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a travel blog by ECRadventure

Just a little trip. A little trip of freedom to do what you choose, think and feel with passion and creativity, to love, to live, to be.
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Lagos, private rooms and a small taste of life away from a dorm room

Lagos, Portugal

Welcome to Portugal, home of port and fried fish! We stumbled upon a really great find in Casa Amarela, which is a small house that rents out appartments for a rate supper close to a hostel dorm. We had our own private appartment, furnished with everything you would ask for! It was a great break for us to get away from the dorms and to have some time away from all of the strangers we normally sleep with! The owners actually offered to take us up to a small village in the mountains outside of Lisbon, which we sadly had to decline as we had made a few plans ahead of time. For the future we are going to try to live more day by day so that when opportunities like this come up, we are free to follow through!

We didn't get up to too much in Lagos, just relaxed and walked around the city. We made one walk out of the city to the famous rock formations out along the coast of the city. They have a few that are close to the city, just out side of the marina and some that are a 4-5 km walk out of the city. The walk is worth the sights, as the formations are much more extensive outside of the city.

Lagos is a quaint little tourist town that is small and homey. There are a few little shops to get local produce and fresh baked goods, all within a few streets of each other. Then, if you are so inclined the nightlife goes until the wee hours of the morning. After a little stumbling block with the bus schedule, we are off to Lisbon!

permalink written by  ECRadventure on May 29, 2009 from Lagos, Portugal
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Lisbon... were we really even here?

Lisbon, Portugal

Well, Lisbon, we really didn't get up to a whole lot here. The first day we weren't able to get into the city until 21:00 because we missed the bus in Lagos, which really slowed down our day. The first night we wandered around the city to find a place to eat and settled on a fantastic little chinese food place just down the street from our hostel. After that we wandered some more to find the city alive with several cultural festivals. The first one was a fish fry and dqncers/singers. The second one a few blocks away, filled the city square and featured 'the houses of Lisbon'. There were many stalls set up and each house featured their specialties from wine, to cheese, sausage, and many other things. After watching a few shows it was off to bed!

The second day was simply spent wandering around the city, seeing the sites, and trying to get our bearings. We didn't manage to see anything but the outside of the buildings' and seemed to spend most of the day searching for a cheap place to eat and for a bathroom. At night there were not a lot of things open or much going on in the city, so we relaxed at the hostel, watched a movie with some new friends and were off to sleep!

The next day as we were leaving, just down the street from our hostel we stumbled upon an eFOG cell!! We noticed that they were stock piling tires on the top floor of this building for future attacks against the FOG. The incident was handled with extreme caution and the threat was neutralized!

Off on the train to Porto to see and do hopefully a lot more than we did in Lisbon!

permalink written by  ECRadventure on June 1, 2009 from Lisbon, Portugal
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Porto! Vintage, LBV, Tawny, white, chip dry!!!

Porto, Portugal

Porto, the city of Port! It was great to finally see the place that makes such a fantastic drink possible! The first day, as always was spent getting used to the city. This started off unusual for us, as we got a little lost, the first time on our trip. Well, we were not lost, but rather simply could not find the hostel. We walked in circles for at least an hour and a half. Finally we were able to find the unmarked door that lead us upstairs. It turns out that this hostel is not yet registered with the city and they are not allowed yet to put up any signage! The Cinema hostel is quite nice though and in a great location in the heart of the city and a great rooftop patio. The owners are a group of middle 20's couples.

The second day of our visit to Porto was spent wandering the city, and crossing the river to Vila Nova de Gaia, where Port actually comes from to see all of the houses that make Port. Instead of trying to see as many Port houses as we could, we settled on spending some quality time at Taylor Fladgate. We did a Port tasting, and went on a tour of the Port house. We learned a lot more about Port, almost enough to be a connoisseur I would say! The Fladgate house is a really great stop, although not where you would expect it, it's high up on the hill. A great quote we heard was that 'In Porto, if you are going downhill you are going the wrong way!' I would like to give you all a summary of Port, but really, I think that there are only a few who would appreciate this, so I will spare the majority the pain.

The kitchen in the hostel was quite nice so we were finally able to stay put and make our own meals each day. It was so nice to have some veggies, fruit and of course German hot dogs from a jar! Porto is a city known for a relatively quiet night life. SO, as we were staying in the cinema hostel, we stayed in with some other guests debated, drank Port, and ended the night with popcorn and a movie. The last day in Porto we wandered the city a little more in search of a nice Port shop, and for those who visit the city, head to the river, as the other shops are not nearly as nice!

permalink written by  ECRadventure on June 4, 2009 from Porto, Portugal
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Fantastic Time with Family!

