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travels

One day, I’d like to take a trip where I have time to chat, sit in pubs and write up my journals of where I am and what I’m doing. I’ll be pithy, worldly and insightful, kind of a combination of Bill Bryson, Michael Palin and Nick Danziger. This is not that day.

Commence info dump in 3… 2… 1…

tower with bird, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

Paris, France

This was my first trip to Europe and I liked it more than I thought I would. Paris in particular, which I was prepared to find smug and overrated. Instead, it was attractive, clean and charming. Not the most forward-looking place I’ve ever been, but not the theme park I was afraid it would be, either. I didn’t even find Parisians rude or anything, just kind of stand-offish, which, as a kind of stand-offish guy myself, I’m totally okay with. I’ll definitely go back to France at some point, though I might try to take a French class first — my Canadian cereal-box French let me read signs and order in restaurants, but as soon as anyone tried to talk to me, I had to throw myself on their mercy, or more likely, just having my French speaking frère Tyson step in. And it really is a beautiful city. One night Tyson and I were strolling through the Champ de Mars by the Eiffel Tower, with the tower lit up and vendors selling bottles of wine in the park. I turned to Tyson: “our girlfriends will be soooo freaking jealous.”

Oh, also, the catacombs are really cool. And the Eiffel Tower. Even the Louvre has it’s good points, though the Mona Lisa isn’t one of them.

Madrid by Night, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

Madrid, Spain

Madrid was cool, but the 38+ degree heat during the day got old fast. At least the city is one of these winding old European cities where everything is a twisting lane. Bad for navigation, but good for shade. Even better for shade is just to spend the afternoon indoors and go out in the evening, when the old city really comes to life. Spain may have 20% unemployment, but the bars and restaurants are pretty full. Didn’t hurt that the night after my talk was simultaneously the pride parade (the biggest in Europe), and Spain’s victory over Paraguay.

Neither Ty or I speaks any Spanish, so getting around was harder than Paris, but fortunately on our first day Nando introduced us to the Mercado de San Miguel — a gigantic indoor market full of little stalls selling tapas, empanadas and sweets, and glasses of wine, sangria and beer, all for 1 to 3 euros a pop. Not only ridiculously cheap due to the collapse of the euro (thanks, Greece!), but it reduces browsing the menu to just pointing and knowing the words “Este, por favor. Dos.” (Even Paris was cheap, by the way. Dining out in there is probably less expensive than Vancouver at this point.)

North Burleigh Beach, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

Gold Coast, Australia

Then, it was so long Europe and Tyson, and hello Australia and Janelle (well, after thirty-odd hours in planes and airports it was). I’m on the Gold Coast now, Janelle’s home town. Pretty relaxing, but the entire city has a little bit of a vibe like a vacation town in the off-season. Which it kind of is, it being the middle of winter here. Our apartment was about 30m from the beach, so every day, I got to go for a run and watch the surfers. Lots of hanging out with Janelle’s friends and family, too, including a CRUSHING victory at the local pub trivia quiz night (Go, Occademics!). Also, some really nice trips to nearby Tambourine Mountain and Byron Bay. Internet situation has not been great, though. I was mostly reduced to the painfully slow, but free, McDonald’s wifi, since the rare coffee shops with wifi charge around $10/hour (!). However, McDonald’s here also serves some pretty good coffee (!!). Their flat whites are quite tasty. Such are my observations on international wifi availability and the differences between local and overseas McDonald’s (or, in Australian, “Maccas”). See? Travel does expand one’s horizons.

Up next: Melbourne. Specifically, Fitzroy. Good coffee, cheap ethnic food and hipstery shops in old Victorian buildings. I have a feeling I’ll like Melbourne. Plus, the film festival is on, and unlike the last couple years of the VIFF, there are actually a bunch of flicks I want to see. (On the minus side, though, it’s also the most expensive film festival I’ve ever been to. No wonder nothing’s sold out yet.)