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The Virgin Islands, or Where They Used to Be

This was a morning, that I was pumped and excited for, I work up stupid early so that I could emerge for breakfast and grab some amazing, red sky in morning, photos of the island as the sun peaked over the horizon.

For this morning, I wanted to be ready to go early and quickly plate loaded from the buffet. I then returned to my cabin to shower and prepare the day bag with everything I needed, camera, phone, tripod, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, and wallet. I really had no plans at all what to do and I had no US cash on me so the vague plan was to get off the ship, find wifi and catch-up, post some pictures to make those at home jelous, and find a bank. Today I arrived to the port of Tortola, one of the British Virgin Island.

I got off the ship and it was a nice close walk to the Tortola cruise village. It was actually quite obvious that the cruise village was a fake example of stereotypical island life and all the usual shopping. I sat on a bench in front of the Diamonds International and got on the wifi there. It was pretty good wifi, all my Facebook feed was filled with people talking about a major blizzard. I felt bad of course so I posted this picture.

Sunrise over Tortola BVI
Sunrise over Tortola BVI

Then I left the cruise terminal area and came across the CIBC First Caribbean bank and took out $40USD. I then went to a local shop and picked up a tiny ornament. One of the first things I noticed was that the island was filled with random chickens everywhere.

As I returned to the terminal, I negotiated taking a safari type truck tour of the Island. It was beautiful, although it was mainly a lot of what like was like on the island, and “This is where X used to be”. One of the memorable moments was when we were approaching the wall with the mural of the islands history, one van going in the other direction got caught on our truck and we were wedged for a while as the only place for the other van to go was over the cliff.

One attraction that is still around on the island is on the far end of the island where there was an amazing rum distillery and a huge and popular beach.

After the tour, I was exhausted and went back to the ship and found a sun chair on Deck 18.

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The banged up emotions, banged up car, and big boom finale

As we left off the quest, I was on the back roads of southern Ontario, with the Spotify music pumped. I was taking the back roads partly because it was taking everything to keep myself together, and partly because the 410, 407, and 401 scare the hell out of me.

It was at this point, I decided that seeing Niagara Falls wasn’t going to happen with the gloomy dark cloud of depression. It was also raining and cloudy too. After close to 2 hours, I arrived in Kitchener and the sun came out there. I managed to find a convenient little parking spot and walked down the Festival street. I have written before about Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest but there is something about this festival that in it’s own special way brings it over the top. There seems to even be a much higher percentage of people in traditional dress than you even see in Munich.

The Rogers Hometown hockey was there and there was a beautiful smell in the air that brought nostalgia back. Like most things however, the second time is just not the same and the depression came back. I grabbed a sausage and water and then went to the gift shop to buy a new pin for Oktoberfest hat and Bavarian suspenders. Then got in my car turned on my “Sadness” Spotify playlist and hit the 401.

As I entered Toronto after supper time the only suitable thing to do was to stop and grab some Popeye’s. There was no way after the nerve wrecking of the 401 so far that I wanted to deal with downtown Toronto traffic lights and lanes. I then after eating the meal continued on my way to Oshawa where I was so tired that I pulled over to a Tim Hortons and rested for an hour before proceeding to the ONRoute in Port Hope.

I slept very well that night even for sleeping in my car. The next morning I woke up refreshed and continued towards home. On the way back I detoured a few times the first was to take a photo of the First Railway tunnel. The second was to go to Kingston ON Wal-Mart to buy new shoes because my old ones were so far gone my numb feet hurt.

After Brockville, I dove the side road along the waterfront and found a beautiful little stop in Prescott ON where there is a historic site that was the location of the Battle of the Windmill where rebels were stopped by the Royal Navy in 1838. This was my last detour in Ontario before I stopped for lunch at Denny’s. I gas the most incredible pancakes with a Dolce cream to pour over them and soak in them to make a moist wonderful pile of goodness. Which would be the last goodness of the trip.

I gassed up and hit the road. After the panic of Toronto, I was destined to skip Montreal and take the toll bypass road. Or had wished I did. Instead out of nowhere it seemed I entered Montreal. It was a particular sunny but not too sunny day. From Kingston to Montreal it was “mainly sunny”. I entered the tunnel to leave Montreal and thought well that’s it I made it.

This is when Siri started giving weird directions that made no sense, and I decided to follow signs instead. I was in the 2nd of four lanes and couldn’t lane change due to a transport truck and was forced off on exit 90 of the 20. Well crap… I now had to figure out getting back on the highway and was all frustrated, I was so depressed and just wanted to get home.

