Venturing through Vienna

May 26, 2011

From the outside looking in, it would appear to most that my life is a vacation, but despite the travel involved, a job is a job. Regardless of where I'm at, when I'm on a layover, I'm at work. I have a very limited amount of time to enjoy the destination before I'm forced to hop back on a plane and go back home. I'm not complaining, I love the lifestyle, but it's no holiday.
This month I was blessed with 4 days off for the 2nd month in a row. Last month I took advantage of the time by flying to Toronto to spend Easter with my family, but this month I wanted to go some place new. After a good deal of time contemplating flight and accommodation options, I settled on Vienna. I'll admit, I knew nothing about the city, but it's one of those places that just sounds beautiful... like Milan, or Zurich. I booked a place to stay and eagerly awaited my mini vacation.
After arriving back from a trip to Paris, I returned to my apartment to change out of my uniform, shower, unpack one suitcase and pack another. I snuck in a 2 hour nap, and then it was off to airport early in the morning. When I'd planned the trip, the flights weren't full. Now, the day of departure the vacant seats had magically been filled and I waited anxiously to find out if I'd be let on with my standby ticket. Luck was on my side, and just before the gates closed I was handed a boarding pass and wished a pleasant flight. I made a mad dash through security and got to the plane just in time to board. During the flight I made conversation with the middle aged couple sitting next to me, who in broken English gave me advice on where to go and what to see in their city. They were such nice people, despite the obvious communication barrier between us.
5 1/2 hours later we touched down in Vienna, making Austria the 35th country that I've been to. I pulled out my scribbled directions and set out to find my way to my home for the next 4 days. Finding the bus was a breeze, and I was overly confident in my navigational abilities. When I was dropped off at Westbanhof station, I stood lost with my suitcase. My directions told me to take tram 5 to a specific station, but when I tried to find the station name I was unsuccessful. I attempted to ask the driver and was met with an angry reply shouted in German. I should have just got on the tram and trusted what I'd written down, but instead I headed to another tram that said the name of the station I was searching for. I showed the (much friendlier) driver the address that I was searching for, and he nodded that I was where I needed to be. Trusting him, I got on the tram and rode it to the station. The paper in my hand told me that the hostel would be directly beside the stop, but of course it was nowhere to be found. I know that there is a stereotype that men hate to ask for directions, but I'm far worse than any man that I've ever met. I was convinced that I'd find my way, and so I began wandering aimlessly, hoping that I'd somehow stumble upon it. I kid you not, I walked for about an hour, in circles, dragging a massive suitcase and carrying a heavy camera bag on my back. To make matters worse, it was 29 degrees in the hot sun, and I was wearing jeans and a sweater. Finally, I found the name of the street that was in the address and wearily wandered down it hoping to finally know that I had a place to spend the night. It was like a mirage after days in the desert. A small paper sign hung on the door, and I'd finally made it!! Low and behold, right outside was a stop clearly stating "Tram 5". I've never said that I was smart... adventurous, yes, intelligent... not so much.
I walked in to find a dark corridor with a staircase in an old, dusty building. It certainly didn't look like a place that anyone lived, but I trusted the signs telling me to proceed to the 3rd floor. I choose to stay at hostels when traveling solo not only to save a ton of money, but to meet fellow travellers and make the experience a bit more social. The problem is, you never know what to expect until you arrive. I was feeling a bit uneasy about my choice until I walked inside to discover a bright, modern apartment beautifully decorated with all sorts of little details. If you happen to find yourself in Vienna and need a place to stay, I'd highly recommend MojoVie. It was more like an apartment than backpacker accommodation, with cozy couches and small touches like Listerine and shampoo provided in the bathrooms.
