash Wednesday = the first day of Lent.

– Lent = the 40 days leading up to Palm Sunday during which practicing Catholics often give up something they usually enjoy (like chocolate or their favourite TV show) as a symbolic act of repentance and fasting.

– Palm Sunday = the Sunday before Easter, the first ‘celebration’ day of the season after the 40 days of fasting.

AND THE TUESDAY THAT IS MARDI GRAS?
– Mardi Gras = the last day before the 40 days of fasting and repentance begins. The celebration of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is basically rooted in the idea that if you’re going to be fasting and repenting and behaving for the next 40 days, why not overindulge in good food and booze and party like a maniac the night before?!

OK, SO WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THE PARADES NEW ORLEANS HOLDS TO CELEBRATE?
No doubt you’ve seen photos or footage of the apparent carnage that is Mardi Gras in New Orleans; it’s actually a lot more organised and symbolic than it may first appear. To understand that, let me go back a bit and explain the ‘who’ behind the parades first.

Parades are organised by krewes, which are essentially social aid clubs. Membership is incredibly prestigious, can be quite pricey, and members take enormous pride in the events they organise and partake in. The New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation kindly list the city’s krewes on their website if you’d like to see read a little more about them.

The parades you see, with the big floats and costumed marchers are the culmination of what is usually 12 months work from the members of the city’s krewes (as in, once Mardi Gras is over, they start working on next year’s almost immediately). They commission and finance the floats and costumes, spending endless hours working on them, and the end result is those visually overwhelming parades. And the parades are fabulous, but knowing more about the work that goes into them has given me a much bigger appreciated for it all this year.

It has to be said that this is a very basic explanation of an event that is incredibly intricate and steeped in more tradition than I could possibly hope to cover in one blog post – we haven’t even touched king cakes, Mardi Gras Indians or the beads you see revelers wearing! You can head on over to Mardi Gras New Orleans to learn a little more, but hopefully that all makes a bit more sense, and will help explain what made us decide to visit Mardi Gras World…

Mardi Gras World
1380 Port of New Orleans Pl
http://www.mardigrasworld.com/

When I talk about the floats used in the parades, they’re not some cute little hand pulled wagons. They’re enormous – as in, the size of buses or coaches. Absolutely huge. So it’s fair to say the krewes couldn’t be making them all themselves – who’d have a workshop that big?! That’s where Mardi Gras World come in; Mr Blaine Kern, who started to learn the craft from his father, Roy, and later apprenticed with float and costume makers around Europe, started working on behalf of the city’s krewes (you can read more about the Kerns here). The family business now has 15 warehouses around the city where they build floats all year round for the Mardi Gras season. And you thought it was just a day of partying once a year…

For USD$20pp, you can tour one of their warehouses, see some of the artists at work, and learn a hell of a lot about the process of creating these colossal works of art. A few fun facts we learned during our tour…

– The large floats are owned by individual krewes and are stripped each year and re-decorated with new pieces.

– Old props are kept at the warehouses to potentially be re-decorated and re-used by other krewes.

– To create the pieces adorning the floats, the artists use a lot of old school papier mache over polystyrene, which they then paint over.

– There are around 60 odd krewes that each hold a parade over Mardi Gras period – that means 60 different floats and costumes for every. Single. Parade.

 

And if that doesn’t make you want to check it out for yourself, maybe some of those photos I took in there will! Now, to find a way to get back to New Orleans at Mardi Gras time…

Eating the city: Paris, France

The food in Paris is good enough to require no preamble, but the city is a labyrinth when it comes to actually finding the best spots. This is by no means an exhaustive list of what to eat there (so if you’ve been to Paris, please add your recommendations, too!), but I think it’s a pretty solid start to your French food experience!

 

Pistachio choc chip escargot

Why get it:
Because honestly, it’s probably the best pastry in the city. There was a constant, unrelenting stream of people rolling like tidal waves through the place, and most of them were walking away with an escargot pastry if some variety. But Rachel Khoo said she gets the pistachio, so that’s what we got, and that was absolutely the right choice! Perfect in every way.
We got ours from: Du Pain et des Idées, 34 Rue Yves Toudic

 

Savoury crepes (galettes)
Why get it: Paris has a tight Nutella crepe game, but did you know their savoury ones are just as amazing? Usually made with buckwheat flour, they can be filled and/or topped with just about anything, but I’d recommend getting some cheese involved; the porous nature of the galette means that when it hits the hot pan, the melty cheese starts o seep through and caramelises on the grill. That’s why you should get it.
We got ours from: Le Comptoir du Commerce, 1 Rue des Petits Carreaux 

 

Deliciously fancy cakes

Why get it:
It’s not all croissants here – there are some ridiculously good cakes, too! You’ll see lots of little individual cakes, because they’re incredibly rich, and more than a few bites could leave you with diabetes. But they’re the ultimate fancy, elegant treat to accompany your tea or coffee.
We got ours from: Le Valentin, 30 Passage Jouffroy

 

