365 Embarrassing Moments – #40

Two things:
1) You may not know this, but I initially started blogging a few years ago and one blog which I stuck with for just about 6 months was 365 Embarrassing Moments.
2) I am awkward, clumsy and sometimes too ‘gorgeous’ for my own good (gorgeous being the term my mother uses in sarcasm when she hears one of my ridiculous stories).

So now that I’ve revealed this ‘secret’ of mine, I have another embarrassing moment to share. For other moments check out the link above; my favourite is the sunglasses story.

Embarrassing Moment #40 – How do I get in?
It was another Kool-aide induced evening, but this time I was in Lisbon. Yes, it seems as though despite changing countries — continents even — I still manage to get myself into awkward situations.
Side-note: I only had a few drinks this particular night. Honestly, this moment was due to pure un-observation on my part.
We arrived as a group to the night club Bali in Barrio Alto. It wasn’t very busy, but our pub crawl had an obligation to make an appearance. We all stood outside until I decided to take initiative and walk in.
Up the steps I walked and…
BANG!
Yepp, that’s a glass window. I walked, forehead first, into a glass window. What’s on the other side of this window? Oh, just ALL of the people in the club. I’m sure I’m not the only person to do this, but oh wow was I embarrassed. Even more embarrassing was the eruption of laughter and tears that followed and only then did I realize that none of my companions saw it happen! And yes, that’s worse. It was a ‘trip over your own feet in the street’ moment, and it would have been less traumatizing if someone would have been laughing with me instead of at me.
Go ahead, laugh at my expense.

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!

Hola, I’m in Madrid!

Hola! Como estas?

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I arrived in Madrid Monday night after a very long day of traveling. And honestly, I was smelling pretty horrible. I was in need of a shower, and I really needed to do laundry. I feel horrible for those who had to sit next to me on the trains.
I’m staying at the Barbieri Sol Hostel, only a one minute walk to the main square of Puerta del Sol.
Since I am already a master of the Metro system in Paris, taking the Metro from the train station to Sol was painless. And although it was 10 at night, the square was full of people and the restaurants were full. I am not used to such late festivities on a Monday night, and I wondered if perhaps it were a holiday?
The answer: no, it was merely a Monday night in Madrid.
I have learned a lot about the culture of Madrid in the past few days.
For instance, the history of their city is quite colorful. Kings, civil war, in-breeding and drinking were all high-lights of the free walking tour, as well as an explanation of execution techniques.

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Also, the oldest restaurant in the world is located in Madrid, as well as the largest palace in Western Europe (yes, even bigger than Versailles!).
What I really want to tell you about is the food! Yummy! Tapas!
Confession: I was very confused by ‘tapas’. I had heard of it, but the customs behind it were foreign to me. In Madrid, tapas are not ‘free’ as I had expected. I was told that in cities like Salamanca and Granada, tapas are served free as they were in the old days. Here in Madrid when you order a drink you may get a plate of olives or cheese at no cost, but most places when you order ‘Calamares’ for example you must pay extra.
Sorry, let me explain.
Tapas are a customary ‘snack’ in Spain. I’ve heard two versions about their history:
1. When a king some years ago was at a restaurant, he ordered wine and a small snack. He was near a beach, and the wind was strong that day. An attentive waiter noticed that sand was blowing into the King’s wine, and decided to place a small plate with his food on top of the glass I prevent Sand from getting into the wine. The King wondered what the waiter was doing, and he said it was a ‘tapas’ or top.
2. Farmers would head into the city during their lunch to eat and have a drink. Well, most of the time they could not afford to do both. So, they chose to drink. After lunch, they would return to the fields slightly drunk as they had nothing to eat to help absorb the alcohol. Thus, productivity declined. The King at the time made a law that from then on, every drink must be served with a small portion of food at no extra cost.
The truth, I believe, lies somewhere in-between.

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After the walking tour I wanted to go on the tapas tour they offered. But, I got lost on my way, and never found where it was, so I missed it! I was tires frustrated and HUNGRY! I repeatedly walked by the same restaurant about half-a-dozen times. The waiters inside began saying ‘hola’ every time. Because they were so friendly, I decided it was a good place to sit down and have a beer and some food (pictures above and below).

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Then, yesterday, my friend Pablo took me around the lesser-known areas of Madrid. He also took me to this wonderful Tapas bar which looked like a hole-in-the-wall and was teeny-tiny! It was so busy you could barely move! But, it was delicious!

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Above:
1. A lovely waitress pouring our beer. You can see the food in the background. There was a limited menu.
2. Queso y Membrillo – cheese with quince paste. It was delicious! The cheese was very bland, but the Membrillo (fruit paste) is very sweet.
3. Fried padron peppers — deep fried peppers tossed in coarse salt. Pablo told me that while most of them are not hot, sometimes one will be spicy. I had one spicy out of the dozen I ate. It’s like a surprise! A wonderful surprise!
And are you ready:

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Croquetas de jamon y Queso — fries goats cheese with ham. And yes,
I ate a bite. GASP! It’s fairly popular, and pig is a staple in their diet here. There was trace amounts of meat, and like the bad pescatarian I am I ate it. I attempted to avoid the meet (you could see it). It was how you would imagine deep-fries cheese would taste-delicious!
I leave you now with some pictures I took while exploring with my England friends and Pablo.

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I still have 4 more days here. I will post again soon!
Tay x

Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge, Wrong & Purple

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Eek! I have been slacking HARDCORE on the weekly photo challenges. I have now missed THREE weeks! My badness! So, check out my entries for all four weeks! I apologize, some of them will be horrible interpretations of the challenge…yeah, … 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”