Cinque Terre, divided.

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I spent 4 nights in Ostello Corniglia in Cinque Terre and it was enough. I wasn’t aware of this book by Rick Stein advising the world to head there and was unpleasantly shocked at the amount of tourists. I didn’t get all the hiking done that I wanted, but I saw a lot in those 3 days. So let me tell you a bit about all 5 of the villages in Cinque Terre:

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Riomaggiorroe
Riomaggiorroe is the first and most advertised. When you see pictures it’s most likely from the harbor looking up. Now none if the towns are that big but this one and Monterosso are tied for my favorite. Riomaggiorroe has several food stalls for snacks, restaurants for dinner and bars for a drink. They also have all the tourist shops with lemoncello and different pasta spices for sale. People will swim in the harbor but you need to climb down the rocks into the water. I know people will cliff jump here but by August the water is quite rough and no one was jumping anymore. The trails between Riomaggiorroe, Manarolo and Corniglia were also closed due to landslides by August so if you’re going hiking aim to visit earlier.

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Manarolo
I only visited this town for about an hour. I’ve been told there’s a bar on top of the hill that is quite neat and you can also cliff jump here. People were tanning on the boat launch but again the waves were pretty rough so no one was swimming. Manarolo is probably the best for getting a picture of the town because they have a path across the harbor from the village.

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Corniglia
This is the town I stayed in as well as the smallest. There really isn’t much to it as it’s up on a cliff. You have to climb 384 stairs up from the train station or take the shuttle bus for 2€ to reach the town. There are very limited restaurants but a beautiful look out point. I did the hike from Corniglia to Vernazza in about an hour and a half but the way back was closer to 45 minutes. The hike was all up hill on the way there but you do get beautiful views of Corniglia and Vernazza along the way.

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Vernazza
When I visited Vernazza it started to pour rain. There’s an old tower on top of the town that costs 1.50€ to go up and a nice harbor. You can also pass through a cave to a rocky beach where I’m sure people would swim on nicer days. Their town again had a few take away restaurants and sit down restaurants along with the tourist shops.

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Monterosso
Monterosso would be my favorite town. The whole coast line is a sandy beach. The second the sun is out the beach is packed. But the water comes up very high so if you see everyone pushed back to the wall it’s for good reason. A group of Aussies laid down in front of everyone then a massive wave came all the way over them and their towels. One girls iPhone was wrecked, another had to chase her clothes and shoes into the ocean as the wave sucked them away. They were not happy after that. Monterosso also has an old town if you head through the tunnel at the end of the boardwalk. A bit of a hike will take you to an old graveyard. On the otherside of town you can do a 30 minute hike to see a statue of a giant carved into the cliff.

I’d say Monterosso has the most to offer, beach, history and sights. While they’re all over run with tourists if I were to go back I’d probably stay outside the city just the make things a little cheaper. Levanto and La Spezia are on either side of the National Park and are easy access. The train ticket is 12€ for a day and 14€ for a week. You pick.

Bedroom Etiquette

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Now I’ve been pretty lucky all things considered. I’ve stayed in 13 hostels so far and could only complain about people in 2 of them. There’s just certain unspoken rules you should follow when staying in a dorm room. And when some people act as if they’re by themselves in a room with 11 others trying to sleep, something needs to be said.

1. If you’re coming in late, never turn the light on. This happened to me in Lake Como. I was in a 4 bed dorm but it was just me and some other guy. Then all of a sudden the light turns on at 1 am because a couple is checking in. This couple then proceeded to unpack their bags and chat to each other for about 30 minutes. Yes they turned the light off, but they’d already done the damage of awakening us. They then didn’t make any effort at being quiet to allow us fall back asleep until they were crawling in bed. Not acceptable.

2. Sometimes it’s better to be slightly loud and quick over creeping around slowly trying not to make any noise for 20 minutes. Everything you do will be louder at night. Just get er done.

3. Coming home late after drinking. We all do it. You’re in a hostel, it’s expected that people are partying. But not everyone. So when coming home late, finish up the conversation with your mates before entering the room. Once you’re in, your phone light works best, bedside lamps are usually really bright and will blind you. Just keep your phone pointed at the floor, putting it upside down lights up the whole room.

