A Travellerspoint blog


semi-overcast 15 °C

I took a week out of my October holiday to visit London - a city I'd yet to explore. As expensive as London can be, I was able to find cheap flights and I stayed with a friend, which made it feasible and fun to be there for a week. 270_IMG_8818.jpg

Up until now, I'd sort of felt like Nice was a moderately large city. When I arrived at Oxford Circus, the area made Jean Medecin, our main shopping street, look like the country, and our single tram line seem awfully cute compared with the vast Tube network. This was the most frustrating part of the trip because, with no internet nor sense of what was where, I was limited to the tourist maps posted on street corners to locate an address - turns out these are not oriented by cardinal directions, so that meant a lot of aimless and backtracked wandering through massive shopping crowds with a heavy bag. Once past that part, the rest was great! Spent loads of time wandering around the city - here are the highlights:

1. Craft Beer - not to be found in Nice, (though we have found a few flavourful ones) London has variety :) Despite my efforts, Nick is still stuck on lager.
2. Toy Taxis - they're so cute, and they're everywhere! Now I understand the origins of our PT Cruiser. Can't (nor would you) find a taxi in Nice to save your life!
3. English reading material - it was a novelty to pick up a free evening paper and all the headlines went directly into my brain without thinking.
4. Used book stores - in the same vein, but this is even better than #3. Used book stores are up there with coffee on the list of my favourite things, and in one place by Camden Lock, I found a new book by Ian McEwan that turned out to be a gem with a London setting.
5. Parks....lots of them, with so much extended green space. This was refreshing, especially with the couple of beautiful sunny days I had for roaming.
....and then, only in the UK, horses training in Hyde Park: IMG_1466.jpg
6. The red theme that permeated the city - red phone booths and buses everywhere - does any other city do that? Had to get the token photo (top)

7. Street food - Nick and I hit up both Camden Lock and Borough market for some really tasty eats, which included scallops and Greek style goat
8 Architecture: 90_IMG_8839.jpgIMG_8834.jpg90_IMG_8829.jpgIMG_8826.jpgIMG_8813.jpg All very visually appealing (thought not the Tate gallery! - ugly smoke stack of a building) On the last day I spend in London, Nick and I had a drink on the 32nd floor of the Shard - had the best view of any bathroom I'd ever before used.
9. The culture. I had not realized how many shows there were playing ALL THE TIME in London, but there they were - theatres everywhere. I feel the need to come back and spend lots and lots of money on shows. Thinking about it now, I should have taken some shots of the many theatres and billboards, but that would have seemed silly at the time. Did see one on Saturday night - The Woman in Black - a spooky and thoroughly entertaining play that was timely for the approach of Halloween, Also did a few of the museums while I was there - found a few treasures at the British Museum:
Loved the Science Museum and the Tate gallery was a great way to finish off the trip.
10. Hanging out over drinks with friends - this actually belongs at the top of the list. Nick, we should have got a picture at the Shard! Next time :)

Awesome week in London, and must go back for more shows and beer! (and to visit you, Horia! So sorry I missed you!)

For everyone back home, I'll give a little update on our eve- evolving plans. We're staying....for a while. We are no longer sure when we are coming home. I'm determined and resolute that Nice is not my home, nor ever will be, and that we'll be drawn back to the West Coast sometime in the next couple/few years, but Luke loves it here and I can't ignore the awesome job I have. It makes sense in many ways to stay for a while, and I'm not unhappy here either, much as I still miss Victoria and our life there. (and more importantly, those of you reading this) Luke is working less in the marine industry now as "winter" approaches, but instead for a couple of construction people in old town Nice, who have contract jobs renovating apartments, etc..., so he's happily getting work and at the same time, not tied down to a job with fixed hours.
I'll be back for a visit next year, likely without Luke, as he needs to work in the summer; we'll be sorting out our stuff somehow and likely selling most of it (sniff), but if plans are in the works for another canoe pub crawl, pig roast, Pender trip, backpacking trip, etc.., count me in - I'll be there from about mid-July to mid-August.

Posted by Meghan.Gardner 09:53 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)


overcast 17 °C

We flew to Cappadoccia on Wednesday morning, to the land of fairy chimneys. Arrived around 10 am and had a day of wandering around the pueblo-like town surrounded by the most bizarre land formations - felt a little like we were on a different planet - well, the one where Star Wars takes place.


