Stockholm, Sweden – Copenhagen, Denmark – 2019 – Day 13-15

09/23/19

Copenhagen, Denmark

Day 13 and what a day.

Most important task of this trip – laundry. We literally were living out of a 40x20x25cm type bag and had limited amount of clothes but we had access to a washer and dryer and what a feeling!

We went into town and rented bikes from Baisikeli – They collect used bicycles in Denmark and send them to Mozambique where having a bike can help generate work and education opportunities while also giving them cheaper options for transportation. After picking up our bike rental (we booked for 2 days) we started our adventure leaving town and biking into the suburbs to find 2 of the 6 Forgotten Giants created by Thomas Dambo. We found Sleeping Louis and Hilltop Trine. Google maps wants you to go through a camp grounds to get to Sleeping Louis – don’t do it. It will lead to a dead end. You need to continue past and go into the park beside it, through the parking lot and down the path. Beautiful bike ride seeing a different part of town. Remember to use your hands signals on the bike! In University, I had one course that talked about how cities are designed and Copenhagen was ahead of the times and the best designed in the world. I am happy to have seen it with my eyes first hand. There is a designated walking, biking and car/bus lane.

Unfortunately the Cisterns were closed Mondays which I forgot to double check. After our bike ride through the suburbs, we came back into town for food at Ipsen & Co. We got Smørrebrød (open sandwich) with avocado, mayo, pickled shallots and roasted seeds. It was a small snack more so than a real meal but we were a little cheap considering we kept calculating the cost of meals here in CAD in our heads.

After that little snack break and creating our bike route for the rest of the day, we got back onto the bikes and kept going. We biked through Dybbølsbro bridge to the Bicycle Snake path to the Circle Bridge. From there, we made our way through Christiana again hoping to go up the Lord of our Saviour but it was closed! We also returned back to infamous Nyhavn but this time during the day.

We made it in time to catch a canal tour (which is included in the Copenhagen card). Being on the boat for an hour took all our heat away but we were able to see all the major attractions in the area.

We hopped back onto our bikes and made our way to Gonzo for fællesspisning (a cheaper home-cooked meal where you are encouraged to interact with others). We met up with Winnie’s Danish friend Sophie for dinner.

Overall, we biked over 35KM that day and our butts definitely felt it.

09/24/19 

Copenhagen, Denmark

We rearranged our itinerary to visit more of the attractions that are covered by our Copenhagen card because we got the 72 hour pass and wanted to make sure we saw all the ones we wanted to before our pass expired.

We also still had our bike rental and wanted to ensure we took full advantage of that as well.

With our sore bums, we made our way to Superkilen Park in Nørrebro (3 park spaces with different themes featuring elements coming from a bunch of countries). Slightly less biking than the day before with 16KM roughly. Tried to find the public trampoline Fælledparken (unsuccessful – I guess they took it away).

We biked our way to Rosenborg Castle. It was interesting to see how they lived and glimpsed at the garden but for Winnie and myself, we have already seen so many castles so it wasn’t our cup of tea as much. We continued to the Rundetaarn (Round house) – decent view up top with a pleasant interior aesthetic but a little underwhelming.

We tried to find Køs Museum Of Art In Public Space (apparently Google had a different location saved for this place – this location is actually outside of the city centre). Had lunch at Riz Raz (buffet – cost effective and very filling). After lunch, we biked over to the Cisterns (it is in the park – look for the pyramid glass structures in a field with a fountain).

We returned our bike rentals to Baisikeli and hopped onto the train and went north (about an hour each way) to Louisiana Museum (all the Danish people we’ve met have recommended it). We could definitely see why the moment we got there. The building itself and location is absolutely stunning and it wasn’t even a sunny day which would have made it even better. The exhibits that were on display featured 2 American artists – Marsden Hartley, a painter and Lauren Greenfield, a photographer. I guess because the topics and themes of the series of “art” that was on display is something as a Westerner I have seen so often that it didn’t enthrall me as much as the European visitors. We saw they were setting up a Yayoi Kasuma exhibit but unfortunately wasn’t ready for us to view.

Back to København for dinner at Banana Joe – 2 burgers there cost less than what a bowl of ramen ($25CAD) would cost for a single person. The cheap Asians in us were really showing when it came to eating in Denmark since everything is so expensive. A cup of coffee plus a cinnamon bun (fika if you will) cost $17CAD.

09/25/19

Copenhagen, Denmark

Our itinerary changed since we tried to pack more of the museums into the previous day so the day was a little slower but consisted of food. Started off at the Design Museum in the morning. Tried to goto the Nikolaj Kunsthal but they were closed to prep for a new exhibit. So many attractions were closed during our timing here – transition period.

We kept walking the same street a few times but passed through the Lego store (Fun fact: Lego was invented in Denmark) and checked out the oldest tea shop of A.C. Perchs Thehandel.

Went to Sankt Peders Bageri for onsdagssnegle (Wednesday snails/cinnamon rolls).

We checked out Torvehallerne (the market with 50 stalls and fresh flower and fruit stalls) the food there was a little over our price range and so we made our way over the bridge to Rita’s Smørrebrød for some good but cheaper options.

We did a brisk walk through the Assistens Kirkegård – cemetery. Stopped by Mirabelle for some focaccia with arugula and prosciutto.

We decided we needed to spend some time back at school and went to the University of Copenhagen (University education is free). The facility itself is beautiful. There is an observation-viewing window also known as the Maersk Tower to see above the city.

We pretty much finished all the things we had marked down on our itinerary so we decided to walk the Osterport area. Turns out that after coming in at night a few nights back and biking through town, we had actually covered so much of the core of Copenhagen and had now seen many neighbourhoods both during the day and at night.

We took the bus over to check out Reffen (street food market in an urban area by the waters). It looks like such a cool spot to hang in the summer but it was dead when we went.

We decided to go back into the core area and stopped by Sprød and Kebabistan (stock up on the hot sauce – so good and don’t be afraid to spread it all over) for dinner and they were delicious.

