Day Trip: Guimarães, Portugal

This gallery contains 31 photos.

Before coming to Portugal, I knew little about the country. I knew it was beside Spain, that the language was Portuguese and that the capital was Lisbon. So, imagine my surprise when I arrived in Portugal to discover that it … Continue reading

Roaming charges

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Do you see in the sidebar to the right where it says ‘cry’? Well this is one of those moments.
Well, it’s more a crying on the inside moment because there is little I can do about it right now.
I wrote a post before I left about using your iPhone abroad.
The good news: the tips and advice I have are still good!
The bad news: I didn’t follow my own advice for a mere 15 minutes while in Paris.
It was September 14. I arrived in Paris and I had no hostel booked, was overwhelmed by the large city, and had been turned away from a hostel I hoped to just show up at. I was alone and I was sad.
I called my best-friend.
And no, that wasn’t the expensive part of this ordeal. A 25 minute conversation cost me only $50! Not bad!
But, I was still lost, and in this state of panic I foolishly turned on my data to check my google maps.
Honestly, it was on for no more than 15 minutes!
But alas, two days ago I got a wonderful bill from Rogers for over $700! And, nearly $600 of that is just in data roaming.
One day. One fifteen minute period of panic. One moment of panic that has cost me dearly.
Is Rogers to blame? Right now I want to call them and say some very choice words. But, I was warned.
What are your thoughts? I don’t think I should have to pay $700 to Rogers considering I’ve been a loyal customer for over 10 years. Think they’ll take 50% off for me to ease the blow?
This is definitely one of those kicking-myself-in-the-ass moments.

Food in Seville and Cadiz, Spain

Hola!
I have a few good posts coming in the next few days about Granada, including a trip to a vegetarian restaurant! Yay! But, due to a lack of power sources, and Internet connection, it’s going to take a while to get it all online. With 11% remaining on my battery I’m hoping I can quivkly write about tge food I had while I was in Seville and Cadiz.
I was sick of tapas by the time I got to Seville. Usually deep-fried or consisting of cheese, vegetarian or seafood based tapas left a lot to be desired. Having a week in Seville, I decided to utilize the kitchen at the hostel and make some of my own meals and also go exploring for some not-so-Spanish cuisine.
Vegan in Seville is a post I wrote about a vegan bakery in Seville! This adorable place also had a menu (which I regretfully did not try).
Sandwiches
I wrote a post about some good ideas for meals to cook while abroad. For solo meals, sandwiches were the easiest and also the most inexpensive; 6 euros worth of ingredients was enough for 4 sandwiches at least.

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If you head to larger supermarkets, hummus is pretty easy to find. Also, roasted red peppers are inexpensive and will last you a week. Add a side of fresh fruit or mixed nuts and you’re good to go!

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Lucky me, the Festival if Nations was happening during my time in Seville, so I was able to enjoy some Indian food as well as some Thai food! I had a pakora from India which was delicious, while my Thai dish was bland.

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Then, in Cadiz, I stopped at a restaurant beside the beach. I’m not too sure of the name (sorry!) but the food was pretty good, and I only spent 7 euros on a salmon salad, a tostada and a bottle of water!

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But my favourite find in Seville (after the vegan bakery) was Rayas.

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GELATO! And it was only a 2 minute walk from the hostel! Thankfully I found this my last night, otherwise I would’ve eaten here every night! It was delicious! Seriously, give it a try!

Eating Abroad

Hola!
So, as much as I would like to tell you that I’ve been out exploring Seville, taking awesome pictures and eating delicious food, the truth is, I’ve been doing the opposite.
1. I’m sick. And no, not because of crazy partying (I wish), I think it’s because I’ve been going almost non-stop for 3 weeks. It’s tiring and I haven’t been eating really well…
2. I cannot stress enough how important it is to buy groceries! It’s way less expensive and, just like at home, food at a restaurant isn’t good for you!
3. It’s raining today! I can’t complain since it’s the first cloudy day I’ve seen in 3 weeks.
So, today I’ve been lounging around the hostel. The Garden Backpacker hostel is amazing! I can’t wait to write about it later–rooftop terrace, private court-yard, a bar, free sangria and a massive living room area with a flat-screen. So, staying in the hostel all day wasn’t actually too bad. Read my book (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry–so good!) and socialized.
Anyways, what this post is really about is FOOD!
When I first arrived in Spain, I was so excited for tapas! Yummy tostadas with cheese and fruit and veggies and calamari…sounds delicious, eh?
Confession: I am unimpressed with the food here. And yes, I realize I don’t eat ‘jamon’, so my opinion is tainted, but seriously I’m over it!

