Thursday, August 31, 2006


Grrr. I'm getting a little frustrated with all the things that I can't seem to get my hands on for my classroom! (Or, the things that should be standard issue, but I'm having to buy myself! I've been to the teacher supply store three times in three days. Welcome to having my own class, I guess.)

First of all, I went to buy some corrogated paper stuff to cover the bulletin boards with. You know, that stuff that every teacher on the face of the planet uses to cover their bulletin boards? It comes in a myriad of colours, lasts forever, and is great for a background when putting up students' art or work. Well, apparently they don't make it anymore. At all. There are only small scraps of reeeally ugly colours left at my school. Out of luck. I have to cover the boards in paper now. Yick.

Then I went to Office Depot to pick up a specific type of box that I need for hanging folders. Apperently they don't make those anymore, either.

Picking up some photos at Future Shop, I discovered that their lab is down, so some photos I ordered online - that I needed that day - weren't actually there. But, oh, I could just drive downtown and pick them up. Right. Downtown. Ridiculous parking rates. Crazy traffic. Construction. Nuh-uh. I sucked it up and picked them up. I didn't really have a choice.

Class set of scissors. Can't get one at school. I bought a set. Scissors!!

Overhead projector and screen. I asked for one. I might get one. Maybe. In 3 months.

But the biggest irk is that my classroom, in the year 2006, only has ONE semi-working computer. Last year, teachers were able to order a computer, complete with printer/scanner for their classroom if they needed one. I was told I couldn't get one cause I didn't really need it in the music room. The teacher in the room I'm in now knew he wasn't going to be there the next year, so he didn't order one. Arg! But maybe the NEW teacher (ie. me) would want one? Standard issue these days should be a computer for the teacher, and at least three computers for the students to use. On the plus side, I just bought a 512mB jump drive on sale 65% off! Score! At least taht will make things easier taking files back and forth from home. But seriously, anyone got a free computer they want to give me? *rolls eyes*

Ok. Whining over.

My class is really coming along. I was going to try to get everything done today and take a four day weekend. Ah, I was so naive. My goal is to be there at 7am tomorrow, work till they kick me out at 2, then go climb Grouse Mountain. Yessss!

Switching gears

It was somewhat of a shock to my system on Monday morning when I was standing in my new classrom at my school looking around wondering what on earth I was doing, just slightly less than 36 hours after my plane had landed. Was my trip even real? Was I just there? And now I'm here? Huh???

Today will be day four that I've been in my classroom, getting organized, hauling all the junk leftover from last year out, putting up new bulletin boards (with borders I've been told are totally "me"), rearranging furniture, getting my desk set up, photocopying some work for my little lovelies for the first week, doing a wee bit of planning for the year, and trying not to be terrified! Ha!

Things are starting to look somewhat ready to go, I think. I'm glad it looks that way, anyway! No, actually, I'm getting excited, too. Mourning the loss of summer holidays, but hey, that kind of comes with the territory. With this being my first year with my own class, I'm sure I'll make tons of blunders, but I'm looking forward togetting to try some different things. It will be such a nice change from doing all music, all the time! Hee hee, I wonder if that's what my kids will think we'll be doing! After all, I'll bet they won't even realize that, hey, I can teach math, too. And science. And art...

Grade 5, here I come!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Slowly but surely...

I've got a few more photos up. Just a teensy sample from Munich and Zurich so far. Click here for Munich and here for Zurich.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I'm home!

I got back about 11:30pm last night (Saturday). Apparently jet lag isn't a problem for me. I'm thankful for that! Both on the way to Europe and on the way home, I just set my watch during the plane ride, and that was that!

It seems really strange to be home in a sense. I can't believe it was jsut yesterday that I was sitting at the edge of a canal in Amsterdam eating pannekoeks, and now here I am in my own house...

While I was travelling, I kept thinking that my 'regular life' just seemed like this distant hazy memory. It's kind of wierd to be back now - back to church, back to lunch with friends, back to work (sob!). But it's still good to be home (at least kind of!). Back to my own bed, back to a decent shower I don't have to wear flip flops in, back to street names I can pronounce. I'd just like to apologize to any people of Dutch origin for how badly I mutilated your language while I was in Holand. Eek.

