Edinburgh – Isle of Skye – Portree – Glasgow, Scotland – 2019 – Day 25-29

10/05/19

Isle of Skye, Scotland

The start of the roadtrop – Edinburgh to Isle of Skye. We booked a car rental and picked up our car at the Train Station (Note – there is an extra service fee renting from the train station) and we got upgraded to an MG car. Needed a little calibrating to driving on the left side of the road but also the speed being in miles instead of kilometers. Roads are very narrow here with roundabouts and at times, the roads become single-laned streets with little passing sections to go aside to let the car opposite direction pass.

Along the way, we stopped by the small village of Glencoe and Fort William. The Wildcat in Fort Williamis a vegan cafe serving ample variety of food, pastries and coffee as well as a shopping section for eco-friendly products in the back. We saw many chilis go out but I settled for the full vegan breakfast – chestnut & herb sausage, haggis, scrambled tofu, potato rosti, avocano, baked beans, mushrooms, baked tomatoes, wilted spinach and sourdough bread.

We continued on the road stopping by Eilean Donan Castle. It is the most photographed castle in Scotland apparently and to this day, the family does on occasion still reside in the property. It has its own bridge to get to the castle as well.

Seeing as we were making good time and weather was somewhat cooperating, we decided to go and see more. We drove to the Fairy Pools and did the walk down from Glucagon na Sithichean. The winds were brutal with mist lightly covering everything. The waters were so clear and from above. We also drove down the road to see another fairy pool on the side of the road. There is a beach further in but no point in going when it’s super wet, windy and dark outside. Please also watch out for roaming sheep.

The sun went down so we checked into our hostel – Skyewalker Hostel. Dropped all our things and drove 30 minutes to get into Portree (kudos to Winnie driving in the dark and rain). Had dinner at the Caley Bar – I got the burger that comes with fries, onion rings and coleslaw.

10/06/19

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Our first full day in Skye, we started our day back in Portree stocking up on groceries at the Co-op before hitting the open road. We drove to the Fairy Glen (many miniature cone-shaped hills). Next stop was Quiraing where the sun started to come out but we didn’t realize where we had stopped in that parking lot was the entrance to the 6-8KM trail. We drove down the bends to see the other side to realize this. At that point, there was no turning back. We just kept going.

Stopped by Cuith-Raing – a lookout point.

With the gorgeous sun out, we stopped by Kilt Rock with his waterfall before making it over to Old Man of Storr. We hiked to the top and we were so happy the weather cooperated. When we were heading down from our hike, the rain started up so we were lucky. We drove back to Portree and wandered the town a bit going to stores like Or and the Gathering Hall Market.

Since we didn’t really have a proper meal that day (minus the tons of snacking) we chose to stay in Portree for dinner. We went to Prince of India – I ordered the lamb Tikka Biryani and the special Pakura.

We were able to drive back to Port na Long while the sun was still up (much easier than pitch darkness and rain). Our hostel featured a see-through dome where you can relax and look upon the stars but only when the sky is clear which sadly it wasn’t.

10/07/19

Isle of Skye, Scotland

We kept checking the weather going into this trip and this day in particular was suppose to be raining 15-20mm. The Scottish have a word – dreich meaning wet, dull, gloomy, dreary at its most miserable of weather.

Today however, the rain for the most part stayed away and we got some golden rays.

We drove over to Dunvegan Castle – the clan of MacLeod. It is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and goes back at least 800 years. The garden was super lovely to walk through as well.

The rays of sun were strong as we drove to our next destination – Neist Point Lighthouse. It did get dark and gloomy along the way and traffic came to a halt because of the cows. We got to the top and waited in our car until the clouds pushed away a bit. Windy but we made the climb down and up to the lighthouse.

Considering we thought the day would be rained out, we stopped into a Cafe and asked about any other hikes and a couple mentioned Coral Beach in Claigan. The walk down to the beach is easy going (about 25 mins each way). The best part was climbing up to the top of the cliff after you’ve made it to the beach. It was incredibly windy and ever more so up top.