Lyon, France

Lyon... what an amazing city, and even better company! Although we were here for a short time it will be remembered for a very long time. We stayed at my (Ewa) families house right off the Rhone, it was amazing to see them as I had not seen them since my communion in Germany 20 years ago, and hadnt met the new additions to the family yet.

Ewa, Cecilia, Michal, Ariane, and Mathilda were amazing and made us feel like we had been in each others lives all this time. We hope to keep in touch and see all of you soon! And to finally see you Jacek!
We spent our time in Lyon visiting and discovering the city; we were treated to a behind the scenes tour of the gorgeous Lyon Opera house where Jacek plays in the Opera orchestra and Michael sings, it was absolutely stunning. The Opera house used to be a theater, re-designed by a famous architect Jean Nouvel. It is a combination of old and new and it is awesome, Michael took us all around the opera house showing us all the different rehearsal spaces, the ballet rehearsal hall, the orchestra rehearsal space and explained all the technical aspects of the sound and insulation, redesign... basically everything! Thank you Michal!!!

We also saw the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière that sits high atop the Fourvière. It was built between 1872 and 1876 in the typical Baroque style of the period and offers a magnificent view over the city.

We spent an afternoon strolling the old town portion of Lyon and enjoying a bike ride through the park of the golden head, eating fantastic food and spending time with the family. Throughout our stay we were treated to amazing meals, typical of French cuisine. Two deliscious quiche dishes, fresh croissants and chocolate bread, crepes, and a number of other unique creations!! The entire visit the Piwkowski's went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and at home and by the end we certainly did, to the point of not wanting to leave. But, there are many other stops to see... now off to Dijon!

We can not say enough about how much we enjoyed our visit it was unforgetable.

permalink written by  ECRadventure on June 7, 2009 from Lyon, France
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Dijon... rained out!

Dijon, France

Well, we headed into Dijon with high hopes of visiting some vinyards and doing a few bicycle trips with wine and french baugettes. However, when we arrived and almost for the entire stay, it rained. Needless to say, we did not really get to see a lot of the country side. The hostel where we were staying at was a fair distance from the town and there were no shops, stores or restaurants near by. We even ended up having to eat breakfast at Ikea one morning as everything else within walking distance was closed! One night we managed to make it into town for a kebab supper and a few pints at an Irish bar (again the only things open in the downtown area). The other night, we stayed in, ordered Pizza and had some wine in our room. There were no other real highlights to mention... the pizza was good though!

permalink written by  ECRadventure on June 10, 2009 from Dijon, France
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Paris, France

permalink written by  ECRadventure on June 15, 2009 from Paris, France
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Paris and then Caen. Paris blog is not working! Caen... war memorials and lost sunnies...

Caen, France

SO, for some reason the Paris blog is not working, so we will toss in the information on Paris into the Caen blog.

Paris the city of lights, love, art and bread! The city is a little on the expensive side, for accommodations, and for nightlife. Not that there is a lack of it in the city, it just may not be as cheap as you would like it to be. The people are welcoming and friendly. With things being so expensive, it is easy to try to sustain yourself on a diet of bread! IT's also not that tough, as the bread in France, the croissants and pain du chocolate are all amazing! We spent 5 very busy days in Paris, we wanted to see a lot! We got in a bit late from Dijon but managed to fit in the Louvre, the biggest museum in Paris.

The Louvre is so big that it is impossible to see all works of art in one day let alone a few hours but we strolled around and saw the Mona Lisa and got lost trying to find Venus De Milo. We managed to see a lot of the museum over the four hours that we were there. Day two we did a walking tour and got to know some history of the city and the major sights. Paris, as all of Europe, has such a rich history that it's hard to sum it up into a few hours, but to get the jist is usually better than nothing. Since we obviously hadn't walked enough on the 5 hour walking tour we thought it would be a great idea to do a few more hours of exploring on our own, and then hit up the next best museum in Paris: Musee D'Orsay. Displayed were works by Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Degas, Renoir and many many more. The first two days we spent up at the Hostel Montclair in Monmarte. A great area of the city, which we happened not to visit until later in the trip. The hostel is in a great location and the Metro is Paris runs EVERYWhere and the stops are very frequent. Although it can easily take 45 minutes to get from one end of the city to the other. The lines are easy to get around and take you everywhere you want to be.

