Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lonely Planet: John's version :)

After catching up with some family and friends, I've realized how long it has been since I last wrote an update! Cheap travel + close provimity of European countries, has lead to many a great weekend adventures over the past 2 months and I think it's about time I start writing my own Lonely Planet: John's version :)

So let me give you a run-down of the travels - I'll try and keep this as short and sweet as possible!

Vienna, August 15-17
3 Words to Describe Vienna: Pristine, Elegant, Refined
I spent the August long weekend with a great group of friends (Maqui, Bo, Marianela, Augustina, Mitul, Steliana) adventuring the pristine capital city of Austria, Vienna. The entire visit felt like I was in some form of 'Wonderland', as every building had manicured gardens and mammoth statues. The city was almost 'too perfect' for me though, as it was missing that fun, vibrant and young vibe. We spent 2 days touring Schonbrunn, Hofburg Palace, St. Stephen's Cathedral, the State Opera House, among many others.

Salzburg, August 18
3 Words to Describe Salzburg: Scenic, Photographers Paradise
As I had an extra day in Vienna, I ventured out to Salzburg for the day, the home of Sound of Music. After taking an early morning, 3-hour train ride from Vienna, I arrived in what still is one of my favourite European towns. This compact town is full of tourist-hot-spots and amazing views! After the "city" experience in Vienna, I was craving a town with nature and Salzburg was exactly that! A river divides the town and has a small mountain range around the edges of the city - providing amazing views from the top! Here I visited Mozart's home, Hohensalzburg Fortress, Mirabell Palace and Gardens, among many other mountain-top look-outs. I would love to head back to this winter wonderland again once the snow flies, as there is some great skiing nearby!
Copenhagen, September 12-14
3 Words to Describe Copenhagen: Young, Clean, Crazy
This weekend was the European Beer Festival in Copenhagen, so a few friends of mine all met up for the weekend to attend! Assem joined us on the tail end of his European tour, Rob was our humble host and it was GREAT to see a fellow Edmontonian again - Kristan. Although a good 75% of this trip was dedicated to drinking beer and partying until the wee hours of the morning, we still managed to hit the tourist hot-spots on foot Saturday afternoon before the Beer Festival. This city has so many great things going for it, as it's on the water, isn't as expensive as the other Scandinavian countries and still maintains a vibrant, young and some-what crazy character. This is definitely a city worth visiting again!

Oktoberfest, Munich, September 26-28
3 Words to Describe Munich: Beer, Green, Did I say Beer?
What 5 InBev interns thought was once impossible - was a reality! Marianela, Max, Sole, Miguel and I all wanted to attend Oktoberfest and were willing to do anything to make it happen! We all rented a van on Friday after work, drove 8 hours straight to Munich, and after arriving around 5am, we got a couple hours sleep in the van, then headed straight for the beer tents of Oktoberfest. The one peice of advice we got from everyone was 'Get there early!'. We started the day at 9:30am, at the Lowenbrau tent and soon enough, we were in, had our beers and scored ourselves a table! This was absolutely one of the craziest parties I have ever been to! Imagine 6000 people, inside 1 tent, all drinking 1 litre schooners full of beer and singing 'Hey Jude' at the top of their lungs! After a cozy sleep in the van Saturday night, we toured the city to see what it had to offer. We came across lots of historic landmarks and one HUGE green park that reminded me of Central Park back in NYC. We then jumped back in the van, drove our 8 hours straight and made the last train back from the car rental place with 10 minutes to spare :)

Geneva, Lausanne, Montreux, October 3-5
3 Words to Describe Geneva: International, Expensive, Watches!
3 Words to Describe Lausanne: Hills, Olympics, Students
3 Words to Describe Montreux: Picturesque, Moutains!, Peaceful
Bo, Mitul and myself booked this trip initially based on a great seat sale through EasyJet back in August. Little did we know what a great time we would have (and also how much money we would end up spending!). We spent Friday adventuring Geneva, including running beside the massive water jet on the lake, touring the UN and taking full advantage of the free city public transport! One tip in Geneva - the best Sunday brunch you will find is at Alhambar - soooo good! Saturday we took the train around Lake Geneva to both Lausanne and Montreux. In Lausanne we visited the Olympic museum, climbed up and down the many hills and enjoyed a mid-day stroll on the waterfront. Montreux is the smallest of the 3 cities, but definitely my fave. When we visited, the mountain tops were covered in snow, but down on the water, the flowers were all still in bloom - reminded me a lot of home (Rocky Mountains!). All-in-all, an amazing trip and worth visiting again once I win the lottery :p

Antwerp, October 11
3 Words to Describe Antwerp: Shopping, Diamonds, Fashion
Last weekend I was on the hunt for a winter jacket and I had been told that Antwerp was the best city for shopping in Belgium. I can now confirm that this is true! I took a cheap 7 euro return, 1-hour train ride to Antwerp Saturday morning and shopped all day. I left that night on my train home around 9pm, with a great new winter jacket from Zara and a new favourite shopping hot-spot :)

So that officially concludes Lonely Planet: John's Version #1, but stay tuned for Version#2, which will include Nice, Monaco and the French Riviera!

Of course, I also have lots to update about work, life, ect., but that will have to wait for now. In a nutshell, I feel amazing and the pace of life here is a nice break from the rush-rush back home. Although sometimes I find myself working late or rushing to meet someone, my mentality has changed and I am no longer stressing myself out over the small stuff. I'm genuinely happy, relaxed and overjoyed with life. I'm loving the independence of having my own place and have a great group of friends always up for adventure!