Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Day the Twenty Seventh

So that's it. I flew from Barcelona to Frankfurt this morning and then connect to my Calgary flight in the early afternoon. I treated myself to one last German meal of Frankfurters and potato salad because I slept through the breakfast service on my first flight and was starving when I arrived. I sat by the window while I ate and watched the planes come and go. I like to imagine who might be on them, where they are going, why they are going. There are so many stories and every airplane if you think about it. I think it's one of those special human moments, for that one hour or nine hour flight everyone shares a very similar experience but for each person there's a different reason. Today, for me, it's going home after an incredible month trekking around Europe. For some people, they will be going to visit family or friends, others will be on their way to Banff and Lake Louise. If I were a batter writer I'd get this point across a lot more clearly but I think you get the gist.

I'm sad that the trip is over, I doubt I'll have the opportunity to do this again any time soon, if at all, but I can guarantee there will be other adventures. On the flip side, I'm really ready to go home. I miss that puppy that snores under my desk at night. I miss hanging out with Matt all day and doing nothing at all but it always feels like a lot in the end. I miss soccer, almost the most, it's been almost 5 weeks since I touched a ball and it's like a drug for me, I need it. I also have this big new adventure of teaching elementary school coming up, that is both nerve-wracking and exciting.

It's time for me to go home.

Day the Twenty Sixth

This is it, the last day before I trek halfway around the world and back to the Canadian Prairies.
We really didn't do much today. The morning and early afternoon was spent at the beach swimming, reading, catching some rays and enjoying another meal from the market.
We ended up back at the market for dinner and bought a variety of empanadas to eat down by the pier. Also, a litre of Sangria, but that should go without saying.
After eating it was back to the hostel to pack my incredibly heavy bag and almost equally heavy carry-on and try to get some sleep before my 4:15 wakeup call.
It was a good and relaxing end to the trip.

Things I ate:
     - fresh fruit, Iberian ham, cheese of some kind, bread, papaya orange juice
     - empanadas, fresh fruit, sangria
Highlight of the day:
     - enjoying a final day in Europe relaxing on the beach

Day the Twenty Fifth

Today was another divide and conquer day.
Dani wanted to see Sagrada Familia and Park G├╝ell, both of which Steph and I have seen in the past. So she made her way there and we went off to Tibidabo Mountain. Tibidabo is a mountain, obviously, at the back end of Barcelona. It has a very large church built on the very top and below that is one of the oldest amusement parks in Europe. It is just over 100 years old and still has a few original rides. Historic and fun. Getting to the park is half the fun. We took the metro as far as we could and then rode an old fashioned street car most of the way up. To get to the very top you have to take a funicular. We could have tried to walk it but both agreed that we wouldn't have survived. It was sunny, humid, and around 36 degrees. So we spent the day there riding the rides and enjoying the view.
We all ended up at the hostel around the same time later, sweaty and tired, so we hung out for a bit and the. Went out for dinner on La Rambla. We ended up settling on a place that had a paella and tapas special, you choose one mediocre paella and get two mystery tapas. The tapas part worked out great, they were all delicious. The paella part didn't. It kind of sucked.
Dani had managed to come down with heat exhaustion from her day so she went back to the hostel to rehydrate and sleep after dinner while Steph and I went for a wander down by the pier. We ended up buying a litre of Sangria and 2 litres of water and drank it all while sitting at the Christopher Columbus column and watching the traffic go by. Steph and I have been friends since we were about 5 so we spent some time reminiscing on that and doing what we do best, enjoying the local drinks.

