Death Tourism

People travel because of death every day. They travel to places where people have died every day.

It’s a strange thought, death tourism but yet there remains a market for it.

People travel to concentration camps, people travel to where Sharon Tate’s house once stood, and I took a tour around Whitechapel, walking the footsteps of Jack the Ripper and his victims today.

Maybe not for other people, but for me it was an almost surreal experience.

It was terrifying and I can’t even say I liked it, or felt thrilled by it. Instead I hustled along with my group (and my mum), hands tucked in pockets, head down praying that if ghosts exist that we wouldn’t run into any. In fact one of the sights where one of the women was murdered is now a parking garage, one that John, our guide no longer takes people into because so many mysterious occurrences happened within.

So why, if this terrified me did I go? Was it because I’m untouched and so far detached from the crime?

But then…are we so far detached from The Holocaust? I don’t think so.

The only thing I’ve been able to puzzle out is that we travel to this places because at heart we are decent, good people who cannot fathom any level of monstrosity.

Because at heart we need to understand how someone could but yet we can’t. We can’t because most of us, I hope, do not have that impulse, that level of hatred.

But then, some people do. And maybe that’s why we go…because there’s still awful people, all these years gone, and we don’t understand that either.

Whovian Nerdvana is in Wales

10355840_941427242374_1865265148510813065_nI’ve been in London for almost a week now and yet today made the three hour trek to Wales in order to fulfill a dream of mine.

That dream is seeing Who things, now don’t get me wrong. There is Who things to see in London, a call box in fact but I’m not going to cheat and tell you where to find it.

That you’ll have to figure out for yourself because I don’t give out spoilers.

Which is precisely why I will not tell you what you go through first in order to get into BBC Cymru’s Doctor Who Experience exhibit in Cardiff. I will just say that it is something simply and utterly amazing.

Our day started off being picked up by Jerry, a Scottish driver from Capital Taxi Tours who is simply amazing. He had a dossier ready for10565055_941430690464_7429332577341675257_n us, along with cold as ice bottles of water, Jelly Babies and Jammy Dodgers for the trip.

The drive was long so be sure to bring something to rest your head on. You’ll need it.

And when you return to London if you’re on the right tour you’ll also be shown around that area after having seen the church from Runaway Bride in Cardiff, as well as where Rose Tyler worked. In London you’ll see the Eye, Tower, the three houses which comprised Downing Street and we even stopped by St Bart’s because I’d mentioned being a Sherlock fan.

All in all it is well worth the money, if you’re a Whovian to take this tour from London, or visit the Experience if you’re in Cardiff.

A Potterhead’s Dream Come True

10553542_940854380394_4610613994956218686_nI won’t pretend I didn’t tear up the first time I walked around Hogsmeade at Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The very name you see, evokes great memories for me. From being cajoled into reading the first book after seeing the movie, to clinging to my friend David through the second film. Midnight book releases with my mum and sister and hours spent reading the books in my dad’s recliner.

And my reaction when seeing the Warner Bros. Studio Tour just outside of London was no different. In fact it was more magical than Wizarding World as the doors to Hogwarts were opened and I was able to step into the Great Hall, looking around at the props are sets used in the film.

It was amazing, if you’ve got kids, or even if you are a big kid at heart this is not something you should ever miss. It’s so well put 1560629_940847010164_7134179811968293077_ntogether, and if I told you I didn’t tear up when I saw the model of Hogwarts in the end I would be lying.

Now I can’t wait to return to Orlando to truly begin comparing the nuances and subtleties of the Diagon Alley built there, versus the real one housed in a studio.

I Have Found Nirvana

10518013_940600264644_5712053013756898905_nOkay so perhaps, I’m being a little overzealous. Its highly unlikely I’ve found nirvana.

Especially in Windsor…at Cinnamon Cafe, but I think I’m pretty damn close.

But these are definitely the best Cinnamon rolls I’ve ever tasted, and one of them is about the size of my head.

Also, Windsor Castle, residence of Her Majesty isn’t too bad either, though parts of it were under construction.

But seriously, if you’re in the area, enjoying the castle, the beautiful statues (including one of Victoria) and the people make sure to pop into the Cinnamon Cafe nearest the train station.

