Reminiscing Europe Day One

Hey everyone! So, I have been SLACKING hardcore with my other blog, Tay at Home.

I don’t really have a reason except for that I’ve been suffering from some serious post-travel blues and I am faced with “life” decisions: what next?

Don’t worry, after many mental breakdowns I am breathing again (remember, just breathe).

Anyways, I just wanted to say hello to everyone, especially to all the individuals who have stumbled upon my blog after my travels! Unfortunately I don’t have any awesome photos or new travel stories to share, but I stumbled upon my very first message I sent to my friends/family back home during my first day in Europe.

My brother saying goodbye before I got on my flight to Dublin, Ireland

My brother saying goodbye before I got on my flight to Dublin, Ireland

Here it is:

“So I took a bus from the airport to the city centre. The man driving the bus had such a strong accent that when I got off I wasn’t entirely sure if it was the right place. And, in true Taylor fashion I tripped getting off the bus (but seriously why would there by a step from the seats to the walkway!?) anywho there was free wifi on the bus so luckily I looked on the map before getting off to get a general sense of where I was. The city is old–very old, like started being built in 898 old! But, because of war a lot of the buildings aren’t original and not ‘old Europe’ looking like you would expect. People evetwhere! I’m staying in the temple bar area–the cultural centre of Ireland, and it’s a block away from trinity college university (beautiful btw, I’ll load pics when I can). Anyways, I wandered into. The templeBar area and got lost — but then wandered into a pub and asked and I was actually only 2 blocks away! By this point I was exhausted and wanted to sleep but my room wasn’t ready until 230 — it was 10:20…shit! So, the guy pointed me to a cafe where I went to buy coffee–then to a ‘free’ walking tour (still expected to tip). Glad I went–10 or so people, 2 friends Chris and Cree from Colorado –the tour was awesome, but more on that later bc my finger is getting tired from typing! Had my first guiness, which tastes 100% better here than at home. I would load pics but for some reason it won’t work. After the tour the guys and I made plans to meet for dinner then go on a pub crawl. No worries tho, Cree doesn’t drink! Never has! We’re going to see the pub/meet ppl/ listen to music–none of us want to feel hungover so yay no need to worry! tomorrow I’m going to wander–and research where my next stop might be!
Anyways, that’s all for now! I’m alive and well! Having fun these first 24 hours!”

It’s really interesting to read that now after now being home for over a month.

 

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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!

Skinny-dipping in the Irish Sea

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Intrigued?
How did I make the decision to do this? Well, I didn’t really have a choice. I have my American friends, Chris and Cree, as well as Will, to thank for this amazing memory.
Chris and Cree love adventure. I wish i had the ‘just do it’ mentality that they both have. Luckily, after a week with them, I feel like I have inherited it a little bit.
We travelled from Galway to a small town called Gorey on the bus, then walked 1.5 hours down a country road (scary!), eating wild blackberries, to Courtown. We booked a hostel that we thought was in Wexford, then realized on our way that it was actually an hour outside. What!? But, we luckily were able to get off the bus in Gorey and walk the rest of the way.
Beaches Youth Hostel is more like a bed and breakfast than a hostel. It was like a cozy cottage. We immediately walked the 5 minutes to the private beach. It was down an almost hidden sand-path, under a tunnel of bushes, and then a steep decent to the beach. It was gorgeous. The water was freezing. I had already agreed during the bus ride to go skinny dipping that night but the minute my feet were in the water I started running through excuses to not go in. The boys skipped rocks along the water and I took pictures and videos of the frolicking around.
After about 45 minutes we headed into town to grab some food from the market and then made a delicious one-pan concoction of potatoes, bell peppers, egg and cheese. The boys kindly made a vegetarian dinner so I could partake, and it was so yummy! Then we drank some strong Irish cider: it comes in 2 liter pop bottles! It was delicious. Then, as an extra blanket of warmth, we added some whiskey to the mixture.
Chris had a headlamp and we all trekked to the beah, Will leading the way, and then we striped (sorry family haha) and ran into the water!
And you know what, it wasn’t that cold. Then, we ran out, and as we were drying off we all said “again?” and ran in one more time; it was considerably colder that time.
So, when someone asks you to go skinny-dipping, don’t think about an excuse, just do it! Now I have an amazing memory and I can say: “This one time, in Ireland, I went skinny-dipping in the Irish Sea”.

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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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Packing for 3 months in Europe

So I spent the better part of the past two-days either packing or visiting. Packing isn’t difficult, it’s just draining.

When I looked down at the pile of clothes I made, it just didn’t seem like enough. I found myself thinking “Hm, well I guess I could pack one more shirt just in case…” but then the traveller inside me would scream “DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!”.

I’ve never really been known as a light packer. Don’t get me wrong, after all the cross-country moves I’ve done I’ve gotten better, but this was a challenge. I used to pack a 50 pound bag for a one-week trip to see my Dad. He would always look at me like I was crazy, and he was right: I barely touched more than half the things in my suit case.

Anyways, I’m just estimating, but I am 95% certain the bag weighs less than 25 pounds. Is that good in “backpacker-travel” standards? I don’t really know–but I can pick my bag up with one arm no-problem, so I think that’s a good sign!

