Like the “My Seven Links“ project that went through the travel blogging community earlier this year, the “ABC’s of Travel” is another fun exercise that has traveler bloggers recalling their favorite travel memories.
A: Age you went on your first international trip.
As with most things, I was a “late bloomer” to the world of international travel. At 29, I took a rather epic journey to South America for three weeks to cruise the Galapagos Islands, hike the Inca Trail and fly over the Nazca Lines. Not a bad way to start my travel career, right?
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where.
Any good Canadian loves beer and I’m no exception. The best beer I’ve ever tasted was a dark brew mixed with lemonade at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany. The size of the giant serving glasses (steins) and country’s beer purity law are just a couple of the reasons I decided to move to Berlin.
C: Cuisine (favorite).
Hands down, Italian. I flew to Italy last year just to experience a culinary holiday in Tuscany and Umbria. I spent 4 glorious days drinking Italian wine, sampling local produce, touring fresh food markets and taking part in cooking classes. I was taught how to make pasta from scratch and countless other dishes from an Italian woman who was sharing her old family’s recipes. From there, I headed to the Amalfi Coast where I hiked for miles just to shed the pounds.
D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why.
My other favorite destination is Rio de Janeiro, especially the Bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa. Meeting Selaron was the highlight of my trip!
Least favorite? Bermuda. While a really pretty island with beautiful beaches, I was quickly bored with the lack of things to do and found it way too expensive. I’m not a fan of the Bermuda shorts on business men either and no matter what they think, it’s not at all attractive!
E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”.
How about the first time I cried because I was overwhelmed with a profound sense of happiness? This happened at the Vatican last year and was in St. Peter’s Basilica. I’m not particularly religious but taking in the grandeur of the building and knowing that I was somewhere that I’d always dreamed of seeing was too much for me. Before I knew, tears were streaming down my face. I’m happy to report that feeling of happiness has stayed with me ever since throughout all of my travels and even my downtime in between trips.
F: Favorite mode of transportation.
I like getting to where I need to go quick so I’d have to say airplane. I know, boring right? Long, arduous rides in buses, vans and trains really aren’t my thing as I don’t have enough patience. I love flying and always take the window seat just so I can gaze out into the sky. The views are never less than glorious and it’s always a special treat to see the sun rise or take in mountainous terrain.
G: Greatest feeling while traveling.
The happiness of knowing you’re making your dreams come true. My dream is to see and experience the world and each trip I take just builds on this. For example, I was in Amsterdam just last week and finally got to see the Anne Frank Huis. I’d wanted to go there since I read The Diary of Ann Frank in high school! I really agree with what Chris Gillibeau talks about in The Art of Non-Conformity and that a happy person makes for a better world. A happy me is more fulfilled and therefore more productive, giving and maybe even inspiring to others.
H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to.
Rio de Janeiro as it was both HOT and HUMID. When I left Toronto, my hair was perfectly flat-iron straight and not long after leaving the airport, I had Dolly Parton hair. I gave up on my hair right away and wore it in a ponytail everyday. If I wasn’t so modest I may have joined the ranks of the locals spent the rest of my trip in a thong.
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where.
At a small hotel near Las Terrazas in Cuba. Shortly after arriving, I received an urgent phone call and had to arrange to return home to Toronto right away. The staff was very understanding of my situation and gave me a 100% refund for my three night stay. I’ll never forget their kindess as a lot of hotels would still have charged for at least one night.
J: Journey that took the longest.
When I flew from Toronto to Munich via Copenhagen exactly one year ago, I was to leave Toronto late Friday afternoon and arrive in Munich early Saturday morning. I ended up getting there late Sunday evening instead. Despite the mishaps, I ended up having one of the best vacations EVER! A year ago today I was in Prague (remember the life changing moment I mentioned above)?
K: Keepsake from your travels.
Photos. One of these days when I’m more “settled“, I’ll decorate my walls with some of my prints. I also like to bring home wine from the places I travel. I have a bottle of Tokaj from Hungary at home right now – nothing but yummy!
L: Let-down sight, why and where.
