We flew to Thessaloniki because it was the closest city to Istanbul that was also the cheapest to fly to from Prague. We stayed longer because of the incredible hospitality. From the moment we arrived at the Little Big House we were treated like honoured guests. Vicky and Harris did everything they could to make us feel welcome, including complimentary Frappés on arrival, and looking up any information we could possible want. We also expected to be in a 4 bed dorm. Technically it was, however each set of bunks was in it’s own room.
After Prague, Thessaloniki was also a nice retreat from the tourists. The city is a university town, and at night really comes alive. With lots of great restaurants and bars. On one of our days in Thessaloniki we did a day trip with some friends we met at the hostel to a nearby beach town. It was interesting being there after the peak season as the town just felt really dead. It did mean we had the entire beach to ourselves.
If you have the chance to make it to Northern Greece I would definitely stay a day or two in Thessaloniki (not to mention at The Little Big House). Here are a few photos from our time in Thessaloniki.
October 16, 2011 No Comments
4 Months ago almost to the day, I broke my leg. It was a long struggle recovering from the break, and rebuilding my strength enough to be able to walk again. However that wasn’t the biggest change that happened. It was also the last day at my former job, and a new beginning for myself joining Matador Network as their CTO. I had worked at the previous company for close to 7 years, written a large majority of their products, and was in a very secure management role. Unfortunately the position became routine and after 7 years I was feeling my life become a little stagnant.
During the past 4 months recovering from injury, two things became very clear to me. I had made the right decision in taking the new position, and that when I was healthy enough I needed to shake up my life and start living out some of my dreams.
Sitting here at the Vancouver Airport, I await my flight to Frankfurt, Germany. The freedom of my new job which allows me to work anywhere has enabled me to live out my dream of living in Berlin and to learn the language of my parents. It has also opened up the possibility for me to travel and explore while continuing to work a job I love for a company I believe in.
Sometimes in life you need to have things shaken up. My shake up came in the form of a broken leg, and the lose of mobility for close to 3 months. It gave me the perspective and push I needed to start living out my dreams and for that I am grateful.
July 29, 2011 5 Comments
Page is not the most exciting city in Arizona, however the sites around the city are simply breathtaking. There were three main sites I had wanted to see near Page before I started this trip. Horseshoe Bend (where the Colorado River does a 180 degree turn), Antelope Canyon, and The Wave. Going through Page twice I was able to do two of the three. Later in my trip I was actually offered to join a group of Portuguese photographers who had won the lottery for entry to shoot The Wave, unfortunately the day they were going was the same day as the wedding I was on my way to. For another day.
Horseshoe bend was really a fantastic place to see, albeit a bit unnerving. You stand on a cliff with a sheer 1,000 foot drop down to the Colorado River. Talk about facing my fear of heights full on. My drive to get a good shot of the bend eventually won over my fear of heights and lead me to inch my way to the edge of the cliff. It was breathtaking. I actually visited the Bend twice. Once on my way up to Zion, and then the second time the morning before entering Antelope Canyon. The latter I had the place all to myself, and was able to have a few silent hours alone along the ridge.
After the morning at the Bend I made my way to Antelope Canyon, where I was able to get a photo pass. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon carved into the red sandstone. What makes it special is that when the light shines into the canyon it reflects off the canyon walls creating some amazing colours on the rocks. I was the first one into the canyon, and spent close to 3 hours wandering through it taking photos. It was pretty amazing time.
Finally I had to make my way East. I left Antelope Canyon and headed off through Navejo land for Monument Valley. I got to the Valley a few hours before sunset and did the scenic drive. I was initially thinking of camping in the valley, however due to the lack of hiking in the area, I decided to push on forward to give myself more time in Arches and Canyonlands in Utah. So I left Monument Valley as the sun was setting as so many westerns that were shot there had ended.
Here are some photos from Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley.
December 29, 2010 2 Comments
On my way out of Bryce Canyon I didn’t have too much of a plan for the rest of the day. I needed to get to Page, Arizona; but didn’t have to be there by any set time. I knew there were a few state parks a little south of Bryce, so I figured I would just pick one and try it out. I decided to go with something a little different than Canyons, and picked the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.
On my way there I passed by a dinner that I had to stop at. It was located right at Camel Junction (between Bryce and Zion) and had a big sign saying, “Home of the Ho-Made Pies”. Any dinner with a sign like that required a stop. I ended up getting a snack, and then tried a slice of the coconut cream pie. It was pretty great.
Back on the road I got to the sand dunes about an hour and a half before sunset. Once again the only person at the park. Myself and a bunch of pink sand. I wandered around in the dunes, taking some photos and just exploring the sand. It was a pretty wild place, and when the sun began to set the sand turned a majestic red. What a great end to my day.
Here are a few photos from the Coral Pink Sand Dunes in Utah.
December 28, 2010 No Comments
My plan for my second day in Bryce was to wake up early and catch the sunrise over the amphitheatre before heading out on a hike around Fairyland Loop. When I woke in the morning I noticed something was a bit off. It was oddly warm in the car. When I finally opened up my eyes and looked around, I realized my car was completely covered in an couple inches of snow. So much for the clear skies I had seen the night before. This pretty much ruined my chances of shooting a sunrise over the canyon, so I took my time getting myself together in the morning, before heading out to one of the lookouts to inspect the situation.
The snow at this point was already starting to slow, and from what I could tell the trails all looked pretty good. After seeing an ill equipped group from Florida head out down one of the smaller trails, I decided I was good to go for the Fairyland loop. I am so happy I decided to push forward with this hike. The snow was not a problem, and this was one of my favourite hikes of my trip. I didn’t see a single person the entire time, and it was just me and the hoodoos. Midway through the hike the sky began to open up, and the fog and clouds lifted leaving the last half of the hike in the sun. It was a real treat.
