Damaged in Berlin

It is September 10, 2016. They day begins with a nice British Breakfast on the ferry from Dover to Calais. It was a sunny and calm day. I have just taken the compulsory photo of the White Cliffs of Dover. Followed by a coffee just to tip and clear out my UK Pounds.


I have yet to mention this but with two exceptions to be mentioned later in the story (Several posts from now), I have a habit of blowing the rest of my currency as I switch currency zones. After passing through customs and getting my passport stamped, it is a several hour drive to Amsterdam. I stayed at Nieuw Slotania Hotel in Amsterdam. I took a walk to the supermarket across the street where I found they sold Brunswick Sardines that come from my home province. While waiting in the lobby I ran into Nunu my driver from my 2011 tour and was so excited to see him. We had a few more run-ins as the tour progressed.

That night we went out to see a live sex show at the Casa Rosso. While waiting out front it was hilarious people up in the hotel across the canal put on a show for us. After the I went to a coffee shop and had a brownie. Then the group found a club and I decided not to go in. I instead went window shopping and ended up depressed that I lacked the confidence to even see one of them, that I in life am alone, that I have no one to share the experience of this amazing trip, and that I feel old and no energy to party. I, therefore, went to Dam Square and got the streetcar back.

The next morning was sunny as well. I didn’t want to take the bike tour of Edam, so I wandered the town aimlessly again like 2011. I, however, found a cool skinny church.


Then we went to a cheese and clog shop. Then dropped off in town. The first thing I got was a stroopwafel, then went with some of the travel-mates to go to a pancake house that was to die for

I went back to the House of Bols that was not as great as 2013. Then I didn’t go to any other museum and just got lost. I followed the wrong canal for half an hour unknowingly before I was surprised nothing I expected to be there was there and I GPSed my location.

I met up with the tour bus again and we went for the optional meal after a group photo to Volendam for a nice dinner. After that, we went to a shots bar and I had a bunch of shots, everyone went to a club. My goal was to party in Leidseplein for the first time ever but I ended up being depressed and called it a night around 11 pm.

The next day was one of the longer travel days. We ended up in Berlin and checked into Plus Berlin around supper time. That night I have several beers at the hotel bar. Then called it a night. The next morning at breakfast I got one of the best pictures of my trip.


The morning began with a need to find Advil for my hangover. I found the Mall of Berlin and spent so much time there it was my lunch stop. After the mall, I found a Spy Museum that was the greatest museum on the whole trip.

From there I hung out around Alexanderplatz until we met up and went to dinner at the Hofbräuhaus, did a tour of Berlin in the Cold War. (different tour than a few years ago) This tour turned into a bar hop and the first bar was nothing more than an abandoned building with a bar, a ghettoblaster, and a toilet.
The second bar was an awesome patio and go a little scary when this drunk guy started to cuddle a female member of our group, then nearly started a fight, was ejected, and then threatened to kill one of the people of our group. (I was drunk so some details are vague) We then finished off at a bar across the street. I had two drinks before a gay German guy started hitting on me and I had to leave. I learned that night what ladies go through.

The next morning I was off to Prague, but that will wait for another post.

Every Turn A Surprise, With New Horizons To Pursue

This is part 9 of the series, with my 7th time in London. (Err Camden, and Westminster) The title of this post will make sense later in this post. We are on September 7th as this portion of the story begins.

I arrived by bus to the Victoria coach station, where I found a pay phone and called my bank collect to get my credit card to work again because like in Sweden, it was cut off again. After that was taken care of, I went to the nearest Underground station “Victoria” that involved going through Victoria Train Station at rush hour. This station has 4 overground and 3 underground lines and it looked like every line arrived at once and like bees in a hive, all moving very efficiently but looked nuts to figure out.

I took the Victoria Line then transferred to the Piccadilly Line to Russell Square. I checked into the Generator, had dinner there, and went down the street to The London Pub at the Royal National Hotel. I met up with a few Contiki groups, drivers, and team managers, and had a couple of British beers. There is something about British beers that mess you up.


The next morning, I saw a sign for a free walking tour. So, I plan on doing that for the morning. It was a really good tour and walked from hostel to hostel, and then we get on the tube to Green Park where all the tour wranglers bring the people. The tour guide was really funny and new his stuff. He took us in 5 minutes to get a better changing of the guard view, then people waiting 3-4 hours had.

