Berlin

Berlin was the last on my checklist of city trips, and I finally made it last week. The city has so many different personalities and layers of history but I chose to focus on the Berlin Wall and two of the many districts. The Berlin Wall Memorial has a section of the wall still standing and it shows how entire neighbourhoods were first boarded up, then demolished to make way for the two walls and the “kill zone”. I also stopped by the rather touristy Check Point Charlie.

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The East side gallery is the longest standing section of the wall and it runs along the river and it is covered in street art. These, however, are on the East side so they were added after the wall fell.

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The city has a reputation for street art and graffiti and on my Alternative Berlin Tour we were walked through several small streets that were covered with overlapping images. There was also a few big pieces around the city that had been commissioned. Just wondering what could be on the wall just around the corner was my favourite part of Berlin.

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Well down to my last week in Luxembourg and then off to Iceland for 10 days!

Proost,

Alana

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Antwerpen Again

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My friends and I liked the city so much that we went back. This time the summer sales were on so the shopping was even better. I managed to find a maxi dress for 50% off, but i can’t wear it until i go back to Canada as it is almost 4 inches too 2015-07-11 18.10.59long! Since it takes about 4 hours by train to get there, we arrived in the early afternoon and then hit up the stores. Fries and waffles were purchased in order to keep up our shopping strength. This time we were couch surfing and our hosts were kind enough to lend us there city bike passes. There is a yearly membership fee, but after that you can take any of the bikes at the many different stands.2015-07-11 18.06.31 There is no additional fee as long as you return the bike to any stand within half a hour. Most big cities in Europe have a similar system and I absolutely love seeing a city by bike, even one that is perfect to walk like Antwerpen.

Our host and his friends took us out partying with them and for the second time in a row with couchsurfers, the party was on a boat. This one was terrible, however, and we ended up leaving to go to another outdoor party that was only slightly better so our night ended “early” at 5am. Sunday morning after a grocery run, we cooked up a huge brunch with hash browns, bacon, and the bread and cheese stables. Then off to see a few more places and get a picture with the hand of the city. Legend has it that a giant used to patrol the river and he levied a heavy toll on anyone who 2015-07-12 13.26.13wanted to cross. If you were caught trying to cheat the giant, he would cut off your hand and throw it into the river. This continued until one day a brave young man fought the giant, won, and caught off the giants hand and threw it into the river giving the city its name “Hand werpen” or literally hand throw in Dutch.

Short but sweet.

Proost,

Alana

Another Canada Day Abroad

Another year, another hodgepodge celebration of the Maple Leaf in Europe. This time my host parents let me throw a BBQ and the kids even got involved and all wore the Canada t-shirts I brought to school and then proceeded to explain to no one why they were all dressed alike. I have some super cute photos but I cant post them ūüė¶ I¬†invited two friends; a British girl, who did not seem rattled at all that we were celebrating throwing her people out, and an American, who now knows the cooler of the two days in July.They both live in the capital, so they quite enjoyed the scenic trip out to my village through the vineyards.

2015-07-01 19.35.01I decided to go all out on my menu, and spent most of the day getting everything ready. It was as follows:

Starters

  • Veggie platter with RANCH dressing (thanks mom for the care package)
  • Scratch made strawberry mint lemonade (with mint and strawberries from the garden)

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  • Hamburgers with fancy toppings (caramelized onions, grilled pineapple, or roasted eggplant anyone?)
  • Salad with everything from the garden
  • Poutine


11659225_10155730808110371_902405482090697835_nDessert

  • Vanilla ice cream with maple syrup
  • S’mores

Only a few interesting substitutions were required so needless to say, everyone left well fed.

Proost,

Alana

PS. That weekend I also travel to Trier, one of the oldest cities in Germany as it was a former outpost of the Roman empire. Its only a 30 minute drive from my house. Its beautiful, but it was also 34C that day so I acted like a real Luxembourger and did more shopping than sightseeing.

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Biarritz

2015-06-20 15.20.34Although I can hardly even count the number of times I was on a plane living in the Netherlands, Luxembourg has been quite a different story. Access to a car changed things, but so did having to travel to Belgium or Germany to access low cost flights. Frankfurt and Brussels are both low cost hubs, but reaching either can be time consuming and in some cases, more expensive than the flights.  With a long weekend due to the birthday of the Duke, I was able to have enough time to make such a flight possible and since I knew about it silly far in advance my plane tickets were silly cheap.

I left my house in Luxembourg at 6am and arrived at my hostel Biarritz at 2:30pm, but all the travel was well worth the beach time, especially since the weather was 25 and sunny everyday. The city is a surfing destination of Europe, and is only a 30 minute drive 2015-06-20 17.45.06from Spain on the Atlantic coast The hostel I booked at was expensive but came with the perks of renting you a bike, a surfboard, and a wet suit ūüôā Everything a person could need to have fun there. I immediately hopped on a bike and headed down to the beach to soak in some sun and spend some time with my favourite travel campaign, my Kobo.