What I Packed

Clothing:

  • 4 tank tops (1 “dressier”)
  • 3 T-shirts (long and short-sleeved)
  • 1 pair shorts
  • 1 summer-dress
  • 2 Merino Wool sweaters
  • 2 pairs of jeans (1 light, 1 dark)
  • 1 zip-away type pants
  • 1 pair of lu lu lemons (guilty pleasure)
  • 1 jacket
  • 1 hoodie
  • 1 “nice” sweater
  • 2 bras
  • underwear/socks (obviously!)
  • PJs (shorts and a long t-shirt)
  • 1 bathing suit

Tioletries:

  • toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Razor
  • DRY conditioner/shampoo (Lush Cosmetics)
  • Small bottle Body-wash
  • 1 bottle spray leave-in-conditioner (I NEED IT!)
  • bandaids/polysporine (I’m really clumsy)
  • Hair elastics/bobby-pins
  • Make-up  Absolutely NOT!
  • baby-wipes (in a baggy–great for washing your face)
  • Vanilla spray (I have to smell good if I’m going to make friends)
  • Deodorant
  • Lady-stuff
  • Q-tips (a few in a baggy)
  • Vitamins/meds

Other Stuff:

  • Fluff-book (Thanks Heather for the Harlequin Romance)
  • iPod/iPhone and ear-phones (and charger)
  • ear-plugs
  • Towel/blanket
  • Flip-flops (for the showers)
  • Pillow-case (recommended by Heather-It’s always a comfort knowing what your head is laying on)
  • Sandals (small, cheap ones, for going out)
  • Walking shoes (wearing on the plane)
  • Camera and charger
  • Adaptor
  • Journal/pen
  • Spork
  • Bounce dryer sheets (make my smelly-stuff smell good)
  • Lock
  • Plastic bags (put away dirty-laundry/anything wet)
  • Sandwich bags (so many uses)
  • 1 water-bottle (the deflatable kind)

The obvious essentials:

  • Passport
  • photo-copies of my documents (a couple hidden in my carry-on and my bag as well as one I left at home)
  • Eurail Pass
  • Confirmation numbers
  • Address for my hostel

I’m pretty sure that’s it. The list may seem long, but once it’s all compacted in your bag, it’s not. I put a lot of my things in small plastic-bags (sandwich bags) and then put them all in one large zip-loc bag so it’s easy to dig out every night at the hostel.

Of the above items I packed the following in my carry-on:

  • 1 pair of underwear
  • iPhone/iPod/chargers/adaptor
  • The obvious essentials
  • 1 pair of socks
  • 1 flannel blanket (not in my list of things, only because it was given to me by a very friendly west-jet employee my last flight home, so I plan on only keeping it for the flight).
  • My book

And there you have it! I think it’s a fairly good list of things, and if I arrive and go “Sh*t, I should have packed _____” or “Fack, I wish I didn’t even bother packing _____”, I’ll let you know!

P.S. I AM SO EXCITED!

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”

Fringe Fest – IN DUBLIN!

One of my FAVOURITE festivals in Edmonton is the International Fringe Theatre Fest.

This year the Edmonton festival takes place August 16 – 26 and luckily I’ll be in town to enjoy it! Last year Ashley and I went to the show “Tudor Queens: A Burlesque” and it was my first (and only) live show experience, and I LOVED IT! Since then, I’ve been waiting (impatiently) for the 2012 show line-up to be released.

But, this post isn’t about Edmonton’s Fringe Fest.

No. This is a post about a Fringe Fest in…wait for it…IRELAND!

While perusing a “20 Great Things to Do in Dublin” list I noticed that they, too, have a Fringe Fest. When is it (?) you ask — September 8 – 23 — which is exactly when I will be in Ireland!

No show times released yet, but best believe my time in Dublin has increased substantially because of this tid-bit of information.

Two Fringe Festivals in one year! I can barely contain my excitement!

Help me make a list!

I leave for Europe in 121 Days (17 weeks)!

It really isn’t that far away! It’s already mid-May and I haven’t been planning anything!

I was looking at walking trails in Ireland, and realized that I don’t own a good pair of hiking boots.

What I need:

  • Hiking boots

That’s all I have on my list so far. Oh no! During my Europe 2012 adventure I know I’ll be doing a lot of walking, so obviously good shoes are in order. What else does a girl bring? My roommate has a back-pack she used during her Europe trip a few years ago, so I don’t need to buy my own (score!), but now I am struggling with how I decide what else to bring!

HELP ME!

Have you ever traveled to Europe? What are some things you could NOT live without while travelling, and what was just a waste of space? I will compile a list of the best answers to help me pack for my own trip (and document what was useful and what wasn’t).

 

Galway Oyster Festival

While talking to my friend Michelle via Skype, I mentioned that Galway, Ireland was on my list of places to visit. Immediately she became very excited, saying “I didn’t want to tell you where to go, because it’s your journey, but Galway was my favourite place in Ireland!”

Well, I love free information. The library, the Internet, and your friends are by far the best options for free advice! Well, after our little conversation I searched for festivals in Galway, and found that I should be in the area during one of the biggest festivals in Ireland: the Galway Oyster Festival.

Perfect!

Confession: I am NOT a fan of oysters. But, I do love a good party, and local festivals are usually the best way to experience the local culture (says the girl who has done limited travelling). Also, based on the picture I found, Guinness will be on the menu, and as I’ve been told that should be enough nutrition to get me through the day.

So what else is there to do in Galway? Well, let’s not forget that “Galway Girl” is the popular song from P.S. I love you, so it seems like the perfect place to meet my own Gerard Butler 😉

Pubs, shopping, adorable Irish country-men, I can hardly wait!

In my excitement, I stumbled on “Galway City Pub Guide” and found some very interesting looking pubs that I may need to check out! I love Irish themed pubs in Canada, so I’m sure I’ll fall over when I see the real thing!

Tig Coili

I can see myself having a pint or two here!

Murphy’s Bar

Described as an "Old man's pub", and a place for conversation, I know I'll have to check this place out while I'm in Galway!

Okay, I think you can tell that I’m super excited! I can already imagine what it’s going to be like when I post pictures of myself inside of these pubs! I am going to be there! Right there, in front of that red building! Wow!