Europe 2017: Seville, Spain

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La Encarnación square at night

We initially talked about going to Barcelona after the Algarve.   We did want to include one expensive city on our trip.  But, when we found out Seville was a mere 3 hour bus ride from Portimao, we cut Barcelona from the itinerary.

We were not disappointed!

We actually couldn’t believe how beautiful and enchanting Seville was.  And the food .. the food just got better and better with each new stop.  What we loved the most is that people truly lived in Seville.  Everyone went out on the weekend, no one stayed home.  And even thought Spain’s been faced with some economic hardships, people looked happy.  It made we wonder why we are so miserable in North America.  Does weather really make that much of a difference?  I still don’t have an answer but, moving to Seville is on my list of crazy things I could do.

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Europe 2017: Algarve, Portugal

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Good bye Lisbon!

With our stay in Portugal’s beautiful capital, Lisbon completed, our next stop was the beaches of the Algarve.  After sharing a room and bunk beds at the hostel, we rented a Airbnb in Portimao, one with a rooftop terrace and a BBQ.  We were going to enjoy this part of the trip in comfort and privacy.  Our house was not on the beach but, in a quite neighbors  that was close enough to all of the major beaches by car.   The pace in Algarve was slower.  We would wake up each morning, drive to a beach or two, and return after sunset for a relaxing dinner on the terrace.

The slower pace meant I had time to think and reflect on the last year.  It had been a year since my father’s passing and going on this trip was a family moment of bonding and healing.  We wanted to celebrate life, to cry, to laugh, to live and worry less about what would happen tomorrow.

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Europe 2017: Lisbon Portugal

Lisbon was an unexpected and beautiful surprise.  It felt like summer in October, but it was the architecture, the friendliness of the people and the culture that really made Lisbon a special place.

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Walking in Bairro Alto

Lisbon is a city built on hills, very steep ones too.  We got a swift introduction the steep hills of Lisbon  as soon as we arrived.  Upon exiting the subway we realized that to get to our hostel we had to walk up hill – there was no none-hill option.   The shorter route was also the steepest and so our introduction to Lisbon’s hilly terrain was swift and true.

We stayed at the B.A. Hostel, right in the middle of Bairro Alto.  It was a lovely hostel, the staff was friendly and helpful.  The hostel is small and seems to attract families, older adults rather than British weekend partiers.  We arrived quite early in Lisbon and had to wait to check-in to our room, so we walked down to see Praça do Comércio.

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Soul Poop: My European Adventure

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Seville, Spain

I’ve been spending some time reflecting on the past year and it seems fitting to start the new one with a look back at the last trip of the year.

I can say that 2017 was a year in which I threw my normal perfectionist-driven caution to the wind and I did one thing I had always craved to do – travel.

I have a hard time categorizing my fall trip to Europe.  It was an adventure, a family trip, a discovery quest, a time to put things to rest, to let go and cleanse the emotional blockage – as a friend described it, “a Soul Poop.”

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When Your Horoscope Comes True

You can’t really look to a horoscope written for every person of that said sign, to provide you guidance in life or to give you all the answers.   Yet, sometimes you get one that just make sense and helps to clarify a situation that seemed unclear.

I recently re-read my July horoscope and was surprised by how much it reflected what was going on with me.   My July did have an overall feel of “nervous energy” but resulted in a “brilliant breakthrough” and I did undergo a “breakthrough on emotional issues” I’ve been working on.  And yes July ended as a time to re-build emotionally.

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Charlottesville: There is only one side

Seeing Nazi’s and White Supremacist marching down the streets of Charlottesville chanting straight from the Hitlerjugend handbook was terrifyingly sad, yet not that surprising.    Seeing the amount of “normal good people” who seem to be okay with the situation or who believe that the “alt-left” was just as bad (if not worse) was devastating.

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The Real New Years, Canada Day

I always find that January 1st lacks the real sense of renewal  that a new year requires. It might be the Canadian winter or the fact that Christmas can be an exhausting time, but January never feels like the start of it all.  A few years ago I started to feel as if my new year started on July 1st.  Canada Day marked a time of things coming to a close, change and new adventures.  The fact that it was the start of summer didn’t hurt either.

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IKEA Play Cafe

Excuse me for a moment as I geek out about how awesome IKEA’s Pop-up shop/ cafe in Toronto is as a branding concept.  In one word, brilliant.  To set-up a small pop-up shop in the heart of the city, let people play, shop and the while reminding them that a IKEA has all of the things you need for your small downtown space.