We drove back to Portree for dinner and grabbed some classic fish and chips at Chippy’s. The rest of the night was spent trying to untangle my hair. A lot of hair was lost that night.

10/08/19

Isle of Skye – Glasgow – Edinburgh, Scotland

Isle of Skye was great timing for us in terms of weather especially. We left in the morning and the rain just kept pummelling down.

We drove back to Edinburgh but of course with stopovers in Fort William for lunch at Wildcat Cafe once again. I got the miso peanut butter tofu wrap. We also decided to detour and check out Glasgow on our way back.

The weather wasn’t ideal but we did manage to walk around a bit to see the church (outside because it closed before we arrived) and around the square, part of campus and the famous shopping area and arcade. I even found a Tardis. We also stopped by a piece of home – Tim Hortons (but no honey cruellers so we carried on). We made it back in Edinburgh and made a nice stirfry to end this chapter of our time in Scotland with Nuala and Maya.

10/09/19

Edinburgh to London to Barcelona

Early morning train ride from Edinburgh to London Euston. Of course we had loads of snacks to get us through our travels. Winnie and myself parted ways once we got into Euston. I went to explore the city and run some errands and she went to exchange clothing at her friend’s place where she was storing her larger luggage.

In my few hours walking around, I went to Novelty Automation, Oxford Street, Carnaby, the Burlington Arcade (still has its own private police in big hats and capes), and Goodwin’s court in Covent Garden.

Walked over to London Bridge train station and we both hopped onto the train to Gatwick airport using our oyster cards. It was a long ride especially with rush hour travellers.

The flight with Vueling to Barcelona was super smooth. Since we arrived late in the evening, we decided to sleep in the airport. We found an outlet behind a machine so we plugged in and slept on the floor.

Berlin, Germany – Edinburgh, Scotland – 2019 – Day 21-24

10/01/19

Berlin, Germany

Our time in Berlin has more or less been a wet one and this day was no different. We took the train to Sachsenhausen – a concentration camp that was used from 1936-1945 to the end of the Reich. It had interned 200 000 prisoners during its time. The came is about 1.5 hours outside of the centre of Berlin by train. Remember to get a train ticket for zone ABC. There are street clothed transit police on the trains who come around and check your tickets and 2 other tourists got caught and fined for not having the proper ticket for the zone.

To visit is free but you can pay 3€ for the audio guide and it is definitely worth it. There is so much information that we were only there for 3 hours and barely scratched the surface. The moment we arrived, the whole mood was set with heavy rain coming down upon us. We were drenched.

We hopped back onto the train and back into the centre of Berlin we went to meet with Lea for a late lunch and to grab tickets from her. She recommended a theatre production and wanted to take us our first night but we arrived too late. There is an abundance of Vietnamese living in Berlin and many restaurants specializing in an array of Asian cuisine in one – Viet, Thai & Japanese cuisine served in one place is the norm here.

After lunch, we parted ways so Lea could go back to work. We went to check out Tempelhofer feld – once a concentration camp and an old airport which now serves as a working natural habitat, park, concert venue, skatepark etc. The weather was a little better in Berlin than where Sachsenhausen was. This park would be nicer to visit on a sunny day to bike around in.

We’ve been told by many people here in Berlin that we must check out Klunkerkranich and so we did. Who would have thought to turn the top floor of a mall parking into an outdoor garden dance club venue. When Google maps told us where to go, we were very confused as this wasn’t your typical mall either. It is actually very quiet up there. Not to mention the views you get of the city line from there. You have to enter by going to the 5th floor parking and walk up the 6th floor ramp. It does cost a fee to enter (3-5€).

We ended up going back to the main area in the city but this time it was to try out this bakery called Berliner Pfannkuchen Café – Backerei & Konditorei. We grabbed ourselves a raspberry donut – not too sweet but the filling was plenty. Apparently these aren’t donuts but German pancakes according to the name.

