Saturday, September 25, 2010

What's in a nightmare..

I have vivid dreams and I usually recall them upon wakening. A reoccurring theme involves water (due to the fact I can't swim?), my favorite pastime fishing that I don't do enough of and fish in general.

Last night I had a disturbing dream which left me wide awake and bothered. It started with me standing in a public washroom facing the mirror. A man comes walking in and approaches me. I turn to face him and he caresses my cheek as if we have a secret affair going on. We hold each other's gaze but is interrupted by the sound of a toilet flushing in the background and he pulls his hand away and walks out. I turn back to the mirror as a women comes out of a stall and washes and dries her hands. She exits the washroom and the next thing I know, I'm sitting on a couch in a sitting area of the washroom. My legs are resting across the lap of a man sitting next to me. He has a twin brother but how I know that I have no idea. A toilet stall door opens and closes and in the next moment his twin brother is sitting on the couch next to his brother, with my feet on his lap. He has a crazed look in his eyes, his blond hair disheveled and his grey sweater covered in blood. Blood drips from his mouth as if he's just devoured a live being.

The next scene has me standing outside the washroom near the restaurant of the CO-OP mall in North Battleford. It's a Thursday and the mall is swarming with shoppers. I'm standing next to a group of girls as one tries to tell her friends about the madman in the washroom. Her friends laugh in disbelief but then time stops still as the madman comes out of the washroom. Everyone stops paralyzed and all eyes turn to stare at him in shock. The crazed look in his eyes is still there and he raises his arms above his head, his fingers curled ready in anticipation of his next victim. All hell breaks lose as shoppers start screaming and running in all directions away from him.

A man grabs my hand and we start running towards the hardware store. We're running so fast it feels like my feet aren't even touching the ground but on a cloud being pulled frantically by the man holding my hand. We're running faster than I imagine I could run and amidst all the chaos behind us, we can hear the madman gaining on us. We reach the hardware store and the man holding my hand runs towards the back of the store where men go to pick up their lumber. He bursts through a door and we're outside, behind the mall. It's nighttime.

We continue running as our life depends on it only to run into a man washing his car with a hose and bucket. For some reason we are unable to run around the obstacle and the man's eyes widen in panic as he realizes we're headed straight for him. He drops his sponge and dashes out of the way. We jump on top of his car and once on the hood, we take a flying leap off of it. Our leap takes us 10 feet in the air and we prepare for our landing. We manage to land on our feet as we hear the madman behind us.

We round the corner to see another man washing his car. We run past this man and the next thing I know, the madman has reached us. He tackles me and I'm lying face down in snow that suddenly appeared. I claw at the ground trying to get away and manage to kick him in the face with my free foot. I escape his grip and turn on my back, prepared to kick him again when I see 2 men come to my rescue and start to kick the shit out of him. One stomps on his back repeatedly and the other delivers devastating blows to the head.

It is at this point I wake up and and have troubles falling back to sleep.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Part 2: Backpacking Across Europe (Paris, France)

It's been a while since I've posted on my blog - the trip to Europe feels aeons ago. However the trip was eye opening and significant enough to put down in writing so I shall continue.

I left off with Barcelona with our next stop in Paris, France. Having purchased an Eurorail pass prior to leaving Canada we were a bit restricted on when trains departed as certain destinations were not as frequent. Paris from Barcelona was one of them, turning it into an over night trip. The train itself was an interesting experience. We were given a sleeper compartment where the beds folded out from the seats for us and turned into bunk beds. We spent some time having a beer and sandwich from their restaurant before handing over our passports. This was a bit unnerving but it was explained that since we were crossing the border in the middle of the night while we were sleeping, they would just hand over our passports at the crossing without disturbing us. Sleeping on a train was a bit tough due to the slight rocking and noise but we managed to catch a few winks. We crossed the border and made it into Paris without a hitch.

Once in Paris we turned to our trusty EyeWitness Travel recommendations for a hotel and called a cab. Our cab driver was awesome as the hotel was a ways away and he would point out famous landmarks - who needs a tour guide when you have our cab driver! Upon arrival to our hotel, we settled in and then went to explore. The first thing that left me awestruck was the Arc de Triomphe as it was 2 blocks away from our hotel - you always hear about it and see it in movies. We tried to get up close to it but with everything historical, you have to pay to see it and I really didn't want to see it that badly. The other thing that amazed me almost as much as the traffic circle that surrounded the Arc de Triomphe. I probably stood and watched the crazy drivers merge and exit for a couple of minutes - let me tell you, there are no lines on the street and about 6 lanes of traffic where drivers seem to know when to yield and let in incoming cars. This makes the 2 lane traffic in Saskatoon look pitiful. If you don't believe me how crazy it was you can see a video I found here

John ended up feeling under the weather so I went out exploring to see if I could find us some warmer clothes. Unfortunately the first mall I walked to had nothing but high end brands where a men's sweater I found was around $300 and super thin. I made it to another mall but then my motivation dwindled and I walked back empty handed. We did however make it to the Eiffel Tower at night which was cool to see. It was a lot larger than we expected and lit up during the night.