The next day was my first ever surfing lesson. After a few minutes explaining things it was out into the ocean to give it a try. With the instructor giving a push instead of paddling, I was able to actually catch the third wave I tried to stand up on! After a few more, he was impressed enough to take be into the bigger waves were I managed a few, and crashed spectacularly on some others. After only two and a half hours in the ocean, I was exhausted from being beaten up by the waves and falling off almost every time I tried to stand. It is so much more work than it looks, but isn’t that always the case.

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The next two days were surfing and suntanning which I could get used too, although I wouldn’t trade my mountains for an ocean. This time no lesson, just trying to figure it out a bit on my own. I wont say that I am any good at surfing, but I am now able to say I know how. Then I got to go through the whole transit process again to arrive back in rainy Luxembourg.

Summer!

Luxembourg finally realized the date on the calendar and provided a sunny weekend with weather over 25 degrees. Since it was my first weekend in Luxembourg in a while, I packed a lot in. Friday was a going away party for the Estonian au pair. 2015-06-06 13.20.36We went bowling which I was surprised even existed in Luxembourg and was good fun. Saturday, however, was when it really started to feel like summer. There is a lake in the north of the country called Lac de la HauteS√Ľre which is¬†about an hour drive from the city you are allowed to swim in. It is the result of damming off the river to provide drinking water for Luxembourg, so the first 5km up from the dam are closed off as a nature preserve and no motorized boats are allowed on the lake.¬†After a quick visit to the supermarket to buy a communal picnic of fruit, cheese, meat, and some¬†Cr√©mant de Luxembourg¬†we piled into two cars to make the trip. The weather was very cloudy in the morning which I think scared some people off as it was easy to find a place in the grass to set up shop. The water was the perfect temperature; it was nice and refreshing to swim in but not so cold that getting in was truly a demanding task.

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The first Sunday of every month is open for shopping in Luxembourg city and there is also several markets that take place. We wandered about just enjoying the sunshine and eating and finished off at a cafe who hosts a quiz night every Sunday. I 2015-06-07 11.57.55try to go every weekend I am in town because I am a gluten for punishment. As a collective group of around 6 people from a variety of different countries and educational backgrounds, we feel like we have done well if we manage to answer half the questions correctly. Our personal best was placing third. The quiz also contains pictures which typically include one geographical feature, famous faces, cartoon characters, historical musical instruments, and different machinery. There is also two song questions where you have to guess the name and author of the song played.¬†A sample of questions we have been asked:¬†Life expectancy of an African man (47), the capital of Portugal from 1808-1821 (Rio de Janeiro), the Nazi name for the capital of Slovakia (Pressburg), the second largest French speaking city in the world (Montreal), the only female athlete not subject to a gender test in the Montreal Olympics (Princess Anne) ect. ¬†It is punishing but a lot of fun! This sunday we came second…last, but we were only 4 questions away from first.

Antwerpen and Ghent

These two cities in northern Belgium were recommend to me again and again when I was living in the Netherlands. Now that I have finally made it, I can see why. They are much more fun than Brussels and I would even go as far to say prettier than Bruges. Train and Au pair schedules conflicted slightly and resulted in having to spend Friday night in Brussels for the start of this weekend jaunt, so we headed to the world famous Delirium Cafe for the first few pints of beer.

Antwerpen

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After a short train ride and then a quick walk to find our hostel, we set out into Antwerpen. The city has a reputation as a fashion and design hub where all the up and coming designers are setting up shop. In fact, they host a huge fashion week 2015-05-30 13.28.20sometime in September which is internationally acclaimed for its innovation. The city itself is also very young, housing a large university population, and these two factors combine to produce a fantastic second hand and vintage shopping culture. 2015-05-30 14.32.07I was actually travelling with two girls who are/have studied costuming in University, so they were perfect companions for the city. We started in a huge food market to pick up lunch which began with a variety sack of mini waffles, then these delicious fried mussels, and finished with the purchase of several different types of cheese and meats for a little picnic in the nearby park. We must have spent almost an hour there wandering about and tasting the samples.

Off to the second hand stores, which also lead us through the old city centre. My one great find for the day was a Wrangler denim jacket in perfect condition for 4 euros, and the other girls managed to come home with a few dresses and jackets. There was several stores on the list that we never made it to, so sometime in July I2015-05-30 15.55.45 will be returning for an encore! The city is also packed with graffiti streets and fun coffee shops. One that we visited had a 2015-05-30 19.18.55huge rooftop patio and served speculoos lattes. Dinner was, of course, fries and to finish the day off, we headed to a Belgian beer bar which provided you with a 20 page binder to aid your selection. We each got two rounds of different beers, and since the weather was so lovely, stayed mostly in the fruit section. From the top of my head I can recall a strawberry, raspberry, banana, cherry, elder flower, and a peach beer were all ordered and passed about.

2015-05-31 11.31.25We intended to return to the hostel for a little down time and then at 1am (an early departure as you party until around 6am there) head out to visit a very famous club that was converted from a church, but we all ended up falling asleep and just deciding to stay in. Off to Ghent via what might be the most beautiful train station in Europe. It could also be one of the largest, the train track are on three different tiers.