Things I ate:
     - tomato and cheese baguette
     - gross theme park food
     - sucky paella and delicious tapas
     - lots of Sangria

Highlight of the day:
     - drinking with Christopher Columbus

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Day the Twenty Fourth

We've made it to Barcelona! Granted, we had to wake up at 1:45am to make it here, but we did it! 24 days ago when I was first walking around London this seemed too far away to even think about. There was so much that had to happen first.
We had to catch a train to the airport that left the station at 2:37, thus the early wakeup call. Our flight was one of the first off the runway at 6 this morning, we flew in luxury with EasyJet. If you aren't familiar with the wonders of EasyJet, it's an European budget airline, is bright orange, and a similar experience to a Greyhound bus in the sky. They charge you for everything that they possibly can so we had to make sure all of our packs weighed in under 20kg and that we only had one piece of carry-on each, that includes purses. So all the heavy stuff went into the little backpacks and we opted to weigh my big pack as it was the heaviest. They make you pay for the scale so we only did one. It was a little stressful because I was sure it would come in over the limit but it was a perfect 19.5 kg. I feel like I should get some sort of prize, but a small one because a big one would put me over the weight limit.
In typical MacGillivray fashion, I zonked out before we even left the terminal and woke up about 3 minutes before the tires hit the runway so I can't really divulge any details about the flight. We made our way to the hostel, grabbed our beach stuff, put on more sunscreen than should ever be necessary, and then made our way to the market to pick up a picnic lunch. This is something Graham and I did when we were in Barcelona together two years ago. The market on Las Rambla has cheap and delicious fruit, veggies, cheese, meat, and bread, so buy some of each and for about €6 per person you have a delicious meal. We took everything down to the beach and hung out in the sand, sun, and incredibly salty waves for about 3 hours and then went back to the hostel to get out of the sun for a bit. The water is actually so salty that it is hard to swim in, you have to put a lot of effort into getting your body underwater because you really just float. It was so needed to relax on the beach after the last month of walking all over Europe, though.
We ended the day with a little shopping and sangria and then went off to bed.

Things I ate:
     - croissant, fresh squeezed OJ
     - bread, Spanish ham, Catalan cheese, fruit, mango and orange juice
     - seafood paella
     - Nutella ice cream
     - sangria
Highlight of the day:
     - relaxing on the beach

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Day the Twenty Third

Part 2 of 49 hours in Berlin.
After completing all of Lonely Planet's suggested walks in Berlin yesterday we decided to change things up a bit by walking around Berlin all day.
We started out as a trio and made our way to the Jewish Museum where Steph and I would eventually part ways with Dani, she just museums a lot more hardcore than we do. The museum is really well done. It starts with the Holocaust and deportations of the Jews from Germany and other occupied countries and then moves upstairs into a general history of Judaism. The first floor is very simple with just a few artefacts but it gives a detailed backstory for each item and the person who owned it. The Holocaust Tower is a large empty tower with a small slit of light and lots of echo. It is impressive and moving and represents the void left by the Holocaust. A definite must see for anyone in Berlin.
We moved through the rest pretty quickly. I really enjoyed a portrait exhibit about the postwar trials.
Steph and I left and went on to the Topography of Terror for more Holocaust related fun. It was a really dark day.
Topography of Terror is a free exhibit that goes through Hitler's rise to power and then all the history until the end of the war. It is also very well done but takes a few hours to get through because there is just so much information.
Because we hadn't done enough walking yet, we went to the East Side Gallery and walked all 2 km of the remaining wall. Pretty cool but very disappointing that so many people have vandalized the art.
We continued on our cheery way back to the Holocaust Memorial to check out the room of names, an exhibit that gives a name and short biography about every known victim of the Holocaust. We heard about 7 people, it would take over 7 years to hear all of them.
We made our way for a traditional German dinner in a Bavarian beer hall. Steph convinced me to try pork knuckle and it turns out it's delicious.

