Day 9-15 Namibia

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Day 9

On the ninth day we went for a second time to Etosha national park, after a breakfast just as exquisite as the dinner at our accommodation we left to continue our way through the park. Re-entering through the Anderson gate at sunrise hoping to spot as much animals as we could at the crack of dawn. Right away after we passed through Okaukuejo camp we got lucky by seeing a hyena on the sight of the road. Now looking back on our trip through Etosha that hyena made the most impression on me. Of course, I mean, I was already stunned at the sight of elephants and  giraffes, massive animals that they are. But such animals can be spotted at the zoo, in children’s books, postcards. Not saying that any of those things come close to seeing them in the wild. But a hyena, I had never seen I hyena before, sure like on the Lion King depicted as awful creatures, or maybe they popped by on an image somewhere. But in real life, I was so impressed by that single hyena I saw standing on the sight of the road, half bear- half dog like. After we spotted the hyena, we continued our way from water hole to waterhole, honestly not spotting much more then zebra’s.  Until at a certain point a congestion of cars appeared, and being a wild park, if there are a lot of cars there is something special to spot. And yes there was, a rhino was hiding in the bushes just on the side of the road, 2 out of the big 5, check.  After the rhino we went to our last waterhole, we made our way back to Okaukuejo camp for some lunch. The lunch was not that great, besides Okaukuejo being overcrowded the food was also real bad. We paid about double the price we would pay at any other buffet in Namibia, and there was only choice out blank white rice, potatoes and salad. I mean, again I have nothing to complain Namibian buffets had been great so far, but it was just a bit of a disappointment. After lunch we went to the small museum at the camp, and after that we went back to our accommodation. Where again we chilled at the pool, and of course I had to go for a hike again.  I hiked past the viewing point I had been the day before and walked up to a small hideout. The hideout was great besides a small family of warthogs, there were hundreds upon hundreds of small birds. They were flying around in big flocks stopping at different trees, the only sound you could hear was all our their tiny wings flapping in the air, it was truly wonderful. We stayed in the hideout for a while watching all the birds, when we walked back I started getting dark so we went to the bar for a bit and after that we had delicious dinner again.

Day 10

Day 10 was going to be our third day in the park, once more we drove through the Anderson gate. Making our way to our next destination Halili Camp. Yet again we drove from waterhole to waterhole, spotting plenty of animals, slowly the once majestic giraffes and elephants grew to be like cows in the field. I was still fine with driving around and seeing all the different animals, but my fellow travellers were a bit sick of siting in the car all day. Since you can’t exit the car because of dangerous animals. You could only exit at rest stops, which I still find a bit strange, because why wouldn’t there be dangerous animals at rest stops. But anyway the mood was a bit down that day. We were almost at our last stop, when we saw number 3 out of 5. At a waterhole we didn’t wanted to stop at first, we spotted some female lions. Of course the whole places was crowded with cars, but we still had a front row seat at a female lion drinking from the waterhole. I must say it was pretty cool and fortunately it brought the vacation spirit back in our car. After that waterhole we went to our accommodation in Halili Camp. Again it was a bit overcrowded, but what did I expect when it was high-season and one of the major accommodations in the park. They however had a beautiful waterhole where is spent my afternoon reading, since hiking wasn’t an option. In the evening we had dinner at the camp, which wasn’t that great, but at least better than in Okaukuejo. After dinner we went the waterhole at the camp, like all the camp guests. Because it was dark just after sundown it was the best place to spot animals. The main act were three rhinos, walking around the whole evening quarreling with each other. Besides that also some hyena’s came to the waterhole (yay). And later that evening a whole herd of elephants appeared, small ones, big ones, pretty majestic.

Day 11

Day 11 was our last day in the park, we mostly just drove pretty quick through it. Still spotting some lions, also a male one this time. And once more we spotted a big herd of elephants, this time in day light so that was very fortunate. We arrived rather early at our next accommodation which I found to be quite a shame, since around the place, there wasn’t much to do. It was still a great place, with a lovely dinner.

Day 12

Since we kind off had wasted the day before, this day we decides to do some classical sightseeing again. So we visited the Hoba-meteorite, it was a fun visit, but at the end of the day it was just a massive rock that didn’t feel like much special. After our visit to the meteorite we went to the city of Otjiwarongo, where we first had some lunch and some drinks, and afterwards we visited the famous crocodile farm it the city. I had never been on a crocodile farm before, so it was a nice experience. It was especially great to get some information about the Nile crocodile, their history and such. It was a fun visit but wouldn’t necessarily recommend. Afterwards we went to our accommodation, gorgeous lodges in the middle of nowhere, with a great restaurant.