Back to Skovlunde we went and with the little money we had left, we bought a few things for breakfast at Aldi. The inner cheap Asians in us have not been so present but it can’t be helped when you convert DKK to CAD and realize you are paying an arm and a leg for 1 meal. We were going to get Ramen and realized one bowl was $25CAD. My mixed doner was $12CAD and a line out the door.

Itinerary – Europe – 2019

#urowiz

The original plan was to go to Australia & New Zealand for Sept/Oct 2019 with my friend Winnie. We were hoping for a flight deal to come along. Unfortunately no deal came by the deadline we gave ourselves so we decided to go to Europe together instead. Our itinerary is all over the place zig –zagging all over Europe. We narrowed down our top 10 countries we wanted to visit in the time period we had and researched where we could fly to for a bargain. From there, we chose to go to the warmer destinations first to extend our summer. The last leg of the trip was originally going to be staying in London/UK but we decided during the trip to go somewhere warm because let’s be fair, the heat makes things happier especially being in chilly and wet weather for awhile.

Now, before you get to the itinerary (all the way at the bottom), I am posting some (hopefully) helpful tips and information that came up during our trip.

 

Money – STACK (Pre-paid Mastercard)
36 days of travelling to multiple countries with different currencies takes a lot of organizing. When I travel, I usually carry a good amount of cash on me and pay that way so I don’t incur high conversion fees using my credit card. I made sure I knew what countries I was going to and calculated roughly how much I would be spending per day and got cash for certain countries I knew I would be in for a longer duration.

I tried to average about $60CAD/day. Prior to setting off on this trip, we tried to book our Airbnb’s, car rentals and flights in advance so at least those costs were covered.

My brother told me about this card called STACK, which is a conversion fee pre-paid Mastercard. With this card, you Interac transfer money from your bank account to the card account via the app using the special custom question and answer the app provides you with. Say you decide to transfer $200 to the card, if the card gets stolen, the card is not linked to your actual bank account and if say only $200 is on the card that is the limit that can be used. This card comes as a physical card but is also a virtual card via the app.

What I liked about using this card is that it was a very fast and secure way of paying for things abroad and the app also notifies you when a transaction has been made and will convert it automatically to your main currency so you don’t have to calculate the conversion yourself. And it is conversion fee free!

I used this card more so in the Scandinavian countries because they have started to adopt the cash-less transactions method but I still used cash in many of the other countries we travelled to.

Use my referral link and you’ll get $5 in your account when you activate your card.
Download STACK now: https://getstackco.app.link/fuqEmfMNH1 (this link only works on your phone via the app once its downloaded)

 

Ryanair
Yes Ryanair has super cheap flights BUT many hidden costs or steps. We decided to go to many countries because of how cheap the flights were (12£ one-way to go from London (Stansted) to Copenhagen (CPH) is a real good price). We also booked early. These cheap tickets have many drawbacks. First off, many of the airports you fly out of or into are not usually the main airports and are usually smaller airports outside of the city centre which adds more travel time.

More recently, Ryanair changed their luggage requirements from what use to be a free carry-on (still smaller than regulation size on other airlines) and now the only free luggage you can have must be 40x20x25CM. Depending on the airport and the staff, they don’t really check the size of your bag. I got the size compliant bag (Swissgear – https://www.shopbentley.com/en/escape-collection-travel-tote-swiss-gear-1016684.html) and it sits under the seat no problem with room to spare. The staff didn’t really check so you could get away with a slightly larger bag or a bag that can squish.

REMEMBER TO ALWAYS CHECK IN ONLINE. You can do this up to 48 hours. For non-EU passengers, you must print your documents, as they will not issue you a boarding pass. I found that with flights not connected to the UK, the boarding pass will be issued to your Ryanair App however, if you are flying out of or into UK, you must print your boarding pass to get a Visa check and stamp. I have heard that if you don’t print it and ask at the check-in desk, there is an expensive fee for them to print for you.

Easyjet, Air Europa, Norwegian and Vueling are also other cheap airline operators and their restrictions are not severe as Ryanair for luggage or protocol. I usually use Momondo or Skyscanner to help me check for better deals on flights.

 

Car rentals – International Driver’s License
As a Canadian, you are required to have your International Driver’s License to rent a car in Spain.

 

Sim Card
Travelling throughout many countries in Europe for over a month, trying to find a SIM card plan that works in all the countries and for that period of time was a challenge but there are definitely options out there beside “roaming” with your phone plan back home as that can be costly.

For my 36 day Eurotrip, I purchased this 30 day SIM card that works throughout 71 European countries with 12GB + 3000 minutes + 3000 texts. You are also able to top up this plan when in the UK by purchasing in-store.

Photo & Video Storage – SSD & USB – I brought an external to back up my photos from my DSLR and my phone every night. I also bring a USB for back-up to the back-up of the external for peace of mind since my phone internal storage is not large enough to store all the photos from the trip for the entirety of 36 days. I would suggest bringing another USB (64GB should suffice) to be the back up to the back up for the phone photos so you can clear space.

You can also use cloud storage but I am not a fan of that so these are my alternatives.

 

Hikes

Alltrails is amazing for finding hikes around the world. People review or comment on each hike and also you can see the difficulty and lengths. You can also download the app.

 

Groceries
To be honest, we ate out a lot this trip. When we could, we tried to make some meals with friends. We also stocked up on snacks like fruit and breakfast (skyr, yogurt, granola etc). You will find that there are many grocery stores but some are superior to others in terms of quality for the price. Budget friendly grocery stores you should be on the lookout for are Aldi & LIDL.