Anyway, I have so much swirling around in my brain right now: letting experiences soak in, feeling like I'm somehow different now than I was before I left, wondering how soon I can go on my next trip... I'm sure some will come out here, but I still have to get unpacked and start going through my photos! Oh boy, that's going to be a job and a half! Ha, I still have a post to finish that I started in Amserdam about Belgium and Holland!

I know I keep saying this, but I'll try to have a selection of photos up tonight or tomorrow to tide you over while I'm working on getting the whole lot up on my site.

All in all, I'm home, back to real life. When people ask me, "Hey, how was your trip?" I just don't know how to respond. Words can't really express it, but I'd have to say, amazing, fantastic, the best thing I could have done. How soon can I go back????

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Time flies...

Yikes! It's been a week since my last post! Be warned, this post is rather long! I've been writing it in pieces as I go, between limited internet time, crazy French keyboards, and many very busy days. But hey... here's what I've been up to the last week...

So I think I've figured out what makes me grumpy when I'm travelling (other than hunting for the letters and symbols on this French keyboard - they're all mixed up!). Good thing, too, cause it's happened twice now and it's been no fun. No fun at all. I get grumpy when I spend the first half of my day travelling, getting to city around noon. I feel like the whole day is wasted, especially when I have to wait in lines at the train station, bus depot, tourist office, etc. for infornation. Blech. BUT, the days always seem to redeem themselves, like in Nice, when I went out with a big group from the hostel.

Or like in Aix En provence, when I was just about ready to book it out of there I was so frustrated with trying to find the information I needed. Things all worked out, though, and I did some shopping, went for a lovely walk in a very pretty park outside of town, and lucked out on a ticket for the huge huge huge Cezanne expedition that is in town right now. Man, that town is obsessed with that man! Hee hee. In the early evening, I bumped into Rachel, the girl I hung out with in Nice. We went for a drink and hung out in town for a bit, doing some serious shopping in the Cours Maribeau - a big wide boulevard lined with all kinds of little outdoor kiosks/shops.

The next morning I headed to Avignon. Yes, I saw the bridge. And yes, I danced on it! I toured the Pope's Palace and took a little cruise on the Rhone. I had been hitting the wall a little in travelling, getting grumpy, feeling like maybe I'd had enough, but I loved Avignon. I was back into high gear seeing, doing, (eating!) and enjoying. It also helped things that I was staying in the cutest litle bed and breafast, hosted by about the most hospitable woman I have ever met! One of the best things I did in Avignon was go to a brass ensemble concert at the Pont (bridge) d'Avignon. The group was from Vienna and played all kinds of clssical music, singing, dancing, and all-round entertaining along the way.

The next day I took a day trip to Arles, where VanGogh spent a lot of time. I saw a number of different places that he painted, like the hospital where he stayed and its courtyard, and the famous Cafe de Nuit. I had dinner there! (The food was terrible, but hey, I ate there! *shakes head*) I took a city tour, seeing the Roman arena, forum, theatre, and baths. It still boggles my mind that buildings that are so old are being used. But the highlight of Arles had to be what I did in the afternoon...

I was getting reeeally sick of seeing cities, and, being in Provence, I really wanted to see some pretty countryside. Are you ready for a crazy story? I had originally planned on finding a route to go for a bike ride, but then decided to try for a guided bus tour that would take me to a whole bunch of different places in Provence, including a wine tour and tasting. BUT, the lady at my bed and breakfast suggested I rent a car and gave me some really great places to go visit. I was all set to do that, and was halfway through the process of renting when it occured to me that I can't drive standard. Ug! I KNEW I should have learned that a long time ago! No car for me... by that time it was too late for the tour, so I went back to the bike ride plan. It turns out that was the best thing I could have done...

After my walking tour, I found a little place that rents bikes, grabbed a map, and headed out into the countryside (not before having to navigate a few rather busy traffic roundabouts. Yeah, that was kinda nerve racking!). Fields, hills, the hot sun and a clear blue sky stretched waaay out ahead of me. (No lavender, though, I guess I have to go back again in July when it blooms!) It was absolutely beautiful! I rode along a quiet country road, came accross a roman aqueduct, and went to a tiny litte village with a windmill up on top of the hill. It was an absolutley beautiful day, and so good to get out into the country.