Day 13

On the thirteenth I was literally stoked because we had planned to visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund. The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is a non-profit organization that basically, well the name already says it, helps with the conservation of cheetahs in Namibia. Since Namibia has the highest population of the cheetahs in Africa, and they are endangered by farm life and bigger cats . At the fund we booked a tour to drive around on the plot, visiting the cheetahs that couldn’t  be released in to the wild anymore, and we also visited a new project they have been working on with dogs. It made up for a pretty fun morning activity, and I loved seeing cheetahs up close like that, and of course the money you spend goes to a good cause so that was also pretty nice. In the afternoon we drove to the Waterberg Plateau park. In the park itself we had some lunch, and after that we went for a hike up to the plateau. It was marked as an “easy hike” but it literally felt more like rock climbing. Nonetheless it was an amazing hike, albeit a rough one. Right at the start of it we saw a dikdiks in the grass, the cutest and perhaps silliest animal ever. A dikdiks is the smallest antelope if I remember correctly but to me it looked more like a big rabbit than an antelope. Along the hike we also saw some babboons in the distance but we didn’t spot any wildlife besides that. The hike itself was truly gorgeous, and the view at the end of it was also totally worth it. The hike back was even worse than going up we accidentally went on a steeper path down, then the original hiking route. But still, I love me some hiking, so totally worth it. Afterwards we exited the park, and we went back to our accommodation. After dinner we played some cards and then we made our way to bed.

Day 14

On the 14th day, sadly enough we had to make our way back to Windhoek, since we were going to leave the day after. We left our beautiful accommodation, and we went for a last morning activity. Since the CCF was such a success the day before, we decided that we also wanted to visit Africat which is another non-profit conservation organization, they not only help with the conservation of cheetahs, but also support lions, leopards an wild dogs in Namibia. Again we went on a small tour, to different cheetahs enclosures. And they showed us their healthcare facilities and they gave us a small tour through a museum. After the tour we ate some lunch at Africat, and we got back on the road again to go to Windhoek. We arrived at the end of the afternoon in Windhoek, we packed all our stuff and with we went for a last meal. We wanted to go back to Joe’s beer hut from the first evening but unfortunately it was fully booked, so we ended up at an Italian restaurant.

Day 15

Our last day was basically just waking up, eating our last Namibian breakfast, and making our way to the airport. I had quite a hard time saying goodbye to this beautiful country, I had truly I blast travelling around in it, and I hope to visit it once more in the future.

-Until next time-

Brit

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At CCF
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Crocodile Farm
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The gang just chillin’
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Day 5-8 Namibia

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Day 5

On the 5th day it was unfortunately time to head back to a city-life, after an again wonderful breakfast at the neighboring lodge, we made our way to the city of Swakopmund. Starting our driving a little later than usual, since we woke up early every day since we had arrived. Our first stop was at the “village”, I guess you can call it, of Solitaire. Solitaire is the only place on a long stretch of road where we could stop to tank and to get some food, so naturally we stopped there. We first went to the bakery of solitaire, where they had all kinds of delicious treats. The bakery also had, hold on, the first real coffee machine we had seen so far, so of course we indulged ourselves with some delicious cappuccinos for the first time since we’ve landed. After the small break we went over to the petrol station to fill up our car, when we discovered that the hood on the back of our 4×4 Range Rover had partially broken off (terrific explanation, basically just car trouble). Lucky for us they could kind off repair it at the garage next to the petrol station, bad luck for us the reparation took about 1,5-2 hours which meant that we had lost quite some time that day. But that didn’t ruin our spirit, still full of excitement did we make our way to Swakopmund.The drive to Swakopmund was absolutely gorgeous. The first stop we made was at the all famous Walvis Bay, which turned out to be quite a disappointment. We drove around for a bit in the city itself, until we made our way to the shore to spot some birds, but since it was quite foggy there wasn’t much to spot. We also could only stay there for a short while because of the time lost in Solitaire, and we wanted to be at our hotel before sundown.  So, we left Walvis Bay behind us and entered the city of Swakopmund. We stayed at a hotel near the beach with a beautiful view, once we arrived at the hotel we went for a little beach walk, and in the evening we ate at this fancy restaurant called The Tug, which was rather nice but still couldn’t live up to the previous dinners.