I looped back on Boulevard Marie-Victorin and proceeded back to the highway, went to check my blind spot and missed one of two yield signs and the middle on-ramp of two on my left and out of nowhere my fender makes contact with the door of another car! I pull over on the ramp from hell and cars keep proceeding by my car was able to move and my airbags didn’t go off, but my anxiety is through the roof. The bigger fear then the accident, how I was getting home, or even talking to the stranger, my mind went to “what if the guy doesn’t speak English?!” I get my insurance and papers and place them in my pocket and get out of the car taking pictures of the damage and the scene.

The guy started saying something in French and I asked him if he spoke English and he did. Not to get into much detail but the guy has a history in HR and was super calm with a “shit happens, let’s move forward” approach asking if I was alright. After taking the obligatory driver’s license and car licence plate photos we agreed to proceed off the highway and to a nearby mall parking lot. In the lot was spent about 20 minutes exchanging information and then proceeded on our way.

My tire was rubbing on the wheel-well a but on bumps but it was not too bad. I pumped up a Spotify playlist and continued home as fast as I could. Around midnight, I was so tired and a bit low on gas and pulled into the Irving in Saint-Antonin. I slept kind of well until about 6:30 am, got gas, and headed back to New Brunswick on a beautiful, sunny, Thanksgiving Day morning.

That part of the NB highway looks magical and very beautiful with the yellows, reds, and oranges of the autumn leaves over the many rolling hills and the river valley of the majestic Saint John River. I knew that as the water when I reached the end I would be home.

It has been a really long time since I last seen the world’s longest covered bridge, and Hartland also has a Tim’s so it was time to detour into town. Once I hit Fredericton, I was getting sick of Spotify and turned on CBC. This is when I learned that going home might not be as easy as planned. The news broke into programming that there may have been an explosion at the Irving Oil refinery that is only a short 3km away from my house. I texted my sister and she said she was alright and that they were not evacuating the area. As I was passing Grand Bay, I first seen with my own eyes the column would f Barack smoke rising from the refinery.

The journalist side of me knew that so needed to get a photo of it for the day that I wrote about my trip. I stopped at Wolastoq Park where I took my photos and then headed home. I was so exhausted that I went to my TV room and did nothing all day but work on cleaning out my PVR. Thus ended my Thanksgiving Day epic.

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If at First You Don’t Succeed… Build a Museum

Shall we continue where we left off, attempting to sleep—

Update at 2:24am #1 stoped snoring and #4 and #6 are sharing #6 and double “bean flicking” #FML

Facebook Post

After the above comment to the Facebook post in my last post, I passed out with exhaustion regardless of the hostel situation.

Buzz!!! Buzz!!! Buzz!!!… it’s 5:45am!

That meant it was time to get up. For once I was prepared with my go bag and clothes for what I needed for the day. Went to the shared washroom, brushed my teeth, and ran (hobbled quickly with only one ankle) to the tram stop a few blocks down. It was a brisk and crispy morning as the sun was already rising over the buildings in the square. I arrived several (23) minutes before the first train. (or so I thought) to the train.

After determining that I had time, I went to Costa to get coffee. (Sorry, Closed) The coffee shop across the street.  (Sorry, Closed) The literally 15ish coffee shops in this college/young urban district of town. (Sorry, Closed) Needless to say, I was going to get on this tram coffeeless.

The tram arrived and I got on several stops and I was at the train station. Up the escalator and I was in the hall. The station is not the fanciest in Europe but the crowds flow efficiently and you get to get on trains. Although, I ran out of time to get coffee.

It is now time to seek out new life and new civilizations aboard the Starship Enterprise. (err… Seek out new adventures and an old civilization on the train service “Enterprise”.)

Okay, let’s level with you all. The only reason I’m on this train going to this particular city over Waterford, Limerick or Cork is the train was the “Enterprise”.

So I am on the train and my name is on the LCD display above the seat, this is so unlike the paper slips I am used to on Via Rail and Amtrak trains. The train is on its way and I am off to country 34, Northern Ireland to see the city of Belfast. I slept most of the way there.

Now you are probably asking why Belfast, there must be other cool things in Northern Ireland. Which is very true the original plan after taking the Enterprise was that Belfast would be boring and I love the catchy song “Daytrip to  Bangor” so I would connect to the train that goes to Bangor for the day and get a picture. As I looked at the train map, I saw the second stop was named Titanic Quarter. Then looking at the map I found that there was a Titanic Museum and that was the death of Bangor.