Early the next morning I caught the TGV train to Brussels. Man, that thing is fast! My only "oops" moment was forgettting to pay at my bed and breakfast! I realized somewehre in the middle of France that I hadn't paid! My host had driven me to the train station at 6am (see? Sweetest lady ever!) and we both forgot! I was MORTIFIED! I called her as soon as I got to Brussles, and we've got a way to get it sorted out, but yikers! I can't believe I did that!

In all, the south of France was really beautiful, but I tried to do way too much with not enough time. Four cities and two villages in five days is NOT the pace at which one should take in Provence. I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong, but next time - oh, and there WILL be a next time! - I'm going to go much slower, go to more markets, spend more time in the countryside. I didn't do Provence justice, for sure.

My internet time is quickly running out, and this post is already waaay too long, so I'll post about Belgium later. I'll leave off by saying that I'm now in Amsterdam, and have only two more nights left. I can't belive it. I almost have forgotten that I have a life back in Vancouver. It seems very strange to have to go back to it in two days.

I don't wanna!!!

Friday, August 18, 2006


Well, I just spent about 45 minutes going through my photos from the last two weeks or so, all set and raring to upload them. I had copied them to a folder on the computer, then the computer crashed and I lost all the selections I had made. So, wasted time for me, and no photos for you. Grrr.

Sadly, I did leave Vernazza, and headed to Nice. Nice is a big city. I got super grumpy on my way down to the beach. I was walking through a major construction zone (they're putting in a rail/tram line all along one of the major streets) so it was loud and dirty and stinky. It was also grey and really realyl humid. Yuck yuck yuck. I got to the beach, raring to swim anyway, when it started raining. Pouring, in fact. Disgruntled, I headed to the (horror!) McDonalds and downed a milkshake while looking over my city guide and just wanting to leave. Urg.

Things bucked up a bit after that. I met a whole bunch of people in my hostel around dinner time and we all headed out to a bar for the evening. It was a pretty hilarious night, mostly thanks to this crazy Turkish guy in the group who was OBSESSED with his hair. So much so that he'd go to the mirror in the bar and check it every ten minutes or so. Then, if he wasn't happy with it, he'd restyle it. With beer. Hey, he had no gel. Oy. Anyway, it was a really fun night.

I headed to Eze today, a little medieval town between Nice and Monaco, with Rachel, an Aussie from my hostel. In the afternoon, I did actually manage to get to the beach. The waves were crazy. Some were nearly twice as tall as me! Most were only as tall as me. Ha! I got pounded into the ground more than a few times. I'm gonna be sore tomorrow! :)

Anyway, it's late, and I'm frustrated with computers. Sorry 'bout the pictures. It's tricky to actually get them from the camera to the CD to the computer to the website while I'm on the road, and it takes a really long time. Maybe I'll do a few next time. Rar.

Tomorow: off to Aix-En-Provence...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Paradise Found

When I stepped off the train, I could smell the sea. Seventy-eight steps from the door of my pensione/room and my toes were at the edge of the Medditerranean. I had arrived in Vernazza, one of the five towns of the Cinque Terre.

The sea was rough the evening I arrived, and the waves pounded the breakwater sending spray far up in the air, the foaming white water contrasted against the turquoise blue of the sea and the golden light of the sky as the sun began to set.

Behind me was the town, one building running into the next, tiny back alleys with countless stairways and passages, every building a different colour - red, yellow, pink, white, tan... all with big green shutters on the windows. The yellow clock tower over the tiny church chimes over the village every half an hour, the only reminder that time is still ticking in this little village. The piazza was crowded with restaurant terraces, umbrellas, and countless fishing boats - lined up along the streets and all over the square. The din of conversations and dishes could be heard between the crashing waves. Behind that still were rows upon rows of terraced vinyards up on the steep slopes of the hillside.

I knew right away that the time I had booked here would not be enough.

My first morning, I picked up some fresh fruit and a brioche and ate at the water. It was much calmer than the night before, but still every now and then a particularly large wave would crash over the wall, making people scurry back to avoid getting their feet wet. Restaurateurs were setting up, people were everywhere taking their morning caffe, and a few fishermen were coming in with their catch. I ate slowly, emjoying the sea and the sun, not able to believe where I was.