Day 6

After a small breakfast we left the city again to our next destination, Day 6 was a day of long drives, because we wanted to take a scenic drive so we could pass by the Spitzkoppe. Our first stop that day was at a little government operated gem market , where the locals could sell their gems (that were dug up in the surrounding area), in the form of necklaces, bracelets, you name it. It was I quite nice place to get so souvenirs.  After that we just made our way to the accommodation, only stopping for petrol stations. We stayed in the Erongo mountains, in Hohenstein lodge, which had the most beautiful view so far. When we arrived we booked a sundowner game drive for the afternoon, and before that we went for a small hike to a bird spotting point. The game drive was quite nice although we didn’t see many new animals, however we saw a baby giraffe which was pretty amazing. Also watching the sunset in the Erongo mountains from the safari car with of course a Windhoek lager, was totally worth it. After the drive we had dinner at the lodge, a set and included dinner menu.

Day 7

The 7th day was again, you’ve probably already guessed it, a day of long drives. This day was a bit of a downside to the whole trip. Since we only had two weeks in Namibia, and we wanted to see as much as possible, which meant staying in the car a lot. This day we were just fed up with staying in the car the whole time, also because this day there wasn’t much to see, the day was just a drive/no sightseeing day only. Which ruined the mood a bit. The only stop we made was at a village to eat our lunch and to get some coffee. We had received lunch boxes from the previous place,  and they gave us the strangest lunch ever. Maybe it was just something I had never seen before, but it was just odd. They gave us schnitzel on cake? Like literal cake. Maybe it’s a German thing that stuck around in Namibia, or just an open-minded cook that had prepared our lunches. Anyway it was still a fine meal. Also the coffee that day was odd, the waitress just gave us boiled water with coffee pads inside of it, again it was fine but just odd. Besides the strangeness of our meals that day not much excitement happened. We arrived at our lodge, Rustig Toko Lodge, the place was pretty nice. A lot of the locals (among them Herero’s fully in traditional clothing) also came to the Rustig Toko Lodge to have dinner, and to sit around the camp fire watching the sunset. It was nice to sit with locals for a change, because a great deal of the places we stayed at were just tourists. For dinner there was again a little buffet, which was fine. After that we played card games as usual and made our way to bed.

Day 8

Moods completely restored, because today was going to be an exciting day. From Rustig Toko we made our way the famous Etosha Park. We entered the park through the west gate, Galton gate. After some necessary paperwork we could finally enter the gates. If you are unfamiliar with Etosha Park, it is the biggest and most famous wild life park in Namibia, the best place to spot the big 4 (because number 5 is not to be found there). Throughout the park you have different waterholes, just like at the accommodations, where you can spot different animals. When we entered the gate we took an immediate turn to the first waterhole. And the first waterhole was just a-m-a-z-i-n-g, while the days before we had struggled to just even spot a hartebeest in the distance, this waterhole was just jam-packed with an abundance of animals. It was just crazy, hundreds upon hundreds of zebras, springbok, oryx, eland, wildebeest even giraffes in the distance. We stayed at the waterhole for quite a while, just staring at how stunning it all was. After that first waterhole we just hopped on from waterhole to waterhole spotting different species along the way. We stopped at the Dolomite camp, and after that at Olifantrus to eat our lunch that we had bought at a supermarket.  After Olifantrus we didn’t spot much for a while, until at a certain point we stopped at an abandoned  waterhole. Right before we turned around to go back to the main road, I squinted my eyes and thinking I saw something in the distance. I instantly grabbed the binoculars, and saw the gigantic (in my opinion) king op the savannah. A massive male elephant was just slowly walking up to us, casually like it was nothing. He just walked by, relaxed, took a look at the waterhole , where we just were parked in front of, no biggie, and walked on disappearing into the distance. The first elephant we saw was just a breathtaking experience. It is crazy to see an animal you always see on tv or in a zoo, to see such an animal up close, right in front of your car. After the elephant, we soon reached our last on the way stop of that day, Oukaukuejo camp. We just parked our car there, ate some icecreams, wrote some postcards and we moved on to our next destination. Right out of the Andersson gate, we stayed at Etosha Taleni Village. The best accommodation yet, I know I keep saying how amazing the places I stayed at are but they really just keep surpassing the previous accommodations, and the keep surpassing my expectations.  Before dinner I, of freaking course, did a small hike with my brother. We hiked to a viewing point where we spotted some zebras. After that we had dinner, best buffet ever. Taleni village is from the same lodge chain as the Sossusvlei lodge we used to eat at (the place of the chickenbirds, and also an amazing buffet). So for the dinner part my expectations were rather high, and oh were those expectations met. Just delicious. Later I found out that this place is known for the best buffets of Namibia, and what can I say it’s true!

More days will follow, and as always

-Until next time-

Brit

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Reaaaaal close
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Afrikaanse road signs
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oryx in action
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Scenic drives

Namibia 2017 day 1-4

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It has been a couple of days since I’ve landed in breathtaking Namibia, and so far it has truly been an epic experience. In my first four days I’ve already seen amazing things.

