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November 2 – Come Say Hello!

October 23, 2012

Help! I am missing my friends and family and the warm environment of a Canadian pub.  I put my invite on facebook and realized I should put it on my blog too, just in case anyone is around and free to say hello.

I am home from my trip and I would love to see you.

Please drop by and have a drink on Friday November 2, any time after 8:00pm

We’re meeting at:
The Hogtown Pub and Oysters
633 College St. W.

My cousin Darryl Brown is the Proprietor, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer – and he is the consummate host…..

RSVP – just email me and let me know if you can make it so Darryl can stock up the bar!
And feel free to pass along the invite to others who would like to come.

Go ahead – Like their facebook page!
http://www.facebook.com/HogtownPub

Hi Honey I’m Home – Travel Advice…

September 20, 2012

I don’t think I can stop blogging!!  I feel this is one of the posts that will wrap up the trip but I don’t feel as though it is the last……watch this space for more!!

I learned so much on this journey and like others, I feel the need to share. Unsolicited advice. So appreciated isn’t it?  Even if you don’t agree with it, or aren’t travelling, I hope it gives you a smile.

  • Bring more pairs of underwear and less pairs of shoes.
    • This advice hurts me, because one of the few things I missed was being able to make wardrobe appropriate shoe choices, but I must say that shoes are heavy and bulky in the backpack and it is something on which even the most stylish traveller must compromise on. Sigh.
  • Talk to Strangers
    • Even when you don’t feel like it!! I am quite social but even I had trouble carrying the mantle of having to always strike up conversations.  What I learned was that 99% of the time it was a great idea to say hello, and like following a treasure map, the ‘strangers’ always gave me a clue or a piece of information about a destination that I would never had gleaned from another source.
    • In Holland, the cleaning lady at the hostel told me to get on a local bus and go to a little town; Amersfoort.  It was a great feeling to just hop on the bus without a map even though I didn’t speak the language, and just going with her recommendation.
  • Disregard the Travel Doctor’s Advice
    • Eat street food.  Ice cubes are not your enemy.  Accept food from friendly people.  Relax.  Take a probiotic everyday for your tummy and enjoy the food.  Especially in South East Asia.
  • Splurge a Little
    • Stay in an air conditioned hotel once in a while to get a good night’s sleep and watch HBO.  In the long run it will keep you healthy and well both mentally and physically.  For me, the best example of this was the Kempinski in Egypt.  It was outrageously extravagant but affordable because of the difficult political situation in the area.  I felt a bit guilty but the butler service helped me get over it.
  • Slum a Little
    • Even if you can afford more, you’ll meet more fun and cool people in less expensive places.  Remember what it was like to be a broke student.  This tip will give you perspective, gratitude and humility.  All things you will need each day!
  • Speaking of….
    • Every single day you are on the road is a better day than you would be spending – at work – in your local suburb – at your local school – in your local mall.
    • A daily affirmation of gratitude is key to staying grounded and remembering how cool it is that you are on the road!!!
  • Trust your Instincts
    • ALWAYS.  I can pinpoint, thanks to my excessive journaling and self analysis, the times where things worked out because I followed my own advice and the times where things crashed because I didn’t.  You know what you should and shouldn’t do – don’t be contrary – just do it.

It’s great to be home.  Thanks for coming along on the journey with me!

Mel.

Paradise Is a Place in France/Monaco

September 5, 2012

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The pictures really do not do it justice.  Monaco, Nice, and the South of France are truly spectacular places.

I know my blog post is rather tardy – hoping those who are good enough to follow along will be kind and forgiving.  So much has been going on…….more on that later.

I spent about a week in Monaco with my friend from high school, the lovely and talented, Tracey Rogers.  She and I had lost touch, but I knew she was living and working in Monaco, and I got in touch with her once I made my decision to take my ‘gap’ year.  Welcoming and accommodating, Tracey insisted I stay with her in Monaco – what could I say?

We had a whirlwind of excitement and fun jammed into a short visit.  Swimming in the ocean, art exhibits, drinks at the yacht club, dinner in Italy – it was a grueling schedule.  Tracey has a very demanding job but she was able to find the time to show me around and give me an appetizer of a taste of life in MC.

The Monaco Yacht Club for drinks – lovely spot – kind of like an upscale Whitby Curling Club.  Lots of women were in attendance on the members night we went to – many of them were in the ‘plastic surgery has rendered me unrecognizable’ category.

Dinner in Italy – we visited lovely friends of Tracey’s who treated us to a gorgeous meal in a little Italian resto just over the border.

And we had lunch at a restaurant on the sea; we wore our bathing suits and jumped in and out of the water and sloshed back to the table to drink more wine and eat more lovely food. The view was like a screensaver.  Seriously.

It was a lovely way to end my RTW trip.  Heading home soon – I’ve spent the last 2 1/2 weeks in Ireland visiting family and friends.  I’ll post a few more entries of the last bits and the homecoming festivities. And of course some general musings of the lessons learned – and there have been many.

Ciao!

Even in my wicked childhood…..

