Travel

Rome

October 23 – 25, 2015

October 23

Our first night in Rome was super memorable. Not only did we get to see 1000s of years of history in one view, but our bus driver Rocco broke the rules, and we caught a private glimpse of Vatican City at night. Dinner was at a restaurant next to the Coliseum, and some of our bus caused a ruckus in the hotel lobby.

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My favourite place in Rome.

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Vatican City at night

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October 24

For some reason I’ve always thought that the Sistine Chapel was also the main church in Vatican City. My ideas and thoughts about Italy were a little warped because of the movie Eurotrip. I was happy to know that some of the facts that I learned from the movie were true, but I was also happy we had the most informative tour guide ever. Learning about Michaelangelo’s struggles to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, paired with an explanation of the paintings, made the experience that much better.

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The Sistine Chapel

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is not supposed to be photographed, however, someone on my tour decided to break the rules a little bit. He was probably one of the few who didn’t get caught and yelled at.

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Vatican City

By the time we were finished with our tour, the line for the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel were SUPER long. A couple people on our tour witnessed a live mugging which made me realize that some people in this world just plain suck. Tourists come from all over the world to see such beautiful sites, and a couple of people ruin it by stealing all of their possessions.

This definitely wasn't built in a day. | #Colosseum #RootsIsCanada #wanDEBlust

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The Coliseum was surprisingly not as busy as I thought it would be, but pretty spectacular to finally see in person. Visiting sights you’ve seen in movies and on tv is a really cool experience – like the fountain from Angels & Demons. It’s also interesting to see in person because you realize that movies most definitely skew reality – there were definitely people crowding the fountain, there’s no way nobody would’ve helped Tom Hanks.

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The Pantheon

October 25

The airport in Rome is super strange. Being Terminal 3, we said our goodbyes to our fellow bus-mates, headed to one of the tiniest terminals I’ve seen, took a shuttle bus, only to be reunited with our friends at the main terminal… I had my last caprese salad and it was already time to board the plane.

The end of a trip is always bittersweet. You’re sad because you have to leave, but you’re also happy to sleep in your own bed again. After a hectic and busy busy trip, I was a little excited to get back to my regular schedule again.

Thank you to all of the amazing people I met, stories I learned and even though I’ve already done so a million times, (I know they’re definitely reading this) thank you to my parents for the amazing experience.

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Florence

October 22 – 23, 2015

 

October 22

As we drove to Florence I wish my camera could’ve captured what my eyes could see. The Tuscan hills, although dark, were still gorgeous from the bus window.

On the bus ride there we watched a documentary explaining the life and creative processes Michaelangelo went through. I never realized that the statue of David was ONE piece of marble, carved straight from the mind of Michaelangelo. Michaelangelo believed each piece of stone, marble, etc. contained a figure that he just had to carve out. He could picture a statue just by looking at his canvas. I can barely draw an arm on a cartoon person…

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We arrived at our Florence hotel and walked right next door to have real Italian pizza for dinner. The restaurant was home to the world’s cheesiest spaghetti and these awesome squares of ice cream (similar to a DQ dilly bar, just rectangular). The first menu we saw didn’t say pizza at all and we were disappointed until we realized there was an entirely separate pizza menu…

All of the hotels and restaurants seem to blend together after a while, I’m glad I managed to capture a picture of what meal we had each day for memory purposes.

October 23

Again, travelling with Trafalgar gave us amazing opportunities. We were one of the first tour groups into the museum, home to David. We had a solid 20 minutes to listen to our Florence tour guide (honestly, I don’t remember her name…) share the details of David with a full view of the statue before the crowds showed up.

The museum housed artwork from students. All of the statues sculpted by these students contained what appeared to be bullet holes – turns out, they were pegs used to hold the statues together. David has absolutely none of these. It’s only until you learn the little details that you really understand why David is so spectacular.

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Michaelangelo’s self portrait.