Day 1

After a long twelve hour flight with a stop in Luanda, Angola, we finally landed. Right when we came out of the airport, we already got lucky by spotting some wildlife (or game as it’s called) along the highway, several baboons were playing in the grass, hopping from fence to fence. When we arrived at the accommodation we just relaxed for a bit. After that we headed into the city for some good old sightseeing, we went to all the different sights bought some cliché souvenirs. After the tour throughout the city we went to this place called Joe’s Beerhouse where I had my first try at some springbok meat (which was kind of scary to try, but oh boy so delicious) and I paired the springbok meal with (of course) some Windhoek Lager. Overall I must so even though I rather enjoyed Windhoek, it’s quite a small city with only a few sights, still worth a visit but the one day we had there was more than enough.

Day 2

On the second day we made our way out of the city heading to the Kalahari Desert. This day existed mainly out of driving but we made a few stops on the way. For our first stop we made a quick break in the city of Rehoboth, we had some lunch there just before heading into the city, that’s when the Namibian poverty first hit us, while we were enjoying our lunch we had several people coming up to us asking for money, which I mean is quite understandable, in Namibia there is unemployment of 50% which made us, as “rich” tourists the money income for the unemployed. Also when we drove through the city of Rehoboth it was rather shocking to see all the people in their self-made homes. We also fueled up in Rehoboth, at the petrol station there was a small kind of “museum” outside where you could read about the history of Rehoboth which was very interesting, because it gave more information about the city then any of the travel books we brought with us. After our short stop we made our way to the Kalahari Dessert, where we stayed at truly gorgeous  lodges in de middle of nowhere, called Kalahari Anib Lodge. Once arrived me and my brother and I did a small hike near the lodges, where we spotted our first warthog ( aka Pumba) in the distance, truly a silly animal when it ran away from us, with its tiny tail wagging in the air. After the hike we sat on the edge of the swimming pool, watching the sundown near the waterhole. As the evening slowly grew darker several animals made their way to the the waterhole, and we spotted the greater kudu, some oryx and springbok. After that we had some wonderful dinner at the lodge, buffet style.

Day 3

Before we left the Kalahari Desert to head on to our next destination, we had our first game drive in the morning. Game drive is where you sit in a safari car, and drive around to see if you can spot different animals. We drove around on the plot of the Anib Lodges, I slightly expected to see some more warthogs and springbok, maybe even an oryx if we got lucky. But oh boy was I wrong, we did not only see the ones as mentioned above, but we saw zebra´s, blue wildebeest and kudus. At a certain point we went out of the car for a small hike so the tour guide could show different plants and trees, and I asked him if there were any giraffes on the plot as well, he told that there were but that they are really hard to spot. But of course again we got lucky, when we went back into the car to head back to the lodges we spotted some giraffes, eight, nine maybe even ten of then all eating from the same tree just on the side of the road. It was extraordinary to see such an animal, an animal that you see in the zoo or in movies, to see such an animal in real life, in the wild. Full of amazement we came back to the lodges where we packed our stuff and went off to our next destination, Sesriem. When we left we received lunch packages, which is a very handy thing to order at your accommodation if you´re up for a long drive, because you never know how far away your next meal is going to be. After we left we just drove straight away to our next accommodation, well straight away, we did get lost at one point, but fortunately we found the right way soon enough. When we arrived at our accommodation, Desert Quiver Camp, we unpacked our stuff, chilled at the bar for a bit and we went to the lodge near us for some dinner. Again dinner in buffet-style, but this time with added barbecue elements, there were several chefs outside where you could pick any kind of meat (even crocodile, I mean CROCODILE) and they would grill it for you. Best dinner so far, also beautifully located, outside just in front of the waterhole. After dinner we sat at the bar for a bit to play some good old card games, while playing card I discovered this delicious soda, totally not Namibian probably available in a lot of other countries, but anyway it became my Namibian holiday drink: Schweppes Lemonade (also nicely paired with vodka).

