Wedding Blitz

1 Nov

Hey everyone,

I’ve been out of the loop for a while again. Lots of busy work with school between attending classes, teaching a class, marking assignments, doing projects, and working on research. On top of that, we’ve finally started wedding planning!

I’m not sure what happened but somehow we’ve gone through the stage of thinking about a wedding to actually planning one. 🙂 It only took us about six months. 😉 It’s exciting though to finally have a goal. We ended up hearing about an amazing location in the HRM so when we called and found out that they had two dates available for Summer 2014, we jumped on it. We chose to have our wedding on August 29th, 2014. It’ll be a Friday wedding but it’s the Friday before the long weekend in September. Everyone we’ve talked to seems on board so I’m glad it’s not going to be a problem.

We actually put the deposit down on the venue before we even saw it in person. In pictures it looked very beautiful, right on the ocean which was something I really wanted. The best part though is that the deposit is 100% refundable if we cancel three months before the date, and the deposit is actually a security deposit we get back anyways. It seemed like a no brainer to book the venue and then see it. I’m so glad we did it that way! We had a viewing on Monday and it was really beautiful in person. It would have been very disappointing to have seen it and then have no dates available anymore. 

The building is almost a century old so it has a rich history. They’ve done a lot of renovations to ensure it stays in shape, and they just put in new hardwood this summer. It’s really quite nice! Beautiful archways, lots of natural light, and you can’t beat the ocean view (it’s literally right on the ocean). 

I’m so grateful that we were able to book in this venue. We had a viewing for another place, which was also beautiful, but it was six times the price! This venue we chose was really reasonable and it gives us the opportunity to book our own caterers, and things like that. 🙂

On Tuesday we have an appointment to meet with a potential caterer which is also exciting. By booking such a reasonable venue, we’re going to be able to devote more money to delicious food and drinks. The caterer seems great. We have heard a lot of positive reviews. The nice thing is that they have also worked a lot at our venue so they know how to maximize the space and serve delicious food there! I’ve spent a lot of time checking out different caterers in the HRM and they seem like they have one of the more reasonable fees AND the most options available for food. Most of the wedding menus I looked at had very few options and most had no vegetarian options (vital for this wedding!). 

It’s funny how this time last week the wedding was still a vague idea in our head. A week later, we have a venue and are going to be meeting with caterers!  

Europe – Dublin: An Evening of Irish Folklore

17 Oct

This is the nineteenth instalment of my Travel Thursday feature where I talk about my time in Europe. To see previous instalments, click on the appropriate banner.

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December 13th, 2012:

We woke up and ate some free breakfast at the hotel before going to a convenience store and buying some metro tickets. The busses in Dublin were awesome because they were double decker busses. We knew we had a full day of awesome ahead of us and we got an early start to the day. We decided that we’d be better off to go to the furtherest destination and then work our way back into the town. With that in mind, we hopped on a bus and went to Kilmainham Gaol! The price of this was included in our pass.

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We made it on time to kill a few minutes before the tour began. Kilmainham Gaol was built in the 1720s and was used as a prison for both the famine and the independence movement in Ireland. During the famine people would commit crimes just to have a place to sleep and have food to eat. Walking through the gaol they have marked off certain cells where famous people stayed for their imprisonment (i.e. most of the people from the independence movement). 

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(Sign heading into some more private cells)

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(Larger portion of the gaol, designed so that the guards could stand in the middle and be able to see all the prisoners)

The tour leader gave us a lot of sad history about the events leading to the Easter Rising and the events following. She took us to the area where John Connolly was executed as well. That was a moving sight.

