Sunday, July 18, 2010

The End

Well, it is now Sunday, July 18, the day before we go back to work. We have been home for five days now and it's been really good to be back. It's great to see family and friends and to return to being involved in people's lives. We have taken full advantage of the relatively abundant food and clothes and are really enjoying it.
We had a terrific three and a half months in Europe. We have been blessed with this opportunity and will always remember this trip and these months as some of the best. We had great weather and good health and only had a handful of arguments. All in all, we could not have asked for much else.
We really appreciate the support we had from back home and how so many people followed on our blog. We have many more photos and many more stories, so please have us over for supper anytime to learn more. And we really encourage anyone, at any age, to do something along these lines. Maybe not Europe, and maybe not for three and a half months, but to get a chance to experience other cultures and see parts of the world that are different than yours is worth it. It was for us. See you next time.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

London, England

So. Our last stop. London was a great way to end our trip. We had five full days in London and still did not do and see everything that we wanted to. We spent a couple of days going around with a camera and sightseeing. You know, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge. There's lots to see in London and, obviously, lots of history as well. We also spent a lot of time just walking. We liked to spend time simply walking the streets of London, seeing the buildings, the people, and the culture. London has a lot of culture. There's the authentic British culture that definitely is different from what we got over in Canada, but there's also a host of other cultures finding their places around London. There were many times where we found ourselves, as Caucasians, to be the minority. It was kind of refreshing to be sitting on a train filled with people from Algeria, Romania, China, Sudan, Turkey, and Argentina. Our days in London also contained quite a bit of shopping. Of course. London has a lot of great areas with stores and restaurants lining the streets and we enjoyed seeing that side of London as well. Our favourite thing we did in London, though, was attending one of London's landmark musicals, The Lion King. We definitely wanted to go to a show from Day One, and The Lion King was a great choice. It was fun, big, creative, and very well done. We would definitely see it again and recommend it to anyone, young or old. A great highlight for a great city.

We stayed in the suburb of Greenwich. Greenwich is actually the centre of the world. This line is the Prime Meridian (0 degrees longitude).

This clock is the official time for Greenwich Mean Time, which is the timezone that every other one is based off of.

Buckingham Palace

The changing of the guard

The National Gallery

Trafalgar Square

Westminster Abbey, housing the tombs of icons like Charles Dickens and Isaac Newton

British House of Parliament

Big Ben (attached to Parliament)

St. James Park

Piccadilly Circus

Tower Bridge

The Tower of London

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The third one. Completed in 1997.

The Millennium Bridge and St. Paul's Cathedral

Well, now we go. It's hard to end this trip and leave cities like London and all the experiences that go with them behind. We are, however, very excited to see family and friends and to enter back into routine and familiarity. This trip has been more than we could have imagined, but it's okay to leave this part of life and return to Saskatoon. Now, only fifteen hours of flights separates!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Paris, France

We loved Paris. Even though we heard some negative things about the people and the cleanliness, we were wooed by the City of Love. We had four full days in Paris and spent a lot of time strolling alongside the Seine and sitting beneath the Tour Eiffel. We had lots to do in Paris, but yet found it to be quite relaxing and enjoyable. Paris, with its cafes and culture, has an aura that we really liked. From the Louvre to Notre Dame to the said tower to the Grand Opera (of Phantom fame), Paris has its share of must-sees. We tried our best to get more than simply a glimpse, but there's still so many more days that could have been spent.

Ready for Paris in the rain

The Arc de Triomphe

The roundabout around the Arc de Triomphe. Twelve streets meet at this intersection to form the ten lane circle. Traffic laws do not really apply here. You have a lot of brakes, horns, and accidents (one every thirty minutes). This is the one place in Europe where accidents are not covered by insurance companies. And yet thousands of cars enter every hour.

The Louvre courtyard

Instead of trying to kick, bite, and scratch our way to be able to get a picture of the surprisingly small Mona Lisa, we took one of everybody who did.

FIFA International Fan Fest. The best place to watch the World Cup outside of South Africa.

Atop Tour Montparnesse. Unlike the view from the Eiffel Tower, you can actually see the Eiffel Tower from the top of this one.

Sacre-Couer Cathedral at the top of Montmartre

Moulin Rouge

Notre Dame Cathedral

We knew coming up to Paris that we would be spending our second wedding anniversary in this city, so clearly we had a lot of options as to what we could do on our day.
We went to Disneyland. Disney has a park just outside of Paris and we had always planned on going so we thought that after spending some days in Paris city leading up to the fifth, we would head out to enjoy a different sort of magic. We really had a ton of fun that day going on rides, watching parades, eating out, and ending the day with a spectacular fireworks show that was made just for us (and also possibly for the ten thousand children dressed up as their favourite Disney princesses and heros). It really was a great day that we will always remember. We know that if others had been in Paris on their anniversary, the day would have looked differently for them, but we wouldn't have changed anything about it. So there.

The end of Paris brings us to our final stop on our Tour de Europe. London will conclude this three and a half month trip and we're having mixed feelings about what this means for us. We have loved the cities and sights that we have experienced so we really don't want it to end. That being said, we are sick and tired of hostels, backpacks, instant noodles, and the same old same old clothes. Our pantry and washing machine back home are sounding great right about now and we are looking forward to reacquainting ourselves with them. We are anticipating a great few days in London with sights and shopping and World Cup finals to sing us out, but we are excited to see family and friends. One more stop!

For the record, from our experience, Parisian people are actually quite friendly (some of the friendliest) and are very willing to speak English and help you on your way. However, Paris takes top spot for dirtiest (and urine-smelliest in places) cities on our trip. People do not think twice about tossing their McDonald's on the ground after they are through with it. We did try to see through the grime. We managed alright.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Crete, Greece

Our last Greek post. Even though we have seen so little of it, Greece has been a wonderful country where we have enjoyed two and a half weeks of sun, food, history, and natural beauty. Crete was a great island to complete the experience.

We started out on Crete in Heraklion, its capital. We spent a couple of days there walking the city streets and testing out the Cretan sun on the beach. Mmm, the water was nice. We loved our hotel and enjoyed a few laid back days.

Off our hotel balcony

Then we ventured over to Chania, a wonderful little city on the western end of the island. We had around four days over there, so we were able to do and see a little more. The old town of Chania is something special. It has some terrific old buildings and a slightly northern Africa feel (not that we've been there, we just imagine). Crete is as close to Libya as it is the rest of Greece. We spent many hours strolling the streets and browsing in some of the cool little shops lining them.

We stayed in a cool little tourist section with great music, restaurants, pool bars, and beaches. So, as one might expect, we spent a good amount of time simply relaxing on sand and enjoying the atmosphere. We (as English speakers) were strongly outnumbered by Dutch and Scandinavian tourists in this area, which was actually kind of refreshing.

We did manage to take a day trip on one of our days in the Chania area. That's right, we actually dragged our bums off the beach. We woke up at 6:30 to take a bus to the Samaria Gorge in southern Crete. This gorge is the largest in Europe and stretches 16 km, taking about 5 hours to hike through. It was incredible to experience such a natural wonder. At times we felt extremely small. We really enjoyed this excursion, even though we finished the gorge by 1:30 and waited until 6:30 to catch our return bus. Getting back to our hotel at 9:00 made for a long day. But we got a lot of great pictures.

Now, we prepare for a 7 hour overnight ferry ride back to Athens and a flight over to Paris. A couple days of travel before we break into the home stretch!