I settled into my bottom bunk and glanced at the map left on the bed for me. It was still early in the evening and I was eager to explore, but exhaustion was taking over as I came to the realization that I'd slept 2 hours since leaving Paris over 24 hours earlier. I decided to go for a short walk around, making sure to pay close attention so as to not get lost again. I wandered past dozens of cafes and shops selling unique and interesting items, but it was a Sunday evening and everything was closed. Even the lights of the supermarket were turned off, leaving me to wonder what I'd eat for dinner. After about half an hour I could barely keep my eyes open, so I returned to the hostel and dined on a bag of Mini Wheats that I remembered bringing. As the rest of my new roommates made plans for the night, I crawled into bed and fell into a deep sleep.
I woke up early the next morning after a beautiful 10 hour slumber. I was set to see the sights of Vienna, armed with my camera and a pocket full of Euros. Just as I was about to leave, I began talking to Pablo from Argentina, whom I'd met the previous evening. I told him about my plan to have no plans and he agreed to tag along, if it was okay with me. If we were on a layover and he was crew, I'd make up some excuse as a way to decline. However, he was a backpacker and I find that it is a much different mentality. He was here to travel, and only to travel, just as I was. I decided to accept the company and we set off for a day of exploring. 10 minutes from our hotel we reached the Museums Quartier, large area of the city consisting of all sorts of museums. I'm sorry to disappoint you intellectuals, but I don't have the attention span required for 90% of museums. I'll make an exception for places showcasing aviation, chocolate, or random things not relating to history or the arts. That being said, the buildings housing the museums were old and gorgeous, begging for photos. The downside to beautiful sunny days is that they are terrible for photos. I took only a few, toting around my heavy camera for nothing. We found ourselves in the heart of the old town, lined with cobblestone streets and infested with tourists. We wandered from street to street, going inside several beautiful old cathedrals. For lunch, we opted for an affordable noodle house to splurge on other essentials, such as tickets for a tour of the Opera! Inside, we took photos and listened to our guide occasionally when the topic interested us.
After sitting in the seats watching the stage crew set up for the evening's performance, we were excited for our evenings plans... we had decided to go to a Mozart concert, since we happened to be in his former home. Having left the hostel early in the morning, we still had plenty of time to pass, so we wandered for awhile longer. We made our way to the Danube River and eventually decided to return to the hostel to grab some dinner. Myself, Pablo, and another Argentinian ate a simple meal of bread, cheese, salami, and wine... simple, affordable, delicious, and oh so European. After we'd had our fill, it was time to go back into the old town to watch our concert. We managed to get slightly lost on the way, showing up a few minutes late. Our seats were simply put, much cheaper than the rest. Sure, our view wasn't great, but it wasn't like the orchestra was dancing around on stage. We listened to the familiar music, taking in the beauty of the building that we sat in. It wasn't something I'd typically be interested in, but I'm glad that we went. It was a great performance and very Viennese. We'd spent the majority of the day walking and our feet were sore, but after the concert we continued walking through the city. The buildings were much more photogenic lit up in the dark evening than in the harsh sun.
We took photos for awhile and then finally returned to our hostel and called it a night.
The next morning, Pablo headed for Slovakia as I prepared for another full day in Vienna. I set out early and made my way back to the city. I wandered the same streets, taking the same photos, but for some reason I was happy to take it all in again. I like covering the same ground a time or two to familiarize myself with a place. For lunch, I grabbed a deli sandwich and some juice from a supermarket and sat in a park to have my very own picnic. The weather was gorgeous and I couldn't have been luckier, but my allergies had arrived in full force. I'm not sure what was in the air that was causing me so much misery, but my eyes were red and sore and I must have sneezed at least every 5 minutes. Seeking refuge from my hayfever, I decided to check out the music museum. I know what I said earlier about museums, but I was desperate to go indoors for awhile. Besides, music and sound was much less boring than art history. Some of the exhibits were very cool, such as the sonogram room. Standing inside, you could feel the vibrations and hear the noises meant to replicate being inside of a womb.
It was very cool, and after awhile inside I felt much better. I only sneezed a few times!
