The blog is BACK!

Apologies for the hiatus. Sometimes life gets so busy you unconsciously set your creativity aside. It’s not like I haven’t been anywhere since I’ve last written. It’s been a great couple of years! I’ve travelled all across Spain, exploring the difference in culture across Madrid, Bilbao, Santander, Seville, Huelva, Cordoba, Granada, Tarifa, Jerez, Cadiz, Malaga, and Barcelona. After all that I had to take a siesta or two along the way.

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Seville Cathedral, August 2015

I’ve been to Portugal on four different occasions, visiting Porto, Lisbon, and different parts of the Algarve.

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Tariva, Portugal, July 2016

I’ve indulged in the best pizza and pasta in Italy, exploring Rome, Trieste, Fruili, and Venice.

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Venice, Italy, September 2017

I ran through the hills in Austria and belted out tunes from the Sound of Music (Number 21 on my Before 30 list) with my pals from The Western Gazette.

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Salzburg, Austria, July 2016

Afterwards we went on to explore Salzburg, Vienna, and Prague.

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Vienna, Austria, July 2016

I finally visited Plitvice National Park in Croatia, a scenic waterfall haven that had graced my screen saver since I was 16. We also toured around Pula, Zagreb, and Rijeka.

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Plitvice National Park, Croatia, September 2017. Bucket list location.

I’ve enjoyed the liberal, forward thinking Netherlands, including Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Rotterdam, and Delft.

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Rotterdam, Netherlands, January 2017

That’s just a taste of the what I’ve been up to, so needless to say I’ve been busy! The greatest joy of living in Europe is that it is so easy to take off for a night or two and visit a whole new country. Flights are so affordable (thank you RyanAir) and with accommodation sites like Booking.com it’s easier than ever to book a cheeky night away. I still live in Dublin and it is the perfect location to dart to and fro around Europe.

This year I’m prioritising creativity. It’s time to get back to writing and design. Time to excercise the mind. I’m planning to travel a lot in 2018, and I’ll fill you in on all the shenanigans and also give you my top travel tips and recommendations. Here you’ll find the tales of my European Odyssey. Stay tuned.

 

There’s someone for everyone

I’ve been experiencing some strange encounters lately. I don’t like to say that people are “strange”, but it is the best word to describe the humans I’ve been coming in contact with.

Strange |strānj|
adjective
1 unusual or surprising in a way that is unsettling or hard to understand : children have some strange ideas | he’s a very strange man | [with clause ] it is strange how things change.

My Saturday started off abnormally. I woke up a few minutes before my alarm was set to go off, dreaming of Christmas music. As I stirred from my slumber I realized I wasn’t dreaming of Michael Buble crooning “I’ll be home for Christmas” – the music was drifting up the stairs. I got of bed (slowly, there was no hopping), opened the blinds, and was greeted by whiteness. Snow must’ve been falling all night because everything was covered, and it was still snowing. Yes I am I in Canada, and snow is normal here, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was beautiful, but it was MARCH 17 – St. Patrick’s Day. The weather had been getting nicer and it’s already in the 20s in Ontario, so I don’t think I was wrong in feeling like Mother Nature was being a tease. I am absolutely ready for spring weather and was a little annoyed at this minor setback. As I was getting ready for work N’Sync’s “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” started playing, and let’s just say some shimmying and off-key belting occurred – hey, I don’t think it’s humanly possible to not feel alive when that song is playing, no matter what time of year. You might think this behaviour is “strange,” but trust me – if you know me well you’ll know that this is not unusual. So, I decided to embrace the festive spirit and continued listening to Christmas music on my drive to work.

My first table must’ve been an omen for the day. Three people decked out in denim on denim, heavy duty boots, and the two women with long straggly hair lumber in and the man calls out – “you serving yet?”

I greet their table with menus in hand, and right away they start shouting out their coffee orders, change their minds, then go back to what they originally asked. There was lots of awkward moments in which they avoided eye contact, spoke in a hurry, and they always seemed startled if I asked them how everything was going. An overall slightly awkward experience, but they were friendly and I was happy to serve them.

I had about an hour and a half between my shifts so I decided to grab a drink at Starbucks and curl up with a book. When you approach the counter there’s a separator between the cash register and the line up, with a sign clearly stating to line up on the right side of the separator. I jump in line behind a lady with the Cadillac of all strollers, and I find myself wondering how she’s possibly going to make the tight corner to pick up her drink after she’s placed her order. As I’m standing in line all of the sudden there’s a couple beside me, on the other side of the separator, debating about what to order. The woman, flailing her arms and pointing at the menu, is shouting, “oh there it is! They have it! Caramel macchiato. That’s what we had, right? No! No, mocha latte. It was a mocha latte!!” “Alright dear,” her husband replies, “that must be it. Let’s get in line.” “Oh! Yes, mocha latte. Or was it the cappuccino?” “I’m not sure but we can decide in line.” “Oh, I guess we should just get in line. Yes, yes, it was the mocha. Aren’t you so happy they have it here, Ralph?” “Yes, dear.” “I’m just so happy they have it. I really like…” Meanwhile, I’m wondering if one of them is slightly deaf. It would explain her speaking so loudly that everyone in the Starbucks, and probably those walking by outside, now knows that she loves mochas. The gentleman hobbled over to grab a seat, and of course he sits on a bench right beside the table I claimed with my bag. Why not? She continued to chatter on and on, saying things as he wasn’t listening, but I was called to the front to place my drink order.