You certainly won’t regret it anytime soon.

Stepping Out of my Comfort Zone (Cycling Edition)

10574340_939826280714_3056975821873311445_nDear reader,

I did something today (though I suppose its yesterday now) that I never thought I would do.

And no, it wasn’t making a scavenger hunt out of the British Museum because well, it’s me, and anything I can turn into a scavenger hunt or live Bingo game I’m going to do.

I am physically unfit. So much so that stairs suck to me, three flights leave me breathless and nearly asthmatic, I always joke that I will only run when I see a jogger smiling, or if I’m being chased. I don’t remember the last time I went on a bike ride.

Except the last time I did was yesterday. It was in Kensington Gardens and despite the bike being too tall for me, even with the seat all the way down, and almost falling twice I feel amazing. I cycled from one half of Kensington Gardens to the others (the short route I admit), and even more interestingly, I will do it again.

It was an amazing feeling, speeding by those who were walking, and being lapped once by a jogger who I tossed a joke at on the way. It was hard but it was fantastic.

I know it’s silly to be excited, because it really is just a bicycle but it made me feel almost local. I was tickled pink when another tourist asked me how to work the Barclay’s bicycle system and proud of myself when I walked her through it.

So, readers, travellers, friends and family. Next time you think you’ll never do something, try and do that thing first, because its definitely something to rave about.

Next up, Kensington Gardens to Hyde Park, and then, Amsterdam…

Hop on and Stay There (But only if you want to)

1800217_940140600814_8797780861293291956_nIt was only day two in London when we decided that after going to Madame Tussaud’s (one of my favourite places) that we would do a hop-on, hop-off tour in part because the Sherlock Holmes Museum was packed, and also because I’d barely slept the night before and my meant to be comfortable shoes…were not so comfortable.

Here’s the thing about hop-on, hop-off tours, especially those with live guides as opposed to recordings. People hop on and then immediately hop off on the next stop. DO me a favour next time, take the time and complete an ENTIRE loop. Because it can be insightful and wonderful to hear all that that person has to say on the topic of their city.

London is no different, except that I find even in two weeks you have no chance of actually getting to see everything, the different bus 10563188_939443517774_2415952489864579970_ntours allow you to at least catch a glimpse of things you won’t get to even see in that way otherwise.

Those who tell you that you shouldn’t do them because you can learn all you need to about a city by simply walking around are fooling themselves.

These tours, and their guides are invaluable, especially if you can manage to grab one for forty-eight hours giving you two days to see all that you need to see, without the possible intimidation of local transportation (though I do find London transit easy to navigate).

Of course that’s only my advice, there’s no right way to travel, just what’s right for you.

Traveling During Interesting Times

10419984_939442699414_6973365016867374665_n“Free Palestine, Free Palestine, 1,2,3,4 it is time to end the war, 5,6,7,8 Israel is a terrorist state,” seemed to be the chorus as we arrived in London today, looking through the window of the cab we were using to get to the hotel in the afternoon.

People marching through the Kensington Gardens area, demanding that the UN and Britain do something about the situation in Gaza. Demanding that the world pay attention to what is going on around us, even if it doesn’t directly effect us.

This isn’t something foreign to me, the situation with Israel and Palestine but I was certainly…fascinated. In Canada it is a conflict that has finally reached the attention of our news and media who up until now have been disappointingly close mouthed about everything. Racial slurs are appearing on Muslim monuments in Canada, hate speech spilling onto bus stops in Jewish communities not even twenty minutes from my house.

The fact of the matter is, this is a situation with global consequences, and my views aside there were people who expressed their disgust at the protests, something that baffled me.

We are visitors in a city where people have always been passionate about what is going on in the world, and if nothing else that should be invigorating, not something which takes away from the experience.

These protestors were not violent, they were not fighting with the police, they sat and prayed. They chanted and held their signs high. They made their voices known.

I consider this to be part of the experience with travel, not something which takes away from it. If nothing else these protestors have opened my eyes to what is going on, and given me inspiration to do more research and inform myself

Travel destroys naïveté which might just be the problem…some people prefer to remain ignorant.