After my hike I made a small lunch before checking out the viewpoints one final time, then set off back for Page, Arizona.
Here are some photos from my second day in Bryce Canyon.
December 28, 2010 No Comments
Bryce Canyon was one of my favourite National Parks that I visited on my Southwest trip. I loved the out-worldliness of it, and how different the scenery was from what I am used to. Most of all however, it was a fantastic place to hike and take photographs. My first day in the park I spent hiking some of the smaller trails and taking photos, leaving my big hike for the next morning. After spending a fantastic day in the park I picked up some dinner, a 6 pack of beer and made a camp fire in the deserted camp ground. The stars in Bryce Canyon were simply amazing, and the brightest I have seen in a very long time. Here are some photos from my first day in Bryce.
December 27, 2010 No Comments
I didn’t spend a long time in Zion National Park, and was lucky to even make it there. Midway through my trip I decided to change my route in order to fit it in. In my initial plan I was to go North from Page to Bryce then continue north through to Arches National Park and then further south to Monument Valley. However after looking at a map I realized that would have caused me a lot of back tracking. Now instead of going north after Bryce, I would go back south through Page, then East over to Monument Valley and then north through to Arches.
After the Grand Canyon I drove on North and made it to the town of Springdale where I found a nice cheap hotel just outside the entrance to the park. The drive into Springdale was interesting as I dropped down into a canyon doing some sharp snowy switchbacks, followed by a tunnel that went on for over a mile long. I was happy to make it to the hotel room after the long day of driving.
In the morning I was up early to catch another sunrise. After, I chased a few deer around (or rather they chased me around), went on a few small hikes, then set off around lunchtime for Bryce Canyon. It was a short visit, but in December, Zion wasn’t as spectacular as I am sure it would be in the spring or fall. Here are some photos from my short stint in Zion.
December 21, 2010 No Comments
The grand canyon is nothing short of magnificent. It is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and for good reason. I had a heard a lot of good things about visiting the Grand Canyon, and it didn’t disappoint.
I arrived at the grand canyon late, after wine tasting all day in Northern Arizona. I checked into a cheap hotel just outside the canyon and did my best to get to bed early so I could catch the sunrise at the canyon. Nerves, excitement, and the couple in the hotel room next door kept me up later than I had hoped, but eventually I got to sleep. The next morning I made my way to the park just as the sky was beginning to open up. I was a touch late, as by the time I made it into the park and at my first viewing area all the reds of the morning sky had dissipated. However that first glimpse at the over 4000 foot drop below was no less breathtaking. I stood still on the edge of the canyon watching as the sun continued to climb up the sky, and several photographers snapped happily away.
After I regained my composure from my captivation of the grand canyon, I wanted to get out and do some hiking. It was still early in the day and I wanted to do some exploring. I decided to hike the Hermit Trail, as I thought it would likely have the least amount of people hiking it, and I wanted to honour the late Canadian Louis Boucher who the trail was named after. I hiked first to Hermit’s Rest then made my way to the Dripping Springs, before heading back to the top of the canyon. All in all I hiked over 16 miles, in about 5 hours.
While relaxing after my hike at trail head I met a really nice couple from France. They both worked in England for a few years saving up, before finally setting off on an epic adventure that will take them from Alaska to Argentina, and eventually back to France. Fabienne and Arnaud are documenting their adventure on their blog at: http://www.elgringotrail.com/blog/?cat=12
I camped that night in the canyon with Arno and Fab, before setting off again in the morning to catch the sunrise. This time I was there in time, and got to shoot the canyon as the sky lit up to a blaze of colour. It was an amazing experience. After spending the morning shooting, I slowly made my way out of the park, checking out all the viewpoints on my way out of the park. I would have loved to spend more time in the park, however I still had a lot of country to cover and needed to make my way north into Utah.
I will definitely be returning to the grand canyon. I would love to do the multi-day hike into the canyon out to the Havasu Falls. Until then however, I will have to only dream of the beautiful green-blue pools.
Here are some photos from my hikes and of my sunset and sunrise shoots at the Canyon. Also here is the Google Earth KML file of my hike.
December 19, 2010 1 Comment
My first big drive of my trip was from San Clemente, California to Prescott, Arizona. After watching the documentary Blood into Wine I knew I wanted to make it into the Prescott Valley to taste the wines of Manyard James Keenan and Eric Glomski. Plus everything I had read about this part of Arizona was positive.
Prescott was a cute little town, with a really entertaining downtown. One of their main streets is dubbed Whiskey Row and has a good mix of bars and art galleries. I found myself at home at the Raven Cafe which featured over 30 beers on tap. My kind of hang out. Prescott dubs itself as Arizona’s Christmas city and it shown through with all the businesses being lit up with Christmas lights, as well as the big Christmas tree they have at their town hall.
In the morning I made my way north headed to Jerome, Arizona. Jerome is a town built on top of a mountain, that was founded as a copper mine camp. Apparently in the 1970′s the town was riddled a ghost town (and apparently it is haunted), however a few years later hippies and artists started moving into the empty buildings and revitalising the old mine town. Jerome is now a pretty touristy little art town, with lots of different shops and cute cafes and restaurants. Jerome was also the first stop on my wine tasting adventure, starting with Maynard’s Winery Caduceus Cellars.
Not knowing what to expect from an Arizona wine, I was happy to find after my first tastes that Arizona wine, does in fact taste like wine. The wines I tasted were all pretty dry, but very flavourful. After spending a good 30 minutes plus tasting I decided it was time to head on to the next tasting room on my list, Stronghold Vineyards. This is the combined winery of Maynard and Eric, and is located in Cottonwood a short drive just down the hill from Jerome.