 

Overview

Spain – Euro
-Tipping is not common but you can tip if you want (5-10%)

Eating times
Different times for eating. They take siesta very seriously and will take hour long lunches where the kids will go home as well to eat with family. Dinner usually starts around 8PM.
Desayuno – breakfast – 7-9AM
-a Spanish classic is a toasted baguette with olive oil and crushed tomatoes
-other breakfast foods consist of churros and chocolate or pastries like croissants.
Almuerzo – Mid-morning snack – 1030-11AM – Coffee with a muffin or a croissant with ham and cheese
La Comida – Lunch – 2-330PM – Most important meal of the day.
Merienda – Mid-after snack – 530-730PM – More about socializing – more drinks than food. Churros are popular at this time of day or a small meat and cheese sandwich.
La hora del aperitivo – Tapas Hour – 830-10PM
La Cena – Dinner time – 9-11PM – Dinner is usually much lighter than a standard dinner meal. Traditional Spanish dinners are shared plates.

-Try Clara – beer with lemonade or lemon Fanta
-Try Tinto de verano – Red wine with Sprite or Fanta (very popular in Spain) – very similar to sangria

Common Phrases
-Hola – Ola – Hello
-Adios – bye
-Si – Yes
-No – No

-Pardon or Disculpa – Excuse me
-Por Favor – Please
-Gracias – Thank you
-De nada – You’re Welcome
-Lo SIento – Sorry
-Factura – Bill
-Salud – Cheers
-Camamos – Let’s eat

 

Portugal – Euro
-Tipping is not common but you can tip if you want (5-10%)
-You need to try some pastel de nata (Portugese Egg Tarts)
-Ola – Hello
-Oi – Hi
-Tchau – Bye
-Sim – Yes
-Nao – No
-Por Vaor – Please
-Obrigado – Thank you
-De nada – You’re Welcome
-Desculpe – I’m Sorry
-Perdao – Pardon me
-Saúde – Cheers
-vamos comer – Let’s eat!

 

Sweden – Stockholm – SEK – Swedish Krone
-Open drinking on the streets is not allowed.
-Physical cash transaction is not common here.
-Tap and Swish (E-Transfer) is the common transaction types
-Stockholm is made up of many little islands connected by bridges
-Tipping is not common however, it is common to round up the total to the nearest big number as a tip.
-Access is their tap transport card – I got the 72-hour card. You can take all the forms of transportation ranging from bus, train, tram and ferry.
-Fika – an important part of Swedish culture. Fika – coffee break

-Hej – Hello
-adjö – bye
-Ja – Yes
-Nej – No
-Ursäkta – Excuse me
-snälla du – Please
-Tack or Tack tack – Thank you
-Varsågod – You’re welcome
-Förlåt – Sorry
-räkningen – Bill
-Skål – Cheers
-låt oss äta – Let’s eat

 

Denmark – Copenhagen – DKK – Krone
-Open drinking on the streets is not allowed.
-Tipping is not common however, it is common to round up the total to the nearest big number as a tip
-Biking is taken very seriously and has its own road rules just like driving a car.
-Copenhagen Card – You can use the calculator on their website to see if it is worth it to purchase this card. We purchased it but mainly for the unlimited travel. We purchased the 72 hours card. It’s sort of an honour system in a sense as you have to write in your start date and time on the card. You don’t tap it when boarding trains/buses etc but there may be a fare/ticket checker on some of your rides and must show your card. I wish we used the erasable pen we had instead so we could adjust it as we were in Copenhagen for a little bit more than 72 hours and it would have been nice to not have to purchase a day pass for the last few hours. The card gets you into many attractions and discounts on many other things.

-Make sure you check if certain attractiions are open on specific days
-Expensive country

-Hej – Hello
-adjö – bye
-Ja – Yes
-Ingen – No
-undskyld mig- Excuse me
-Vær venlig (vair-vin-lee)– Please
-Tack or Tack tack – Thank you
-Selv tak (sell tack) – You’re welcome
-Beklager (bi-clay-er) – Sorry
-regning – Bill
-Skål (skuul) – Cheers
-Lad os spise- Let’s eat

 

Germany – Euro
-Tipping is not common but you can tip if you want (10%)
-Drinking is allowed in public
-Many flea markets on Sundays!
-Many stores are closed
-Grocery stores are closed Sundays however the ones in bus/train stations are exceptions

-Hallo – Hello
-Tschüss – (choose) bye
-Ja – Yes
-Nein – No
-Entschuldigen Sie – Excuse me
-bitte – Please
-Dankeschön– Thank you
-Bitte – You’re welcome
-Es tut uns leid (astudentslight) – Sorry
-Rechnung – Bill
-Prost- Cheers
-Lass uns essen- Let’s eat

 

London – Pound – £
-Oyster Card – train/subway/bus system is very intricate but can get you everywhere.
-Tip is around 10%

 

Scotland – Pound- £
-Similar to Quebec to the rest of Canada, Scotland is the United Kingdom’s counterpart whereby at a certain point, they wanted to separate to become a country of their own.
Edinburgh
-It doesn’t really snow here but the temperature remains an average low of maybe 5C
-Edinburgh seems to be a popular for international students to study

 

Congratulations, you have made it to the piece de resistance – My Itinerary for 36 days in Europe. We did move around things we did on certain days in certain cities but for the most part, this is what we did and they are grouped by areas in each city to maximize your days.

 

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3 & 4
Week 5 & 6
All the places we went

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – Chobe River, Botswana, Africa 2017 – Day 4-5

12/03/17

We woke for 6AM and took our time to get ready. We went into the main area with Will to visit the grocery store and get breakfast. After grabbing breakfast, we walked back a bit the way we came to rent bikes for the day. Very difficult to find 5 bikes where the seats could be adjusted, had both pedals, chain didn’t fall off and had brakes but we managed to. $25USD originally was what the man asked for but we bargained for $20USD for about 5 hours. We rode up the dirt road to get to the baobab tree and continued towards the river that leads to Victoria Falls.

We ended up biking to Victoria Falls where we asked security if we could leave our bikes inside. The entry fee of $30USD is included with our tour price. The falls are lovely with many viewpoints along the way. You can also see the Devil’s Inkpot that is on the Zambia side where you can feel the rush and sit on the edge of the waterfall. At I think viewpoint 13, Lulu and Jin decided to climb over the short branch barrier to get a closer look over the edge but that was short lived as they got whistled to come back because it’s not safe being so wet (felt like it was raining in that area) and possible snakes hidden in the grass.

