Posts Tagged With: Festive Escape

All Lit Up!


Out of all the photos I now have of the Eiffel Tower, this is far from the best of the bunch but is absolutely one of my favourite.  I love how the Eiffel Tower peaks out from behind the naked tree while the blue lights from our tour bus steak across image and think this just  adds to the charm of the photo.


Categories: FRANCE, france: paris | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just Like Jimi Hendrix…

Turns out that opting out of Amsterdam doesn’t necessary mean that the Amsterdam experience isn’t going to find one way or another to hunt you down and leave an imprint on you.  For me, it all started when I made the unfortunate decision to close my eyes for a split second while everyone else was getting ready for dinner and I ended up falling asleep.  I wasn’t overly fussed that I missed dinner but I had slept for long enough to miss the canal cruise I had booked for that evening.  As there’s really no way to chase down a boat winding its way through the canals of Amsterdam, I decided to pop into the shower and change into my beloved pink pajamas before calling it an early night.

Just as I was climbing back into bed, 2 of the girls I was sharing my room with returned.  We stayed up talking about life, love, and everything else in-between when suddenly a very messed up Aussie came barging in.  Have no fear, she wasn’t a stranger but someone on our tour and unfortunately, assigned to our room.  As she peeled her clothes off, she mumbled nonsense at us while attempting to climb onto the top bunk.  The girls and I decided that the last thing we needed was her falling off and creating a blood bath and so we shoved her mattress onto the floor.  As quickly as we got it down, she collapsed on it and passed out.  With certainty, we knew our room wasn’t going to be a vomit free zone and so we decided the safest thing to do was pack all our belongings as quickly as possible to ensure that they remained puke free.  This activity was quickly interrupted by a gurgling noise from the passed out person in the room.  When it happened a second time, we looked over at her and watched as she vomited on her pillow while passed out cold.

The three of us looked around at each other as to say WTF and then we realized that this was just the beginning of the hurling drama ahead of us this fine night.  After a quick discussion, we decided to try to wake her and get her into an upright position.  The waking part was an EPIC FAIL but what we did managed to do was get her upright and her head into a bin.  The spewing was out of control and accompanied by a little wind being passed.  One of the girls that was keeping her upright starting gagging at the smells and sounds.  GROSS doesn’t even begin to cover what happened that night!  Trust me, it was BAD.  At this stage, we didn’t know what to do so the other 2 girls released me from the bin holding/puke wiping duties in order to get help.  I raced down to reception and told them that there was a girl in our room that was going to die just like Jimi Hendrix.  They calmly told me that there was nothing that they could do and if we took her to the hospital, they’d won’t admit anyone who is drunk and/or stoned.  Just encase they missed my earlier point, I screamed back, “just like Jimi Hendrix!”  Again, I was ignored and told to try to wake her or get her into the toilet and leave her there.  Obviously these 2 men seemed to miss my point that Jimi Hendrix DIED!  As I stood and looked at them completed baffled, I was met by other people on our tour who followed me back to our room.  It was at the elevator that we discovered sheets and pillows covered in vomit.  Yes, these came from my room and as we re-entered, the girls told us that there couldn’t be much left in her system after the volume they’d seen come out.  At this point, our fearless tour leader tried waking up the passed out Aussie with a gentle love tap (aka hard slap across the face) and told us to get ours in while we still could.  Weirdly enough, the Aussie girl remained passed out through all of this.

Exhausted, we all retired for the night hoping that the worst was behind us.  I left Amsterdam with a trail of regrets.  I wish I hadn’t come back early during the day or sat on my bed before dinner or closed my eyes every so briefly.  If none of these things happened then I would have been on that cruise and out that night and would have avoided the vomit disaster.  Coulda, woulda, shoulda – I guess…

Categories: NETHERLANDS, nl: amsterdam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A View From The Top


The View From The Cafe of Amsterdam

After a day well spent aimlessly wandering around the city, it seemed fit to have a little down time that would also incorporate a little coffee as well.  See the thing is that when you’re in Amsterdam, you don’t visit a coffee shop to get that shot of java you’re looking for.  If you’re actually in the want of coffee its best that you find yourself a cafe and that’s exactly what we did as the last thing anyway needs in the middle of the afternoon is a little space cake action.  The truth is, the night before we had learned of a cafe that provided amazing views of the city and so half by memory and half by fluke, we retraced our steps and found ourselves climbing a winding staircase to the cafe at the top – yes, we were the fools that made the mistake of getting off crowded elevator on a lower floor than we really should have!

This cafe was no secret as it was crowded beyond belief.  Fortunately, after a bit of a photo-shoot of the 360 degree city view, we found ourselves seated at a tiny little table as we waited to sample the array of treats that we’d just purchased.  As I had decided to opt out of all that Amsterdam is known for, I was quite happy with this little find after a day filled with nothing but walking interrupted by constant food stops.  It was a well needed rest day that come at just the right time.


Categories: NETHERLANDS, nl: amsterdam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Heart, My Soul, My Berlin

Where A Wall Once Stood

Where A Wall Once Stood

As I continued making the rounds in Germany with my travel weary soul, I never in a million years would have suspected that I was about to set foot in a city that would turn my world upside down.  Truth be told, despite all the rave reviews, I had yet to find a city in Europe that I felt an instant connection with.  The moment I took my first step in Berlin, that all changed as the love affair began at first sight.  It was gritty, vibrant, and all-encompassing while being entrenched in history at every turn that left me wanting more.  As quickly as I expressed my fondness of Berlin, I had someone tell me that I only liked it because I had an appreciation of street art and they themselves disliked the city because it was dirty and ugly since graffiti was everywhere.


