12 Days In New York City

I love New York, but boy was I ready to come home after 12 days in it. Had the last 7 of those days not been so stressful it might be another story. But the fact was that I barely had enough money to get me through the 6 intended days, so the additional 7 weren’t overly enjoyable as I tried not to use much public transit or eat out or really do anything that involved spending any money…

But, despite all that, it was still a lovely and much needed holiday!

I arrived in the city on a Wednesday at which time I wandered to Vi’s and collapsed on her couch. On Thursday made my way to Brooklyn to go see the Botanic Gardens. I’d seen someone post about it somewhere, and thought it might be worth a visit. The weather was great, the colours gorgeous, and it turns out there’s not admission cost on Thursdays.

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That evening I headed to Times Square to meet up with Vi. We were hoping to the lottery for a show, but missed it for both The Last Ship and Hedwig. Instead we got omlettes and watched Netflix.

10176029_935531322294_6771413734324505336_nTimes Square

On Friday I headed down to Union Square where I spent a couple hours getting lost in the racks at The Strand. Paul Giamatti was there. We stood in the ‘Banned Books’ section together. It was pretty cool.

15911_935531347244_5967592703995276388_nStrand Bookstore

I then went and wandered around the West Village and people-watched in Washington Square Park. It was chilly, but sunny, so I was happy.

10676367_935525339284_7555660138133744980_nWashington Square Park

That night I headed back to Times Square to meet Vi. We lost the lottery for Idina Menzel’s show If/Then, but were able to grab ‘Lottery Loser’ tickers for only $5 more. I guess the show isn’t doing so well… I thought it was okay. I’m glad I saw it, but really it’s only selling points are Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp.

Speaking off, we did stage door, of course! I’ve seen them both before, but it’s always fun!

10422083_935529480984_5726191222963934932_nIdina Menzel

10613008_935529241464_6093073703670348153_nAnthony Rapp

On Saturday I met up with Carly, Sara, and Annie for an excellent 4 hour lunch. We’d never all gotten together as a group, so it was a lot of fun. Eventually Carly had to head to work and Annie to a housewarming party, so Sara and I met up Vi and went to dinner.

Vi and I saw ‘On The Town’. I liked it well enough. It’s a classic, so, you know. The dance numbers seemed a little drawn out, but the music was great.

On Sunday Vi and I went on a roadtrip to Baltimore. She rented a car and got tickets to see Next To Normal, I tagged along. Oh, and I can now say I’ve been to Delaware. Woo!

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On Monday it down-poured so we went to the movies to see ‘The Theory of Everything’. I also dragged Vi from shop to shop in search of a single magazine, as, you know, I do that. The weather cleared up later in the day though, so I went for a nice stroll around mid-town.

10417639_935529875194_770824464564860528_nFlatiron Building

On Tuesday I headed out at some ridiculously early hour only to reach the far end of West-nowhere (aka the Megabus stop) and learn that there were no buses. No one seemed to know why. So, my enormous backpack, suitcase and I hiked it over to Penn Station to see about a train. I got a ticket, all looked well, until it’s announced that all Toronto bound rail service will be suspended in Syracuse. Again, no one could say why. So I got a refund and started frantically texting everyone I knew for a place to stay. Annie was kind enough to offer her couch right away, so I made my way 160 blocks or so uptown to Washington Heights.

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I eventually came to learn about the horrendous storms in Buffalo and every 12 hours or so would get an update that train and bus service remained suspended. That week is a bit of a blur with regards to what happened when, and in what order. Again, I stayed in a lot. I mean I managed to watch the whole first season of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, so…

I did go for several nice walks around Washington Heights and Fort Tryon. One day I took the subway down to the Upper West Side to go to Barnes and Noble, and then took a very long city bus journey back to the George Washington Bridge (if you catch a bus within 2 hours (maybe 3 hours?) of catching the train they don’t charge you again- HEY OH!). Washington Heights was pretty cool though, I’m glad I had some time to explore it.

10339759_935648637194_174245830662665114_nView of Hudson Heights and the Bronx from Fort Tryon Park

10406411_935648617234_5416060134614959295_nHudson River, Fort Tryon Park

10421163_936189343614_8391701833344519889_nUpper West Side

And then of course Saturday was the insane Into The Woods evening. I’m still not over that one! Earlier that day though I met up with the wonderful Jennifer Eolin for tea and trading of horror life stories, and a couple hours later went for hot chocolate with another online friend. All that made for a very nice day. Adding in Meryl Streep, Chris Pine, and an early Into The Woods screening were just icing on the cake!