What made it even better was the fact that there was a vivid rainbow that formed at the bottom. We walked around to all the viewpoints and then decided we needed to rest and sat at the cafe – Shearwater Cafe where we ate our “picnic” and I got an energizer smoothie $5USD (ginger & orange etc). Will left us from here but told us the route to take to get back.

We continued on bike to the bridge border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. We asked if we could go through with border patrol and they just waved us through. On the bridge the joins the two countries, they offer bungee jumping but we didn’t partake. We decided to head back and came back to the gate where we were told we needed a letter of some sort get back into the country but they let us through anyways.

We biked back and returned the bikes and decided to hit the pool because it was just so hot too do anything else and biking for half the day deserved a dip. Shearwater seems to be the spot where the safari tours start and end off so there was a mix of people beginning, ending and continuing their travels on-site. 5 of the people that joined our 12-day tour were continuing and joined from a tour that went to the Serengeti.

We grabbed a late lunch poolside from the restaurant on-site – Panini and a nice cider. We met Erik from the Netherlands who had just finished a tour and he filled us in on what he did and saw on his tour that was the reverse of what our tour was minus Cape Town. We all hung out by the pool and talk for a few hours but then realized we needed to switch tents so we rushed off, showered and packed up and moved over to our new tents. The tents we stayed in that night became our designated tent for the rest of the tour. Lulu and myself shared Timon as our tent. The tent is quite large. You need to bring your own sleeping bag and a lock but the tour company provides sleeping mats. After we moved in, the rain began to pour and all four of us stayed in our tent until to died down about 20 minutes later. We grabbed what we needed for the night and the next morning and threw our luggage into the truck. We went to Shearwater Café on the main road with Lisa and Katie which has the best wifi signal. I got the prefixed – $15USD – tomato soup, steak and frites and carrot cake.

12/04/17

I had a horrible time getting to sleep as my mind wouldn’t shut off and my nose was stuffy. Finally was able to sleep around 3AM – the wifi signal was strong around that time. We woke up for 6AM and packed, took down our tents, packed the truck and had breakfast. Off we went with the crew. First things first, the truck has storage below. The very front passenger side is cooking supplies, driver side front are tents, the 2 back tops on both sides are luggage’s and lower passenger side is chairs and tables. You need to climb a ladder (a little help from a step ladder) to enter the top seating compartment). In the seating compartment, the very back has shelves for the sleeping mat. The very front has sideways seating for about 8 people with a table, a 4-seater with a table then 10 more double seats. We get a combination cooler and the 2 giants chests go on board.

Once we hit the road, Will stated his speech on the breakdown of the tour as ATC brings together multiple tour companies like on the go tours and others to run the tour and not ask the information shared is the same. Once that got sorted, he broke down the day for us and told us the optional excursions. He also posted on the door our schedule along with our shared duties. This is a budget tour so everyone has responsibilities including buying ice for the cooler each day to security and bus cleaning duties to helping with keeping meals etc.

Info about Zimbabwe

-14 million population

-The House of Stone in Masvingo is the 2nd largest African civilization to the pyramids.

-Zimbabwe in the shona dialect means House of stone

-The British came and colonized Southern Rhodesia – They made a railway to promote trading from Europe to Africa.

-In 1980 Zimbabwe  gained democracy.

-The tobacco industry deflated so the currency Inflated – For Eg – eggs could cost 10,000 rand one week then 20,000 the next.

-They adopted USD as currency but almost adopted Chinese yuan because of the trading and building.

-Zimbabweans are very well spoken (English ruling a different education) and very polite.

-Victoria Falls is the largest sheet of water and highest bridge bungee jump.

-Government officials weren’t really being paid and hospitals were expensive.

 

We drove to the border of Zimbabwe and Botswana and had 2 check points. The first, we departed Zimbabwe and the second to enter Botswana. At the Botswana border, where we needed to bring all our footwear with us to dip the bottoms to “clean them” to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease. I was welcomed with a warthog. Also quick note – no photos at the border.

Our first pitstop was an hour-hour and half stop to pick-up groceries, alcohol and exchange money for local currency of Pula. You should get Pula for tipping money. 10 Pula is 1 USD. The bureau Centre didn’t open until 9AM so we bought groceries at the grocery store Spar. At the Bureau Centre, you can change currency and purchase cheaper ice (Lulu’s responsibility for day 1). Note – The block of ice lasts longer than the cubes but needs to be broken up. We all threw in $20USD each and the Pula equivalent together became our tipping money.

In Botswana, you CANNOT DRINK the tap water. We all purchased 5L jugs for about $1.65USD. The tour stops every 2 days or so at grocery stores so you can pick up snacks and water etc.

We found Erik (our new friend we met the day before) at the grocery store as 2 other tour trucks were also doing the same thing loading up. Erik finished 1 tour and joined another. At one point, they were sitting in our bus as their bus disappeared and we all thought they left without them but that tour only consisted of 9 people. Turns out the bus was getting gas around the corner and off they went.

We also found out from Will that the information we got from Sarah was completely wrong in terms of clothing because she told us we needed to dress conservatively covering shoulders and knees.  It turns out, on her last Africa trip, she was in northern Africa where there are more Muslims thus dressing more conservatively but on this trip, clothing didn’t matter as you can wear whatever you want. For safari however, neutral colour clothing. That meant all 4 of us packed clothing we didn’t need and could have been replaced with summer clothing such as more shorts.

We thought our ride to the next campsite was far but it was just up the street – Thebes Safari campsite. We setup our tents and then ate lunch – self serve sandwich station. We have 2 showers and 2 toilets on our campsite but if your walk further into the site closer to the pool area, there is a much nicer shower and toilet setup with hot water. The main hotel (upgrade is available) had free wifi in the lobby and 2 single toilets.