I was still quite full from lunch, but I'd convinced myself that the time was right to have dessert. Vienna is not only famous for its music, but also for Sacher Torte cake. Any city known for it's cake is good in my books! Sacher Torte is a pretty common recipe worldwide today, but it originated at the Sacher Hotel in Vienna. The hotel still serves it every day, and there was no question about it... I needed to try it. I took a seat outside and ordered Sacher Torte and an iced coffee. It arrived shortly after, and I sat in bliss eating chocolate cake in old Vienna. I'll admit, I've had cake that was slightly more amazing, but it was still very delicious. I was satisfied and full.
Once again run down with my allergies, I made my way back to the hostel to relax inside for awhile. I chatted with some fellow travellers from Australia and South Africa. They were very cool and it was great to just spend time talking to people who feel the same way that I do when it comes to travel. One of the most common complaints I've heard since my first big trip 4 years ago is "I wish that I could travel!". Anybody can travel, it just takes determination and effort. When I left for Australia 4 years ago I worked 2 jobs for 6 months just to save up for the flights. The others agreed that they hear the same quite often. We talked about places that we've been and places that we planned to go, until it was approaching 6 pm and I decided that I needed to go. I was off to see the Schönbrunn Palace. I'd purposely waited until this time of day so that I could take better photos. With a little bit of confidence in the tram system that I'd been so confused with a couple of days earlier, I made my way to the correct stop and walked into the palace grounds. From the entrance, I thought that it was overrated. I'd came all of this way, and it was nothing spectacular. The grounds, however, were amazing. Paths were lined with perfectly manicured trees and rose bushes and it felt like a scene from a fairy tale. As I made my way to the back of the palace, the building was suddenly much more impressive. The icing on the cake was the view from the top of a hill that I climbed. I could see the palace and the city stretching far out in the distance. The sun was setting and it was a gorgeous warm evening.
Once I'd taken a sufficient amount of photos, I caught the tram back and decided to find something for dinner. I walked for a good half an hour before stumbling across a restaurant called "Weinerwald" which promised delicious authentic Viennese food. I peeked inside the empty restaurant, where I was greeted by a friendly waiter who promptly guided me to my seat and took my order... Wiener Schnitzel, of course. It was delicious! Finally satisfied that I'd crammed enough into my day, I returned to the hostel for some much needed sleep.
By the 4th day, my feet were far from impressed with me. Hours of walking down cobblestone roads wearing flip flops had left them sore and blistered. I wasn't about to let it get in my way. I still had a full day left and every intention of enjoying it. I ignored the pain and carried on walking.
This time I ventured down streets I hadn't yet seen, finding new sights and subsequently getting myself extremely lost. I knew that I'd gone far when there were no tourists to be found. The locals looked at me confused as to why I was hauling such a paparazzi-like camera down residential streets. As I mentioned earlier, I have an issue with asking for directions, so I continued walking and hoping that I was heading in the right direction. For a brief time, I grew concerned. It was still early, but I had a flight to catch that evening. What if I could never find my way back? I was finally reassured when I saw a church that looked familiar. I must be headed in the right direction! I came to a large park and had no idea which direction to turn. I reluctantly pulled out my map and found my way back to familiar territory. Relieved, I treated myself to lunch... a delicious hot dog filled with cheese, served in a baguette. It was far too big to finish, but the half that I did it was delicious!
My allergies had reached unbearable, so I decided to get a coffee and then head back to relax in the hostel until it was time to leave for the airport. I chatted to newcomers, who questioned me about the must see places in the city. A few hours passed by and it was time to go. This time I knew where to go, and I easily found the airport bus. At the airport I checked in and found myself with plenty of time, and nothing to do. It was late and the shops were closed, and my laptop battery was fading fast with no signs of a power outlet anywhere around. I waited and waited, until finally it was time to fly home. The flight back was ridiculously empty, so I occupied an entire row, waking up as we began our decent into Dubai! I was exhausted and sunburnt, but happy to be back to pack for my next layover.
It had been a great mini-vacation, and I felt a bit of regret that I hadn't had more adventures like this in the past.
I relaxed for the rest of the day, and I'm hitting the skies again tomorrow!