The Stronghold tasting room is a lot more relaxed and chilled out than the Caduceus room. The guy who was pouring (Kevin) was quiet the character and pretty entertaining. He did a great job of letting me sample a bunch of the wines. Before long I was starting to feel a little tipsy after all the pours I was having so decided to hang out with Kevin for a while. They had a brand new PS3 in the room so we played that in-between customers coming and going. It was a pretty entertaining way to spend the afternoon, and Kevin was a great host.
Eventually after sobering up, I needed to get a move on. My plan was to still goto Page Springs Winery (Eric’s winery) and then make my way to the Grand Canyon. Page Springs was another quick drive away. Their tasting room was actually at their vineyards which was cool to see. I got there around sunset, which made the winery look even more impressive. Page Springs had a lot of different interesting wines. One of my favourites was the ECIPS, or spice spelled backwards. After shooting some photos it was time to get myself to the grand canyon. I headed off north, with a quick stop in Sonoma for a few photos, and then a stop in Flagstaff for some dinner, before making my final trek into the Canyon (my next post). Here are a few additional photos from the area.
December 17, 2010 No Comments
On Sunday I returned from a small trip down south. My good friends Venassa and Raphael were getting married in Colorado, so I decided to combine the wedding with a visit to my good friends Joe and Kasie in California, and a road trip across a few southern states to check out some of the national parks. It was a really epic trip, that started and ended with really good friends. The road trip itself was simply amazing. A dream come true from a photography standpoint, and something I want to do again soon. Over the next few days I will posting a few notes and photos from the trip as I make my way through my collection. Here is the first set, photos from San Clemente California, and the start of the drive to Arizona.
San Clemente was a great way to start the trip. Relaxed time spent with friends, with nice sunny weather (especially after the snowfall we were getting in Vancouver). I got to experience American Thanksgiving (twice), Weezer in concert, and see a hockey game in a non hockey market. On my finals days before leaving San Clemente I overdid it with the Mexican food, and my stomach fought back. I had visions of Montreal before my Europe trip a few years back, and was fearing my road trip wasn’t going to get off the ground. However I was lucky enough to have the wonderful Kasie around to nurse me back to health so that I was able to leave on schedule. Thanks again Kasie!
December 16, 2010 No Comments
In October 2009 I flew out to Philadelphia to experience seeing the Philadelphia Flyers play at home, as well as to see Pearl Jam close out the historic Spectrum. After that trip I didn’t anticipate making it back out to Philadelphia anytime soon. However when the Flyers finished off the Montreal Canadians in 5 quick games to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals I felt compelled to make the trip out east once again.
After the finals schedule was release I realized two conflicts in my schedule. The first was the Sasquatch Music Festival, which was taking place during the first two games of the finals in Chicago. The second was a Metric concert at the Malkin Bowl in Vancouver. I was alright with missing the Metric concert, but wasn’t about to skip out on the always fun Sasquatch. So I looked at flights, and found a red eye the day after Sasquatch that would put me into Philadelphia the morning of game 3. A quick reality check, OK’ed the trip with my boss, and the trip was booked.
Before leaving for Sasquatch I was able to find a single ticket to game 3 on the Flyers official ticketing website. This took a little pressure off for the first game. Arriving into Philly on little to no sleep, and a full day of work scheduled, I wasn’t in the best shape to be hunting down a ticket to the game. Work day done, a quick nap, and a whole lot of nervous excitement filled me. I hopped on the subway down to the stadium. On the subway I met two guys from Ottawa who drove down that day just to watch the game in a Philly bar. One of several Canadian Flyers fans I met during my time in Philly. When I was walking into the arena, I ran into my friend Phil from Vancouver, who just so happened to be in Philly for the game also. We exchanged contact info and agreed to meet up the following day for beers.
When Everything Goes Right
Game three was everyone I could have asked for in a hockey game, and made the trip completely worthwhile. It was a back and forth game, that saw the Flyers take an early lead only to lose it early in the 3rd period. The Flyers fought back and scored quickly after the Hawks to tie the game and send it to overtime. In OT the Flyers had a heart wrenching goal called back, minutes before Claude Giroux scored the winner to move the Flyers with one game of a tied series. Such an amazing finish and great way to start my trip. After the game I was going to meet up with the guys from Ottawa for a beer, but when I got back to my hotel I simply crashed out on my bed after a good 40+ hours of no sleep.
Game four I was without tickets. However from previous experiences with concerts and events I knew that if I showed up at the venue box office a few hours before the event I would be bound to get something. So after work I headed down to the arena where I stood in line with 25 other fans in the sweltering 33 degree heat hoping to get a ticket. An hour later I had a ticket which came with access to the Lexus Club which gave you a free food buffet as well as free beer.
Game four was a lot more dominant by the Flyers than the previous game. They came out strong and held the lead throughout the entire game. Despite a late charge by the Hawks, the Flyers were just too strong and ended up winning 5-3. That night I hooked up with a friend Andrew who I met through Joe in October. We went out for a few beers to celebrate the win and catch up. He invited me to a Phillies game and to show me around town the following week.
A Brief Interlude
After the game three win, I received an email from Jason who was currently in Hungary. He had sent me his Expedia itinerary and told me I should meet him in New York. I had never been to New York before, and while I would have liked to spend more than a weekend there, I figured a weekend would give me a good first taste. So Saturday I hopped on a bus, and 2 hours later I was downtown Manhattan.