After a kerfuffle which was me helping the woman in front of me navigate her mammoth stroller, the friendly Starbucks staff asks what I assumed was “A name for the order?” I couldn’t make out what he was saying because the woman behind me was still verbally processing the entire menu, but I was expecting him to ask me that so I responded with “Grace”. This news delighted the woman who was in front of me because her baby in the stroller is named Grace.

Eventually I sit down right beside Ralph, who has been wearing a Bluetooth the whole time. He turns to me, bares a slightly toothless grin, and says, “It’s so nice to sit down.” I smile and agree that it is, then open up my book. A few minutes later I know that the woman has her drinks before she’s anywhere near me because she starts shouting to her husband that she has them. She comes over and asks her husband if they’re going, to which he replies he’d like to sit a while. “Oh good, good, that sounds like a good plan. I just love whipped cream, don’t you? Can you believe they have the drinks we like? I just can’t believe it!” she says, clearly pleased with her purchases. I smile to myself because I understand how a good hot beverage can make your day. “I’m so excited about this game,” she says as she opens up a plastic bag and takes out a wrapped video game. “Oh! Yes, see here, it says it has levels so I already know I’m going to like it. I guess I should’ve taken it out and looked at this book while I was in the store?” “Yes, that probably would’ve worked,” he agreed. “Oh yes, yes, I can already tell I’m going to like it. So, can we go now dear?” “Not yet, I want to finish my drink.” “Oh, ok. I just know I’m going to like this game.”

Suddenly Ralph puts his hand to his ear and says “hello?” His wife said, “Who is it? Who is it?” “Oh, hi Steve,” Ralph says. “STEVE!” her voices raises an octave, “Tell Steve I say hi!” “Uh huh, uh huh,” “Tell Steve I say hi! Can you believe it? STEVE!” Now I’m curious as to what’s so great about Steve – superhero, model, makes great mochas… “Yep here she is,” Ralph says. “Oh, Steve wants to talk to ME? I’ve never used a Bluetooth before!” I watch in awe as the two of them try to set her up with the Bluetooth as she says multiple times over that she’s never used one before. Once it’s on her ear she yells “Steve! I was just saying I’ve never used a Bluetooth before! Yes. Listen Steve. You’ll never guess where we are! Starbucks!” Ralph try’s to tell his wife that she doesn’t need to yell, but she continues to anyways. Soon after she  starts yelling “Steve! Are you there! Dear, I can’t hear him. I’m left handed. It’s on the wrong ear. I need to switch ears because I’m left handed.” He patiently helps her switch ears, but she continues to struggle and eventually they just use the regular cell phone. I gather from her conversation that they’re going to meet Steve at his house on Monday at 10am, because they like to “sleep in, anyways.” She hangs up and repeats all of the information. Pauses for a seconds then says “Can we go now dear?” “I want to finish my coffee,” Ralph says for the umpteenth time. “Okay then.” Ralph asks her if there’s a washroom, and she replies that she doesn’t know. Ralph then promptly turns to me and asks if I know whether or not there’s a washroom, to which I reply “yes, there is actually. Right there,” I say with a point to the bathroom that is directly beside where we’re sitting.

He returns and she asks again if they can go. “I just want to talk to you,” she says as she lowers her voice to what is a normal restaurant speaking level. I’m wondering what it is she’s been doing all along then, but he seemed to understand what she meant.

After Ralph and his wife left I couldn’t help but feel fascinated by their relationship. As I stared at the falling snow through the window, all I could think was,

There’s someone for everyone.

the end of a chapter/my friends are the best!

My going away party. Time to bust out the sassy hats!

Warning: The following posting contains severe traces of sentimentalism. Reader discretion is advised.


My time at UWO has officially come to a close.

I had been avoiding even talking about leaving London for months. I also proved to be quite skillful at avoiding saying goodbye to people. Let’s just say, if procrastination were my job, I would’ve gotten a raise.

Even though I tried to avoid thinking about it all, my body was a constant reminder. For the days leading up to my departure my stomach was in knots, and I had so much nervous energy I felt sick. It’s not even that I’m nervous about going somewhere new, but I guess the anticipation of leaving my friends behind was making me pretty anxious.