After eating, Stephanie, Susan and the girls and myself we went on the Chobe game drive in a safari truck and off we went (optional excursion for $70USD for 3 hours in the park). Our driver was very knowledgeable and had an amazing eye finding animals of all sizes for us. Usually noon is the hottest time of day so many animals are in hiding but we got lucky and spotted a good variety of animals. Impala, kudu, hippos, lionesses (one sleeping and one heading for a nap), baboons, zebras, eagles, vultures and so many beautiful birds as well as a leopard tortoise. I learned that elephants don’t have sweat glands so they overheat which is why they roll in the mud to cool down. We didn’t get to see a live elephant but we saw a 2-day old dead young elephant who overheated and was trying to get to the water to cool down but once it made it there, it was too late. You could smell the stench from where we were in the truck 300M away. Giant vultures circled and were eating the elephant. The lions like fresh meat so they probably had first dibs one day 1 before we saw it. The guide stopped by the sleeping lioness so it awoke briefly then turned over to return to slumber.

We finished this lovely game drive and was driven straight to our next excursion (included) of a sunset boat cruise on the Chobe River. The river separates Namibia and Botswana border. Shimmy was our guide. This is where our cooler of ice and alcohol purchased earlier in the day was present. The boat cruise had seats for everyone and a drop toilet in the back. Once they started up the boat sailing, you were free to roam around to spot animals and the boat driver found them and we got closer views of them. Tons of hippos, crocodiles, baboons, water buffalo etc. Definitely the highlight were the hippos.

We cruised down the river spotting animals and a cold drink which ended up with a lovely sunset. Near the end of the cruising, there were 2 hippos in a certain area where the water levels were lower and you can see them running right into the water. With the water level lower, the hippo kept bobbing up and down and eventually running and jumping up similar to a dolphin. We kept trying to follow where they would surface and one of the hippos decided to rush our boat and came up right under the metal guard in the front where  Sarah was sitting and she flew back. The sunset was intense with lovely colours however all of us felt disgusting as we were all very sticky from being out all day in the sun.

We got back to the campsite and Clive had dinner waiting for us – chicken stroganoff and a salad. Will went over itinerary with us and call time.

We were told the pool seemed murky and we couldn’t find it in the dark so we showered and sat near the inner courtyard on the hotel and charged our phones. Finished off the night trying to journal and we thought the truck would be a good place as any to write and charge but turns out Clive and Frans sleep in there so we decided to journal in our tent. Hard to fall asleep when you haven’t really done much physical activity in a day when you are so use to walking everywhere.

Tamarindo – Costa Rica – 2015 – Day 5-7

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Farmers market – Tamarindo Feria. Local farmers market with local produce, handmade crafts, fish etc. That was the so called plan but when we made it to the area by the Backpackers Hostel, there was no market in sight except for signs. I guess it was closed for Easter. We walked the beach from Langosta back to our hostel then decided because it was only 930AM that we would do all day rentals and surf. We rented for $10USD including rashguards from Johan at our hostel and off we went. The waves were pretty tiny and not consistent when we got out unfortunately. The best I results for my ride was a slight crouch or riding on my knee. We surfed for about two hours then headed back since we got tired.

After lunch we stayed in for a bit to avoid the sun. Around 330PM we went back into town to grab groceries and when we got back Johan was actually leaving to head into another city to meet up with his family for Easter dinner so our surf plans got canned. We took another break from the sun for a bit before venturing to the beach to watch the sunset. Such a disappointing sunset that reminded us of the colour dot on old tube televisions. We bumped into Caribbean guy (sorry I can’t remember his name but ;et’s call him E). He was trying to convince us to go out clubbing and he convinced us.

We walked over with E and he filled us in more about his life. He was born on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, his brother lives there, he works in a surf shop, lived in Belgium with his ex girlfriend, learned English on the streets. We went to a bar club called Elbe! and his friend Mateo joined us. It was 2000 colones entry with unlimited drinks with your plastic cup. The music at the beginning was old, American and Euro music that no one should even dance to. It started to pick up when they dropped Blackstreet – No Diggity and that’s when the dancing started.

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One more full day to go with no plans. We went for a beach walk in the morning. The hostel has cleared out because everyone had gone back home after Easter except the actual tourists. It’s a ghost town now. I don’t understand how it’s so humid. Johan finished work we joined him to Playa Avellana to surf. He drives this sweet white land cruiser and strapped boards above. Playa Avallenas is about a 30-45 minute drive away from Tamarindo and also is where Lola’s restaurant is. It is a restaurant located on the beach which features Lola the pig. The waves are massive here and the beach is beautiful but a large portion has rocks at the base. Johan and Sarah surfed while I got out my waterproof bag and shot from the end of the last ripple in the water because the waves were aggressive and I can’t multitask shooting and staying a float. We stayed until sunset and Johan had some cool moves. But there was this one kid that was just killing it. As we got back to the car, Johan’s friends gave us these huge fresh coconuts that made it so much better. Good to make friends with locals.

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Woke up early to catch our tour bus. Today with Tamarindo Shuttle and Tours we did a 9 activities in 1 combo. $130USD for shuttle, activities such as zip lining, rappeling, rock climbing, buffet, horse back riding, tubing, sauna, hot spring and volcano mud bath. Gustavo was our tour guide who lives outside Tamarindo.

Some facts about Costa Rica:

-CR doesn’t have an army because they are a poor country so when they had a Panama president, he declared it’s too expensive to keep an army and put funds towards education.

-Nicaragua on the other hand has an army but education is poor but Panama has the canal thus economically they are better off.

-There are only two seasons in CR – rainy or dry. It actually gets more humid in rainy season. The caribbean side is very different from this side of town. Huge African population lives there so a much different culture, food, music etc and they speak patois.

-Coffee was the biggest income after tourism, 1820 is one of the best coffee brands.

-There are 4.2 million people on Costa Rica and 2 million of that live on San Jose.

-Guancaste is the province.

-Tamarindo is only 20 years old so they don’t have any schools there. The closest school is 4KM outside of Tamarindo. It’s now one of the most popular places in CR.

-Okinawa is the best place in the world for the longest living. CR’s Nicoya has the highest number of people over 100 years old. It’s hot here so they sweaty out all the toxins and live a simple life but even the 100+ people are still active.

