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A Journey to Start All Journeys

Looking back I don’t have many posts outlining my early international trips this was my 2010 trip to New York City.

This trip starts like any other trip a random bus ride to Montreal to see the Canadiens in their playoffs bid in Montreal. However, it took a bit of a turn. I instead ended up going to the Forum cinema and catching a movie and then went to PearlVision to fix my glasses that broke. It had been a very long bus ride to Montreal overnight on the Acadian Lines bus. Feeling down from the long trip that I only took because I sold people I was going to the game that I had no way of getting tickets to, and no booked hotel in Montreal I had a “great idea”. I was going to take the bus to New York City and then take the Greyhound up to Bangor and catch the Acadian Lines service home.

After a day in Montreal, I went to the old bus station and got my tickets. I was really tired and quickly after leaving fell asleep on the bus. Only to be woken by the overzealous US Border Service Officer getting on the bus with his hat and telling the bus that we were to go inside, not to talk on phones, not to take phones, form a line and answer questions. The crowd shuffled out of the bus and into the office. Inside it was not too out of the ordinary and most everyone made it back to the bus and on the way back to New York City. I dozed off again.

As we stopped in Albany NY the bus became more full and there was this black man that sat beside me and had a really bad and strong-smelling deodorant who really had me nervous and I remained awake until arriving at the Port Authority bus terminal. From here I got onto an NYC subway train E to Canal Street. From here I walked to the construction site at the World Trade Center site and had breakfast at Burger King, at 6 am.

I then ventured around the construction site and made it to the coast of the Hudson and followed the river looking for my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. The funny story is I was going the wrong way and ended up near the old Pier 48 before changing direction and ending up at Battery Park. It was a hazy day and was a spectacular sight when I saw it but was more infatuated with “The Eyes” public artwork. After looking at the size of the line to go over to the island, I decided to walk up Broadway.

One of the things that I didn’t expect was how narrow Wall Street was, and the at the Bull was not actually on Wall Street. I also was fascinated by all the plaques for all the different reasons they celebrated with ticker-tape parades. I actually wonder if confetti was actually a thing pre-ticker tape.

From there I followed Broadway up to Bleeker St then took the B train up to 86th street as I was excused and journeyed into Central Park and to was as glorious as I hoped it would be. I found a grassy knoll and rested and got about an hour sleep and then continued south to see the park.

By this time it was late afternoon and I found the Ghostbusters Spook Central building and Columbus Circle and made my way down Broadway buying nuts and oranges from a street vendor. I got to see the outside of Ed Sullivan theatre and Times Square.

Times Square was really interesting and packed with people. I remember going to TGIFridays for dinner and then really stopped exploring and spent several hours in Times Square. ABC was having the Lost series finale by chance that night so I joined the hoards of fans and watched my only ever episode of Lost with captions on a side of a building. To be honest, I’m not really sure what happened on the show but will never forget sitting on the street.

After I explored some of the streets and then caught the 11 pm bus to Bangor. It was rather uneventful and even switching busses in Boston was uneventful. Where this story gets interesting was crossing the border. I was held in this room while the two border agents were certain I was bringing something back on my netbook. They even went through all my emails and started asking me about all the drugs mentioned in my spam folder. It seemed like it was forever and my biggest fear was that the bus was going to leave me there.

As it turned out I had an Apple sticker on my Windows 7 netbook and they thought it was a Mac. I eventually returned to the bus and returned home.

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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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Drywall Flying Off a Trailer is Still a Sign

Planning for this trip started months ago, it was planned as the best available excuse to visit Brampton Civic Hospital to determine what was real and what was not. I had already sacrificed a day from this mini vacation for my day visiting the Anthem of the Seas and had Friday to Tuesday for a road trip to Brampton. “Coincidence” (with air quotes) would prevail that it was also during Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest.

As the weekend approached, I was starting to have second thoughts about this trip and a feeling that it was not the most financially planned decision to make. It was literally the Friday morning that I was going to go. The plan was Montreal on Friday, Brampton/Kitchener on Saturday, Niagara Falls on Sunday, back to Kitchener on Monday for the parade and then drive home.

