Thursday, December 29, 2011

ABCs of Travel - VBG edition

I found a post almost identical post to this on one of the blogs I follow (Nicole is the new black) and since I mentioned in my profile that I have decades old wanderlust that I am trying to quell, it's high time that precious T word,  got some love on the VBG blog.

A: Age you went on your first international trip: 28

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where: I'm not a beer drinker and honestly can not remember drinking a beer abroad, if I did it was in Germany - where else? Wine, thankfully, is another story. I head over heels in love with Sangria where else but Madrid.
C: Cuisine (favorite):  From frites with rich Dutch mayo to Spaetzle in Germany to fried fish and falafel made by my former sister-in laws in Cairo, I've eaten well everywhere I've gone - that's how I got to be Voluptuous :)  The two meals I remember most and wish I could repeat were an awesome seafood stew made with tomatoes, garlic, shrimp, and calamari - oh I love tentacles - in Lisbon, Portugal and a garlicy, cumin laced spinach and chickpea dish in Sevilla, Spain that I have been trying to replicate but have yet to succeed for a decade!
D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:  
Egypt has a very special place in my heart as I ended up spending 3 months there playing the good little wifey under the tutelage of my former mother-in-law and her 7 daughters. (Since we're now divorced one could surmise that I didn't learn too well - HA!) There I celebrated the month of Ramadan, learned to navigate streets full of live stock as well as the Cairo metro (alone) despite not reading any Arabic but numbers and the word Allah. It was just a great adventure plus I was in love. And since we walked just about everywhere I even lost 25 lbs without even trying!  My great love though is Portugal. It reminded me a lot of Egypt but without all the social restrictions on women. I've often quipped that I want to retire in Portugal, specifically Caiscais and I don't fancy beaches all that much.  I also love Amsterdam and intend to go there every decade - a very, very cool international city and it's the only place I've visited more than once. On the other hand, I wasn't all that impressed with Montreal, it reminded me of a typical big American city except they spoke French. 

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:  Traveling the narrow, winding roads of the Charlevoix region in Quebec then whale watching on the St. Lawrence River.

F: Favorite mode of transportation: Subway/Metro/Trains - I love trains and I've taken them all over in Cairo, Montreal, from Badem to Cologne, Germany; Amsterdam, Madrid, DC, Chicago, NYC and of course Baltimore.

G: Greatest feeling while traveling: I just love the feeling of discovery around every cornerI LOVE finding my way when traveling. I'm never afraid of being lost.

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to: That was actually Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  It was hot as blue blazes and humid to boot. Sadly, we were there to bury my Grandfather.

 I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: In Montreal, my little girl and I stayed in an apartment. The apartment actually had 3 separate guest rooms as well as living room, kitchen and balcony.  Luckily - we had the place all to ourselves that week. It was situated above a broasted chicken restaurant run by some Algerians. One of the guys took a liking to us though he only spoke Arabic and French. I am fluent in neither though I bumbled my way to understanding him and being understood.  Anyway he fed us as well, provided us transportation and then out of the kindness of his heart even went so far as to unexpectedly arrive around 6 am to take us to the train station for our ride back to the States. About a month after we returned home, he sent my daughter a tee shirt he promised her. I hate that I can not recall his name now and haven't kept in touch.

J: Journey that took the longest:  The trip to Cairo, I left on Dec 2nd and got to Cairo on Dec 4th!  It took about 19 hours total excluding a 10 hour lay over.

L: Let-down sight, why and where: The Pyramids of Giza. Yes, really!! To me they just looked like a bunch of bricks thrown atop one another rather sloppily up close. Yes, I know it was an engineering marvel for that time but that was how I felt. The Sphinx however was another deal entirely, loved it! 

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel: My very fist trip abroad was to Egypt by way of a 10 hour layover in Amsterdam. I found out that there was a train station under Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and since I had such a long layover I had every intention of seeing the city - my very fist foray into Europe. I was traveling alone and though I had a Dutch to English dictionary, I was extremely apprehensive about putting it use for the information I needed. Sooo not me! I went up and down the escalator from the airport to the train station at least twice before getting ahold of myself with the realization that if I couldn't speak up for what I wanted here (just currency exchange and a train ticket) I'd never be able to travel the world the way I truly wanted. So I mustered the last dregs of courage in me and lo and behold the ticket agent spoke English (as do most residents of the Netherlands) and though the Guilder was still the national currency, they readily accepted US dollars as payment! From that moment on I knew I had not been wrong just way too slow in acting on it - traveling was truly for me.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in: Actually the Hotel Sofitel in Chicago. OMG, I still remember that bed, I've never come across one more plush nor comfortable.

O: Obsession—what souvenir are you obsessed with copping while traveling?: I always try to come home with one thing that defines the place - cork from Portugal, clay figurines depicting average Egyptian life and well as a cartouche, a stein from Germany, klumpen (wooden shoes) from the Netherlands, a gorgeous flamenco dress for my then 4 year old.

 P: Passport stamps, how many and from where: Believe it or not or I only have about 3 because my passport did not always get stamped to my dismay - Egypt, Canada, and Spain
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: My favorite childhood movie is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory so I'll say it was Schokoladenmuseum (Chocolate museum) in Cologne. I'm not even a big chocolate fan but it was interesting. The Keukenhof (Annual tulip festival) in Lisse, Netherlands was very cool too.  That's where the pic above was taken.

R: Recommended sight, event or experience: I love visiting really old churches or mosques.  I'm just amazed at the architectural feats from centuries ago like the Dom in Cologne, Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, Notre Dame in Montreal. Auchan is a huge grocery store in Luxembourg  and you'd be hard pressed to ask for something they don't have.
S: Splurge- something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:  Travel period. I think any dollar spent in the endeavor is worth it.  More specifically though, I guess it's great to have a nice place to lie your head after a long day of exploring and sightseeing, so accommodations.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done: Bullfight in Madrid. I do believe in the adage " when in Rome..." Yup, it was gorey but really cool in another sense.  I only got thru 3 bulls - a normal fight contains 6 cause there's only so much blodd and guts this VBG can handle in one afternoon.

U: Unforgettable travel memory:  I am in no way religious but unbeknownst to me, my tour of Portugal included a trip to the holy city of Fatima.  OMG, I loved that place, though the cathedral is really not that old.  The people were so nice - I forgot some souvenirs I purchased and the merchant followed me a few blocks until he got my attention to return my items to me. It just felt like a such sacred place even to a heathen like me.

V: Visas, how many and for where?   So far I've only needed one for Egypt and I got it while I was there.

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where? I fell in love with Sangria in Madrid. 

X: eXcellent view and from where? The Cairo Tower and seeing the light house be restocked with supplies and such via helicopter in the middle of the St. Lawrence river.

 3 VGBs in Badem Germany
Y: Years spent traveling: Not nearly enough. Currently it's been 7 years since my last international trip due a little thing a called a mortgage that I acquired 5 years ago, but that streak WILL be broken in 2015 hopefully in South America.

 Z: Zealous sports fans:  I was amazed at how much Spaniards are actually into bullfighting. It's not just a tourist trap, they really do take it seriously and get into it.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller


Teri's Trek said...

Love this post! Makes me feel like packing my bags too! The pictures are a very nice touch. Where did you see the whales?

Voluptuous Brown Gurl said...

In Quebec on the St. Lawrence River. BTW thanks for reading and commenting!