Day 4

Day four was a rather exciting day. Well, all the other days had been exciting so far but this day we didn’t have to drive as far as usual since we stayed at the same accommodation for two nights. So that meant a whole day of exploring and hiking. We started the day off with an very very early breakfast at the same place as we had dinner. The meat grilling was switched to egg frying, and the breakfast buffet was just as glorious as the dinner buffet. While we were having breakfast, these silly birds were running around outside, later on I learned that they are called helmeted guinea fowl, and that they are literally everywhere, but from that moment on I just called them chickenbirds, because they looked like failed chickens to me, still beautiful, but failed. After breakfast we drove to the Sossusvlei, an extremely popular sight, that my dad called the Eiffel tour of Namibia, which is don’t think does it justice. The Sossusvlei is part of this enormous desert, which exists mainly out of picturesque dunes and valleys. While we drove through we climbed one of the most famous dunes, called dune 45. Not only did the dunes look spectacular, several 100 meters high, with a sharp cartoonish line in the middle, but also the view from dune 45 looked extraordinary. With bare feet we climbed up the dune, and we went back sliding down the sides. After we climbed it, we drove on to the valleys, first we drove on the usual gravel roads, and after that we had to drive through mule sand which was quite an adventure since a few cars got stuck. After that we reached the famous deadvlei which looked straight out of a Salavdor Dalí painting, white plain field full of dead trees and vultures, surrounded by the sky-high dunes. It was a breathtaking scene. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay to long, since it was almost noon which made the weather too hot to stay. Just before exiting  the park we stopped for some lunch, and we ate some classic American burgers the Namibian way, with of course some lemonade. After lunch we went to Sesriem canyon inside the park, the canyon is actually how the town of Sesriem got its name. The farmers who used to live there needed six (ses) belts (riems) to get the water out of the canyon, that’s why it’s called Sesriem. The canyon made up for a great and short hike, and also great views. Afterwards, since it was getting too hot, we headed back to the camp, where we relaxed at the pool while watching the sundown. In the evening we went back to the other lodge for some delicious dinner. While finishing up with dinner we met Patty, Patty is the “house” oryx that lives on the plot of that lodge, which meant we got to see an oryx up really close which was a pretty special end to our stay in Sesriem.

So far I’ve already fallen in love with this country, the rest of my journey will be coming up soon on my blog. And as well ways

-Until next time-

Brit

 

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Escaping in a Dalí landscape, picture doesn´t do it justice.
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My new favourite animal: oryx
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Impressive dunes
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Osterich, on the Kalahari safari

Studying abroad: the pro’s, cons and what it taught me

 

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This school year I’ve spent six months in the beautiful city of Vancouver studying English. Last year when I finished high school I didn’t want to start university right away, I wanted to travel around for a bit and explore the world. So I decided to look around for ways I could do that. I landed upon this organisation called EF who provided language studies abroad for people who are taking a gap year. I ended up choosing English because I thought I could use some improvement, and I choose Vancouver because it seemed like the city that fitted me and what I wanted out of this trip the best. After being away for six months I’ve experienced all the ups and downs that came with the decision I made.

Decision making

The first thing you want to do when you are deciding to study abroad is finding out exactly what you want and why you are doing it. My main reason was to see something of the world, that’s why I chose to study English for a short amount of time in a big city, because it was something I could already do and it gave me the opportunity to meet people from different countries, something a high school year abroad, for example, wouldn’t give me. If you are more looking for a fulltime study or going to university somewhere I would recommend you visiting the university before hand, believe me if you’re studying there for so long you want to know what the university is like but above all what the place is like you’re staying. Because in some cases studying abroad somewhere can be such a culture shock that you must be sure that you want to stay in that place for such a long time. Also decide on what you want to study, me deciding to study English was quite a mistake, because I was already quite fluent in English, 4 hours of lessons a day for six months didn’t taught me a lot more while it should have. I think it’s better to study something you’re interested in but maybe unfamiliar with, another language such as Spanish for example. Also deciding where you want to stay is important, the first couple of weeks I stayed in a host family, and after that I moved to a student home. Especially staying in a host family was something I had to get used to, don’t always expect a host family to be like a replacement of your real family. You’re just their guest and they most of the time just do it for the money. After I turned 18 I moved to the student home, something I would recommend doing right away if you have the possibility.

Homesickness

Believe me studying abroad is not all about roses. There are always times when you are going to miss home, whether it’s culture related, family, friends, you name it, homesickness and feeling sad is inevitable. Something I’ve experienced for sure. The best thing to do is just to keep yourself busy, go out there, you’re in a new place, go on and explore stuff. Try to meet new people, through school, in a café or even on Tinder. But also try to keep in touch with your friends and family at home, just video-chatting with them can brighten up your day. Being sad is just temporarily so just try to remember to have fun, you don’t want to look back on this experience full of regret.

So these are some of the things you have to look out for when you want to study abroad, although there are some downsides, studying abroad was still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was a great opportunity to meet new people, but it also gave me some time to think about what I wanted out of life and what I want to study. But an important thing to remember is that you’re going to have rough times, but if you just stay open-minded and if you go out there it will all be fine at the end.