This certainly didn’t deter me from my enjoyment of my arrival in London, rather it made me sit up straight and listen to the sounds of the city,

Safety Essentials

I don’t know how many times in the last little while I’ve been warned about my own safety while traveling. It’s not as though I don’t get it, because I do. Sadly. I understand that as a 20-something female, traveling alone I do have a target on my back.

Therefore, I have some “essentials” shall we say for my monetary safety.

safety essentialsThe top item is an under clothing money belt. It can be worn against your stomach, and since it is silk, and the back is a nice, soft material it hardly irritates and is excellent. When I’m wearing most shirts, as I do like them a bit baggy in the stomach area you cannot tell it is being worn at all. That is what I use to put anything beyond basic cash in.

The bottom left shall we say is my secret pocket. I will be wearing a belt, for sixty-five days straight, something I actually do not normally do, but the reason is this little guy. He will be housing my passport, as well as my debit and credit cards. My belt threads through his little loops, I flip him over and tuck him into my pants, and he doesn’t even show in those either.

Last but certainly not least is for when I may be sick of wearing the money belt. It fits discretely under most shirts, cross body and if need be the strap can be adjusted or I can tuck it under my pants. This system has guaranteed that my money, and passport, will hopefully be safe and sound.

Of course there is safety of another kind. I will not be flashing around my digital SLR too much if I can help it,  but if it’s out, the strap hooks onto my belt also. Similarly my smaller camera case, which I tend to use more often while traveling fits on a belt loop as well.

My main concern will be the weight of some of these things may cause my pants to fall down but let’s hope not.

And don’t forget your ultimate safety item while traveling: your health insurance 🙂

The Anticipation of Travel

One of the best things about travel for me is the journey in getting there. 

I’m about to leave on Friday, and I won’t be home for 65 days. And the anticipation is the best and worst thing I’ve ever felt. 

I’ve planned for weeks, months, maybe even a year for this trip. 

I’ll be seeing London again, and hope she’ll welcome me home like an old friend, enveloping me in her arms and showing me what’s changed and what hasn’t.

I’ll set foot for the first time in France, and though my French is rough, and unused I hope to marvel at the beauty of history.

Rome, Venice, Florence. An art history buff would die to see those places, and I’m going to get to be there. 

I’ve booked a WWII walking tour for myself in Amsterdam, where they’ll talk about the resistance of a resilient people, war crimes and my country’s contribution to the war. 

Friday can’t come soon enough…

Packing Things I Love

One of the worst things we have to do as travellers is pack. In exactly 18 days I will be traveling for 65 days starting in London and ending in Helsinki Finland. I have to admit, I’m not one of those people that can backpack. I need more than just one change of clothes, but I can do a week’s, with laundry being done in the sink. My stress levels were initially very high regarding packing until I discovered something awesome. Packing cubes. And oh how I love them. I did a test pack today and man am I happy. photo 3

This is my suitcase right now. I’ll rundown what’s in it and then we’ll go over the products I’ve used.

The top left/envelope looking thing has within it, one bulky sweater, four light weight sweaters, two button up shirts, two long sleeve t-shirts and 7 short sleeve t-shirts.

The top right, in white, has within it 9 tank tops. The bottom right has five bottoms including two long pants, two capris and three pairs of shirt. The little package on top includes four bras.

This only takes up half of my suitcase and there is still room on top.

Let’s just say I’m actually pretty happy about this.

The best part is I left that stuff in there for a little while and when I pulled it out it actually wasn’t even that wrinkly. Any wrinkles that were incurred I just went in my bathroom and hung it up on a hanger while I ran my hot shower, and voila, steam works wonders my friends.

Also, I haven’t even used up all the packing cubes that I purchased, which means I’ll have free little pack its for when I buy trinkets, or enlarge my button/pin collection.

The white cubes are none other than Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Starter Set where the black cubes are Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Cube Set. Eagle Creek seems to dominate this market from what I’ve found on the internet but I know Lug has also gotten in on the game and Sea to Summit seems to offer pretty similar and nice products as well. If you’re Canadian Jet-Setter is definitely the place to buy these products are the prices are comparable to the U.S prices, sometimes lower and you can gain points for future travel products.