4. Getting changed in the dark. If you know you’re going out late, leave your pjs in your pillow. It’s wonderful, because you’ll never find anything in your suitcase at night. And no one can see you if you change at your bed in the dark. Or just sleep in your clothes as I have many times. Just remember to take off your shoes.

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5. Treat others as you wish to be treated. You’ll be really thankful of those who can get up for their 6 am train without causing a ruckus after you came in at 4. If you wake them up they’ll be less inclined to let you sleep peacefully. Remember that as you’re climbing the stairs drunk.

6. The door. After that french couple in Como fell asleep I woke up again. And you know what? They’d left the door open. Now you should never slam the doors, some slam shut, so hold it as it closes. Some need to be closed, so make sure you hear the click. But never leave it open while you go to the bathroom or run back in for ten minutes to grab all your stuff. Generally the hallways are noisy and sound drifts in to wake everyone up even if you’re being quiet.

Just try and remember what it was like when you came in late to your parents house but you didn’t want them to realize the time. So you ease the door shut and tip toe around. Don’t really bother changing and brush your teeth in the dark. If you hear “honey, is that you?” You know you’ve failed the nights mission. Those roommates are your parents, some may not care, but some of them will make your life miserable. They will bang their lockers instead of pots, turn the lights on and open the windows. It’s just as bad as having the blankets ripped off when you’re all snugly and warm. Respect, people!

Feel free to tell your bad hostel experiences. And don’t forget to follow my twitter and Instagram. @feeliciaday

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Everyone should Eurail

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The 16th marked the final day of my rail pass and while it wasn’t all smooth, I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I had the 2 month continuous global Eurail pass. Pretty much it entitled me to hop on and off all the trains across Europe, with the exception of over night trains and Poland, Montenegro and Serbia. Now I definitely had my fair share of run ins with broken trains, being stranded, and delays but thanks to my pass and the app I could always see when the next train was coming and what my possible routes could be if I didn’t make the first train.

Let me start by saying that no, a rail pass is not for everyone. A lot of the time, if you plan far enough in advance and don’t have that many stops, you can find either cheap plane, bus or train tickets. Buying train tickets 3 months in advance will save you a decent amount of money. That being said, do you really want every second of your trip planned out? I changed my trip around four or five times since coming over to Europe and if I’d pre booked trains or flights, I’d be locked in. And I wouldn’t have seen all the amazing eastern countries that I ended up in.

The main problem I have with flying everywhere is the airports. The cheaper company’s fly from the airports outside the city. In places like Italy where the trains are never on time you run the risk of missing a flight or planning to be there four hours early so that you’re two hours early. And you then need to factor transportation costs to and from the airport, then to and from your hostel/hotel.

There are company’s like BusAbout where you can have a set route but take your time, meet a lot of people going the same places as you and not have to worry about finding a hostel. But with this company it’s all the big city’s. They don’t go to Hungary or Slovenia, you never leave that beaten path unless you buy additional bus or train tickets out of the town. I know a few people who have done it and loved it but again it’s not for me.

When I tell people I spent 800 euros for my pass they freak out. 1400$ Canadian? That’s the same as my plane ticket here and back for Vancouver. But I’ve visited 10 countries with this pass. I’ve made last minute decisions and hoped a trained, planned to catch one then changed my mind to sleep in a little longer after a night out. It really is your most flexible option without needing to plan. And it’s valid for youth up until you’re 26. So even if you just do a 3 week 10 uses trip around the east side of Europe I think it’s worth it. But I also think everyone should travel so maybe that’s just my opinion.

Feel free to comment your experiences. Follow me on Facebook and twitter, @feeliciaday

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The Men, the sex and the mindset

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At the beginning of my 3 month trip around Europe, I decided that I was going to skip over Amsterdam. A lot of people questioned my choice but it was a city I just wasn’t comfortable being alone in. Once I reached Eastern Europe though, I started meeting a lot of dutch travelers and changed my mind based on their kindness. And so, a few days later, I caught a 15 hour train from Austria to Rotterdam to stay with family for the weekend.

Shortly after arriving in Amsterdam by ferry, my impression was negative. But as they teach you in school, I didn’t want to judge a book by its cover. I was however, incredibly grateful not to be alone. First, we headed to the Red Light District. I don’t think I mentally prepared myself as I should have for what I was about to see because as we entered the alley and I saw that first half naked girl in the window, I gasped and covered my eyes.

