Mrs. Sparkly — Thanks Jo!

Hello!!

First, thank-you SO MUCH Jo of “restlessjo” for nominating me!! I have never been nominated for a blog award and I was SO EXCITED when I saw that you had nominated ME! I am beaming!! Thank-you!

What do I have to do? It’s simple: answer 10 questions, honestly, and then nominate other fellow bloggers!

Ready?

1. Describe yourself in seven words:

Quirky, loud & quiet, hungry, thoughtful, traveler & homebody

2. What keeps you up at night?

Too much thinking…

3. Whom do you aspire to be like?

The best version of myself

4. What scares you?

That I may never feel content.

5. What are the best and worst things about blogging?

Worst: having to muster the courage to share my blog with people I meet in the “real” world

Best: The blogging community!

6. What was the last website you looked at?

JibJab.com – My family and I spent an hour or so making videos of ourselves…

JibJab

7. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

The amount in my bank account — I would like a few more zero’s added to the end…so I could continue to travel and perhaps bring my loved ones along for the ride as well.

8. Slankets, yes or no?

Absolutely!

9. What are you wearing now?

Lululemon pants (my favourites) and a guy’s h&m hoodie!

10. Tell us something about the person who nominated you :

Jo has been following my blog during my entire Europe Trip. I enjoy reading her blog and all the amazing comments she leaves me on a regular basis 🙂 She is a restless soul, and I can definitely relate with her in this regard. What I love the most is that she is a fellow traveler…

And there you have it!

I’m asking the following bloggers to share their 10 commandments:

Lesley Carter of Bucket List Publications

Brittany of 23 and Unfunny

Ryan and Carrie of Each Week Unique

Go check-out these awesome blogs! Like Jo and I, they are restless souls, wandering the earth and sharing their discoveries with us in this amazing space we call the Blogosphere!

What I found while Traveling

When I began this blog back in March of 2012, I described what my intentions were for my blog and for my travels:

I cried. I rejoiced. I instagramed.

Did I find my way back home?

I began my solo-trip searching for an unknown question. I had no real reason for packing a bag for three months and leaving the life I had behind except that I just had an urge for change.

So what have I learned?

I learned that the traveling community really is as friendly as people say.

I learned not to go to Paris on a Friday night with no hostel booked.

I learned how to live out of a backpack.

I learned how to understand signs not-in-english.

I learned that the best way to taste the foods of a country is to buy food items in the grocery store rather than eating out.

I learned…more than I could ever put into words.

I also met a lot of truly amazing people.

Chris and Cree were my very first travel companions and we became insanely close during our time together. Although it was just a week, I can honestly say I feel like I’ve known them for years. Thanks for taking me under you wing guys! Thanks for getting me drunk and naked and into the Irish Sea.

I met Pablo my very first day in Dublin. He was so friendly, and over the course of a few days we became companions. Two weeks later we were exploring the streets of his hometown, Madrid! We ate delicious food, explored parks and took a day-trip to one of my all-time favorite destinations: Toledo, Spain. I cannot wait for you to come to Canada Pablo!

Israel, Elen, Luciana, Nilson and Allesandra, my Paris companions. A group of very welcoming Brazilian students that fed me cheese and wine under the Eiffel tower and took me out for an amazing night in Paris.

Vicky, Heather and Hannah: You three were sitting on the terrace drinking some wine the Aussie boys had left you. I introduced myself and quickly we became friends. Heather, I will never forget that special bonding moment when you walked into the wall. I don’t know if I have ever laughed so hard at someone I barely knew. Vicky, you crazy traveling sole; keep me posted on your next travel weekend, preferably not over the holidays though. You are such an inspiration to me (date in another country=my idol).

Claudia, Ana, Rita and Tania! Four of the most amazing women! They immediately made me feel welcome and we spent the evening exploring Madrid and dancing until 3 am (early for them, late for me!). I saw them again when I visited Lisbon! A special thanks to Rita, Ana and Claudia for showing me their favourite sites in Lisbon, which I now refer to as my favourite spots as well. You are all so wonderful, and I cannot wait to come back for a visit!

