Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunny Sevilla

We arrived in Sevilla after 10 whirlwind days travelling about some of the biggest cities in Europe and all I wanted to do was rest and so after we checked into our hostel we proceeded to take the day off, simply eating some greasy tapas washed down with red wine in a sweet little plaza filled with orange trees and going for a walk through the labyrinthine streets of Sevilla. This has been our first stay at a hostel during this trip and possibly Ashley’s first hostelling experience. It was a great relief having other people around to spend some time with and allowing us to have some time away from each other ;) The garden backpacker became our home for what was originally supposed to be two but grew to four nights. It is a lively, brightly coloured place with sky lights, a roof top terrace, a large kitchen, beautiful garden and free sangria every night.

It was not out of an indescribable love for Sevilla or the garden why we stayed for four days, but for the pleasurable opening of the skies and an intense down pour for two days which allowed us to rest and rejuvenate in a relaxed and warm city in Southern Spain. Though perhaps our drinking a little too much one night with an American and a French man subsequently leaving me in a brutally hungover state which not even the exquisite Arab baths and there different pools and steam rooms could relieve. My only cure was some ibuprofen and rest followed by some tv watching.

After these days of recovery, we set out to discover Sevilla and all it had to offer. A truly enchanting city, the quintessential picture of Spanish life filled with slow days mixing large portions of booze with tapas and small portions of work. The buildings are amazing and everything seems more exotic than most European cities. This is no doubt to the fascinating history between the Romans, the Barbarians (aka the large white people who came from the North and could not speak latin, which I am clearly one of according to our tour guide), the Muslims, Jews, and Catholics. Each people built upon each others successes and mosques were turned into churches as the Jews and Muslims were thrown out by the inquisition. This city tells a fantastic tale of acceptance and fear of the other. The free historical tour we went on was excellent and my inner anthropologist was completely enthralled as I walked from room to room in Alcazar as it’s room change from Arab to gothic and on and on as different rulers had controlled the city.

The one thing I must say I found lacking in Sevilla was the food, tons of ham, cheese and white bread. It was just too much for my body to handle and I was incredibly thankful for having access to a kitchen where I lovingly and joyfully prepared food for Ashley and some of the lovely people we met in the hostel from the four corners of this marvellous world of ours.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Beautiful Barcelona

Barcelona, what a city, filled with the architecture of Gaudi, tourists galore, middle eastern men using selling strange noise makers that seem to be everywhere. Our airbnb was even exceedingly eclectic, run by a young European couple whose grandmother previously lived in the place and now was taken care of by her former maid, Rosa, who spoke not a word of English and loved to chain smoke and yell at the foreigners. I got at least one smack for trying to turn the stove on. The building itself was fairly derelict, a super old building right in the gothic quarter. The apartment was long and thin with two large bedrooms, three tiny bedrooms, a kitchen, two bathrooms and a sort of living room. It was decorated by things found on the streets and no doubt the travels of the people who had lived there. Our room was one of the large rooms with our own living/dining area and the big bed tucked into a separate nook. The room was definitely decorated in my kind of style but it looked onto the street so it was noisy till all hours of the night. I will put up some pictures soon.

Our time in Barcelona was rather ruckus and ill planned. Attempting to go by the seat of our pants with little time to see all the momentous things that Barcelona has to offer after running around London and Amsterdam was quite an experience and of course with mine and Ashley’s love for looking at shopping we spent a number of hours looking in windows and occasionally trying stuff on. I ended up falling in love with a company called Desigual which just had the coolest, brightest, wildest clothes. I was really like a kid in a candy shop and fortunately have more restraint then a child and managed to only come away with one dress.

We found another favourite café called Artisa that had the most perfect coffee and flaky, melt on your tongue croissants. Everything in it was organic and local and it was only two blocks from our apartment. Another gastronomic delight was the picnic store that two of my former students took us to. It was filled with pastries, breads, meat, cheese, oils and vinegars, wine and liquors and in the middle was seating where you could enjoy these delights. Wait there are more Café Oviso done the road from us in a little plaza played hip hop and had roman paintings on the walls, and at the wax museum there was el Bosc de la Fades, an enchanted garden where you drink amongst the trees, waterfalls and fairies.

I am sure by this point you think our trip has been nothing but food and shopping but there has been more. We did manage to see the Picasso museum, which is an amazing collection through time of the evolutions of Picasso. We also saw the cathedral, the marina and of course Gaudi’s Casa Batllo and Guell park, which were so inspiring I cant even believe it. Why are buildings not built like that today with all things natural considered, what people need to be happy like sunlight, heat and breezes, comfortable ergonomic seating and beautiful bright colours. He was an absolute genius and I am determined to return and see all of his works one day.

This journey so far has been an interesting lesson for me around patience. Patience and encouragement for others and mostly for myself. I do not need to know everything or getting everything perfect every time. It has also reminded my how I need to be alone and connect with the earth to replenish myself, which is the opposite of my travelling partner who needs to process everything externally. Life is amazing and constantly surprising. Much love to you all.

Dutch Gastronomy

Amsterdam is a blur now or perhaps it always was ;) After our ticket fiasco we arrived into the loving arms of Steph, a dutch couchsurfer with the loveliest apartment in Haarlem. Attempting to find somewhere to couchsurf in Amsterdam and really in Europe in general has become ridiculously difficult which is why our stay with Steph was all the more special. In total we stayed there four nights and each evening after she finished massage school Steph would come out and enjoy Amsterdam or Haarlem with us.