One of the things I’ll remember most is the anticipation to see David. The museum wasn’t very big, and the tour guide had lots of information and facts to share with us. After the first room, we entered another where David was at the end of the hall. The tour guide made us walk one by one to each statue leading up to David before we could see the masterpiece.

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After the museum and a quick walking tour of the city we were given free time to explore and shop…

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Fake David.

Meet Fake David. This is the place where the original David used to stand. Given its location, the statue was getting ruined and moved inside the museum.

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The bridge at the end of this canal is one of the last standing bridges during the reign of Hitler. Now, home to the more expensive jewellery stands in Florence.

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To be honest my mom and I spent most of the time shopping, looking for sinus medication and eating gelato, and I was too busy to take videos and photos. Similar to Venice, the shops and stalls along the streets were all the same. Leather purses. Scarves. Souvenior shirts. Magnets. I was having what was the beginning of a sinus infection and we stopped by a local pharmacy to find something that would help me. Unlike Switzerland, this pharmacist knew what drug allergies I was talking about. After thorough research we came to the conclusion that her purse was cheaper in Venice and mine was cheaper in Florence… you can’t win them all right? Being in Italy, my mom and I’s goal was to find Prada – it took us a while but we found it only to go into the store for 5 minutes. You know, when in Rome… or I guess in this case, when in Florence.

For snack my mom and I stopped at a cafe and I chose a delcious caprese salad. I like cheese.

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On the way back to our group meeting spot my mom and I got lost (I’ll admit, it was partly my fault. I thought I knew exactly where I was going because I’m usually really good at directions…).

And just like that, it was time to leave for the last city… Rome.

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Venice

October 21-22, 2015

 

October 21

The coolest part about the day was waking up to the Swiss Alps at sunrise and being on a gondola around sunset.

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The ride to Italy was way shorter than our Paris-Switzerland adventure. As usual we stopped at truck stops and gas stations along the way and I had my very first taste of real Italian pasta. Again, Brendon had an interesting way of describing the Italian restaurant process and the best way to order. I think his stories and descriptions were the funniest part of the trip.

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After heading on a water taxi to the main area in Venice, the first thing Ginnie and I did was get gelato (obviously). My backpack is in front of me because we were warned of pickpockets. It’s a shame that such a beautiful place that attracts thousands of tourists lead to such crime.

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After a quick tour of the Piazza San Marco, it was time for our lovely gondola ride. My co-worker described it the best. Gondolas are supposed to be one of the most romantic things in the world. Sitting next to your loved ones, kissing under every bridge, with men serenading you with their beautiful voices. Except everyone forgets to mention the smell of the water.

Ciao Venice 🇮🇹 | #Venice #RootsIsCanada #wanDEBlust

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Regardless of the water, the gondola ride was the best way to view Venice. Navigating through the Grand Canal, we had views of Venice just as the sun was going down.

My favourite food in the entire world is spaghetti and on this specific night, I finally got to taste it true Italian style.

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October 22

The cool thing about Venice is that the only real form of transportation is boat. It was like a whole other world and experience for me. The thing about the streets of Venice is that they’re very tricky. But it doesn’t matter where you turn because you’ll run into either a gelato shop, leather store, Murano glass store or souvenir shop. I myself contributed to the economy of Venice in the form of two leather purses…

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If you ever have the chance to tour Burano Island, do it. Burano is more beautiful than Venice. With its brightly coloured houses, Burano Island is a lot less crowded than Venice itself. The tour was not included in our package but it was most definitely worth it.

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Anybody who knows me knows that I am not a big eater – so when I sat down for a 7-course meal I was physically in pain. The food was delicious but I LITERALLY couldn’t eat fast enough. The first course was so delicious I kept eating and soon regret it… As I was putting dressing on my salad the waiter was trying to shove calamari down my throat. It was probably the funniest dining experience ever. The walls were covered with decorations, absolutely plastered with them, Brendon taught us all how to “properly” finish our mini bottles of amaretto (as seen in the video) and I’ve never eaten so much food in my life before. I also had my first Italian pizza!