Emma, Inez and Hope! One word: Hooked! Dread-lock (singular), french boys, Yeti, and “from the womb” all come to mind when I think of you. Also, I will never forget exploring the markets and Hope peeling and eating an Avocado. Cannot wait to see you girlies again! Our time together was too short.

Adam. Wow, another friendship that was forged in a very short period of time. Metrosol Parasol, Seville Cathedral, crazy-baby-church (Sherry! haha), and the orange couch will forever be memories I share with you. Not to mention our regular facebook conversations! Thanks for talking to the sad looking girl on the couch! Also, thanks for your encouraging words about my blog. Heck, thanks for just being you! I’ll see you soon I have no doubt 🙂

Sherry. Dude: Ink Sister for life. Crazy skydiver. Infectious laugh. Shez. T-Bag. Mirador look-outs. Mexican Tequila. Almost being stoned to death. G-Spot. Lisbon love. Trekking to the supermarket and back with huge amounts of water. Pancake breakfast. Spoonfuls of Nutella. Chapito restaurant. Seriously, this list could go on-and-on. Definitely friends for life! Love you and miss you very much!

G-Spot Crew:

Nick for being so very friendly!

Harry for sharing a day of picture taking and introducing me to my favourite place in Lisbon: The Park of Nations. Also, for the awesome conversations and dream-sharing.

Natalie for your smile, your dance (love that dance!), your kindness and most of all for the amazing memories we share from our road-trip to Lagos.

Julez for being your crazy self! That innocent smile had me fooled…for a while!

Alan: cuddles on the disgusting G-Spot couch, road-trip adventures, new friends in Barcelona and your crazy aussie accent which I sometimes just could not understand!

Jochen! It started with a trip to Sintra and ended with a halloween party! Thank-you for being an amazing friend, creating beautiful memories and just being an overall awesome individual!

T-bag: if you read this: I’M SO EXCITED! haha, seriously though Dude, you’re awesome! Don’t ever change, and I’ll be seeing you!

Cameron and Rosie! Thanks for be-friending the sad loner at The Madhouse haha! Seriously though it was awesome meeting you two! I could definitely see myself being friends with both of you at home…so what are you waiting for!? Move on over to Canada! Haha keep being awesome!

Justin from Texas: Although a brief meeting it was a good couple hours of pleasant conversation. Cannot wait to read about your adventures!

To all of the other countless people I met along the way, if there’s not a blurb please don’t be upset! Every person I met along the way influenced me in different ways, and my trip wouldn’t have been as amazing as it was without you.

So with all of that being said, the question is: Did I find my way back home?

At the moment I have no intention of leaving. These past three months have been so much more than I would have imagined, but I am tired and ready to relax. Before embarking on this journey I moved back to Ontario, so for me there is still a big adventure ahead! A new job, a new place and a new life await! But of course, the curse of travel is that I know the urge will come again when I’ll want to get on a plane and go exploring. Until then, I’m happy to be home.

The question is: is the blog Tay in Europe at an end?

Related Articles:

The Curse of the Traveler (excerpt below)

Painfully true…

Thought Catolog: I Don’t Know What I’m Looking For & What a Life of Travel Does To You

Adventures in Lisboa with the Gspot Family

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Hello friends and family!! Remember how I said I loved Lisbon? Well, it’s official, I think Lisbon, Portugal and I are meant to be together. It’s head-over-heals infatuation! We tried to head to Peniche for the surf competition a few … Continue reading

