Category Archives: europe

#OrangeTravels: Europe Recap

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Okay I’ll admit it, I’m a slow blogger. My intention when I first blogging my big backpacking trip last summer was to go city by city and detail everything. Let’s get real, it’s already been over a full year and I’ve only covered a third of my trip and at this rate, it’ll take my another couple years to complete this project. Which is why I’m just going to do one BIG photo recap of my trip here instead. Yay for recaps!

So from June 8 – August 27, I travelled to: Hong Kong, London, Lisbon, Lagos, Porto, Madrid, Granada, Barcelona, Rome, Budapest, Venice, Florence, Nice, Cannes, Marseille, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Frankfurt.

You can read about Hong Kong to Rome in detail in my previous posts, I’ll be starting from Budapest.

BUDAPEST…

To be honest, I was drunk about 90% of the time I was in Budapest so it’s a bit of a haze and also why I don’t have any pictures. BUT, it was one my favourite places to party, at my hostel, Carpe Noctem Vitae (recommend!!), I met all of Ireland and went to these crazy hot bath parties. One word: Szechenyi. 

VENICE/ BURANO…

I always imagined Venice to be this super romantic city where lovers go. What I found were stressful, narrow walkways where everyone’s touching you and a city whored out to tourism. Similar to Rome, I couldn’t identify what ‘authentic’ Venice culture was like, or if it even existed anymore. It couldn’t have also been the Generator hostel I stayed at, which I wouldn’t recommend since it’s not on the main island and it’s atmosphere wasn’t great for meeting people. The main highlight of my trip was going about an hour outside of Venice to the island of Burano where all the houses are painted different colours. One thing I noticed about Venice is there were no cars! All transit was done by boat and since I was too cheap to pay for a gondola ride so I bought a transit pass and took a ‘communal gondola’ ride around the island for an hour. Super romantic, I know.

FLORENCE/ PISA…

#Sorrynotsorry for doing a cliche Pisa Leaning Tower pose. I feel so lucky that I got to see such a beautiful city in the pissing rain, I guess that’s something that not everyone gets to say. Thankfully, Florence is known for their grand churches and museums which we spend most of the time exploring. I stayed at PLUS Florence which is a hotel disguised as a hostel. Wasn’t the greatest for meeting people but luckily there were a couple Columbian guys in my room who were pretty awesome so I hang out with them for most of my trip.

NICE/ CANNES/ MARSEILLE…

I actually have zero photos from Nice. I don’t remember much of the city cause I wasn’t ever really in it sober. All I remember were their uncomfortable stone beaches and rainbow monk-shaped lights that decorated the city centre.

Cannes was about an hour or so outside of Nice and was a place where ultra rich people park their super yachts and celebrities come for the Cannes festival/ awards. During this time, I met Darren, an Australian mate who convinced me to go with him to Marseille and try Coachsurfing. Only instead of finding a host via the website, we showed up a Coachsurfing meet-up on the beach and mingled with the local hosts until one offered to take us home. Our host Lionel was a French student who lived in a tiny 200 sq. feet apartment yet offered to house both Darren and I. Next day he took us to a hidden beach where locals went which was amazing! The main beach was overflowing with tourists so it was so nice to get the local experience with Lionel. Honestly, while the experience was a bit scary, I would so do it again. In return for Lionel’s hospitality, we cooked the starving Philosophy student a nice hearty breakfast!

PARIS…

Ah, Paris! This city was exactly as I had imaged, minus the bed bugs of course. Yea.. shit happens. But besides that, I stayed at Oops Design Hostel (NOT recommended, pretty positive that’s where I got my b.bugs) and met a French girl who has some local Parisian friends going to a train party that night. What’s that you ask? Basically about 400 people show up outside of the train station with copious amounts of liquor (most of which was already inside their bellies) and a couple boomboxes. We took over an entire train and rocked out like it was 1999, it was mad dope!

Of course I did the other Paris attractions including visiting the Palace of Versailles (that Chandelier room.. *swooooon*), eating giant macarons, get spooked in the Catacombs, go to the love lock bridge, crowding to see Mona-fucking-Lisa, and picnic at the Eiffel Tower. And as the cherry on top, I even got a kiss from my lover under the Eiffel Tower at midnight. I’ll be back, Paris. <3

BRUSSELS…

Beer. Check.
Waffles. Check.
Chocolate. Check.
Peeing Boy Statue. Check.

AMSTERDAM…

All the fun was had in Amsterdam! While my stay at MEININGER was terrible for all sorts of reasons, I spent most of my time catching up with friends I had met back in Madrid, Granada, Nice and Vancouver! Amsterdam is such a free-spirited, vibrant city. Of all the places I’ve visited, I see myself living here the most. The Dutch have so much love for the arts and culture and one week was not enough to explore it all, I barely scratched the surface.