Day three we spent at Versailles. All day we visited the grounds which were built by Louis the fourteeth to the grand palace and grounds that they are today at around 800 hectares. The palace grounds also include seperate residances that Marie Antoinette lived and entertained in. One of her residances is pink on the outside and one of the bedrooms furtniture is entirely in hot fusia. It was such a nice hot day that we decided to take a small row boat onto the canals in the park...Chad did all the rowing ha :)

The following day we visited Sacre Coeur, a bascillica in a great location; in one of the nicest quarters (Monmarte) in France, on top of a hill and overlooking all of Paris. Since it was a Saturday a lot of people were out and about, vendors, tourists and street performers. In the evening we went on a boat tour of Paris on the Seine river and saw the city's most stunning monuments, historical buildings, and ornate bridges, including from a bit of a different angle: Notre Dame Cathedral, Eiffel Tower, Musee du Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Pont Neuf (Paris' oldest bridge, dating to the 16th century), Pont Alexandre III (Art Nouveau bridge dating to 1896), Grand Palais (Belle Epoque building housing National Galleries) and The Bridge in the The Sex in the City episode where Big finds Carrie in France tee hee, as well as the building where a scene from Bourne identity was filmed.

The next day we visited the inside of Notre Dame and St. Chappelle both very beautiful churches. Afterwards we strolled over to the Eiffel Tower sat under it drinking a few cold ones and enjoying the view. The last three days were spent in a two star hotel just on the edge of the city center. It is a fair commute on the metro from these areas, but it is a great place to get a private hotel room for fairly cheap.
Ewa and I are finding that the private hotels on the edge of the city are the way to go, as long as they are connected to the metro system. We have not been the party-goers of our youth, but have been spending a lot of the nights more quiet, talking with people in the hostels, or chatting between ourselves. The clubbing days of the past, seem to be just that... more of the past. That's not to say that we don't still party once in a while, but now, it seems we have other higher priorities. The next day we are off to Caen to see the DDay beaches!

As a side note, touring around France is very easy by Train. There are very many slower trains that make multiple trips between all of the cities. For visits between any of the major cities there are also high speed trains that take less time, but are a little more expensive to travel on. We found trains to be the easiest to travel in France and Spain. However, in Portugal, busses are still the way to go!

Caen started out with a trip to lostville. Entering the city, we had no map, which is very disconcerting to Chad in any situation. We managed to wander around the city for a little while, to discover that the directions that the hostel provided were inaccurate. Even better was that we were lost, on the Route d'ifs. Street of if's! After finding the hostel, we were informed that we were not allowed to check in and that there were a number other restrictions to the hostel. French youth hostels run by the youth orgainization are really for young workers or families looking for a place to stay, not so much for travellers. The first day was essentially wandering around the city, waiting for access to the hostel, and then settling down to an awesome home made curry!

Day two, we had to switch hostels to a hotel in the city. The hotel leSavoy was a nice hotel, and in the end, cost the same price as the hostel did the night before! This day, we were off to see the WWII memorials at Juno Beach just outside of Caen. This is the beach where 14,000 Canadians landed during WWII on D-Day. There is a newly created memorial that is located right on the beach head. The memorial is actually rather large, and it was nice to see that there are a number of people who are visiting it. It really is something that would take the better part of a day to walk through and see it all. We thought that it was fitting to go and see some of the WWII sights, which shaped so much of our current lives. Especially to see some that are more relevant to us as Canadians. There is still one of the old Germand bunkers built on the beach that is preserved for the museum.

The second night and the third day were spent wandering around the city of Caen. The downtown is a small, fresh city. There are blooming flowers all over the city, and for once, the city smells far more of fresh flowers than urine! Although we did see a number of people peeing on the street and one poor woman, whose bag suffered a direct hit of a run-off urine stream from one of the random men peeing in the street. Most of the city was destroyed during WWII, but it was rebuilt in the similar fashion to the original city and is easily walkable from one end to the other.

The one sad note, is that Chad lost his second pair of glasses while spending some time in the internet cafe uploading pictures. At least this pair was only worht 5€! Off on the overnight ferry to Portsmouth England!!

permalink written by  ECRadventure on June 17, 2009 from Caen, France
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Portsmouth, recovery from overnight ferrys, reading and sleeping.

Portsmouth, United Kingdom

We arrived in Portsmouth and took our first taxi to the hostel, as the folks at the ferry terminal informed us it would be about a pound more expensive for the taxi as the bus and we would have to walk 20 min in the opposite direction to even get to a bus stop. Well, they lied, or maybe didn't know what they were talking about. No more taxis! Busses and feet are all that's required ;) (Says Chad lol)

We settled into the hostel after wandering around the city for 5 hours until we could check in. The morning was great weather for costal England, however we couldn't wait to head back to the hostel for some sleep as the overnight ferry from Caen was a wreck. Stormy waters, cold rooms and uncomfortable chairs meant very little (Chad) and no

sleep (Ewa). The first day, after checking out a little of the town and sleeping, there wasn't much left to do!