How to make friends while abroad: The art of stalking

Hola!
It’s been 3 weeks since I started my journey in Europe.
Three weeks since I got on a plane to Dublin.
Three weeks since I said goodbye to everyone and everything I knew.
Three weeks since I started my bravest adventure to date.
When I told people I was traveling to Europe for three months, the first question was always ‘with who?’
‘No one,’ I would say and immediately their eyes would widen and they would say ‘you’re brave!’
Sure, I have spent a fair amount of time alone in a foreign country. Sometimes I have to stay in a hotel so meeting people is close to impossible, and no, I’m not brave in those moments. In those moments I am a pathetic, sobbing mess who calls her mom.
But, the majority of my trip I haven’t been alone. As all travelers will tell you: you will make friends!
I’ll admit, thanks to some awesome grandfatherly advice, I’ve always been pretty good at making friends. And no, it’s not because I have some really cool attribute; it’s quite the opposite actually: I am awkward and love to tell my most embarrassing moments to people as a way to break the ice.
But, not everyone is ‘brave’ enough to approach a stranger and propose friendship. And, to be fair, sometimes you just don’t know how to say ‘can we be friends’ without sounding like a crazy person.
But, after awkwardly approaching a group of women on the terrace a couple nights ago and saying ‘oh hey, can I sit here?’ and sitting with them without waiting for a response, I realized that everyone secretly wants to talk to each other while traveling.
So, I did some ‘research’ and talked with my new friends about how they have made travel companions in the past.
How to make friends while abroad
1. Say hello. It really is that simple. Of course, don’t say hello to someone as they’re about to use the toilet; pick the proper moment. The common area in a hostel is ideal, or if you happen to be in the room at the same time, a polite smile and hello can go a long way. It’s not a guarantee, but using the simple hello method at a hostel has worked for me 95% of the time, thwarted only because of a language barrier.
2. Go on a free walking tour. They have these in the majority of major European cities now. It’s perfect because the crowd is generally young (18-26) and they usually offer tickets to a pub crawl that night. I’m not saying that you have to drink to make friends, but bonding while drinking a pint is always easy. You already have something in common: booze!
3. Stalking. Okay, wait, I don’t mean follow someone around while dressed in a black-trench-coat. No, this trick I learned from a frequent traveler (one who I will not name), and her story seemed to resonate with everyone. It goes like this: you’ve arrived at a hostel, are feeling lonely, and 4 hours have passed since you’ve interacted with anyone. You’ve missed the free tour for the day, and the girl you approached in the kitchen didn’t speak a word of English. Damn. You’re lying in your bed, feeling pretty defeated, and thinking of what type of fun you can have alone on a Friday night in Madrid. Then, you hear it. It’s barely audible, but your ears are sure: it’s English. ‘Hey, where can I buy some beer to drink on the terrace?’. This is your moment. You can either remain lying on your uncomfortable bunk-bed or run out there and say hello. But wait, you can’t just sprint out to the reception and blurt hello. No, you’re a normal person who follows acceptable social norms. Okay, solution: walk out to the reception (casually) and ask the reception ‘hey, I was wondering where I may be able to find some beer?’. Now, assuming the English guy standing next to you also follows basic social-norms he should invite you along.
‘We’re looking for the same thing’ he says with a smile. Damn, no invite. Okay, be brave: ‘no way! Is it cool if I tag along with you to grab some?’
‘Sure!’
Bam! This guy thinks it’s all his idea to have you tag along with him and his hot Australian buddies, but you can give yourself an internal high-five for manipulating the situation to your advantage!
And yes, this is a true story.
4. When all else fails, just remind yourself that you’re in Europe. Spending a night alone isn’t a great option every night, but heading to a cafe or a pub solo and grabbing a drink in Europe is a cool story, with or without people. You will remember it fondly and say to people: ‘this one night, while alone in Europe…’ and no matter what you did, it already sounds awesome.

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The best part about friends abroad is learning about their culture, a few words in their native language and you may increase the amount of Facebook friends you have. And, if you really hit-it-off you may get yourself an invite to their home. So, even after your adventure you have the opportunity to visit France, Portugal, Brazil, Italy, Spain, the UK and maybe Australia. You may even host someone yourself.
So, what are you waiting for!? Go say hello!