There is a trail running between all five towns. Vernazza is the second town, so after breakfast, I caught the train to Monterosso, just five minutes down the line, and began my walk. The first thing I saw in Monterosso was the beach: long stretches of blue and white striped umbrellas shading matching deck chairs lined up three or four deep all along the shore. I wanted to stop right then and there and jump in. Again, I couldn't believe where I was!

As I was on my way to the start of the trial, I met another girl - Erin - about my age and we decided to walk together. Up and up along a narrow path, past lemon trees, vinyards, tiny gardens, and little shrines with pictures or statues of the virgin Mary built into the hillside. Every three steps it would seem we would come accross a new view (and so needed to take a new picture!). We walked all the way to Vernazza just marvelling at where we were.

A highlight of the Monterosso-Vernazza trail was coming accross an older Italian man sitting under the shade of a tree selling homemade Limoncello. A few lemons were scattered on the around beside the bottles, I'm sure for effect. I bought a bottle - how could I not?!

Erin had to go back at Vernazza, but not before a great chat at the train station. It turns out that she's a Christian, too! She offered to pray for me before she left, so sitting there waiting for the train, we prayed together. It was such a blessing to meet her and have a chance to talk and pray with someone! Funny how God always knows just what we need.

I continued on to Corniglia, through vinyards and groves of olive trees, past fig and lemon trees, listening to the sound of the sea below me, smelling the thyme, lavender, and rosemary that grows on the hills and in the gardens.

On through Corniglia, to Maranola, and finally along the Via Del Amore to Riomaggiore. Terraced hillsides, colourful towns perched high above the sea, and waves rolling into the rugged, rocky coast were constant views.

When I got back to Vernazza, I grabbed my bathing suit and went for a swim. In the Mediterranean. HOLY COW! (Hey... Church - well, kinda - a hike and a swim... sound familiar? :P)

I asked around in town and easily found a place to stay for a third night, so I spent today just hanging out - another breakfast by the water, taking in some views from the castello on top of the hill here in Vernazza, going down to Manarola again to look around, chill out for a bit, reading and journalling in the garden that it attatched to my hotel, high above the sea, looking down to the next town. Life jsut slows down here in the Cinque Terra. I even have been running into the same people - tourist and locals alike - and have chatted with all kinds of people from all over the world. This has been a vacation within a vacation. I know now where I want to come for my honeymoon one day! :P

I have to say goodbye early tomorrow morning. I don't want to leave. The towns, the views, the sea... and the FOOD! Oh my goodness. Pesto (which originated here!), seafood (yes, seafood! I had pasta with fish one evening!), wine, pasta, gelato, tiramisu... mmmm.

I was worried that I would be disappointed after how much I had heard about this place and how excited I was about coming here. You know, you hear so much, then when you get there, it's good, but not as good as you thought it would be. This was nowhere near the case. I am absolutely blown away. I could stay here forever.

Maybe I will...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Buon Giorno d'Italia *updated*

Oy. I don't even know where to start. I was thinking on the train on the way to... where? I have no idea... that I almost need a day or two to just not do ANYTHING new and let all the experiences, sights, sounds, and various other sensory input sink in. I think my brain is getting overwhelmed. Where did I last leave off? I think I was in Zurich. Man, that seems like a lifetime ago. I think it's been three days.

I really really enjoyed my time in Switzerland. It is SO beautiful there, and the people are so friendly. One highlight - out of so so many - would have to be "renting" a bike - they're free in Zurich! - and riding along the lake until, when I was at the farthest point of my ride from the city, a big black cloud rolled in, the wind picked up, the skies opened, and it started to POUR. I figured, there's nothing I can do about this, so I may as well enjoy it. I had some fun with my camera and my umbrella at the water's edge. Again, as soon as I can, I'll get some photos up.

The great thing about having a rail pass is that whenever you want, you just head to the train station and hop on a train to wherever you want. It's so easy! I decided to leave Zurich for Luzerne in the late afternoon. I also decided to jsut hang out at the hostel in Luzerne that night to try to meet some people. That's another nice thing about travelling. Don't like the way things are going (ie. eating alone all the time)? Change it! I bought some groceries - which was an experience in itself: picture me, after learning that none of the staff in the bakery or deli spoke English, ducked around a different aisle with my dictionary looking up how to say "Where can I buy a little bit of mustard?" in German - and made dinner back at the hostel. I ate with four people from New York. One of the couples seemed intent on talking about how pot and prostitution should be legalized, and telling stories about how they bough hash in France and got busted as soon as they stepped off the train in Italy. Something to be proud of. Sheesh. The other couple, though, was really nice, and we ended up hanging out the next day, too.

