Monday, July 12, 2010

The Ginger Diaries: Long time no see!

Hey everyone!

Long time no chat! I’m actually typing this update from my car, waiting for dance class to start! I spend a good portion of my life inside my poor car (the state of the inside of it should prove my point) so I figured I would catch up now!

I returned from the Worlds and was busy catching up on sleep for about a week then promptly got very sick, which I’ve been trying to deal with for the past few months. Thanks to 2 MRI’s, I can confidently say, that YES, I do have a brain, since some people doubted that I did. Now that everything seems to be under control, (*fingers crossed*) I’m back in action and have a lot of posting to catch up on. Plan to hear from me a good deal this summer!

I’m known for having a bit of a travel bug, all thanks due to Irish Dancing. I find it unfortunate that while I’m sitting at my desk at work there are people traveling all over the world seeing beautiful cities and countries. Sadly, I have to work to pay my bills and make a living or I think I would be a professional traveler. I am lucky enough to have 17 paid vacation days per year at my current employer; all of those days minus the day after Christmas, are reserved for Irish Dance related trips and travel

About a year ago, I decided that because so many major competitions are in the same cities, year after year, due to the size of the venue that is required to hold all of us, that I would plan to travel to another city after the competition that didn’t involve Irish Dancing.

After the Worlds in Glasgow, which was fabulous as usual and 2 trips to Edinburgh,I was lucky enough to travel to Paris and Amsterdam. Please note that while it was sunny and 70 degrees in my hometown in March, it was SNOWING in Edinburgh, see! Those little chunks of white are SNOW patches:

I decided to enjoy two days in Paris and two days in Amsterdam.Day one in Paris was spent by myself and the rest of the trip I was accompanied by my lovely and very talented dancer friend Katie and her parents.

I was very proud of myself for figuring out how to get from the Paris Nord train station and take the Metro to the area where my hotel was located. This was especially impressive considering I was traveling with one very large suitcase, a large shoulder bag, and dress bag during the lunch hour. I’m sure the French were not enamored with me during that Metro ride…

If I learned anything from my Paris experience, it is: Make sure you learn and can properly execute the necessary French phrases to survive if you don’t know French as a second language! I was all prepared with a little tip sheet with phrases like : “Hi, my name is”, “I need help”, “Where is the toilet”… you know, the basics…. But it didn’t help me one bit when I got majorly lost trying to find my hotel.

Long story short: I was able to navigate the subway BUT didn’t realize the hotel was not exactly on the exit from the subway. After 2 hours, many tears, frantic texts to my French speaking friend back in America, and a taxi cab fleecing me, I finally got to my hotel. Paris itself was lovely. I had amazing weather, unlike the snow and cold that I left in Glasgow. Check out the Eiffel tower (Yes, I did take this picture :) ):

Day one was spent with me seeing a few of the sights (too many to describe in one post), taking advantage of my tour bus ticket, and perhaps doing a little window shopping. I ended the night at an Indian restaurant, as I knew they would speak English and didn't want to embarrass myself in an all French speaking restaurant.

Day two started off bright and early as I went to greet Katie and her family back at Paris Nord. I greeted them professionally with a sign, of course. It was too light to see in the picture, so Katie's dad fixed it up for me with the magic of Microsoft Paint! Bob is Katie's Dad's nickname, not his real name ;)

We spent most of the day at the Louve, doing more window shopping, and back at the Eiffel tower so we could take a ride up in it.

Here is Katie and myself standing on an observation deck in the Eiffel Tower on day two in Paris, which was significantly colder than day one and rainy! We were FREEZING while posing for this shot:

I also enjoyed a delicious Nutella Crepe from a street vendor!!

Another lesson that I learned on this particular trip is to always check the time zone of the area you are staying in.I purchased a 5 pound phone to use on the trip, but Katie’s parents also brought their own clock. We had to be at the train station at 5:30AM. Long story short, there is an hour time difference between London and France, and we woke up at 5:30 when we were supposed to be at the station. I’ve never ran so fast with a 70 pound suitcase in my life!