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(John Connolly was executed where the cross is)

After our tour ended we caught another bus and went to the Guinness Storehouse (free with the pass!). The Storehouse was more of a celebration of Guinness but we learned a few things about how they make it, etc. It was pretty cool. They had a spot where you could look up your last name to see if any of your relatives ever worked there! I found three people with the same last name, but I’m not sure if we’re related or not. 😀

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The best part though was the Gravity Bar! This was on top of the Guinness Storehouse and it had glass walls all around for a panoramic view. They also listed the popular tourist destinations on the glass and told you a bit about it. 🙂 

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We drank our free Guinness (included in the ticket price) and enjoyed the amazing views. Afterwards, we got onto another bus and went to our next stop! Christ Church and Dublinia

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(One side of Christ Church)

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(Other side)

Christ Church is the oldest church in Ireland, founded in 1028. I think you had to pay to go in but it was free with our pass. Once inside, we were pretty stunned. It was really large and beautiful. The choir was practicing for Christmas so we got to listen to them for a bit which was awesome.

We explored around the alcoves within Christ Church. There were some stunning stained glass windows and statues. After exploring the alcoves we went into the crypts to look around there. They had renovated a part of the crypts to include a restaurant/gift shop so we grabbed a quick bite to eat while in the crypts. We shared a walnut tart. I somehow forgot I don’t like walnuts until we were eating.

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(Walnut tart)

They also had on display the Cat and the Rat. The Cat and the Rat are actually mentioned in James Joyces’ Finnigan’s Wake: “… As stuck as that cat to that mouse in that tube of that Christchurch organ” The cat and the rat somehow were mummified inside of an organ.

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(The Cat and the Rat)

Strongbow was also buried in the Christ Church! Strongbow Cider is named after him.

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(Strongbow)

After exploring Christ Church we went to Dublinia. Dublinia is an interactive viking museum! It was SO much fun to go through. They also have medieval history and archaeology portions of the museum which are fun too. We both really enjoyed this museum. I feel like I learned a lot from it.

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(Entering Dublinia)

After Dublinia we went back to the hotel to rest. Sean studied a bit more and then we went to the oldest pub in Dublin, the Brazen Head. While the Brazen Head itself isn’t actually the oldest pub, the building it’s located has always been a pub for a very long time (since 1198). 

At the Brazen Head we attended a Folklore and Storytelling dinner. This was awesome guys! You paid for a 3 course meal and while waiting for your food someone would tell you folklore tales, Irish history, and there was also live music. It was great. The menu also had vegetarian options which was also great. 

After dinner we went back to our hotel and passed a neat James Joyce statue.

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Europe – Dublin: Look Right!

10 Oct

This is the eighteenth instalment of my Travel Thursday feature where I talk about my time in Europe. To see previous instalments, click on the appropriate banner.

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December 12th, 2012:

As our time in Euro was winding down we knew that we still wanted to squeeze some travelling in. There were so many places we wanted to visit but we decided that our final destination should be Dublin, Ireland. We booked another four day trip but this time we were able to take a plane out of Maastricht rather than having to travel to another city then fly out.

We spent a lot of time researching what kind of stuff to do in Ireland. At this point I think we knew how schedule things effectively on our trips and get the most out of it.

We arrived in Dublin and the first thing we did was pick up our Dublin Pass, conveniently in the airport. After being burned by the Holland Pass we were iffy on how the Dublin Pass would work, but thankfully it was great! So worth it. We got to use immediately for a free bus ride into the town.

Once we arrived in town we walked to our hotel. We had booked a private room with a shared bathroom, but since it was off season the owner upgraded us to a private bathroom which was really nice. 🙂 Our hotel was actually in a  great location, right off of O’Connell Street which is one of the main streets. Everything was in easy walking/bus distance.

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(Christmas decorations)

After getting situated in the hotel we went and found food. There was something quite nice about being able to (finally) order something off a menu in our native language! We found a quick little place and ate some delicious pizza.

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(Yum)

After getting some food into us our next order of business was to pick up a local Irish SIM card for Sean’s iPhone. This was great because it gave us data and allowed us to be able to look things up online but also call places if we needed to. Super cheap too!

Once we got our SIM card we ate we decided to go to Trinity College and go see the Book of Kells. When we got there though there was a warning that they currently didn’t have the Book of Kells on display but instead had a replica. We decided we would rather wait and see the real copy so instead we went to the National Museum of Natural History. Admission was free and it was really fun to explore through. It was also nice to get out of the rain! After the museum we decided to go and hit the pubs. 😉

We walked to Temple Bar (the pub district) before arriving at Oliver St. John Gogharty.