I mentioned earlier that it was hot in Philadelphia. New York was no different. 30+ degrees and extremely humid. That type of heat really makes the smells of the city a lot more pronounced, especially when you have a city as busy as New York. I decided I would venture north from the bus station until I hit Central Park. I ended up walking straight through Times Square, which was a bit of an experience. A few too many people for my liking, which made Central Park such a good target. More than any other park I have been to in a city, is there ever one needed more than Central Park. It is a haven from the craziness of people, tourists, and smells of the city. While it was a little busy in many areas of the park, it was easy to find more secluded areas where you could be by yourself. I found a great bench in the park and spent a few hours reading waiting for Jason to arrive from Hungary.
After meeting up with Jason, we dropped off our bags at his girlfriends sisters place, and headed out to get some food and hit the town. We ate overpriced sushi, and drank beers at a hockey themed restaurant. New York, New York. Sunday we wandered around the city and saw a bunch of a the sites. More Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, Empire States Building. Before long it was time to head back to Philly to catch the Flyers game five.
When Everything Goes Wrong
Game five was an absolute ass kicking by the Hawks. The Hawks came out hard and fast, and finished the first period up 3-0. This was not how I had anticipated this game to go. Whenever the Flyers would get anywhere near to making the game close the Hawks would score to put the game back out of reach. The game ended 7-4, leaving Jason, Andrew, and Myself a little heartbroken. It meant there was no chance the Flyers could win the cup at home, and an even worse fate that Chicago might win the cup in Philadelphia.
Fast forward to Wednesday, game six, Flyers needing to win to have a chance to win the cup. We spent the day looking for tickets online for the game. We were trying to get 3 tickets together, which was becoming a hard feat. Eventually we found someone on craigslist who said he had 3 seats together for the price we wanted to pay. We exchanged a few emails and phone calls, and eventually waited for him to arrive from ‘Virginia’. Two hours turned into four and a half, and Jason and me began to get worried. Eventually the guy called and let us know he was close to our hotel.
We met him outside the hotel. A short black man, with a bit of a hunch, who appeared a bit on edge. My first impression of him was of his hand shake. It was weak; the kind of handshake where the other persons hand just falls out of yours. Second impression was that he got really nervous when I questioned why there was no date on the ticket. Despite the warnings, the tickets looked pretty legit. Jason and I had a quick chat, then decided to buy them. As we handed him the money he told Jason “Hold onto my number, if the Flyers win tonight, I will be heading out to Chicago and will have some more tickets for you…” Last impression was of Jason handing over the money in an envelope, and the guy walking away briskly without even counting it. When that happened all I could think of was we had been had.
As we walked away I brought this up with Jason. He said he noticed that too. We double checked the tickets again. They looked pretty legit. However I noticed the seat numbers he told me via email and the seat numbers on the tickets were different. Perhaps he just read the wrong ticket. As Jason and I had dinner before the game you could tell we were both on edge, and a little nervous that we bought fake tickets. Only time would tell.
We arrived at the venue and walked past a scalper who was holding up a single ticket for sale. The ticket looked really similar to the tickets we had. This put me a little at ease, as I thought that maybe I was just being paranoid. We walked our way up to the gates. Went inside the building. Held out my ticket to the usher. He scanned the ticket. Written on his scanner in red was, “STOP”. He scanned the ticket again. Same result. Scanned it a third time. Same thing. He instructed that I better go talk to the box office about my ticket. Jason had the same experience. Yup we were hosed.
The box office confirmed the tickets were fake, which brought forth a mix of emotions. Anger, humiliation, self-pity. We were not in a great mood. Insult to injury, the skies opened up and started to pour down rain. Eventually we picked ourselves up, and headed over to the bar at the ball park. We were both in no mood to watch the game, let along with a bunch of other people. However by the end of the second period and a few beers later, we realized 2 things. One, what happened happened, and there wasn’t much we could do about it. Two, the Flyers were playing a hell of an exciting game.
The third period started with the Flyers down 3-2. It took them until late in the period to tie the game 3-3 and send it to overtime. New hope emerged. However four minutes into the overtime period the greatest letdowns happened. Patrick Kane scored a short side goal against the Flyers. It was such a bad goal that nobody knew he had scored. It took about 20-30 seconds before everyone clued in that the Hawks had just won the Stanley Cup and the Flyers season was now over.
That night we head back to our hotel, had a few drinks in the lobby bar, while guests from Chicago celebrated. The only thing that made that night somewhat memorable was meeting the real life version of “The Dude” (a story for another day). “Sometimes you eat the bar and sometimes… well, he eats you”.
Last Few Days
My final days in Philly were spent doing some touristy things, like running up the Rocky steps, taking in a Phillies game, eating too many cheese steaks, exploring the 9th street Italian Market, and sampling many of the fine craft beers from the area. I wasn’t as upset about the ticket anymore, and enjoyed my time in one of the most historic cities in the US.
You might think Chicago had done everything it could to try and disrupt my trip. My flight home, which was routed through Chicago, got delayed for close to 3 hours due to a thunderstorm in Chicago. Finally the plane arrived and everyone boarded. Our plane made it to the tarmac, at which stage we sat for another hour plus on the tarmac as the thunderstorm had now moved south to Philadelphia. Good times.
I missed my connecting flight home, but was bumped up onto the last flight back to Vancouver. They put me in their executive plus section of the plane to make up for my troubles which was a nice gesture. Finally I arrived in Vancouver to find my bag was left in Chicago. What more could I expect?
Despite some bad luck I really had an amazing time in Philadelphia. I got to spend time with some really great people, and explore some of the more historic cities in the US. Without a doubt I will definitely make my way back to Philadelphia sometime in the near future.
One final little story. On the Tuesday after game five, I had performed a major release of our website at work. It was eight months of development, and a complete rebuild of our website. After launching the site I had to checkout of my hotel room and check into a new hotel. I did some final tests on the launch and everything appeared to be working correctly. Since my new hotel was half a block away I didn’t think it was a big deal to go offline momentarily to change hotels.