We met up with Winnie’s friend Sarah at Cafe Cinema who is working for the Canadian embassy in Berlin. We were talking about Futurism and how there was a part in the exhibit discussing whether we would want our life data to be stored on USB’s for future access or deleted. Sarah’s response to that topic was “German people with their past history would rather have that stuff deleted. Germans don’t trust that data to be out there and that is also why everyone pays for everything in cash – no trace.”

To end the night, Lea recommended this play at the Deutsches Theater Berlin called the Ugly Duckling. The Ugly Duckling, the Little Mermaid mixed with Berliner dragqueens, what more can you ask for. It was such an amazing show that touched upon each individuals story. Definitely recommend!

Our time in Berlin was definitely short lived. Here is a list that my friend Jaclyn sent me of her favourite things to tell visitors to see, do and eat/drink.

The touristy things:

Hamburger Banhof
Museum Island
Berlinische Galerie
Brandenburg Gate

Berlin Victory Column
Reichstag (if you want to go inside, I believe you have to apply a few days before)
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Checkpoint Charlie
KaDeWe – upstairs market
East Side gallery and/or Berlin Wall Memorial berlin
Mauerpark flee market – Karaoke Sundays
Soviet War Memorial (Treptower Park)
Sanssouci Palace
Teufelsberg

Local stuff:

Viktoriapark – Kreuzberg look out
Landwehr Canal walk Kreuzberg (Maybachufer), grab a Brammibal’s handmade vegan doughnut on the way

Five Elephant, Companion, Bonanza coffee
Do you read me? – Mitte books/magazines
C/O Berlin – Photo
Helmut Newton Foundation
Best schnitzel – Felix Austria (Bergmannstraße 26)

“Secret” Berlin Unterwelten tours  – (Limited tickets and dates, book in advance) This was awesome when we did it.

Ora – drinks
Mexican @ La Lucha
Zola – Pizza
Black Lodge bar
Bar Brutall
Herr Lindemann bar
Zosse bar
Paloma bar

Basalt bar
Markthalle Neun – food market (T, F, S)
Curry wurst – Curry 36

Treptower Park – paddle boating (with wine)

Templehofer Feld (bring bikes to ride on the airport runway)
Klunkerkranich, roof top bar in Neukölln area

Burgermeister

Berghain

Open air clubs: Sisyphos, KaterBlau (day or night experience)
Max und Moritz – good German food and beer

Saam – Korean BBQ

Paris Bar – in the West – Suspiria filmed there

Hallesches Haus. Good eats, brunch and fun general store

10/02/19

Berlin, Germany – Edinburgh, Scotland

Berlin was fun but also very wet. We bid farewell to Lea early in the morning and made our way to the airport in the rain.

Next stop, Edinburgh. The warm sun welcomed us even though it was still around 9-10°C. It was 29-31°C in Toronto the previous day. Must’ve been nice.

We took the bus into the city (not too expensive but takes some time as it is a local bus that stops frequently). Our bus driver did a sweep of the bus before letting us on and found a forgotten watermelon. Once we finally got to our destination, we we’re welcomed by Winnie’s friend Maya and her roommate Nuala. They both are also from Toronto but have been living in Edinburgh for university.

They took us around town but first stop was for food. The Golden Chicken Chili from Union of Genius was absolutely delicious! We ate it on the grass on the university campus.

We walked the Water of Leith Walkway, Dean village, the Princes Street, near the Royal mile, plus many more. We even went all the way up to Calton Hill. You can see the whole city from up there and many monuments to scholars.

We stopped by Red Kite Cafe for some Almond black tea (one of Maya’s favourite coffee shops and tea choices at this place). Slowly made our way back to their place but stopping off to grab groceries as we had decided to make a home-cooked meal together.

Joining us for dinner festivities was their friend Alice. We made fresh basil lemon ricotta ravioli and for dessert, we (Winnie mainly) made ginger cookies.

10/03/19

Edinburgh, Scotland

Started off the morning with the most strenuous of activities for the day – hiking Arthur’s Seat. It was an overcast day for the most part but the 360 view was well worth it.