-There are 9 major volcanoes with 5 active but there are many mountains and hills undiscovered so there are actually 121.

-There is one highway that if you go one direction, it will take 1 hour from Liberia to Nicaragua border and the other direction, 3.5 hours. If you go in the same direction to Nicaragua, 5000 miles to California. The roads are tough but they are building a highway to go 50KM both directions.

Old Woman’s Corner is the name of the volcano we visited. The legend from many moons ago is that only Indians use to live on this area and the princess fell in love with an older person from the enemy tribe and got pregnant. The chief (her father) threw the guy into the crater, when the baby was born, the princess was so love stricken she threw the infant into the crater to be with its father. The princess roamed the land collecting herbs for medicine.

There is an energy plant that harnesses all the steam from the volcano that powers the country.

We did a breakfast pit stop at Peri grocery store then back on the road for about an hour and half. Our first activity at Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin was zip lining. It was fun but I truly believe Whistler, BC has this place beat. Along the course of lines (they were short) we had a chance to rappel down then climb up the wall. The best part of the zip lining was swinging upside down – spiderman style. During the tour, we met this lady named Olivia who was originally from Brazil who now lives in Los Angeles but is in Costa Rica with her husband who decided to go surfing so she took this tour on her own. She became our buddy for the day. Our tour bus had a few families from America but one particular family had two whiny, sensitive irritating boys named Liam and Max.

After the snake farm, we were taken by a school bus to part-take in white water tubing with another bus full or two of other people. We grabbed our huge tubes and walked down to the river. We rode the Colorado river which at this moment is at low tide making the whole thing take an hour and half instead of 45 minutes. It was so much fun except for two things: low tide means the water is low enough that when we hit the rapid, our bottoms hit the rocks hard and because it was so dry, the trees and forest caught on fire easily. Closer to the end of the tubing, the forest was on fire and we could feel the intensity of the heat as well as the debris of ash falling from above into the river on us. My hair smelt of a campfire. When we made it to the very end and had to walk up with our tubes, there were fires right beside us that we could touch or stepped on if we weren’t careful. If this was North America, this would for sure be cancelled for being unsafe. We got to the top and dropped our tubes off and literally the whole forest was white and ash by this point making it hard to breathe. The ironic thing is that as we were trying to escape, we were stuck behind a gasoline truck in the middle of this forest fire.

We had a buffet style lunch serving some Costa Rican food which was tasty especially the ribs in the sauce and star fruit juice. The chicken was tasty but slightly undercooked. From there, we ventured out on horseback. I got stuck with a dud house who didn’t go fast at all. The horseback riding was fun except for the fact that the wind was brutal picking up all the dust. That is one thing I especially hate about Costa Rica right now is that it’s so dusty and windy everywhere – my poor eyes. We got off the horses and went over to the natural hot springs. You cross this suspension bridge that can only take two people at a time. When you get down the last steps, you enter an area with a mud painting station and paint mud all over your body and then let it dry and stay on for 10 minutes. You can either use the river or the showers to rinse off the mud before going into the hot springs. Obviously I take the river to rinse off which was a little cold but refreshing however the rocks were slippery. There are multiple pools you can soak in and they vary in hotness. I actually finished off looking to the river for it’s coolness over the hot springs. Two hour ride back to Tamarindo. We made dinner – pasta with tomato sauce and tuna .

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Woke up on my own at 530AM. Took the only working bike out around 645AM to see if Tico Cafe was open to grab beans. I had read reviews about Tico selling the best coffee in Tamarindo and locally sourced and proceeds go back to the farmers. When I arrived, they had just opened before 7AM and I looked up to the trees and saw about 4-5 howler monkeys screaming. The shop is small but quaint and the staff was very helpful as she explained that Don Pupas was a local brand that made a really good espresso bean that was full bodied, creamy and hint of chocolate (6000 colones) and I also grabbed cashew nut butter 4500colones. The bike ride was so enjoyable with a stop along the way back to the skatepark which I wish I’d actually stopped by a few days back when there were skaters to take photos.

Got back and ate breakfast with Sarah and lexi the dog who is so friendly. Brought our stuff down and said quick goodbyes.

At the airport, we went to pay our exit fee of $29USD then fill out the exit form and proceeded to the check-in luggage line and were second and third in line because we came so early that the desk wasn’t even open yet. The security check was quick and easy and the airport is small. I wandered a bit and in the end probably spent more on snacks here than the entire trip on food but the coffee and chocolate are so good.

NOTE- BUY FOOD AND SNACKS BEFORE REACHING THE AIRPORT AS THE PRICES A SUBSTANTIALLY HIGHER.

In all entirety, I spent under $1300CAD this whole trip which is probably just a little bit more than a regular flight to Costa Rica.

Pura Vida.

Tamarindo – Costa Rica – 2015 – Day 3 & 4

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This heat is killer. I decided to go for a morning bike ride for about 30 minutes then came back because I was a little dehydrated. It’s nice ride though because it’s so quiet in the morning. It’s a low of 24 with 63% humidity. It’s weird to say but I miss Toronto’s ugly March weather.

We stayed at the hostel for a bit in the morning then booked a tour for the day. Estuary and mangrove boat tour for $35USD. We walked into town as only one bike there was available. We went to check out prices for surfboards and rash guard rental and to get sunscreen. We rented from Kelly’s Surf for half day at $5USD including rashguards and lockers. I got a long board. I decided to leave my flip flops in the locker. Big mistake. The cement and sand were terribly hot and I burnt the bottom of my feet. I literally ran through the parking lot and beach to the water. I haven’t surfed since 2010 and I wasn’t that good to begin with. I struggled to even stay afloat at first but managed after a while. I did catch a few waves but I grabbed the tiny ones. Sarah ventured off further and did great. The waves here are barrels which don’t really go anywhere. There were some amazing waves I tried to catch but found I was always staring down a person who was in front of me in the water so I’d have to bail. It’s getting busy because of Holy Week and the waters are full. Holy Week is family time and hundreds to thousands come from San Jose to Tamarindo to have a mini vacation. I gave up after two hours because there wasn’t a safe path to surf. We walked back to the hostel but forgot again to purchase water. Ate lunch and hid from the sun for a bit. We met a group of 4 French Canadians who came down here to setup a hostel in Nicaragua and they drove all the way down from Quebec stopping over in Tamarindo to purchase boards.

