Monday, October 16, 2017

A Tale of Two Walking Tours

Many years back, I spent a month working in Manchester, England. During that time, I had a Brit Rail pass, meaning that any minute I wasn't working was spent on a train heading somewhere else. I treated Manchester's attractions the way I would those at home. Since I could go anytime, I felt free to ignore them altogether.

It is only recently that I realized what a mistake that was. Last week, I was back for a couple of days with no rail pass to speak of. Another key difference- it was not raining. My one prevailing memory from that first visit was how stinking persistent the rain was. We were there for 28 days and got drenched each and every one of those days.

The day we just arrived, it wasn't exactly sunny but it wasn't pouring down either so we were off to a good start. We took the train from the airport right into town and commenced exploring.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Getting High in Amsterdam

All combined, I have lived in Amsterdam for two years- mostly in two month increments. I know the city well and love how much it has to offer yet I am aware that when most people think of Amsterdam, their thoughts turn to just two things- hookers and weed. This is understandable as this is home to the world's most famous red light district and finding glassy-eyed tourists coming out of coffee shops is as omnipresent as the relentless ringing of bike bells. Hookers and weed are no question a "thing" here, they are just not the only thing.

It is because of this that when friends come to visit, the first thing I do is take them past the girls in the windows and if they are so inclined to procure some of the best weed in town. Once this is out of the way, then I feel free to take them boating on the canals, to world-class museums and to the many hidden spots that make this city so wonderful.

One of the newest attractions, having opened in late 2016, is the A'dam Tower. This former Shell office building was re-designed to house a lookout tower, rotating restaurant and most importantly for my purposes, Europe's highest swing.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Timeless Sicily

Four days is not enough time to see Sicily. A week wouldn't have sufficed either. Two weeks might have been a good start but it would probably fall short. I am going to guess you need a minimum of one month to do this island justice and I suspect I am way undershooting the mark. 

Point being, we only had four days. Four wonderful sun-filled days that left me wanting more. I mean, I always want more, that's just how I am wired. I have never left a place and thought to myself "Yeah, I've had about enough of this". There is always more to see but Sicily brings it to a whole other level.

 On our first day, we flew into Catania, Sicily's second largest city, joined by my friend, Kevin, who was as keen as I was to hit the ground running. We checked into the perfectly situated Ostello degli Elefanti and discussed hopping on the first bus to Siracusa for a walk free walking tour.  The woman at the hostel, who could easily make a living as the top Sicilian Celine Dion look-a-like, put the kibosh on the idea. Her exact words were "Oh, you're one of those.", said in a less than complimentary tone. She suggested we instead settle in and spend the day getting to know Catania and go on a tour to Mt Etna to watch the sunset.