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Going Back In Time: Don Bosco High School Reunion

I went to my high school reunion this weekend.  It wasn’t your typical reunion because my old high school was closing its doors for good and all of the alumni from 1971 to 2017 attended.  It was fascinating to go back and to walk the halls of my old school, to run into my old classmates and still call my teachers sir and ma automatically,  even though I didn’t have to.

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Perspective

Sometimes you find yourself in a IRL deja vu moment – you are in a similar place, doing similar things, which are different, yet oddly similar. So oddly that you start to think you maybe undergoing some strange go back in time to fix your past mistakes moment.  Yet, things are not the same, things are very different and the biggest difference is you.

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Chiang Mai Temple Hopping: Wat Chedi Luang

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Me with Wat Chedi Luang in the background

Another major temple in Chiang Mai is Wat Chedi Luang.  The current temple is made up of three temples, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Ho Tham and Wat Sukmin.

The temple is known for the semi destroyed brick Wat Chedi Luang which use to house the Emerald Buddha and was at one point one of the tallest structures of the old Lanna kingdom.

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Chiang Mai Temple Hopping: Wat Phra Singh

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First selfie in Chiang Mai

It was impossible not to visit a temple while in Chiang Mai.  The city has a history as a Buddhist spiritual center and is compact, so you can’t walk very far without stumbling upon a temple.

Wat Phra Sing is one of the most well-known and prestigious temples in the city, and was part of itinerary for my first day in Chiang Mai.

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Continuing My Thailand Story with Chiang Mai

I last left off my Thailand story in  Ayutthaya where I biked around to visit the ruins of the ancient city, ate delicious food and made friends with fellow travelers.   I loved Ayutthaya and I couldn’t wait to get to Chiang Mai, a city that everyone I met spoke with reverence and excitement.  I was told I would LOVE it there.  That Chiang Mai was amazing and the best place in Thailand.

They were right, I did love Chiang Mai, I just hated my hostel.

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Music Moment: “I Wonder” by Rodriguez

I got sick with an early spring cold last week & it has taken a while to get over it.  It hit me hard & I’m still feeling a few effects.  Why is it that the first spring cold is the worst? While I was being sick I discovered the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” on Netflix, which tells the story of a failed American 70’s artists who becomes a huge hit in South Africa, but is an enigma. Nothing is known about him & two fans decide to change that.  That’s all I’m going to say about the documentary as you need to watch it yourself. Re-discover Rodriguez & buy his albums if you love him as much as I do.

Spring Is Here

It finally feels like spring.  It air is warm, the skies are blue & the jean jacket is out.  I love this time of year.  It makes we want to clean, de-clutter & run outside.

Which is what I did this weekend. After the required period of spring / easter weekend cleaning I joined others in Port Credit who sought the sun.

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A Day in Ayutthaya

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At the train station

I had always wanted to visit the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya.  It has been on my bucket list for years & I was finally going to get to see it!

I took the 9 am train from Bangkok a journey that took 2 hours.  Once I got there I took a Tuk Tuk to my hostel as I had no idea where it was.  But, if you are staying within the city, I recommend you take the ferry across the river as its only 5 baht & the city is small enough that most things are within walking distances.

Seeing the small & charming city of Ayutthaya it was hard to imagine that in 1770, it was the largest city in the world with a population of 1 million people.

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Photo Diary: Bangkok at Night

Before I take you on the next stop on my Thailand adventure, I wanted to share some of the photos I took during my many evening walks in Bangkok.  The heat in Bangkok results in life picking up in the city in the evening hours when it becomes cool enough to be comfortably outdoors.

It is perfectly safe for a woman to be out alone at night in Bangkok.  I took the same precautions as I would at home & never felt in any sort of danger.  So even if you find yourself alone in Bangkok, don’t be afraid to venture out at night.
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Bangkok Temple Hopping: Wat Ratchanatdaram

On my first stay in Bangkok, one of the last temples I visited was Wat Ratchanatdaram. It was the first temple I saw when I got to Bangkok, the one I would see every morning & night from my hostel, yet it was the last one I visited before heading on my trip north.

It was lovely.   It felt like a real temple, rather than a tourist destination.

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Getting Lost in Bangkok’s Chinatown

TheKollektive_Bangkok_ChinaTown_02I planned most of my tourist wanderings in Bangkok based upon destinations I could walk to.  My Thai hosts found this very strange as Thai’s don’t walk much in Bangkok because it’s frankly too hot to do so.  But, I was on vacation so it didn’t matter to me if I was sweaty when I got to my destination & I like to walk to orient myself in a new city.