Ghent

While this city is stunning everywhere you turn, it has yet to truly become a tourist destination and as such, most things are closed on Sunday. It would be nice to return on a more lively day as they city is also known for having a fun, youthful energy. 2015-05-31 17.18.11We touristed about, wandering up and down the old city which was once the third largest and most powerful medieval cities and came across a full concert band playing in one of the squares. Our only culture activity of the weekend was to view the Ghent Altarpiece which is inside a church that beautifully contrasted in blacks and whites. The altarpiece is quite massive and you are given an audio guide to help understand the many panels and the history, including the much famed still missing panel, of the artwork. More fries, but this time in their proper container a cone, and then we had to head back to Luxembourg.

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Dijon and Lyon

French train discount tickets, the bodily ascension of Jesus to the heavens, and two of my vacation days resulted in a 5 day weekend which I spent in Dijon and Lyon. Dijon bookended around Lyon so I spent roughly two days in both cities and a lot of time on trains.

Dijon

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The first day of my loooong weekend was spent wandering about Dijon by myself. This was greatly aided by the fact that the city has set up an “owl walk”. Basically, the city has placed bronze owl markers in a grand loop that walks you past all 2015-05-13 13.02.10the major sights and monuments in the historical old town. Although I didn’t visit the tourist office to buy the official explanation guide, I was able gain a basic understanding of what I was looking at through reading the plaques in French. An owl is selected as the marker as it is the symbol of the city due to a carving on the main cathedral which, according to legend, brings good luck2015-05-13 13.10.48 to those who rub it. I don’t know if I will be lucky in my future because as I was rubbing it, someone yelled at me to use the other hand, so fingers crossed. The other event of the day was the longest, most leisurely lunch of my life which was mostly made possible from my lack of schedule and the servers lack of interest in me. After being quickly served my coffee, it took me almost 45 minutes order my lunch which was very tasty. The wait was greatly aided by my kobo, which has quickly become my favourite thing to have in my bag.

When I returned to Dijon for the last day of my trip (not counting my 6 hours of public transportation¬†to return to my house in Luxembourg the next day) I was couchsurfing. My host was involved in a European 2015-05-16 20.27.39wide youth volunteer programme and he was kind enough to show me around for a bit. We ran into another friend of his who we ended up spending most of the night with and took us to eat a region speciality, escargo! It was actually very delicious and no more strange than clams or oysters. After that it was off to enjoy the celebrations of the night of museums. This is a nationally observed day where all2015-05-17 00.04.26 the museums are free to enter and many put on different concerts and shows to highlight culture. We watched a string quartet play 70’s and 80’s rock music in the museum of the city and then went to a large church to see, what can only be described, as the strangest concert I have ever heard. It sounded like noise from space. After that we were off to meet more friends to drink and party on a river barge. ¬†All in all, an interesting last day.

Lyon

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2015-05-13 21.29.59Another lovely couchsurfer welcomed me into her home for my stay in Lyon. Since I arrived in the evening, we had dinner together and then went to take a quick look at the city. Lyon is filled with students and since it was a public holiday the next day and the temperature cracked 30 degrees that afternoon, everyone was sitting next to the river enjoying a picnic and the sunset. I was quite a sight to see almost every square of grass taken by the relaxing Lyonaise.

I had the next day all to myself to wander around the city and the weather was perfect.

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Most of the old interesting parts are 2015-05-14 12.01.52situated between the two rivers that converge in Lyon, and I spent my day walking about after first making the climb to the cathedral for a spectacular view of the city. Lunch was another long affair, although this time is was more of my choice, at a 2015-05-14 13.10.11famous sandwich shop. The last stop was to the Roman amphitheatres to watch the sunset. I then met up with my host to go indoor rock climbing. It had been almost two years since I had gone climbing and it was so much fun, and a very nice change from the usual tourist things.

My weather luck broke the next day and it poured off and on with a wind vicious enough to claim my umbrella. Seeing as my plans to visit the city park and zoo were dashed, I went to see the clothing and textile museum. The region surrounding Lyon became very rich on the silk trade, and the museum talk about the area as well as other great silk houses. Unfortunately, the clothing section was closed for rearranging so I mostly got to look at many different tapestries. After off to a bakery for a tea gourmet which has become my new favourite, It is tea (but mostly it is seen with coffee) and three very small desserts. After I meet up with my host for a few beers and then back to her house to make crepes.

2015-05-16 10.44.00The last day in Lyon was lovely to start but ended up being a little frustrating. My host took me for a walk along one of the rivers. The city has recently created a board-walk throughout the entire city at water level with chairs and different artwork. I also got to see the statue of the petit prince, as his author is from Lyon.That was the lovely part, the annoying part was when my carshare ride decided to cancel on me with less than 20 minutes left to the meeting. Luckily my host did not have to be at work yet and I was able to go back and find another ride. O well, it all worked out in the end.

Proost,

Alana