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44 Days Abroad: London, UK

We visited many parts of England before making our way to London. Going to London was like coming home. It reminded me of Toronto, just on a larger scale. London felt like being in a bubble, it was as if we left England altogether and somehow transported to a mega city. The bus ride into the city was bordering on gross to horrendous. I had to use the facilities, which were located at the back of the bus. As I entered the cubicle I realized this toilet was going to be problematic, even for going number one. I decided to flush the toilet as a good measure to see what I was dealing with. A jet of water shot out of the toilet about two feet tall and then came down covering the entire floor in toilet water. I backed out of the stall, shut the door and went back to my seat.

The Tube, London’s underground subway is amazing. I can’t remember having to take a cab anywhere while we were in the city. The museums, specifically The British Museum had some of the best collections of Roman, Greek, and Egyptian artifacts. The British Egyptian collection is considered to be one of the best in the world, and is a cause of controversy as Egypt has unsuccessfully requested the return of some of their items. History and Ancient Civilizations has always been an interest of mine, and part of me wanting to go to Europe was based solely on seeing the various collections of art and artifacts. The British certainly cleaned up during colonialism.

The best part about London is the boroughs. The city is pockets of communities that offer different flavors. Each area has it’s own unique vibe. Camden Market was gritty and real. The market itself was a lot of fun. I ended up getting a ton of stuff for fifty pounds, including a pair of BEATS ear buds. My girlfriend ended up getting some dresses for ten pounds each. Brixton was another treat. The entire community is full of shops, and fresh food markets. It’s a fun place to just walk around.

My advice to anyone going to London is to stay central to the places and things you want to see and do. The city encompasses a huge geographical region. Even though the transit is great, it can be slightly annoying to get from one end of the city to the next. Especially if you plan on flying in. I found Kings Cross to be convenient for me, as it was central enough and not the most expensive area to stay in. It fit my budget, well sort of. London was a city that I just scratched the surface of. More time is needed.

44 Days Abroad: Paris, France

I remember a conversation I had with a friend of mine I had before I left on this trip. They told me to “not get too excited for Paris”. I was a bit taken back by this statement. After some research it became clear that Paris is widely considered by many to be a rather disappointing place to visit.

I felt that getting the chance to experience this first hand would either validate this opinion, or hopefully disprove it. Unfortunately, Paris is like black licorice. It’s not necessarily good, but if you eat it enough you might like it. The usual qualms most tourists have is that it’s expensive.

The city was extremely expensive. The streets and architecture are beautiful, but many of the streets looked the exact same. I felt that it was a typical style that became repetitive after awhile. The charm wore thin. The patios were plentiful, but many charged a steep price for just the basics. The cost of restaurants and entertainment made certain parts of the city inaccessible to many inhabitants. Having spent some time on the outskirts it became clear that the government’s priority was maintaining the core, while neglecting the outer communities. It felt artificial. It was almost like being in Disney World. Tax rates are extremely high, most working residents falling in the 30 to 40 percent income tax category. On top of a 20 percent goods and service tax. It’s no wonder the city is mostly filled with tourists, and the opulent.

Paris has been romanticized in almost all forms of media. Paris is extremely significant historically, and culturally. Some of the greatest artists from writers to painters have called Paris their home at one point or another. It was a melting pot for creativity. However, besides areas like Montmarte many artists of today could never afford to call Paris home. There is artists living in Paris, though it does not appear to be any sort of mecca.

The museums are top notch. The Louvre and Musee D’Orsay were some of the best I’ve ever been to. The collections are impressive. The Louvre was massive in scope and size. It’s not something I’d recommend a person do all in one day.

Paris is now another notch on my belt. I probably won’t go back. I don’t hate it, but it definitely wasn’t for me.

44 Days Abroad: Bristol, UK

I had been in the air for nearly ten hours when I arrived at Amsterdam International. I decided to leave at roughly five o’clock Eastern time from Toronto Pearson International. The logic behind leaving mid afternoon was that I assumed I would end up sleeping for a few hours once in the air. That assumption did not pan on out as intended.