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(Thanks, street!)

The pub was quite packed but we managed to squeeze into a table in the back. It was great because we got to people watch. Once we were there we had a beer. Sean had some Guinness and I had a Harp.

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The beer was actually quite expensive – especially after getting used to other prices in Euro. After our beer we continued walking throughout Temple Bar. We saw an Elephant and Castle, and then ended up in another pub: The Quays Bar. We got some more beer and enjoyed the live music.

After some brewskis we decided to go get some dinner. I had read reviews of a vegetarian diner called Cornucopia. It was cafeteria style but apparently had some really delicious food. We walked there, settled in (eventually), and we got to eating some delicious grub!

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(Seitan casserole, sprout salad, bean salad)

After eating dinner we called it a night and went back to the hotel. We had a jam packed schedule for the following day and Sean needed to study for his exam.

Europe – Amsterdam: Night Life

3 Oct

This is the seventeenth instalment of my Travel Thursday feature where I talk about my time in Europe. To see previous instalments, click on the appropriate banner.

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November 24th, 2012:

After a bit of a whirl wind mid-October/early November we took a small break from travelling. While I was in Berlin I had seen an ad for a concert that I wanted to see. Unfortunately, there was no way to get there. However! I did discover that Florence + the Machine were playing in Amsterdam on November 24th. I was extremely excited about having an opportunity to see Florence + the Machine. I found out that the tickets for the concert were all sold out… But I didn’t let that deter me!

I find a website where people were selling their tickets (based in the U.K., where it may not be illegal? Not sure on this detail) to the concert. I promptly overpaid and bought mine and Sean’s tickets. I didn’t care. I had to see them. That’s how much I love them. I can’t even imagine how many times I’ve listened to Between Two Lungs or Ceremonials at the yoga studio. When I taught class I always made sure to squeeze a Florence + the Machine song (or two or three) into my playlist.

Prior to Europe I had only ever gone to three concerts. After arriving in Europe I had already seen three! Elvenking (a band Sean likes, I enjoy them too though), Kamelot, and Imagine Dragons. It seems like Euro was the place for me to get into concerts. Florence + the Machine was my holy grail of concerts because in order to see them in Canada I would have to travel out of the Atlantic provinces to get the chance.

Sean and I realized that we wouldn’t be able to take a train back to Maastricht after the concert so we would have to spend a night in Amsterdam. That itself was difficult to organize because no good/cheap hostels offered a room for one night. The only options were either expensive beds in an 18 bed dorm (CRAZY after being in Berlin for so cheap) or paying slightly more for a private room. When our options were expensive and slightly more expensive I went for slightly more for the opportunity to have some privacy.

We scoped out the museums and everything else we wanted to do. We knew we wanted to go to the Van Gogh museum, the Rijksmuseum, and the Anne Frank House. We bought Anne Frank tickets in advance in order to avoid the crazy lines we had seen previously in Amsterdam. We found a pass called the Holland Pass where it gave you free access to the two museums we wanted and some other benefits. We went with it since it was slightly cheaper than paying for the museums separately.

We arrived in Amsterdam and picked up the Holland Pass while at the train station. We then walked to the Van Gogh museum and took in the lovely sights.

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(Canals)

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(Church)

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(I love the buildings and how tall and lean they are)

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(Cute cafe set up over a canal)

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(Spinoza)

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(Pretty details on the bridge)

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(Canal)

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(The building on the right (black) is actually pulling away from the brick building on it’s left!)

While we were in Amsterdam the Van Gogh museum had temporarily moved to a new location while they renovated the museum. They still had a rather lovely exhibit. It was really informative about his life and featured some beautiful artwork. I enjoyed seeing his Sunflowers, Irises, and Almond Flowers.