Walked Princes St and the Royal Mile before stopping for lunch at Henderson’s where I got the vegetarian haggis with potato and leek soup – delicious.

We met back up with Maya and she took us through Princes St garden, Greyfriars Kirkyard, Grass market and Victoria St – Harry Potter fans rejoice in this street that inspired JK Rowling.

With the weather not being the best outside, we went indoors to the National Museum of Scotland (free admission). This museum is housed in a beautiful building and it is a mishmash of the Ontario Science Centre, ROM and the AGO all rolled into one. It also houses Dolly the sheep.

We walked past this Korean restaurant the day before that Nuala and Maya were raving about and we decided to go there for dinner. Kim’s has been Michelin marked and always has a line as they are only open from 530-8PM. We got there in time to be part of the first group of people in. We ordered the beef bulgogi, kimchi jeon, kalbi beef rib stew and bimbimbap.

To walk off the delicious food we ate, we walked over to the canal before heading home.

 

10/04/19

Edinburgh, Scotland

The chilly morning feels where you don’t want to get up from under the covers type of day. It was a chilly overcast 10°C.

We had a lazy slow start to the day but I guess it’s needed once in awhile.

Our first stop was to the Dovecot Gallery where we could watch artists making tapestries.

We walked for about 45 minutes and made our way to the Scottish Museum of Modern Art. The main floor was under renovation but at least the second floor has art pieces from one of my favourite artists such as Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte. We were told that the first floor exhibit is the main attraction – bummer we didn’t get to see it first hand.

We continued on towards Edinburgh Castle where we stopped by a cafe called Deacon’s House Cafe. We ordered the Scottish Cream Tea – plain scone with jam and cream served with tea. We also ordered the carrot cake loaf.

Earlier in the day, we had decided we would do a traybake for dinner so we met with Maya to do some grocery shopping. We also stocked up on snacks for the next few days. We also stopped by some really cute design stores along the way.

After gathering supplies, we made it back to Maya and Nuala’s and prepped dinner. The traybake consisted of red onion, peppers, artichoke hearts, zucchini, thyme, tomatoes, basil, lemon, olives and feta cheese.

London, UK – Madrid – Sevilla, Spain – Porto, Portugal – 2019 – Day 4-6

09/14/19

Madrid – Sevilla, Spain

We had an early morning flight from Madrid to Sevilla via Ryanair.

We arrived to the lovely temperature of 27°C – full of sun for the most part but also a little bit of sunny showers. From the airport, we took the bus into town for 4€ to the very last stop – Plaza de Armas. Started off walking over to Triana Bridge and Triana Market where we grabbed pastries and 2€ fruit platters.

We went to Edificio de La Adriática, checked out the outside of Catedral de Sevilla (line was way to long too go in) and Calle Sierpes – cute little shopping Street. We continued to Plaza de España where they have live flamenco dancing on the main steps. The place is massive and a mix of beautiful tiles with a giant fountain in the middle.

We stopped for a late lunch at Berrinche where we ate fried swordfish strips, pork cheek with truffled potatoes and mixed fried veggies.

After lunch, we decided to check out Torre del Oro (not worth the 3€ to go up). We then went across to Plaza de Toros & Museo Taurino but they also had a line and we didn’t want to spend 8€ each. We wanted to rent bikes or scooters but ended up walking by the river and watching a video production being filmed with flamenco dancers. We continued our walk north alongside the river and right by the bus station of Plaza de Armas, we ended up watching a youth in-line skate competition.

We went back to the Airbnb and around 530PM we were famished and decided to go back out in search of a grocery store to get food for breakfast but to no avail. We ended up walking around for a bit in search of dinner but if course, we went out too early for dinner as dinner hours start around 630PM earliest and many of the tapas restaurants we had looked into opened at 830PM. 630PM is prime time for drinking and socializing.

On the long thin strip of Plaza Alameda de Hércules (the popular hang out spot), we did eventually find a place called Casa Paco to have dinner. We ordered the butterfish, cheese board, potato brass, cuttlefish with black garlic and mushroom risotto.