I arrived at the new hotel only to be told I had booked the room for the following day. I had just performed a major release of our website and now was told I had no place to work or stay. I scrambled and eventually found free wifi at the local market, where I spent the rest of the day working. Everything turned out fine with the launch, but it was a moment of complete panic when I found out I didn’t have a room that night.
Finally I just wanted to say a big Thank You to Andrew who helped us out with a place to stay when we had no hotel, as well for being such a fantastic host and tour guide.
June 22, 2010 3 Comments
* Just a warning this is an extremely long post, and potentially boring *
Anyone who knows me, would be able to tell you two things about me. One, I am a huge Philadelphia Flyers fan and two, my favorite band is Pearl Jam. So when Pearl Jam announced they would play 4 concerts in Philadelphia to close out the Spectrum, the very arena the Flyers won back to back Stanley cups in, I had to make the trip. It also helped that several friends would also be going, the Flyers were playing 3 games during that time, and I have never been to Philadelphia before.
I arrived into Philadelphia in the early morning on a Sunday. Flying into the city as the sun rose up to kiss the vibrant coloured leaves of autumn was certainly a nice welcome. It was a quick train ride into downtown. My hotel was really close to the city hall where I got off the train, and was impressed that they had a room available for be at 10am. After having a shower and cleaning up after my red eye flight I took to the town to do a bit of touristy activities.
Philadelphia is a really great city to explore on foot, with it’s easy to navigate grid design. The city itself is busting with American history. Being the first capital of the US a lot of major historic events took place there. It was fun to wander the old cobblestone streets, and explore the old historic parts of town. During my walk I eventually made my way to Jim’s on South Street. Jim’s is one of the big name cheese steak places in town, which was evident by the lineup that looped around the block. The line moved pretty quickly, and before long I was chomping down on a hoagie filled with beef, cheese, onions and peppers. After lunch I headed back to the hotel for a nap to rest up for my first ever Flyers home game.
I took the subway down Broad Street (hence the nickname Broad Street Bullies the Flyers were given in the 70′s) all the way to the end where all the stadium’s are. Literally every professional sports team has their stadium at this one location. I got there pretty early so I could wander around the complex and checkout the Wachovia Center. I have been to a lot of hockey arenas and I have to say this is one of the nicest ones I have been in. The building has really wide hallways making it easy to get around even with big crowds. I also really loved how many windows they had on the outside of the building letting a lot of natural light into the main aria. After wandering around I was able to find the Stanley Cup banners, which were hung up in the hallway (odd that they were not in the rafters).
I had great seats to the game. I sprung for lower bowl seats, and it was great to see all the players up close. I have to say Chris Pronger is absolutely massive. He towers over guys, even the ones who are suppose to be the same size as him. Anyway I really enjoyed my first game in Philly. The Flyers ended up losing the game to the San Jose Sharks, however for most of the game they outplayed the Sharks but couldn’t capitalize on their chances. It didn’t help either that Boucher who got the start in net played absolutely horrible. Regardless it was still a fantastic experience.
The next morning I got up at 6am and made my way to the train station. I was off to Washington DC to spend a few days and catch my next Flyers game against the Capitals. It was nice to be on a train, a nice change from the flight the day before. I got into DC in under 2 hours and found my way to my hotel. Again I was impressed that the hotel was able to accommodate me with a room despite arriving so early. After checking in, I jumped straight to work. This trip I planned to work most days as I have been running low on vacation days. During the day I found out that that night the Monday Night Football game was in Washington, and it was against the Philadelphia Eagles. So I decided to check craigslist if there was any tickets available. Sure enough I was able to find a really good lower bowl ticket for only $70. The best part was the guy who was selling it was only a few blocks from my hotel. So after work I ran down and picked up the ticket, got myself a coffee and jumped on the DC subway out to the football stadium.
Fedex Field was a long way out of the city, and took over half an hour on the subway to get out to it. Not only that, once you reached the subway station you had to walk a good 15 minutes to the actual stadium. Once I got to the stadium I was blown away at the sheer size of the building. Fedex Field is said to have a max capacity of over 91,000 people. That is practically the entire population of Kelowna to put things into perspective.
While not a huge football fan, this game was definitely an experience. I felt like I had gone back in time to the Roman ages and was watching a gladiator match. The fans in the stand were ruthless, and all very much drunk. There was fights breaking out left and right, not only between Eagles and Redskins fans, but also fights between fellow Redskins fans. The game was a complete blowout for the Eagles from the opening kickoff. I cheered outwardly for the Redskins, but inwardly was rooting on the Eagles, hoping the Flyers could follow in their footsteps the next day. As the forth quarter was coming to a close I left the game early so that I didn’t have to wait at the subway, and could get back to the hotel a little quicker.
The next day I decided to work a half day in DC. So I took the morning off and did a bit of exploring. My hotel was just a few blocks from the White House, and most of the site of DC, so I decided to walk around and explore. I had been to Washington once before when I was really young, yet don’t remember much from the trip (besides a visit to Ikea, and the Smithsonian). So it was nice to experience everything over again. While the weather wasn’t the best for a day of tourism, it did mean that most of the monuments were deserted, which was nice. I also found it really amazing how beautiful the fall colours were despite the dreary weather.
After checking out the major monuments in the city I decided to goto one of the museums. I decided to goto the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which I had heard good things of. Despite being very somber, I have to say, it told the history of the holocaust extremely well. One thing I found was really well done about the exhibit is that it really showed the human aspect of holocaust through use of photos, videos, and informational panels. I highly recommend going to the museum if ever in DC.
I made it back to my hotel after lunch to put in my half day of work. I was really excited about going to the hockey game that night as the Capitals are one of the most explosive offenses in the NHL right now. I was also extremely excited to get to watch Ovechkin play, and to see how the Flyers would stalk up against him.
