While getting ready for my excursion around town, I thought I would straighten my hair again. Bad idea. While I was doing my hair, I suddenly heard a loud pop! sound and a whole bunch of smoke emitted from my power converter. I changed the fuse in it, but the whole thing has a very strange, almost burnt smell to it. I hope the fuse is the only thing that blew! I'm only 1/6th done my trip and I don't want to lose my camera again!
I may try the power converter out somewhere else when I come back to see if I can still charge my camera. Maybe. The last thing I want to do is wreck it any further or have my camera burst into smoke also!
I'll write more later. The sun is up and I'm going to hit the town -- with my semi-straightened hair.
I just got back from my trip around London and before I begin, I learned that London isn't just "London" -- it is multiple cities. For example, one of the cities is called Westminster, but just to keep things easier for me to record, I'll just refer to everything in the city as "London".
First I had a small breakfast at a very nice restaurant called Pret A Manger. Not only was the food delicious, it was all natural and hand-made there (or, if not there, then at a "preparation station" nearby). Their food doesn't have a shelf life, so if they don't sell it all they give it to charity. I'll definitely be going back to that place soon!
After that, I had about a half-hour wait until the Hop-On-Hop-Off buses started running, so I walked around my "neighbourhood". Finally it came and I started my long awaited trek. I went to Piccadilly Circus and saw the Eros statue, then I got off and walked down to the famous Trafalgar Square with Big Ben just down the street. Then, although I was told it was "too far to walk", I walked through St. James' Park and to Buckingham Palace. In front of it was a massive statue, but the four statues around it were behind refurbished and only the middle one could be seen -- thus my pictures aren't as amazing as they could have been.
There's a lot in London that's being reconstructed and refurbished. At first I thought it was because of the bad winter they had and they were preparing for tourists, but then I realized I was only half right. Next year was the Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, as well as the 2012 Summer Olympics!
I left Buckingham Palace and headed east to Westminster Abby, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. On my way there a woman appeared from a crowd and offered me a flower in exchange for a donation to charity. I really didn't want to give her anything so I just went to give her a pound. She shook her head and said no, please, more for the children. So I went and offered her a £5 bill. However, (and I feel so dumb writing this) she still wanted more so I gave her a £20 bill. Then, as I tried to escape her haggling clutches, another woman materialized (her friend, I assume) and asked for some money, and a 5 just wouldn't do! I ended up losing £40 ($62) to those women and their children!
A piece of traveler's advice: don't donate to charity in a foreign land, especially when you have limited funds... or in my case, you forget to restock your wallet. I was down to £25 and it wasn't even 10:30 AM!
After I got pictures of Westminster Abby, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament I walked across the Thames and went to the London Eye. There I spent £19. Maybe to some, the idea of taking a gigantic Ferris wheel is worth that much, but I didn't really enjoy it all that much. Especially now that I only had £6 left for lunch.
Then I caught the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus and took it to St. Paul's Cathedral. I arrived there just about lunch time and saw what seemed to be hundreds of miniature Harry Potters sitting all over the cathedral stairs. I wish I had money to pay and enter to take pictures, but any money I had was back at the hotel.
I walked a block south and I arrived at the Monument. The Monument is a tall tower that was erected in memory of the Great Fire of London in 1666 that destroyed a major part of the fire. It has 311 spiraling stone stairs and lets you climb it for a reasonable £3. How could I say no!?
I warn anybody who is going to climb it, however, that they should bring a water-bottle and be in reasonably good shape. The stairwell is less than three-feet wide and is extremely claustrophobic. Once you climb up and then come back down, you get a paper certificate about it. In my opinion, it was well worth it. But I wouldn't be doing it again.
I then strolled down to the Tower of London (which is actually about 13 towers), but once again couldn't afford the entry fee. A few blocks east from me was the famous Tower Bridge (not to be confused with London Bridge -- which wasn't very impressive at all!). My ferry was going to arrive and take me back to the Parliament Buildings in about twenty minutes, or then I'd have to wait over an hour for the next one to return. I could have walked to Tower Bridge, crossed it, crossed it again to come back and then catch the next ferry, but I decided against it.
The ferry cruise (which was free because of the Hop-On-Hop-Off pass) was also very nice. We had a funny commentator who cracked jokes the whole way from Tower Pier to Westminster Pier. I recommend that cruise, especially after having a stressful day of having your power converter blow up and basically being robbed by poor women in exchange for a small, purple flower.
From Westminster Pier I started walking towards Trafalgar Square. My plan was to get to the square, go to Piccadilly Circus and catch the bus back to the hotel. However, I never found the square. I ended up going down some strange underground shopping mall with about 12 barbershops and a strippers' club in it. Then, after a ways of walking, I found another mall. This one was "normal" and had stores, a place to eat and street-side performers like "fake statues" and magicians.