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I didn’t sleep Saturday night, and had to leave for my bus around 4:30am. Thankfully though when I arrived there was no one advising of a cancellation, and I even managed two seats to myself for the entire journey home.

It all kind of worked out. Sort of. Maybe.

Canadians For A Saner America

I spent late October in Washington D.C. and had such a great time! I saw all the sites, got to see lots of friends, and spent two glorious hours with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

I flew into Dulles, and the ever awesome Vi came to pick me. We drove into the city and found Pippa sitting on the steps of that Air and Space Museum, after which we all went out lunch. Vi drove us around to do a bit of sightseeing, and then dropped Pippa and I off at the Canadian Embassy so we could ask about getting into the White House. We then went to the Museum of Natural History, and then to find Emily, who was sweet enough to let us stay with her. When she finished work we all went for dinner in China Town, and then headed back to her place.

Day two was Pippa and I’s epic sightseeing day. We took the train in with Emily, and she went off to work. After grabbing some wifi time at Starbucks we started our journey. The first stop…

The White House

We then headed towards the National Mall.

Vietnam War Memorial (and National Monument):

Lincoln Memorial:

National Monument:

We later ran in to the setup for the Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear (and the Capital Building):

Capital Hill:

That day we also had lunch and wandered around the National Museum of the American Indian. We couldn’t get into the Capital Building, but we spent some time in the visitor’s centre and little museum they have there. We also went to the National Archives and saw the constitution.

Day Two was the Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear. Pippa, Emily, and I headed into the city bright and early to get a spot. There were already thousand of people there. Thankfully we found Moxie, who had scored some awesome seats, and let us share her space. We then buckled down and waiting the four or so hours until the Rally Started.

Jon, Stephen, and Anderson Cooper’s Tiny T-Shirt:

Stephen, and puppet Stephen:

After the Rally we then wandered for a while trying to find Sara. She took the Huffington Post bus from New York City and missed the Rally. As the Huff Bus plan turned out to be horrible.

And we finally found her in Union Station! Sara and I’s group costume was complete! Jane and Daria:

We then wandered, found food, and saw Sara off to the bus station.

On my last day, I drove with Emily and Pippa to see Pippa off at the airport. Emily and I drove back in to the city where I met back up with Vi. We drove around and saw some last minute sights.

Washington National Cathedral:

View from the top of the cathedral:

We got lunch and then drove around a bit more. Saw Georgetown, went into the Kennedy Centre, and then headed back to the airport.

So, yeah. It was a really great trip.

The Rain In Spain Falls Mainly On The Plain…

I don’t know if this is true. It was sunny the entire time I was there!

Barcelona is a pretty cool city. It and I didn’t get off on the right foot (I was assaulted by some pickpockets about 30 seconds after getting there), but day 2 onwards was lovely. I did a 2 day hop on, hop off bus tour, which I highly recommend for anyone ever going to Barcelona. It was a great deal . The bus ran 3 lines, took about 5 hours if you were to stay on it non stop, and the tickets were valid for 48 hours. You get a really great feel for the city, and are free to get on and off as you please. Some pic from on the bus tour:

That’s mainly how I spent day 2 and 3 exploring the city. On my last full day, on the advice of the fabulous Sara, I took a day trip to Montserrat. It was incredible! There’s a monestary built into the side of these spectacular mountains. I took a cable car up to the monestary, went to a neat little art gallery they have up there, and then hiked around the area for a few hours:

So, completely ignoring Day 1 of Barcelona, it was a very nice trip.

Up next: Paris!

Belfast, Redux

I’m having a bit of a lazy evening in Barcelona, so I figured it’s a good time to blog!

Last Wednesday I made the long journey (12 hours!) from Venice to Belfast. I got up and ready at the horrific hour of 5am, walked through Venice to the Grand Canal to catch a boat bus to the bus terminal. I then spent half an hour wandering around the terminal trying to figure out how to get tickets (the office was closed) and where the bus was. I spent 2 hours on a bus to the airport where I learned my bag was too heavy, and I wan’t allowed to check in unless I paid 70 Euros. So, I threw anything I possibly could away. I figured, if I can replace it for under 70 Euros, than it’s worth it. I then went down to the worlds smallest terminal (1 tiny room that housed 4 gates. Ridiculous!) in which there were already 2 groups of passengers waiting on delayed flights. Granted, this is an airport entirely run by Ryanair, so, I shouldn’t have been surprised! I sat there for hours, until well after the plane was supposed to leave, never hearing a word (or even seeing) anyone who worked there. Eventually the plane showed up and we flew the two hours to Dublin. At the Dublin Airport I was stuck in immigration for an hour, thought I lost my passport at baggage claim, and got lost trying to find the bus terminal. After an hour of waiting at the bus terminal the bus for Belfast arrived! That took another 3 hours. But, I finally made it to Belfast! I walk about 15 minutes through the city centre to Orla’s apartment and wait in front of her door (she was at work still, and I was stealing her Internet from in the hall!). Her room mate arrived home, says hello to me, and then leaves me in the hallway. I don’t think she likes me very much! No worries though, Orla soon got home, we went inside, and I collapsed on her couch.