The next day we took the metro to reserve our next train ride to Italy and then walked to Museo D'Orsay after walking past Notre Dame. Museo D'Orsay contained many artists from the Impressionists/Post Impressionists era such as Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Claude Monet to name just a few. I could have easily spent more than a day there.

The food in Paris was good, with John trying out a huge ass MOUND of tartare and me trying froi gras (and I hate to admit, was buttery goodness and loved every bite of it) at L'Ecluse.

The next day we went to see the catacombs. It was interesting finding it as our hotel had never heard of it and it was far from the main center. It was approx. 130 step decent and a 185 mile walk containing the remains of over 6 million Parisians - it was a spooky and unnerving experience as there were plaques set up along the way explaining the deaths of some.

Back to the land of the living, we went to go see Centre Georges Pompidou that housed modern art. The building itself was neat as it had all its plumbing pipes on the outside of the building as well as an escalator that snaked its way up to the top floor, also on the outside of the building. It definitely housed modern art that isn't suitable for all kids to see. We weren't able to spend a lot of time here as we needed to make it to our train. Overall Paris was an experience I was glad to undertake but I'm not sure if I would make a repeat visit. It has a lot of history but to enjoy Paris you definitely need a lot of money.

Next stop Italy!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Backpacking Across Europe (Spain)

John and I set out backpacking across Europe at the beginning of March, 2010. Okay I am exaggerating a bit as we only traveled through 3 countries in 2 weeks and even though we did have backpacks, it wasn't like we were roughing it by camping - no we stayed in hotels and traveled by train.

As it was our first time overseas, it was quite an experience. We flew from Saskatoon to Chicago (3 hours), Chicago to London (8 hours) and from London to Madrid (2 hours). It was a long flight and we literally had to run to each of our connecting flights as we definitely would have missed them had we walked to our gates considering how huge the airports were. The weirdest thing about our flight was on one of them, they served milk in a plastic tube that was approx. 2 tablespoons worth - odd. Just for your reference, Madrid is 7 hours ahead of Saskatoon.

Once we arrived in Madrid, it was literally the first time I felt like a true foreigner as I made the mistake of thinking everyone could speak English. Our backpacks, that literally had everything in it minus our credit cards and passport, missed the connecting flight from London to Madrid so after some discussion, we made a claim for our bags and tried to find our hotel (I was a bit more worried about my backpack as I had borrowed it from a good friend after finding out how much a new one costs).

The weather wasn't that great, probably around 0 the entire time we were there but we later found out we missed a major storm that was an anomaly so I was thankful for the 0 degree weather and it was still nicer than home (usually it is hot out around this time). As we didn't have our backpacks we decided to walk and explore the city. It should be noted that Madrid streets are NOT set up on a grid system, at least their main city area isn't, so finding our hotel was hard. We had a map but every street started with Casa. It was made even harder after realizing I wrote the address down wrong, oh well, at least I tried. We ended up going to a different hotel who was nice enough to phone the correct one to confirm they still had our room booked. Even after learning where the hotel was, it was still hard to find it. I even resorted in asking a local where it was and she spoke to me in Spanish and pointed the way.

We finally checked into our room where I had my first run in with a bidet :P The hotel staff were super nice and spoke a bit of English. They were nice enough to call on our behalf (in Spanish) to inquire about our bags which were delivered the next day at 10:00. The food in Madrid was awesome, Spanish people love their tapas, jambon (ham) and socializing. The city had numerous squares as a reference point when locating certain locations and the architecture was unbelievable (it makes Saskatoon look a bit dull) . I made John go to the zoo which was surprisingly huge and fun. We also went to the Museo Nacional Reina Sofia where it was the first time I discovered you can take photos of certain paintings.

We stayed in Madrid for 3 nights and then took a train to Barcelona. The difference between Madrid and Barcelona was almost night and day. Madrid was much more conservative where people were fairly dressed up and Barcelona was more modern. We stayed in a hotel that was 5 minutes away from the beach but again the weather was not cooperating and rained off and on. We spent a lot of time walking around, exploring the Rambla street and huge seafood market. I had my first experience touring a castle and seeing the Segrada Familia which completely blew me away with all the details that went into constructing such an enormous church as well as Antoni Gaudi's other creation, La Pedrera. Photos of both Madrid and Barcelona can be found here.

In general, these are some of the differences I experienced about Spain:
  1. More conservative overall in general
  2. Bidets - do I need to say more
  3. Half glass shower partitions (no doors)
  4. Hotels are small
  5. Spanish people love their tapas and eating late; certain meals comes in a certain way without providing you other alternatives (ie eggs are cooked sunny side up)
  6. Naps are a necessity as shops open late in the morning and close for a portion of the afternoon
  7. Street are very narrow; people love their scooters and there are no trucks; there are numerous squares where street performers perform at
  8. A lot of people smoke
  9. Alcohol is cheap but they don't have pints or schooners of beer; Usually the selection of alcohol is limited as they just serve the best wines to begin with
  10. Metros are very easy to figure out and cheap to get around
  11. Tipping is low and not really done
  12. Pop still comes in bottles (no fountain pop) and people love to drink sparkling water
Stay tuned for a review of France and Italy.