09/15/19

Sevilla, Spain

A late sleep-in type of morning with brunch at La Cacharreria de Sevilla. We got the Spanish and the Cacharreria combos that include a yogurt and daily smoothie – presentation and food itself was delicious. We smelled cookies right across and got some too. Continued down the street to see Las Setas De Sevilla. Setas means mushrooms in Spanish and they indeed looked like such. The outer level is raised but is a cool place to hang with a playground.

Since Royal Alcázar was closed yesterday, we tried again today but the line went so far around the building so we opted out. Walking around on a Sunday is a much different feel than any other day as many businesses are closed on Sundays and are more so reserved as family time. It was a beautiful 29°C outside nonetheless.

My dear friend Irene who I met through a travel experiment called Yuujou joined us with her boyfriend Benjamin. She is originally from Madrid and was road-tripping through Spain and attending a friend’s wedding. Luckily timing worked out that we were able to be in the same place at the same time. She now lives in Zurich with Benjamin. This was the first time I was able to meet Irene in person after months upon months of chatting and it was such a fun experience connecting in person.

Since they had been on the road, they dropped their things, changed and off we went to grab a quick clara (beer with lemonade/lemon fanta) and watched the basketball finals between Spain and Argentina (Spain won!). We went to Catedral de Sevilla and La Giralda (when they tore down the mosques to build cathedrals, they left the towers that are of Muslim origin and have no steps but ramps so the generals could send donkeys and horses up with all the necessities as it is 37 floors). It was a lot of winding up a somewhat narrow ramp all the way up with little windows that give you sneak peaks outside. Up top, they still have working bells and 360 views of the city. The main entrance to just the towers are closed for construction but you can enter the tower via the Catedral.

When we finished, we decided to go see a flamenco show at Cuna Del Flamenco. We tried to get in line at Las Setas De Sevilla to go up top for sunset but I hate lines and the sun was already setting. We opted out and kept going.

We walked across Triana Bridge and had a lovely dinner at La Caseta Nonina. We got Irene and Benjamin to order for us. We ordered an array of croquetas, tortilla de patatas con cebolla (Spanish potato omelette with onions), bastones de berenjena con miel de cana (fried eggplant with honey – this was my favourite) and Tinto de Verano (red wine with lemonade/lemon fanta.) We walked around a bit and stumbled upon a procession before settling down at Alameda de Hercules where we played Spot it / Dobble past midnight while we were still surrounded by many people out and about like a group of university students having a jam session.

09/16/19

Sevilla, Spain – Porto, Portugal

In true Sevillian style, we eased ourselves into the morning. We ate pan con tomate (bread with tomato and olive oil) by the nearby church before parting ways with Irene and Ben.

Onwards to Porto, Portugal.

When we arrived in Porto, we picked up our car rental from the airport – we rented a Mini Cooper. Drove into town and then walked everywhere. We really wish we stayed longer in Porto because the Airbnb we stayed at had such lovely vibes and access to the rooftop. The temperature in Porto was cooler than in Sevilla the previous day.

Walked over to Mercado Bom Sucesso and grabbed our first pastel de nata (Portuguese Egg Tarts). Continued on to Jardin do Palacio de Cristal where they were having a huge book fair and further into the park you go, the prettier it gets especially closer views of the water and the town.

We walked by Igreja do Carmo – twin baroque churches (one for the nuns and one for the monks) with a tiled facade and also has the narrowest house in between. It has been said that the narrow house that is built between the 2 churches was built because there was a rule that churches cannot share the same wall or another story stipulates that the house was built so the nuns and monks couldn’t cozy up with one another.

We passed by Livraria Lello (an old bookshop with intricate wooden detailing) which was right around the corner however there was a line and admission (I hate lines) so we skipped it. I believe it is 5€ for entry. This bookshop is incredibly popular because it is where J.K. Rowling got inspired to write her critically acclaimed book series – Harry Potter. Really cool hang out spot right beside that is raised up as well.