-Until next time-

Brit

 

4 tips on how to cure a “travel hangover”

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We all know the feeling, going back home after a trip.  On the one hand on cloud nine because you just had the best time of your life, but one the other hand you get a little bit of reversed homesickness, wanting to go back to the fun times you had. After trips it’s always hard to get back into your daily routine, especially when you have been gone for quite a while. Something I’ve experienced when I came back from Vancouver where I studied for over six months. I went from  being busy everyday with fun stuff, studying and so on back to the farm lands of the Netherlands with my next study only starting in another 5 months, no money left and nothing to do. Being quite depressed at first I slowly found my own way to cure this “travel hangover”.

1. Although we don’t always want to go back to reality when we are bitten by the travel bug, it sometimes is inevitable. The best thing to overcome gap of being between studies or trips is to keep yourself busy. Just by keeping yourself busy, with a job for example, getting a job even if it’s just a summer job like me is the best way to fill your time, and of course also the way to save money for the next adventure.

2. Another thing to keep yourself busy is starting something new, start a language course for example. Not only super useful because it can help you learn the language of your next destination, which can come in handy when visiting places where English is not really spoken, but it’s of course also a great addition to your skill set. Or just starting another course: learn how to paint, how to build websites, whatever seems interesting to you. Or join a club, there are plenty of unique sports or adventure clubs out there. Or you can start a blog like I did, or a youtube channel where you can talk about your adventures.

3. Something else that happens when you’re gone for a long time is that you lose grip of your social relations. Another important point is to rebuilt these relationships, meet up with people, your friends or family it doesn’t matter. Rebuilding these relationship will help you fall back in to your daily routine, in the most easy way possible.

4. My last tip is, what I find to be the best cure, is having a goal. Have a goal for a next trip, or whatever. Something that will motivate you to keep yourself busy, by saving money and working for example. And also it will give you something to look forward to. Something I did was making a travel plan, my goal is to visit either Asia or Latin-America this Augustus, for both destinations I’ve made a plan and how much money I have to save to reach the goal of going there. This helps me to stay motivated and above all it keeps me busy ( and the prospect of going there also helps a lot).

I hope you enjoyed this small article and that it will help you to cure your travel hangover, although it’s sometimes not the most fun thing to go back to your old routine, often it’s necessary.

-Until next time-

Brit

 

A complete guide to Vancouver

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last year and this year I lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, for six months studying English. It was truly amazing. This will be the first article of a mini-series that will be featured on my blog about Vancouver , in these articles I will give some tips on how to spend your time in this gorgeous city, some pros and cons of moving to Vancouver and about my experience studying abroad.  In this article I will give you a full guide to Vancouver, the touristic attractions, food, useful information etc.

Downtown

One of the main things I would recommend is just taking a walk through the city, take a map and map out the things you want to see in downtown. Neighborhoods such as Gastown and Chinatown are certainly worth a visit. Walk on Davie street, the gay street of VC with rainbows everywhere, Granville street, the entertainment street with the nightclubs and Robson street the shopping street. And also Robson Square with its Art Museum, which you can visit by donation on a Tuesday night, otherwise the tickets are about 30 dollars. You do however want to look out for some places, Vancouver is known for its homeless population, and drug use (mainly weed which is quite harmless but also fentanyl users). These issues are to be found on Granville street, and in Chinatown mainly on East-Hastings street. It’s not necessarily something bothering and for sure not dangerous, but it might be something you want to avoid.

Outside of downtown

Places a little bit outside of downtown are Stanley Park and Granville Island. Stanley park is one of the biggest city parks in the world (even bigger then Central Park). The best thing to do when you’re visiting the park is the rent a bike (very cheap in the beginning of the park approx. 8 Canadian dollars an hour) and to bike around the park, on the seawall. From the seawall you’ll get the perfect skyline view of the city, you can see the Lions Gate Bridge and some Totem Poles created by the indigenous people. Another thing to do when visiting the park is to walk the Lost Lagoon trail, it’s a short trail in the park with, I would say, the biggest chance of spotting raccoons. Also to be found in Stanley Park is the Vancouver Aquarium, fun to visit when you’re into that kind of stuff or when you have kids but otherwise I wouldn’t put it on top of your list. The other thing to visit just outside of downtown is Granville Island, at the end of Granville Bridge. Granville Island is a big market place with the best food you’ll find all over Vancouver, fresh fruit, fish and chips and the best damn cheesecake ever! Fun place to go for lunch or on a rainy day (rain is something that happens a lot since Vancouver has about 161 rainy days a year). On Granville Island you can also find a kids market and several cute shops with often handmade or hipster stuff. Also from there you can take a little boat to go to several spots in the city (very fun to do on a day with nice weather), most popular spot to stop it is probably Olympic village or Science world, which is a big science museum that is fun to visit with kids by day, and sometimes there are parties at night.