A proper, classic French meal
Why get it: French food has a reputation for a reason, but there are a lot of tourist traps in Paris which don’t really live up to the expectations of visitors. If you can get a proper classic French meal, though, you’ll understand why people go so crazy for a real tarte tatin and a beef bourguignon – the flavours are incredible!
We got ours from: Le P’Tit Troquet, 28 Rue de l’Exposition, where a three course meal will cost you around €35.00

 

Steak frittes

Why get it: It’s one of those meals that should be so simple, yet it’s rarely done to perfection. If you’re willing to spend a little money and eat a little further away from the Eiffel Tower, you’ll find some really fantastic steak. Don’t be scared to order it medium-rare; when you’re dealing with high quality beef, anything more than a few minutes each side will take a lot of the flavour away. Oh, and chips.
We got ours from: Le Café du Commerce, 51 Rue du Commerce

 

Perfect, buttery croissants
Why get it:
Because it wouldn’t be a trip to Paris without a truckload of these! Honestly, I didn’t eat a bad one over there, not this time and not the visit before in 2013. It’s always a good idea to take a sight seeing pit stop for a pot of tea or cup of coffee with a croissant in Paris!
We got ours from: Maison Morange Côté Bio, 113 Rue Mouffetard – we got way more than this one, but it was the unanimous favourite for best plain croissant!

 

Through my eyes: Siena, Italy

When we talk about Tuscany, everyone’s heard of Florence. But not quite as many people know Siena. And the few who do generally only know it for the horse race held there every year, the Palio – horses topped with bareback riders race around the Piazza del Campo in an ode to the times of old. If you’re still unsure about what I’m talking about, maybe this scene from Quantum of Solace will ring a few bells.

But I’m not talking about the Palio this morning, because there’s so much more to Siena than a horse race. The beautiful little city, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site way back in 1995, still looks every bit the picture book medieval town it probably was back in 30AD when the Romans plonked a military outpost there. There are uniform terracotta roofs as far as the eye can see, those beautiful but somewhat difficult to walk upon cobbled paths, and symbolic and religious iconography around every corner. There’s also the incredible Tuscan food, the sweet little corner stores, the steeply sloped alley ways that you just have to wander up and down, and the best door knockers you’ve ever seen.

Welcome to Siena, through my eyes 🙂

The Not-So-Glamorous Side Of Travel

Taking 4 months off work to travel the world. Four months of leaving behind the everyday mundane tasks of the real world. 17 weeks of excitement and adventure. 120 days of doing whatever we wanted, with no real obligations or forced commitments. Sounds so glamorous and carefree and magical…

I thought I owed it to everyone who’s ever been jealous of the fabulous life of a traveller to share some harsh and hilarious reality. Anyone who’s stalked an Instagram account and just about been reduced to tears because every shot is SO perfect. Anyone who’s believed that it is all glamorous and wonderful, all the time. Anyone who thinks it was easy and fancy free the whole time.

Don’t misunderstand me; I had the time of my life and wouldn’t trade the months we spent away for anything! This isn’t a woe-is-me, “OMG I like totally freaked out when my hair straightener broke down” post. This is the real shit we dealt with, the parts that didn’t quite make the Instagram cut, the not-so-pretty but completely hilarious, comical, and every bit as memorable stuff.

We like to romanticise travel and imagine ourselves as glamorous Grace Kelly types, effortlessly and gracefully navigating our way through airports and train stations and cities and restaurants while our red lipstick stays in place. It ain’t always like that. Enjoy a good laugh at my expense; this is the other side.

 

 

Over the 4 months we were away, I’ve had to…

– Spread peanut butter onto a bread roll with a pen because you can’t always get a knife in the Canadian Rockies.

– Dry myself after my showers for several days with a hair dryer when a towel wasn’t provided.

– Carry luggage up 80 rickety old stairs on a very narrow staircase to get to our accommodation.

– Lug around 35kg of luggage a kilometre (mostly up hill) to get to a train station in a ‘cute’ old medieval town with footpaths to match. On a stinking hot day. In a floor length skirt. That was the last day I tried to look like a classy lady traveller.

– Boil water for tea in pots on cook tops when we were lucky enough to have a cook top, or microwave it when I was desperate and with no other options. FYI, microwaved water does not make a cup of tea your nanna would approve of.

– Bathe in a shower with only 3 walls and a defective shower curtain a few inches too short. Water. EVERYWHERE.

– Wash not only socks and undies in the sink, but jeans, jumpers and dresses. And then try to find ways to get them to dry in time.

– Wash my hair with only one hand while the other hand held the shower head to rinse with, while trying not to flood the bathroom by accidentally mis-aiming and shooting the water through the shower curtain. If you know how long and thick my hair is, you’ll understand what a completely ridiculous and inelegant undertaking this would be.

– Move from one train carriage to another, mid-ride, with all of our luggage, after some asshole decided to light up and have a smoke in the bathroom, set off the alarm, then lock the door so the conductor couldn’t get in to turn it off.

– Arrive at a hotel lobby absolutely dripping wet after being caught in a downpour on the 1km walk from the train station. Apologies to the hotel we left puddles of water in.