My brain was like “oh hey Grace, you should probably get ready to say goodbye,” and I was like “la la la.” So, to get my attention my body slapped me in the face. Awesome.

The beginning of a legacy. Sasha Fierce!

Even though I couldn’t sleep and I felt sick, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Now you’re probably thinking “uh Grace, that’s weird.” Don’t get me wrong — I’m no masochist. I hate being sick as much as the next guy, but if I hadn’t been sad about leaving, it would’ve meant I wasn’t leaving anything special behind.

I have had the most amazing past four years. When I reflect on them, I only have hilarious, good memories. I’m not exaggerating when I say I can’t think of anything bad. There’s Saugeen in first year, March Madness, late night DQ runs, drinking tea, the Master Plan, Gazette shenanigans, purple pride, Ceeps, shopping downtown, fondue for two, Christmas in October, Rupal, dance parties, and non-stop laughing. Not to mention ridiculous amounts of food.

Maddie is the second person I met at Western. This was at O-week in first year. Best buds!

My friends are actually the best. They are the most hilarious, fun, caring, talented people, and I am so happy and grateful that I know them. I know that there’s no way I could count my blessings. There’s far too many, and it would be out of my mathematical league (and yes, I passed calculus in high school.)

C.S. Lewis once said: “The pain I feel now is the happiness I felt before.”  First of all, C.S. Lewis is a genius. This pretty much sums up everything I feel about leaving Western. Yeah, it hurts now, but it’s so worth it. My experiences at Western have been amazing, and even though the circumstances are changing, I’m counting on these friendships to last.

I had, as the Black Eyed Peas would say, the time of my life. (WOO DANCE PARTY!)

Good times UWO. It was epic.

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ps… Sorry about getting so sentimental… there was no avoiding it!

The end of a chapter – Graduating University

Warning: The following posting contains severe traces of sentimentalism. Reader discretion is advised.

My time at UWO has officially come to a close.

I had been avoiding even talking about leaving London for months. I also proved to be quite skillful at avoiding saying goodbye to people. Let’s just say, if procrastination were my job, I would’ve gotten a raise.

Even though I tried to avoid thinking about it all, my body was a constant reminder. For the days leading up to my departure my stomach was in knots, and I had so much nervous energy I felt sick. It’s not even that I’m nervous about going somewhere new, but I guess the anticipation of leaving my friends behind was making me pretty anxious.

My brain was like “oh hey Grace, you should probably get ready to say goodbye,” and I was like “la la la.” So, to get my attention my body slapped me in the face. Awesome.

Even though I couldn’t sleep and I felt sick, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Now you’re probably thinking “uh Grace, that’s weird.” Don’t get me wrong — I’m no masochist. I hate being sick as much as the next guy, but if I hadn’t been sad about leaving, it would’ve meant I wasn’t leaving anything special behind.

I have had the most amazing past four years. When I reflect on them, I only have hilarious, good memories. I’m not exaggerating when I say I can’t think of anything bad. There’s Saugeen in first year, March Madness, late night DQ runs, drinking tea, the Master Plan, Gazette shenanigans, purple pride, Ceeps, shopping downtown, fondue for two, Christmas in October, Rupal, dance parties, and non-stop laughing. Not to mention ridiculous amounts of food.

My friends are actually the best. They are the most hilarious, fun, caring, talented people, and I am so happy and grateful that I know them. I know that there’s no way I could count my blessings. There’s far too many, and it would be out of my mathematical league (and yes, I passed calculus in high school.)

C.S. Lewis once said: “The pain I feel now is the happiness I felt before.”  First of all, C.S. Lewis is a genius. This pretty much sums up everything I feel about leaving Western. Yeah, it hurts now, but it’s so worth it. My experiences at Western have been amazing, and even though the circumstances are changing, I’m counting on these friendships to last.

The pain i feel now is the happiness i felt beforeC.S. Lewis

I had, as the Black Eyed Peas would say, the time of my life. (WOO DANCE PARTY!)

Good times UWO. It was epic.

 

 

When to use “Howdy” – Calgary Stampede

“Howdy, can I help you with something?”

It was the first thing a Stampede staff member said to us. If one “howdy” wasn’t good enough, we were greeted by several other people, all giving us a friendly “howdy, enjoy your day!” I quickly turned to Robyn and Chris and mumbled under my breath, “I’m pretty sure this is the only place in the world where it’s normal for people to say ‘howdy.’ I wonder if I can pull it off?”

Don’t worry, I don’t greet everyone by saying “howdy” now. I did however give it a test run, busting out a cheerful “Howdy, ya’ll!” Shockingly enough, I wasn’t taken seriously.

howdy!

I’ve only been to Calgary once. My visit was during the Stampede, so I don’t know if it’s always swept up in cowboy culture, but it sure was when I was there.