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After we said goodbye to Burano we headed to Florence for the world’s most cheesiest spaghetti and the home of naked David…

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New Year’s Eve is just another day.

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There are so many expectations for New Year’s Eve. As the clock strikes midnight it’s like all of life’s problems are supposed to magically disappear…

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But they won’t. Because you’ll wake up the next morning (perhaps with a hangover) and it’ll be just another day…

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I’m not saying don’t plan anything, don’t enjoy your night, stay home and be miserable…

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Just remember that how you spend New Year’s Eve doesn’t determine how your year will go…

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If your night doesn’t go as planned don’t be disappointed.

Everyone’s chasing a good time and it’s always a disappointment. I plan on doing nothing and then if something lands in my lap…but I always end up drunk and disappointed. – Jennifer Lawrence

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Don’t lay all of your hopes and dreams on one night of the year.

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Some of the best nights and memories are the ones that are unplanned and spontaneous…

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Don’t expect things… just enjoy whatever you’re doing and try and have some fun…

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So if you don’t get to the bar on time, the perfect outfit, or your midnight kiss just remember…

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It’ll be okay ♥

This may sound super cynical and bitter but all I’m saying is don’t place so many expectations on one night of the year. I’ve had so many thoughts, dreams and hopes for New Year’s Eve in the past when really one of my best nights consisted of me watching half of the Lord of the Ring trilogy in my friend’s basement and passing out at 12:20… So please, if you’re going downtown or having a house party have fun. Have fun while you’re waiting for that cab to show up, cleaning up drinks off your floor or clinking glasses with your parents at midnight. Enjoy your night and Happy New Year friends. Here’s to 2016 and hoping that this’ll be the year someone invents the flux capacitor…

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2015.

I struggled real hard to find the right words to say to recap one of the most adventurous years I’ve had. Yet every time I wrote a sentence, re-organized it, tried to pick the perfect pictures, captions, etc. nothing seemed to do it justice. There are so many things I would like to say and write about this year, some that I’ve already written about, so excuse the word vomit you are about to read.

I’m a 23 year old who loves her job (so far anyway *insert wink face here*). I travelled to 7 countries this year. I started my year in Malaysia and went back there again. I had the extreme pleasure of travelling to Thailand with two of my best friends. I fell in love with the mountains in Alberta. My parents took me on the European trip of a lifetime. I saw the Bills beat the Dolphins in Buffalo. I attended more concerts than I can count and even secured a job that pays me to run them. I met my favourite band and I discovered so many more. I had my heart broken. I finally learned how to use eyeshadow. I moved in with my best friend and we got matching tattoos. I lived my grade 7 dream of living with Jen and Kelly (even if it was for just one night). I took Uber for the first time. I made it to the aquarium downtown. I finally started volunteering with War Child. I made friends and I lost friends. I threw Debchella 2k15 (yes, that’s what we’re calling it…). I FINALLY saw (and will be old enough to remember) the Toronto Blue Jays making the playoffs. I checked numerous things off my bucket list including: attend an NFL game; attend a Toronto Maple Leafs game; meet Taking Back Sunday (in it’s entirety); and play an open mic night. I severely scraped up my knee…

The list is endless.

I learned many things about myself, life and relationships. I’ve learned that you can’t make someone love you if they don’t. I’ve learned not to chase people. The people who want to stay in your life will always find a way. I’ve learned I have the best friends in the world who always have my back and I’ve learned that I have the best parents in the world. This year I learned that you have to spend as much time with your loved ones when possible. I chose to travel to Malaysia instead of Cambodia to visit my relatives and I do not regret it for a single second. I had the amazing opportunity to spend one last trip with aunt who recently lost her battle with cancer.

I also caught a major travel bug.

So thank you – if you’ve shaped my year in any way, good or bad, thank you for the part you played in this adventurous year. Even though I didn’t get to see a flux capacitor this year it was still spectacular.