paris has me love drunk

May 21, 2011

The 26th of each month is a good day. Not only is it pay day, but it's the day that the next month's roster is released and I can start planning all of my worldly adventures. When I received my May roster I had no complaints, other than an afternoon London smack dab in the middle of my great month. It's a hectic flight and the weird timings make it difficult to do much during the layover. I figured I'd make due with it, seeing as how I'd been blessed with not one, but two trips to my beloved home country. Just imagine my excitement when I received an email from a girl begging me to take her Paris flight in place of my London! I didn't hesitate for a second, immediately accepting her request… I was going back to Paris, beautiful Paris!
The day of the flight had finally arrived and I was on my typical pre-Paris high. I don't know what it is, but the city captivates me. I couldn't wait to go back!
Among our crew were 3 girls on their very first operational flight, and one girl on her supy flight, her very first ever flight as crew! I thought back to my supy flight, a traumatizing trip to Cochin, India. She had no idea how lucky she was! 3 of the girls decided to tag along as I made plans to venture into the city. The media was a buzz with news of what was said to be "Rapture Day" on May 21st. I didn't believe it for a second, but in the off chance that the world was actually going to end the next day, I had every intention of enjoying my last day on Earth in the beautiful city of Paris. After an extremely busy flight, made more chaotic by the fact that half of the crew were brand new, we were in sunny France and ready to head out.
We'd agreed to meet 30 minutes after checking into our hotel rooms, but I wasn't the least bit surprised when I came to the lobby and the others were nowhere to be found. For people who can't be a minute late for work, crew are sure not punctual when it comes to anything else. The last girl to arrive was 20 minutes late, coming just in time. If it weren't for the others, who were far more patient than me, I would have left her behind. The Champs d'Elysees was waiting! We finally set off in our taxi to the city. Despite the fact that it was my 4th and their 1st time in the city, I was definitely the most excited. We got off at the Opera and began wandering without a care in the world. It was a beautiful spring afternoon and nothing could bring me down, not even the miserable supy girl who whined and complained more than anyone in Paris ever should. I understood that she was tired. We'd all been up since 4 am, but if she was this negative on her very first trip I'd hate to see her a few months from now.
We walked and walked and snapped photos around every beautiful corner. The buildings surrounding me were older than any in any country that I've ever lived in. The city was busy and crowded, but at the same time so much more relaxed than other huge cities I've visited.
Down the street I spotted a familiar green sign. I informed the others that I'd found "Laduree" and it was mandatory that I go inside. I was simply unable to pass by dessert heaven and not step foot in the door. I left with box of macaroons, happy as could be. The others trusted my advice and purchased treats for themselves as well.
Back outside, we strolled through parks full of green trees. Unable to wait to get to a restaurant, we decided to stop at a hot dog stand in the midst of a busy park. You have to understand that traveling to foreign countries is my life, and occasionally I long for comfort foods. Only in Paris will you have a hot dog served in French bread. It was delicious!
We continued walking past the designer stores on the Champs d'Elysees all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. The newbies posed for more photos as I scanned the area for the nearest metro station entrance. I'd promised to navigate, and I wasn't about to let the others down. We found the station, purchased our tickets, and set off to go to the Eiffel Tower! I felt like a tour guide as I happily led the girls out of the station and around the corner to catch their first glimpse of the tower in all of its glory. It didn't matter that I'd seen it more than a few times already. It's one of those things that doesn't lose it's magic after one visit. A lengthy photo session followed, as the girls posed for in hopes of the perfect new Facebook profile photo. I took a ton of photos, despite being well aware of the fact that I had more than enough photos of the Eiffel Tower to last me a few years. We inched closer and closer to the tower, stopping every 5 metres for more photos. I didn't object! At the base of the tower I spotted exactly what I'd come to find… crepes!! After much contemplating I opted for a chocolate strawberry crepe, which I devoured as I sat watching the world pass me by. My goodness, French crepes sure are amazing.
I insisted that we walk underneath the tower, and the others followed willingly. I found it a bit odd that I was so much more enthusiastic than the rest, but I suppose that's just me. I tend to get very excited when it comes to certain places.
It was a beautiful Friday evening and we just sat for awhile taking it all in before agreeing to go back to the hotel. Everyone was feeling a bit tired, and supy girl was starting to really irritate all of us with her complaints. We caught a taxi back to our hotel, and headed to our respective rooms for the evening.
I slept like a baby until the next morning. Feeling guilty but satisfied, I indulged myself in my macaroons from Laduree instead of going downstairs for the buffet breakfast. They were just as great as I'd remembered, and the best way to start the day! A short while later it was back to Dubai, as much as I didn't want to leave.
Even after my 4th time in Paris, I'm still on a high from the city of love!