We then went to the buildings around Parliament and Westminster Abbey and lots of things on the way. The way the free tours work is they pay per person for the advertising costs to the company and then they get paid by tips. I tipped my guy well. After the tour, I only hung around the area for a half hour or so, then took the tube to Canada Water. I originally went here in 2010 since it had Canada in the name to explore the area, but it has a decent but still shabby mall, Surrey Quay. Now, this mall has gone downhill in the last 6 years but still has a full Tesco and a Burger King with free Wi-Fi.

I had broken my Garmin VivoFit 2 band and I was hoping to find a new one but had no luck here. One of the shops suggested you can get anything at the Camden Market, so that was where I headed next. I never found what I was looking for but I have no regrets of going to Camden Market as it was amazing window shopping, although I didn’t buy anything.


I was starting to run short on time so I headed back to the hostel, showered, and changed. One of the big things to do in London was to see a musical. I had got my ticket at a ticket seller in the subway station that had a ridiculous service fee, but I later found out the ticket works out about the same anyway if I had bought it from the theatre. Let’s face it if you are penny-pinching theatre ticket prices, you are not going to a West End London show.


If you recognized the post title, you know that the show I’m going to see is Disney’s Aladdin the Musical. The London theatre crowd is unique and hilarious to watch. From the elite posh couples to the tourists, to the families on a special outing, to the folks that this was the backup since they couldn’t get into Harry Potter. On thing about this show was that no one puts on a show like Disney. The music, story, dancing, singing, special effects (like the magic carpet), and Pyro were spot on and fantastic.

After the show, I did what all Londoners do. I went to the pub, London Pub. Had “some” drinks and chats with the Contiki crowds. Then went back to my hostel and there was a TopDeck party going on. Who was I to miss out on a party, so I partied on.

I had to check out of this hostel and had hours to kill so I dropped off my bag at the Contiki Basement and went to Green Park to tour Buckingham Palace. It was really bad, the hangover was so intense that I couldn’t move far without puking so I slept in Green Park again for a few hours. I then went to St. Pancreas Station used the washroom and got lunch and checked email on wi-fi.


It was time to check into the Royal National Hotel so I went to the Contiki Basement, picked up my London knickknack along the way, got my suitcase and bag and, rested until the evening meeting with the tour manager Kyle and driver Alex. After the meeting can you guess what happened? I went to the Pub…

The next morning it was an early morning and I was excited and ready to go. No hangover for some reason this morning.

Now we are off to Amsterdam.

København (With A Touch Of Malmö)

I woke up in a strange room, it was dark in the eight-person hostel room when I arrived the previous night it was September 5th and a very sunny day. As I looked around the room, across from me was a beautiful young Scandinavian blonde laying on top of her sheets wearing a… There was nothing to describe as there was nothing that she was wearing. 😎

I didn’t get breakfast at the hostel, so I went for a walk. Nearby the hostel there was a beautiful park, Kongens Have (The King’s Garden). It was filled with new university students doing a scavenger hunt of the statues and Rosenberg Slot (Rosenberg Castle/ The King’s Summer Pleasure Palace). There was also a Danish Military parade going on. However, I was hungry and had no Danish Krone, so I went to the ATM at the Nordea Bank and took out some cash and low and behold there was a bakery right next door. So I got my breakfast danishes. (How could I choose just one.)


I then spent the remainder of the morning doing a scavenger hunt of every numbered item on my map of things to see and get a photo of each. I passed by a female Danish Military Officer who was taking a break, and as I walked by taking photos of the buildings (looking like a tourist) she talks to me.
Officer: “Hey, are you checking me out?”

Shocked me: “No”

Officer: “Why not, in the hottest woman in the Danish Military.”

Me: (Says nothing, turns red, walks away.)

I then went back to the hostel to lay down a bit, I was still jet-lagged. I was going to go see some museums that afternoon but that never happened. I instead went for an aimless walk towards the waterfront fortress and since I was nearby going to see the Little Mermaid statue was inevitable.


I then went back to the hostel and had dinner at the bar. The main bartender was this amazing redhead Italian. As I finished my meal and a few Danish beers. It was happy hour, therefore I missed the sunset. I had a free shot of something called Fisk, it was basically like drinking mouthwash. Then the bartender asked who wanted the extra Fisk shot… everyone looks away… I take it. #sayyestolife

Then the beer pong comes out and the teams are formed because some Aussies have huge mouths on how much they can drink, and how great they are, it is AU/NZ vs. CA/US if the 8 people at the bar. Somehow not due to much of my help we win.