 

Hiking

Vancouver is also the city of hiking, my favorite hiking trail is the Quarry Rock trail in Deep Cove ( North Vancouver). It’s a trail about 1,5 hours in the forest with at the end a beautiful viewing point. Another hiking trail I would recommend is the Grouse Mountain trail up the mountain (only open in the summer). It’s a trail that’s not for the weak, it’s one of the toughest I’ve ever done but it’s worth it for sure. I would say that I walked the trail in about 1,5 hour but the duration varies a lot per person (some people just run up that mountain like it’s nothing). On top of the mountain you will find a restaurant, a fun lumberjack show and some brown bears (behind bars may I add). If you’re not feeling the hike you can take the cable cart up the mountain (also the way to go back, going back by foot is too dangerous). Another “hike” that’s often popular among tourists is to go to Capilano Suspension Bridge , a good place to go to when you have money to spend because the entrance costs about 35 Canadian dollars, which is in my opinion totally not worth it. A better and free option is to go to Lynn Canyon where they also have a suspension bridge. Last but not least another amazing hiking place if the Lighthouse Park, a beautiful place to watch the sunset.

Snow activities

Although nine out of ten times it doesn’t snow in Metro Vancouver, up in the mountains there is plenty of snow and ideal for winter activities. There are three main mountains: Cypress mountain, Seymour mountain and Grouse mountain. If you’re by car then you should go to Cypress or Seymour because they are the cheaper ski/snowboard options. However, if you’re like me without a car, your best option is to go to Grouse since it’s the only mountain that’s easy accessible with public transport. For both Seymour and Cypress you have to take a shuttle bus which costs quite a bit of money.

Shopping

If you are looking for a shopping experience you have three options. The most popular one is to go to Robson street in downtown, there you will find your Victoria Secret and Forever 21. If you want easy and convenient shopping you can go to Metrotown, the classical mall in Burnaby just outside of Vancouver, easy accessible by the Skytrain. The last option is Mainstreet, probably the most convenient since the stores on that street are quite divided, however if you are looking for the thrift shops and hipster shops it’s probably your only option.

Beach

Personally what I think is the most amazing thing about Vancouver is that it’s so versatile, because besides the shopping, the mountains, the forests and it’s city life it also has beaches. The main beach in downtown is English Bay at the end of Davie street, the place of the Canadian geese, seagulls, illegal fires in the evening and of course in the summer the place to relax. Another favorite beach of mine is at the UBC Campus which is accessible by the public is Wreck Beach. This is by far my favorite place in Vancouver, an easy way to escape the city and the perfect place to watch the sunset. However it is a nudist beach, no, no this doesn’t mean you have to go naked to visit this place it just means you might spot some naked people. While I was there mainly in the winter, I only saw a couple who were crazy enough to show off their bums at 5 degrees. Besides that the Campus of UBC in general is a nice place to visit, very popular among Asian tourists. It has one of the most popular museums of Vancouver: the museum of Anthropology. Which is fun to visit, again when it rains, but also if you would like to know a little bit more about the history of Vancouver and it’s indigenous populations.

Hollywood of the north

If you are a great lover of films, Vancouver is the city for you. Because the price of producing movies is cheaper in Vancouver a lot of shows and movies are shot there. It’s fun to spot actors or places where movies have been shot, think of the Fairmont hotel downtown which was used for The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. You can think of movies such as Fifty Shades, Deadpool, The Interview, and many more. And series such as The 100, The Flash and Supernatural. Another nice thing is that on Tuesday it’s cinema day, which means you can go to the cinema for half the price ( again a great activity on one of those 161 rainy days)

Food and stays

For some cheap and delicious food I would always go to either Umeda or the Warehouse, both situated on Granville street. Umeda is a sushi place with truly terrific sushi, for the lowest price ever. My favorite pick from the menu is the “sushi deal” where you can pick three different kinds of sushi (nigiri, cones, rolls etc.) and then they will bring you a plate with 20 pieces of sushi and a free miso soup for only $7,59, and after all of that you will have a foodbaby for sure. The other cheap pick is the Warehouse, where everything on the menu is $5,-, they have various kinds of food from the classical Canadian dish: poutine (fries with gravy and cheese curds) to hamburgers to noodles to tortillas. If you’re looking for something a little bit more high-end but still affordable, I would go to the Pacifico on Smithe street. Your classical Italian restaurant, with amazing pizza’s that are pretty close to the real thing, and pasta of course. If you are looking for something “more  Canadian” you can of course try poutine which they basically sell everywhere. Or you can go to the fast food chain  A&W, which is kind off the MacDonald’s of Canada or try going to Tim Hortons, the Canadian Starbucks but then way cheaper and more food options. Also the place to get your coffee, not into coffee then try going to a Blenz where they have a variety of teas and other beverages, and the best hot chocolate ever. When I lived in Vancouver I stayed at the Sandman Suites on Davie street, a hotel a would recommend if you are looking for a place where you can cook as well, although keep in mind that a lot of students life there which can cause some noise disturbance. Another place I stayed during the Christmas Holidays was the Hyatt hotel on Burrard street, a nice hotel if you don’t mind spending some money with probably the best breakfast I’ve ever had (they even had rice options and so on, it was great).