As I was leaving Saint John and just passing Spruce Lake. Out of nowhere a sheet of drywall flew in the air just metres in front of me and luckily there was none beside me and I switched lanes to avoid disaster. As soon as that happened, I had this dreadful feeling that this trip was a mistake. I continued on anyway. I crossed the boarder, with fairly little trouble and for once wasn’t searched.

I drove the airline to Bangor and stopped for lunch at Dysart’s just outside Bangor. I grabbed a sandwich, dessert, and bottle of juice. The sit down area was really busy. Since I knew that I could go just over 625km on a tank of gas, I went as far as Newport ME to fill up. It was after this fill up that you experience one of the most amazing drives. The road towards Lac Magantic that follows a river and passes the mountains with the changing leaves of fall is breathtaking. It was taking this route that I came across another broken sheet of drywall in the middle of the road.

As I passed through Sherbrooke, QC I needed to get some cash to go out that night in Montreal and while their, I had a rest stop at Tim Hortons. One of the thing I absolutely love about the Tim Hortons mobile ordering is that I no longer need to know enough French to order coffee and a donut.

As I arrived in Montreal, I shut off the GPS telling where to go. Mainly because it made no sense. I circled a whole lot of blocks and there was a parking lot but it was $30 and I thought that that was stupid crazy expensive. I eventually found a free on street spot on Rue de Bullion. Although there was a mentally disturbed person pacing the street that scared me a little so I waited for him to go down the street and I got out placed my stuff in the trunk and walked quickly to dinner.

My main goal was to get the La Belle Province for a smoked meat poutine. I have to say that it was the best poutine I had in as long as since last time I was in Montreal on my way back from Oktoberfest in 2015. As with all things nostalgia, it was disappointing from my memory of it. The meat was more fried and smaller bits than before. After dinner, I strolled the streets a bit and settled on going to Ste. Elisabeth, which is still my favourite little pub. The crowd was good and listening to other people’s conversations, or at least the few that were in English was a great evening. I spent a good two hours there before heading back to the car to find a truck stop.

As, I left Montreal I quickly ended up in Ontario. As you cost the boarder there is an excessive number of law signs, one after the other for almost 2 kilometres. I spent the night at the ONroute in Bainsville. It was a rough night and I didn’t sleep very well but I tried anyway. My plan was to get to Brampton by 1pm.

After waking up I went to go to the Irving to refuel, but ended up not finding it and went to a Petro-Canada followed by Tim’s and off to Toronto I go. Along the way I saw a sign advertising the first railway tunnel in the country in Brockville and detours to see it. It was closed so I took a photo and moved on.

Until I seen the sign for the Big Apple, and I thought it would be a cool place to get a photo in front of the sign and move on. Oh boy was I mistaken, as I drove by I saw that it was packed and thought that it was just a rural market type thing. As I got out of the car the first thing I noticed was the petting zoo and dog park. When inside the building centres around a giant glass walled bakery that was rapidly making apple and pumpkin pies. It was so cute to see the little children knocking on the glass and waiving to the cooks and the smiles as the cooks waived back. To the left there was a craft brewery and cider house that made a wide variety of tasty beverages and a gift shop the sold local goods mixed amongst the typical gift shop wares. Notable amongst the local made items was wine and hundreds of types of chewy candies.

To the right was a large bakery shop that is typical to a farmers market with more baked goods than you could possibly ever eat. In the by the slice case there were over 20 types of apple pie and tarts to choose from. Also, there was a smokehouse to get the freshest ribs, chickens and, brisket. Outside there were rides, a Beavertails mini golf, and an activities area.

After I left there I was on the road again, it was light raining and overcast. As I approached Toronto the 401 gradually split into a stupid number of lanes, and unnoticed until too late a stupid number of cars going very slow. Magically swiping lanes and the merging nightmare of going back and forth between the 401 and 401 Express. My anxiety was also at a stupid level of stressed that if I could have figured out how to change nine plus lanes I would have taken the side roads. Also it was getting close to 2pm at this point and I didn’t want to get to Brampton too late. Thus not getting to Kitchener too late.