The next sunny morning I get up and the plan is to get to Sweden. However, that proves difficult as the ticket machines have English as an option but Danish and Swedish names for the stops and a few abbreviations that make no sense at all and my MasterCard wasn’t working and my MasterCard Debit was only sometimes working on them. I somehow manage to get a one-way train ticket to Malmö Central Train Station. That was only the beginning of my problems. Nørreport station has so many stations and tracks and people going everywhere that it made no sense at all, I needed to ask the security guy if it was the right spot.

On the train we have to stop at the airport I switch trains. Then the train has to stop halfway for passport control. Officially there are no customs but they are looking for migrant refugees. The officer that checked my passport was a hot blonde. It sounded like she was saying “Hey Hey-hey” to everyone. When I arrived I strolled around my plan for the day was really only to see the Marine Technology museum and to get a knickknack for my mantle.

As I walked through the park. (Hungover from the night before.) I came across a castle, Malmöhus Slott. I decided to pay admission and check it out. It was much bigger inside with a museum, art galleries, and an aquarium. It was a very well done history of the area and how the town transferred back and forth between the Danish and Swedish Kings. The admission also included the Science and Maritime House that I originally wanted to see and that place was pure nerdvana no matter what you liked.


After this, I went back to the train station to return to Copenhagen. However, none of my cards would work! I was freaking out and tried to find a pay phone but they were non-existent anywhere in Malmö. In the end, my debit card worked on one machine and I made it back and went to the hostel. It was dinner time, then happy-hour (or hours), then bed as I had to fly the next day.

As I woke up, it was an overcast day with a few showers. I had a few hours before I had to go to the airport, so I determined that going to Starbucks and getting a photo with the Hans Christian Anderson statue was to be the goal. I took a lot of photos and headed to the airport, and flew back to London.

Twenty-Four Thousand Four Hundred And Fifty-Five

This is not a random number, it is a big one, but not random. I woke up on the morning of September 2nd, 2016 full of energy and excited as hell. I was about to embark on the most epic trip to date. I thought to myself this is one trip that I will never forget. I remember it was a sunny day. I got up early and walked to McAllister Place and caught the bus uptown to start the day off by doing the same thing I have done for almost 3 years of Saturdays, I went to Billy’s Seafood for breakfast. I remember that I had my favourite menu item the Smoked Salmon Omelette and lots of coffee. Billy’s I always tell people is like dinner theatre the staff especially Billy the owner are a hoot.

For most people, they would have already done the packing rather than go out for breakfast, but that is not my style. After breakfast, I went home and had 90 minutes to get ready for 28 days of travelling. So at this point, you would think I would pack right? Nope! I shaved and took a shower (for 60 minutes.) After 20 minutes of running around to not forget anything, I have my bag packed! Then to weigh it 33kg. Repack 28kg. Repack 27kg. Repack 25kg. Repack 24kg. Repack 26kg!!!! Repack 23kg (cue fireworks!)

I then called a Simonds Taxi and to the airport, I was off! I arrived an hour early for my flight checked in and relaxed there was no turning back. As the plane arrived, I took lots of close photos and emailed them to myself. You never know when and air accident investigator will need them. This was part of the feeling of impending doom that was in the back of my mind from my mother begging me not to go.

I got on the plane and it was a rather unremarkable journey to Montreal. Once at Montreal’s Trudeau International, I went to find my gate, and then to find Starbucks for coffee.

I then got on my flight to London’s Heathrow airport. On the flight, I ordered the beef meal. That was a mistake, the bean salad is to die for, as in your will die. I spent the whole night with the worst gas since the last time I had the bean salad in 2013 on the same flight. It was the overnight flight but I got very little sleep.

We land in London and the first experience with “British Unholy Queueing” happened at the customs halls. This is where people use the seatbelt ropes, and keep changing them so you have no clue how long it is going to take and as you get close… nope, the line has changed again.

After I cleared the UK Border control, I went to the main lobby and picked up my Lebara SIM card so I didn’t pay the ridiculous rates Canadian cell phone companies charge. One of the perks of an unlocked phone.

Since I didn’t want to pay for luggage on my plane to Copenhagen, I decided to drop off my main suitcase at the Contiki basement. So I bought an Oyster Card and hopped on the tube.

“Please stand clear of the doors. Let customers off the train first please.”

“This is a Piccadilly Line service to Cockfosters” (giggle)

“The next stop is Russel Square. Alight Here for the British Museum, please mind the gap between the station and the platform.”

