Post-travel Blues

If you’ve been reading my other blog, Tay at Home you would know that I have been suffering from the post-travel blues.

While training from Ottawa to Toronto this afternoon, I decided to spend my time reading some of my favourite travel blogs. I just happened to stumble upon a few good stories/articles about my little predicament.

So, in case you are also suffering from the same feeling, take a read!

This Lonely Planet article was especially awesome.

Also, this post had me nodding in agreement.

For all the non-travelers out there: Yes, we know our life is awesome. Yes, we know that we’re lucky. But, for those of us who come home after an extended trip, we know the difficulties associated with that. It’s all the same…but different.

Day Trip: GuimarĂ£es, 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

Hola Lisbon, Portugal

This gallery contains 16 photos.

First impression of Lisbon (Lisboa): just another big city. BUT, after less than 24 hours in the city I realized that Lisbon is described as one of the best cities in Europe for several reasons. My hope is that by … 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!

Cadiz, Spain

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I’ve been in Seville now for a week, and the longer I stay the less I want to leave. You can see the sites within 3 days, but there is so much more in Seville to experience. Because of the amount of expats living in the city there is a feeling of ‘home’ here, even as a traveler just passing through.
I decided to explore Cadiz, a port city 1 hour 45 SW from Seville.
You can take the bus from Prado de San Sebastian every-other-hour. There was a 9am that I missed so I went at 11am instead.
It was a direct bus, and a costly 21 euros round trip. The bus does drop you off right at the edge of the old-Cadiz centre though.
Cadiz is the oldest, continuously inhabited, city in Europe! It is also home to the most Western tip in Spain. Christopher Columbus began his journey to the New World from the port in Cadiz. History is very rich in this small city, so history buffs should definitely take a day-trip. For that, I recommend spending the additional 18 euros for a tour–they will be able to tell you the history I am now researching myself on Wiki.
But, the scenery is beautiful. Some of the most blue ocean I’ve ever seen is just off the NW.

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I spent the afternoon wandering close to the ocean, taking pictures and just taking in the beauty. They’ve spent a lot of money on ensuring the paths are clean, the gardens neat and the parks maintained.
I saw a fountain and a ‘cave’ where you could go behind a waterfall. You’ll never guess what I found…

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Do you see it?? I was so excited!

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A dino! I could barely believe my eyes! When I went to investigate I realized I was in a children’s playground. Or, a playground specifically made for me! I’m thinking the later.

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I went to the famous Cadiz Cathedral, with it’s yellow top. I didn’t go in, however, I’m becoming tired of churches.

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As you can see, Cadiz offered some amazing scenery. However, if you are going to other coastal towns, and are not overly interested in history, skip Cadiz. I am glad I went, but I wouldn’t go again, nor suggest it to anyone. I was there for 6 hours, and I could have seen it in 3. It’s not very large, only 3 or 4 blocks from one ocean view to the other. Been to Cadiz? Do you have a different opinion? Has anyone been to Lagos? I’m thinking of going there after Granada.

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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?

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!