Contiki Day 1 – London to Amsterdam

Today we woke up extra early so we could pack our things and make it to the bus. We made it one time and so far our luggage is under weight. We then all boarded and took our seats but two people hadn’t arrived yet. At the last minute one arrived but we were ten minutes late so we left without the other one. 4L1A2768 4L1A2779

We drove to Dover where we caught a ferry across the channel to France. When the ferry left we got a good view of the white cliffs of Dover and Dover castle. Once back on land we drove through France and Belgium to the Neatherlands. We got into Amsterdam I the evening where we checked into the hotel and had dinner at the hotel. Nothing Dutch and all very salty. After dinner the bus took us into Amsterdam where we got onto a boat for a cruise of the canals. It was neat to see all the houses and shops from the water. 4L1A28074L1A2831 4L1A2830 4L1A2824 4L1A2817 4L1A2815 4L1A2816

After our canal cruise out tour our tour manger took us through the red light district. It reminded me a lot of Vegas. In Vegas they have men handing out little cards with a picture advertising women. In Amsterdam the women are just standing in the window. It was odd though. The rest of the group continued on to see a live sex show but we made our way by tram back to the hotel.4L1A2837 4L1A2835 4L1A2842

London Day 2

Our first full day in London we slept in since the ticket office for the London Passes didn’t open until 10am. Then we went and picked them up and headed past Tafalfar square to Wearminster Palace and Westminster Abby. Since it was raining there would be no changing of the guards so we skipped Buckingham palace. After our walk through of the Abby we headed across the Thames to the London Eye. I bought day and night tickets so we could go twice and see London in both lights. The views were quite amazing and the capsule you are in didn’t rock or sway at all. 4L1A2492 4L1A2494 4L1A2510 4L1A2517 4L1A2533 4L1A2527 4L1A2541 4L1A25434L1A2557 4L1A2564 4L1A2590 4L1A2596 4L1A2600

Once I got some nice pictures and the ride was over we went on a boat tour on the Thames. The boat took us from the London Eye to the Tower Bridge with commentary along the way. 4L1A2604 4L1A2644

On land we toured the Tower of London and saw the Crown Jewels before heading to the Tower Bridge. There we climbed up the bridge and walked along a platform connecting the two sides of the bridge. 4L1A2663 4L1A2677 4L1A2680 4L1A2685 4L1A2688 4L1A2694 4L1A2698

As soon as we finished we rushed back to the metro to make it to our first Contiki meeting. It took over an hour and like four lines to make it but we did. We got our instructions for the next day then left. Since it was now dark we went back out to the London Eye to ride again and take more photos. 4L1A2746

For dinner we tracked down (on Google) where some fish and chips were, the nearest happened to be a Indian restaurant.

London Day 1

Our last morning in Rome we tried to sleep in but our neighbors decided to throw suitcases down the hallway (like I said Rome=rude). But once they left we fell back asleep. We ate breakfast at the hotel and got ready to leave. Our driver arrived early so we scrambled a bit but made it to the airport with plenty of time. We had to be bussed to our plane since all the terminals were open but Rome just seems to not like British Airways. The flight was good. Our pilot told us where we were and what we would see.

We flew over Nice and the French alps.

The night before we left we realized we were given directions on how to get from Heathrow to the hotel in London but our flights actually landed in Gatwick. So we had to take a train into London transfer to the metro and then walk to our hotel. Once checked in we took the train to Harrods were we looked around and then shared a pizza and had a pop. We were not told to buy pounds so we didn’t have any and used the credit card. We saw the exchange rate later and realized we paid $60 for a pizza.

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After the pizza we walked to see Big Ben and some of the sights before heading back to the hotel for the night.

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Rome Day 3 – Vatican

After getting in so late the night before we had to get up bright and early to start our tour of the Sistine chapel. We had purchased a tour that got us into the Vatican museums and the Sistine chapel before the other tours. This meant seeing a lot of the exhibits without huge crowds. When we were in the museum there was only a handful of people. When we made our way through later it was packed. This tour also skipped the line which had already started forming at 7am even though the museums didn’t open for a good 2hrs.

Our tour was short but the tour guide was friendly.

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After exploring the museums, eating some cafeteria food we purchased our first souvenirs and visited the Vatican post office to mail them. I have heard the Vatican postal service is efficient and quick. But that our postcards may arrive home after we do or never at all so fingers crossed.

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We then walked to St. Peter’s square. The lineup for the Basilica were huge so we skipped that. We then went to the hotel to change into shorts. Then we took the metro to see the Piazza de Poapolo, Spanish Steps, Piazza de Novella, and Fountana Trevi. The fountains were under construction so we had to stand in line to use a walkway to see them. We then walked all the way to the Tibre river to see Castle St. Angelo.

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At one point during our walk around Rome we noticed a building with a large military presence. There were cement pillars in the road that could be lowered if needed. We could hear people off in the opposite direction. As we got to the street a police officer stopped pedestrians and traffic and let a police escorted motorcade onto the road. Chris snapped a picture and the flag was Armenian. There was talks between Rome and Armenia today and they visited the tomb of the unknown soldier.