Here’s to the year that lies ahead.

“Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one.”

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Peace out 2015, it’s been a slice.

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Lucerne

October 20-21, 2015

October 20

The bus ride to Switzerland took all day. The trip was a total of 667.3 km (according to Google Maps). Travelling on The Love Bus, we made a couple stops along the way.

On the ride into the city Brendon described to us more about The Swiss. According to him, every single man is required to train for the Swiss Guard. The country is known as ‘neutral’ and must have the man-power to defend itself. He also described the country as meticulous – especially when it comes to portion control. We were told our meals would be carefully measured to ensure each portion was perfect and equal. The soap was to be measured for “one shower portion” and would disintegrate after we were finished. I wish I could describe it as well and comical as Brendon did. I assure you it was funnier than I’m describing now…

The area where we were dropped off was full of shops, tourists and chocolate. I’m 100% sure we were in tourist central because the shopkeepers spoke more Mandarin than English…and tried to talk to me in Mandarin… The shopkeepers seemed overwhelmed yet prepared for the crowds.

After losing both of my parents I roamed around the streets of Lucerne and found some cute unique vintage stores. As I’ve said in past posts and will continue to say, I wish I had more time to explore.

On our walking tour of the town we saw The Lion Monument. The dying lion commemorates the Swiss Guard who were killed during the French Revolution, however, if you look carefully you can see a pig surrounding the statue – apparently the sculptor was underpaid and sculpted a pig around the lion in revenge. Mark Twain has described the status as “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.”

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Lion of Lucerne

I expected our hotel room to be super tiny and only full of necessities (thanks to Brendon), however, our room was decently large. A double bed and a single for our family was perfect for one night’s sleep.

Back at home in Canada, Justin Trudeau was voted Prime Minister and all that BBC News could play was Justin Trudeau vs. Justin Bieber … so strange.

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Our perfectly portioned and delicious meal.

October 21

Back to the Future Day. I obviously brought my shirt to wear.

Our ride up to the Swiss Alps was on the world’s first open-air cable car, Cabrio. Because the mountains are so high, we had to take a train to get to the cable car. It was really surreal to see all of Lucerne slowly disappear into the clouds as we got closer and closer to the top.

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I'm in love with the mountains. | #Switzerland #RootsIsCanada #wanDEBlust

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Happy Back to the Future Day

The view was absolutely spectacular and reminded me of my trip up Sulfur Mountain in Banff. Our tour group was the first up the mountain and just like Banff, after arriving at the top, there was an option to climb even higher up the mountain. I was the first one up the mountain and had the view all to myself for a couple of minutes. Top 5 favourite moment of the trip.

Climbing up the mountain was difficult not only because I’m severely out of shape, but also the air pressure and cold weather. It was definitely worth the snot.

At the top of the mountain everything seems like a painting. Nothing seems real and your problems seem insignificant.

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Literally in the clouds.

I bought Swiss Toblerone bar at the gift shop of Mount Stanserhorn and it definitely seemed to taste better.

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The way down was just as breathtaking but sad because I was leaving the mountains. It also seemed a lot faster than the ride up (as every journey is).

It was time for a quick pee and then another long, long journey as we made our way to Venice…

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Paris

October 18-20, 2015

 

October 18

It’s an extremely humbling experience to be on an expensive trip and pass by Syrian refugees. This was my first experience in Paris, France. Although it shouldn’t have to be, it’s a good reminder, that I am an extremely privileged person living in Canada. I’m a very lucky girl and I have my parents to thank for that.

One of the coolest but shortest experiences we had on the trip was passing by Vimy Ridge. I would’ve liked to have visited the actual monument but even catching a glimpse of it from the highway was surreal.

On a lighter note – we arrived in Paris and immediately headed for our welcome dinner and visit to the Arc de Triomphe. The last time I was in Paris I definitely didn’t appreciate the city as much as I should of. We were given hours to spend on the Champs-Élysées and we spent most of it shopping. That’s partly why I was so excited to go back to Europe. It was kind of a do-over for me to experience the city as an adult (well, young adult).