BERLIN…

Berlin was nuts. I can’t even count how many times I had a “what the fuck” moment. Tips for maximizing your stay in Berlin: Stay at JETPAK Alternative in Kreuzberg, rent a bike, and replace “why” with “why the fuck not”. An innocent looking kebab shop turns into a rave party at 4am, why the fuck not. Go dancing at Suicide Circus where you can enter Friday night and leave Monday morning, why the fuck not. Oh Berlin, you crazy double rainbow city, you have my heart.

PRAGUE…

In my experience, your hostel can make or break your experience of that city. In this case, Hostel One Home just put all other hostels to shame. That is all. #Squad

VIENNA… 

Like my writing in this blog post, by the time I reached Vienna I was so exhausted. It was the second to last city before I returned home. I spend my final days chilling out at parks, reflecting on the past 3 months at the parks and occasionally shedding a tear or two because my adventure was coming to an end (for now). The feels man, they’ll get you.

FRANKFURT…

I arrived in Frankfurt late at night and my flight was in the morning so there wasn’t much time to do anything. Around the corner from the hostel was an Irish pub and I just knew, for my last meal I needed to have a Guinness with Guinness Strew. Yummy yum yum in my tum.

VANCOUVER!

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And that’s all folks! Three months just flew by. I’m itching to go travelling again. I know for sure next year I’ll be travelling again but to where exactly is up in the air. My original plans was Japan and SE Asia but with Nimi’s wedding date not being set, I may find myself in Europe again! And depending on finances, who knows, maybe I’ll do it all and make 2016 a big year of #OrangeTravels.

#OrangeTravels: Running Around Rome

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Let this be known. If you’re going convince yourself it’s a good idea to save on hostel money by sleeping at the airport, I’m here to tell you that you that it is NOT worth it. In fact, screw those 6am flights, no thank you RyanAir. While flying from Barcelona to Rome, I slept hugging my backpack on the cold, sad, airport floor while the floor cleaner was going on the entire time. I never said all parts of backpacking was glamorous.

When I finally arrived in Rome at 8am, I was dead tired, the hostel staff at Legends were unfriendly folk and while I felt an obligation to experience Rome, I just wanted to curl up in a lump and PTFO.

One of my favourite highlights of this trip was visiting the closed Trevi Fountain. Yes, you read that correctly, the bloody thing was under god-damn construction. It was completely covered in scaffolding and all the water had been drained. At first I was pissed, I had flown around the world to see this landmark and I was gypped of the experience! But after taking a moment to let it sink it, I realize that I was among the 1% to EVER see it in this state. The 99% have all seen a ‘normal’ Trevi Fountain and I should be honoured that I got to see it in this unique form. A simple change of perspective was all it took. And you know what – the fountain did look pretty cool under all that scaffolding, I felt like I was a part of history!

Of course some other highlights was visiting the Vatican, exploring the Colosseum, Pantheon and Roman Forum. These were great sights and all but 100% of the time I was surrounded by tourists. I couldn’t imagine living in a city like this. It made me realize how lucky I was to live in Vancouver. *Cue homesickness*

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Side note: does anyone else think the Colosseum looks like a giant vagina? Looking for a friend here.

#OrangeTravels: Barcelona

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Ah, Barcelona: overcrowded, super-touristy, ultra commodified and yet it still holds a special place in my heart as one of my favourite cities. I had been travelling inland for several weeks now and had a deep yearning to be near the water and the mountains again (I mean, I am from Vancouver). I found this spot overlooking the beaches, climbed over the railings, dangled my legs over the edge and watched the waves crashing against the concrete blocks below – I had found my happy place.

One of my absolute favourite things about any city is their markets. I live for markets. There I can sample a whole range of “local” foods/ drinks at a fairly cheap price. At their famous Boqueria Market, I found fresh seafoods, pastries, mountains of cheap fruits and veggies and 1 Euro juices! This was a city of indulgence.

I stayed at the Sant Jordi Sagrada Familia hostel which I 100% recommend. Some of the best and friendliest staff who took the time to show me all the hidden spots within the city. Super cool lounge area with a indoor skate park, topped with nightly drinking games and bar crawl every night, this hostel had partying down to a science.

Normally I’d write more but honestly, most of the trip was spent wandering every inch of the city, checking out the Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, burning my ass at the beach, and a whole lot of self-reflection.