Maybe it’s just me but all these horrible scenarios started running through my head of why these girls would subject themselves to this. Single mothers, sending money back to their country to support their family, abused as a child, feed an addiction. I couldn’t get over how degrading and disturbing it all was to me. And the men standing on the corner inviting you to watch live sex shows just made things worse, who on earth could stomach that? My cousin told me when the curtains are closed, it means the girls are “busy”. That’s when I said let’s go and started looking at the ground. It didn’t help that a group of drunken British men were in front of me telling the girls they’d be back for them later that night, because I’m sure they did go back.

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Even just walking down the street, you could see everyone sitting outside the coffee shops getting an afternoon high, and leering. The men in Amsterdam clearly had the mindset for Amsterdam, sex and drugs. Everywhere we walked you could feel it in the way they stared at you, like you were a object, not another human being. I can only imagine if I’d walked around those streets alone, as I have in so many other city’s, what might’ve happened and how uncomfortable I would’ve been. Or should I say more uncomfortable because to be honest I just wanted to leave that city after the first five minutes.

We walked to the flower market and then to Anne Franks old house. And don’t get me wrong, I could see the beauty within the city but it was like that Lily Allen song, LDN. Everything’s all beautiful canels and green trees and unique coffee shops but underneath that is a layer prostitutes, pickpockets and drug addicts.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problems with weed. Being from Vancouver, you grow up with that BC bud everywhere. But it’s not legal, so it’s not to such an extent that it was in Amsterdam. Amsterdam made me think badly of it, that people got messed up on it, in a way I’ve never seen at home. I thought badly of the drug, I judged the people who were doing it.

Honestly, the Netherlands is an amazing country. Maybe I would’ve felt differently with a group of friends in the party mood instead of my tourist sightseeing mood. But as I thought of what it would’ve been like to stay in a hostel and been there alone, I was glad I’d listened to my gut 2 months before and skipped the stop over. If you are wanting to visit alone, I suggest staying in a neighboring city like Haarlem, Rotterdam or Leuuv Warden and making a day trip into the city. Holland does have a lot to offer outside Amsterdam and I hope to go back in the future. I just won’t be visiting A’DAM anytime soon.

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Spotlight On: Slovenia

20140805-204725-74845500.jpgSlovenia is the most underrated country I have ever witnessed. When I said I was heading to Bled only a handful of people had heard of it and all of them considered Slovenia a skip over. Everyone goes from Austria or Hungary straight to Croatia. I could not be happier that I stopped by and saw this amazing country. It was definitely a more laid back, cheaper Canada right on the east side of Europe.

The people: they could all speak english. I didn’t go to any of the major towns like Ljubljana, Maribor or Piran but no matter where you were everyone had average and better english. When I was in Brno in Czech only the hostel workers and my generation could speak english. They were also all incredibly kind. Our taxi driver made us laugh the ten minutes drive to the airport and definitely didn’t overcharge and my hostel owner gave us more than enough information to get around and see everything. There was only one boat operator who was incredibly rude and we decided he wasn’t actually Slovenian.

The scenery and what to do: I stayed in Bled, not on the lake but a ten minute walk away. Obviously the lake is a must see. There’s a church in the middle on an island and the castle is on a cliff overlooking the lake. I wouldn’t bother going to the church unless you want to pay 6€ and ring the wishing bell. Both the castle and the church are fully lit up at night. We also went to a Gorge called Vintgar Gorge. We walked but took a wrong turn so instead of 3 km it turned out to be more like 5 km. The gorge is stunning though. A must see in my books. I suggest walking back to the entrance you started at though, we took a different trail and went for an alpine hike in flip flops. The mountains are the Slovenia alps and I can only compare them to the Rockies. The lakes are a beautiful turquoise blue and clear. One side of the lake is more built up and touristy, attracting Germans, Slovenians and Italians. The other side is peaceful with trees and little resting spots. There’s a look out point with a tobogganing hill across from the castle. It’s 9€ to take the chair lift up and toboggan down. The toboggans have hand held breaks so you can go as fast or as slow as you’d like. It’s possible to walk up the hill but it is quite steep. The view from the top is amazing and worth ever euro.