I got sick over night, and couldn't do the tour of the underground city the and all the sites but Linds took my camera and took pictures so I could pretend I was there. I was even given a Turkish name by the guide, along with all the other participants on the trip. In Turkey, I'm Aliph :)

In the morning, the balloons over Cappadoccia:

Then the tour:
Lindsay can't resist climbing into the old crypts. :)

Next stop, after a night bus to the coast, was Olympos, one of my favourite places on the trip. We stayed in the famed "treehouses"; imagined as some fantastic Robinson Crusoe creation, but was actually just a bungalow - ours happened to be up a staircase at the treetop height. Good sleep, so no complaints. The best part of this place was that it was situated in a beautiful canyon known for climbing; it was a dirt road lined with backpacker's hostels, each with tree-covered yards with divans for relaxing with tea or beer. We meandered through Roman ruins on our short walk to the beach, and spent the day in the sun. (Surprisingly the only beach day of our trip)

Our 3 day boat cruise began out of a town up the coast a bit - on an 80' wood sailboat :) Made me a little nostalgic anchored in our little bay that first night. Unfortunately, no actual sailing despite our wind. No signs of sailing either - no winches, halliards, sails.
IMG_8334.jpgIMG_8311.jpgIMG_8304.jpgDiscussing charts

Discussing charts

The Icecream boat :)


Touring the ruins along the coast:

So many ruins in Turkey they almost got old by the end. bad pun :P

After the boat trip: Selcuk. Stayed at Atilla's Getaway for backpackers - a small paradise.

En route to Selcuk, we saw Pamukkale - a very strange geographical formation made from flowing mineral water:

And behind it, a reconstructed Roman/Greek city of Hieropolis:

Last set of ruins on the trip, and the culmination of all ruins sites: Ephesus
Finished our tour and our trip with a wine picnic in the grass behind Ephesus:

Posted by Meghan.Gardner 12:55 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)



sunny 22 °C

Our adventure begins. Linds flew to France on the 20th of April to coincide with my last set of holidays of this school year, and for our planned trip to Turkey. (it'd been 8 years since we've travelled together in Asia) Istanbul was our point of entry. The size of the city is staggering, containing half the population of Canada, and the view from the Galata Tower gave us a sense of how far-reaching Istanbul was, dotted with minarets of the many mosques. Despite a very western feel, the calls to prayer from the mosques and the smells of fish and roasting chestnuts mixed with spiced meats and tea gave it an exotic spin.

We had a very successful first day. Dave and Tasha, having booked our hostel for us, found us sleeping in our room. After breakfast, we began wandering down toward the important sights. We explored the Grand Bazaar, finding large selections of scarves, carpets, pottery, jackets, jewellry, spices, Turkish delight - all for bargained prices. I had Linds do my negotiating for me because I'm terrible at it. IMG_7933.jpg

Fish sandwiches for lunch beside the boat where they were caught and grilled. IMG_7927.jpgIMG_7931.jpgIMG_8004.jpgIMG_8013.jpgIMG_8015.jpgIMG_8014.jpg
After, we visited the Blue Mosque and the Basilica Cistern (a cavernous underground reservoir supported by columns, built in the 4th century) , both incredible sights not to be missed. The mosques were quite photogenic and and I realized going through the photos later that took way too many mosque pictures. Here are a few:
Lindsay tried (and failed to finish) the Turkish coffee. Very strong and sludgy. Interestingly, at every hostel and many cafes, they serve Nescafe instant coffee. Some "cappuccinos" will actually be Nescafe with frothy milk on top. Offensive, but it'll do.

Bascilica Cistern: IMG_7997.jpg
Some points of comparision I noticed:
In France, old men sit in outdoor cafes with tiny coffees, and here in Istanbul they sit outside on low stools with tea in tulip glasses. Tea is the lifeblood here, delivered on trays to shop owners and workers throughout the day. So tea, not coffee.
Where NIce is very much a dog city (they even ride transit and sit with owners in restaurants), Istanbul is a cat city. Stray cats, almost entirely unseen in Nice, wander streets, alleys, rooftops, balconies and ruins. Another thing we noticed - Turkish people are very friendly :)

We visited the Ayasofia on the second day, and had an incredible Turkish lunch.
So far, I'd gravitated toward the eggplant and lamb specialties and was not disappointed. Prices were very reasonable, though our boat companion coming from SE Asia didn't have the same view. After lunch, Linds and I took the advice of fellow travellers in our hostel and made our adventerous way across the city to find Emirgen Park. The tulip festival is on in Istanbul right now, and so this park is particularly worth seeing. After an hour of walking around and asking people, we finally found ourselves on a bus going in the right direction. The park was worth seeing - a tranquil break from the bustle of the city, and when you step away from the streets into the green, you realized then how fast-paced the city is. IMG_8042.jpgIMG_8051.jpg
The following day, we flew to Cappadoccia in the interior of Turkey. Rest of the trip to follow

Posted by Meghan.Gardner 03:51 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Holidays in Berlin

sunny 3 °C

We are lucky enough to have good friends staying in Berlin, so we took advantage of their hospitality for the holidays (almost all 2 weeks of them) and they gave up all of their personal space for the duration. (Thanks guys!!) Berlin over the holidays is especially exciting for a couple of reasons: the Christmas markets and NYE; neither disappointed :)

We spent a good deal of time wandering around the city in our first couple of days, either to tour the city or to look in vain for Chinese food to meet Luke's craving.

