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a travel blog by ECRadventure

Just a little trip. A little trip of freedom to do what you choose, think and feel with passion and creativity, to love, to live, to be.
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Fort Mac, been there done that, got the T shirt & More

Fort McMurray, Canada

SO, it's official, we've moved out and are off on our travels around the world. I think that there were a few moments with tears welling in our eyes as we closed the door on our home one last time and turned the lock. A home that has been a focal point for our relationship growth, for many great friendships and for rearing our little son. (our cat for those who don't know)

Thank-you to all of our friends who made it out to Paddy's for the last night of celebrations! Tony, no more girly shooters, vodka or whisky only!

To make the trip final, we ran into matress man as we were leaving the city! No incidents, but, scary enough to see him rear his head!

permalink written by  ECRadventure on May 1, 2009 from Fort McMurray, Canada
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Edmonton going away shin dig

Edmonton, Canada

Thanks to everyone for coming out to the BBQ!

We had a great time! Thanks Aggs for hosting the evening gala as well!

permalink written by  ECRadventure on May 2, 2009 from Edmonton, Canada
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Cgy going away

Calgary, Canada

One last night out in Cgy with friends!
Awesome to see you all, thanks for letting us throw one last party!

Thanks to the crew who stuck it out to the bitter end. Ewa and I were nicely hung-over for our first flight outta Canada!

permalink written by  ECRadventure on May 5, 2009 from Calgary, Canada
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New York, United States

What a whirlwind the last 5 days have been! We managed to see a lot of what we wanted to:

The Met
Guggenheim, Central Park, Times Square, plenty of subway rides, World Trade Centre site, Museum of Natural History
a New York Mets game
Little Italy, Greenwich, Chinatown, Soho and the Top of Rockafeller!

It is such a huge city with so many things to do it becomes really hard to decide what you want to see. New York is like a 5 year old kid on 20 red bulls. So much noise, traffic, people everywhere. But it's not over whelming at all, very safe and a lot of fun. The city isn't nearly as crowded as we expected and we only saw one little baby rat!

The people are friendly and very helpful, which also wasn't expected. The hostel that we stayed at is called the Big Apple hostel. Not a bad little place, a little grungy, and the price was more than what we booked for. Had fun, but would probably check out another place next time.

We found a nice pub off Amsterdam and ~75th street, .. called "The Amsterdam". Go figure. We had a number of good pints and found out that we really don't like our Martini's dirty, lesson learned for sure!

Strolled through Central park, it is amazing to see the Oasis in the middle of the busy hectic crazy city. We imagined how nice it would be to stroll through and to walk the dog (if we had one).

Comedy night was a good time and we met some new friends from the real Amsterdam! Elke & Jeroen we're coming to visit in a couple of months!

Sydney sorry we didn't make it out for the Korean wings! We just ran out of time to get over to Brooklyn, but we promise to make time for it on our next trip to NYC!

Brad / Cheryl, and any other hunters... (I'm not but I was thinking of you all) check out the rack!

Dinner, just off of Broadway, Thanks Bryan and Kate! XOXOX

permalink written by  ECRadventure on May 9, 2009 from New York, United States
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Adventures in Dublin!

Dublin, Ireland

We arrived in Dublin at 9 in the morning after a red eye from New York, a nice semi short 6 hour flight. We stayed at the Bunkhouse Hostel which was star or two above the New York Big Apple...the blankets didn´t stink! Hurray for bleach and comfortable firm mattresses. We spent the first day just walking around and getting a feel for the city. We walked along the river, and through the North end of town. After being in New York, Dublin seemed almost like a small town. I have decided that Dublin should be called "Little Poland", I don´t think I have ever experienced so many Polish stores in any city other than Warsaw. Our first meal in Dublin was things we bought at the third Polish store we saw: Bigos, Bread, and of course sausage.

On the second day we got up early and took a bus to the Guiness ´storehouse´which is the original brewery for guiness. We both actually rather enjoyed the tour, which depending on how long you take to go through it could last for a few hours. Turns out they have a lease on the place for 9000 years. Its actually embedded into the floor! Ending of course with a few pints of beer, at the top, in the ´gravity lounge´. For those who have not tried it before, the beer that we get in N.America is called Draught. It´s the lightest of their beers. Try the Extra stout, or for those more adventerous the Foreign extra stout, which apparently is only sold in Africa and the carribean. Thanks for the tour Mr. Holowachuk!

