Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Loving My IPod

As a travel tool, this thing just gets better and better! The new useful discovery: saving maps as pictures!

Blog Posts

I have to apologize if my blog posts are fashioned with different font styles and sizes for no apparent reason. I'm using a blog app on my iPod and it sucks balls.

The Royal We!

Yesterday began as a bust. Apparently I still wasn't quite over my jet lag; I slept until 4am, woke up and couldn't fall back asleep for three more hours. When I finally did, I slept until 11:45! This turned out to be not such a horrible thing, however, as it pissed rain until the late afternoon. I decided it would be a good idea to head to the British Museum and stay dry. 

On the way I got soaked. With the weather, London gave a little and took a little back. The British Museum was pretty awesome. I didn't get to see the whole thing before I became hungry enough to seek out some pub food and a pint, but I managed to see the ancient Egyptian, Assyrian and Greek exhibits. I'm sure there's a ton of ancient items that the British have stolen from around the world left for me to see. 

After a good, hearty meat pie, the rain has stopped and I walked. And walked. And walked. I started from the pub, near the British Museum, to Leicester Square, then to Trafalgar Square, then to Westminster, and finally I ended my jaunt at the Abbey. I just looked that up and it's only 1.7 miles, not really that impressive. Dammit!

That walk highlights how beautiful London is. It's basically, "oh Trafalgar Square. Hey there's Big Ben! There's Westminster Abbey! And you keep on walking and walking, knowing there's always something cool on the next block. This city is one of the most beautiful I've ever been to, I love it. Every street and alleyway has so much charm and character!

This morning I fared much better with sleep. I woke up at 8:30, ate breakfast and used Caroline's washing machine to do some laundry. She's been a great host, more than I could have possibly asked for. I owe her big time when she comes to visit Canada again. 

I tried to make it to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard ceremony at 11:30. I did make it on time, but had no clue where to be to get the best view, partially due to the thousands of tourists latched against every available barrier. 

I did happen to find an open space and stick myself in it hard. I wasn't sure if I was in the right place to get a good view, but my theory is if you be patient and hold that spot, it might pay off. I think running around chasing the crowds puts you at risk of being in the totally wrong spot and losing out on a good picture space you had before. 

It turns out I didn't get to see the foot soldiers with the furry hats march by me, but the armored horse did. And true to my theory, a banzai charge of hundreds of elderly Japanese tourists came rushing toward the barrier I was at, in a fanatical bid to get a picture. I'm sure most of them ended up with pictures full of the heads of tourists, including mine. 

After the ceremony was done I opted to dodge the ridiculous amounts of tourists and head for the Tower of London, where I discovered the same thing. 

The castle is pretty cool, much of it doesn't feel restored, and would seem very authentic if not for the hoards of tourists. I did have a good time there, wandering through the walls and viewing the Crown Jewels. Now I understand why bling rhymes with king.

This post was powered by Starbucks wifi: 

Monday, May 27, 2013

London, Day 2

It appears I arrived in London at exactly the right time. The weather the past two days have been the best and only warm, sunny days of the year. Yesterday I slept for a few hours in the afternoon and then headed out to Southbank with Caroline. We met up with a friend of hers, Anna, and headed up to a 5th floor patio bar that had an incredible view of the Thames river. After a beer there we upriver to another patio bar, this one was basically a giant lawn that everyone sat on, and you drink beer. Perfect!

We met a friend of mine. Alex, that I knew from my travels in Thailand. After some Mexican food and a couple drinks, we ended the night with a coupe drinks at a jazz bar. 

And today I slept until 12:45, about 11 hours. I am officially over my jet lag! We met up with Anna, and another friend, Ben, and walked around the Camden Market. It was really cool, the market snakes through a web of brick alleys and archways. Some of it was tacky tourist shops, but there was also a lot of nice antique and thrift stores. 

And again we ended up at a patio bar, this one above a canal loch. During our time there a few boats used the loch, which had about a six foot height difference between the upper and lower portion. Seeing the lochs in use was like a window to history, I was seeing a canal in use that has been around for hundreds of years. I think I'm going to like Europe.

Afterwards we went and met some more of Caroline's friends, drinking a few beers and scarfing down a pizza. That's what Canada needs more of, relaxed public drinking laws, rooftop patios, and pubs like this:

Tomorrow my luck with the weather is supposed to end, with a 90% chance of rain. So something indoors will be in order, possibly the Tower of London or Tower Bridge!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Touchdown Europe

Here I am, finally at my friends place in London. After a quick flight to Calgary I grabbed my bag and went through security, opting for a pat down over that stupid scanner, denying the security apparatus a picture of my junk. 

The Air Transat flight went a lot better than I thought it would. Being a budget airline, I expected cramped legroom and a shitty airplane, but it was actually really nice. In every seat back there was at touch screen tv with a a decent movie and tv show selection. 

The time running up to a trip is always exciting. You're planning, looking at pictures of the places you're going to visit, researching the things you're going to do. But nothing is better than landing at your destination, that's when the real smile arrives.

A friend I know from my Vancouver days lives in London now, and had offered me a place to stay. I had looked up her address and printed out a map from the station to her house, fairly straightforward.