We hid from the sun some more before making our way to the end of Tamarindo beach to catch our boat for our tour of estuary and mangrove with Emiliano aka Shaggy. The family that was suppose to take this tour cancelled so it was just us 3. He was a great guide who told us the history of the national park island and the mangrove trees. The white mangrove trees are the only trees the howler monkey’s eat because the the red are too salty. These monkeys are also vegetarians. Apparently they are around 69 crocodiles in the water we surf and swim in. We spotted a few more today. Shaggy guided us through the islands and pointed out other things then we arrived at our end destination of the monkeys. It was cool to see them but man the bugs sure love me and in this instance, wasps. We hopped back into the boat and Shaggy cut open a pineapple for us and we fed the little hermit crabs.

Overall it was a nice afternoon outing not directly in the sun. We made it back to shore in time to watch the sunset. We bumped into the 4 Canadians again on the beach and had a friendly chat before all of us went back. Power went out for a bit then we made our dinner -a salad with lettuce, chickpeas, avocado, corn, cheese and apple. We let our dinner digest a little then went back into town. We haven’t been able to stay up past 10PM so we went for a walk and explored a little more. This town is seriously all beach, surfing, outdoor activities and eating. I’m happy with our choice in hostels because it’s so quiet and away from the activity. So many people everywhere because of Holy Week. At night, the main area fills with tourists who want to party as well as locals here to have a good time. If you want to party every night, this place is for you.

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Got up at 7AM and biked to town to try to grab coffee beans at Tico Cafe which according to Tripadvisor had the best local Costa Rican coffee. I biked out and it was actually pretty empty in town in terms of the cars that lined the streets the night before. I made it to Tico to find it to be closed for Easter weekend – Semana Santa and will reopen Monday.

A very lazy day spent on the beach and hiding from the sun. I went back out around 230PM for a bike ride but the bike handle came loose so it was very difficult to steer. I decided to take a different path which led me up a hill to hotels and tennis clubs then beach down I went towards the main grocery store because I was hoping to catch a few riders at the skate park but nothing. Hung out some more in the shade then around 5PM we returned to the beach to catch last light and catch the sunset. Each sunset is different. A voice called us from behind asking where our surfboards were. It was Johan who we met earlier from the hostel. He had ended his shift and wanted to catch the last waves for the day and pulled out all sorts of tricks.

Johan started surfing at 13, has been living in Tamarindo for 13 years. He originates from a town close to the Panama border. Johan runs the tour shop for the owner who is Danish that only lives in Tamarindo for half the year. He works 26 days straight with 4 days off a month but when he finishes work, he is able to just cross the street and catch some waves. He introduced us to the Caribbean guy who is a surf instructor on the main strip who also lives in the hostel.

Tamarindo – Costa Rica – 2015 – Day 1 & 2

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My co-worker found an amazing deal on Air Canada Vacations for a flight deal of $385CAD roundtrip for a week. We tried our best to spend as little money as possible during this short getaway so we also purchased groceries and made majority of our meals.

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We flew with Air Canada and the flight was pretty smooth. 5 hours. It’s bloody humid in Costa Rica – Liberia and area to be more specific. We booked Tamarindo Shuttle and Tours for our airport shuttle then on the road we went for a half hour-hour drive. We stayed at Tsunami Surf Hostel at the end of the main strip. We met Omar the manager once we arrived and paid for the room in cash because they charge $13USD for credit card. We are room 27 all the way at the back; private room with two beds with a/c and ensuite.

We threw our stuff down, changed quickly and went straight for the beach. Across the street from our hostel was a hidden entrance to the beach. We walked a bit and then found a spot to plop down but the wind was brutal and the sand would hit you so hard in the face. I think Hawaii ruined beaches for me.

After a little taste of the hot sun and humidity, we ventured the streets and found a grocery store and a bank. 20000 colon is only roughly $50CAD. We also booked our one-day 9 activity tour with Tamarindo Shuttle and Tours for Monday (040615) for $130USD. We walked back to our hostel and around this time it was only 3PM but felt so much later. Our hostel is on a big plot of land and features an open kitchen and lounging area so we hung outside and had mangoes from the mango tree in the yard.

We decided to head to the beach to watch the sunset and boy it sets early – it started to set at 6PM. We stayed on the beach and watched the sun go down then wandered back onto the main street.

We ate dinner at Nari. It’s a beautiful restaurant that is built around a tree so it looked like a giant tree house with these beautiful lanterns. We both got oven cooked pizzas. I got the Hawaiian BBQ Chicken pizza ($15.20USD) and it was so tasty.

We grabbed a huge jug of water and went back to the hostel. There aren’t any lights that lead up to our room except for one very dimmed lantern. The shower is very basic and there is a little space to put your shampoo but it you knock it down then it will fall down the hole/drain. The knob to turn on the water has no temperature setting so it’s rather cold with not much of a water pressure and if you touch it with a finger or thumb it shocks you. We both fell asleep before 10PM.

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The hostel has bikes we can use so around 8AM we went down to the main strip to see if the bank was open. It was not. Rode back to the hostel then rode back out when it opened at 9AM. Rode back to the bank to be told we need our passport to convert our money. Rode back to the hostel to grab our passport then rode back to the bank. We ended up getting groceries at the closer supermarket but it just wasn’t the same as the further one we went to the day before by the bank.

We got enough food to last us breakfasts, a few lunches and maybe dinner. We decided to loaf at the beach for a few hours before we had lunch. There was an alligator sighting that made people clear out of the water. We left the beach because it started to get hot. We made ham and cheese sandwiches then hung out on our porch out of the sun because it was just too intense to be out in. Around 2-230PM we decided we needed to go back out to the beach. Another sighting of the alligator cleared everyone out of the water as the alligator was swimming really close to shore.