#OrangeTravels: Granada, Spain

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Hola! The adventure continues down south in the gorgeous city of Granada. When I first arrived, I immediately noticed the Arabic influences. My hostel was located in the heart of the city, down an alley lined with Arabic shops and hookah lounges. If I had more backpack space, I would have loaded up on trinkets. They were selling beautifully coloured purses, small zip bags, and home decor.

Granada is most famously known for The Alhambra palaces. Built in the 9th century, it used to be a fortress which was then renovated into a palace. Let me tell you, this place was ginormous! I left at 8am and didn’t finish exploring the grounds till 6pm. I believe there were 4 mini palaces + a billion gardens so be prepared to do a lot of walking. Food was pretty terrible and expensive up there so I packed my own and had me a grand ol’ picnic. In every city I visited, picnics became the default style of eating.

Pro tip: They limit the number visitors per day and you can’t buy tickets online. Instead of waiting in long line ups at the palace, Visit the official Alhambra shop located in the city, at the base where you begin your trek up the hill to the palace. They have a little ticket machine and very friendly staff who will help you though the buying process.

I stayed at Oasis Backpackers Hostel which I would highly recommend. They had great dinner specials, central lounging areas where everyone convened in the evening and best of all, clean facilities! While it was a great place to stay and meet people, there was no air conditioning – yea I either wake up to a pool of my own sweat or the loud rumble of fan that circulated the hot air. Gosh, I hope they fixed that.

One night with some hostel folk we went for a flamenco show which I though was pretty cool but apparently according to others, they’ve seen better. Afterwards we hit up Bar Poe which is a must-visit. It’s owned by a British man that serves tapas for free(!) when you order a drink. Uhhh win-win situation! Well traditionally speaking, when you order a drink, tapas are supposed to be complimentary.

After many glasses of sangria, one girl and I split off  from the group and we were determined to find this local hotspot where you could view the Alhambra all lit up and pretty in the night. Of course, we got lost. This place was apparently a local secret and not a lot of tourists go there so finding it took some help from some locals we met along the way. In hindsight, it did seem a bit sketchy having two young guys lead us though narrow paths in the residential areas but thankfully we did end up getting there safely without being mugged. At this point it was probably 11pm and there were families with young children still out and running around, people were chilling out, playing guitar and couples were making out. That view though, wow. You could see all of Granada, the stars, and of course, the big Alhambra palace all lit up in it’s glory. Sandy and I shared life stories and it turned out she was the same age as my sister, 10 years older than me. We chatted about relationships, career, travels, home and gave me lots of perspective on life. You know those nights where you just know will be the highlight when you look back at the trip as a whole? Yea, this was one of those nights.

Granada has earned its spot on the list of my favourite cities. What really made my experience so great was largely attributed to the people I met and chose to hang out with. And of course the cheap drinks and kickass tapas – you wanna buy a jug of sangria for a dollar? Sangria for everyone!!

#OrangeTravels: Madrid, Spain

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Hola! Enter the world of sangria, tapas, and gypsy pickpockets. After Portugal, I exchanged my “obrigada” for “gracias” and hit up Spain.

I stayed at Las Musas Hostel where for the majority of my 3 day stay, I met and hung out with a bunch of cool hostel folk from all parts of the globe. There was England, Aussie, India , USA, Kiwi, Scotland, and of course, Canadian. We did walking tours, bar crawls, and visited the Egyptian Temple of Debod to see the sunset. I just remember everywhere we went, liquor was the same price of water so I was downing sangria like so.

I was there on a Sunday which meant that the Museum of National Treasures, Renia Sofia had free admission. Booyah! I was travelling on a strict student budget so any means of saving money was taken advantage of.

Honestly, of all the cities I visited, Madrid wasn’t my favourite. It was expensive, not the friendliest, and I felt on-edge the entire time. Our tour guide stressed that gypsy pickpockets were everywhere and work super fast – that didn’t help my anxieties. Don’t take me wrong, it was a beautiful city with plenty to see and do. I was just so heat exhausted that all I wanted to do was sit in the shade and eat a kebab.

After 3 days of wandering around the city and clutching my purse for dear life, I was excited to hop on a bus and head south towards Granada! I had heard so much about that city and it was highly recommended by friends back in Vancouver so it was a no-brainer that I would add it to my itinerary.

Funny thing about travel itineraries, I had one for the first quarter of my trip before I said “fuck it!” and just went wherever I felt like or was recommended by fellow hostel mates. Before I constantly found myself in situations where I had to stay longer than I wanted or leave too early because I had the next flight to catch. People would mention all these amazing cities I never thought of visiting but because I had planned too far in advance, I couldn’t fit it into my itinerary. Finally my “fuck it’s” kicked in and I decided I would only plan no more than 1-2 days in advance to give myself the utmost flexibility possible. Best decision I ever made.