I found a map on a street-corner that told me where I was. I had completely missed Trafalgar Square and was about 15 minutes away from my hotel. I ended up walking home.
Once there, I picked up a new power converter at a Sony attached to my hotel. I tried the old one in the same power-outlet as last time, and it didn't work, so I tried to new one. Again, no such luck. Later today I'll try my hallway outlet to charge my camera and MP3 player. Hopefully I haven't screwed up my trip too bad!
PS: The man at Sony told me that I can't use my hair products with this new power converter. I guess I'll either have to use a UK/EU straightener or go curly for the rest of the trip.
I went to the Royal National Hotel to check up about my tour group. Yesterday I found a sign at where the meeting place was supposed to be, but it said that it was under construction so to meet at the Royal National Hotel. I got there and they sent me across the street to the other part of the Royal National. There was a sign on the desk there that said a tour representative would be there from 11 AM - 7 PM. I checked my clock and it said it was 6:58 PM and nobody was at the desk.
Once I got back to my own hotel, I called the phone number that was left at the desk of the Royal National. They told me to go back tomorrow. I'm not sure when my tour starts, but I'm pretty sure it's either tomorrow or the next day. I'm going to be right at that desk tomorrow at 11AM sharp!
Once I got back to my room, I decided to try out my power converter on the plug-in right outside my hotel room door. While I was there, my neighbors called housekeeping to get some more toilet paper. The maid saw me and asked why I was sitting outside my room (I guess it looked suspicious?). I told her my hotel room plug-in had stopped working and I had to use this one. It wasn't a complete lie -- but I never said I was the reason it stopped working. She went back to the toilet-paper person's room and asked to see her "wardrobe". There she found the fuse-box and flipped the switch. I have power again!!
Things are finally starting to look up. Let's just hope tomorrow I can catch the tour representative and figure everything out!
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.
I was recently asked if I preferred my time in Montreal or Quebec City more, and while Montreal is a gorgeous city, decorated with thousands of green copper spires, hosts incredible festivals, has some of the most fantastic food I have ever tasted, and is spotted with beautiful parks, there was just something about Quebec City that spoke to me. Being over four hundred years old, Quebec City is one of the last remaining "walled cities" in North America, and is the only one north of Mexico. Quebec City was the location of some of the greatest conflicts in Canadian history, including the Siege of Quebec by the British.
Belonging to three very different countries (France, England, and Canada) in its four hundred year existence, Quebec City is a mixing pot of old traditions, new ideas, cobblestone streets and modern architecture. Since there is so much to see in Quebec City, I figured I would narrow it down to a couple and let you discover the rest! Here is "8 Places to Visit in Quebec City".
Stonehenge, Saskatchewan, is just a little over two hours southwest of Regina, just past the town of Assiniboia. I've explored this area of the province before on previous trips, but I've never been to Stonehenge. In fact, my journey started out as a trip to Castle Butte, but after seeing a nearby marker for Stonehenge on a map, that quickly became my primary destination.
I've driven this area a few times looking for abandoned buildings. Normally I'd keep an eye out for them, but I knew most of them were a little further south. Before I got that far, I took the turn off to Ogema.
Nestled between the impressive Mount Royal and the majestic St. Lawrence River is Montreal, a city known for its festivals, abstract art, history and mosaic of countless cultures. Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, with a population floating around four million people. While the city is a dynamic mix of Canada's two primary cultures – French and English – there are areas of the city that are culturally specific, such as Little Italy, Greektown and Chinatown. Known for its artistic and liberal mindedness, Montreal also boasts the largest community of homosexuals in North America in their very own "Gay Village".
Being nearly 375 years old, Montreal was pivotal to the creation of New France and Canada and at a time held control over every waterway from the St. Lawrence down to the Gulf of Mexico. Having such incredible influence over the western part of the New World, Montreal hosted the "Great Peace of Montreal" in 1701, which started sixteen years of peace between the French and over 40 different First Nation tribes in North America.
Since its early days, Montreal has been one of the most influential cities in Canada. Montreal housed "internment camps" during World War I, became an ideal location for Americans looking for alcohol during Prohibition, and was the official residence of the Luxembourg royal family during World War II. Montreal held host to the incredible Expo 67, showcasing some of the most incredible architecture of that decade. The seventies saw serious political reformation in Montreal, with many Americans arriving, fleeing the Vietnam Draft. The late seventies paralyzed the city as a terrorist organization, the Front de libération du Québec, detonated explosives throughout the city and kidnapped and killed political figures. These actions forced the Prime Minster to enact the "War Measures Act" and deploy the military into the city to apprehend the terrorists. The eighties and nineties saw two referendums in the province of Quebec to separate from Canada, with Montreal playing a major role in both decisions. The last referendum in 1995 ended with 51% percent of Quebecers wanting to remain part of Canada and 49% wanting to separate.