I had a quick layover in Amsterdam, only an hour or so. When I boarded the plane headed to Bristol I looked like a zombie. My hair was a mess, my eyes had huge bags under them, and my mental processes had about a ten second delay before my body responded. A lady sitting next to me asked me something and I distinctly remember me looking at her for a good while before I figured out what to say. She probably thought I was high.

Arriving in the U.K was disjointing at first. I wanted to sleep, but people were just waking up. Going to bed when the sun rises sucks. I managed a couple hours once arriving at our destination. It took over a week for my sleep pattern to somewhat normalize .

Bristol is a mixture of bohemians, families, students, hipsters, and new wave hippies.

Bristol is a city ripe with change. The city is going through a rapid gentrification process. Homes are hitting record prices. There’s a sense of optimism throughout the city.

The roads are an absolute mess. The city wasn’t constructed with the foresight that the city might need rapid transit, parking, or multiple lane roads.

My cousin lives in Easton, an up and coming borough of Bristol. The shops and food are diverse, offering a true sense of multiculturalism. Late at night we depart down Stapleton Road towards St. Mark Street. We cut through back streets and alleyways. The graffiti on the walls are bright and artistic, we hope to catch a glimpse of a Banksy. We end up a local pub called The Greenbank filled with just about every sort of person. I even spot a young couple on their way home with a baby in a carriage.

The Greenbank had just recently been re-opened. I was told of the establishments long unsavoury history of being a place someone could hire a prostitute from. I see no signs of anything I was previously told about this establishments past.

Having had the opportunity to visit areas deemed undesirable on this trip, I believe that people are like places; our reputations often proceed us.

44 Days Abroad: Eight Years Later

Photo © Caribb

In a couple days I will be departing Toronto Pearson International Airport bound for Bristol International Airport. I plan on using the experience of travelling to help improve my writing. I will be visiting a laundry list of cities and countries. All of which I’ve never been to.

I have spent the entire year saving, planning, and sacrificing. I wasn’t the only one. My fiancée and I have put our future plans on hold and decided to go on this trip. We got engaged just a little over a year ago. When we met eight years ago we bonded over the idea of delaying University for a year and travelling to Europe. Neither of us truly had a clue how much money that would actually cost at the time. Each of us will likely have spent close to ten grand before the summer ends on this trip alone. Going to wedding venues and investing the time in planning a wedding makes people realize how much a wedding actually costs. It didn’t take long for either of us to let our minds wander. We began to ask ourselves, what else we could do with that kind of money? Both Rebecca and I have fantastic parents that did not use money to compensate love or attention. I am glad that my parents aren’t in a financial position to foot the bill for all my endeavours, including my desire to go to Europe when I was nineteen. I am glad that I have had to work towards things I’ve wanted in this life. I know many children and adults whose parents compensate love and attention with money and gifts. Many of these people would give back every dollar if they could just have a parent that was both active and present in their life. I do not envy these children.

If you know someone is engaged and does not openly talk about their engagement, take it is a cue that the person probably doesn’t want to talk to you about it. It might not even be personal slight against you. Being mentally prepared to get married is not the only common denominator for two people to tie the knot. Time, money, and priorities all play key factors in determining when two people tie the knot. By constantly asking questions like “have you booked a date yet?” and “where are you at with your wedding plans?” can make people feel uncomfortable. It can also strain relationships and embarrass people, especially when these questions come up in public.

Our parents won’t be paying for our wedding, not that I would want them to anyway. I believe that there is no right amount of time for an engagement. Like most things in life, it happens when it happens.

I was reminded tonight that I will be taking a total of ten flights during the entirety of the trip. Spoiler Alert, I’m afraid of heights, flying, and the sensation of falling. If nothing else this should make my blog a bit more interesting.

 

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