Saturday, 30 August 2014

Iceland Day 1. Reykjavik

After some drama with my bank - yes I know, again. 

I paid for my accommodation, stored my luggage and set out to wander about the city. 
Although it's summer it was pretty drizzly, but I guess I should get used to that before coming back to the UK!
 This is the hostel cat who was dozing in reception when I checked in - complete cutie and just loved getting paid attention! :)
Reykjavik shopping was really fun, there were lots of touristy shops offering tax and cut free bits and pieces, as well as quite a few selling souvenirs. 
 But what I loved most was the great blend between modern european sleek designate that was really reflective of nordic style (think norway, sweden and finland), with traditional elements of Icelandic tradition 
There were quite a few of these big polar bears outside a couple of shops in town!
 I loved these graphic, almost boutique, shops - the downside was I wanted to buy everything!
These are a well known 'landmark' for Reykjavik!
 After wandering the streets for a bit I decided to treat myself to brunch in the oldest cafe in Reykjavik!
 Since I'd been awake ridiculously long I ordered the 'Hangover Sandwich' as I was feeling a bit hungover from lack of sleep! 
 Reykjavik is ridiculously expensive, so I'm not going to mention how much this cost, but it was a lovely treat to read my book (pride and prejudice) in the warmth before venturing out into the rain!
 I really, really liked Reykjavik with all the different restaurants and shops - it just had such a unique character and feel to it!
 This cafe had an interesting board outside!

 I think the Iclandic accent adds to me liking the city so much - it's just hilarious!

 After spending some time at the city I headed to the Marina and to the view point out over the bay
 There was this particular view point with a lovely feature, I think it's really appropriate to the Iceland's history as I thought it was a great mix of a viking boat, the nordic history as well as the reliance on fishing to survive!
 The view out over the bay was really lovely from this spot too
 random tie mural!
 All the streets in Reykjavik are just adorable as the majority of houses are painted such lovely pretty colours that they brighten the place up regardless of the weather!
 after spending quite a lot of time in Reykjavik I headed back to the hostel to the lovely hostel garden where I sampled some Icelandic sweets which were… interesting!
 I finally got into my room and was pleasantly surprised to find my 'dorm' only had one other person! Makes me feel a bit better about how much I'm paying! 

Friday, 29 August 2014

Travelling Day 68. To Iceland!

So I'm not really sure where to start todays post from, but I'm going to go from spending an hour going through security again in Reykjavik. On the plus side since I have an EU passport they barely glanced at me and just ushered me through

I had a bit of a nasty shock when my suitcase came out though. Complete. State.

I'm actually a little (more than just a little) mortified to be pushing/dragging it around.

So to recap: It's missing a wheel. As in the wheel just isn't there anymore. Another wheel doesn't do what it's told and makes terrible squeaky noises. The front is massive frayed from NZ. The edges are coming away from the frame after LA. The are several little tears from San Francisco.

And now, there is a massive rip in the back from Iceland!

I'm so glad it only has to survive one more trip because honestly I don't think it can make any more.

Aside from that… I found the bus booth and booked my return bus ticket and then I hopped on the bus to my hostel. I arrived at about 9am (having landed at 6am) so I couldn't check in yet but that was fine, and expected, so after rummaging round in my suitcase and getting a change of clothes I headed into Reykjavik centre to explore the city a little bit.

Canada Day 12. On the Road Again

I woke up bright and early (ish) in my room all to myself (which is seriously a novel luxury right now) and after getting my free breakfast (which led me to the conclusion that all things artificially sweetened before midday makes me nauseous) I checked out and stored my luggage in the storage room so I could head out and enjoy my last few hours in Canada!
The view from my window this morning!
I had a few 'errands' I wanted to run before leaving North America but they were all done and dusted within half an hour. But the Busker's fair was still on so I ended up spending a few hours wandering up and down the stalls and watching the crazy performers!
I did originally plan to head down to the lakefront but I was enjoying the fair too much I decided to stay and make the most of it instead!

There were ton of acts you could watch, from dancers to magicians to singers as well as a few acrobatic performances - most of them were really good too!
I also had my eye on one of these onion things! Think Onion rings but better - much better!
 I couldn't resist popping into Tim Horton's for the last time since it's such a Canadian thing to do!
So, at about 4 I went back to the hostel, picked up my suitcase and caught a taxi to the airport. Now the driver told me my airline was at Terminal 1 so that's where he left me. Quick look at the board showed no mention of my flight, a phone call at the information desk later, and I realised I was at the wrong Terminal. Cue an hours walk, a train ride, 3 escalators and 2 lifts, I was at the right Terminal!

I was at the front of the queue (eager beaver) but they weren't checking anyone in until after the 3hr recommended time slot (talking to the other people int he queue who had flown with them before, we think this is down to the orange alert for the Volcano). Once I checked in I bought a ridiculously expensive sandwich (don't even ask how much) and pottered around the pitiful duty free selection

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
Now it's standard airplane etiquette that if you're sat in the aisle seat and your partner the middle, and the person allocated the window seat comes down with a big bag, you stand up and set out of the way so they can sit down… Apparently the two people on my row didn't get the memo.

