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44 Days Abroad: Barcelona, Spain

Never judge a book by its cover, and in that regard never judge a city by its cover. Landing in Barcelona wasn’t shocking, but getting into the city was. The city looked old, and from my limited perspective cities are patchworks of high rise apartments and embody the idea and image of progress and constant change.

Though, to be progressive does not mean that a city must continuously tear down itself and rebuild anew. Still, from my rooftop balcony looking out across the gleaming warm city I couldn’t help but feel as though I was in a slum. It is an opinion and thought that I am not proud of. I would have been best to hold judgments till I had spent longer than twenty four hours in the city.

Hitting the pavement allowed me to see the city from a new perspective. The shops, restaurants, and infrastructure were all modern. The people were for the most part welcoming and warm. I felt accepted and free to explore. The city is culturally diverse, which given my travels to some countries that border on being xenophobic – I was quite pleased.

The city is extremely accessible. The transit system including the subway for example is one of the better systems I used in Europe. The city was also financially accessible, as restaurants and food were cheap. For example a beer in a bar would cost 1 Euro. Some of the side streets were often frowned upon for tourists to go down. I would disagree. That is as long as you have common sense. Getting lost was the best part of exploring. I stumbled across some great restaurants and even museums that were off the beaten path. I decided on my third day that I’d like to get a massage to help my weary muscles. I found Kiromasaje, which had some great reviews on TripAdvisor. I was a little skeptical, given that the massage was only 30 Euros. I remember the trek to the place, it was a little confusing and involved Google Maps. Eventually we ended up at a deserted alley that had locked doors. The doors would only open ten minutes before the massage. I was worried that maybe this wasn’t the type of massage I was looking for…

Upon entering the establishment my partner and I were greeted by two female RMT’s who offered us a cup of tea. The decor was Moroccan themed and had a great vibe. Sixty minutes later I emerged onto the streets of Barcelona feeling refreshed. Oil still on my skin from the massage. We walked around for hours enjoying the warm summer sun.

The best days of my trip were spent in Barcelona. The beaches, the food, the people, and the sights. Everything exceeded my expectations. Be back soon.

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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.

Change Has Come

“The future is all around us, waiting, in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.” – G’Kar, Babylon 5

I feel like I’m walking a fine line in this post between blogging and writing a diary entry. I’ve been scouring through news feeds, reddit, and the blogosphere for inspiration. Unfortunately I’ve come up short. It’s been over a week since I last posted, which has slightly bothered me. I told myself I’d be a consistent blogger. Consistency is how a person gets better, but also grows their reader base.

At the same time I’ve got a laundry list of excuses why I haven’t been active. I recently was hired in a school in a semi-permanent position. I’ve also come down with a terrible flu, which I am still feeling the affects of. I think I’m on day 7 today. No end in sight. I was just whacked with a $100 bill for medicine. Thankfully my benefits should be back dated to my first day of work, and that would cover that cost.

Money and Commitments

I’ve been thinking a lot about money and commitments. I’m going to Europe in July for six weeks. The majority of the trip has been paid for, but I still need to be banking Euros and Pounds for food, activities, and other travel expenses. I’ve taken care of the various hostels, flights, and hotels I will be staying at. There’s a couple more trips and hotels to still to book. One of the big ones is London, which will make my wallet bleed. Per Hostel World’s suggestion I was looking at campus accommodations at Queen Mary, University of London. For $70 a night Canadian to get your own bed and wash-room, it sounds like a steal. I’ve stayed at various campuses throughout Canada and have an idea what to expect. It might not be a hotel, but it’s definitely a step up from sleeping in a room with 20 strangers.

The Canadian Dollar is on a downward spiral and it would be a good opportunity right now to stash away some foreign currency.

My European trip will take me to countless cities and countries. I’m thinking about blogging the experience here, or creating a secondary blog for this experience. I’m not exactly sure which would be better. I’m leaning towards using this blog to track and record my experiences, and just use the categories to help separate my writing. I’m rolling around some ideas in my head for the series. I’d love some suggestions if anyone has any.

Out of all the cities and countries I’m going to, I’m looking forward to Barcelona and Scotland the most. Barcelona, because it’s culturally rich and has some amazing beaches and galleries. Scotland is steeped in history. The history, culture, and landmarks are some of the reasons Scotland has always been on the top of my bucket list. The other reason is that my father and his family immigrated to Canada from Scotland when he was a teenager. I have never been to Scotland, so I am really looking forward to this trip. My father has spent countless hours over the years telling and re-telling the same stories about his family and his experiences growing up. Some of the stories I’ve heard many times, though I still enjoy them. I’ll be visiting Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as some of the outlining towns. It’s an exciting time to be Scottish. The country will likely break ties with the rest of The United Kingdom in the September 18th: Independence Referendum. It’s a bit hairy right now, in terms of if and how that will all work out. Visiting a place during a moment of transition and change tends to thin the blood.

Change Has Come

I have not been able to write as much as I would like to. I landed consistent work until the end of the school year. This will further my need for stable experience to further myself in my career. It will also help me have a predictable income, which will allow me to better manage my finances. Substituting sounds amazing on paper. You get to pick and choose where and when you want to work. Sometimes there is no work, and sometimes you get too accustom to being picky with jobs and schools. Since I’ve started working in education I have not had a pay cheque that is the same as the last. It’s hard to plan out how much money you can spend each week when you have no idea what your pay is going to be. Over the past year I’ve created a list of schools I like to work at. I’m not always able to work at these schools, and sometimes I have to venture out into new territory. This has yielded positive and negative results. Every time I take a shift I don’t know where I’m going, or who I’m supporting. I feel like I’m rolling the dice. The process can wear a person down. On the positive side this process has taught me that each school is unique.

That’s it for me. I’ll be working on a few ideas over the next week. I might write a Daily Prompt or two depending on what they are.

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