Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Enjoying a Beautiful May in Calgary

We have been having some great weather here in Calgary, and I have been trying to enjoy it as best I can, mainly during study breaks. I bought my first bicycle in years and have been riding it around. I am more than enjoying having walking access to all the great shops and food on 17th. This weekend I enjoyed an evening in a hot tub, a long run by the reservoir and some particularly tasty BBQ with the boyfriend.

Next weekend, I'm off to Ontario to visit family, and attend a confrence. Hopefully I can bring some of this beautiful Calgary sunshine home with me! (they're going to need it, since it looked like this in the sault only a week ago)

Jovi in the snow (thanks to my cousin Krista for sending me this pic)

How was your May long weekend? realistically ours was only half sunny half overcast, but I still can't complain.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Can you change your own tire?

Last Sunday I had an eventful day.

Calgary is a very bike friendly city, and although (apart from one afternoon in Hawaii last summer) I haven't ridden a bike since some time in high school, I thought I better get on the bike thing. With an aim to spend two hundred dollars or less, I headed to walmart to see what they had to offer in a regular old fashioned bicycle.

Since I had drove to walmart, I rode the bike out of the store and to my boyfriends garage about 10 minutes away. I then interupted is studying (he had a med school exam on monday) and had him drive me back to my car. I kissed him goodbye and promised not to pester him for the rest of the day.

10 minutes later, I was on my cell phone, frantically begging him to come help me out. This had happened.

I had a bit of a disagreement with a curb (that's the story I'm sticking with). And so Kev was on his way to help change the tire. OK, I probably could have done it myself, I have learned how to in the past, but it was on the side of a busy road.... and you know.

Lucky for me, this was one of my winter tires (for my non-Canadian readers, yes, we have to put special snow driving tires on in the winter... and for my non-Calgarian readers, yes I still had them on at the beginning of May because it could very well have still been snowing). Luckier for me, my summer tires have their own rims as well, so I only had to drive with the spare for one day, before swapping to my summers.

Which Kevin made me do myself (well just the one), because I'm a capable, adult woman and all that jazz. At least it was a beautiful day,  and the hard ice tea in my cup was nice and cold.

Have you ever changed your own tire roadside? I know that one day, when I have kids, they wont be driving any car I've paid for until they show me they can do it themselves.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mothers Day

I haven't seen my Mom since Christmas, but in a little over 10 days I'll be heading home to remedy that. And truly I can't wait to see her (as well as the rest of my family).

5 things I love about my mom

1. She calls me everyday (or pretty close too it) and even if sometimes the conversation goes as follows "what's new?" "nothing since you called me yesterday" "ok I'll talk to you later" I appreciate her calls more than she knows.

2. She cares about my schooling and project, even if she doesn't really get the why/or what of it. My mom is one of my biggest supports for the past 7 years of post secondary education I've indulged in, and I couldn't have had the success I've had without her.

3. Speaking of which, I wouldn't be here in the first place without her. My mom was the kind of mom always eager to help with homework (writing orals and building diorama's in particular) and volunteer at and baked for just about any school function I'd let her. I think it makes a big difference in success at a young age to have parents who can in involved in some form or another.

4. She cares about me more than any other person in the world, and would protect me from anyone and anything that might hurt me.

5. She loves me enough, that even though she'd rather have me close to home, she supports me in living halfway across the country, in a City I'm in love with, at a School that is a perfect fit and pursuing dreams neither of us could have imagined up front.

Sure we bicker like cats and dogs, over the colour of my hair, how I am dressing, varied definitions of a clean apartment. Or one particularly memorable fight between her and a stubborn much much younger me over a pair of flower girl shoes that didn't fit me, but I absolutely had because the shoe box was so pretty. But how can we help it, we're both fiery Italian ladies, and the best way to know you love someone is to be able to scream yourself horse at them for 30minutes and not care at all that you did the next day. (ok maybe not the best way, but its who we are).

I can't imagine having any other mother than her. Friends of mine who barely talk to their mothers, keep secrets from them, or can't stand them at all... well I just don't understand it. So I love you mom, can't wait to see you this month and have you come visit me this summer. If I could fold the country in half to put Calgary next to Sault Ste. Marie I'd do it in a heart beat, but until then, never stop calling.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hostels Hotels and Rentals when travaling

This summer, as I previously mentioned, I will be making my 4th hop across the Atlantic to cross more of Europe off my map. One of my best friends and I will be visiting jolly old England, and lucky old Ireland. (ok I just came up with the lucky thing after googling Ireland Mottos and finding none) Previously I've been to France, Italy (x3), Spain, Poland and Hungary. I've also backpacked around Hawaii...how's the related? I'll tell you.