It was grey and raining in Luzerne, but both this other couple (Liz and Andrew, they do have names!) and I figured, well, we only have one day here, so let's go for it! We wanted to go for a hike, so we headed for Pilatus, a nearby mountain. It was really raining when we got there, and we decided we'd be miserable if we hiked, so we took the gondola waaaay up, walked around at the top (nearly freezing our fingers off - it was near zero the whole time, and super windy. Brrrr!), had lunch, and took the world's steepest cog wheel railway down. Most of the time it was a 40-48% grade!

All the "Swiss stereotypes" are there for a reason. The little brown and white houses dotted all over the hillside, red flowers tumbling out of window boxes. The dingle dangle of cow bells from high up on the hills. The hoot of the train whistles or steamboat horns sounding as they transport people up and down the alps and accross the lake. It really is incredible. I of course took full advantage of being in Swizterland by going to a folk show. Cow bells, yodeling, flag throwing, alpenhorns, the whole bit. I even got to try an aplenhorn and got bitten by a cow! It was such a hoot!

On my way from Luzerne to Verona, where I am now, I stopped for a few hours in Lugano, in the Italian part of Switzerland. It is way south, and I figured it would be sunny there. What a great decision! It was ab-so-lute-ly beautiful! I walked waaaaay down from the train station to the lake and enjoyed a lazy afternoon of strolling along the water, hanging out under a tree with one of the most beautiful views I've seen yet, going for a swim, and lazing around in the sun. La dolce vita!

I got in to Verona at nearly 11pm, and realized I had no map or directions to get to my hotel. Of course, the tourist office was closed. So, Hillary had another little adventure, with even less Italian thant I had German, relying on people knowing how do decipher my broken broken Italian and knowing where I wanted to go. Hee hee. Adventure abounds! (Don't worry, mom, I'm safe and sound, see?)

I've spent today roaming around Verona, seeing various castles, the ruins of a Roman theatre, and just generally enjoying the very distictly Italian city. I might have even treated myself to two gelatos today. But shh! I'll never tell! In about 15 minutes, I'm going to go see Aida in the Roman arena here. Last time I was in Verona, I got shafted in seeing the arena, so this time around, I'm not going to miss it! Just for kicks and giggles, click here for a picture of my at 17 in front of the arena. Promise not to laugh? That's me in the Mickey Mouse T-shirt. Uggg. High school. Say no more. For those of you who know the story, see the ice creams? Grrr! (For those who don't know the story, see the post below!)

Hmm... the lady at the internet cafe just rolled down the big metal gate-thing in front of the door. I think that's a sign. I'm going to head off. I have my inflatable pillow in my purse, all ready for the opera (hey - YOU try sitting on stone steps for three hours!).


*UPDATE* Well, actually, you never saw the original, cause for some reason it never published. I saw the opera! It was SPECTACULAR. Spec. Tac. U. Lar. Only, we didn't get to see the last act, because all of a sudden, thunder crashed, lighning flashed, and the first few drops began falling from the sky. The orchestra fled for shelter and the opera was suspended, then cancelled as it began to POUR! People - in all their opera finery - were making mad dashed for the exits, covering their heads with umbrellas, cushions, programs, whatever they could. It was incredible how fast the vendors whiped out little rainjackets for sale. I made my way out to the street and walked back to my hotel, laughing my head off all the way there.

Opera. In a roman arena. Cut short because of a freak thunder storm (which continued all night!). Walking down narrow Italian streets, soaked to the skin. Singing, "Well, I love a rainy night!"

Life could not have been better than it was right then.


There is only one city in my trip that I am returning to: Verona*. I was here ten years ago on a band trip between grade 11 and 12. It has a reputation as a very romantic city, as this is where Shakespeare placed Romeo and Juliet. But for me, the biggest draw is the Arena. When I arrived in Verona in 1996, I was blown away. It still amazes me today that somehting that was guilt 2000 years ago still stands, and still is used!

I was even more enthralled because I had read a series of books in high school (and many times since then, too!) that were set in ancient Rome. A major character in the book is a gladiator, so much of the story focusses on what went on in the Arena. The books were highly researched and, as I found out when I took classical studies courses in university, very historically accurate. I was SO excited to be able to go into a Roman arena and see a piece of ancient history.