At the train station, there are signs that it is free to get on a city bus to transfer to City Hall square in downtown where the bus hub, main tourist bureau, and coffee shops are. At the square, the bus stopped in front of the coffee shop so that was stop number one. Then I picked up a day bus pass and got on the bus to the Titanic Museum.

The museum is a huge and beautiful building on the waterfront with lots of crowds like you would expect to see at any tourist area/trap. One highlight was the Contiki Bus driving by, I think there is a picture from my 2016 tour on the side of the bus.

The museum is quite pricey but there is a lot to see and it is a very interactive experience. It starts with the history of Ireland, then the history of Belfast, the history of shipbuilding, then the Harland & Wolff company, about Ocean-liners, then the White Star Line.

After that multimedia exhibit then it goes into the design and construction of the ships, and more specifically the Titanic. It then leads up to a big window that overlooks the slipway where the Titanic and Olympia where built. Then you enter a room with a virtual experience on all walls flying through the ship. Then a history on how Marconi operated the telegraph system on ships, filled by the Titanic’s sea trials.

After this, it was about how people, interacted and stayed on board the ocean liners and the whole class system. Then it was followed by the maiden voyage where for the first time you learn, the ship doesn’t make it and sinks after hitting the iceberg.

Then it goes into more exhibits on the rescue, and how the Titanic is misunderstood by popular culture. The final exhibit is about the underwater drones that found the wreckage of the Titanic. At this point, it was getting later in the afternoon and was disappointed by the gift shop. After I exited, there was a perfect moment, there was a young musician whose parents were recording her playing the Titanic Song on the Theremin in front of the Titanic sign.

Upon going back to city centre, I just walked around in pain and exhaustion taking as many pictures of things in the Tourist map that I could before running out of time and getting a bus and barely making it back to the train station.

On the way back, I admired the beautiful views and mainly wrote the first post in this series of post on this trip.

As we now end this I have just arrived back to Dublin for the most memorable night of the trip.

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Europe 2018 #33 – Part 3

After a well rested night, it is now my birthday. I slept a bit late and left the hostel to wander around Dublin. The most important first stop was the local Costa Coffee shop across the plaza, and to pump up some energy for the day, and to Facebook creep what was going on in the world.

After coffee, I went to the waterfront (river the passed through the city) and walked towards the area that the hostel said was where all the tour tickets could be brought about a 25-minute walk away. I took a lot longer taking photos and resting due to my limitations every couple of blocks.

It was at this point that it hit me that, I was near no one I knew, in a place I knew nothing really about. This got me really sad. The first bridge I came across I thought was the famous (according to my map) Ha’penny Bridge. I Facebook Live posted a video going across it. (Which had no viewers.)

Then as I continued on to the next bridge it had a sign that it was the Ha’penny Bridge. It looked cooler but yet less impressive and had about a half dozen homeless sleeping on it. I decided not to cross it. I then noticed a little shop that sold souvenirs and I dropped in and picked up a little Leprechaun and a t-shirt. This shop also sold passes to the hop on buses so I picked one up here.

Outside the shop, I was waiting for the bus with two guys who were waiting for their wives to finish shopping and picking up tickets to a dinner show. The guy warned his wife that they were going to miss their bus. (Which they did.)

Although I wanted to see the ladies reaction when they got back, I got on the bus. It only went one stop and then we were told we had to get off and could get on the bus waiting in front. Now that first bus had a recorded audio tour, the second bus had a live audio tour and the guy was hilarious.

I spent the next 3 hours going around Dublin on that bus not wanting to hop off because I loved that driver. My plan was to get off at the Guinness Brewery but opted not to, to stay on the bus. I would also point out that the brewery has the strong burnt popcorn smell. As I approached the hostel, I got off the bus and recharged my phone and rested for a half hour.

After the rest , I went next door to the Jameson’s Distillery. This is one of the best alcohol attractions I have ever seen, on Heineken in Amsterdam was better. It does the typical, here’s the history, here’s how it’s made, here’s how each ingredient and process matters, here’s why we’re best, here’s the gift shop and finally the grand finale, here’s the bar. I still considered going to Guinness but met so cool Belgians and wanted to try more whiskey.

Closing in now on the late afternoon, I was stumbling out of the distillery. (Let’s pretend it was because of my bad ankle.) I then walked across the bridge and towards the Viking castle area and then was intending to make it to the Temple bar area. However, I needed to drain from the distillery and came across a restaurant/pub with an “Authentic Irish” menu and decided it was a fitting place for my birthday dinner.

After dinner, I was looking for the bus stop that was on the map and only after it was too late that I was on the wrong parallel street. So I walked along the river, crossed at the Ha’penny bridge, and then retired to the hostel, had another Guinness at the bar, and then “called it a night.”