The one thing all of these places have had in common? I've stayed at some of the best and worst places a poor traveling student can stay.

The Good: Two of my all time favourite places I've stayed came from renting directly from the owner, and were essentially condos/rooms in homes. In Italy last summer we rented 2 bedroom condos in Pizzo and they were beautiful, clean, felt like home. In Hawaii, on the north shore, we rented a loft in a home owned by a woman named Maria, and it was heavenly.

The beautiful view from our room on the north shore.

The Bad: In Italy, Venice and Rome, a couple years ago, traveling on a base budget, my buddy Chris and I opted for staying in trailers on campgrounds outside of town. Yes it was exactly how it sounds. Imagine a 8 foot hard top trailer split into two rooms, each with a single cot, and enough space to put your bag on the ground. Complete with a 5min walk to communal bathrooms and showers...not recommended for bad weather traveling. Pro: I think it cost like 14bucks a night. Con: all of the above plus 30-45minutes of public transit into the city center.

Venice in the distance, taking the boat in from the campground.

The Ugly: Last summer, we arrived in Maui, and grabbed a cab to our hostel, the driver promptly listed a dozen or so reasons why we didn't want to stay there. It appeared to be in the shadiest part of town and we pulled up to 4 cop cars, lights on, and a swarm of police officers. Despite that we stayed, in a tiny, paper walled, sweaty room next to a stairwell. Seems if you're not planning on drinking your face off into the wee hours of the morning, you are too old to stay at this particular place. On the bright side, they offered daily free tours and trips to various places round the island...the only redeeming factor really.

Group of travelers on a hike run by a particularly sketchy hostel. Still a good time.

Ok maybe I haven't had it that bad yet. And maybe, for some people the Bad and the Ugly are right up your ally, but this time around I want to have a more comfortable trip. Which means I should aim between pricier rental properties and cheap-o hostels and try hotels in Europe, at least once.

So I looked into some options to book a hotel online before we go, and found some great, relatively inexpensive results. For instance, we can get a 3 night stay in Dublin city center, in a 4-star hotel for about $150, not bad split between the two of us. Plus we'd get to sleep in a real bed (not a cot or bunk), without having to pick up sheets from the front desk, and without having to listen to everyone else in the building all night.

On the other hand, hostels tend to be geared towards helping tourists get to all of the important sights in the city, so staying in a hotel, might require more planning in advance to make sure we find our way to The Guinness Beer Tours and Dublin Castle. But I figure I'm internet savvy enough to take care of all that in advance.

I'm not the only one online to weigh in on the pros and cons of hostels versus hotels, but I'd love to here where you typically stay when you travel? And what have your experiences been?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mingle Monday: Favourite Outdoor Activity

It's no secret on my blog that I love blogging prompts/ideas/link ups. When I sometimes can't think of a post to write, there's nothing better than the above to get those creative juices flowing!

This week, I'm linking up on Mingle Monday over at the Life of Meg, and the prompt?

'What is your favourite outdoor activity?'

Now this prompt is particularly appropriate right now, because the weather here in Calgary has been gorgeous for the last couple days! Too bad I've been mainly cooped up inside studying for my candidacy exam. But a girl can dream! If I was outside today, here are some things I'd loooove to be doing!

  • Going for a long run, particularly somewhere beautiful. Ok so I may let myself take a break from the books and hit the path by the bow for this one. Plus this time of year, there will definitely be baby animals to see.
  • Doing anything in or around water. In Calgary, that usually means inflating a raft and floating in one of the rivers that run through town. I only got out once last year, but I will definitely hit it more this summer!
  • Hiking my butt to the top of somewhere with an impressive view. Yesterday, while enjoying breakfast on the deck in the sun, we got to talking about some of the hiking people want to do this summer. I just can't wait!

So what is your favourite outdoor activity? I guess I didn't pick just one, so you don't have to either, but come and link up with us over at Life of Meg's Mingle Monday!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Should we rent a car in Ireland?