Second stop for pastel de nata was Manteigueira. Then on to Sao Bento Train Station that has beautifully painted white and blue tiles. It is still an active hub that sits at a pivotal point in the city.

We continued across the Luis I bridge to have a better view of the city from above and looks over Cais da Ribeira and Ribeira Square. We finished off the night having dinner at Pedro dos Frangos where we had port wine (obviously you gotta have some port in Porto) with sardines and a full roasted chicken.

I heard about this tour company after I left called “The Worst Tours” that don’t have a route set but also, they cater to you and take you on the off-beaten path of the lovely city of Porto. It started with a group of architects.

London, UK – Madrid, Spain – 2019 – Day 1-3

09/10-11/19

London, UK

To start the trip off, I flew into London’s Heathrow Airport via Air Canada and went to meet my friend Winnie (my travel partner for the next month or so) at Liverpool Station.

Once I got to the airport, I purchased an Oyster Card and filled it with 25£. The underground sure covers a lot but since it is an older transport system, its not the most accessible and also very hot and tight (at certain times, can feel claustrophobic). Parts of the underground metro system reminded me of my hometown Scarborough’s RT train system..

After meeting Winnie at the station, we went to Spitalfields – a quaint outdoor market space filled with little shops and food vendors. We ate at Leon – good food for a good price. We also walked through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park with our bags in tow (I really missed my Northface Basecamp Duffel). We didn’t have anything really planned for the rest of day and also thought we could just arrive early and sleep at Stansted Airport but luckily we sat down and checked to realize Stansted actually closes between midnight and 2AM. We also realized that we were incorrect about the time of our flight and we actually booked the 830AM not 625AM.

We debated if we wanted to stay up and out all night or book a hostel to sleep for a few hours and drop off our bags. Originally, we opted not to put our bags in storage or book a hostel but after walking around for 2-4 hours and running out of things to do, we booked Smart Hostels – a 15 bed mixed dorm and put our stuff down.

We wanted to try this cool ramen place called Kanada-Ya but there was a super long line so we went across the street to Ippudo Ramen instead. Winnie got the Yokohama ramen and I got the Unagi Chirashi bowl. Delicious.

09/12/19 

London, UK – Madrid, Spain
Apparently having a bed doesn’t always mean you can sleep through the night. We went to bed at 10PM thinking we could get in 8 hours of sleep before waking and leaving for 3AM. I did not sleep well at all. We hopped on our bus ($20.40CAD) for an 1.5hr ride to Stansted Airport from Russell Square and that ride was really great time for sleeping. We booked with Ryanair and unfortunately that means the airports we are flying out of are not the main airports and are smaller airports that are out of the city centres. Also, as a Non-EU passenger flying in and out of UK requires you to print your boarding pass to get a Visa check.

First stop on our Eurotrip from London was Madrid, Spain. Our first stop was to the Greenhouse Atocha – a train station with an indoor Tropical greenery area. We also stored our luggage at this train station for 3.10 Euro. We had some ordeals with the machine to buy the ticket but all was fixed after 15 minutes. We changed into shorts and just went to town (literally).

We walked over to check out Caixa Forum (Vertical Garden Wall). Next stop was El Retiro Park with the Crystal Palace and watched people row boats while drinking horchata.

Finally checked into our Airbnb in the suburbs and then walked over to Parque Cerro De Rio Rio (Parque de las tetas – The park of the tits as locals like to call it because of the book-shaped hills) for sunset. Highly recommend with multiple hills to watch from.

Went to dinner at Bar Don Manolo – tapas with beer and wine. Ended the night with gelato – Mora (blackberry) and hazelnut.

09/13/19

Madrid, Spain

We woke up later than we had planned but good thing we did as we checked the weather and changed from shorts and tanks to pants and rain gear.

Did the rain stop us? Of course not!