As a safety precaution (we were all highschoolers) we had to go around in groups of six people. I couldn't find anyone who wanted to go into the arena with me, so I just decided to go with the chaperones. Eventually, five other people agreed to go, as long as we could do some shopping first.


They browsed through some postcards, bought some film, nosed around in a few shops, no big deal. Then they decided they wanted ice cream, so we waited (and waited and waited and waited) in line. AFTER they got ice cream, they decided they should probably go to the bathroom. One at a time, everybody went. By the time that was all done, it was time to meet up with our group and move on the the next city. Our meeting place was right in front of the arena, and as I looked up at the 2000 year old arches, I saw the band director waaaay up top, waving down at us. I was sooo disappointed. I had to fight back tears back in the bus.

So, darn it, THIS time round, ten years later, I'm going to see the arena!

* My apologies to those of you who have heard this story (over and over and over!) I see you raising your hand. That's right.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Pictures, Pictures!

I have only downloaded Paris pictures so far, but here are a few! Enjoy! Click here to see them. For those of you not familiar with Flickr, when the new page opens, click on a photo to see a larger version and a decsription, or click "View as slideshow" at the top right corner of the page.

I'm in Zurich right now and will head to Lucerne later today for a few days. I'll be in Italy (Verona) by Saturday night, woohoo! It's nice to see some mountains again - I was starting to miss them! I'm mostly enjoyig travelling by myself. I'm not meeting as many people as I thought I would, but I think that's mostly cause I'm never actually AT the hostels except to sleep! Sometimes it's a little lonely - like last night at dinner, just me and my Raclette (a traditional Swiss dish) surrounded by groups of friends and couples everywhere - but it's also kinda nice to just have all this time to myself. It's kind of serene. Plus, if I'm feeling lonely, I can just drown my sorows in Swiss chocolate, mmmmmmmmmmm! :-P

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Grüsse aus München!

Yikes, time is flying! I'm in Munich right now, and I'm leaving early tomorrow for Switzerland. I didn't even say anything about my last day in Paris! I mostly spent it in Montmartre, the hill above the city famous for artists and a "bohemian spirit." I have to say, this was my favourite neighbourhood in Paris by far. It's much more like a little village (and hey, Amelie takes place there, too! I saw the grocery and the cafe - Les Deux Moulins - where she worked in the film. So fun!). I spent some time just chilling at a piano bar, eating a crepe and writing in my journal. It was a perfect Sunday.

Sunday night I left on an overnnight train for Munich. That was a neat experience in itself. I quickly realized, however, that the easy part of my trip was over. You know, the part where I speak the language. It was great being able to just speak French wherever I went, and I realized when I couldn't even ask where to get some breakfast on the train in the morning that things were going to be a little different from here on in. Good thing I have my trusty phrase book with me!

Paris was amazing, but I kept SUCH a hectic pace. I totally pooped myself (and my poor aching feet) out in jsut three days. I was kind of thinking on the train that I need to strike a better balance between tryig to see and do everything and just chilling out and enjoying what I can, and not worrying about what I can't. After all, that's what next time is for, right? Munich was much more like that. I am staying with a friends that I met 5 years ago in Quebec at a French language school, and so she met me at the train station. She had gotten breakfast and a day pass for the transit system for me, and also had a map, a key, directions to her house, and a cell phone she borrowed from her work for me! Holy smokes!

I dropped off my stuff, had a nap, and went I to explore Munich. I ended up taking a city walking tour, where I learned all kinds of neat things about the city. I also met Anna, a woman from Winnipeg, on the tour. She and I were planning to do the same tour of the Dachau concentration camp the next day. We met up for the tour and then just hung out at a beer garden and chatted over a couple of Radler (beer mixed with sprite). I am now a beer drinker, folks. Yeah, yeah, bug me about it not being real beer, whatever. It's a first step, leave me alone! ;) A few good Bavarian meals, a few good beers, a few (ok, a lot) of pictures, and a very sobering tour of Dachau, and off I go now to Switzerland.

