Lady Luck is finally on my side! I slept-in today and after my shower, I had a burst of intelligence. I could use my in-room blow dryer to heat my hair and comb it into place. (I wouldn't dare use the blow-dryer I brought with me. I could blow a fuse again!) It didn't work out perfectly as planned, but at least I don't look like a curly Albert Einstein.
Also, I finally caught up with the tour group representative. She was very friendly and told me the closure of the underground meeting place and relocation to the inside of the Royal National Hotel had caused a lot of confusion. (Yay! I'm not alone!) She then told me that we were meeting tonight at 6 PM and we leave for Amsterdam tomorrow morning.
On my way back I stopped at Pret A Manger again and had exactly the same thing I had yesterday. It was still equally as good.
One of the small reasons I wanted to go to London was to collect a certain type of coin. The mint had taken the U.K. shield and printed parts of it on the 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, and 50p coins, as well as the whole shield on the £1 coin. While in Pret I was going through my change and I found two of the coins I needed to complete the shield!
On my way back to my hotel room I took an elevator with a man named Mark. He's from Toronto and on the same tour as me!
Back home, my girlfriend just woke-up so I'm going to go call her and wish her a great day at school.
I'll talk to you later.
I just got back from the tour meeting. There will be about 39 of us on the tour.
At first, the woman (whose name is "Flip") was telling us about how we were going to take the bus to Paris tomorrow and all about the fun things to do in Paris. After a while of talking, her partner (named "Muffin") noticed all of our faces had a confused look on it and stopped Flip. She had gotten her tours mixed up! We were going to Amsterdam - but her next group was going to Paris!
There are people from all over the world on this tour. There's people form the United States, Canada, Japan, Brazil and Australia, Maybe I'll be able to buy some foreign currency off the Brazilian and Japanese people.
We meet up at 6:45 AM tomorrow morning, so I'll have to leave the hotel at about 6:30. After all the trouble I've had making it to this meeting, I'd hate to sleep in tomorrow and miss the bus!
Oh, before I forget, I just brought breakfast for tomorrow at a local confectionery store (which are very common in this area of London; about two every block or so) and had supper at Pret again. I promise to mix things up a bit more in mainland Europe. Sorry for being so boring about my restaurant choices!
Well, I guess it's time to switch currencies in my wallet from Great British Pounds over to Euros. I still have over £150 left, but I still hope no women with small purple flowers find me!
Goodnight now. Hopefully my next entry will be from the city of my forefathers: Amsterdam.
Entered London with £350, left with £151.48
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.
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.
Just over a year ago I wrote an article about the glockenspiel that once stood in downtown Regina. I had fond memories of the glockenspiel as a child and was sad when they took it down to renovate the park. I was even more sad when they didn't put it back up, and I was angry when I discovered it was sitting in a junkyard (sorry, outdoor "storage facility") for the past ten years. That article got a lot of attention, from both the public, the city and the press. Today, efforts are being made to restore the bell back to its original location.
I'm telling you this because preserving heritage – may it be a 25-year-old bell, or a fourth century building – is important. Without heritage, we lose who we are. Often, the desire to move society forward steps over the heritage and causes it to get lost. As impressive as tall glass buildings might be, nothing is better than a smoky red brick structure.
Saskatchewan is beginning to realize how important this is – and thankfully it's happening now and not in a few decades after everything is gone. But, our neighbours have been on the heritage preservation band train for several years now, especially in Alberta.