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Luxemburg

I just got back from Luxemburg. It was really lovely. It took us 5 hours to get there because we drove through a snow storm in Belgium, but we got there! Jans aunt and uncle were really lovely, and had a really great home. They spent most of thier lives traveling around the world, so they have a very different looking house with things from all over the world. They are both teachers, so it has allowed them to get around quite a bit. They have two little boys who are 5 and 2, and are the sweetest little guys, and really made the weekend fun.

We were going to go to a German Christmas market, but we decided to go to a market in Luxemburg instead. It was so fun, we drank Gluhwien out of little boot shaped cups and waolked around the market and tried different foods, it was really nice.

We then went to the international fair that was in Luxemberg. They had a Canada stand! Everyone that was selling things in the fair was from their own country (I think almost half of the Luxemburg population is not really from there at all) so I talked to some Canadians! I bought a plate of Christmas baking that wasn’t nearly as good as Ma and Grams, but it was still nice!

The Denmark stand had Reindeer that you could try (Yes, to eat) and Jans sister had some. I accused her of eating Rudolf, and then told everyone about dads ‘Olive’ the other reindeer thing. Isn’t that one of Dads jokes? I hope so, or I’ve been falsely advertising his humor.

We had a really nice evening, where we opened our secret Santa gifts (Or in this case, SinterKlaas Suprise’s). Jan’s sisters boyfriend had me, and he got me this really hilarious weekly calendar. It’s called Bunny Suicides by Andy Riley. You should google it, it’s hilarious.

Anyways, this morning we went to a really beautiful forest and did a bit of easy hiking. They have lots of snow there, so we had quite a few snow fights and brought a couple sleds also. The car got stuck on a side road, and I felt very in my element. It didn’t take us long to get it out!

We caught the same snow storm on the way back, and it took us 6 hours total, so we’re all a little tired of the car. Anyways, I should get to my homework that I’ve been neglecting all weekend.

Love!

Ashley

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I am the Worst Blogger EVER. Here is Venice, Croatia and Slovenia.

My two days of traveling to Venice were not the most pleasant. About half of my trains were late, which made me miss multiple other trains. The whole thing was a little bit of a mess, but I made it to Venice in one piece, and I found Liseanne and the guys.

The place we stayed was called ‘Camp Jolly’, which at first made me think I was going to get kidnapped and forced to join a circus, but it turned out to be a really great little campground that had big tents with bunk beds inside them. They had pretty much built their own little village. There was a restaurant, a small grocery store, a bar, and a couple giant swimming pools. The only down side was we got eaten alive by mosquitoes all week.

Venice was a beautiful city. There were no cars, bikes, scooters or anything along the streets of down town. It is all foot traffic and boats! Pretty cool!

Lise and the boys told me about this really amazing Gelato chain called ‘Grom’ that made their products from all natural ingrediants and had about half the sugar of most other gelato places. So naturally we had to find it. Venice is a pretty easy city to get lost in. We saw a woman walking with a Grom cup, so we headed the direction she had come from, thinking it would be close. We couldn’t find it anywhere. The locals didn’t seem to know what we were talking about, so we resorted to searching the city for anyone holding a Grom cup. We found a Gypsy lady holding out a Grom cup asking for money, so we asked her where it was. She wasn’t a lot of help, and seemed angry we were interrupting her. It took us almost three hours, probably after we had wondered down every other street, but we found it. And it was delicious.

We only stayed there for a few nights and then we took off too Split in Croatia!

We stayed in a really cool hostel in Split! The people working there hung out with us a lot and came out with us at night. There are really amazing Roman ruins in Split, and a beautiful Cathedral that you can sit outside and sip tea. (Or something cooler, because the heat is unbearable)

There was a lot to do, lots of shopping and a few beaches. Our second day there we went to Krka national park which was about an hour car ride from our hostel, and then a 20 minute boat ride. It was unbelievably beautiful. There were about 8 different stories of waterfalls that you could hike up beside. They were unreal. At the top of the waterfalls you could walk through the forest and along the river on a raised boardwalk. There were so many fish and beautiful natural flowers everywhere. I saw these beautiful double winged bright blue dragon flies that were everywhere. They had limestone pools below that you could swim in just under the lower falls which weren’t so big. It was an experience.

Ryan, Liseannes boyfriend, had relatives who were native to Split. We met up with them one night and they took us out one night for drinks and showed us a local side of the town. It was very cool, and they were pretty amazing people.