The quotes on that last part are because it was an interesting night. I had an early morning to catch the train to Belfast. I posted this to Facebook at about 12:30 am:

Picture this situation, 4 bunk bed sets, two on each wall, numbered 1-8. I’m in #8 and the world record holder for loudest snorer is in #1 (90% sure it is a she). #3 and #5 are taking up the sofas in the lobby. #7 is about to lose his anger management chip.

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Arriving at the Hospital

As I was in the ambulance rushing to the hospital. I noticed that it was a Peel Region paramedic so I realized I wasn’t going to Toronto and probably Mississauga and the ride seemed really long. The biggest thought on my mind at that moment was not my condition, but that I couldn’t get ahold of my friends that were meeting me, that my bag was still at the airport, and that I haven’t cleared customs.

I started to notice that the turns and distance of freeways didn’t seem right for Mississauga. I asked the paramedic and he said we were headed to Brampton Civic Hospital.Once we arrived, I was rolled into the hospital an the person at the hospital pointed to one of a long hallway of hospital beds and the Paramedic had me roll over to the other bed. Then I was left in the hallway for a long time. A woman eventually arrives and I give her my insurance card and Medicare card and she admits me to the hospital. I’m not moving much at this point.

After another long wait this nurse comes with a phone. The Peel Police are on the line and ask if it is okay to tell my sister where I am at. I agreed and she then left. I was so tired and couldn’t sleep because of I would stop breathing.

The nurse comes back and I have to pee so she gets me a urinal that I can’t use. I think it is because I am laying down, the reality is I lost control of the mussels. The doctor thinks he knows what it is and has to take a spinal tap to check. I get brought into the little room for the test. I also decide at that time that it is a good idea to try to stand and pee. The nurse stops me and tests come back that it is Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS).

This head doctor in the ICU comes to talk to me, but I was occupied and didn’t remember most of what she said but I remember her say that I was going to be admired, that it was going to take 4 weeks to be resolved, because I am under 40 that the survival rate is pretty good. She also wanted my medical history because I was going to have to have a trach put in within a half hour.

I was moved to the ICU and they put a catheter in me. The room was light coloured, there was a window to my left, there was an LCD TV straight ahead, and a red LED clock above it. To the right of the TV there is a board that had notices on it like the date, doctor, treatment, and the room phone number.

At this point I don’t remember much that really happened. The next few post will be what I remember, but a lot of it never happened my brain made it real to me.

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A Crazy Time

We arrive in Budapest around 5pm on September 20th. We were staying at Wombats Budapest and I was hungry. I needed to find a currency exchange place since I had too much Polish Zlotys left and the receptionist recommended this place around the corner. (Ibla Change) I did very well, I got close to 12,050 Forints. ($55 Canadian) Most of the other places were giving 8,700 for it. Now this place was really cheep! (Think the waiter from EuroTrip that would open his own hotel on a US Nickle.)

We went for a river tour that night and it was an amazing buffet and was as pretty as Budapest at night. On the cruise there was one couple that had been fighting the past couple days made up and got engaged!


After the cruise if you read the past posts in this series it was Shots and Beer time. We walked though this ally of restaurants and bars that was incredible. There was this amazing grunge looking place we went to that had many stories and bars in it. It was so packed, after a few beers, I just left everyone and walked back to the hotel. This is when I was approached by a woman of the night, we talked a bit, but I turned her down. She then got upset and started yelling something in Hungarian and then spit on me and said I was cursed.

Totally freaked out I went back to my room and showered. My giant bubble on my head bursts at this point and was filled with yellow puss. I decide to shower and go to bed. As I move the sheets there is a little black bug moving along the sheets. I move the mattress and there is more and then so look at the joints of the bunk bed any there is even more. Then I check the other sets of beds in the room and there is none.I go to reception and they address the problem by cleaning my stuff and giving me a different co-ed shared room for the night as they are fully booked, and would get a new room the next day. As I enter the room it is dark and I use my phone as a flashlight to make the bed (check for bugs) and then I fell asleep.


As I awoke the next morning I awake and look around the room, and there is a Australian blonde laying on the sheets, like Copenhagen, naked. I had a tour in the morning so I got breakfast and placed my stuff in storage until I got my room. The tour was okay we walked all around the Pest part of town, seen the statues, buildings and learned the history. The tour ended in the Terror Museum that was okay, but there are better things to do like the baths


After the tour some of us went to a fancy Italian restaurant that was so good. I then left the group and wandered to the Buda side to climb up to the castle and take photos. I then went to find a restaurant in that ally that was the most expensive local cuisine as I had so much money left (about 5000 forints).


