For the closest thing we’ve had to a real holiday since we got back, Kathy and I are in API Call ErrorVictoria this week. I’m not on holidays, but have taken a few extra days around a business trip to enjoy myself. Kathy gets a holiday. Anyway, so here we are, and we’re loving it. We’ve often toyed with the idea of moving out here…I think given the opportunity, we’d jump at it. The grass is literally greener. Things may be budding in Edmonton, but this is a city already in bloom. There are flowers everywhere, and things just grow. Not just in the designated places like they seem to at home. The people also seem to be friendlier. The service industries seem to be well staffed with people in good moods, and we have had random strangers on the street stop and give us a hand – recommending a place to eat when they saw us puzzling over a map, and directing us to a bike rental place when it was nowhere near where the tourist information people had said it would be. I just have a hard time picturing the rushed Albertans taking the few minutes to point a tourist in the right direction, let alone if there were as many visitors as Victoria gets.
Well, we’ve now been home for quite a while now – longer than we were away. So, how have things been progressing?
I’ve landed a great job with a local engineering and land survey company, working in the Health, Safety and Environment department. I’d be lying if I said it was the most challenging work, but when I’m busy, it’s really enjoyable, and moderately rewarding. What’s most important, though, is that it feels like something that could develop into something resembling a career. Hard to say for certain at this point.
It’s been about two weeks since we’ve gotten home, and it’s maybe been a little difficult getting back into the swing of things. At first we under a fair bit of stress, as while we were gone the already booming economy went crazy, and finding rental accommodation in Edmonton has proved to be a challenge. We were lucky enough to find a place we’re happy with, an apartment across the street from the university farm. It’s not exactly what we’d wanted – we’d been hoping for a main-floor suite in a house – but we do have a dishwasher, some included utilities, and the cost of using the laundry facilities didn’t sound too outrageous.
Neither of us is working yet, but we’re taking this opportunity to be picky about what jobs we take. We still have some savings, and, most importantly, there’s a shortage of workers, so you know that if you turn down one offer, there will still be more in the future.
Not much else to say, I’m afraid. Maybe we’ll post some more once the travel bug starts to stir again.
We spent a couple more days in Paris after my last update. We took the time to visit Versailles and the Musee d’Orsay. Versailles, naturally, was overpriced and packed, but I enjoyed the Musee d’Orsay, though Kathy seemed less interested in it.
Quite aside from the sites that we went to see in Paris, it was the experience of staying there that was interesting. Staying at Andrea’s apartment was a very different experience from staying in a hotel, as I’d done on previous trips to the city. It was quite a cramped apartment, and the kitchen consisted only of a 2-burner hot plate and a bar-sized fridge, equipped with a few utensils, and for cooking in, a kettle, one pot, and one small frying pan. Obviously with those tools, the cooking potential is limited, and I get the impression that Andrea eats out most of the time, but we did make a couple of attempts – a stir fry one night, fried chicken another, and fried beef on another night. It was fun to go out and get groceries. Paris is jam-packed, the second densest capital in the world, after Tokyo, and there were several food stores within a few blocks, but none completely stocked the way we’re used to in Canada. So we would take a trip to the baker, the butcher, the produce stand, and the ingredients all seem to be much higher quality (and admittedly more expensive) than what we could buy at Safeway.
Once again, a busy few days. After spending a not-so-restful night at the Budapest airport, we continued our journey at much increased speed, hopping in just a couple of hours over half of Europe, and landing in Paris. Quite a change after four and a half months of slowly winding our way over more than 6000km. It was quite fun, really. I always forget how much I like flying. And despite our worries and going crazy making sure we packed everything that might be considered a liquid into our checked baggage, they didn’t even ask us to give up our water bottle.
Andrea and her boyfriend, David, were kind enough to pick us up at the airport. When we found them, they were searching the arrivals screens to try to find our flight. Apparently, as far as airport systems are concerned, our flight actually didn’t exist, as it wasn’t listed there, and additionally, when we’d checked in, we were just guessing as to which lineup to go to, since the screens didn’t indicate that they were actually checking anyone in at all. Leaving the airport was also a bit of fun, since the police had found an abandoned bag, and had to detonate it. We were waiting in a lineup of cars for about an hour before things finally got moving.
So far, we’ve been enjoying Paris immensely. I’ve been here a few times before, and Kathy had passed through and done the three hour, whirlwind minivan tour on her first trip to Europe. We’ve spent a fair bit of time going around to the major, can’t miss sights. So our first day, we visited the API Call ErrorLouvre. It seems really busy when you arrive, but it turns out that if you’re not heading for the Italian Paintings section, the crowd thins out really fast. We debated renting an audio guide to do the DaVinci Code tour, but decided that was a little hokey, and ended up spending most of our visit in the Objets d’Art section, including API Call ErrorNapolean III’s apartments, which were amazing, and then visiting the API Call ErrorNorthern European paintings section, which I didn’t find so interesting, but definitely beat the French paintings that we walked through to get there. We’d also walked through the “Oriental Art” section, which turned out to be near-east antiquities, which might have been interesting, had we not already seen similar specimens before in the Egyptian, Syrian, and Greek museums that we’d visited.