Great Work On A Street Sign

Great Work On A Street Sign

Turns out beauty is really in the eye of the beholder as one of my favourite daytime activities during this trip was a street art tour.  The tour that I’m talking about is a free tour given by Alternative Berlin Tour.  After a little difficulty locating the meeting spot (truth be told, an issue with the 3 people looking for the meeting spot and had very little to do with the location itself), we soon discovered there were 2 guides and an army of people looking to go on the tour.  With a bigger group than usual, the 2 guides divided the group up at random and me and my buddies wound up in David’s group.  He’s a street artist from Berlin who had taught himself how to speak English (rather well I might add) and was now our fearless leader.  Before long, we were off at lightning pace to see what he enjoyed the most about the city and being a Berliner.  It was here that I was introduced to Alice and El Bocho’s Little Lucy.  As we walked up and down streets, it was easy to get absorbed by the art that was all around us and then David would point out something small that would remind us of the WWII legacy that is ever-present in Berlin.

Chipped Brick Not Paint

Chipped Brick Not Paint

Portrait Of His Daughter

Portrait Of His Daughter

A Reminder Of The Past

A Reminder Of The Past

We ducked in and out of alleyways and took quick peaks into galleries before hitting the streets again.  We jumped onto the U-Bahn/S-Bahn to cover more ground and be able to hit some of the cultural neighbourhoods and artist squats that were a must on this tour as well as being able to see some of the murals done on buildings out the windows.  At an alarming pace, we worked our way around the city and managed to see places like the Bethanien House and YAAM beach despite it not really not being fake beach weather in the middle of winter.  As we moved from place to place, David shared stories and legends that existed in each of these places as he pointed out his favourite parts and pieces of work throughout the city.  As the sun began to set, we continued winding around the city to just that one last location.  After spending all day pounding the pavement, my body was starting to feel the toll of the wear and tear but yet, I couldn’t resist soldiering on and following him every step of the way as my camera battery slowly died from overuse.

Bethanien House - Amazing Inside and Out

Bethanien House – Amazing Inside and Out

After about 4 hours, it was time to bid adieu to our large group and I stood there with the 2 buddies that I had begun the day with when we abandoned the rest of the group at Checkpoint Charlie to make our way to the TV Tower for this tour.  Despite the exhaustion that was setting in and the big evening ahead of all of us, there were no regrets.  This was amazing and was just the icing on the cake to a city that was already completely fabulous.  What I do know for sure is that the next time I’m in Berlin (plans are even being tossed around as I write this), I will retrace some of these exact steps so I can keep exploring the raw art and culture in the detail it deserves and then continue on to see parts of the city that I never made it around to during this visit.  Until then I can just dream of the next time I’ll be able to wrap my arms around Berlin again.

Little Lucy

Little Lucy

What Is Art Anyway?

What Is Art Anyway?

Categories: GERMANY, germany: berlin | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One Man’s Junk Is Another Man’s Treasure

As I stood looking at essentially a pile of junk on a traffic island, it never occurred to me that this was where I’d get that fairy-tale story I was so desperately hoping for at Hohenzollern Castle.  It’s a story about a Turkish Muslim man named Osman Kalin who saw a vacant piece of land from the apartment he was renting and dreamed a little dream.  This empty plot of land existed because of the Berlin Wall and during the construction of it there was a bend in the border and the East Germans decided to just straighten the wall instead of following the curve.  Rumour has it that this piece of land was used as a dumping ground for people’s garbage until Mr. Kalin saw its full potential.

The House Made Of Junk

The House Made Of Junk

His vision for this land was to construct a garden and house for his family.  The house was built using all the odds and ends that was discarded on this empty plot of land.  This isn’t one of those unique structures seen on the Home & Garden channel where you jaw hits the floor when you release it was built out of junk.  From first glance, it is obvious the type of materials used to build the structure and there is no apologizes for it whatsoever.  Despite the building materials, the structure that stood before me was sturdy but my story isn’t about the values of reduce, reuse, recycle but one about what a man fighting the good fight to keep his home.  Sure, when the building was first constructed, neither the East or the West did anything to challenge him.  Unfortunately, that was not the case after reunification and the fall of the Berlin wall.  The authorities (aka the man) decided that Mr. Kalin’s house needed to be demolished.  Not to give in, this Turkish man stood strong and wouldn’t let his home be taken away that easily.

The Christian Church In The Background Of This Muslim Family's Home

The Christian Church In The Background Of This Muslim Family’s Home

Despite the opposition he faced – HE FOUGHT!  Evidence of this fight can be seen today as Mr. Kalin cemented every piece of furniture to the ground in the fear that the man would come and take them away.  This was his home and despite the authorities trying to take away this plot of land, there was a zoning law that turned the tides in Mr. Kalin’s favour.  It turned out that the land actually belonged to a nearby church and not the administrative body trying to take the land away from him.  This building couldn’t be demolished without prior consent from the church and so this Muslim man had no choice but to lobbied to a Christian church for the sake of his home.  If you thought this would end in Muslim vs Christian heartbreak than you’d be wrong since the church liked Mr. Kalin’s way of life and family ethic and they decided that he should stay exactly where he is.  In the end, it was this church that made it possible for this man and his family to remain in their home.   Even though it wasn’t the case on the day that I visited the house, I was told that even though he’s now 84 years old, Osman Kalin can still be seen sitting outside and his grandchildren running around in the garden.  To me, this is the stuff of fairy-tales.

Categories: GERMANY, germany: berlin | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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