Cliffs of Moher — best with friends

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Oh hey there! I am currently in Spain, but since my last few days here in Madrid have been spent reading in the park there isn’t much to report on. So, I’ll back-track and tell you about the Cliffs of Moher!
I had planned on staying in Ireland for 3 weeks, but after meeting my American companions my plans quickly changed. It’s one of the benefits of not having plans: being able to stay with the people you’ve met for a longer period of time.
By now I’ve realized that the memories I have of each destination are shaped by the people I’m with. For example, Morlaix, France, while stunning, was hard to enjoy because I was alone. With friends taking pictures whilst jumping in the air or doing silly poses is the highlight of each destination for me (I’m not overly interested in history).
So, at the Cliffs, although not necessarily the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, some of my most favourite memories happened during our trip there.

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Above: Morlaix, France
So, let me start by saying that we had the best tour guide ever! His name: Desmond. King Desmond. Before we got to the bus, I said to my friends that I hoped we had an ‘adorable Irish man’ as our tour-guide; King Desmond fit the bill perfectly!

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Above: King Desmond and I
The tour was all-day, and included stops at old churches, cemeteries and burial grounds at The Burren called dolmans.
Unfortunately I have no photos of these ancient burial grounds on my phone to share with you…oops!
We were lucky to have a clear, sunny afternoon on the cliffs. Made for great pictures and a better view of the entire area and the islands in the distance.

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And no, there are truly no fences/barriers for some of the trails on the cliff. So, watch your step!
So, if you’re ever in Ireland, do the touristy thing and visit the cliffs. It’s worth it!

Day One: Dublin and Making Friends

Now what?
That’s the thought that went through my mind when I grabbed my pack from the conveyer belt.
Now what? Okay, first, make my way to the hostel. What’s it called again? Barnacles Temple Bar Hostel. But how do I get there? Then I saw it: Tourist Information. Yes! I’m a tourist!
Side note: no one likes to look like a tourist. I’ve travelled a lot around Canada on my own, taking buses and trains, and I always make a point of looking as though I know what I’m doing. Well, as a solo traveler my ego has had to take a backseat. And you know what, it’s way less exhausting if you just admit to yourself that you need help.
Besides, I’m a 5’3″ woman with a backpack I could probably fit into strapped on my back: I may as well have had a sign saying “I’m a tourist” around my neck. So, my point is: you will look ridiculous. Be okay with it!
‘Hi, how do I get to Temple Bar?’
Answer: take the bus to Trinity College, which is beside temple bar”.
Okay! Luckily there was free wifi on the bus (ticket was 7 euros), so I looked on google map right before I got off and took a screen capture of the route from our current spot to where my hostel was.
So, off I got and started in the direction of temple bar. Despite my map, I got ‘lost’ so I went into a pub and guess what: I was right next to my hostel! Thank goodness because I was tired!
Well, of course, check in isn’t until 230pm! It was 1030am! Luckily, the very kind reception dude (yeah, he’s a dude), locked away my bag for the day, pointed me in the direction of a cafe and told me to go on the free walking tour at 11.
Up to this point I was feeling very excited. My mind was in over-drive. As I sat down to drink my coffee I felt myself becoming overwhelmed: I was in Ireland! Friquen Ireland! I had dreamed of this since I booked my ticket in March!
Now what?
Well, I put my ego on the back-shelf and headed to the free walking tour. My goal: meet people!
Everyone was waiting in Mercantile’s pub–free coffee (go figure) and cookies. There was a free spot across from 2 guys who I immediately thought looked friendly. But how do you start a convo? I stood there very awkwardly, fumbling with my small bag, unsure of how to start a conversation.
I wish I could tell you that I said something clever, but that’s not my style.
“Hi” — Yepp, just “Hi”. An awkward smile spread across my face. I’m pretty sure they said hey back, our first conversation hasn’t really stuck with me.
Now, I’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to introductions among travelers: country and trip plans. I found out they were from Colorado and that they had just arrived as well. One month together and then one was going home and the other was heading to meet his gf in Thailand. Well, I think they told me all of that immediately–maybe not the Thailand part. Regardless, the point is that no names were exchanged.
The walking tour started and our very friendly tour guide, Jesse, showed us the Dublin Castle (not really a castle like you would imagine), a garden, the stairs to hell, and a few other important buildings. If you’re a history buff you would love Ireland. Very rich history. And, awesome stories of Vikings, civil war and kings and cheating wives. Yeah–pretty awesome!
Mid-way through we were able to stop for a quick pint of Guinness.