random thoughts on life and everything else

May 18, 2011

I tend to be a random person, full of random thoughts and endless brilliant (at the time) ideas.
My mind is constantly on the go, keeping me awake during times that I should be doing other more important things such as sleeping... times such as now. Instead, I feel the need to write a blog and enlighten you lovely readers about what truly goes on in the mind of Krysta.

This week's most common thoughts:
  1. This blog. Today, my 85th follower decided to tag along for the ride! As a person who religiously reads many blogs and wishes that mine could be more like theirs, I must say, it's an honour! I never imagined that I'd have anything interesting enough to say that would keep so many people coming back time and time again, but thank you, all of you! You make it fun and motivate me to keep my blog updated, even though I've been lazy in recent weeks.
  2. All things wedding. With only 8 months to go until we say "I Do!", Ryan and I are lost in a sea of decisions... Which resort to choose? What about a photographer? With each question that we ask together, I'm faced with another 10 of my own. Should I wear my hair up or down? What colour combination should our decor be? Am I turning into Bridezilla? Feel free to give me your input on any of these questions. If you'd like to read more wedding-ish blogs, I've got another blog dedicated to that since I know that not everyone here cares about my silly predicaments. You can read it here.
  3. Where is home? There will come a day in the not too distant future when I'll take off the red lipstick and uniform one last time and return to my home country to stay. In case you didn't know, Canada is a huge country. Which city will I live in?? Ryan and I are currently trying to choose between 2 locations, both with career opportunities that await him. I can honestly say, at this point I haven't even the slightest idea what will happen, but we need to make a decision soon!
  4. Is there life after cabin crew? When I do finally go home, what will I do? I most certainly love my job and would like to continue doing it, but what if none of the airlines want me? And what happens when some day Ryan and I decide to have kids? Don't get too ahead of yourselves ( this means you, Grandma) It's not in the cards yet, but hey, I have to think ahead. How does one go manage to be a mom and a jet setter at the same time? Any input from flying mama's would be greatly appreciated. I feel as though I need a backup plan, but I don't know what that plan should be. I wish that I possessed some amazing talent that would pay the bills.
  5. What is there to do in Austria? A bit of a more random thought, but a common one these days. With a few days off at the end of the month, I'm taking advantage of my industry discounts and hopping on a flight to Vienna. Why Vienna? Because the flights weren't full and I have my heart set on trying Sacher-Torte chocolate cake in its original birth place. I haven't got a clue what I'll do for 4 days aside from eat cake and take photos, but you'll most definitely hear about it when I return.
  6. Photography. Even before I was engaged to a super talented photographer, I loved taking photos. My job gives me the opportunity to see many photogenic places and I have a great camera that I spent a small fortune on. I'm so envious of those who have a natural gift when it comes to taking photos. I see beautiful things and try to capture them, but it just doesn't work for me sometimes. My camera does so many amazing things, and I feel that I'm not using it to its potential. Maybe I'm just getting pickier. Who knows, but I really want to take better photos. There is a link to my Flickr photostream on the side of this page, in case you are tired of reading about my life and would rather see photos. I prefer books with photos myself, so I fully understand.
  7. Ryan. Well duh, he's always on my mind. I felt as though you'd all think I was a horrible fiance if I didn't include him in this list though. He's pretty awesome, and I'm pretty lucky!
  8. Chocolate. Obviously.