As I first glanced the hospital, I noticed the white church that my mother talked about. The inside of the building didn’t at all look as so had imagined and seemed quite advanced at parts. Hearing the announcement voices were far mor terrifying than the 401. In my mind there would be a person at the desk that I could tell my story to and complete the quest. What I ended up with was a desk with two options, “Pod 1” or “Pod 2” and on the wall above it, was a red clock of terror.

Brampton Civic Clock
Brampton Civic Clock

I had frozen and broke down completely, I don’t like calling people, let alone to a pod that I had no idea what was the right one. I just stood there for almost 20 minutes trying to come up with what to say. Also what to say and not sound crazy. I ultimately walked out and went back out to the front doors. I was so devastated that the quest was a disaster.

As I was starting there there was a doctor giving bad news to a woman who was in reality more devastated than I was about how their loved one was progressing and had not much longer. Not because, I didn’t make it but because, I couldn’t hold myself together. As I got to the door, I pulled myself together and convinced myself that I have to go back and try.

As I get back to the phone, I pull together and dial to “Pod 1” then a voice answers and asks what I wanted. I cam up with “Hi I was here 2 years ago on my way back from Rome, and I wanted to see what the Pod I was in looked like.” They then buzzed me in and I took 5 steps and had no idea where to go, then alarms started going off around the corned and I couldn’t breath and had to get out of there.

As I reached the elevator the woman from earlier also got in. I decided to attempt to say something and I told her that 2 years ago they said I was going to probably dead, and I will never forget her response. “You look pretty not dead”.

As I went to pay for my parking, I paid on the terminal, as another woman who was having difficulty paying let me go first. So I offered to help her with the machine and paid her $6 parking pass. She didn’t expect it and was shocked and didn’t want to accept it and tried to pay me back but I told her to help someone else.

After, I took the back way to Kitchener, avoiding all the highways and pumped up the music. Trying to reflect on the calamity of the day that just happened. It was at this point that I had no motivation to go see anything else and I just wanted to be home and not stuck with a 20 hour drive back.

This is getting 1600 words long so the smashing and booming finale will have to wait for the next post.

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Seven Days of Black and White. No Humans. No Explanations.

Seven Days of Black and White. No Humans. No Explanations. Day 1. #sevendayblackandwhitechallenge #nohumans #noexplanations
Day 1 / Photo taken at: Saint John, New Brunswick
Seven Days of Black and White. No Humans. No Explanations. Day 2. #sevendayblackandwhitechallenge #nohumans #noexplanations
Day 2 / Photo taken at: Fort Howe Lookout
Seven Days of Black and White. No Humans. No Explanations. Day 3. #sevendayblackandwhitechallenge #nohumans #noexplanations
Day 3 / Photo taken at: Berlin, Germany
Seven Days of Black and White. No Humans. No Explanations. Day 4. #sevendayblackandwhitechallenge #nohumans #noexplanations
Day 4 / Photo taken at: Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands
Seven Days of Black and White. No Humans. No Explanations. Day 5. #sevendayblackandwhitechallenge #nohumans #noexplanations
Day 5 / Photo taken at: Saint John Boardwalk
Seven Days of Black and White. No Humans. No Explanations. Day 6. #sevendayblackandwhitechallenge #nohumans #noexplanations
Day 6 / Photo taken at: Montreal, Quebec
Seven Days of Black and White. No Humans. No Explanations. Day 7. #sevendayblackandwhitechallenge #nohumans #noexplanations
Day 7 / Photo taken at: Luzern, Switzerland
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My Messed Up Canada Day Roadtrip

I was off the Friday before Canada Day and had Physio and a call for the pre-op to fix my pinky finger. I came up with a plan to take a spontaneous road trip to Ottawa. My surgery is concerning the possible side effects. I was pretty devastated after the call with my anxiety.

Since I was less than 500km from my oil change mileage I went to Kia and booked the appoint for this past week.