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Above: this was my favourite tapas: Goats cheese with caramelized onion on a tostada — it was really yummy, but just like anything this rich, it’s not something I could eat everyday.
So yes, being a vegetarian, or vegan, in Spain would be difficult!
My second favourite item:

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Churro’s with hot chocolate. I literally thought I had gone to heaven. So delicious!
But, other than that, I’ve been spending a ridiculous amount of money on bland food. So, to the grocery store I go!
But wait, what do I make?
Sandwiches are always a good place to start.
Hostels will sometimes have mayonnaise, mustard or other dressings available, which is awesome! If you’re a meat-eater, sliced ham/chorizo/jamon is readily available and cheap! Canned fish is also inexpensive. Then grab some veggies and some avocado. Simple, and you can feed yourself sandwiches for 3/4 days for under 12 euro!
Pasta is also a good option. Simply throw in some fresh veggies and a sauce of your choice and voila! I’ve seen people making simple tomato sauce pasta (canned sauce) or a simple olive oil/salt and pepper dressing.
Soup. Making soup from scratch won’t be worth it, but you can always purchase canned/boxed soups for under 1 or 2 euro. It’s not a super healthy option, but it’s filling and quick!
Salads are a bit more tricky. Only because making an elaborate salad that tastes yummy takes time and effort. But, if you have the patience, salad is always a good choice!
Fresh fruit is a quick and healthy snack, and way better for you then a chocolate bar when you’re on the run. I’ve been putting an apple or a nectarine in my bag to stop myself from spending 5 euro on a croissant for a sugar fix.
Yogurt is an awesome choice for a snack or for breakfast (especially if not provided by your hostel).
Some issues I’ve had are reading the labels. I’ve been relying heavily on pictures on the box/can to help me out. Also, some ‘common’ items I find at home aren’t as readily available here, especially for vegetarians.
– Tofu I still haven’t stumbled upon
– Quinoa is something I eat all of the time back home, but cannot find here!

So my advice: immediately find your closest market and stock up on fresh veg/easy meals. If you’re in town for an extended time (more than 4 days), look up a place to buy tofu etc. and go get some!
Stay-tuned for a post about my adventures in Seville and then in Lisbon to find tofu (I wish they had daiya here). Also, I’ve heard rumors of a vegan bakery which I may bike to tomorrow.
Anyways, just wanted to update you with my food struggles. I love food, and I miss GOOD, TASTY, HEALTHY meals. Anyone been to Seville that can help me? Or any advice for when I go to Lisbon and Barcelona?

Where to next?

Hola!

I am in love with Madrid!

Yesterday, I went with a friend while he looked for a “flat” (apartment for all you Canadians), and I got so excited thinking about looking for a place when I move back to Ontario! The woman who showed us the flats was, how should I put this, crazy! Seriously! I may not have understood 99% of what she said, but even I could tell she was loco.

Anyways, just an update to say hello! I am safe, and starting to get the hang of this traveling thing. I bought groceries as well! I bought enough for the next few days and it only cost me 12 Euros! One meal usually costs me that much! So, note to self: buy groceries!

Today I am going to decide where my next destination will be. Any suggestions? I was thinking Porto, Portugal.

Cheese, bread and wine in Paris, France

Oh hey there!
I am so sorry I’ve been MIA! I only have my phone as a way to write my posts and post my photos…and sometimes the Internet isn’t very reliable!
Wow…I don’t even know where to begin! Instead of starting from the beginning, I’ll write about my night in Paris, since it’s still fresh in my mind.

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I travelled to the Eiffel Tower solo my first full-day in Paris. It’s big. Really big.
And it’s crowded. Very crowded. I have a hard time appreciating a place when it’s crawling with people. But, amazing none the less.

