Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: vacation

Last post of 2014

That’s all, folks, the 2014 blogging year has come to an end for me. This is the final (very short) post of the year and I will be flying out for my winter holidays tomorrow. Being away from Glasgow means that there will be 2+ weeks of blog inactivity, but it also means that when I come back, I will have lots to write about.

The two upcoming weeks are planned as follows: Bordeaux for 5 days to visit old friends, Prague for 2.5 days, Cesky Krumlov for one day, Budapest for 3.5 days, Paris for 4 days, then back to Glasgow for the beginning of 2015.

It’s been a while since I’ve travelled and I feel that I might have “lost touch” with the side of me that loved travel. I am now a bit nervous because Prague, Cesky Krumlov, and Budapest will all be done alone while carrying a relatively large piece of luggage. Then I think back at all the times I’ve travelled alone and wonder why I am even nervous. I should be excited, if anything, and I AM! The two-week trip will be, up till now, the longest trip within Europe away from a “home base”, that is, Bordeaux, Louvain-la-Neuve, and now Glasgow. Previous trips have been either day trips, weekend trips, or at the longest, a week trip. Canada and China don’t count. Then again, half of this upcoming trip is sort of like going back “home” (Bordeaux and dare I say…Paris) so the real new travel is only the week in the Czech Republic and Hungary. So much to look forward to!

I guess I am still at a state of instability because I’ve only been in Glasgow for a little more than a month and a half, and I’m flying out already. I’ve moved into my new flat for 10 days and I will be away for two weeks, so coming back will feel like moving in all over again! Let’s just say that “settling down” won’t feel real until 2015 😛

Well, I’m off to finish off some last-minute packing. Enjoy your holidays, and I’ll see you in 2015!

Christmas with chef in Tarbes

Christmas 2013 was spent in an unlikely location. Not a winter wonderland like northern Europe, not a mysterious realm like eastern Europe, and not a warm paradise like Spain or Italy. On Christmas, I went to Tarbes. To say goodbye.

I bet most people don’t know where Tarbes is. Heck, I wouldn’t even know where Tarbes was unless I had a friend studying there. So, Tarbes is a small town located in southwestern France, almost at the border between France and Spain, right by the Pyrenees mountain ranges. It isn’t really known for tourism, unless you’re interested in skiing in the nearby Pyrenees. Yet, the reason why I went to Tarbes for Christmas wasn’t to undertake some extravagant travel for the holiday season. Just the opposite, in fact. I would spend the few days after Christmas in this tranquil little town, relaxing and catching up with my “chef” with whom I traveled in Switzerland and Belgium in 2012. It had been almost another 8 months since I last saw chef briefly in an unexpected encounter in Brussels, and how glad I was to see my dear friend again in his city 😉

(I really regret not taking more photos of Tarbes. It’s a typical French town, but I especially loved its river, its lake, and the mountains that sometimes seemed RIGHT in front of you. Too bad I forgot to bring my camera during our long stroll on day 1 and missed out on the photo opportunities 😦 😦 😦 )

I stayed at chef’s apartment during my visit and upon entering the small flat, realized that chef and his friends were preparing for a Chinese hot pot dinner which happened to be on the night of my arrival (Christmas night). Now, I’ve eaten plenty of Christmas meals at various gatherings before this, and I’m sure my weight is increasing exponentially this holiday season…but hey! It’s worth it, right? And hot pot on a cold, rainy night? Couldn’t be more perfect. Apparently it rains more in Tarbes than it does in Bordeaux, says chef. Gah, we already have enough rain in Bordeaux. How do you put up with MORE?

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Toronto, September 2012

I realize that the more I travel, the harder it is for me to write about a place as simple as home. It’s like taking it for granted and not feeling that it is necessary to write about it because it’s not such a “special” place, when on the contrary, home is the best place in the world. No matter how many exotic cities I’ve been to and how many adventures I’ve indulged myself in, nothing quite beats home.

September has been quite a hectic month. I booked my ticket back to Toronto in January for my friend Florence’s wedding – yes it was planned way ahead of time, but as the maid of honour, not attending was not an option, so I made reservations as soon as I found out the wedding date. Yet, the wedding was not the only reason why September was hectic. I had three events that needed lots of attention – the wedding, my baptism (both occurred in Toronto), and my midterm comprehensive exam in Belgium, which took place at the end of September, after my trip.

Amid all the logistics and planning for these three main events, I set aside some spare time to spend with my friends and family. You can read about the baseball game with Derek, the pre-wedding “retreat” with Florence, and my visit to Waterloo. Or you can read on to find out about other bits and pieces of my precious three-week vacation back home, in good ol’ Toronto.

I’ve wanted to see Toronto high up at night for awhile, and after a downtown dinner with Jay one night, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to head to the top of the CN Tower for a visit. The last time I went up must have been more than 10 years ago…I don’t remember. Jay was a little hesitant, since he claimed that he was afraid of heights, but hey, who isn’t? 😀 So I dragged him along with a little bit of convincing. We only went up to the bottom observation deck where the glass floor was, and didn’t bother with the SkyPod, but the moment I looked out the window I thought, wow, the view was…dazzling, to say the least. I knew Toronto was beautiful at night but seeing it from the CN Tower was a COMPLETELY refreshing and worthwhile experience! (Thank God for manual mode…and my purse which served as a tripod 😉 )

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Take me out to the ball game

I don’t feel like I know Toronto at all. I’ve lived in Toronto – GTA in this sense – for 14 years before going to Europe for grad studies, and as much as I call it home, I don’t know it. Then again, one must first define “Toronto”. Is it the GTA – Greater Toronto Area – that contains regions such as Scarborough, Markham, North York? Or just downtown Toronto? For the rest of this entry, “Toronto” will refer to just “downtown Toronto”.

It was expected that this three-week trip back home would be a busy one, filled with meeting friends and preparation for three important events: my baptism, which happened on September 8th, my best friend's wedding on September 15th for which I am the maid of honour, and my mid-term confirmation exam on September 28th. Yes, it is my “vacation” of the year, but it is barely a vacation at all.

Still, it’s always good to see old friends. Last Wednesday I met up with Derek, one of my housemates for four years in university. We went downtown to SkyDome – yes, Rogers Centre, but I refuse to call it that as I still live in the past – for a baseball game with the Toronto Blue Jays playing against the Baltimore Orioles. It was the second baseball game I went to, the first one being the Jays against the Boston Red Sox some years back. I had never been a huge fan of baseball, but Derek loves it. Though I didn’t know all the rules of the game, I had a great time just hanging out and experiencing a vivid stadium atmosphere.

At a glance, Toronto is like any other large, fast-paced metropolitan city. You look up to not see the sky, but skyscrapers. I’ve worked in Toronto during two of my six work terms in university, both at the corner of University Avenue and College Street. I also go downtown from time to time to hang out with my friends. I love Toronto, but I would have to conclude that I like to go downtown for leisure, but I definitely would not want to work there every day.

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The Swiss Escape, part 3: Zurich

The last stop, then, was Zurich. The first Swiss city I had ever known about is Zurich, when I heard names of various European cities on the weather forecast in China. Of course I had no idea “su li shi” in Chinese was actually Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland, until much later.

The trip to Zurich was mostly a leisurely one with only the Kunsthaus (museum of art) as the must-go destination for my chef. The rest of the time was spent wandering around the city and enjoying the beautiful view of Lake Zurich with none other than the mountain ranges in the distance. So perfect.

A view of the left bank of the Limmat river that runs through Zurich, with guild houses along the river. Zurich has been a top-ranked city in several quality of living surveys in the past few years (and I wonder if the cost of living is directly proportional).

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