Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: hotel

Short travel reflection: Accommodations

It is no surprise that accommodation is a big part of budgeting for frequent travellers. Many backpackers and globetrotters prefer a simple bed in a hostel room over the “luxury” of a hotel. In addition to the advantage of low price, hostels are great for socializing and getting to know your fellow travellers. Many people even find travel companions in the people they meet at hostels. For some, that is the best way to arrange accommodation. However, if I were to be completely honest, I am not a huge fan of hostels. I have had my fair share of experience with hostels, and while most of them have been positive and I don’t mind them, they are certainly not my preferred type of accommodation. As someone who has never been great at socializing and doesn’t care for going to bars and pubs, I tend to try to avoid crowds. And if I travel solo, then I REALLY want to be solo (as I have mentioned before) – if I wanted company I would have found friends to come along in the first place. That said, I still opt for hostels most of the time because they are overall so much cheaper than hotels, especially in cities like Paris. Smaller and quieter hostels suit me better than huge ones where parties keep people up all night, and where all I want to do is write and sleep in peace. There are times when I am willing to pitch in a bit more for the comfort and privacy of a hotel room, and I can still afford to do that occasionally as I can’t consider myself a “frequent traveller”, and I DO have a full-time job πŸ˜› Heh, perhaps I sound like an anti-social spoiled brat, but I do have to be quite honest with myself. Of course, options like airBNB are now much more attractive than hostels and hotels, and I have yet to try the much acclaimed Couchsurfing…

A room in a cute, minimalist hostel in Český Krumlov, Czech, December 2014

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Portugal part 1: Sesimbra

The first annual IDS-FunMat Training School took place in Sesimbra, Portugal from March 13 to March 18, 2011. This was my first “sort of” conference, and I can’t really compare because I’ve never been to a real conference before. However, it’s Portugal, and c’mon, you’ve gotta treat it as a mini-vacation.

The IDS-FunMat program, short for International Doctoral School in Functional Materials, is a joint program between the European Commission and Canada – a bit weird, I know – that offers a 3- or 4-year doctorate where each candidate is affiliated with two universities and an industry partner. The two universities must be in separate countries, hence mobility is mandatory. 9 cities are involved: Bordeaux, Caen, Grenoble, and Paris in France, Louvain-la-Neuve and Liege in Belgium, Darmstadt in Germany, Lisbon in Portugal, and Waterloo in Canada. As you know, my PhD is joint between Bordeaux and Louvain-la-Neuve, and I have already made my first move at the beginning of March.

Where is Sesimbra? It’s a little fishing village approximately 50 kilometers from Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal. The thing I was looking forward to the most, aside from the sunny weather and the beach, was meeting all the other PhD candidates in my program. There were 22 of us, coming from all around the world and now scattered throughout Europe due to our mobility schemes.

Enough about my program and onto the week! The schedule was jam packed with plenary lectures and presentations and workshops, but even in the midst of it all, the students were able to squeeze out every bit of free time to spend networking with and getting to know each other. Let’s take a look day by day. Mouseover the small pictures to read a brief description and click to see the full version.

Day 1: Arrival

Upon landing, I saw a magnificent view of Lisbon. Unfortunately I did not capture the moments before landing as I didn’t get a window seat, and that would have to wait until departure from Lisbon. Nevertheless, Lisbon definitely gave me an extremely good first impression.

The school arranged a shuttle bus to get us from the Lisbon airport to Sesimbra, which took around 45 minutes. We went through Lisbon city and the first thing I noticed was that the landscape of Lisbon is extremely hilly. Houses in Lisbon are built in layers of increasing height, and it was a rather unique overall design. More about Lisbon on day 5, where we had a little excursion around the city. For now, the scenes from the bus suffice to add some anticipation to the excursion.

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Bordeaux dans la nuit

It rained non-stop from Sunday to Wednesday last week, and finally, we get some sunshine today. I’d never seen so much rain in my entire life before. Non-stop is almost literal. In those four days, there were little breaks of sunshine that always made me think that the rain had ended. But no. As if the rain was playing a trick on me, it came right back 20 seconds after I started rejoicing. Sometimes it didn’t even wait for the sun to retreat, and the rain would come pouring down without warning. I was rather frustrated.

I really dislike rain, by the way. When the rain turned into hail on the day that I had to travel 40 minutes to a meeting (and how convenient was it that all the trams in the downtown area were out of service due to rain and thunder, which made me 40 minutes late), I was more than slightly ticked off. What made it worse was the violent wind that accompanied the rain as if it was a bodyguard. Got an umbrella? The wind ripped it apart in an instant, and my two-week old shield was forced to retire after a short life.

As a result of the persistent rain, I hadn’t been exploring this week, except for last Sunday night, when I was out near Quinconces during a short period of time that was free of rain. I took a few quick photos, because Bordeaux is beautiful at night.

This was actually taken almost two weeks ago, on the day when I went to the Blaye/Bourg wine tasting tour. It was the last night of the “foire”, something like a carnival or a fair. The column on the left is the Colonne des Girondins, featured several weeks earlier, accompanied by the giant Ferris wheel that was present at the fair.

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