See, this is why I hate the travelling bit of travelling! Granted, I did have the worst possible experience 2 days ago upon arriving in Barcelona. Ugh.

Moving on… I had a wonderful time back in Belfast! On Wednesday night we went to see Iron & Wine in concert. The show was graet, but the people sitting around us were not. He also didn’t play Boy With A Coin, which upset me a little bit… 😉

After the concert we took in some of the sights on the way back to Orla’s apartment. Such as…

The big mosaic fish:

And the big iron lady holding a hula hoop:

On Thursday when Orla was at work I filled up my backpack with all my clothes, hopped on a train across town, and did some laundry. Exciting! It was actually a pretty good time. At one point this very strange man saw the Canada flag on my pack and started asking me questions like: “Is Canada that wee country by Australia?”, “Is Canada dear?”, “What is the current unemployment rate?” and “Does Facebook exist in Canada?” It was just like I was at work! As soon as he left the girl working there ran over to me and asked what he was saying. I told her and she started going on about all the crazy things he’s said to her in the past, and we had a good laugh. Apparently he has plans to take over the UK, build his own exclusive hospital, and produce his own line of rainbow fake eyelashes. After that a really nice girl from Texas came in and we started chatting. She got a job in Belfast and just arrived. I’m so jealous of her! It’s such an awesome city.

That night Orla and I went to dinner and then to see Modest Mouse in concert. What an amazing show! They are so great live!

Sadly, after, we had to walk home in the rain…

On Friday when Orla was at work I went into town. I needed some things, and then decided to do a bit of window shopping. Big mistake! It turns out when I haven’t been shopping in a month, it kind of builds up. I did tough it out though! But a few things, but not a lot. And only from H&M. Which it turns out I am totally in love with over here! I really don’t like the store in St. Catharines. It smells and is too expensive and rarely has anything I like. Here, totally different story!

Orla got off work a bit early, so we went to grab a late lunch, and that evening saw Wilco!

On Saturday Orla, one of her roomates (not the one who left me in the hall!): Lisa, and I did a hop on, hop off bus tour around Belfast. It was a pretty good tour. Went to the Titanic Quarter, lots of different historical places relating to The Troubles, Parliament, downtown. We saw quite a lot!

Storment Castle (on Parliament grounds) and Parliament:

One of that many, many murals located around Belfast that reference The Troubles:

Cave Hill (This was the inspiration for Gulliver’s Travels, as the mountain shape resembles a mans face):

I can’t quite remember what we did on Sunday. Not much, I guess! Orla made me an Irish breakfast called an Ulster Fry. It was delicious! I think we just went into town and looked for shoes, actually! And then we went for dinner. And I came back and packed, which took hours.

And then I left bright and early Monday morning and am now in Barcelona! Just to clear up, I am actually having a wonderful time here, despite the horrificness of Monday. I know not everyone knows what I’m talking about, but I’ll save that fun story for my next blog.

Thanks for reading!

Bob Lowblaw’s Prague Blog

I had a nice time Prague. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I hadn’t done much research at all on it beforehand. The weather was awful, but the city was beautiful. I arrived there last Monday after a long day of travelling from Dublin. The flight was alright. Only about 2 hours, and I slept through most of it. Getting from the airport to my pension was a little more difficult though! I had to take a bus into the city, the metro through the city, and then walk from the metro station to my accommodation. Doesn’t sound too difficult, but, I have this inability to navigate public transportation. That mixed with a language barrier, and my complete ignorance/understanding of the Czech currency made the trip far less than ideal. But, I eventually made it to the correct metro stop! Hazzah!

And then I came out of the subway to find none of the streets had signs on them… What? Are you kidding me, Prague?! After 10 minutes of aimlessly walking in what was potentially the wrong direction with 30 kilos of baggage hanging off of me, I found someone to ask for help. She also turned out to be a tourist and had one of the incredibly handy tourist maps on her. Thank goodness! So, we figured out where we were (as neither of us actually knew) and where I needed to go. She was then so sweet and gave me an extra map she had.