I swear the restaurant we went to thought we weren’t going to eat for days. Each of us were LITERALLY given French Onion Soup (side note: is it just called onion soup in France…?), half a chicken with veggies, mashed potatoes, and probably THE BEST CREME BRULEE I’VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. Paris is also known for it’s famous wine, mmmmmm.

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Our tour director, Brendon, was absolutely spectacular. I could go on for days about how great he is and how he always went out of his way to give us the best experience. For example, making sure we have a chance to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night. It only happens in the first 5 minutes of every hour.

October 19

Travelling with Trafalgar is probably the best way to see every major tourist attraction if you can afford it. We were only in Paris for a day and we got to see the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Basilica, The Louvre and Moulin Rouge.

What we learned from Brendon was that in Europe, time means nothing. The Eiffel Tower was supposed to open at 9:30am, it did not. However, being in a group tour meant we were given the chance to skip the line and be the first group up the tower (except this time I wasn’t going to wear a tutu… things have changed a lot since the last time I was in Paris).

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#embarassing

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It’s pretty crazy to think that I was just in Paris. That we just experienced all of the beauty of the city and missed the terrible terrorist attacks. Hearing about the attacks was scary for that reason, and the fact that The Eagles of Death Metal show is a type of concert I typically attend.

Given recent events I was given the honour of representing Roots Canada on Instagram to pay respects to the attacks. A bittersweet moment but I was incredibly honoured to have been chosen.

Canada's thoughts and prayers are with you. #PrayForParis

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Notre-Dame was just as pretty as it was last time – except this time, without rain. The line to get in however was ridiculous. Luckily we got there early enough to avoid a major line-up (more Trafalgar secrets wooo!). I tried to find the same crepe place Alex, Alex, Jenn and I escaped the rain to but we were short on time so we settled for 1 of 16 crepe restaurants.

Brendon once again went out of his way to organize Louvre tickets ahead of time so that we had minimal waiting time. As long as the line was, and as small as the Mona Lisa is, my parents needed to see the famous Da Vinci painting. It took me a while but I finally made it to the front of the crowd.

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One of the things I liked to do was look at the crowds of people look at paintings like the Mona Lisa. In the past year I’ve tried to stop the attempt to capture the perfect moment and instead, to try and stop to enjoy the view. The last time we were at the Louvre I think we spent more time trying to mimic statues and less time looking at paintings – oh high school.

IMG_3834Just in case you’re wondering the Moulin Rouge is nothing like the movie. There’s a lot more boobs and a lot less room to move around. At one point – I kid you not – the stage opened up and turned into a water pit, and then one of the half naked girls jumped into the tank of water and swam with boa constrictors. The French are interesting.

The theatre is packed with around 1,000 people and 2 exits. My mom and I had discussed what would happen if there was a fire in that building, such a scary thought. It’s evIMG_3785en scarier to think what would’ve happened if the attacks happened there.

Along with a theatre ticket came a 3-course meal and lots of alcohol. Being the only one to drink red wine at my table, I was given my own personal tiny bottle which I gladly finished. Because of bronchitis I didn’t get to fully experience French wine last time and I was more than happy to make up for it.

You’re not allowed to take photos in the venue so excuse the poor quality ones that I managed to capture.

The Moulin Rouge puts on 2 shows twice a day, 7 times a week and they always sell out. Given those statistics and the opportunity to go my mom and I were definitely not going to pass up the chance… shows aren’t really my dad’s thing.

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October 20

I think this was the second earliest day we had to wake up the entire trip. We were to travel from Paris to Switzerland by bus and I’m so grateful I can pass out in a moving vehicle. My bus buddy, Leanne, can attest to that. As soon as we leaned back in our seats we were out cold – something about the air pressure I guess.

We stopped at a French bus/truck stop where I proceeded to eat the biggest lasagna I’ve ever had in my entire life.

 

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