After taking photos in Rome we took a bus back to the hotel to have an accidental nap before supper.

I looked on trip advisor and found Angrypig which had really good reviews. It was a short walk from the hotel so we went there for dinner. The owner (assumed) was really friendly. He asked if we liked puchetto and gave us a slice to try. Then asked if we knew about the bread. He then explained that it was black because of vegitables in the dough that burns when baked. This makes it good for your heart and counteracts the pork. He gave us a slice to try. We placed our orders and he made us chicken salad sandwiches to eat while we waited. We ate our sandwiches back at the hotel. They were good but the chicken ones were better.

After dinner we relaxed and got ready for our trip to London the next day.

Rome Day 2 – Florence

Our second day in Rome started bright and early. We were up, showered and out the door by 7am! We went to the train station which was a gong show. Some lady helped us find what platform our train would be at, then wanted money. Uh nope don’t got any. Then some guy came validated our tickets and showed us the train which was at a different platform. Chris was sure it wasn’t the right train but the man insisted that it was and guess what? That we should give him money. There was a couple minutes of back and forth till I said we only have credit cards. He left and the people who were actually in our seats showed up. With their help we sorted out that we were a train early, so we got off and waited. We got on that next train with no problems until we arrived in Florence, there I realized the train that we were booked went to a different station than I expected. So we bought a map and started walking to the nearest info center. Of course that info center was ran by a man that spoke zero English. He made hand gestures and pointed on a map where an English info center was. Its odd everyone talks to Chris but really I am the one who understands the most Italian it seems. I then explained the directions to Chris and we started walking. The new info center was great. They spoke English, they sold us the Firenze pass we needed and we were off to see Florence.

Our first stop was the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. We got in quite quickly since the Firenze Pass got us into the reserved line. We also looked at some of the other art in the museum but the David was the highlight by far.

Chris made me do it!

Chris made me do it!

4L1A1847Next we went to Basilica Sainta Maria del Fiore in Piazza del Duomo. The first thing we saw was the Baptisterium which was basically a small church. Then we went  and stood in line for the bell tower but the line was long, didn’t move much, and was in the sun. So we left to go see the Basilica and dome. That line up had an express line so we didn’t have to wait long. As soon as we got inside we realized we were in the wrong line. The line imediatly went into the wall and led up a spiral staircase. Up we climbed stopping once on a landing before climbing even more stairs. We then got to a catwalk. The catwalk went around the edge of the dome and looked over the church 200 feet below. We made our way around the edge and entered another stairway. This one went up and then started going around the dome. There were uneven stairways connected by narrow corridors spiraling at an angle towards the center. In these stairways you could feel how you were between two layers. The dome roof above you and the dome itself below. 

The church with dome and cupola.

The church with dome and cupola.

Ugh more stairs.

Ugh more stairs.

4L1A1930 4L1A1935 4L1A1938 Once down on the ground we went into the Basilica and saw Giorgio Vasaris fresco Last Judgement. We then went to find food. We stopped at a little restaurant off the main road. There was no host so we knew it wasn’t to touristy. Chris ordered the spaghetti carbonara and I had the ravioli. It was far better than the meal we had in Rome. After lunch we walked the streets seeing the must sees along the way: Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Pitti, Muse di Zoologia, and Piazza della Repubblica. We then made our way back to the train station. We arrived early and had dinner at the snack shop across the street. Our train was 15min late arriving at the Florence train station. I fell asleep on the train and when I woke up the train was slowing down. Normally the train does 250 km/hr but it was doing only 45, turns out they were having technical difficulties and we were now 1/2hr late. By the time the train actually arrived we were probably 45 min behind, so we quickly got onto the metro to head back to the hotel and to bed. We finally got to sleep around 11:30pm.

Rome Day 1

Our first day in Rome started not to early. We got showered and dressed and headed to the rooftop continental breakfast at our hotel. From there we wandered around the Vatican until we located a shop that sold Rome Passes. Then we headed on the Metro to the Colosseum. We waited in line for a little bit but because we had our passes we were able to skip most of the line. We got inside and explored the Colosseum. After we were finished we shared a pizza in the piazza surrounding the Colosseum. Then we went and used our Rome Pass to get into the Roman Forums. The Forums are huge, they include museums, a ruined palace, and many other buildings. We spent quite a long time exploring all the paths and buildings.

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At the end of the forums is a staircase that takes you out into a piazza beside Monumento a vittorio de Emanuele II. It was at the bottom of the steps Chris got pick pocketed by little girls. I had gotten him a money thing to hide under his pants and a wallet to not look super creepy if he needs to buy something. They ran up and started separating us. I noticed the one next to me had a folded up piece of cardboard that she started unfolding and that there was no writing on it which strikes me as odd. I look at Chris who is like 5′ away at this point with one girl all over him the other with that dam piece of cardboard at his waist it clicks what they are doing. So I rush forward and slam my hand thru the cardboard pushing it to the ground. Then stood on it. The shock on cardboard girls face, lol. She starts yelling and pointing in Italian. I look down and there is Chris’s wallet. He picks it up I stepped back off the cardboard, they scooped up the cardboard and we left.