Highlight of the day:
     - East Side Gallery
Things I ate:
     - standard hostel breakfast
     - currywurst from a street stand
     - pork knuckle with stewed Bavarian cabbage

Day the Twenty Second

Our day started at 4:30 am when the train arrived at main station in Berlin. I can sleep on any form of transportation, I have never stayed awake for a whole train ride in Europe because I am not physically capable of it. It must be a genetic think because Graham goes comatose on trains too. Anyways, I did not get a wink of sleep on the overnight train. The cabin was noisy and cramped, I kept getting stepped on or kicked. It was awful. Steph managed to get about an hour out in the hallway sucking the popcorn juice (this is a term my father uses that describes someone being face down on a carpet, much like my younger brother when he tantrumed at a movie theatre once...). Needless to say, when we arrived in Berlin we were not happy campers. Still, we only had 49 hours before our flight departed for Barcelona so we intended to make the most of it. 
First thing I did was step on glass and have to remove it from my big toe with no first aid supplies whatsoever. Fantastic start.
We locked up our packs and went on a Lonely Planet walking tour from the guide books Steph and I had bought. It took us first past the Reichstag, then to Brandenburg Gate, up,to the University and Museum Island, then the Jewish district. The coolest thing about this was being at Brandenburg Gate at 5:30 before anyone else was there. I did my very best Ronald Regan impression, as any Historian would.
After the walk we had a quick snooze at the train station until the German Police came, yelled at us, and made us leave. 
We decided it was best to cut our losses, go to the hostel, nap, and rally for the afternoon. So that's what we did. 
After napping for a couple of hours we all split up for some personal time exploring Berlin. Steph and I eventually met up but Dani didn't have much interest in Berlin so she found a museum to check out. For the afternoon I did two more Lonely Planet guided walks, one through the Teirgarten and another called Walking the Wall that followed the Berlin Wall. The Tiergarten walk was beautiful. It was a bit rainy so there weren't very many people around and it was very peaceful. I could happily spend days wandering through it. The Wall walk was very cool. It started just at the end of the Tiergarten and went through the Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, the Soviet Memorial, and past some sections of still standing wall. It was great. The Holocaust Memorial is so well done, very moving.
Steph and I ended our busy day of three walking tours on only 2 hours of sleep with some well deserved currywurst, beer, and apple strudel.
This day was very overwhelming. We were exhausted, dehydrated, usually hungry, and generally grumpy but we agreed it wasn't a bad day, just not a happy day. Berlin is a big stop for Steph and I but is actually our shortest visit of the trip so we expected it to be a little intense.

Things I ate:
     - Pain au chocolat
     - Doner Kebap
     - curry wurst and fries
     - Big Beer
     - Applestrudel

Highlight of the day:
     - tie between the Tiergarten, Holocaust Memorial, and finally going to sleep.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Day the Twenty First

It's our last day in Amsterdam :( this has been my favorite city so far. I love the canals and buildings and atmosphere.
We got up earlyish to go to the Anne Frank and beat the line. Good thing we did because we only had to wait for 2 and a half hours in the direct sunlight, standing on cobblestones. The lineup usually doesn't last more than an hour and a half according to the guy at our hostel, so we really nailed the timing on this one. We did finally get in though. It's a very well done museum that goes through Otto Frank's old warehouse and then takes you up into the annex. There is no furniture in it at the request of Otto Frank, he wanted it left empty to represent the loss. It's eerie to walk through the space, but it's much bigger than I had imagined. The house is located along a canal and has beautiful views but the annex is located in the back and looks into a wall. I can't imagine spending two years there and not being able to leave.
Next, we ventured the Van Gogh Museum. Steph and I have about an hour in art museums before we hit our limit so we left Dani to do it at her own pace. It was neat. There was lots of Van Gogh.
After that it was time to grab our things from the hostel and catch the overnight train to Berlin. We shared a cabin with two Dutch boys who shared some beer and a middle aged German man named Rolf. Nobody slept.
Day the Twenty Second will begin at hour 22 of being awake. Then it goes to a dark place.

Things I ate:
     - cheese roll and chocolate twist. I love pastries.
     - a loaf of cheese and onion bread
     - ice cream
     - salad, this balances out my choice for lunch

Highlight of the day:
     - the lineup at the Anne Frank house.... No, that can't be it.
     - Van Goghing overboard on the Van Gogh puns with Steph
     - actually, the Anne Frank house