A birthday in Belgium

The next stop on my trip has taken me over to belgium. It should’ve been 2 days but I waited to long to buy my Eurostar ticket and they became expensive. None the less, I arrived on Tuesday at 11:30 in Brussels midi. And let me tell you it was nothing that I was expecting. I knew they spoke Flemish and French but I didn’t realize it was to the extent that there was nothing written in English anywhere, even the train station. Lucky for me, I have 12 years of French immersion under my belt or I would’ve been freaking out.

After activating my Eurail pass I hoped the train to bruss. nord to check into my hostel. After some confusion, I checked in and ditched my bags and decided to go to Ghent. I don’t know what I did but I did not get where I wanted too. I got off at Ghent sint-Pierre and there was nothing around. Needless to say I ate some fries and went back to the hostel. I met up with some Americans and we went to a bar called Celtica. It was amazing for the fact that they had a list of beers that were €2. Belgium won the game and there was a lot of French singing, drinking and cheering until 2 am.

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The next day was my birthday so I went on the walking tour to try and meet more people to come out that night with me. And I met the greatest people, a lot of Canadians and a few Americans. The tour was an hour and a half and covered the majority of Brussels, or at least it felt like it. Our tour guide Yassar from Venezuela was very enthusiastic and informative. Later we took a beer tour which I wasn’t as enthusiastic about. I’m not a big beer drinker and the beers were all strong and strange to me.

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At night all of us went to the famous Delirium. This bar has a selection of over 3000 beers and is 3 stories. I only tasted a few but my favorite was by far the cherry beer because it didn’t taste like beer. Across the street was also an absinthe bar so this alley was crawling with drunk party goers. The night ended with 2am Greek food. It was awesome.

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Cardiff Castle

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I decided to venture out from Barry to the great Cardiff castle. Usually I’m not big on museums, tour guides droning on about things that happened hundreds of years ago with the odd dry joke thrown in to bring back your attention. But I gotta say, Cardiff Castle was not that. It’s straight from the main train station and bus station by a couple blocks, very easy to find. It was £12 per adult and you were given a map and a headset that would explain the history as you walked around at different stations. There was also a short film that I opted out of watching for fear of falling asleep. For £3 more you could have a guide inside the castle apartments and see more than the designated 6 rooms.

I stated out in the basement where there was a war memorial piece. Different outfits, medals and blurbs on how Wales aided other countries in battle. I was pleasantly surprised to see they’d come to Canada during the war of 1812 to fight the USA. It stated underneath that Wales and Canada have a strong bond to this day.

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After heading outside, I entered an extremely creepy hallway with war propaganda and scenes displayed all through it, the windows were blocked and loud whiny music played. I felt like I was in a scene out of Pretty Little Liars and the murderer was crossing in front and behind me whenever I turned around. It opened up to stairs that led to the second floor and up along the wall of the castle. There’s beautiful views out over Cardiff but the best are from The Mound. While the stairs were narrow and steep, if at the castle you can not skip the Mound.
Theres also a bird sanctuary at the bottom with a peacock in it. A man with a bird of prey may also be wondering around for you to hold and take pictures with.

The castle apartments are also quite amazing. I didn’t follow the history though, just looked and took pictures. That was the end of my day. The only other place I went was the park surrounding the castle. I don’t know if it’s just me but there was a circling of rocks and I felt like I would run into some fairies in there. It was quite a beautiful day.

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London in a day

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Since coming to the UK, I’ve been told that Canadians only need one day to see something. And by something I mean cities. So when I was presented with a free day and decided on London, even though Sally told me how big of a city London is, she ended with:

well you are Canadian.

This is a stereotype I hadn’t heard of before coming here. I’m wondering if it’s everyone’s thoughts of us Canadians or just the English. Or just Sally, seeing as she is in a league of her own. I know all countries have stereotypes but I always thought Canadians were polite and said sorry to the point of exhaustion. We also clean up our own riots in Vancouver which is unheard of anywhere else in the world, but if we don’t, who will?