So after work I made my way down to the Verizon Center. The nice thing about the arena in Washington is that it is right downtown. So it was a quick 15 minute walk from my hotel room. As I approach the arena, I couldn’t believe how many caps jerseys I saw. This team had really become a big thing in Washington, largely due of course to the personality (and of course incredible talent) of Ovechkin.
This was now my third game in three nights, but I was still energetic. Actually probably more so for this game than any other. I really had a great time at this game. While the fans in Washington are not the most knowledgeable, they made up for it with their enthusiasm. After tying the game 2 – 2 with the Flyers the arena exploded into cheers, and I hate to admit it, but was a more exciting, and loud venue than what I had experienced in Philadelphia.
As it turns out the Flyers lost again in Washington. The game was a lot of fun though, as the Flyers again outplayed their opponent but were shut down by solid goaltending, and missed opportunities. I have to admit, it was fun to watch Ovechkin score 2 goals!
The next day I was once again up at 6am to catch a train back to Philadelphia. Once again I was impressed by another hotel for having a room ready for me so early in the day. After putting in a full day of work I was really excited, as I was going to meet up with my two favorite Californians, Joe and Kasie. They had arrived into town the day before and would be around for the rest of my stay. I hadn’t seen them in close to a year so it was nice to be able to get together with them. That night we went out for dinner with their friend Susan from Philadelphia who they were staying with. Wednesday was the first game World Series of Baseball game being played in New York against the Philadelphia Phillies, so everyone was dressed in red, and ready to watch the game. I really wanted to experiencing seeing a game in Philly, while Joe and Kasie were more interested in seeing Pearl Jam. So we parted ways, they went off to the show, and I stuck with their friend and who I accompanied to a sports bar to catch the game.
I have to say I am not really a baseball fan, in the very least. With that said, watching the game in a packed bar of 300 people, all rooting on the Phillies was sure fun. Everyone was cheering, and chanting, and clapping, and just overall having a great (albeit suspenseful) time. It helped that the Phillies won the game. The next day after work, I met up with Joe, Kasie and Susan again to catch game 2 of the world series, unfortunately, the Phillies weren’t so lucky and lost the game.
As Friday rolled around it marked the arrival of a lot more friends coming in for the remaining 2 Pearl Jam shows. I had taken the day off so that I could hang out with those who were arriving, and spent some more time with Joe and Kasie. I had a fun day exploring the market in Philadelphia with Vanessa and Tatiana, before meeting up with Jason and the rest of the gang. It became evident very quickly that our hotel room wasn’t going to fit all those who were suppose to stay in it, so I jumped ship to stay with Joe and Kasie. The rest of the day was spent hanging out with everyone and doing some more touristy things.
That night I got to see my first Pearl Jam show at the Spectrum with Vanessa. We had really awesome seats, and it was a lot of fun to rock out with her. The show that night was really excellent, and Pearl Jam played a large number of my favorite songs. It was really exciting too knowing that in that arena the Flyers had won their Stanley Cups. It was sad to think they are going to destroy the building in a few short months.
After the show we partied it up until the wee hours. Despite my urge the next morning to sleep in until the afternoon, I had to get up early once again, as the Flyers were playing an afternoon game. It was also Halloween so I had to get my costume ready. Jason and myself decided to go as Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World. I was Garth.
We met up at the Wachovia Center at Noon, and were shocked to find so few people dressed up for Halloween. I didn’t let it get my down though. This was my last Flyers game of my trip and I wanted to enjoy it. As the arena filled up we did manage to see a bunch more people dressed up, which made us a little more happy.
So the last Flyers game I caught was a complete blowout by the Flyers. They won 6-2 and completely dominated the game from start to finish. The game was also full of fights which made the Australian Hinn, and Brazilian Tatiana happy. After the game we parted ways, and I met back up with Joe and Kasie. We had a really lovely dinner at this restaurant called Pumpkin, before heading back down to the last ever concert at the Spectrum.
For this show I was sitting with Jason. Our seats were really similar to the seats I had the night before, which was nice. After we got settled we sneaked his friend Sophia down into our section as well. The final show by Pearl Jam was one crazy show. Pearl Jam played for close to 4 hours, and played some songs they hadn’t played in 10-15 years. It was truly a memorable night, and a lovely way to end such a fantastic trip.
The next day I left early for my flight back home and my week long recovery from my week of no sleep. While busy, I really had an amazing time on this trip, and look forward to the next time I can visit Philadelphia and Washington again.
Here are a few final images from my trip.
November 9, 2009 6 Comments
The Palio di Siena is a horse race that is run twice a year in the Italian city of Siena. I attended the race with Jason this year. Before the trip (really before even getting to Siena) my knowledge of the race was really limited. All I knew was that a bunch of horses raced around the outside of the Piazza in Siena and that the spectators stood in middle. After getting to Siena I realized there was so much more to the event.
We arrived in Siena by bus from Florence in the early afternoon of the Saturday before the race (the race is run on the Sunday). From there we took a city bus out to where we were staying. Our friend Berenice who lives in Siena runs one of nicest bed and breakfast/villas in Siena. She was kind enough to let us stay with her during for the weekend. On our bus ride out to the farm we got into conversation with a girl from Brazil, who as luck would have it, was staying at Berenice’s place as well. So we all went together to the Villa.
We arrived to the Villa to find Berenice waiting patiently for us. I was literally blown away when I saw the complex. The Villa Cavaglioni is absolutely stunning. It is essentially a mansion made out of a 14th century fortress situated on the top of a hill overlooking the beautiful Tuscan farms below. I really felt like royalty being able to stay in such a lovely accommodation.