For those of you who are asking me if I'm taking pictures, let me jsut say this: it's going to take me WEEKS to sort through, post, and write captions for all the stinkin' photos I'm taking. I've got almost 700 already. In five days. And no, I will not subject any of you to all of them. I'm still working on geting a few posted here. I hae to get them off my camera first. Soon, I hope (mainly cause my cards are filling up!).

So thanks for all your comments! It's always fun to read them when I get a chance to check email! For now, I'm off to bed. I have to leave Colleen's place at 6:10am tomorrow! Eep.

Hope you're all doing wonderfully! I'll try to post again soon!


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Ten things I've learned in Paris

Number one - All the chairs on the terraces of the cafes face the street. It's like rows in a theatre. I think that's kinda of neat - all the better to watch the world go by.

Number two - Those buttons on the poles that have the walk/don't walk signs do not control pedestrian lights like they do at home. Instead, a recorded voice repeats what intersection you are at - over... and over... and over... - until the light changes. It's especially loud when there is a big crowd of people who saw you push the button. Funny, that.

Number three - Many major monuments and buildings are beautifully lit up at night. It makes for some great photos. Those lights, however, all shut off at 1am. I learned this immediately after I had found the perfect spot to take a photo of the Hotel de Ville (city hall), had set up my camera, had my body all contorted and my finger on the button. *poof!* No more lights. WAAAAH!

Number four - The Metro closes at 12:30am. This is why I was at the Hotel de Ville at 1am. I went out for a very late dinner, missed the metro cutoff, and so had to walk back to my hostel.

Number five - it's a reeeally long way from where I ate dinner (near Notre Dame) to my hostel. It took me an hour and a half on foot to get back.

Number six - It wasn't too bad, because Paris is really easy to find your way around (when armed with a map!). Of course, as I was jotting this thought down on my walk back to the hostel, I missed my street and all of a sudden found myself in a muuuch quieter neighbourhood with no restaurants or touristy stuff whatsoever. I ducked into a little tiny cafe to check my map and it turn out I had walked ten minutes past my turn. Oops.

Number seven - Red lights in Paris actually mean stop. So do amber lights. They don't mean, like they do in Vancouver, keep driving, only faster, cause hey, I've got somewhere to go! It took a while to realize what that strange feeling was. It was cars stopping at red lights. Huh. Someone come teach Vancouverites that... please?!?!

Number eight - Number seven is a good thing, because heaven help you if you are a pedestrian in the way of a car. In Vancouver, cars yeild to pedestrians. Here, cars say, "I'm a car, I am powerful, you are in my way, and if you don't get out of the way, I WILL MOW YOU DOWN!"

Number nine: There is nothing better than lunch in the Jardins de Luxembourg: baguette, cammenbert, grapes, and white wine overlooking the gardens, a large pond, and the Palais de Luxemburg.

Number ten: Unless, or course, it's sitting in Troccadero Park on the grass above the fountains, just hanging out watching the sun set over and through the Eiffel Tower.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Bonjour de Paris!

Here I sit in my hostel in Paris, soooo tired, but sooo pumped! I arrived safe and sound last night. I flew into Amsterdam and then took the train into Paris. I couln't believe I was really here! Once I got settled in my hotel room I wandered the neighbourhood (and had no less than 10 men say hello and ask me how I was. I'm just gonna go with 'they were being friendly and welcoming me to their city) and found a little cafe near the train station for a crepe au sucre. What a perfect first evening!

Today (Friday) I went museum and monument crazy. The Louvre, the Musee D'Orsay, Notre Dame, the Centre Pompidou, the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower (by night - I'm going to go again during the daytime), and tons of squares, parks, and monuments.

OK. The Eiffel Tower. Did you know it SPARKLES?!?!?!?! Once it gets dark, not only is it all lit up, but every hour on the hour it SPARKLES with tons of tiny lights for maybe 10 minutes or so. SO COOL!

I couldn't belive the art I saw, too. THE Mona Lisa. The stature of Venus de Milo. Paintings by Degas, Money, Rodin, VanGogh, Cezanne, Toulouse Loutrec... I mean, I guess in the back of my head I knew that's what I would be seeing, but wow. I was blown away. Absolutely. Blown. Away.

Tomorrow holds more museums (I'm making the most of my two day museum pass) and some exploring. I'll try to get a few photos up soon (hoo boy, there are tons!). Thanks for checking in!

A bientot! (See you soon!)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Bye bye!