The coast was beautiful, but we really wanted to hit an island while we were in Croatia, so we hopped on a ferry and settled down in Hvar.
Our hostel was great. It was the first one we had stayed in for awhile that actually had a kitchen. It was relieving being able to cook for ourselves and not having to eat out all the time. We rented a boat almost every day we were there and just cruised around the dalmatian islands. The first day, we were in a group of six and we rented a 5 hp boat. It was hilarious how slow it went, but it was super cheap and got us there just fine. All the islands have little hotels, bars and restaurants on them. The ocean was so clear, you could see the bottom clearly around the entire coast line. Our hostel didn’t have aircon, so we almost died every night, and certainly got less sleep that we would have liked. It forced us to take extreme measures and seek other ways of inducing sleep, like drinking. On our last night in Hvar it was Zachs birthday, so we all went out pretty hard, despite our 6 o clock ferry the next morning. I can tell you that will never happen again. Getting dressed and packed up the next morning was a considerable challenge, which required more than a little bit of assistance from Liseanne, who had taken it easy the night before. The ferry ride back to the main land was not pleasant. It took more than a week before I could smell alcohol without feeling terrible. It was a long recovery.

BUT! We made to Bled lake, after a hard day of hung over traveling. We didn’t count on going to Slovenia at the beginning of our trip, even though it was grouped in with Croatia in our rail pass, but we saw a picture of Bled lake on the internet and decided to just go, even though we didn’t know a lot about it. I am so glad we decided to go, it was so beautiful.

The city is in the middle of the mountains, and is built around a small lake. It was a few degrees cooler than Croatia, which was nice. In the middle of the lake, there was an island that had an old cathedral built on it. There was also a big castle built into the side of the mountain. We stayed at a great hostel and met lots of fun people. There was so much to do in this little town. We went water rafting on our second day there (with a totally legit company, down a really easy part of the river, promise) it was so much fun. The river was pretty cold, but we got to go body surfing and swimming during the trip. We hiked to the Vingter Gorge which was only about an hour away from bled, where we walked along the river that fed into the lake. It had some pretty big and beautiful waterfalls and lots of areas you could just sit and hang out.

We rented a paddle boat from a guy on the side of the lake and took it to the center of the lake to see the island in the middle.
The local legend is that there was a young widow who lived at the Bled Castle who gathered all of her silver and gold and had a bell cast for the chapel on Bled island in memory of her husband. When the bell was being transported to the island, a storm caused the boat to sink. The boatman drowned and the bell sank to the bottom of the lake. The widow, who was even more devastated, decided to go to Rome and enter a convent. After her death, the Pope donated another bell for the church. The legend is that anyone who rings the bell in memory of the widow and makes a wish, will be granted their wish! I rang the bell! And made a wish! But I cant tell you what it is, I’m sure, or it won’t come true.

There is this famous cream cake that was started in Bled, so Liseanne, Ryan and I played a game of mini golf with the stakes being buying the group a piece of cake. My short game needs some work.

There were a little family of swans that hung around the same part of the lake all the time. They were SO cute! They reminded me of the Ugly Duckling, because they should have probably been so ugly compared to their parents. They were all grey and fluffy with little weird chicken wings with no real feathers. When they came out of the water and hung around on the grass, they were all clumsy and uncoordinated. So cute. I only got bit once, and I am pretty positive it was an accident. The mother also chased me once, that was not an accident.

Thats all for now! Love,

Ashley Lynn

We trained to Avignon the next day. It was my birthday! I found out that day that my train to Florance from France was full on the 3rd. It was full all week under my rail pass. I had to pay in cash, and take a train two days later. I think I really make the ticket guy feel sorry for me , because he gave me an awesome first class sleeper car for dirt cheap. Awesome!

Àvignon is so beautiful. Mom booked us into the cutest bed and breakfast EVER for my birthday. It was the most beautiful little place I’ve ever stayed. The room was so lovely, we had our own little patio and the breakfast was great. We went to a little Vietnamese place the first night for my birthday dinner. That may seem a little weird, picking Vietnamese in France, but I hadn’t had Pho in 6 months.

Avignon is a walled city, so the center is separated from the rest of the city by an old beautiful wall. There is a huge Palace of the Popes, with a beautiful garden in behind it. We shopped, sat in the garden, fed ducklings at the duck pond, and just relaxed for a few days.
I assured my mother that since I was now 21, I could fend for myself for two days in the cutest city on Earth. But, because she is my mother, and I don’t really think she believes me, she decided to leave on the 5th instead too.

We said bye to Maxxie on the third, and relaxed in Avignon for another two days together.

When I left and trained to meet Lise and the guys, I realized through two days of traveling alone, how lonely I might have gotten by myself in Avignon. I was pretty glad my mom stayed to hang out with me!

More soon, Love,

Ashley Lynn

On arrival, Liseanne , Ryan, Zach and I found our hostel no problem. It was a great hostel with a big bar in the bottom and curtained beds. The area we were in was a little bit dingey, there was a really awful looking canal just down the street and a laundry mat every 4 or 5 store fronts. It was strange. We went to the Musee d`Orsay our second day there. It was a pretty amazing museum, but it was huge! It took us about three hours to get through the main parts of the museum, and after we went through a special exhibit called Crime et châtiment (Crime and Punishment). It was full of really haunting art and some antique guillotines and other death machines.