As you would imagine most of our days were filled with visiting cafes, exclaiming in awe at the beautiful architecture, eating tons of amazing food and visiting the sex museum. I must say one of my favourite things this time round was the food, thick dark loaves of bread, handmade farmer’s cheese, stroop wafels, hearty soups. It was really my kind of cooking and my body really enjoyed it too!! We found one restaurant we especially loved called Café Latei. They made amazing sandwiches, great coffee, delicious desserts, tasty soup and on evenings they had a special Ethiopian menu and everything in the store was for sale and I mean everything probably even the dishes we ate off of. All in all I think we ended up going there three or four times.

We were lucky enough to be in Amsterdam during 11/11/11 and get told about a meditation for peace at the Dam (a huge monument in central Amsterdam). It was a very cool experience sharing meditation with a bunch of strangers who may not speak your language, but in our common desire to change the world we can come together and communicate with our souls. I give props to everyone who was there as it was cold! And we certainly did not make it through the full hour without having to scamper off to a warm restaurant to warm our toes and fingers. Once we were nice and warm we went out to Ruigoord, a small little neighbourhood that had been annexed for demolition but squatters had prevented it and they turned the area into an awesome little hippy village. So we danced away with our hoola hoops for world hoop day in an old church that had been saved by a bunch of hippies :D

I definitely loved Holland. It feels the closest to home of most of the places I have been. Everyone thought we were locals and were so friendly. The bicycles everywhere and no one wears helmets. As Steph’s mom said you would only get a helmet for a child who kept falling off a bike because they obviously had serious problems and needed a helmet :P The occupy movement was also very self evident there with camps set up everywhere and flyers and talks going on. It has been a powerful time to be travelling and witnessing all that is going on. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

London Calling

Waking up from a rather uncomfortable sleep on a decent British airways flight I felt washed clean, as if crossing the ocean had taken all my sadness and fear of leaving and loosing my grandmother away. After all how can one be sad in London on a sunny day where you find yourself surrounded by the entire British police force outside the bank of England because of some student protests. Well this is where Ashley and I found ourselves in an attempt to find meet our airbnb hostess near her work. For being stuck in a place for over an hour you really could not have picked a better one. Finally after realizing we were dialling the number wrong and our hostess obviously had not received our email we tracked her down through the kind help of a WWF canvasser. We were swept onto another tube and off to Harringay to a cute little apartment and a comfy bed which Ashley immediately dove into. However, her peaceful little nap was not long as we were to go and meet a very old friend of mine, Rene. When we arrived at russell square tube there he was with my lifesaver bottle which had just arrived that day. We wondered oxford street and Soho, chatting away and finally settle on a cute pizzeria where we had some amazing pizza and wine. After catching up we journeyed back out on to the street into Piccadilly circus and all the lights and found a lovely pub with a George Orwell bar (still not sure what that was about) and enjoyed a pint of fine English Ale. By this time the booze and food had definitely made us sleepy and so we journeyed to our flat and slept straight through the night.

The next morning we were regretting our decision to stay only one night in London as we had slept in and had to run around to get some food and try to make it to catch the train, to catch the bus, to catch the bus to Amsterdam. Little did we know that when we reached the airport our reservation could not be found because I had booked it for the day before, oops!! As you may know I do not like to admit my mistakes and after wishing I had not agreed to go to Amsterdam I was just a little peeved, especially since the price of the tickets were three times as much. But what is to be done and so after much humming and hawing I gave in and booked tickets for the next flight. But if you think the story ends here you are mistaken for our already extended wait was increased when the flight seemed to have the wrong number of people on it and they had to go through the manifest individually until they realized we were the right number. Oh travelling how I love thee!

Lose and Gain at the beginning of a new journey

As I prepared for this journey I have been faced with many challenges, had many inspiring conversations, seen a life pass on and let go of a home and two jobs. When I told my energy worker about my energy she said I would be tested but boy did I really have no idea what that really meant. Letting go of my house and jobs was easy as pie, despite choosing to leave it all behind only a few weeks before taking off. Though renting out my place till only five days before I left was completely ridiculous. I was able to sell all my furniture, got out of my lease, stored my stuff at friends all in these five days. I would not recommend getting major energy work done the day before you have to move everything by yourself. I also learned that I still have a lot to learn when it comes to asking for help and then facing the truth that I can not do anything at all. The day after my healing I was convinced that all of my friends were too busy to help me and besides I could do it all myself. But as the hours ticked by and I ran up and down three flights of stairs with my legs and arms aching more with each step, I could not do it any more and this realization brought me to my knees and I cried for the first time in ages. It was a powerful moment. But luckily friends did help and my last night in Van was filled with amazing food, tasty drinks and wonderful friends.

My second and perhaps harder challenge was to be met when I arrived in Calgary to see my family and a few friends. I thought I was going to face my own fears reflected in my mother but nothing is that simple and instead I was faced with the loss of my last living and dearest grandmother. I can only say that I am so thankful that I had come and got to see her before she passed and the little bit of time that my brother, mother and I got to spend with her were amazing. At the age of 94, I didn’t think she was ready to let it all go. But when she fell and fractured her pelvis in two spots the morning I arrived in town and it went from an easy break to internal bleeding, she was ready to say good bye. She led a long and inspiring life, filled with family, travels, adventures as a nurse during the war. She was full of so much love and compassion and would chat with any passing person. I can not say her actual passing was as hard as leaving my mother grieving loosing both her mother and daughter at once. But we all have our challenges to face in this life and that is hers as leaving is mine. My grandmother finally passed on 11/11/11 at midnight during the full moon, a more powerful time I could not imagine. On this day I participated in a peace meditation in central Amsterdam and could feel my grandmother smiling down on us all.