August 15, 2012

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I must have done something good……

That is how I feel about this journey. I feel so fortunate and grateful to have been given the opportunity to do so much and fulfil so many lifelong ambitions!  Seeing Salzburg and touring the various locations where the Sound of Music was filmed was high atop the list of must do activities for this tour.  And it did not disappoint.

As with everything that is super popular, you can be rest assured that if you want to see it, so do 10,000 other tourists who will all be there on the same day.  But despite the crowds, Salzburg is a magical place where around every corner, there is something you see that looks vaguely familiar.  Now, for those of you who haven’t seen the movie a million times, maybe you wouldn’t have quite the same experience.

I took the official tour and thank heavens I met Barry, a teacher from England who lives near Prague who was travelling with his partner Jirka.  Barry was a super fan and we sang and laughed the whole day on the tour.  The tour leader did pick on Barry a little bit, but he deserved it.

:)

While seeing the various sites where the filming took place 40+ years ago, you do have to suspend belief a little to picture the settings without the throngs of tourists, but you can get there.  It was funny to learn that the movie, so popular all over the world, is basically unknown in Germany and Austria.

The tour leader told us about the real Maria Von Trapp.  The basics of the story are true.  The movie advanced the timeline from the actual 11 years it took them to get married to the condensed 1 year – and there was no evil Baroness. But the Captain was a fiercely patriotic Austrian who had lost his wife and needed a governess.  And the family really did perform at the Salzburg Festival.  But they didn’t escape over the mountains; doing so would have put them in Germany – so they took a train.

I wonder what would happen today if a widower knocked on the door of a convent looking for a young nun to move in with him – I think he’d be arrested!!

Internet Difficult / Photo Essay Attached!

August 12, 2012

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Sorry I have been so out of touch!!  I wish I was in Asia where the internet was easy…..I remember those days….

Had fun in Vienna and am currently in Salzburg.  Hoping a better Vienna blog and a Sound of Music spectacular will be available soon.  Watch this space!!

xoMel

Tequila Salt (Mines)

August 1, 2012

What happens when 9 twenty year old girls from Dublin meet a 40 something solo traveller from Canada? Yup. I told you it was bound to happen! These great girls were my travel mates to Auschwitz. it was so nice to visit that horrible place with friends. After Auschwitz, we all went out for dinner and they convinced me to join then on the Krakow pub crawl. We had such a super time. We went to 4 (or 5??) bars around the city. The pub crawl is the most popular backpacker activity here in Europe, so I had to try it, right?

The next day I visited the Salt Mines just outside of Krakow. Down 300 meters or so, there is an underground city there. Wild.

But the girls had moved on to Prague. So there I was, alone with the salt. A fitting tribute – salt with tequila and the Irish – then salt sculptures.

Today I am in Warsaw. Heading out to see Madonna tonight. One of my goals was to see a big concert in a random city so, Madonna in Warsaw? Check.

Overall I must admit I have hit a bit of a travelling wall. I am homesick and tired for the first time. I have also been sick with a cold. And I got totally ripped off by a cab driver here in Warsaw yesterday. I was charged 4.5X what I should have paid.

Ah well. 7 months on the road so I suppose it was bound to happen. Here’s hoping Madonna and my next stop, Vienna, will give me a boost.

Cheers!

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Me and the Crew

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Me and Niamh

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Chapel in the Salt Mine

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Have fun on your trip girls!

Auschwitz-Birkenau

July 28, 2012

I am certain that nothing I write about my visit to Auschwitz and nearby Birkenau will be unique or insightful.  Everything I thought about and felt that day are the same things each of the 1.4 million visitors who travelled to the twin sites in 2011 must have felt. But I am compelled to recap some of my feelings if just to write it down and remind everyone of the horror and scale of the death perpetrated against Jews and others during WW2. If ever there was a story that bears repeating; it’s this one.

Having worked in a large organization for so many years, I was struck by the clinical and analytic approach to the extermination camps. The logistics and methods used to carry out The Final Solution were similar to those used in factories and other industries complete with hierarchy and teams working on different aspects of the task and careful documentation of the process. Of course, I am not comparing committee work in a big company to the horror of the holocaust – but I was shocked to learn how a group of people used existing methods of industrialization and efficiency to carry out the job.  The cold calculation of it – the number of people involved – the psychological methods employed to control the victims – I simply cannot get my head around any of it.

It is a haunting site and I am sure it is haunted too.  It is the largest graveyard in the world.

Birkenhau is massive.  136 hectares.    The old railway track runs between the main building to where the largest gas chambers and crematoriums were held.  In between the two, is the platform where the separation and decisions were made – who went to work – who went to the gas chambers.

Horrific, chilling, sobering, terrifying – I can’t even begin to explain my sadness and feeling of dread that surrounded the day and the visit.  I am very glad I made the trip, and hope each of you take a moment today to think about it.

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Such a proud moment to see the PM’s picture prominently displayed at the museum entrance.  Of all the world leaders who are represented, his is the most moving and respectful tribute to the victims.

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Other pictures shown above:

  • Group of nuns walking through Birkenau
  • The barracks at Birkenhau
  • A mountain of shoes taken from various victims after they were sent to their death
  • Prayer shawls taken from victims, as above.
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