On our third day I set off to find my Mum and Max! I pretty much had the underground figured out, yay, (There are 15 different lines in Paris, and 7 more that take you out of the city, its huge) so I found their hotel without too much trouble.

We went and saw the Louve the next morning. It was huge! We didn’t spend nearly as much time there, the sun was just too bright and beautiful to spend, all day inside a museum. So we hit most of the famous paintings and went through a couple interesting wings and left. I think we spent more time in the touristy shops around the Louve, than we did inside it. We shopped for most of the afternoon, just browsing through most of the little stores, and stopped for wine multiple times. Later that evening we headed to the Eiffel Tower, where we took lots of pictures, then sat below by the canal and ate a crepe and chatted.

The next morning we hit the Notre Dame. The giant doors with iron designs on them were beautiful and the huge stained glass windows were amazing. We hopped on a tour bus from there and got off at the Arc de Triumph. We went shopping down the street it was on and I bought a cute floral skirt!

We went back to our hotel area and hit a little cafe nearby. The waiter asked us where we were from and we got on the conversation of coffee. He told us he had been to Toronto, and had been to Tim Hortons, and he thinks Canadians make terrible coffee. It was hard to argue with him.

On our last day in Paris we decided we didn’t want to do anymore monuments or anything, so we headed down the the Latin Quarter to see what it was all about. (Oh and to find the American Apparel) …Which we did. I bought new shiny tights. We stopped at a cafe and met an American guy and his French partner. His partner advised us to go down to the Montmartre part of town. We got down there are and went to the Espace Dali. There were some awesome sculptures there, I didn’t expect it to have so many Dali pieces, but it was actually quite large. They even had a gallery section where they were actually selling some of Dali`s pieces. They all said price available on request, I didn’t ask, but I can`t even imagine how much they would be going for.

We walked through the painters square and took a look through some of the shops around that part of town. We ended up on the stairs of the Sacre Coeur which overlooked the city. There was a French guy set up on the stairs playing his guitar and singing songs, so we sat down and enjoyed the sunshine. There were a few guys selling Heineken and water for a couple Euros on the stairs. They would try and convince you to buy from them by pressing their cold beer bottles against your leg to…demonstrate the coldness? So Max, Mum and I sat on the stairs for awhile and watched our French guitar guy and a guy behind him doing tricks with a soccer ball. He actually climbed a lamppost while bouncing a ball on his head, quite impressive. We`re not sure how long we sat there…4 beers each worth of time. We grabbed some delicious dinner on the way back to the hotel and a bottle of wine.

The next morning we caught a train to Bourdoux, where Max and I got into a fight after a long day of traveling. I`m sure everyone present had their own version of what happened, but the important thing is, I was right. Haha just kidding…sort of!

Anyways, we were over it an hour later after we drank lots of wine and picked up more at the grocery store.

The next day we went on a wine tour! We took a bus to two different wineries and learned all about how wine is made, and the different varieties that grow in Bordeaux. It was fun and we got to taste lots of great wine!

More to come soon. Love,

Ashley Lynn

Been more than a month, sorry!

I’ve been pretty busy. We hadn’t done any homework all semester and it really caught up with us in the last couple weeks. While rushing to finish all of our final projects we also had to study for our exams. I literally hardly left my apartment for two weeks. We got such bad Cabin Fever we dragged one of our tables outside and had a homework party in front of our ghetto apartment. Its funny here the instructors are pretty vague and you’re never quite sure what is going to show up on the exams. It was pretty different than anything back at home, but I did pretty well in all of my courses.

Lise’s boyfriend Ryan and his friend Zack came out to see us for our last few days in Vlissingen. Lise convinced Ryan to fill his carry on bag with red Dixie cups (Don’t have them here, or any cups even close to the same size) and when he got here we hosted a beer pong party. It was tons of fun, and everyone loved it.

I went to Jan’s house for a family birthday party a couple days ago. It was quite a bit like our family gatherings, a little smaller and not quite as loud or obnoxious, but pretty awesome also. I am definitely missing my fam jam, so it was nice to have something that compared to Friday drinks at grams.

The world cup is a pretty big deal here. In my neighbourhood every time anyone scores in any game there is like a five minute stream of horns in celebration. Its sort of awful after awhile. Since Canada doesn’t have a team, by default I think I’m cheering for Holland. Being a registered citizen and all, it seems like the right thing to do.