After the museum we were supposed to meet with the lady who takes care of the hostel we rented. She kept pushing the time further and further back on us which was extremely frustrating as we had a tight schedule. We grabbed a quick dinner (soup), ate in the rain, and then eventually she had her neighbour bring us into the hostel. The hostel was sandwiched between two shops on a busy street. You’d have no idea it was there unless you went looking for it. The hostel itself was a let down. I had booked a double room which means two beds. Well, it had two beds but one was on a mattress frame and the other was on the floor. The one on the floor also didn’t have a legitimate pillow. It was stuffed with towels. The hostel also required a 50 Euro safety deposit which really sucked.

We sucked it up though since it was just for the night and got over it. We had really wanted to go on the Red Light District Walking Tour which was given through the Prostitution Information Centre. The tour started at 6PM but because of the delays with the hostel we didn’t think we’d make it. We called ahead, explained our situation, and asked if they could possibly wait for us… And thankfully they agreed (I think they gave a brief history lesson before beginning the walk which allowed us to go out with them still)! We got onto the tram and booked it there. We just managed to get there as they were leaving.

The tour was really interesting. It’s put on by the PIC and is normally led by a former prostitute. However, in our case the lady leading our tour wasn’t a former prostitute but had actually completed a Master’s degree in the history of prostitution in Amsterdam (one of two people apparently). She was really knowledgable and overall a great tour guide!

Amsterdam has a really rich history which she gave us extensive information on. She also informed us about how the Red Light District works (and why) which was really fascinating. When we think of prostitution we tend to think of things like pimps, etc, but in Amsterdam the girls typically work for themselves. They rent a window where they think the most profitable area will be and make their own independent money.

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(Red Light District at night)

She told us how typically the girls charge 50 Euros for 15 minutes. I guess a lot of guys complain about this but it tends to be sufficient time (apparently 3 mins is the average time it takes). While she was telling us this though I saw a gentleman go in and then as she was finishing, walk out! It was pretty comical.

After the walking tour we tried to dry off a bit (rain) and we then headed to the Heineken arena for the Florence + the Machine concert! I was so excited about this. We managed to get a nice spot on the floor to wait and we were pretty close to the stage. Spector opened up for the concert. I hadn’t heard them before. They were okay.

Then it was Florence + the Machine time!!!

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(Joy!!!)

WOW. What a concert! It was SO WORTH THE PRICE. I enjoyed every second of this concert and was extremely sad when it finished. I even wrote down the playlist so later on I could go back and “recreate” the experience for me. 🙂

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(Killing it!)

After the concert we caught the train and then the tram back to our hostel. We had thought about checking out the night life but we were exhausted. We got back to our hostel and tried to sleep. Unfortunately we found out that the wall separating our room from the next wasn’t actually a wall… It was a really thin sliding door. So when they came home at 4AM they woke us up since they were talking so loudly and playing some terrible music really loudly. It was the pits.

November 25th, 2012:

In the morning we booked it out of the hostel (after collecting our 50 Euro deposit). We had time to kill before going to the Anne Frank house so we decided to go to the Rijksmuseum.

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(Vondelpark was nearby so we took a quick peak)

We got to the Rijksmuseum only to find out that we couldn’t get in with the Holland pass!!! Apparently they give you two tickets: a windmill and a flower, and they’re worth different denominations! The Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum were worth the same “windmill” and so we couldn’t get in! We were extremely pissed about this as this was the whole reason why we bought the pass.

We decided to just head towards the Anne Frank house and see what we could do there instead. It was a really nice walk.

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(More beautiful canals. The glass houses on the right hand side contained a flower market)

We found a flower market on our way to the Anne Frank house. We stopped to pick up some Dutch china as presents and took some pictures of the bulbs as Holland is famous for their tulips. Every year they send a bunch of tulips to Ottawa as a thanks for the help Canadians provided during the war.

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(Beautiful flowers)

Across from the flower market we found a restaurant. We went and had some brekkie. Sean had toasts and eggs while I ordered a pancake. I knew that the Dutch pancakes were more like a crepe than an American pancake so I was happy with mine. I got it with chocolate sauce with a smoothie on the side.