La Floridita in Havana, a supposed haunt of Ernest Hemingway. It’s an overpriced tourist trap and not in the least bit inspiring.
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel.
Although I enjoyed my trips in North America, South America and the Caribbean, Italy made me fall in love with Europe and travel in general. I’ve been going “fast and furious” ever since! Check out my About Me page for a list of the places to which I traveled to date.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in.
Hotel Santa Teresa in Rio de Janeiro. Located in a restored colonial mansion in the Bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa, the five star hotel did not disappoint. From the hotel’s designer decor, the fantastic service from staff, the delicious meals served up at their restaurant Tereze, the spa and infinity pool I found peace and calm here during a very stressful time of my life. While I’d never shell out that kind of cash for accommodations ever again, I hold wonderful memories of my stay there.
O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?
P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?
My current passport only has two stamps. Boo! One stamp to signify my landing in Berlin on June 1 and another signifying my departure from Berlin to visit family and friends in Toronto. As my flight to Toronto was via Brussels, I have a Belgium stamp. All of other recent trips throughout Europe are not documented as officials do not bother to stamp your passport when travelling throughout the EU.
My old one (which was my first one) has stamps from the US, Bermuda, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru, Italy, Denmark and the UK.
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where.
I’m pretty weird and you know this if you’ve met me in person or have been reading this blog long enough. That being said, I naturally seek out weird attractions when I’m on the road.
Recently in Amsterdam, I visited a cat sanctuary on a boat and followed it up by a visit to a cat museum that only features cat themed art.The next day, I visited a tattoo museum that has pieces of preserved human skin on display.
R: Recommended sight, event or experience.
The most extreme of all my travel experiences to date was cave diving in Budapest this past September. I donned a suit and a helmet equipped with a head light and then spent three or four hours worming my way through a dark wet cave even braving the “sandwich of death” which requires you to crawl on your stomach for 12 meters. Yes, 12 whole meters!
Not for the squeamish or the claustrophobic, this is one unique experience that you’ll find surprisingly fun and certainly unforgettable. I still can’t believe I did it myself.
S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling.
Good food, like eating tapas in Barcelona or an experience, like swimming with dolphins in Miami. I’m willing to sleep in dive hotels or in crowded hostel rooms for the sake of a good meal or some other sort memorable experience.
T: Touristy thing you’ve done.
I’m not sure why but I went “all tourist“ on my trip to Barcelona (I’m usually a little better than that), seeing the Sagrada Familia, Parque Guell, La Boqueria Market and even taking a hop on/hop off tour (for shame).
U: Unforgettable travel memory.
How about an evening spent at Szechenyi Bath in Budapest? Imagine stepping into those thermal waters on a cold December night in only a bikini, watching the steam rise up around you, gazing back at that beautiful neo-classical building and feeling complete and utter happiness. One of the BEST moments of my life!
V: Visas, how many and for where?
Two. A tourist visa to Brazil and a working holiday visa for Germany.
W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?
I’m by no means a connoisseur but I do love my wine and make it a point to drink local wine (if possible) whenever I travel. I went to a lot of wine tastings on that trip to Italy last year and sampled my all time favorite, Barolo. I was sad to find out how expensive the bottles are upon returning home and have only had it 1-2 times since.
X: eXcellent view and from where?
A view of the Mediterranean from my hotel room in Positano. I even watched a couple of weddings take place at the cathedral just below my window.
Y: Years spent traveling?
I’ve been travelling since I was a kid and have travelled and lived to/in different parts of Canada like Calgary, Toronto and even Cape Breton Island. There was also a lot of family vacations to the US like shopping trips to Buffalo, beach stays in Ocean City and quaint tours in New England. As mentioned above, my travel career really kicked off when I ventured to South America.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where?
While in the Galapagos Islands, our boat crew took a few hours off to hit up a local beach to meet with other boat crews for a soccer (aka football) match. They invited guests to watch them play or hang out on the beach. While almost every single guest opted to stay on the boat, myself and one other Canadian guy went with them. The Canadian guy took part in their game and I hit the beach. While the game seemed fun, I was more interested in exploring. I spent an amazing afternoon with Blue Footed Boobies and sea lions!