I went home and cleared out everything from my car I didn’t need, grabbed my passport and wad of US cash and took off down the Hwy 1 towards the border. At the border I got through pretty quickly and had no issues. Having all the signs in a weird foreign system of measurement increased my anxiety. In Calais, I fueled up and headed down Route 9 to Bangor.

I stopped for dinner at Dysart’s. It was a pretty good meatloaf. I then proceeded down Route 2 to Skowhegan where I needed to pee bad so I stopped at a gas station and it was there my fate turned. My GPS lost my route and I was lost. I kind of remember Route 201 so I turned on it and kept questioning that I was not on the right road.

It turned out I wasn’t, I really wanted 201A in the next town. Around midnight I ended up at the border on the highway headed towards Quebec City. By this point, it started to rain really hard. I was not able to even drive the speed limit it was that hard. I made it to an Esso in Ascot Corner in Quebec and refuelled again at 1 am. I then kept driving but got too tired and stopped at a mall and slept for an hour.

My sleep was interrupted by the lights of a cop that woke me to see if I was alright. He started talking in French and I was trying to translate it and I didn’t recognize enough words. He then spoke English and I responded I was okay and he moved on.

I then determined I needed to move on. I then crossed the bridge to Montreal as the break of the day was happening. I was having such bad anxiety Siri was giving instructions that made no sense and there were so many construction signs that made no sense either. I stopped on a side street for a while and decided I wasn’t making it to Ottawa and it was time for starting a return back to see fireworks.

After a few hours back on the Highway, I needed so sleep so I pulled into a gas station and slept for an hour in the back corner of a Petro Canada parking lot in my car. I continued on the journey down the highway. As I was passing the town of Levis I seen the sign to cross the bridge to Quebec City. Since I had never been there before, I made the decision I needed to see it.

I took a drive through the packed old town and it was very reminiscent of the old parts of Paris. (Montreal is more reminiscent of the rest of Paris.) After leaving Quebec, the next stop was a gas and Tim’s break in Rivière de Loup. (a place Siri can’t pronounce close to right.) When ordering I asked if she spoke English and it was a fast nope. So I tried to order a coffee and a Dutchie and I was certain that I can pronounce Hollandaise properly but she had no clue.

Armed with my coffee and gas it was off to New Brunswick and lots more highway with spots of rain along the way. The next stop was Florencevile and I grabbed a donair sub that was really good. The interesting part was a guy in line ahead of me was Amish and had his horses and carriage waiting outside.

As I passed through Fredericton, the rain had stopped and was starting to clear. The people from home were messaging on Facebook that the weather in Saint John was bad and there were no fireworks to hurry back for. So I headed home anyway.

The next day I slept in until noon and then wasted most of the day away. I had seen that Hampton was having fireworks and decided to go see them but then heard that Cambridge-Narrows was having some so I went there instead. They were pretty impressive and amazing.

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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.

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Ninety-Eight Days but I’m Not Counting

It is really cold today. It has been less than a month now since I booked my next trip.

On my last trip my old reliable large suitcase met it’s last days from the cobble-stone sidewalks of Rome. That’s right I have to move on with life and break in a virgin suitcase on this trip.

My new suitcase is slightly larger and a harder case. I bought it at the Zellers liquidation sale. It’s biggest problem is there is only one outside pocket. I’m undecided still on whether or not to by a new dangly thing. My last one was given to me buy my old friend when I had forgotten my previous on prior to my first WordCamp trip.

On an interesting note to me anyways, I was cleaning off my dresser and under the pile of junk was my dangly thing. I tried guessing what was in it as it felt unusually bulky. I thought it might have been the baggage tag for my last Toronto trip. I was wrong. (Even though some people think I would never really say that.)

The tag in my dangly thing was the luggage tag from YSJ to FCO via YUL. (Saint John to Fiumicino (near Rome) via Montreal).

Personally I find Rome to be one of the worlds worst historic cities. From all the thieves to the difficult sidewalks to the crazy drivers to the very long lines almost every city in Europe is better than Rome. Though perhaps my views would be different if I ever found true love in Rome. We will have to see May 6-8th.