I’m pretty sure everyone knows by now, but I’ve decided to stay another semester in Vlissingen for sure, so I’ll be home sometime in January! (Yay, only half a Calgary Winter)

I packed up my apartment yesterday. Most of my stuff and Bianca are crammed inside a small bike locker in the depths of Hercules Segherslaan building number two. The rest of it will be riding on my back for a couple months. These next two months are going to be quite an experience, just going that long without having a home base to go back to and not having anywhere that you feel completely relaxed. I have a feeling the key to avoiding stress and home sickness will be just to take some time to myself every couple weeks. Maybe a day of no plans, just wondering.

Anyway, we’re on the train right now from Vlissingen to Paris. I’m meeting my mom and Max on the 23rd in Paris and we’re going to hang out for 10 days! I am excited!

The two of us made it to Barcelona and had a good long nap after our horrific night bus experience.

In the next couple days we saw the Picasso museum, the Sangria Familia cathedral, the Barcelona Cathedral, the Park Guell, and the Casa Batllo. We also walked down La Rambla, which is an awesome shopping street and bought more clothing than will fit in our carry-on bags. Checking a bag is about 30 euros, so we`re just going to layer all of our clothes when we fly!

We were glad to get most of our touristy sight-seeing done in the first few days, because after we met the group of people in our hostel, we didn’t get going quite as early. The Sant Jordi hostel in Barcelona is the best hostel ever. We met so many people, and ended up spending most of the week with seven guys from the UK. We played Ring of Fire with Sangria every night, had kitchen dance parties and usually ventured out to find a club later in the evening. By later in the evening, I mean no earlier than midnight or you`ll find all the bars empty.

We were sure glad we were flying out of Madrid, because everyone we had met in Barcelona was getting grounded by the Ash cloud. We had booked another night bus back to Madrid (before we knew how terrible it was) that left at 11:59pm on Monday night.

Our hostel was awesome enough to let us leave our stuff there and hang out until our bus left. We almost missed our bus, after our luggage got locked in a room with no keys. Everyone at our hostel almost had us convinced to come out and take a bus the next morning, but finally we got our stuff out and made our bus with minutes to spare.

The next day in Madrid we dropped off our bags at our hostel and walked around the center of looking for things to do. We visited a huge cathedral, parliament and hit a small market.

Our plan was to hang out at the hostel, maybe sleep for a couple hours and then wake up around 1 am and catch the metro to the airport for our 6 am flight, since there was no other way to get there after that. We checked our flight and realized there was a big red `CANCELED` across our flight status.

Mild panic was my first feeling.

Liseanne and I started looking up flights. All of the flights out of Madrid over the next 5 days were either cancelled or incredibly expensive. Our airlines website was incredibly unhelpful, but advised we do not come to the airport to sort out our flight problems, which made things difficult.

We looked into buses and trains to the south of France so we could actually find clear airspace, and buses and trains all the way home, but everything was reeally expensive.

We finally found one flight out of Barcelona on Thursday that was reasonably priced. We booked it immediately and realized that we would have to take ANOTHER night bus to Barcelona.

For anyone counting, that is 3 buses x 8 hours = 24 hours on a bus this week.

The up side? They provide a free bottle of water, and WI FI that doesn`t work.

We made it back to the hostel at about 7:30 am on Wednesday morning and they were cool enough to let us crash there for a few hours while we figured stuff out. They found us a couple beds in another one of their hostels close by, so we took them! We went out for lunch and drinks with the UK guys, who were still also stuck in the city, and hung out on a patio for the afternoon.
We made our flight Thursday, both of us wearing multiple layers that would not fit in our bags. (2 Tanks, 2 Tights, 2 Shirts, a scarf and a dress to be exact.)

Love for now,

Ashley Lynn

We caught a ride to the Brussels airport with our friend Tinja, who was flying out the night before we were. The first thing she said to me when I got in the car was ‘You should put on your seatbelt; it is well suited to my driving style’. Her driving ‘style’ was scary.
After making it to the Brussels airport alive, thankfully, Liseanne and I decided not to book a hostel for the night. We couldn’t find anything under 50 Euros so we decided to sleep in the airport.

It was not a good idea. I’m going to leave it at that.

The next morning, looking haggard, we boarded our flight to Madrid!

I slept all the way there, and we found our hostel quite easily after we got there. It was in this beautiful building right in the center, with a black metal cage elevator, which was very cool. In Madrid we went to the Reina Sofía Museum and then went shopping! We found a really cute little market in a park beside our hostel, so we spent quite a bit of time there browsing through the stalls.
Madrid has terrible postcards by the way, so no one is getting a postcard from there.

We spent the day in a huge park in the middle of the city.

We took a night bus from Madrid to Barcelona, which we thought was a brilliant idea to save money on a hostel and transportation!
It was not a good idea either. Liseanne and I had a discussion the morning after we arrived in Barcelona, as we sat in a cafe, waiting to check into our hostel. Whoever said money doesn’t buy happiness has not attempted to sleep in an airport or on a bus in Spain. Lesson learned, we should have dished out for a flight.

More soon,

Ashley Lynn