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After seeing the monument we walked back to the Metro station and headed back to the hotel. We had dinner at a pizza place near the Vatican. The food was ok, nothing to special. In fact I think Famoso makes a better pizza ;)

Tomorrow an early train ride to Florence.

We’re in Rome

Yesterday (I think it was yesterday) we drove to YVR checked Putter into park n’ fly and took a flight to London. Seems like forever ago. Half way through the flight, just passed Baffin Island,  we looked out the window (they had us close all the blinds) and we were over ice

4L1A1646.The flight from Vancouver to London was 8.5hrs then we circled Heathrow for another half hour before being able to land. Once on the ground their was nowhere to unload so they took us to the British Airways area unloaded us there and bussed us to the connections terminal. We rushed thru security and arrived at our gate at what should of been last call. Luckily that flight was delayed too. Exhausted and hungry we boarded that flight from London to Rome. It was newer than the last one but way noisier. We waited in an enormous line to have our passport checked. Which was just some guy stamping them. Customs had two lines you need to declare goods and you don’t. Head thru the declaration line only to find its just a door that leads to the same spot. We met up with our driver who drove us to our hotel. At the hotel we checked in, ate a tube of pringles and went to bed.

Tomorrow the Colosseum and Forums.

Belated Birthday

It’s been almost a month since my birthday. We have gone out taking photos a few times but work has been busy so I haven’t posted them, till now. For my birthday we drove out to Reifel and Boundary Bay looking for owls in particular the Saw-whet owl. We spent the entire afternoon looking and the reserve was almost closing when we finally found one. It is really tiny, really high up, backlit and in a dark spot but I got to see one and with a catch too. Must have been my week, since the Sunday prior we saw a Pygmy catch a vole. Once we were done we headed back towards home. We stopped for dinner at Montana’s since I was craving Chicken tacos. Then we got cake and ate it one the couch while watching tv, mt kind of birthday :)

4L1A1405-Edit-24L1A1431-24L1A1465-24L1A1398-2Now for that Pygmy Owl I mentioned, this was Chris’s first opportunity to see one and it caught a vole/mouse right in front of us.

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Other random birds
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Valentines Day

For Valentines Day we drove into Vancouver to visit some parks we had heard about but have never had the chance to visit. First we visited Lynn Valley Park. While there we went across the suspension bridge which had me mildly freaked out but I made it across and didn’t drop my camera, yay! We continued on some of the trails in the park.
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After Lynn Valley we drove to Lighthouse Park to see the lighthouse. The main views at the end of the trail were blah so we took another trail that went around to the side and along the beach. The view from there was much better. We sat by the ocean for awhile watching two eagles fly from the lighthouse to the trees.

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After hiking around looking for good photo spots we headed back home and had dinner at my favorite pizza spot Famoso.

It was a good day.

Pygmy Owl

So the last few weekends and over the Holidays I have been trying to find a Northern Pygmy Owl. I have gone out probably five times but no luck. It was getting frustrating because I know they are around, I know others have found them, but every weekend it rained and when the sun did come out I had to work.

So this weekend I went out on Sunday, Saturday was pouring rain. I left super early and started on my way only to remember I needed gas. So I turned around to head in the opposite direction and the nearest gas station. It worked out though since only a few minutes later I saw a large coyote run across the road. So I pulled over grabbed the camera (yay for having it with me for once) and snapped a few pictures. He must have been wondering what I was up to because he kept turning to give me looks. Once he was off in the field I continued to the gas station. Filled up and headed back out towards the owls. I was running late at this point which I wasn’t to happy about.

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When I got up into the woods I met up with some other photographers and could see everyone crowded around a bush taking photos. An OWL! I got up where it was, put down my tripod, looked up and it was gone. I didn’t get even a single photo. But now I knew they do exist and in this location.

We waited about an hour for the owl to come back but it didn’t so we headed off to try a different spot. Along the way I twisted my ankle, again. The knot had been slowly shrinking but now it’s back and sore again, although not as sore as when I first twisted it. We waited for the owl for another hour and a half when we started thinking lunch sounded pretty good. Before we left to find food one of the guys needed to relieve himself, so we turned around to give him some privacy, I was eating an orange while the other guys chatted. It was then that I noticed something in a tree back the way we came and pointed it out. “No that’s not it”, “that was there the entire time”, “we walked past that on the way in and it was nothing”, where the responses I heard. Then one guy told me to “check your camera girl”, so I did and guess what? It was the owl. After that last comment I felt a little bit of ha! in your face attitude but it was overshadowed by the excitement of finally getting to see a pygmy owl and take photos!

We got lots of viewing time with the owl. It stayed close, pooped, puked up pellets, and even landed fairly close to me. It is tiny though and even with my 400mm lens I had to crop my photos in quite a bit. This owl is softball / pop can size. A tiny ball of fluff sitting in a tree. It’s funny though when in a group of photographers the guys with the biggest lenses are the ones who push their way in front of everyone else. I don’t push and I don’t get to close. It’s not worth it to me. But spending hours in one spot waiting for an owl is.
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