– Move 2 large suitcases, 3 backpacks, 1 sports bag and 2 boxes of groceries all of 10 metres, from car to front door, in the middle of an Icelandic snow storm, complete with snow, rain and gale force winds, without skidding out on the ice covering the driveway and front steps (because it would have been too easy without steps).

– Walk down 5 flights of stairs to get to the shower because the apartment we stayed in was so small it had no room for a bathroom. And then back up 5 flights of stairs afterwards. Oh, and the toilet was in a separate room, too.

– Carry my own tea bags for the times where ordering a cup of boiling water was easier than explaining how to make a cup of tea (America, I’m talking to you).

– Try to locate an Airbnb apartment in a country where I not only can’t speak the language but can’t even read the writing due to the use of a different alphabet, after being given the wrong address and with no internet. Then I got to be the super unglamorous traveller who had to locate a Starbucks outlet to hover around so I could use their free WiFi (thanks for saving our asses, Starbucks – we love you!!!).

– Find an English speaking doctor in a European country to remove an infected ingrown toe nail. And then walk around the city in thongs (flip flops). In winter. While people looked at me like I was a little mentally unstable.

– Sit in the seat behind a small child for a 2 hour flight who had no parental supervision and had just learnt to recline her seat. I spend most of the flight with the seat in front of me basically resting on my thighs. It was great.

– Put on thermal socks, snow boots, 2 jackets, gloves and a beanie over my PJs to walk through ankle deep snow in -12°C Icelandic forest to get to the bathroom.

From my travel journal: Returning home, January 2018

I’m home. I have been for a few days, and I’ve been meaning to sit down and write a little something now that the big adventure has come to an end, but that was harder than I expected. So, I thought I’d share a part of the last entry in my RTW travel journal…

We’ve been back almost a week now. I’m finding myself scattered, all over the place. All of that time away from my usual world gave me wings; it was as if being unfettered from my standard daily, weekly routines somehow unlocked the part of my brain that could imagine “what if?” without the realist kicking in. When you’re away from your work desk and out in the world, all of a sudden anything is possible. That’s why coming back can be such a kick in the pants, I guess.

I think there’s also a bit of anxiety around dealing with others upon return. How will they treat me, what will they expect of me? Do they think I’ll be magically cured of depression? Somehow ‘fixed’ of my introversion? Ready to ‘settle down’ into the real world and stop all of these ridiculous, frivolous adventures?

Looking back  at the photos  from the first few weeks of the trip feels so bizarre – Canada and Alaska feel like so long ago, it’s like I dreamt I visited them! But I know it was all real; yeah, I have the photos as evidence, but I also know how I felt there. You can’t dream that. So much off my life at home feels bogged down with responsibilities and obligations and guilt – the feeling of freedom that comes with travelling is completely unparalleled by anything else. When you don’t ‘have to’ work out and eat perfectly healthy, or go to that party or to this lunch, or try to split your time between work and family, you become a different person. You elevate to a better version of yourself, and it’s hard to let that person go when you get back home.

So instead of waving her goodbye until the next trip, I’d like to welcome her into my life on a more permanent basis. I’d like to see if she wouldn’t mind sticking around. I know that may not suit everyone, that many people might prefer her to stay away so they can have the girl who bows under the pressure of her obligations and feels too guilty to ever really take a stand for what she wants, but I think she’s had her time in the sun. Once you’ve been through the metamorphosis of travel, you can’t unfeel what you’ve felt, or unlearn what you now know. So, roll with it.

 

Over the past 4 months I have…
– Flown around 59, 000km
– Walked about 1360km
– Drove 5460km
– And covered 7650km by train. And about 140km by ferry.
– Slept in 39 different beds and visited 15 different countries.

I’ve also…
– Seen a caribou cross the road right in front of our car in Jasper
– Driven the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, Canada
– Stood before the world’s largest tree, the General Sherman Tree, in Sequoia National Park
– Joined New York City’s The Village Halloween parade
– Seen Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland
– Survived a 5 hour drive through an Arctic snowstorm in Iceland
– Taken a photo of the Northern Lights
– Slept in a giant bubble in the middle of an Icelandic forest
– Taken a hot air balloon ride over Ronda, Spain
– Visited 31 Christmas markets in 6 different countries in a month
– Been paragliding in Interlaken, Switzerland
– Seen the Berlin Wall
– Enjoyed Christmas Day with family on the other side of the world
– Stood in the middle of the Pantheon in Rome
– Ate a sushi breakfast early in the morning at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market
– Seen the first of Japan’s cherry blossoms
– Went to a Grand Sumo Tournament

And so, so much more… I’m grateful for all of the wonderful experiences I’ve had over the past 4 months, and I’m grateful for the not so wonderful ones, too. I’m really excited to share some of them with everyone, and to hopefully inspire a few more of you to face up to what you’ve always thought impossible and make it happen! But believe me, it wasn’t all magic and rainbows; stay tuned for the slightly less than glamorous side of the trip, coming at the end of the week!