I lost my pen! I knew I should have brought 2 with me. Oh well, now I have a new one anyway; and it says "The British Museum" on it! That’s right, I safely arrived in London and found my way to my hotel (and the museum, which is just down the street), but not without some trouble, of course.
Here's a travelers tip for you: always listen to you mom. Mom told me that once I got my luggage – after having to fill out a form twice because I was overtired and wasn't totally sure what it meant by "Where did you come from?" Sure, it sounds simple now, but if you're jet-legged and exhausted it wasn't very simple at all! – I had to make my way to the London Underground. I was to take a train from Gatwick Airport straight to the Victoria line, and then to Piccadilly Circus and I should be a half block from my hotel. Instead of listening to my mom, however, I asked the Information Booth worker for directions. He told me to take the Belfast train to another train station and it'll get me there in "no time". Well, as you can tell, I forgot what the name of the first stop was and I ended up having a lovely 2-hour tour around London!
Or, it should have been lovely. I believe I went straight through the slums of the city for the majority of the train ride for I have never seen houses in such ruin! The houses all appeared to be collapsing, with slanted foundations and mold covering the rooftops. Many buildings had broken walls, looking as if they had been in disrepair since the Blitz. Tarps covered some of the broken walls like curtains and broken furniture lay sporadically in the yards. Then, the train took a turn and I saw something completely bizarre. I saw a huge clearing with trees on the far side and dozens if not scores of lean-to shelters. Some were made of wood, while others look liked scrap metal. I couldn't believe my eyes! Was this really London – the once grandest city in the world?
Finally, I got out of the subway at a stop I recognized – the Victoria Line. From there I took a quick train to Piccadilly Circus and was just a few blocks away from Russell Square. Of course, throughout this whole train-hopping adventure I didn't have my camera out to record it. I think I have 3 pictures now. And of course, right now while I write this, both my cameras are in my backpack in the basement of the Imperial Hotel while I tour the city until they can let me have access to my room.
I began writing this in the beautiful Russell Square, once torn down and used to transport tanks during World War II, but now I have moved back to the hotel. The weather turned on me and the wind picked up. There is also the smell of rain in the air, which is odd for me; it’s March and I still expect snow. Oh well, I supposed it's time to see if I can get into my room yet. I’ll write later.
PS: I can see how realistic the Orwell’s "1984" is now. The train station had such a cold, mechanical, business drone to it that I swiftly loss my urge to explore. To add to that, there were intercoms in every direction warning people to watch out for "suspicious behavior". There were so many warnings that I was afraid to even think about doing something out of line!
PPS: From my previous entry, the "Romanian" I sat beside was actually from London. I guess I'm not very good at identifying accents yet!
PPPS: This last passage was very miserable. I should lay off Bram Stroker while I’m here. Or maybe get some sleep. To me, it’s 4 in the morning.
I attempted to sleep, but just like over Greenland, sleep eluded me. Also, my mind was telling me to call my parents and tell them I got here safely. I tried a few times but I got no answer. I hope everything is okay with my calling card. I'll try calling my girlfriend in a few hours (if my math is right, she probably just left for school). If she doesn't answer then I know there's something wrong with this calling card.
I also went for a shower. I didn’t realize how badly I needed one! I feel bad for the people who stood beside me on the train. Afterwards, I tried to straighten my hair but after a few short minutes, smoke started emitting from my power converter. Maybe I'll go with curly hair for the remainder of my trip. I don't want to blow my converter and have my camera die again!
Speaking of my camera, it's fully charged now and ready to go for tomorrow. I went for a pre-shoot after my attempts to call home and had a wonderful time! I may have strayed a little into those strange areas I saw earlier, but I tried not to go too far into them.
Besides that, I also found beautiful parks, quaint side-streets and a very awe-inspiring church. I took a few pictures and wrote in a book in the church for blessings. There were people praying inside so I attempted my best to be quiet.
I also bought a few postcards and a T-shirt. London isn't as expensive as I heard it would be!
I should go get something to eat soon. I haven’t had a real meal since A&W at the Calgary airport. I believe there's a pub attached to this hotel – let's start there.
Dinner was alright. I went to the Day and Night pub and had a very nice waitress. Unfortunately, I know nothing about alcohol and when asked what I wanted to drink, I pointed to the only brand I recognized. Guinness. I sat down and took a sip of my "first ever beer" and Oh My God I never want to have beer again!! What a disgusting beverage!
But on the bright side, I got a hold of my parents afterwards. They "didn't hear the phone" when I called before. I'm just glad my calling card works!
Now I’m planning my trip around London tomorrow. Tomorrow should be fun – London, here I come!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.
Canada's 150th birthday cannot be complete without visiting the country's capital city... but which one should you visit? While Ottawa is the current capital of Canada, there have been four other capital cities, and it has changed seven times. It started in Kingston (1841 – 1844) and then moved to Montréal (1844 – 1849), believing it to be safer from the Americans. After the citizens of Montréal burnt it down, it rotated between Toronto (1849 – 1852 and 1856 – 1858) and Québec City (1852 – 1856 and 1859 – 1866). Finally, it was placed right on the border between the two provinces in Ottawa (1866 to present day). This tour ventures into each of these five cities and explores what makes them so unique.
Since the capital flip-flopped location seven times, it would be much more convenient to go through the cities geographically then historically. If we started in the West, we would start in Toronto, Ontario, Canada's biggest city. While G Adventures only mentions the CN Tower and Kensington Market, there is much more to see in this city. You could visit the 18th century Casa Loma Castle, stroll through the artistic Graffiti Alley, visit Ripley's Aquatic Aquarium, or go drink and dine in the Distillery District. Looking for more outdoorsy stuff? Check out the Toronto Islands, the famous High Park or the Toronto Zoo. You can even take a boat out onto Lake Ontario and see the city's iconic skyline!
They say hope was the last thing to die in Auschwitz.
It's been just over 70 years since the Allies liberated the death camp and the horrors of the "Final Solution" were revealed to the world. Prior to their arrival, Auschwitz was the most effective death camp ever created, having taken the lives of over 1.1 million Jews.
Block 4 of Auschwitz holds the museum, explaining the best it can about what happened seven decades past. The museum explains what Auschwitz was originally built for – a camp for Polish prisoners of war – and how it became key to the Nazi's "Final Solution". The museum goes over the construction of Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) and Auschwitz III (Monowitz), the increased sizes and effectiveness of gas chambers and the factories of death that stood and smoked over the camp during its operation.