That night everyone was going out again and I joined them for pre-drinks but was not feeling going out. So I just sat and talked until late with those who were sitting around.

The next morning we drove to Slovenia, we were close to the Croatian border where there is a fence and fields to keep out the migrants. Kind of felt like the Berlin Wall in theory. We got to see the biggest tourist trap in the area Lake Bled that has a famous cake. Let’s face it you had me at cake, that was what I was doing getting coffee and cake. The cake was good and the patio views were good too.


We then ended up at the destination city of Ljubljana the capital of Slovenia. Most of the group ended up going to a Mexican restaurant that was really good. Then we ended up at a very cool dungeon bar for drinks. As half the group went to a club, I went with the other group for drinks at a kind of sketchy packed place. It was the most fun I’ve had. I got waisted… again.


As we headed back it was hilarious everyone was following me as I was waisted trying to find my way back.

The next morning it was off to the final country, Italy.

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And It Peaked…

“Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true. When will you realize… Vienna waits for you?” –Billy Joel

This is truly a special city. One does not really understand Europe without Vienna. This was the first of the several cities that were new to me on the Contiki tour. I was starting to feel like I was more the tour guide in some of the previous cities and they started to seem ordinary. Not, Vienna.

Monument on a building


It is September 16th, about 10 days to go until the fateful day and the greatest day ever. When we arrived in Vienna we checked into the a&t Holiday Hostel Vienna then dressed up for a night out. The night started with a concert with a quartet, opera singers, and ballroom dancers. Of course there was an intermission with wine. After this we went to Kern & Waldmann amusement park for dinner. I think the restaurant was called Schweizerhaus. The beer and the food was amazing. 

While here others in the group went on rides as I watched. I was getting more and more depressed by the minute. I was really convinced if I went on a ride, that was it. A scene from the Final Destination movie was about to happen. After the rides a few people decided to go back. I went with them not wanting to have to rely on a taxi to get home.

Amusement Park Ride

At the subway station, I got a 24 hour ticket and got on the train helping a few others find the right train. On the train I realized our tour manager was wrong about the trains ending and I wanted to tell people at the bar. This and I had no excuse for transportation that I stood up half way back to the hotel and decided tonight would be a “Fuck It” night, even with a bit of a sore throat, and ran off the train and switched to a train going back.

I was headed back to the club Prater DOME and there were no regrets. When I got there the amusement park was dying down for the night, but the club was rocking. This place was one that gives you a card and you cover the tab on the way out. I went to the bar and got a drink, and another, and another, and another.

Amusement Park Nightclub


Then I got to the dancing point of the night. The music kept me going and going. I was on top of the world and the depressed me was too drunk to care. That is until I was too drunk to go to the bar and order more. This place had evil bottled alcohol vending machines. So a few more drinks later… it is close to 3:30am and I call it quits, mostly because one of the women on the tour is too drunk to stay and needs help getting back, more so someone to help her get back safe. So I bring her on the subway, and then guessing based on a bad map find the way back. I drank lots of water and slept well for a few hours.

The next day was great but more quiet for obvious reasons. We started with a sightseeing tour of the area around the Royal Palace, and made our way to the Swarovski crystal “museum” that was really just a pay to look at shiny things in a store that you can buy if you a super rich. There was literally 5 things under 10€ to spend the 5€ for a free gift. The breakfast at the hotel really didn’t cut it so the group of us headed to McDonald’s. I had a coffee since Austria is well know for their coffee.

Austrian Coffee


I then wandered around and saw lots of cool things on a “Not the typical tourist traps you would see on a Vienna tour” tour. It included highlights like the cement benches that the locals consider the ugliest, a mural of a cow playing backgammon, the little know lookout for St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the tiniest alley in Vienna.

Cow Playing Backgammon Mural


After this I had some time to kill and tried finding the movie museum that I ran by earlier but never did find it. Instead I found a museum about the history of stage performance and how Vienna as a centre of music and culture for hundreds of years was ahead of everyone and developed almost every stage technique used today. For stage fans this place is second only the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. (technically Southwark)

Theatre Museum Display


Still not feeling the greatest I went to ride the Metro for a bit and see a weird shaped building. Then it was off to the see the Schnapps museum (shop). It was good and interesting how the company was run and then ended. 

Vienna Group Photo at the Royal Palace
Schnapps Museum


We then went to see the Summer Royal Palace, and had a classic Vienna dinner. Since we were practically forbidden to “go big” that night it turned into a quite rest night.

The next day we would be off to the death camps.