All sorts of funny characters at the Brandenburg Gate. Darth is having a smoke break with the bronze statue; this was entertaining :)

This is a memorial to the murdered gypsies during the war.

This is us in front of the Government building, the formerly known as the Reichstag.


On our way back toward the main centre, we found the Holocaust Memorial:

We also found the Rittersport Museum/Store:

And of course, Berlin is just photogenic:

Though is wasn't too cold in Berlin, we (okay, I) used the cold plenty of times as a reason to stop at the Christmas markets for some gluwein (hot wine)
IMG_6782.jpg I like this picture, even though my eyes are closed. IMG_6847.jpg

Here are a few shots from Christmas Morning chez Nick and Jonny's:
Our gracious hosts :)
Nick and I made a fabulous meal, and afterward, Jonny, for reasons unbeknownst to all, decided to revert to his natural state by taking off his pants and serenade us with a sexy (not so sexy!) dance:

On one of our walks around the city, we followed a walking tour trying to find art murals on the sides of buildings, finishing with the East Side Gallery. Here are a few of the highlights:IMG_6879.jpgIMG_6881.jpgIMG_6889.jpgIMG_6880.jpgIMG_6907.jpgIMG_6910.jpgIMG_6929.jpgIMG_6931.jpgIMG_6933.jpgIMG_6936.jpgIMG_6951.jpgIMG_6947.jpgIMG_6955.jpgIMG_6957.jpgIMG_6971.jpgIMG_6973.jpgIMG_6974.jpg

On one of the days after Christmas, we spent a day learning about the Berlin Wall - a memorial had been set up along several blocks to show where the wall had been, and showed how the first floor apartments had been bricked up to prevent escape to the other side; there were also audio accounts from residents at the time describing their experiences when the wall went up. After a short break at a coffee shop, we made our way to Checkpoint Charlie.

The highlight of Berlin for us was, of course, New Years Eve. The whole week leading up to it, loud bangs sounded off randomly throughout the city, and we soon realized this was fireworks, as they are sold only during this one week in Germany, at insanely cheap prices. During the day on the 31st, they were non-stop, though mostly still in the residential areas. We got ourselves dolled up and went to a friend's house party, armed with our fireworks and champagne. Out in the streets just before midnight was like a war zone: smoke and broken glass everywhere, fireworks all over the place lighting up all the smoke. Having fireworks carelessly set off in any direction (though mostly up in the air) was terribly exciting at the time, look back at how one practically chased us inside the apartment complex and how one went under a taxi, it comes across as fairly dangerous now. Luke took a video of midnight in Berlin - have a look at his FB page to see it. Some photos:
The street was an absolute mess.

After the main street festivities, we got our things together and headed to the club - a complex of places that our one ticket gave us access to: about 15 clubs, each with several rooms....I think. Can't remember it all :) ahh, what a night, hindered only for a short time by the hiccups. Lots of dancing, drinks and great fun til 7 am. We did well, but not by Berlin standards. We spoke to people who'd been out until 1 pm, and some clubs were open for days on end. We almost went out again on Jan. 1 and would have if we didn't have to make a last effort at being tourists the following day. Might have to go back next year!
This is the debris left in the parking lot near the apartment the next day:

Posted by Meghan.Gardner 10:16 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Christmas Time

semi-overcast 10 °C

It's Christmas time once again, and though the weather doesn't make it seem very Christmasy, Nice decorates to the nines each year so no one forgets the festive spirit. Even though we did this last year, we couldn't help taking a walk through Massena with the camera to snap a few of the lights and Christmas village. Of course, we'll soon be comparing Nice's Christmas display with that of Berlin - flying out this afternoon :D


And this is how you might bring a turkey home in Nice:


When I first saw them, I thought the butcher had just dressed them up in fake feathers, but after applying some logic and looking a little closer....no, those heads are real.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Posted by Meghan.Gardner 00:52 Archived in France Comments (0)

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