I had a nice train ride in, the sun was shining, which is weird for London. I got on the tube and got off at the Highbury Islington stations, where I would take the overground to Hackney Wick station, close to Caroline's place. Except the overground wasn't running today. The travel Gods have just decided to test Kyle's skills.

I head out of the station to figure out how to take the bus there, but of course since everyone takes the train, nobody else knows how to take the bus either. I finally figured it out and got on the 30. 

It didn't take me directly to the Hackney Wick station so another search ensued. After asking the third person for directions, I finally found my bearing and Caroline's place. And now we're chilling out, watching Arrested Development. After that flight and the time change I'm feeling groggy. I think a few hours of sleep this afternoon will be in order, then a night involving beer!

Friday, May 24, 2013

I'll Be Backpack

I'm all done packing! I learned hard lessons about how to pack on my last trip, lugging around a 40+ pound backpack in India. This time, my backpack weighs a very manageable 18 pounds, and about another five in my daypack. I could hike for days with that weight on me. 

The new backpack I purchased is seeming even better than when I bought it. The front opening makes for incredibly easy packing and accessibility; no more digging deep into my backpack to look for a shirt! 

Tonight my girlfriend is coming over to cook me dinner, and we'll spend our last night together before I fly to Calgary at 10am tomorrow. I wish she could come with me on this one, but unfortunately her work schedule is not quite as flexible as mine, and I'll be going solo. Hopefully the next trip we'll be writing these blog posts as a traveling couple!


Thursday, May 23, 2013

T-2 Days!

This is the first trial post from my IPod. I can already tell this is going to take me a lot longer than it would with a laptop.

Right meow my room is a mess of travel gear strewn over every square inch of available space, awaiting it's clearance to land in my backpack. While packing I found 60 American dollars! This was just enough to pay for my visa on arrival in Turkey, absolving me of the need to go to the bank to exchange money. As the cautious and responsible traveller I am, I checked the Turkish embassy website to be sure of the price. It was a good thing I did, because to my astonishment and relief, I discovered that the visa regulations had changed last month, and the visa on arrival system had been terminated. Instead, one has to apply online for an E-Visa, then print it out. It's a pretty easy and efficient system, reminiscent of my Australian working holiday visa a couple years ago. 

Finding the American money still isn't a total loss, however. I'll still keep it in my backpack as emergency money.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Remember This, Ladies!

I had to show my girlfriend this article that a friend posted on Facebook.

I know everyone who reads this blog that knows me will say I'm this guy.

Plan: Turkey

Just over two weeks until I depart for Turkey! The ball is rolling. Shit is happening.

I've pretty much accumulated all the gear and knowledge I'll need for this trip. I splurged a little and bought a new (and smaller) backpack since I'll only need a minimal variety of clothing for Turkey's warm climate. I also picked up a sweet pair of Patagonia trail shoes that are still fashionable to get me into bars if need be. My new passport arrived in the mail the other day. I managed to fill up a twenty four page passport in less than two years, so I have to keep the momentum going and fill up this new forty eight page passport by the time it expires!

Here's the rough idea of what my plan is for Turkey: (of course with me, all plans are subject to change)

This map doesn't include my four days in London, which will be hella sweet since I'm going to reconnect with some old friends and drink in some centuries old pubs. First I fly into Istanbul(A) where I'll spend a few days roaming around that famed city, checking out the mosques and bazaars. Then from there I hit up Pergamum(B), an ancient Roman city that is much less touristy than most, which is perfectly fine by me. I forsee a lot of chilling out time on the ruins that overlook the city. From there I'll head to another, bigger, set of ruins, this one A LOT more touristy. Ephesus(C) is the second biggest ancient city in the world, and is supposed to draw huge crowds of tourists, so I'm thinking I'll be in and out on that one. After that it's straight for the beaches to Fethiye(D), and from there I'll hike a section of the Lycian Way to Oludeniz(E), another beach paradise. Just south of those two cities is Kabak(F), a tiny town that is supposed to be a more laid back, backpacker friendly place, nestled in a deep valley with it's own small beach that looks amazing! Then I'm on to Antalya(G), a nice seaside city, to use as a base to explore the ruins in the surrounding countryside, and whatever else I feel like making part of the adventure. Kizkalesi(H) will be the next destination. It's supposed to be quite off the beaten track, is hot, has a nice beach, and also has an old crusader castle on an island just off the coast. Sounds pretty awesome to me. After I'm done there I'll head north to Cappadocia(I) and wander the surreal landscapes that make up that area. Expect some awesome pictures from there! My journey to the last place will be by my favourite means: train. I'll journey from Cappadocia to Kars(J) on an overnight train, and will hopefully pass a lot of amazing scenery on the way. Kars will be quite the change in scenery from the beaches to the mountainous region on the border of Armenia. There I'll see some old Armenian churches and fortresses set alongside deep canyons. And by then I think I'll be out of time. I would like to go see Amasra, a beautiful port town on the Black Sea coast, but I doubt I'll have any days left, and a flight straight to Istanbul will be the last travel in Turkey. Four weeks of travelling and only being able to see half the country really puts in perspective how large of a country Turkey really is. I'm already thinking I'm going to love this country. And that makes me really excited.