This is just a small sample of the constant marathon of thoughts in my head. I'm all over the place! The great thing about having a blog is that you can write all of this stuff and nobody has to read it unless they choose to do so. This saves me from blabbering on to people I meet about things that don't interest them whatsoever. So thanks, on behalf of all of the people who I'd be annoying if it weren't for this blog.

being a normal person in canada

May 17, 2011

For the superstitious type, boarding a transatlantic flight on Friday the 13th would be a very undesirable situation. Add to that the fact that the flight is notoriously known for being one of the most challenging long-haul journeys in terms of demanding passengers and many crew would be tempted to call in sick and stay safe at home in bed.
I, on the other hand, was actually quite excited for the day ahead. Some crew called in sick. Whether they were actually ill, superstitious, or just really despise the flight, we'll never know. The rest of us boarded a plane bound for Toronto, Canada... my beautiful home country!
I'd be lying if I said that the flight was easy, but with the thought of the finish line (and Tim Horton's coffee) in my mind, I persevered through the endless call bells and non-stop running around the cabin for 13 hours.
After a long day in the sky, we landed! I was back in Canada! It had only been a few weeks since my last visit, but that didn't stop me from being just as excited as always. After waiting for what felt like forever for the crew to make their way to the bus, we were on our way. One thing that I love about Toronto is how unknown our airline is. I love how people stare and take photos as we file into the hotel lobby. For those few moments, I'm a celebrity. What I love even more, is the fact that after I take off the uniform I can blend into society like a normal person. I don't stand out as cabin crew, and for just a few days it's fun to pretend that I lead a normal daily life.
My first plan of action was obviously to venture to Tim Horton's. Dinner and coffee were calling, so I headed to the restaurant beside the hotel to grab a bowl of chili and sample the brand new mint chocolate iced capp. It was yummy, but I think the original tastes just as good. I had so many plans before landing but now that I'd arrived and fatigue had set in, I decided that an evening spent lounging around my hotel room was exactly what I needed. Ryan and I talked online as I watched a marathon of wedding shows on TV. I still can't believe the amount that some girls will spend on a wedding gown! I tried hard to stay awake, but my body was fighting it. I knew that an early night would mean an extra early morning, but I was too tired to care. I curled up in bed and slept like a baby... until 3 am. Jet lag on this particular trip really gets to me, and as the rest of the city slept or returned home from Friday night parties, I was up and ready to start my day despite having went to bed only 5 hours earlier.
I showered, got ready, and returned to Timmy's (open 24 hours!) to grab breakfast and caffeine. I killed time watching TV and packing a smaller bag to take to my Grandma's house until it was time to head to the station to catch my train. I rode the train to the station and got off to see my grandma waiting for me! Yay, family!
Naturally, our first stop was Tim Horton's. Yes, again. We sat and chatted over coffee and tea, keeping warm and dry on a rainy spring day. We planned on going to a bridal shop to look at veils, as she is going to make mine for my upcoming wedding. Having only seen photos of me wearing wedding gowns, I agreed to try some on to show her. I'll never say no to trying on pretty dresses! She took photos and admired the beautiful gowns as I ignored the huge dark circles under my eyes and tried to envision what I'll look like in 8 months!
We left the bridal shop and continued our girly day by heading to the "Women's Show". People tried to sell us all sorts of girly products as I happily sampled the snacks laid out on some of the booths. We left with a delicious bag of kettle popcorn... my favourite!
Back at my grandma's house, I was feeling the effects of my early morning and snuck in a nap before it was time for dinner! I couldn't wait to eat the delicious food at my uncle's house. I loaded my plate with steak, salmon, potatoes and veggies, all very yummy. Knowing that a big meal would make me sleepy, I tried to avoid overeating. I failed, going back for seconds because I just can't resist salmon!