I got to the Contiki Basement and dropped my bag off and then wandered Camden, headed to St. Pancreas train station for lunch and then walked to Russel Square, Then to Green Park where I was a bit tired and had some time to kill so I slept for two hours and then walked by Buckingham Palace to Victoria Station and got on my “National Express” bus to London Luton airport. (That is nowhere near London) It is literally like calling the Fredericton Airport the (Saint John-Fredericton Airport) and assuming it was anywhere close to Saint John.

After a two-hour bus journey, I make it to Luton and the bus stops at the front door. The airport is smaller than a lot of big city airports and was very under construction everywhere. However, in typical British fashion, there was no problem everything was fine. I was really early and hungry and the airport check-in for my flight wasn’t open yet. I asked the RyanAir agent where the food places were and they ended up being on the other side of security. I looked really disappointed. However, the agent early checked me in and I was off to get food.

It seemed like forever that we waited in line and the line was long and was mixed with another flight going to a place I never heard of. I kind of thought I wanted to go there instead for a while. I turned out to be some place in Romania.

As I got on the plane, I once again took photos of the plane and emailed them to myself. This plane was like nothing I have ever flown in. The seats were very basic, no seat pockets, advertising on the bins, no leg room at all, and very friendly flight attendants. (Flight Attendants are always nice.) As we flew we had very bad turbulence and I was scared to death that this was where my mother was right and this was going to be the end, but we landed safely.

I got off the plane and got my passport stamped for country 24, Denmark. This was big as it was a while since I added Turks and Caicos on my quest for 40 countries by 40.

The Copenhagen airport was massive and it was late at night (10:30 pm) I walked to the subway station and then got on the train to my hostel, The Generator. On the train, there was a very drunk man that got on with his big bottle of hard liquor and was rambling in what I assume was Danish. It was heavy raining that night, and I was wet and tired, so after check-in, I went straight to bed.

The step-count on my fitness tracker … 24,455.

Final Preperations

Let’s continue the story, it is now a year ago last June. It was a great June, I had auditioned again for “As You Like It” and didn’t get a part. I had made Mango Waffles, and ate the peeling, and I booked my trip front bookend.

Apparently Mango skin contains the same chemicals as poison ivy and shortly after I had a face that was totally swollen. On the same day I went for a very long walk and was quite sunburned and my face had really swelled up for a few days. Since then I have had these puss bubbles come and go on different parts of my head. (Important for a later part of this story.)At this point I have decided that for the front book-end I would go to Copenhagen, Denmark. The 2nd place option was Cork, Ireland. Copenhagen won out since it also presented the possibility to day trip to Sweden. For this trip I wanted to try new things and I was debating EasyJet or RyanAir. In the end I chose RyanAir just because every review said that it was the worst airline ever. I thought that everyone must be picky and booked the return flight. My credit card wouldn’t work and had to use PayPal to get the ticket.

The next item I booked was my hotels. In 2011, when I was in Berlin I had fond memories of The Generator so I booked the Generator for my nights in Copenhagen and Denmark.

That was all I planned. Everything else was done improv style for that portion.

For the final piece, I was watching everything book up quickly and decided I could no longer wait for Tony and booked a hostel in Munich. For Rome, the Generator was opening a new location and was advertised as coming soon. It was really stressful and Contiki couldn’t tell me where we were staying in “Rome” and only that it is “usually near Termani”. It wasn’t until mid-August that they opened up bookings and I grabbed it up the same day!

A big part of this trip was to not credit card this trip and to prepay everything that I booked. I had also decided that I really wanted to see Naples and Pompeii. I booked the Tranitalia train to Naples but had heard it was better to get the train tickets there for Naples to Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius.

On July 23rd I received a text from my mother that simply said “can you call me up country”. Now I don’t call my mother very often, let alone up country. This was out of the ordinary. I called her up and she pleaded with me not to go. She apparently had dreams that if I go on the trip that something bad was going to happen. At that point I had so much booked that it was too much stress not to go, but little did I know it was going to be very stressful and cut down the fun of the trip.

About a week before the trip one of the head bubbles started getting really big, and it was too inconvenient to see a doctor before I left on the trip and resolved to see him when I came back.

WordCamp Halifax 2017

Yesterday was my 8th WordCamp, the first one ever held in Atlantic Canada.

Dalhousie University was a great location, and the buildings are very modern but historic looking at the same time. As for Halifax the city, it was meh. I didn’t spend much time elsewhere as the traffic and confusing signs stressed me out.