Useful info

The city of Vancouver has a very convenient public transport system, if you’re staying for a longer time I would recommend buying a Compass Card. On a Compass Card you can put money and use it for the public transport, in the bus you can also pay with coins but the train is only with the Compass Card. You can buy a Compass Card at London Drugs, which is the main drugstore in Vancouver. You can load your Card in the train stations, but you can also buy a one day card in the station. Another thing to note is that in restaurants, just like in America, the waiters expect a tip of at least 15%, and that is considered quite rude if you don’t give a tip.

I hope this information will help you out when visiting Vancouver and that you enjoy it as much as I did.

-Until next time-

Brit

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Science World
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Cypress Mountain
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Winter activities for daaays
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Lynn Canyon
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Deep Cove

Beautiful Ticino

A couple of weeks ago a visited my friend in Switzerland, who lives in this gorgeous place, to be exact she lives in Giubiasco which is a city in the canton of Ticino. First of all some background information about Switzerland. Switzerland exist out of four language groups, so kind of four main cultures. The biggest part is the Swiss-German part which takes up about 64% of the population, after that you have the French part, the Italian part which is 8% of the people and then last but not least Reto-Roman part which is also the smallest part of Switzerland. Ticino, the canton that I visited,  is the main Italian speaking canton of Switzerland. So here are some of my recommendations when visiting the area of Ticino.

What makes Ticino the perfect get-away is it existing out of two cultures, the Italian one with not wholly unimportant to mention its delicious food and the rich and unique Swiss culture, and of course it’s pleasant climate which I was happy to escape to in rainy mid-April Netherlands. During my stay in Ticino I stayed, as above mentioned, at a friend’s place in Giubiasco, which means that I unfortunately have no accommodation recommendations. However I would recommend flying to Milan instead of Lugano, which is the canton’s city airport, mainly because it’s way cheaper and it will give you some time to spend in the city of shopping. And from the airport it´s quite easy to take the train which will take you wherever you desire in Switzerland (and big bonus, going by train is beautiful, it will give you quite some time to appreciate the beautiful landscape).

While I stayed with my friend I visited a few of the main attractions in the area. The first day me and my friend hiked up to Ponte Tibetano, which is a suspension bridge connecting two of the mountains in Bellinzona ( the capital of Ticino). Definitely worth the long and heavy hike, would recommend going a little bit early in the morning to avoid the hottest part of the day unless of course going in the winter. In my opinion was the hike quite hard especially in the beginning but when you reach the bridge with its view, you will realize it’s worth the struggle. After the hike we went to downtown Bellizona to get this (I think) very Italian thing which is called an aperitivo, it’s where you go to a bar or restaurant (wherever they serve this magical concept), you order a drink ( Aperol Spritz is most common), while you’re sipping your alcoholic beverage they will serve several rounds of food, food that you can just take for free as long as you pay your drink. You can think of foods such as fried things, but also little bowls of pasta. Aperitivo is common to eat before dinner, but you can even eat it instead of dinner (like me and my friend did, and we were full for sure).

Another great thing to visit is the castles of Bellinzona, easy to reach with public transport like everything in the area. The first castle you will find in the city center of Bellizona, the second one is a little higher and the third one is the highest up which is best to reach with a car. I preferred the third castle due to the beautiful view it comes with, so if you’re short on time I would recommend skipping the first and second one to give you a little bit more time to reach the third castle. The third castle you can also reach by foot, but it takes quite some time and quite some effort. Another thing that’s fun to do when you’re visiting the castles is to go for lunch there, the third castle has a restaurant inside the castle that’s open sometimes. As for the first and second, what we did was ordering a pizza in the city center (of course you have to eat pizza when visiting a place with Italian culture) and then you take the pizza to the castle so you can have a little picnic in the castle fields.

Another recommendation would be to visit on the lakes, the one I visit was the one in Locarno which is called Lago Maggiore. The lake is a perfect place to hang out, although it’s quite touristy. Also the city of Locarno is fun to walk through, with little markets. I would recommend this lake because it’s beautiful but if you’re not that much into places booming with tourists I would certainly skip it.

So, if you’re ever in the area of either Italy or Switzerland, why not bring a visit to beautiful Ticino?

-Until next time-

Brit