Next stop was Amsterdam!

Oh how I adored Amsterdam! I texted my mom on the last night and told her I wasn’t coming home. She “laughed” or text “lol’ed” in my face. I missed being stranded by the ash cloud of 2010 by 4 days. I’m sure all the Dutch on my flight home were stranded in Vegas;not that they would have been upset about that.

We started off day 1 by visiting the Anne Frank House, which was extremely moving. No photography was allowed but it really was a wonderful tribute.

We then walked to the Heineken Brewery for a tour and that was a BLAST! A+

On the end of night one, Katie and I played a little game called: Let’s try on what I didn’t wear in my suitcase. What I found was that I packed 7, yes 7 tank tops. It was SNOWING in Glasgow… what was I thinking?!?

Here I am being coy peeking out of the bathroom about to show Katie outfit number one:

On day two in Amsterdam,Katie and I managed to get completely lost due to my error understanding the tram system. I don't think we ever quite figured it out! We ended up in an extremely industrial part of Amsterdam, but did get to pass by the Olympic stadium built for the 1928 Summer Olympics!

We walked around the main shopping areas, explored a very large public market, took an amazing boat cruise, RAN by the Red Light district, and experienced what McDonalds was like in the Netherlands. Katie went to the hotel to pack while I met a cousin of one of the dancers in my school who moved from North America to work in Amsterdam. He explained to me that it is possible to hold an umbrella, write a text message, and ride a bicycle at the same time ;) Biking is the ONLY way to really get around Amsterdam; tram drivers even stop for bicyclists!

Here are a few shots from the fun we had in Amsterdam:

An absolutely beautiful tree right outside our hotel:

I was definitely grossed out by these "public" restrooms on the street:

Just hanging out in a wooden shoe, no big:

Me posing with some of my purchases in Amsterdam and some of Katie's. I walked around with these bags for 2 hours.... again during lunch, and again I probably annoyed people with all of those bags on a crowded tram ;) :

After all my adventures, I knew my suitcase was well over 50 pounds, so I purchased a 15 pound suitcase at the public market. Pushing two suitcases, a dress bag, and a large shoulder bag was NOT fun while rushing to catch my connecting flight home in Philadelphia:

What I learned from my 2010 Post Worlds extravaganza:

1.Irish dance accessories will account for half of your suitcase
2.Carefully check the weather of each of your destinations before departure. When a friend tells you need mittens, a sweater, and possibly UnderArmour, BRING what they tell you!
3.No matter what, you do not need to bring 7 tank tops on your trip
4.When looking at a map in a foreign city later at night, always do it with your back facing a wall , even when you are with a group of adults(Long story… not all Parisians are nice…)
5. Tour buses allow you to pick survey all the popular sights first, then you can pick which places you want to visit (I already knew this but it is worth repeating)
6. McDonalds: It's truly an internationally recognized restaurant and it's fun to see the differences in their menu items (FYI, my Happy Meal in Paris, had a piece of pineapple in it! I ordered a Happy Meal because it's one of the only things I knew to say)
7. The UK store Primark is absolutely fabulous for finding the necessary clothing and shoes you forgot to bring but its affordable pricing also can cause you to buy too much and overfill your suitcase
8.Comfortable shoes are a MUST, especially when walking many miles. Wear sneakers with a sundress in Paris; make a fashion statement. Maybe you'll start a new trend ;)
9. The Mona Lisa at the Louve is small, REALLY small, but breathtaking at the same time
10. Touring the world and seeing how other cultures live, work, and play is truly a gift and I'm so glad I was able to visit two countries I had never set foot in.

The best news of all is the fact that I get to travel to another country again next year, as I was privileged enough to qualify for the 2011 Worlds in Dublin at the North American Championships a few weeks ago! I can’t wait to start planning my trip! Any suggestions on where I should travel?

Until next time, keep on jiggin’. Hope everyone is enjoying summer feising!

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