This summer, one of my best friends, Jill, and I are heading off to London, England and while we're there, we thought we'd maybe take a quick jaunt over to Ireland. In the past, trips I've taken to Europe have been mostly confined to cities (heck trips I've taken anywhere end up like that). Last summer however, when my family visited my mom's relatives in Calabria, Italy, we rented cars and hit the back mountain roads. While it was the only way to go visit my Nana's old house, it also offered a lot of freedom to the trip.

What a beautiful roadside view, just outside of Amantea.

In comparison, last summer's trip to Hawaii, found us riding publid transit for hours to get from Waikiki to the North Shore, a pitiful distance of about 35 miles. Something I have vowed not to do next time I find myself in the paradise state.

What this is all boiling down to, is I am seriously considering the idea of renting a car in Ireland this summer. A quick look through car rental specials and it looks like I could pick one up for a couple days for about $100 Canadian. However, after reading a page from Rick Steve's Europe (Surviving Driving in Ireland) I'm left with this list of pros and cons.

  • An easy way to see more of the country side
  • Getting to drive on the 'wrong' side of the road
  • Movies like 'Leap Year' (2010) have taught me that if your rental car breaks down in Ireland, you'll inevitably fall meet your soul mate who will be dashingly handsome, as well as having a sexy accent and being secretly wealthy (not that I need a guy, but maybe for my friend!)
  • Road trip adventures are always a good time
  • Avoiding public transit... often the right choice!
  • Cheep price is for driving manual transmission... a feat which I have only attempted twice
  • Ireland: tied with Portugal for most traffic accidents in Western Europe... sounds fun
  • getting horribly lost
  • Some Rick Steves readers provided feedback that they were stressed out the whole time they were driving
So what do you think? Have you any experience with renting a car in Europe? Or have to been to Ireland want to let me know what I absolutely have to do/see when I'm there?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

People I hate when Flying

This morning, as I do most Thursday mornings, I checked my youtube subscriptions for Jenna Marbles' new video (what can I say, I kind of adore her!). This week she gave us part 2 of her rant against people she hates at airports. Although I agreed with most of what she had to say, I will say, I have definitely been the girl travelling for more than a week with only a carry on... you can still trust me...backpacking round Europe/Hawaii last summer I decided was a more or less makeup free zone!

Having done quite a bit of travelling myself in the last month or so, I thought I'd share with you some of my own list of people I just can't stand at airports.

  1. They guy who needs to go through the metal detector like 10 times. Oh whats that, I forgot my belt on. Oh you mean this handful of nickles in my pocket will set it off too. Oh yeah car keys duh! Why don't you just do a pat down? Oh you found my under the shirt travel wallet, also full of change, and my cell phone in my pocket? Come on people! We all know how to do the airport security dance: coat, shoes, belt off, pockets empty, and come on! how can a belt even be comfortable on a plane?
  2. The carry on bag is waaaay too big people. First of all, this goes to all the flimsy armed women out there, if you can`t lift it into the overhead bin yourself, it`s too heavy/big and you have no business wheeling it onto the plane. Second, they have those 'does your bag fit in here' things all over the airport, do us all a favour and check. Third, you already dropped several hundred bucks to be on this plane, not including the 3-4 over priced airport bar drinks you guzzled before boarding. Stop being so cheep, and spend the extra 25 bucks to check your over sized bag, so our flight can be on time!
  3. People who abuse the "passengers travelling with young children may board now" rule. Let me just say this, if your child is old enough to be carrying on your extra giant carry on, then get back in the regular line! Also, travelling with your teenagers does not entitle you to board first, skip lines at security or get any other perks at all!
  4. People who insist on talking to me on the plane. Do I have headphones in? Are my eyes closed? If you can answer yes to either of this questions, close your mouth and leave me aloooone!
  5. People who ask me for the window seat. Look, I preselected this window seat when I booked my ticket. In some cases I probably even paid money for this window seat. No I will not trade for you middle/aisle. Now notice I have headphones in and refer to rule 4!
  6. People who drink tomato juice/clamato/ceasars on airplanes. Thank you. Thank you sooo much for choosing the smelliest possible beverage from the cart. Why do they even offer this stuff!
And finally I'd like to give a special shout out to the guy who once sat next to me on a Calgary-Toronto overnight flight, pulled out his boom box and asked 'so what does everyone want to listen to?' Congratulations on your first flight ever sir, maybe next time you'll realize how stupid you are!

Well there's a rant and a half for you all. What/who do you hate most about travelling?

Airplane safety photos come to you via safety mania.