We stopped at an Earls (which is a popular restaurant out West,) for lunch after Robyn and Chris picked me up from the airport. We were immersed in a sea of cowboy boots, hats, and denim galore. All of the waitresses were decked out in cowgirl gear. Even the TV’s were set to the country music station — again, the ONLY place in Canada where that’s perfectly normal. Before you knew it, the three of us were chatting about where we could go to find ourselves a pair of cowboy boots.

After you count the number of cowboy hats, please note the guy in the white cut off shirt. .

When we finally got to the Stampede I was in awe of the amount of Western plaid, hats, and get this — CUT OFF tee shirts. I know it’s only clothing, but clothes represent people and cultures, and it was really neat seeing something totally different.

Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to check out the rodeo and see real cowboys do their thing. We did stumble upon seeing OneRepublic live though! They were playing at the outdoor stage so all you had to do was pay Stampede admission to see them play. They sounded amazing – even better than they do on their albums. Ryan Tedder’s vocals on the album do not do him justice — he had a lot more freedom live and we got to see how talented he really is.

Sadly, my staggering 5 foot 3 inches frame didn’t quite cut it and I spent most of the time on my tiptoes trying to find an opening through the masses to catch a glimpse of the stage. There were a lot of “THERE HE IS!” moments, followed by breathtaking views of the back of someone’s head. I didn’t mind though because the band sounded amazing and it was great getting to hear them play.

The drive back home was definitely a highlight of the trip. I can’t even describe how beautiful the scenery was. I love mountains and getting to drive through the Rockies was amazing. We made a quick stop in Banff (another location I’ve added to my list of places I want to live) and we stopped to stick our feet in a beautiful river.

So, when to use “howdy”? Only if you’re in Calgary during the Stampede…

Skipping rocks
Since I didn’t have my life jacket on me Robyn made sure I didn’t get swept away in the river. Safety first boys and girls.

Almost home.

When to use "Howdy"

When to use “Howdy”

“Howdy, can I help you with something?”

It was the first thing a Stampede staff member said to us. If one “howdy” wasn’t good enough, we were greeted by several other people, all giving us a friendly “howdy, enjoy your day!” I quickly turned to Robyn and Chris and mumbled under my breath, “I’m pretty sure this is the only place in the world where it’s normal for people to say ‘howdy.’ I wonder if I can pull it off?”

Don’t worry, I don’t greet everyone by saying “howdy” now. I did however give it a test run, busting out a cheerful “Howdy, ya’ll!” Shockingly enough, I wasn’t taken seriously.

I’ve only been to Calgary once. My visit was during the Stampede, so I don’t know if it’s always swept up in cowboy culture, but it sure was when I was there.

We stopped at an Earls (which is a popular restaurant out West,) for lunch after Robyn and Chris picked me up from the airport. We were immersed in a sea of cowboy boots, hats, and denim galore. All of the waitresses were decked out in cowgirl gear. Even the TV’s were set to the country music station — again, the ONLY place in Canada where that’s perfectly normal. Before you knew it, the three of us were chatting about where we could go to find ourselves a pair of cowboy boots.

After you count the number of cowboy hats, please note the guy in the white cut off shirt. .

When we finally got to the Stampede I was in awe of the amount of Western plaid, hats, and get this — CUT OFF tee shirts. I know it’s only clothing, but clothes represent people and cultures, and it was really neat seeing something totally different.

Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to check out the rodeo and see real cowboys do their thing. We did stumble upon seeing OneRepublic live though! They were playing at the outdoor stage so all you had to do was pay Stampede admission to see them play. They sounded amazing – even better than they do on their albums. Ryan Tedder’s vocals on the album do not do him justice — he had a lot more freedom live and we got to see how talented he really is.

Ryan Tedder workin the crowd.

Unfortunately my staggering 5 foot 3 inches frame didn’t quite cut it and I spent most of the time on my tiptoes trying to find an opening through the masses to catch a glimpse of the stage. There were a lot of “THERE HE IS!” moments, followed by breathtaking views of the back of someone’s head. I didn’t mind though because the band sounded amazing and it was great getting to hear them play.

The drive back home was definitely a highlight of the trip. I can’t even describe how beautiful the scenery was. I love mountains and getting to drive through the Rockies was amazing. We made a quick stop in Banff (another location I’ve added to my list of places I want to live) and we stopped to stick our feet in a beautiful river.

I got to see a lot of new things on our trip to Calgary. It was a really fun road trip!

Just leaving Calgary and approaching the Rockies
Banff! Please note the kilts behind us.

Skipping rocks
Since I didn't have my life jacket on me Robyn made sure I didn't get swept away in the river. Safety first boys and girls.

Almost home.

Note to self: refrain from saying “howdy” unless one is in Calgary during the Stampede…