I got to see some very interesting presentations my favourites in order were: Shelly Peacock’s The “No Badger” Zone, Sarah Rennick’s You Don’t Have To Sacrifice Your First Born To Make A Child Theme, Laura Hawkins’ Tips For Creating Effective Site And Blog Content, Kathryn Presner’s A CSS Adventure, Jean-Francois Arseneault’s Guardians of the Website, and Chris Van Patten’s It Doesn’t Have To Hurt: Bringing Modern Dev Practices to WordPress.

Planning and Superstition

In August 2015, it was like Christmas! The Summer 2016 flyer came out and I drooled over every page. Vacation planning is not something I do a lot of, it is more of a familiarization of options. As I reviewed my options, let’s face it, maximizing the number of new countries was the main option.

There resulted in one tour that became the only one that worked for dates to take my mother to Europe, and her need to user the Labour Day weekend to make it work, and the need to still hit Oktoberfest with Tony. That tour was the Trail to Rome starting September 9, 2016. It would leave London, then go to in order; Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Krakow, Budapest, Ljubljana, Venice, and Rome. This was it or bust!I have always booked these trips through the tour group directly, as it was just easier. Since the past trips, I took some cruises and booked them through a particular travel agent. As a few weeks passed, the trip date after the one I wanted went completely sold out and my trip was limited availability now. So I went online and booked the trip directly with Contiki. Since the rest of the trip dependent on others, I didn’t get the insurance (later in the story this was a very wise decision), or airfare.

Around the end of the year, some things came up and my mother was going to have to cancel. Then the trip sold out and Tony was only going to do the end week. Come April I needed to buy my airfare and the trip was not firmed up but I knew I was going to take book-end weeks before and after the trip so I planned to fly to London (so I could store my big bag and travel light), then after the trip give half a week to plan later and then fly Rome to Munich for Oktoberfest, spend 3 nights there, and fly home from there.

Now I researched my flights and tweeted the flights to perfection and timings to not be too early, too late, or wait times too long or too short. I also planned to try out Lufthansa to come home. Since this was 3 segments and multi-airline, I determined a travel agent would be my best bet, and I needed to get travel insurance still.

Now since I booked my trip my regular agent didn’t seem pleased that I booked the package directly with Contiki. In addition, I am quite superstitious about things and the two cruises I booked through her using different airlines, both had my luggage delayed. I, therefore, decided to use a different location of the same company to book the flights. I showed up with a post-it note that had dates, flight codes, and airport codes that would confuse most people as a pile of gibberish, but to her, it made perfect sense and I had tickets in no time.

I also bought travel cancellation insurance through her. I thought the price was a little high and later found out it was the plus plan, and that was why. By the time I found that out it was too late to do anything about it.

It’s Showtime!

Now to continue the story. The biggest point of fear is the moment before doing something. However, I have at this point completely learned my part and it is showtime for the final full rehearsal and there are a limited number of media and a few other people in the audience. It makes this effectively the first show. I’m standing behind the curtain waiting for my cue, which was in the second part of the first act, and am trembling because although I’m not on stage yet, I have no way to escape out of doing this. After two months of faking it, pretending to be an actor, I step out on stage. I don’t remember much of that show I was in character and pulled it off.

The next day, the first day of paying guests, I trip on my way to work, rip open my knee and elbow, but the most tragic event happened. My coffee cup exploded all over the sidewalk and I lost it. A world without coffee is not a great world. That night I was faking it again and really was focused and didn’t even notice the audience. Each night after the show I got to meet some of the audience.The reason why the story started here was that after the Friday show, I invited my mother to travel with me to see London and Paris on the fateful trip when the story gets interesting.

I did absolutely love the acting and had auditioned again the next year but have never gotten a chance to do it again yet hopefully as I heal, I will get a part in the future. The following April I did perform with my friend Tony in a Shakespeare open mic a bit from Coriolanus. Unfortunately, he messed up his line. (sarcastic supportive emoji 🙄)

It was also at this point that I convinced myself that it was time for Contiki trip number 4. My friend Tony also wanted to join me for the Contiki and to do a post tour trip to visit Pompeii and Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. (Do I even need to state it is in Germany. Doesn’t everyone know Munich is in Germany?)

Later, my mother sent me a list of things she would find interesting like the Tower of London, the English Moores, Normandy, and where in Paris that Princess Diana was killed. (Moan, not Paris again…)

So the plan is to bring my mother for a few days, send her home. Meet Tony and then go on Contiki, then a post week of exploration.