After the guiness storehouse, it was off to tour through the south side of the town. We stopped by the Trinity College (apparently the oldest still used university in Europe).

Here we saw the book of kells (a bible, and other ancient texts written from around 800AD) and the long library, which is a collection of old manuscripts. The tour is informative, but short. Its interesting to see how the texts were made and to actually see some of them up close. The attention to detail on the illustrations is rather amazing! We wandered then around St. Stephens greens, which is a quaint park with the typical group of people relaxing and feeding birds and such. We were off for another jaunt through the Temple Bar area, which is one of the most touristy areas of the city. We only managed to meander through the streets for about an hour before we moved along to other areas of the city.
I´m not sure what we expected from Ireland, but we didn´t get to see and or exprience the Irish culture very much. Dublin is a very touristy city, so we mainly got to experience other Tourists, Polish, Russian, French, German...everything but Irish. On our third day in Dublin we got a tip to go see a coastal town called Howth, which was only a half an hour train ride from Dublin. We´re so glad we went to see it because it gave us a better view of a town that wasn´t full of tourists and double decker tour busses. We hiked for half a day, enjoyed the coast and watched for sea lions that were supposed to be all over the beaches - we didn´t see any though.
We lucked out an only got a little bit of rain. Almost all of our time in Ireland was spent either half soaked from the rain, waiting for the rain and wind to stop or trying to get dry. On the last night we (more so Chad) was feeling well enough to take in a traditional Irish pub. We stopped in for a few pints at ´The celt¨and were treated to some live music and a scene or two from the locals. It is rather interesting to see the pub filled with people, of all ages, all of whom are beyond friendly with one another. From Dublin it was on to Belfast! Thank-you Shane and Desirae for helping to sponsoring Ireland!!

permalink written by  ECRadventure on May 13, 2009 from Dublin, Ireland
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Belfast, Dublins smaller, Irish brother

Belfast, United Kingdom

We only spent two days in Belfast. We took an mid morning train from Dublin and a short 2 hours later we were there. It was such a difference being away from all the tourism. The violence in Belfast has drastically gone down in the last few years and tourists are just starting to see it as a relatively safe place to come to. Therefore, there is much less infrastructure for tourists but much better for those who want to come and see a more real experience of Ireland. We stayed at the HI hostel, which was nice, but seems to be a bit more quiet and family oriented than we would normally visit. It also rained here for almost the whole two days that we were here, but it seemed to be more bareable for some reason, not as windy either. From what was left of the day we decided to check out some of the murals that were done by both sides of the conflict, the Republicans and Loyalists (Catholics and Protestants).
The murals are located in each respective community and are an expression of the anxiety and challenges each community faces. Over the years both communities have decided to make murals that are more of a celebration of both communities rather than a depiction of violence or offence. Some of the murals we saw also are a commentary on the violence that is going on in other parts of the world, mentioning Che Guevera, Bush and the loss of innocent civilian life. It was somber and at the same time beautiful to see communties take a stand and express their anger, views and a need for change if even only on a wall for those to see who walk by. Some of the murals were painted on the "Peace Wall" which is a barbwire brick wall which divides the Nationalist Falls Road of West Belfast and the Protestant area of Shankhill and depicts those who have died fighting for their causes. All in all we walked around for close to 4 hours just to see everything and get a feel for the city. For dinner we found a great pub called "Auntie Mays" near the University and had some pints of Harps and Chad unsuccessfully tried to explain to the bartenders how to make a Crown Float. Several failed attempts later we gave up...if anyone knows how to pour one and what goes first, let us know!

Day two was spent at the Giants Causeway, we took a tour that lasted all day and took us through some of the coastal side of Ireland, to the Giants causeway, lunch at a quaint hotel, the Carrawick Rope Bridge and a 1400 century castle. The Causeway stones are known as the eight wonder of the world and there are over 40,000 of them.