Arriving in Budapest after a long, sleepless night on a train from Romania was quite an experience. Budapest is much more like Western Europe than other parts of the former communist bloc that we’ve visited. It’s a city of only 2 million people, but seems to have the foot traffic of a city 5 times its size. Arriving at rush hour, and being very tired, we had a tough time following the directions to our hostel. We ran into trouble because trams here don’t actually indicate what direction they’re going, so if you’re not sure about the orientation of the city relative to where you are, you don’t know which direction to get on. Also, we couldn’t figure out where to buy ticket. This problem ended up being solved by taking a taxi.
Sorry for the delays in posting; at first we were feeling a little lazy (and under the weather), and then internet proved to be a difficult find in the rural parts of the country where we’ve been hanging out for the past week or so.
At the time of the last post, I (Kathy) was feeling a little under the weather with some back pain. Took some pain killers and decided that there wasn’t much a doctor would be able to do for me other than prescribe pain killers, so we didn’t bother. Last Saturday evening, we learned by way of emergency room that I had a couple of infections that I apparently didn’t know about. I thought I might have been a bit under the weather, but certainly no symptoms like in Egypt. As we were out in the country, and doctors generally don’t work on Saturday evenings, our host was kind enough to drive us to the hospital in the city. We were also very fortunate that his friend joined us, as he was able to translate things for us very well. So now we know what the inside of a Communist-era hospital looks like, and I sure hope it was a once in a lifetime glance! The standard of care was probably as good as they could give, but the facilities were certainly worse for wear – the WC was a toilet at the back of a storage closet! Not to worry, the needles were sterile (I made sure of that!). So the docs prescribed Cipro (for those counting at home, that’s the second round I’ve taken this trip!), some painkillers (presumably for the back pain), and some Vitamin C!! Yes, it has been more of a challenge finding fruit here than I would like, but I didn’t think it was that bad. I’ll get to that in a bit.
Our time in Romania has been pretty good, thus far, but there have been a few frustrations, mostly because it’s high season, and trying to do anything results in lineups.
We’ve realised that it’s impossible to know in advance what’s going to be a major tourist attraction. We visited three castles in the Brasov area. The first was API Call ErrorBran Castle, which had received the Dracula treatment from the marketing department, despite having no relation to either the book, or the historical king Vlad Tepes (the Impalor), commonly referred to in the guidebooks as the “real” Dracula. So, unsurprisingly that one was pretty busy. Despite the marketing treatment, though, the castle didn’t pretend to be anything it wasn’t, it was a museum of API Call Errorold artifacts, API Call Errorfurnishings and API Call Errorthe like.
Warning: what follows may come across as a bit whiny. Sorry. If that bothers you, stop here. The fact is, it hasn’t been the best week, so most of it’s just recounting all the various problems we had.
We’ve spent the past week or so being very frustrated. It started in API Call ErrorVeliko Tarnovo, which was a beautiful city, where the hostel we were staying in claimed to offer day tour to the surrounding area, but couldn’t take us because they “needed the car for pickups (from the bus station),” something they do most days, and we didn’t actually see the car move all day anyway. Then we went to Varna, which isn’t the most interesting town, but we’d wanted to see a bit of the Black Sea coast. (Which we didn’t actually do in the end – the beaches were waaaay too crowded). Again, day trips were advertised, this time offered by a third party, but the trouble was that only one person did them, and had a repertoire of probably 20 or so tours. He was booked until Thursday, and we’d only booked accommodation until Tuesday. Even if we’d wanted to wait, we couldn’t stay longer because everything was booked up in advance. Also, because the Black Sea coast is a very popular destination for Europeans looking to party it up on their 2 week vacations, the crowds were really not our type, indeed some of the other hostelers were quite rude. So even though we stayed in a fairly nice hostel, with a bar and community atmosphere, there wasn’t much socializing for us.
We’ve been a little lax on the blogging lately – apologies. We’ve just been enjoying our surroudings – a lot.
So we did the day trip to the API Call ErrorRila Monastery from Sofia. It was a long day. The monastery is certainly beautiful, but we weren’t able to go and see ‘behind the scenes’, so to speak. Not at all like the sort of living museum set up of the monasteries at Meteora in Greece. So we saw the API Call Errorbeautiful church, and one of the museums that was all in Bulgarian, and contained mostly crosses, and a few robes, a few books, a little of this and that. Not quite what we were expecting. The setting was absolutely gorgeous, though. I can see why hiking is such a popular activity in Bulgaria – there’s hardly any scrap of land that isn’t scenic and breathtaking. Well, cities aside. It is possible to stay at this monastery, but we didn’t look into it. Dunno why, we just didn’t.