Do you enjoy Guinness? I don’t like it in Canada. Well, I sat with my two new acquaintances and one got up to buy the first round of Guinness. Yeah, my first Guinness in Ireland was free! Awesome! I found out that his name was Cree (awesome name, eh?) and the other was Chris. Cree doesn’t drink, but he kindly bought our drinks and Chris and I cheered. Woot to being in Ireland!

Verdict: Guinness is delicious! It also has some nutritional value! It really is a meal. It was smooth, not too bitter, a slight coffee taste. Yummy! Also, Guinness is actually crimson red, not black. Seriously!
In that moment I felt so elated: I was in Ireland, drinking Guinness with two people who I had just met. Awesome!
The rest of the tour was more history and touring the Liffey. We ended in Trinity College — beautiful campus by the way! — and then the boys and I decided to get together for dinner and the pub crawl that night. We chose a meeting spot and a time and separated.
It was 230 by the time I got back to the hostel and I grabbed my things and went to have a lie-down. And of course, I met someone else! Pablo, from Madrid, was staying in the lower bunk next to mine. He was very friendly, and I asked him to come to the pub crawl that night and we both went to reception and bought tickets. He went to meet a friend for dinner and I went to the meeting spot to meet the guys.
I wish I could say I had some Fish n’ Chips for dinner but we went to a Gourmet Burger Kitchen and I had one of the best, and largest, veggie burgers of my life. We all got to know each other a bit better and it was in this moment that I realized I may have made some friends. If you know me, you know I love making friends!
We met for the pub crawl, got a free glass (not pint) of Guinness and met Pablo there. Then we saw a table of other pub crawlers and invited them to sit with us. Imogen and Kristin from Australia. It was an amazing group of people and we all stuck together all night. We never left anyone behind, always looking out for each other.
Each pub had live music, and it seems that although not many men look like Gerard Butler, they sound just as good (and yes I know it isn’t really him singing).
We had about 45 minutes at each pub where we got a shot at entry (usually a slippery nipple) and then we sat and clapped and sang along to the music.
Have you ever been to an Irish Pub in Ottawa? Well, it really is exactly like that. It’s such a friendly atmosphere. I didn’t drink anything beyond the shots and one Guinness that night-I just enjoyed the music and company.
The last stop was a club. And, lucky us, they were having a paint party.
A what?
You get paint sprayed at you. Awesome, eh?
Well, thank goodness for my new American friends, as they have been the ones saying YES to every experience. I’ve learned from them. No, I didn’t want to be covered in paint. No, I didn’t really want to dance in a club. But, why wouldn’t I?
We bought paint suits for 2 euros and made our way to the front where I got trampled, pushed, pulled and covered in paint. And you know what–it was awesome!
By the end the paint had soaked through the suit to my clothing and I had paint in my mouth, ears and eyes. We left at 230, wet and freezing, and went back to our respective hostels. I had a shower when I got back and the entire shower was pink! My clothes, after the first night, were filthy.
It was amazing.
And guess what? All of this happened in less than 24 hours of arriving.
Stay tuned for Day 2 and 3!

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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 🙂

Fringe and Instamoments

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The International Fringe Festival is in town! I went to a few productions last year, and LOVED it! Unfortunately, not too many of my friends are “fringers”, and Ashley (my fellow fringer) is out of town. So, I haven’t been … Continue reading