The causeway was formed during the early Tertiary period some 62 - 65 million years ago over a long period of igneous activity. Three lava outflows occurred known as the Lower, Middle and Upper Basaltic. Lulls occurred between the outflows as is evident in the deep inter-basaltic layer of reddish brown 'lithomarge' which is rich in clay, iron and aluminium oxides from weathering of the underlying basalt. The hexagonal columns of the causeway occur in the middle basalt layer.
The pattern of the causeway stones formed as a result of rock crystallization under conditions of accelerated cooling, this usually occurs when molten lava comes into immediate contact with water, the resulting fast accelerated cooling process causes cracking and results in the hexagonal columns. Pretty awesome stuff!
We had an amazing lunch at the hotel, Guiness Steak Pie and traditional Irish stew, so good! It definately warmed us up.
By the time we got back to the hotel we were pretty exhausted from the long but really great day, our flight to Barcelona was early in the morning so early bed time!

permalink written by  ECRadventure on May 15, 2009 from Belfast, United Kingdom
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Barcelona, more calm when you are sick...

Barcelona, Spain

We arrived into Barcelona after a quick flight from Belfast. We pulled into the city, right in the middle of the day, and quickly got our feet under us as we bypassed the metro to walk to the hostel. A good hour and a half later, the original decision to walk didnt seem like the best idea in the world. Checked into the hostel HELLO BCN, which is a great hostel just off of Parra-lel, a 5 min walk to Las Ramblas. Good atmosphere at the hostel, cheap drinks at night, COMFY beds, clean and free coffee all day! The rest of the day was just wandering around. This is the Place Real, where the Kabul (another great hostel) is located.

The first day we just wandered around the hostel, and got a feel for the area. We spent close to an hour and a half deciding where to eat. Barcelona has a huge amount of small tapa restaurants and bars that serve the most deliscious tapas. We settled on one and the food was amazing, we had smoked meat (Cappriccio) and bread with garlic and tomatoes, and a traditional Spanish potato omlette - yum!
The second day we were up early and headed out to see Gaudis casa Mila, Sagrada Familia, the Barceloneto beaches, and all around the Barri gothic area, el raval, and el ribera areas of the old town.

We did a bit of shopping to rearrange the wardrobe a little. That night, we booked ourselves in for a Flammenco show. First we were off to dinner at the ATTIC, a upscale(ish) restaurant off of Las Ramblas (Thank-you Kelly and Inga for the night out!) followed by our show! The Flammenco show was a little short (half hour), but quite amazing to see! The live band and the dancing were amazing! After the show, it was another quiet night for Chad trying to still recover, but Ewa managed to put together a decent outting, even if it was limited to the hostel! The vino was great.

The third day we were up early to tour the Castle de Montjuic and the parks of the area, which were all under construction and difficult to navigate. It actually took us a lot longer than it normally should have. The views from the top of the castle were great. The city is relatively flat, so on a clear day you get to see most of the town.
That night after a bit of a home cooked meal, we found fish that looked familiar although we cant really say what type of fish it was..it tasted good :) .
we were off to try to see the magic fountain, as it had been closed off for the past couple of days due to a car show. We were not dissappointed, as it there was a back door that was opened up on Sunday night. Ewa was very impressed with the light\music and water show. We liked it so much to have sat through two shows! As a reoccuring theme, we called it a relatively early night, as now Ewa is coming down with a bit of a cold too!

On the last day in Barcelona, we had a whole day to see things while we waited for our overnight train to Madrid. We spent the morning seeing the Park Guell. A great lunch at the Bombay Spicy (great Indian food just off of Las Ramblas on Sant Pau). We made a second stop into the market to pick up supplies for the train ride.

The market in Barcelona is rather amazing. They have food of all sorts: Fresh fruit, vegetables, cheeses, breads, olives, meat of all kinds, nuts, spices, ... just about anything you need for a meal.

Some of them will also push a typical N american attitude of what is and what is not food! Then the rest of the afternoon chilling updating things on the internet, reading and surfing the net. Next... off for our first overnight train ride!

permalink written by  ECRadventure on May 18, 2009 from Barcelona, Spain
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Madrid. Tapas and beer.