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Then I got lost. Well, not literally. I knew what tram station my hostel was at so if I really did get lost I could just go to any tram station (they’re everywhere) and head back.

I stumbled on an outdoor market on Rue Cler. There was fresh produce, fresh croissants, buskers, cafes over-flowing with people and tents with antiques and furniture and random trinkets.

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It was an awesome discovery! I wanted to go to Luxembourg park, but somehow I kept getting turned around and ended up walking in the wrong direction, north instead of south, and ended up on the Seine!

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There was a fence with ‘Locks of Love’ (I don’t know what it’s actually called), but it was the perfect photo opportunity, and I’m certain I’ve seen photos of it before. Then I walked across to The Islands and explored the boardwalks along the Seine.

I had been walking for 3 or so hours by this point, and as if someone heard my prayer I stumbled on Luxembourg!

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It was so gorgeous! There were people sitting on chairs all around the gardens, and I did the same. I had my book with me so I put my feet up and read in the sun for an hour. Ah, now it feels like a vacation!
Around 5 I headed back to my hostel (20 minute walk), and then I met my roomies: 2 very friendly Brazilian women! Immediately they invited me out with their friends and that’s what this post is really about.
When you go to Paris (because you will go), don’t waste your money in a crowded cafe. Around 7 head to the Eiffel tower with friends and bring fresh baguettes, French artisan cheeses, a few bottles of wine (don’t forget the cork-screw!) and sit on the grass and just enjoy the tower at night. They also do a 5 minute light-show at 9pm! There were tons of people doing the same thing as us, and it was exactly how I imagined Paris would be. And, since wine only costs 4 euro a bottle (a good bottle, you can get a bottle for as low as 2 euro!), and cheese and bread are also inexpensive, you get an authentic Paris experience without spending crazy amounts of money!

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I promise I’ll write more posts about Ireland (Guinness and skinny-dipping) and Morlaix, France once I’m settled in Madrid! Next stop: Madrid! I met a friend, Pablo, while I was in Dublin so he is going to take me around Madrid while I’m there for a week 🙂

Eurail Pass – What a headache!

The countdown is on! Only ten days until I start my 3-month journey.

I’m not a procrastinator, but I waited longer than I should have to purchase my Eurorail Pass.

Why? Because it’s not as easy as the online-world makes it sound! Seriously, what is simple about picking a pass? Okay, I admit, if I had an itinerary in mind, I’m sure buying a pass would be simple. BUT, I am going with NO plan.

I’ve been on a few sites, including Rick Steves, for advice, but couldn’t really decide on the best course of action.

So, I headed onto the Eurail site and started comparing prices. Are you ready?

(Note: These are youth prices).

Eurail Global Pass: 10 days in 2 months – $548

Eurail Select Pass: 8 days in 2 months (3 countries) – $384

Eurail Regional Pass: 8 days in 2 months (France-Spain) – $364

Eurail One Country Pass: 8 days in 2 months (Spain) – $384

Alright. Do you see what I see? Let me break it down for you.

Why not the Global Pass?

I am going to be in Europe for a total of 3 months. A 3-month unlimited pass (not shows) is over $1000! No thank-you! I only plan on visiting 4-5 countries max, and the countries I am going to be in aren’t connected as well as Eastern Europe. Sure, if I were going to be in Eastern Europe,  a global pass may have made sense. But, Ireland I plan on traveling via bus or one-way train tickets. France I only plan on traveling through, and maybe stopping for a night or two. Portugal is also a country not that well-connected via the rail network. Global pass (for me) is out!

One Country Pass – I think not!

I think this is fairly self-explanatory: why would I pay the same for a one-country pass (same amount of days) as I would for a regional?!

Regional vs Select Pass

I wasn’t sure if I was going to travel in France. I may decide to fly instead from London to Spain (<$40), but I don’t know. But I figured for an extra $20 I’ll have peace-of-mind. That’s the same for portugal: I’ve tried looking online for tips on getting around this small country, but haven’t really stumbled on much. A friend of mine who visits there frequently told me that the bus system is the best option. But, if I decide to train into Lisbon for a few nights, nothing is stopping me. Also, what if I decide to do the Mediterranean tour in France and over to Italy? The options!