After we had cleaned up we met Berenice for lunch. At which time she gave us the full run down on the event. The first thing she told us was this was not a tourist festival. Not to say there wasn’t going to be lots of tourists there, but the event was put on for the people of Siena, and was an event for the people of Siena. The race dates back to the 16th century, so it is an event that is deeply rooted in the culture of Siena. Berenice went over the history of the event, what it meant to people of Siena, the schedule for the following two days, and finally how we should act during the Palio. It was really great to have a local guide to give us so much information on the event, as it really gave a new perspective on things.
So that afternoon we went back to Siena where we caught the rehearsal of the race. There was a lot of people in the Piazza just for the rehearsal, and you could really feel the excitement from the locals. There was singing and chanting and dancing. Enemy contradas would sing songs back and forth to each other.
After the rehearsal (in which 3 riders fell off their horses), Berenice left us as she was to attend her contradas great dinner. Every contrada has a big dinner for all their members the night before the race. The members get to eat and drink with each other, see their jockey and horse, and discuss their chances for the next days race. During this time we found a lovely restaurant where Jason and myself finally found ourselves a Florentine Steak. After finding some gelato we called it a night as we knew the next day would be a very full day.
The morning of the race we head into the city and did a bit of sightseeing. We started by exploring the ancient streets of Siena and in doing so getting ourselves a little lost. Whichever part of the city you were in you would see flags flying from the contrada of that specific section of the city.
Eventually we found our way to the Cathedral of Siena. Inside the cathedral we found more flags from all the contradas. It was interesting to see these flags in the cathedral where you would normally expect to see only Christian parchments.
We then decided to get a little lunch before all the excitement started. So we found a pizza place we noticed the night before as having a really long lineup, and decided to try it out. The pizza was cheap and good, a combination I generally like. After our lunch we headed back into the Eagle contradas territory to catch the parade. Berenice said this was the best place to see the parade as this was the last section of the city that the parade route took before entering the Piazza. It was also the closest place to be to get into the Piazza after the parade.
We watched the parade literally from the doorsteps of the Eagle contrada house. So every contrada that would pass the house would pay their respects in some form or other to the contrada. It was really incredible the level of detail that was put into the costumes and outfits everyone was wearing.
I think my favourite part of the parade however was the flag tossers. They would march down these narrow streets swinging their flags around, nearly taking the heads off of people watching the parade. If that wasn’t enough they would then proceed to toss their flags up to their partners and catch them right before they plunged into the crowds. It was amazing the level of dexterity these men showed. I made a short video of some flag tossers as they passed by us.
After the parade had finished we hurried into the Piazza to get a good spot. We wanted to be in an area where we could see the track alright, but also be close enough to the exit so that right after the race we could run to catch our bus. In typical Jason fashion we had booked a flight out early the next morning from Pisa. For us to be able to make that flight we had to make it back to Florence that night. The last bus of the day left Siena at 8:45pm. With the race set to start at 7pm we thought we would have enough time. However after talking to Berenice we didn’t feel to confident. She told us that while the race was suppose to start at 7pm, it most likely wouldn’t. Regardless we thought we would risk it, and finally found ourselves a decent spot in the Piazza among the 50,000 other spectators.
As it turns out Berenice was right on the money. While the horses entered the track roughly around 7pm, the race didn’t start. The horses would line up together then fall back then line up again. Apparently during this time the members of contradas are making secret pacts against other contradas, bribes are made, and overall the jockeys are just trying to control their horses. What was most incredible about this part of the event was that everyone was dead silent. a good 75,000+ people all completely silent waiting to hear the announcer tell the order of the horses. You could really feel the anticipation building.
Eventually the race started. Or so we thought. Seconds after the horses bolted, there was a big bang, and all the horses slowed to a trot and made their way back to the starting line. That was the first false start. So again the horses lined up. The began jockeying for position, and again the waiting game started. There was several times during this setting up of the horses along the line where two jockeys got into physical fights, whipping each other and each others horses, and yelling out profanities.
The crowd was still in good spirits, but slowly getting a bit restless. The horses and riders however just continued to line up, then fall back again. At this point I was beginning to get a bit worried. It was already past 8pm, and while the race only lasts roughly 3 mins, at the rate this buildup was happening, I started to have doubts we would make our bus. Then the horses took off again… but yet again it was another false start.
At this point people really started to get restless, and started to yell and chant more at the riders. Also at this point I was on the verge of giving up on us catching the bus out of town. However just as I was losing all hope the race started, and it was clean. The waiting was finally over, and the race was on. Then it was done. That quick. 2 minutes and it was over. We had waited in the Piazza a good 3+ hours for a 2 minute horse race. It was exciting. Actually it was very exciting. 2 riders during one of the hairpin turns were flung from their horses. The ultimate winner of the race was the Civetta contrada (owl). The Owl had now won the Palio in since 1979 so this was a very huge victory for them. Their members were all in tears of joy. On the other side of the spectrum was the Onda contrada (wave) who were the enemies of the Owl. Members of Onda went running out of the piazza as fast as possible after the race. When people would get in their way they were at times mildly violent in getting through the crowd to get back home.
At this point in time it was probably 8:30pm. We had 15 minutes to get from the crowded piazza to the bus station. Easy right? Well when you have no map and are surrounded by 50,000 other people trying to get out of the piazza it becomes more difficult. Me and Jason bolted almost as quickly as the Onda members, and made our way out of the Piazza relatively quick. We then doubled back and forth through the streets of Siena trying to find our way back to the bus station, but also via a quick not too traffic route. However in doing so we got ourselves lost again, and actually ended up at the church of the Owl contada. The church has significance as it is the place where they bring the victory painting to after the race to celebrate. We had actually beaten most of the contrada members to their own church. However this was bad news for us as we had to backtrack against a torrent of people rushing up the church.