Verona Arean 1996

Thank you (especially those of you who know me in person!) for putting up with all my giddiness and insanity the last few weeks. Man, I've been annoying myself, so your patience with me has been much appreciated!

And with that.... I'm off!!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bits 'n' bites

* Introducing... Trudy! Woohoo! I have a new roomie! August really seems to be the month for friends staying with me. Last year it was my friend Cathy who was here from Australia doing an occupational therapy practicum. This year it's my friend Trudy who's crashing at my place while she finds a place to stay! Yippee! Of course, I'll only actually get to be roomies with her for about a week and a half, but hey.

* Sunday Tradition: Yesterday I did the last (for now!) in a series of Sunday hikes. Just cause I had to work doesn't mean I can't enjoy my vacation on the weekends! Every Sunday in July a small group of friends and I have gone for a hike and then for a swim in the ocean. It's been dubbed the "Sunday Tradition." The only day we didn't swim was yesterday cause it was cold-ish and kinda rainy, but I figure, it was raining, so we got wet... that counts, right? I'm trying even to think of all the hikes we did: the Chief (in June), Brother's Creek, Deep Cove/Quarry Rock (ok, that doesn't totally count as a hike, but I'm keeping it in anyhow!), Hollyburn, Elfin Lakes, High Falls Creek. I think that's it. It's been so great to get out into the mountians and enjoy.

* Elfin Lakes! I can't believe I haven't talked about this yet. This is just going to be the Coles Notes version... My friends Brian, Rebecca, Dave, Angela, and I went camping/backpacking two weekends ago ('member my freakout about having so much to do and still going camping? Hee hee). It was AMAZING. We hiked in to camp in Friday evening and got to watch the sun set over high alpine meadows and snowy peaks as we hiked. Saturday we did a day hike to the rim of an old volcanic crater. Most of the valley had been scraped away by a glacier hundreds of years ago, so it was fairly barren, but so beautiful. And hot. It was somewhere in the range of 35 degrees that day. Hot hot hot. BUT, there was still snow! It was perfect, we'd grab a handful and rub it on our necks or our arms to cool off. Or we'd 'help' eachother get cooled off via snowball fight! We hiked up a ridge but decided to take the gully down. We boot skiied and bum skiied down most of the way. Wheehaw! The evening saw us swimming in the lake (coldcoldcold!) and eventually lying out looking at the stars, complete with several of the shooting variety. We hiked out on Sunday, went for a swim in the ocean when we got down, and finished the evening with burgers and beer (a margarita for me!) in Kitsilano. Ahhh. It was beeeeautiful!

Pictures from the weekend are here (I was going to tantalize you with a few perview photos, but dumBlogger isn't letting me upload photos... again! Ach, just click the link!)

* Taking care of business: Whoah boy. I woke up this morning and realized that I have TWO days till I leave. TWO. I thought that, oh, about three seconds ago there were still two WEEKS left. Appartently not! I have been on the go since about 6:30 this morning cleaning, packing, organizing, phoning, booking (I got my nights booked in Vernazza - YEAH! I was having a hard time and thought I wouldn't be able to stay there), running errands, and shopping for random trip stuff. Still. It's insane. BUT, I crossed almost everything off my list today. If I play my cards right, I can be done everything by early evening tomorrow and just chill out. YESSSSS!

* Somebody stop me: My two splurges today? Decent-ish seats for Aida at the Roman arena in Verona, Italy, and an mp3 player. I wanted some music to take, I was going to rip a bunch of my CDs into mp3s then cram a bunch of albums onto a few discs and just use my discman. I tired it, then realized my discman is 10 years old. Mp3s no workie on 10 year old discman. Grrr. So I sucked it up and joined the mp3 crowd. I got a smoking deal on it, plus a free extended warranty (it had been purchased and returned, but still is in perfect condition). Turns out when I plugged it in to charge it, it's full of music, too! Score! Is that normal, or did I just inherit the previous owner's playlist? Whatever, free music! Yippee!

* Adrenaline: I think that's about the only thing keeping me going right now. I really should sleep. Once the laundry is done. And the blue bin'o'junk is cleaned out (the one where I shoved all the stuff I didn't have time to clean up before I had company on Saturday. Yeah. You know you do that, too.). And once I play around with my new mp3 player. Ha!