Madrid, Spain

Madrid is the Belfast of Spain! Where we found BCN to be very touristy and busy, Madrid has showed us a more slow and typical version of Spain. On the first day, we managed to see a lot. A lot of tapas bars that is. We spent the day hopping around the city from tapas bar to tapas bar. I think 6 in total! The usual policy in Spain is that when you sit and order a drink, they will come and bring you small plates of food, complimentary. You can then sit all night and drink and munch on the appies. Usually things like olives, nuts, shrimp, little sausages etc. Almost all of the small tapas bars have a smoked cow leg on the bar that they cut the Jambon (Ham) directly from the leg and onto the plate for appies. The jambon is very dry, salty and smoked...and to die for!

The tapas bars are almost all decorated with wine bottles and beautiful art. It was so amazing to sit and watch and enjoy.

After our walking around that day, we settled at a roof top terrace for... more tapas! They had the most amazing olives, the best we´ve tried so far, they tasted like a combination between avacado, butter and olives, amazing! Our night ended with a long walk around the city to see some of the sights. We stumbled into a mexican restauraunt for one final night cap.

This last stop had a crazy decoration set up and seemed a little out of the ordinary, but it was a great time with our new friends Shel and Shane, from LA.

The second day in Madrid, we walked around the city some more and visited Place real, the home of the Spanish royalty.

There were a number of things on display, from some of the typical rooms, preserved from original use, to a sample of the royal armoury. Of course photos weren´t allowed, but as they didn´t take my camera, we managed to sneak a few in.

That night, it was a relaxing night on the roof top terrace of our hostel (Mad hostel) with some bottles of wine and conversation with Shel & Shane. THe conversation was great, and when we were kicked off the terrace at 11:00, we moved on to the Cat hostel bar to continue... and continue we did, until they kicked us out at 03:00 in the morning. It was an amazing night and the first of many deep conversations with amazing people! However, if you think we had a late night, we were early to bed compared to most party-goers. Pub crawls here in Madrid start at 12:30 in the morning and run till the wee hours! This is what the siesta was invented for. The average Spaniard gets up at a normal hour, between 7-8, and then is home just after ´lunch´ at around 14:00. Stores and restaraunts don´t open until around 20:30. Often supper or the last meal of the day isn´t eaten until around 22:30!

For those who want to stay in Madrid, the Mad hostel and the Cat hostel are owned by the same owners. The Mad is more quite and calm. They don´t have a bar. The Cat hostel is the rowdy of the two, and it is a little larger. Both are in a great location and are super clean! There are a string of hostels that seem to all be affiliated, or very similar in organization, cost and level of services. We´ve been sticking to these and have found them to be top notch. Hello BCN comes highly reccommended as well. Our next two stops are the Melting pot in Malaga and the melting pot in Tarifa. They look amazing!

The next morning, off on the train from Madrid to Malaga!

permalink written by  ECRadventure on May 22, 2009 from Madrid, Spain
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Malaga, pennies and shooters!

Malaga, Spain

We arrived in Malaga on the high speed train from Madrid. Booking right on line with renfe.es is the way to go. We followed instructions from the website www.seat61.com and they have awesome tips. Go through the reservation process in spanish, and then only at the end switch to english, you´ll get 50% cheaper seats! We ended up booking a seat in first class that was cheaper than the tourist class on the english version of the site!

Anyways, the trip was super quick, as the train reached speeds of 300km\hr, which we found to be rather amazing, considering train service is so extremely limited in Canada. On board it, food and all beverages were included. It was like a short flight. The lunch was awesome, whole wheat rolls with a serving of salad, jambon, and blue cheese and mozzarella drizzled with almond slices! To top it off you got a small bottle of olive oil to drizzle it all with. The seats were super roomy and comfortable. It was a treat!

We arrived in Malaga and found our way to the hostel. Malaga is similar to Dublin in that there is no metro system, but as there are 550,000 people here, they have an excellent bus system. The hostel is quite nice, but a little cramped. The Hostel is moving at the end of the month into a completly new building, even closer to the beach! I would reccommend this one, I can´t imagine how nice the next one will be! When we arrived we were greeted by George to owner who showed us around, gave us some water and then proceeded to give us a lot of suggestions on where to go...all in French. He treated us to an apparatif while he was making a yummy chicken and potatoe roast while drinking red wine. Not a bad life...