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(Yum!)

After breakfast we continued walking to the Anne Frank house. We passed by some cool graffiti.

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(The Ronald McDonald cracks me up)

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(Really cool)

Eventually we made it to the Anne Frank house! The line up was still insane (you can see people lined up in the photo). We were glad we had previously booked tickets. They let us in prior to our “ticket time”.

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(Anne Frank House in the glass)

The Anne Frank house was amazing. They had preserved the house well. You go through the house and see different components as an interactive experience. For example you see the warehouse that her father was running. Then you go up the stairs and there’s a bookcase which is actually a door. Behind the door are some very steep stairs (the norm in Holland) and you head upstairs to the secret rooms above the warehouse.

The rooms are well maintained. Anne’s room even still has the wall art she plastered on there! It was very cool to see this house in real life and being able to explore it. To be honest I was surprised by how large it was.

After all my trips to Krakow, Berlin, and Holland I felt really overwhelmed with the amount of WWII information I had collected. It was really overpowering and kind of a mind game to see these things in real life after hearing about them for so long. It’s one thing to read about these events but quite another to experience the places first hand.

After the Anne Frank house we walked back to the train station to take us to Maastricht. We found the I amsterdam sign and took some photos.

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(I amsterdam!)

Eventually we got to the train station and went back to Maastricht. I enjoyed my time in Amsterdam but I feel like I got a bit burned by the city to be honest. I still feel a bit frustrated when I think about the hostel and the museum pass. Neither were worth it. While those experiences bug me, I’m extremely satisfied with the concert and that is definitely what made Amsterdam worth it in my eyes.

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(Weird but cool graffiti on the way to the trains)

Europe – Berlin: The Holocaust

26 Sep

This is the sixteenth instalment of my Travel Thursday feature where I talk about my time in Europe. To see previous instalments, click on the appropriate banner.

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November 6th, 2012:

This was our last day in Berlin. We didn’t have a whole day but we had a later flight so we were able to fit some stuff in before going to the airport. It was also Tita’s birthday!!!

We decided to all go out for breakfast to celebrate Tita’s birthday. We went to a cute cafe but there wasn’t enough space for the seven of us. We walked on in search of a place to have some brekkie.

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(Where is this pipe going?!)

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(This was the window cover for a jewellery shop. I LOVE this picture, and I love how someone knit a cozy for the pipe)

We eventually found a restaurant that was open and could handle seven people. This was the bar.

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We ordered breakfast and had fun. Marta had bought Tita a sweet new hat which she loved. 🙂

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(My breakfast: eggs, cheese, green onion, toast, and veggies. All for 4 Euros!!!)

After breakfast the group split up. Tita wanted to go shopping, Marta wanted to go on a walking tour, and Sean and I wanted to go to the Birkenstock store.

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(The holy grail of shops)

I was so excited to go to a Birkenstock store! I got a sweet pair of Birks and also bought a pair for my mom. They were really cheap (compared to prices here). After grabbing some Birks, Sean and I went and got some SBux. They had some cool Christmas specials (Gingerbread Latte and Toffee Nut Latte). After refuelling with some caf we went to the Brandenburger Tor.

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(Brandenburg Gate and some protestors)

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(Top of the gate)

After the Brandenburg Gate we went to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (also known as the Holocaust Memorial).

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(The Memorial)

The Memorial was breathtaking as they had varying sizes of concrete slabs. It was designed to create a feeling of uneasiness to represent a system that has lost touch with reality.

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(More of the Memorial)

Underneath this memorial is a separate part which serves as almost an information “desk” about the Holocaust. There are a series of exhibits that follow Jewish families throughout the Holocaust. One room houses diary excepts. Another room focuses on reading the biographies of everyone who died during the Holocaust. It would take six years, seven months, and 27 days to read all the biographies.

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(The biography room)

There’s also a section to search for people who may have been related to you to see if they were involved in the Holocaust.

After the Memorial we walked back to our hostel. The Brandenburg Gate is right next to the hotel where Michael Jackson famously dangled his baby out of the window.