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Vintgar gorge.

20140805-204423-74663003.jpgStraža summer tobogganing.

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Day trips? Lake Bohinj, with a bus it’s 3.60€ one way but definitely worth it. Get off at the last stop and hike the hour and twenty minutes through the valley to see the Slap Savica waterfall. It’s quite an amazing site. You can also just hang out at the lake. It’s less touristy than Bled and has more camping then hotels. If I’d stayed longer I probably would’ve gone to the Postojna caves because I love caves. Or tried white water rafting or sky diving. They also offer kayaking, canyoning and paragliding at the tourist huts.

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Overall this stop on my trip was way past due. Hiking mountains was the perfect head clearing atmosphere for dealing with my recent heart break. Laying on the beach helped me get some colour back that I’d lost in the cities and I needed a break from the city. I do love all these European cities but even in Vancouver, I don’t live downtown. I can’t keep up with the constant hustle and bustle and everyone loves a good waterfall. I’ve even converted a friend to go there for as long as he can. Three nights in not enough, even with the four nights I did, I felt I could see more.

So my conclusion is everyone needs to witness Slovenia. For the people, scenery and adventure.

Have anything to add? Feel free to comment and follow me on twitter and Instagram @feeliciaday

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My Travel Rules for Badassery

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Every time people hear that I’m a girl traveling by myself they ask aren’t you afraid? And usually I give the sarcastic comment of no I’m a badass. But in all seriousness, if I can walk down east Hastings in Vancouver with all the crack heads and prostitutes by myself with no problems, I can walk down a street in Budapest or Berlin.

Obviously there’s the obvious dos and don’t’s but I like to call them common sense.
A. Never walk down a dark alley by yourself. Pretty common knowledge, no one should do that anywhere.
B. If they’re making you uncomfortable don’t tell them you’re alone. I’ve gone as far as pretending I knew a table a few people away just so I have an excuse to leave. Make sure they speak english, but just say hey I’m just avoiding a guy do you mind if I stand here a minute? And most girls have been there so they let you join in.

But to really make it, I have a different set of rules. Because if people can instantly tag you as a tourist alone, you’re a target for the annoying hawkers and the pick pockets. I personally haven’t gone to a bar by myself so I can only guess. One time a friend went to the bathroom and the second she left, guys were at the table: you alone? You want some company?

My rules are: 1. Never look lost. I have the Trip Advisor: City Guides that works offline. So I can access a map on my phone, google maps also can track you offline if you load it while having Internet. Side note: If I need directions, I’ll always look for someone in their early 20s. Most countries have made it mandatory to learn english to graduate within the last 10+ years.

2. Act like you know. You obviously need a certain level of confidence to travel alone. I find I always say I know where I’m going until we get there. And then hopefully were actually there. I read the instructions before hand and generally change the name if it’s incomprehensible. I needed to go to the Szichenyi baths in Budapest on the metro but didn’t even know which direction to head. So I looked at the board, saw we needed to transfer at the next stop and head towards Mexikói on yellow line. So when we got on I repeated we take this one stop and switch to the yellow line in the direction of Mexico and get off at the stop named after the baths. It makes it a lot easier then trying to province it and remember them. Just pick something similar to the name so if you see a sign your recognize that’s what you’re going for.

3. Meeting people so you don’t always have to go out alone? I always stay in hostels and pick a dorm room with 6-10 people in it. Generally they’re all also backpacking because family’s go for the smaller rooms. The kitchen and common room are you best friend. And save you money, no need to go to a restaurant by yourself when you can cook. Pick dinner time and everyone else is doing the same thing. this rule only works if you’re outgoing enough to start the conversation. Some people may talk to you first, but if they’re two people, they already have someone to talk to.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask to join them. I usually never make big plans when I’m heading to a new city. I’ll have a list of what I want to see but it’s usually what everyone wants to see. If you ask what they’re doing tonight or the next day and you like their plans just ask to tag along. I haven’t had anyone say no to me coming out drinking or going sightseeing with them.

I have a different set of rules for how to meet people in bars, one liner conversation starters but I don’t want to drag this on. I’ll make another post later about that.

If you like my posts leave a comment. Feel free to follow my travels on twitter and Instagram @feeliciaday

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