Cost: $401 (including shipping and insurance) for the regional pass.

I chose France, Spain and Portugal.

How did you decide on the amount of days?

This was a tough decision. Do I choose 7 days in 2 months or 10 days? I opted for 8 because I figure I will be spending a lot of time in certain areas. I love to stay in one place for an “extended” period of time (more than 3 days) to really soak in the culture. Honestly, it was a total guess as to how many days I might need. I’ll be kicking myself if I realize I need more.

So, for those of you looking into buying a Eurail Pass, I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s easy. It’s not! Even if you have an itinerary, spending a lump-sum like this is never easy to do, and what happens if your plans change? Do yourself a favour, and RESEARCH. I wish I would have seriously looked into this a lot sooner.

Travel Items

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About a month ago I wrote a post titled Traveling Europe: What to Buy. I compiled a few online-pictures (check out my Pinterest board) of what I thought I might need (or want) for my trip. Well, I purchased a … Continue reading

Tips for using your iPhone abroad (with pictures)

Since getting my iPhone and raving about the ability I’ll now have to talk to friends for ‘free’, tons of people have been warning me about roaming charges. So, I did some research. And, what kind of travel blogger would … Continue reading

The pre-planning to your plan!

I had a day off this week and decided that it was time to be productive. A while ago I wrote down a list of questions I had regarding insurance, car rentals and coverage along with all the phone numbers so that all I had to do was find a few minutes of free time and dial.

But of course, I am the queen of procrastination.

So, during my day off I left my house (and my computer) and headed to a local coffee shop and got to work.

First I phoned TD Insurance. I wanted to know how much it would cost for me to purchase medical insurance through them.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about managing money. I went to see a Financial Adviser at TD and he helped me put away money into my savings (TFSA) as well as gave me a crash course on the importance of RRSP and credit.

Now, because I had already saved over $5000 by this point, I was eligible for the TD Infinite Travel Visa. What does this mean?

Well, let me preface this by saying that no matter what credit card you have (and yes, you NEED one), you should call them and ask questions about coverage.

When I called them this is that they told me:

(at no extra cost, these are just the perks of having a card)

  • I have up to $1000 in trip cancellation insurance
  • Up to $5000 in trip disruption/lost baggage insurance
  • Up to $2 million in medical insurance for 15 days of my trip
  • Automatic collision/loss/damage insurance on any car rental I pay for with my Visa

Crazy right? So, after finding all of this out (5 minutes on the phone well spent), I decided to purchase my medical insurance with TD as well. The cost? $201! Not bad! That’s $2 million in medical insurance coverage for the entire duration of my trip.

Next I called Budget Car Rental. I know that while in Ireland, and possibly while in Spain/Portugal,  I’ll want to rent a vehicle for part of my trip. I read that in some countries it is mandatory to purchase insurance with your rental, so I wanted to find out if my Visa coverage would be enough in such a case.

The answer:

I’m covered with Visa! I won’t need to pay any extra for that type of insurance, anywhere! Phew! I love saving money!

Don’t forget too, whenever I purchase anything with my card I earn points which I can then use to pay for part of my trip. It’s a win-win for me!

So, my advice is do your research! Find out all the benefits you have through your credit card company, your bank and any other company you may belong to. If you’re still a student you must get an ISIC card as it will save you loads of cash! Are you an AMA or CAA member? They have tons of perks too! Call them, find out what they can offer you! It will save you money and give you piece of mind.

Random Ramble

To finish this otherwise serious post, I though I would share a few pictures with you from my time spent at Block 1912.

Do you see my friend?

I used this photo in this week’s Photo Challenge.

I really wanted to pet him. Yes, I know that’s weird, but he just looked so lonely all by himself. Perhaps he just wanted some company? Well, anyways, I was on the phone with Kim and she told me that I can’t pet a bee because chances were I would get stung. Wouldn’t that be a hilarious story?

“How did you get stung on your finger?”

“I was trying to pet a bee.”

“…”

“Yeah, maybe I should’ve come up with a better story”