The first day we walked around the city, for many hours taking in the sites. We spent a lot of time walking around the old Muslim castle, known as the Gibralfaro, which sits on a ridge that overlooks the city of Malaga. At the bottom of this ridge is the Alcazaba, the younger Muslim palace-fortress. A long rampart connecting the two castles. The Alcazaba was constructed in 1057. The buildings are actually in excellent condition and have been maintained very well. We were some of the few people who were there on the day, so it seemed as though we had the entire fortress to ourselves! The Alcazba was lined with orange trees, Chad tried to get us one but when he reached it it turned to goopy mush in his hands.

The city also has many colorful flowers and trees throughout. It is so relaxing to walk along palm tree lined streets that are filled with purple, white, lavandar and red flowers.

At night we ended up cruising a few tapas bars while we waited anxiously for it to be late enough to actually eat at a restaurant. We had heard about a great place to go, which in the end was actually only a small hole-in-the wall, with few limited choices of over priced food. Of course, you really don´t know that the food isn´t good until you´re done and have finished paying for it before you fully feel ripped off. Oh well! The end of the night we tried to do some more night touring. We managed to get in a few sights before we had to turn back as we were still wearing our beach clothes. Who would have thought that now 20deg C would seem cold to us!??!

Back at the hostel George, the owner, taught us how to play a penny drinking game, where the looser ends up buying a round of shots for all the others who are playing the game. Sometimes you ´loose´, but when you´re playing a game like this, you´re always winning as the shots keep coming!

Our last day in Malaga, we toured around the Picaso Museum, where this time they were sneaky enough to actually take our camera from us at the coat check and X-rayed Ewa´s bag. I think our stuff will be fully radioactive by the end of the trip the number of times we´re getting nuked. Even travelling by train you have to go through security and a metal detector, we think due to the bombings that happened a few years ago. By the way, in my opinion (Chad), Picaso creates ´art´ that appears to be completed by a five year old, with epilepsy. I am sure there are those who appreciate it, and I can understand he issued in a new era of art, but seriously.

The end of the day was spent blogging, uploading photos on another super slow computer and then back to the hostel. The plan was to read, relax and cook our own supper. However, we ended up meeting some new friends and spent the night socializing and debating many life topics. The night continued into the wee hours of the morning, and we hopped from one bar to the next as they shutdown and kicked us out. The end of the night saw Chad forget his jacket, pockets filled with goodies (camera, our wine opener various other things) at the bar. The next day, although we tried to find it, the shop was closed and we had no luck getting our stuff. Off to catch our bus for Tarifa & our scuba diving adventure!

permalink written by  ECRadventure on May 24, 2009 from Malaga, Spain
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Tarifa, bubbles, octopus and home made love meals.

Tarifa, Spain

Our orignal trip to Tarifa was only supposed to be three days long. However, because Chad lost his jacket and camera and other things in Malaga, we decided to stay a bit longer on the hopes of somone in Malaga finding it. As luck would have it Don Flash, our new friend from S. Africa\Aus. was able to find it!!! Don made the trip down to Tarifa in a few days so we decided to stay longer. Coming into Tarifa by bus was amazing, it is the southernmost point in Europe and you can see Africa from the beach, it is only 13 Miles away. There are ferries that go to Africa/Tangier every couple of hours and it only takes 35min. As you drive into Tarifa you can see hundreds of wind mills lining the hills surrounding the city.

Our whole time here was spent diving, we really didn´t do much else, it´s been nice after sight seeing so much over the last 3 weeks to really slow down and just go with the flow.

We did our diving lessons at the Yellow Submarine. Thanks Dave, Laura, Mike, Stacy, Samir, Sarah and Ananth for the diving!! Diving was great! Our instructor Sven was amazing! Knowledgeable, super nice, calm and very patient! He helped us to be comfortable diving in a pretty but difficult area, with cold temperatures and rough currents. The temp of the water was around 15C so we wore the works:
a 2.5mm vest, full wet suit, gloves, boots, hood and an ice vest! Also...peeing in your suit helps quite a bit :)

The last night, we just walked around the city some more, relaxed, and watched the Barcelona / Manchester U game at the hostel, early morning tomorrow as we´re are heading to Portugal! We would like to thank Spain for providing us with some fantastic experiences over the last few weeks! And the letter S and the number 11

permalink written by  ECRadventure on May 27, 2009 from Tarifa, Spain
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