Eventually I found my way to my pension. The owner was so, so nice and helpful. He had a booking mix up and told me that I’d need to switch rooms after the first night. That meant having to stay packed my first night, but it also meant a better room that first night, so, I survived. Unfortunately I was so exhausted that first day that I collapsed on the bed and slept until the following morning. Woops!

The weather was awful my first full day there, which wasn’t ideal. But I walked down to Old Town and saw a bit of it while the weather was still decent. I took a bus tour in the afternoon which wasn’t all that exciting (all pre recorded), but very informative. It took us around Old Town, New Town, and up to Prague Castle. It was downpouring by the time I got off the bus though and I managed to get completely soaked. I ran into a mall and had to buy a shirt and socks at H&M.

Some pictures from my first day:

The weather improved the next day. Still overcast, but at least not raining. I walked back to Old Town and over to Charles Bridge. And, to my surprise, there was a blue sky by the time I arrived!

The following morning I had to leave painfully early to catch a train to Salzburg. But, getting to the train station was far easier than the airport. One stop on the metro and I was there! I like when it’s that simple. When I got on the train I realized I’d forgotten to send postcards. They were written out and stamped, but I forgot to find a mail box! Therefore apologies to those of you who receive a Prague postcard sent from Salzburg!

Anyway, that’s about it for Prague. I took it easy, which I definitely needed at that point!

Ireland, Part Three

On Saturday Orla and I did a hop on hop off bus tour around Dublin. We also took a tour of Kilmainham Gaol, an old Irish prison:

On Sunday was the highlight of Dublin: The National Leprechaun Museum. This place was insane! We got to climb around on giant pieces of furniture, have story time with a guide who looked very much like what I imagine a Leprechaun would look like, and colour. It was priceless!

Living like a leprechaun:

Our guide and the pot of gold:

Which Orla tried to steal. Tsk, tsk:

Colouring:

Framed and on the wall:

After that we wandered in search of cupcakes. It was harder than it sounds! Us on the Liffey:

Sadly, Sunday evening Orla had to return home. Aideen and I had a very nice last dinner in Dublin, and then I headed out early Monday morning. The flight to Prague was short, and I slept through it, so that was good. I didn’t do much after arriving yesterday, but saw quite a lot today. I don’t have pictures uploaded yet, but I’ll do a Prague post next.

Thanks for reading! And apologies on the multiple parts. It kept freezing when I put too many pictures in. Strange!

~Spencer

Ireland, Part One

Finally! An Ireland blog!

Sorry for the lack of updates. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks! Between non-stop touring, and a lack of Internet, blogging has not made it onto the agenda. Things have calmed down the past couple nights, so, here I am! In Prague, by the way. It’s rainy and cold, but still insanely beautiful.

Jumping ahead of myself though! Back to last week: I had an amazing time in Ireland.  We flew from Edinburgh to Belfast where we spent the next few days. Granted, we didn’t actually spend that much time in Belfast. Day one was a bit of a write off. Bumming around Orla’s apartment and some shopping. The following day, however, we rented a car. I was pretty terrified about this, since I was the one driving. Everything was opposite, roundabouts, miles, strange versions of automatic vehicles, no shoulders, rain- It was quite the experience! No, no, I’m making it sound much worse than it was. I think I did alright. On one or two turns I pulled into the wrong lane, but Orla quickly said something, and the roads were never busy.  Since we’d already been in the UK for two weeks, I’d been making a point to carefully watch which ways cars were driving. But by this time I was actually starting to confuse what I knew with what I’d gotten used to! It was a very odd feeling.

The car:

Anyway! The first day with the car we drove inland to the Marble Arch Caves. It was a good two hours, but I got to see a lot of the countryside, which was nice. And the caves were so neat! There was supposed to be a bit on a boat, but there had been so much rain that the water levels in the caves were too high, so we didn’t get to do that. It was still pretty cool though!

On the second day we drove a coastal road up to the North, which was incredible. We visited Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Giant’s Causeway, and thankfully the weather held out for both.  We were both getting quite nervous coming up to the rope bridge because it was very windy. But, the bridge was sturdy and not as long as we had expected (yes, yes, TWSS).

We were both very excited after making it across!