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Anyways I did make it through what I wanted to see. I got off the train at Waterloo and after trying to figure out the exit for a while I ended up at the base of the London Eye. And from there I used my Trip Advisor offline app to open a map sans wifi. Which was very handy and didn’t peg me as an immediate tourist which I hate.
Surprisingly enough, everything is right there at first. Big Ben and Westminster abbey are right over the bridge. I didn’t go inside because I didn’t feel like paying for anything that day. I walked along down the street and turned in at the Horse Guards, which I later found out is where they had Olympic volleyball during the 2012 Olympics. I spent an hour leisurely relaxing in St. James park before heading out to buckingham palace. It was pretty lame. I thought the guards were on the street not inside the gates, it was all very upsetting. I crossed through the park and decided to head to the British Museum.

Now if any of you have been to London, you’ll know the British museum is on the other side of town from where I was at Buckingham Palace. Also, being from a grid city didn’t help me in the least with reading the maps all across town. So with 30 minutes left until closing, after an hour and a half of wandering, I found the museum. It was beautiful. Massive, and I didn’t see everything but beautiful none the less. My favorite part was in the Egyptian part of the museum, an old man grunted and pointed at himself and said “Korean.” When I said “Canadian” he looked at his wife, and repeated. So I tried “Canada” and together in unison they went “aaaah Canada.” He was probably trying to guess my nationality since I don’t particularly look like any race.

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After the museum closed I made my way back to the river Thames. I knew all I needed was to see the Eye looming over the city to find my station. I sat and ate lunch under the London Eye before heading in since I’d boughten an Off Peak ticket to save a couple pounds. I just needed to wait until 7pm, after rush hour, before getting back on the train to Winchester. A solid 6 hours and I feel I’ve been there done that. Must be a Canadian thing.

There really are baths in Bath

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I was quite pleasantly surprised that England has named the cities appropriately. When I was in Germany , every town name ended with Baden but none of them have bathes in the center of town. Turns out the Romans built these baths on volcanic hot springs so that they are warm. You may drink the spa water, but it’ll taste like 100 year old rotten eggs.

I’ve also been given quite the history lessons from the lady I’m staying with. It’s fascinating how much she knows about random facts and I aspire to do the same in my old age. It seems like every where I drive is a place a famous person died. Like yesterday we drove past a hill and I was informed that’s where Tessa of the D’Urbervilles was hung, around the corner is where Jane Austen died in poverty. They also have all these mounds in the ground where people have been buried. They’d build houses and such for them so that they could pass to the other side nicely. In one of these mounds, a king was buried in a ship, and it was fairly far away from any water. Which means these poor servants/workers would’ve had to drag this ship miles and miles to where the king wanted to be buried.
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We drove past Stonehenge today on the way into Bath. No stopping for a bunch of rocks no one knows what they’re for. You’re not even aloud to climb on them anymore. There’s nothing there either, no bathrooms or tourist shops. Just the rocks.
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They’re a crazy people, but I find myself listening to every tidbit and storing it for later.

Bon Voyage

20140601-131326-47606285.jpgLast night, I threw a goodbye party. With lots of food no one ate, punch they all thought was spiked and terrible music. Yet the whole night, I couldn’t get the grin off my face. I know I’m leaving for 3 months or for a year, it’s still up in the air, but I haven’t felt that close to people in a long time. Having everyone come together for a mutual cause, new friends and old, was heart warming.
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Everyone was generally interested in what the others were saying, everyone wanted to know where I’m going and when,

“Where do you fly into?” “What day do you leave?” “Where are you staying?” “How much is it?”

Lots of conversation, lots of going over the map I’d mapped out on the wall. Lots of suggestions. Black Bull was drunkenly written in my notes and I’m not sure if it’s an amusement park or town anymore. Everyone of course said the regular be safe but more importantly have fun. I even cried at a certain point while reassuring my best friend I’d be coming back. Later.

Even thought I don’t see all of them as much as I once did, I’m going to miss all of them. And at certain points of my trip I’ll probably be reminded of them and re-realize how much I miss all of them. But this is what I want to do, so I’m going to do it.
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