We went back to our hostel to grab money and off we went to purchase groceries at the further grocery store. We got back, showered then used the kitchen to make dinner. We made pasta with tomato sauce, zucchini and tuna.

San Francisco – USA – 2014 – Day 3

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We went back to Fisherman’s Wharf for breakfast at Boudin. Fresh bread – what else can you ask for. We got the normal bacon, eggs, potato wedges with toast. After breakfast, we met up with our friends Crystal, Michelle and Joanna to rent bikes just down the street.

We grabbed the bikes and road the coast line towards the Golden Gate bridge. The ride was testing in certain areas. There was one big hill in the beginning by the beach that you need to get up then it’s a nice park you ride through until you hit the main street. Continue biking down the street then onto the boardwalk which leads you to a pier where locals fish. We stopped for a moment then up another hill that I ended up getting off my bike and walking it up the second portion. Taking a breather, we stopped for another split second to take photos by the bridge. On the bridge itself, there is a dedicated lane for bikes and a dedicated lane for pedestrians. The rental place told us that we should make a shortcut at one point so we don’t end up biking on the side of the road after the bridge but apparently I didn’t see it and I was leading but not leading so we ended up going down the side of the road which was really steep and just flew by. Michelle had stopped by a car park because the view was so nice but it was on a turn on the steep hill so I had to backtrack a bit. Since we rode over the bridge, we rode to the town of Sausalito which is a cute little place. We ate at Napa Valley Burger Company where I had the Baker Beach BBQ Turkey Burger in a lettuce Wrap and it was delicious. We then had to make sure we caught the ferry with our bikes that brought us back over to the mainland.

When we returned to the main pier, Crystal, Joanna & Michelle parted ways with us and we decided to head to the Exploratorium and it was so much fun. Unfortunately timing wise we only had maybe an hour to go through the whole place and we went reverse way. It’s similar to the Toronto Science Centre and I love going through these types of places. They also do late night at the Exploritorium similar to Toronto’s late night at the ROM where it’s adults only but we skipped it. We had enough time to head to Union Square and goto Uniqlo. Right across the street was a restaurant I was told I need to goto called King of Thai Noodle (184 Farrell St) and man it was so delicious. I got the pad see ew and it was heaven on a plate.

Munich – Austrian Tyrol – Contiki 2011 – Day 5

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We left Munich bright and early and made way to Austria. After a late night for most, I’m pretty sure the whole bus had passed out. When I awoke, I saw mountains everywhere. We had made it into Austria and a little village that looked so cozy.

Austria facts:

Austria is one of the best cities – free health care, one of the highest standards of living.

They still speak german.

They mainly manufacture steel and lumber.

The Hapsberg ruled from 1300-1918.

Marietta terretza. She had 12 children. Her most famous daughter was Marie Antoinette. She was the few that were not inbred.

Spain and Austria – separated the Hapsberg dynasty. Because they were so inbred, they had prominent chin/jaws that affected talking and eating. The hapsbergs were kicked out of Austria unless they took away their claim to any authority.

Austria ceased to exist for 7 years and became a republic in 1946.

It is a haven for all outdoor sports fanatics.

Hearty meat and potatoes are the traditional food such as goulosh soup. They are also big on their sweets like apple strudel.

They drink more coffee than anyone in the world. Vienna has over 25 different coffees. 220L a year per person of coffee.

The Sound of Music – the singing VanTramp family is real. Maria was only the governess for the oldest daughter and they were married for 10 years before they left Austria. They took a train to Italy and flew to USA.

 

The bus dropped off those who were going for the rafting option and then dropped the rest of us off at chalet where the rafts would finish. It was a beautiful and hot day. The sun is very intense but it’s absolutely beautiful here. Had some traditional goulosh soup as we waited. Played a little bit of beach volleyball then made our way to the shoreline to soak in some sun and watch our group come to shore. After a hour half bus ride, we arrived at our first Contiki hotel – Haus Schoneck. We arrived about an hour and half late due to an accident on the highway coming over. Losing sunlight and running behind schedule, we threw our stuff into the room and those who decided to go paragliding went on their way and same with those who decided to go on the mountain bike tour. We had chose to do the biking tour and went on our way through the city. I have to tell you that Hopfgarten, Austria is a beautiful little town.  I’ve missed that feeling of going fast through streets and taking in that fresh air and view. We had a few bikers that would go in front then slow down which bugged me a lot as I can barely stand walking behind slow walkers. We biked along a creek and with views of the mountains surrounding. Apparently the mountains connect 9 cities of Austria for skiing, snowboarding and it’s said that Sunday there will be snow on the top of the hill but not permanent as the ground is still warm. A day lift is 40€ and a season pass is 400€ which is an amazing deal for unlimited ski and snow board. We then took a stop in a park and cafe area. Had a glass of Almdyler (a ginger-ale like drink that is only available in Austria) and ice cream.

Our tour guides left us on our own to get back home or explore the city. We biked through a little neighbourhood and all the houses were just lovely. Our guide told us at the beginning that once April hits, people start to plant colourful flowers outside their windows/balconies and it becomes a playful competition between neighbours. I wouldn’t think I would have liked biking that much but it definitely was fun. We took a little detour but found our way to the centre of town again by the church. We realized at 6PM that we needed to be back for 630PM and raced back with time to spare. Got back to our room and relaxed a little and hung out with our roomie for the night Deb from Australia. She’s been travelling for over 3 weeks prior to this tour then going another 2-3 weeks going back to Germany for Oktoberfest and Paris then off to Ireland. The Contiki staff made us dinner in the Contiki village. We had 3 different tours groups staying in this village and had a theme party that night – superheroes. Did you know there is a certain way to hold a shot? If its before midnight, you hold it with your thumb on the top and pinky on the bottom. After midnight, you hold reverse with pinky up and thumb down. This way, you show that you aren’t drunk.