So we doubled back and ran through the crowd. Nothing like running against the grain. It was fun in a way as we got to see the excitement and joy in all the peoples faces as they marched up the church. We even got to see the people carrying the victory painting.
Finally we found our way back onto the right path and headed up towards the bus station. By this point it was well past 8:45pm. There was a train that left at 9;15pm but the station was a taxi ride away, and there wasn’t a taxi in site. So we ran to the bus station in hope they held the bus until after the race.
We arrived to find a full bus waiting for any last passengers. Literally 1 minute after we boarded the bus, it departed. What a rush. I think the run after the race was more exciting and got my adrenalin pumping even more than the actual race did. We HAD to catch that bus, and I can’t believe we actually did. So that is the end of the story. We made it to Florence, and then later in the night to Pisa. It was an incredible day, with lots of excitement and an experience I won’t soon forget.
Here are a few additional photos from Siena. Also if you are looking for another good review of the Palio in August checkout: http://taryninitalia.blogspot.com/2009/08/il-palio-di-siena.html.
September 21, 2009 2 Comments
No long story for Italy like for Croatia. However a little back story to fill you in. Jason and myself left Croatia on my birthday bright and early in the morning. We took a bus into Trieste, where we then caught a train to Venice. We spent my birthday in Venice feeling a little tired from our weekend in Croatia. The next day Jason departed for England to see Pearl Jam, while traveled on to Verona for a few days. We finally met up in Florence for a night there, before heading off to Siena for the Palio di Siena (which will get it’s own blog entry). Here are a few photos from that time in Italy. Due note I was working during this time of my trip, which somewhat limited my exploration ability!
Archway into Verona:
View from lunch:
Jason in Florence holding David:
September 19, 2009 No Comments
Despite getting screwed by Avis and CarRentals.com Jason and myself carried forth with our initial plans to drive up the coast of Croatia in our rental to Zadar. We would then travel east to visit the Plitvice Lakes, before heading back north one again to reach our final destination of Rijeka, where we planned to spend a few days with our friend Sid.
Our route took us initially through Bosnia and Herzegovina, then back into Croatia. Once we passed back into Croatia the coast got absolutely gorgeous. High cliff-side roads overhanging the Adriatic Sea. We stopped in at random villages and towns exploring as we went. One village were we broke for lunch at, lacked any roads into the town so Jason and myself packed our lunch and hiked down into the town. Everyone in the town must have known each other, because when we walked down by the water, we got a bunch of peculiar looks. The people were just curious though, and when they saw we were just looking for a place to have lunch, went back to whatever they were doing (mainly frolicking in the water).
One of the next villages we stopped at was a little more touristy, and we were able to get our daily gelato. It dawned on me here what a major role the water played in the lives of Croatians. It appeared the life of each town was found along the water, and when you have such a beautiful sea, it makes a lot of sense.
We eventually made our way up to Split, where we initially had planned to spend the night. Split was a much larger city than either of us had anticipated, and Jason was having troubles finding parking and navigating the narrow roads. We eventually found a place to leave the car and did a little exploring. The old part of the city really reminded me of Seville in Spain, but not as nice. We had dinner in Split and caught the sunset, and then decided to drive a few more miles north before calling it a day.
Finally we stopped in a town called Trogir. Trogir was a wonderful little town that had a lot of the charms that Dubrovnik had, just a lot smaller. We were able to get the last two beds at Hostel Trogir, and after showering and settling in, we hit the town. We had a few drinks in the main square, then found this fantastic open air bar. It was situation within the city walls, so it was like being in an ancient tavern, however the building had no roof or ceiling, so you could look up to the stars while drinking your beer. It was really quite spectacular.
The next morning we left Trogir amid a massive traffic jam. Took us nearly an hour to move 10km. Finally we got outside the city however and were able to get moving. We cruised inland for a while and got to see the agricultural side of Croatia before heading back to the coast, on route to Zadar. We made it to Zadar by noon, filled up on gas, and headed inland towards the great lakes of Plitvice.
We arrived at the lakes to find a mass of people. This was definitely one of the major tourist destinations of Croatia. We paid the the entrance fee and made our way onto the path leading to the lake. Half way to the lakes I realized I was going to have a hard time enjoying it. The paths we were walking on were packed with people. You essentially were herded around the lakes with everyone else. No time to take in the beauty, or simply enjoy the environment you were in. It was a shame really. I imagine if you came early in the morning it would likely be a lot better, however what we experienced was not all that enjoyable. With that said the lakes themselves were very pretty. Someday it would be nice to visit during a less busy time of the year.
We finally hit the road again on route for Rijeka. In typically Jason fashion he was coming as a surprise to Sid. So when we finally arrived we parked the car a good 2 blocks away, and I went off to find Sid. After finding her, I told her I had to get my stuff from the car, so we walked back to our car. Jason was rummaging through the trunk when I brought Sid. As I got close to the car I told Sid, “So Sid, I have a surprise for you…”, Sid responded, “What Jason?” Then started to laugh, only to realize a moment after I had brought Jason!
We spent 3 days in Kastav (where Sid lives close to Rijeka). I wish I could tell you they were packed with sightseeing. Rather it was 3 days of a lot of alcohol, good food, and great company. I realized during this weekend that Croatians, really know how to have a good time. We did have a chance to briefly checkout the town of Kastav, and spent our last day on the beach, which was the perfect way to relax before heading off again.
All in all it was a wonderful trip. I wish like i often do, that I had more time to explore, to get off the beaten path, and to see the more hidden parts of the country, but I shall leave that for another trip, as I will be sure to return. A special thanks to Sid for making our last 3 days extremely memorable, and for taking car of us. Especially when we were in an inebriated states such as this:
September 19, 2009 1 Comment