On the island the bridge crossed to:

Giant’s Causeway was amazing! It’s a rock formation on the north coast of Northern Ireland. It was so beautiful, and I’d never seen anything like it:

Continued in Part Two…

This One Time We Went To Scotland And Didn’t Meet Any Scottish People…

Okay, that’s not completely true. I think we met one, possibly two Scottish people. One was a tour guide who I’m not entirely sure was actually Scottish since was acting in character. But, anyway!

We just spent 4 awesome days in Edinburgh. We mostly wandered, seeing the sights, and in the evenings went to shows at the Fringe Festival. It was great. We saw two comedians, One Man Lord of the Rings, and an insane show put on by some drama students from Cambridge called When In Rome. We visited Edinburgh Castle and went on an underground tour. There was so much going on with the Fringe, it was almost overwhelming! Thousands of shows, street performances, and people everywhere. It was a great atmosphere. You could really spend weeks there during the festival and still not have seen nearly everything. We stayed at someone’s home, through Festival Beds, which was good. We were a little out of the way, but still walking distance which was great. Staying anywhere right in the city centre would be insane, price wise, this time of year. So, we were happy enough to walk!

The weather was lovely. We had rain a couple times, but overall it was great!

We’re in Belfast now. We’ll be spending the next few days exploring around Northern Ireland. I’m so excited! This is the first leg of the trip that’s new to me. Well, I did new things in London Edinburgh, but had been there before. Belfast is completely new! I’m looking forward to Giant’s Causeway and just driving around the coast.

Today we’re just taking it easy. We’re going to go to a local market and wander around some shops. I need sneakers from hiking tomorrow.

Better go get ready now though! Talk soon 🙂

~Spencer

And we’re off!

Ello, ello!

It’s our last few hours in London. So sad! But, we’ve had a fantastic time. We were able to fit in much more stuff than I was expecting, which is great. If anyone is visiting London I highly recommend The London Pass. It was so handy, and saved us a ton of money. Win, win!

On Monday we visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, Downing Street, Churchill’s War Rooms, Harrods, Westminster Abbey, and Parliament.

(If you click the photos you can see larger ones)

St. Paul’s Cathedral: We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but it was gorgeous!

10 Downing Street: Orla’s unimpressed with David Cameron face

Inside Churchill’s War Rooms:

Westminster Abbey

Parliament

Shopping at Harrods

And, finally, the highlight of my day: Banoffee Pie! (Kidding, kind of. I’ve been waiting 5 years for this!)

I haven’t uploaded pictures from yesterday yet, but there isn’t much to see (didn’t take many pictures), so, no worries. We visited the British Museum (saw the Rosetta Stone, and some original columns and plaques from the Parthenon), the National Gallery (Renior, Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Picasso, general awesomeness!), I had more banoffee pie, and then we went to A Conversation with Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish BFI centre, which was great. Edgar Wright is a director (Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and most recently, Scott Pilgram). The show was so funny. I’m really glad we went.

We leave in few hours for Edinburgh. The weather is gorgeous in London, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we have the same luck up there! It’s the Edinburgh International Festival, so there’s a lot happening in the city right now. Should be exciting! Maybe we’ll spot some celebrities. I think Angelina Jolie drove by us the other night as we were eating dinner. We were a few blocks away from the Salt premiere, and a car drove by with papparazzi chasing after it.

Anyway, I should get packing. My things are a mess at the moment.

We won’t have Internet, I don’t think, until Sunday. So, talk to you then!

~Spencer

London, Part 2

It has been a busy couple of days here in London! I’m pretty exhausted and I probably won’t be too detailed in this post. But, I have pictures!

Saturday, August 14th

We started the day out by walk to Trafalger Square, visiting an info centre there, and grabbing some breakfast:

We then took the tube up to Nothing Hill to visit the Portobello Market:

We then took the tube to Earl’s Court to visit one of the city’s few remaining Police Public Call Box’s (Because we’re enormous Doctor Who nerds. Don’t judge!):

After that we got on the tube again and went to Picadilly Circle and wandered around. We then strolled over to Buckingham Palace:

After that we wandered around some shops, got some dinner, and walked along the Thames at night:

Sunday, August 15th

This morning we walked to the Globe Theatre and took a tour:

After that we walked to the London Bridge to go through the London Bridge Experience and Tombs. It was terrifying! I didn’t get any pictures since they weren’t allowed.

We then walked down to Tower Bridge:

Followed by Tower of London:

And finally a 2.5 hour cruise down the River Thames. I took too many pictures and can not decide what to post! I did get a picture of the 500 year old pub where we had dinner:

We have another busy day tomorrow, so I really need to get to sleep. I’m so tired! But feeling great.

Hope everyone is doing well!

~Spencer