The second day, after sleeping in a little, we simply toured around the town, checking out the boardwalk, some memorials, the carnival on the pier, minigolf,

and then just toured around the town more. The hostel here is the southside backpackers, and it's an alright place, but they have a strict curfew on the common area of 11:30, which although it limits your night, is a good way to enforce catching up on sleep I suppose. We met a really interesting guy by the name of Michael, who is from Ireland, and is in a similar situation as us, he is selling his property, and getting away from the day to day grind to travel the world. Hopefully somewhere along the way we'll be able to catch up with him again as the conversations were interesting!

Tomorrow off early in the morning to meet up with Luigi and Delaine in London!!

permalink written by  ECRadventure on June 19, 2009 from Portsmouth, United Kingdom
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London! Luigi brought the party back!

London, United Kingdom

London Baby!

We pulled into London, out of the Bayswater metro stop, and within 40 steps we managed to bump into Luigi and Delaine as they were picking up some coffee and snacks in a little side shop. Perfect timing. We jumped off to the apparment we rented, just a few steps down the road, dropped off our bags and headed to Hyde park for a couple of hours of walking around to kill time before we could check in and get some much needed sleep for Luigi and Delaine. Turned out that we needed some sleep too, because 3 hours later, we all woke up, and started to get ready for the night out. We made plans to meet up with one of our friend Roberta's friends who lives here in London. So, after a great meal at a pub down the street from the hotel, we were off in search of Maria, whom we had never met before.

We ended up at a big club, just outside of a metro stop. The night was a long party, getting to know Maria, dancing away and catching up with Lu and Delaine. The night ended in the wee hours of the morning and was a great excuse to sleep in... late.

We were up in the afternoon, and cooked a light breakfast in the room and were off to see the Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar square, Picadilly Circus, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Eye of London and all of the other sights in the Westminster area of town. By the time that we were done walking around that day, it was 8pm and time to head back to the hotel and out for dinner.

The Queensway avenue right off the hotel is a great place for shops and restaurants. We ducked into a small but busy Indian place. The food was really great, and we ordered many great curries. However, the waiters were awful! You would almost say that they were trying to be rude to you. Maybe it was just a bad day. That night, we decided to hang out at the hotel, and play cards, and have drinks in, to cut down on the millions of dollars that were spent at the nightclub the night before. It was a great night, lots of laughs and tense moments during the card games! Luigi and Chad managed to have the stamina to stay up until dawn! Needless to say, with such a long night, it managed to be another really long sleep in on the second night.

The third day, after sleeping in and another home made breakfast, we were off to the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge and London Bridge. We walked in the Southbank area along the Queensway walk. We saw the Tate Museum, the Globe theater, a few funky districts and a market that was supposed to be really great, if it wasn't that we had arrived hours after it already had closed! We went for dinner at an amazing Thai place and had a quiet night in. It was so great to reconnect with friends, and made us super happy and at the same time sad when we had to part ways with Lu and Delaine. Thanks guys we had a blast!

permalink written by  ECRadventure on June 23, 2009 from London, United Kingdom
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Salisbury... Stonehenge and Sarum hill

Salisbury, United Kingdom

Salisbury, a quick train ride from London is a charming little city. Easy to get around and very friendly. We checked into our hotel The Citilodge just outside of the old town square. The two days we spent here we had great weather and were able to get some relaxing time in, after our hectic days with Lu and Delaine!

The first day, after the train from London we spent just getting used to the town, and wandering around. The town has a really great mix of accessible stores and old narrow streets, all blended with friendly people and fresh flowers everywhere.

The second day we were up early for our Stonehenge and Sarum hill tour. We hopped on a tour bus, that provided direct transportation from Salisbury to Amesbury site of the huge Avebury ruins, where we decided not to get off. From Amesbury, we headed down the hiway, past Sarum, to Stonehenge. The ruins are really amazing, imagining all of the thousands of years of civilization who added to the site and wondering at the uses. Stonehenge is a novel in itself, I encourage everyone to look it up, the mystery around this site is really out of this world. We stopped to have a picnic around the burial mounds north of Stonehenge.

After that we went to see Sarum hill, which is another amazing site. A mound of dirt, piled up over centuries, or at the very least the HUGE ditches that surround the castle in concentric circles (a model of the real site that can be found in the Salisbury Cathedral in the town center at the bottom of this entry). The fortress would have been nearly impregnable in the midevil era.

The next day was a day of panic, as we tried in vain to find internet in this small town, and phone services to complete the mortgage for the sale of our house. We ran into so many issues with the mortgage company and the lawfirm. A day and a half of panic later everything was sorted out. We up early the next day to visit the Salisbury Cathedral. This Cathedral was built as the one on top of old Sarum hill was torn down. It survived the WWII bombing because the bombers used it as a landmark on their run into London. It is medevil Europe's tallest spire.

permalink written by  ECRadventure on June 25, 2009 from Salisbury, United Kingdom
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