Bangkok’s Chinatown was within reasonable walking distance … if walking an hour one way is reasonable to you.  To me it was at the time, although it turned out to be decision I questioned on the way home.  “Why don’t you take a Tuk Tuk, Kinga?” You ask, well I would have if the driver’s hadn’t wanted to over charge me by 300%, because they could & another tourist will their price anyways.

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Bangkok Temple Hopping: Wat Pho

Wat Phra Kaew it the temple everyone says you must see, but Wat Pho was my favourite. Wat Pho is the oldest temple in Bangkok, founded in the 17th century as Wat Photaram, a name that refers to the monastery of the Bodhi tree in Bodhy Gaya, India where Buddha attained enlightenment.  In 1801, Wat Pho received the name it is known under now under the reign of King Rama IV.

 

Wat Pho is located south of Wat Phra Kaew & the Royal palace & you can easily walk there after visiting Wat Phra Kaew.

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Blogging Sucks Sometimes

I love to blog but, sometimes it can really suck.

It’s not easy to create new content daily.  A lot goes into it & when your creativity slows to a crawl, your productivity crashes & you can’t finish a thing ..  it sucks to have a blog. When this happens to me, I just take a break from it all.  So apologizes for the recent silence, but blogging is sometimes hard & it sometimes sucks.

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Bangkok Temple Hopping: Wat Phra Kaew & the Royal Palace

I am told that if you can only see one temple in Bangkok, the Wat Phra Kaew in the Royal Palace is the one you pick.  Completed in 1784  under the reign of King Rama I, it is considered as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand.  The Emerald Buddha, the protective symbol of Thai society, is located there.

Wat Phra Kaew was the first temple I visited in Thailand & I was not disappointed.  I was amazed by the architecture of the temple – the symmetry, the detail, the colour.  I didn’t love the crowds or the loud tourists but, I ignored it as best as I could, & took in the beauty of Thailand’s most sacred temple.

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Solo Backpacker in Bangkok

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Night view of the Democracy Monument

I didn’t hate Bangkok, but I didn’t love it.  It reminded too much of all of the other cities I’ve been to &  I was looking for something different in my trip. Something less noisy & urban.

I can’t describe my time in Bangkok in one post as it would be extremely long (& boring).  I’m going to start with the place most backpackers start in Bangkok, my hostel &  Khao San Road.

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Starting off Thailand at Koh Samet

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 10.23.24 AMAfter 24 hours of travel & landing in Bangkok at 1 am, my first impressions of Thailand were something like,  “Oh my god … I am really here.”   “This is amazing .. it is so warm & there are people out!”  “My god I can’t read any of the signs .. I am going to get lost.”  

I woke up early on my first day & started my trip to Koh Samet, a beautiful Island Beach 3 hours drive south of Bangkok.

Koh Samet wasn’t on my original list of places to see in Thailand.  I went because I was meeting my aunt from Poland there, but I am very glad I started my trip there. It’s a small island, with a beautiful beach & a friendly, laid back vibe.  The perfect place to decompress & relax.

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Why Don’t We Celebrate Women’s Day in Canada?

Header photo is of my Great-Grandmother Irena Michalak who worked as a nurse during WW2. 

My first memory of Women’s Day is from kindergarten.   It was the 1980’s in Poland & our teacher told us it was Women’s Day & we were celebrating women & girls.  The boys all made gifts to give to the girls in the class & I remember feeling special , & excited by the acknowledgment.

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Why I Went to Thailand

This jet lag is awful. I’ve never felt so physically & mentally exhausted.  The worst is the wave of exhaustion that flows in out of nowhere.  I’ll be going about my day-to-day life & than bam! I am exhausted & just want to sleep. Why? “Oh yea it’s 3 am in Thailand right now, the place I’ve been living for a month.  No wonder I’m feeling weird.”  But, I’m sleeping better & now it is time to start telling you about my Thailand adventure.  I’m going to begin by telling you why I went in the first place.

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Hello Again!

Hello again, my patient readers I am officially back in Toronto & back to blogging!

My Thailand trip was amazing.  It was the “find myself” adventure trip I wanted & I almost filled up my journal during the 28 days.  I have a lot to share over the next while, but today I am jet lagged.

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Books to Read to Survive the beginning of the Trump Years

It’s been a week since Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States & shit has been bad.  Really bad.

I know a lot of you have been emotionally exhausted by this week. If your not writing emails to your MP, Congressman or Senator, your protesting. Or your comforting family or friends. Or like me, your turning off the news & doing something else. If you feel like you need a rest & like to read, I have some books to recommend.

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