And even after asking them if they could let me through, all I got was the man moving his book and jacket off my seat…

And after asked a third time, explicitly, for them to get up so I could get in, I got nothing more than a shuffling of knees… Now we were in the exit row. Which generally means more leg room so that wouldn't be a problem. But we were on a tiny flight so the leg room was perhaps an inch more than everyone else. And I knew they could stand up, and i knew they could understand because you have to be capable of them to sit in an exit row… not the best start.

And to keep this short, I proceeded to get elbowed and kicked most of the flight because the guy decided he not only wanted the entire armrest to himself but he wanted a good couple of inches on my seat too. Oh and the leg room clearly wasn't enough for him (despite him being shorter than me) so he constantly stretched out his legs into my leg space.

Needless to say what was meant to be a relaxing 6hours flight where I could sleep turned into an awful flight with absolutely no sleep.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Canada Day 11. CN Tower

So, I managed to get to the bus stop in time (although I gave up attempting to drag my suitcase and caught a taxi which isn't ideal..) and started my 6hr drive back to Toronto!
 Luckily the bus actually drove down the road with my hostel so I realised it was actually a bit too far to drag my suitcase (which was the plan) especially as there was a street market/fair going on! So I had to catch a taxi again, which my arms were glad about since they didn't have to lug my stuff but my wallet would have preferred the walk :p
 When I got to the hostel itself (which is student accommodation that's rented out during the summer) they'd made a mistake and put me down for staying the night before - so I'd been charged despite not spending the night there! And all the female dorms were fully booked.
So they asked if I minded staying in a mixed dorm and they'd refund me the extra (which was like $3). But I'd actually just overheard another lady saying they still had a few single rooms full.. So I said I didn't really want a mixed room if possible (I was very polite about it) and they said that was no trouble and upgraded me to a single room all to myself! 

Its weird how having a room all to yourself becomes such a novelty! I unpacked everything and got dressed in the room and just pottered about without worrying about bothering anyone else!
 After embracing the solitude of my own room I set out hunting down the nights activities! And I ended up walking through the street fair which was really nice but completely packed!
 So packed intact that it was kinda annoying - people just didn't move!
 But I eventually got the target in sight!
 I've heard this a few times but there's a phrase that Canada only has two seasons, winter and construction! And that certainly seems to be true the more I see of Canada! 
 After many a detour I eventually found my way to the CN Tower! I'd saved it for my last night in Canada and I was planning to time it with the sunset so I could see the city during the day and evening
 From queuing up to get the ticket to actually getting up the the platform it took an hour… which isn't as bad as it could have been but still - an hour! I also got pulled aside for drug and explosive testing, I don't know why I'm surprised I always, always, get pulled aside! I obviously look suspicious!
Anyway, I think I timed it pretty well! 
 The view was lovely as since the tower is by far the tallest building in Toronto the view over the rooftops is unparalleled. 
 the fact Toronto itself and the surrounding area is so flat also helps to give the impression your looking right to the horizon!
 After spending a little time on the upper observation deck (which is all enclosed with glass windows) I headed down to the glass floor
 because it's just one of those things you have to do before you leave the tower!
 From here i ventured outside to the 'open' section where it very windy!
 I managed to get a photo where it wasn't 'too' windy!
 looking down at the great view (also they let you sit down if you were waiting for the sunset which they don't let you do at the empire state building)
 This was by far the windiest direction but the view was amazing as the sun set and the lights appeared
 I just love how cities look at night!
 And after pottering about at the top for a while I headed back to my room. I cut through the festival and because it was a little quieter (still pretty busy though) I bought myself a 'funnel cake' since I've wanted to try one for a while. It wasn't what I was expecting, and it was massive, and it was also covered in a layer of icing sugar which meant I ended up with dusted with icing sugar all along my front.. definitely a classy look!
I can't believe I'm leaving canada tomorrow! Luckily I still have a little more time since I get most of tomorrow here in Toronto but my time here truly has flown by!

Canada Day 10. Mont Royal

I was promised a mountain today, instead I just got a big hill. Not overly impressed I was looking forward to a nice hike. Although given the way some people looked at the look out platform you could have easily been mistaken to think they'd just climbed a mountain!
The walk to the 'mount' was pretty, partly because I'm still revelling in all the older buildings
Once I got to Mount Royal there was some lovely landscaped sections before you get onto the trail, and I couldn't help thinking this would be the perfect spot for a picnic in summer!
There were also some roads than randomly ran up the hill (I guess if you can't be bothered to walk?)
I ended up taking these steps, and all i can say is they were a pain. And never ending. 
There were also always about 10 people one each platform attempting to catch their breath, which would have been a little funny if they hadn't been taking up all the space so you couldn't get past..
I wasn't really sure what to expect when I got to the top so I made sure to snap a picture of the view on the way up! - lots of people turned around here too which made me wonder if they simply couldn't be bothered walking the rest, or if they knew something i didn't! 
At the top the view was pretty good though!
You got great look outs over Downtown Montreal and the weather held too so no fear of rain!

The park was actually really pretty and I managed to take shelter in one of the park buildings (which was beautiful) while it rained briefly before I headed back to the hostel to back since I had an early wake up for my bus tomorrow