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We went back to the hostel and collected our bags before waiting for the metro. We bought some Kinder Eggs and ate them while waiting! I got a neat toy of the subway trains in Berlin, haha.

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Berlin was phenomenal! Again, there was so much more we could have done but I’m satisfied with what we did. It just leaves more for us to do in the future. 🙂

Europe – Berlin: Walking with the Elephants

19 Sep

This is the fifteenth instalment of my Travel Thursday feature where I talk about my time in Europe. To see previous instalments, click on the appropriate banner.

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November 5th, 2012:

Sean and I were super excited to go to the Berlin Zoo when we knew we were going to Berlin. This was the day we finally got to go!

First off: This zoo is awesome. It is huge. If you’re ever in Berlin, GO TO THE ZOO. It’s really worth it but make sure you keep the day open for it. That’s how huge it is.

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Here is the map for the zoo. It literally took us all day and we just squeaked into the restaurant in time for dinner. The zoo entrance is right by the elephant exhibit! I was really excited to see elephants.

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(So cute!)

I have a ridiculous number of photos from this zoo. I’ll try to limit the amount I post, haha. It was a HUGE zoo though. They had almost every animal imaginable: elephants, lions, jaguars, bats, foxes, wolves, hyenas (!), penguins, polar bears (!!!), etc etc.

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(Arctic foxes)

I was really excited to see the hyenas but they were sleeping so no go for me. It was a tad disappointing but at the same time the weather was icky and they’re more of a nocturnal animal anyways. 🙂

Our ticket for the zoo also let us go to the aquarium. The aquarium was three levels: the first was the aquarium, then reptiles, then bugs. The aquarium was really cool.

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(Seahorse)

After the zoo we quickly went to the Beate Uhse Erotic Museum which was actually a museum about a German woman who created a company that specializes in adult toys, haha.

Afterwards we met up with Tita and her friends. Iris had heard of a restaurant that was apparently very good but it was packed. We moved on to a different restaurant, Tulcholsky. For dinner I ordered a pumpkin soup to start (never met anything pumpkin I haven’t liked!).

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(Seasoned with pumpkin seeds)

Sean got a garlic soup which was pretty tasty.

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(I don’t even want to know about the calories)

For dinner Sean and I both had the vegetarian casserole! It was sooo good.

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(My yummy casserole, complete with tons of hollandaise sauce and cheese!)

If you look at the dish in the top right corner of this picture you can see a part of the pork knuckle Iris ordered. This thing was MASSIVE. Easily 5 pounds. She couldn’t finish it and ended up giving the rest to the other boys to finish (since Sean is veg too).

After dinner we headed back to the hostel and called it a night.

What’s New

18 Sep

Wow! Once again, it’s been a while. 

I started my MSc in Neuroscience on September 6th. I’ve been a busy bee since then. Since the end of the August, I’ve moved into my mom’s house (house sitting while she travels for 3 months) so it’s been really nice to have our own space. I’m also taking care of her pets (dog, bunny, and two guinea pigs). I’ve been settling back into living on our own, but also back into the mindset of being a student. 

What else is new… Well, we currently have an abundance of herbs growing which is great. We have fresh basil, mint, rosemary, chives, green onion, and we even have an jalapeño plant! It has some of spiciest jalapeños we’ve ever tasted.

I started doing an energy exchange program through a local studio which gives me unlimited yoga for each week I go to my shift. It’s a great opportunity because I’ve really missed being involved in the yoga community. I’m also grateful to get free yoga in exchange, as it’s really out of my price range as a student.

I am currently learning how to knit. It’s been a frustrating yet fun experience so far! I think it’s good for me because I’m such a perfectionist that I really don’t like doing anything that I’m not immediately great at (haha). It’s teaching me to be more patient and to be more gentle on myself which I definitely need.

In general, I’ve been up to life. I’m still running and doing some yoga here and there. I know I need to get into a more focused schedule though.

Anyways, that’s all I have for now! Hopefully I’ll soon be back here on a more regular schedule. 🙂