We were still able to walk over 40,000 steps. Started off walking through Rocodromo Pasarela Parque. We walked to Matadero (a former slaughterhouse turned into a art centre), Embajadores neighbourhood – saw the church, Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor, Mercado de San Miguel & Mercado San Ildefonso. Continued to Puerta del Sol (it is Spain’s belly button) with a stop to San Gines chocolate for churros! (BTW, hot chocolate literally means liquid chocolate not milky hot chocolate drink) and made our way to Gran Via shopping street & El Corte Ingles then meandered to the neighbourhood of Malasana.

Went to an awesome cafe call Cafe Federal. The sun eventually came out and we returned back to Puerto De Sol on our way to La Tabacalera de Lavapiés – a former tobacco factory that now houses underground tunnels with graffiti and artists. We then took the metro to the Templo de Debod in hopes of catching a beautiful sunset but unfortunately it was a weak sunset.

For dinner, we walked back towards the Royal Palace and made our way to the Tapas Street (Calle de la Cava Baja) but before that, we popped back into Mercado de San Miguel (much emptier than earlier when it was raining) where we met Rick who works for NASA. Watch out for helicopter drone 2020 next mission out to Mars. We finished off our night having dinner at La Perejila and had the smoked cod, octopus with potato and ham and tomato paste.

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

London – Contiki 2011 – Day 1

I jetsetted to Europe with my best friends – Crystle & Klarice. We wanted a taste of everything but couldn’t commit to a longer trip so we settled to doing the European Horizon tour with Contiki Tours. At the time, my friend Klarice was working for a company that is in affiliations with Contiki tours thus giving us 50% off the tour which made it more enticing and so we extended a few days in Paris with the money saved. 7 cities/countries in 10 days (London, Amsterdam, Munich, Austria, Venice, Switzerland, Paris)  We flew with Airtransit.

09/11-12/11

We got on the plane around 10PM and arrived around 955AM. The time difference is only 5 hours so sleeping wasn’t too bad.

Arriving in Gatwick, London, we transferred to the trains heading to Victoria. The platforms gets really crowded and once a train gets cancelled it’s like herding cattle onto an escalator to get to the next platform. Our first attempt to get on the train failed as people acted like highschool kids who don’t know how to move onto the bus to fit more people. If the door closes, unlike the TTC subways in Toronto, there is a button you can press to open the doors. We eventually got on the express bus that goes directly to Victoria (30 mins). One thing I noticed which is poor on their part is the lack of garbage bins but then again if there is no garbage cans, it’s less likely people should be littering there. I asked one of the ticket takers where I could find a garbage can and she told me to stick it in her co-workers pocket jokingly. What’s cool is that once you get on the train, they come onto the speakers and say their welcome message in multiple languages such as Italian, Spanish, French etc. The train ride was a nice time to snooze for a bit. The layout of the train is simple but works as there are racks for luggage.

Arriving at Victoria Station, we had to stand in line for the taxi queue. The taxis are so cute here. No one sits in the front of the taxi as there is no trunk so luggage can go up front. The seating area can sit 3 on the regular seats with 2 seats that fold out. We zipped through the streets and passed by the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and other beautiful buildings. Luckily our taxi drove past these areas as we had very limited time here. We stayed at the Royal National London Hotel on 38-51 Bedford Way courtesy of Contiki in a triple bed room. Contiki has their office in the basement where we signed in and got our free sleeping bags and free wifi. After signing in, our mission was to shop since we only had 1 day in london. As we walked, you can see the leaves changing colour and even already on the ground. Would’ve loved to be in London for summer. We journeyed all the way to Oxford St and stopped at staple stores such as Topshop, Pull & Bear and Primark. Primark was just overwhelmly packed and clothes everywhere but I bought my first pair of skinny jeans for 9 euros! The sun setting was so intense as we wore our sunglasses and we still couldn’t see much of what was in front of us. We rushed back to the hotel for our group meeting for 7PM. After the meeting, we went to eat at a local restaurant called the Diner at Bloomsbury for some good ol fish and chips. Tesco is a big convenience store over here. We stopped by to pick-up some last minute items and off to bed we went.