We stayed for awhile to visit before calling it a night and heading to bed. These across-the-world trips are tiring!
The next day I was up early once again. After my grandparents returned from church, it was time for shopping! I'm certain that very few other people share my enthusiasm when it come to trips to the mega-store Walmart, but I couldn't wait. I eagerly grabbed a basket and tossed in all of the essentials that I can never find in Dubai. Happy with my purchases, it was back to grandma's house, where we got ready before leaving to pick up my great grandma and head to a birthday party for a family member who was turning 90! What an amazing milestone. I grew up on the other side of Canada, so throughout the afternoon I was introduced to many family members that I didn't know existed. The table of snacks was all too hard to resist, and I found myself repeatedly visiting it to load up on cookies and cakes, and sending my cousin Colton to grab me some more brownies when I felt as though people were going to start judging me and my dessert addiction. Once I'd finally had enough, plates with birthday cake were brought around the room. How could I say no?! It's a terrible thing to go to a birthday and refuse cake. I indulged in the chocolately goodness and didn't regret it.
After we left and I'd filled up on junk food, it was dinner time. I wasn't hungry, but the long wait at the restaurant gave me time to find my appetite. We'd arrived at a buffet and I was expecting the typical Chinese cuisine. They had that, and soooo much more...Crab legs, sushi, pizza, and a massive salad bar and dessert area! All that I could think of was Ryan and how much he'd love it. I'm quite certain that I ate enough for the both of us.
Back at the house, we attempted to watch a movie but instead I found myself falling asleep. I gave in and called it a night.
Monday had arrived too soon, and it was time for me to go back to Toronto. My uncle Troy picked me up in the morning and we made the trip to the city. I was determined to stock up on fresh fruit to bring back to Dubai, so we headed to the St. Lawrence Market to get some yummy and cheap groceries. I was very disappointed to find that the market was closed on Mondays. Where would I get my raspberries now?!
Fortunately, there was a large grocery store across the street and I loaded up on all sorts of goodies to take back to the desert with me. Not wanting my fun to be over but knowing that I needed to get some sleep before the flight, I said goodbye to my uncle as I returned to my hotel room to sleep the afternoon away. What I hadn't considered was the fact that I'd had a great night's sleep and I just wasn't tired enough to take a nap. I headed out for lunch, hoping to make myself sleepy, but no such luck. Finally, with only an hour to go before my wake up call, I accepted my fate and headed to Starbucks for an extra espresso latte. I love Tim Horton's, but I needed something strong to get me through this.
Running on caffeine and no sleep, it was time to go to the airport. I made the usual small talk with the crew about what they'd done over their layover, trying not to focus on the fact that I hadn't slept. Whenever I think about how tired I should be, it hits me. I managed to stay awake for the duration of the flight thanks to a great crew. It's people like them that make me love my job. Even with a plane full of annoying passengers, a great crew makes all of the difference!
I was relieved to finally land in Dubai and sleep for many, many hours. Normally I'd be sad to be back after a short visit to Canada, but I'll be back in a few short weeks, with a certain boy that I'm engaged to! Life is good!

My Awesome Grandparents!

feasting and reuniting in seoul

May 8, 2011

On an early Friday morning, I made my way to the airport for yet another flight. I was headed to Seoul, and feeling rather excited about my layover. While many crew complain about the trip and the lack of entertainment options, it happens to be one of my favourite destinations, for one particular reason: FOOD.
I have fallen so deeply in love with Korean barbecue that I almost wish that I had been born Korean. As usual, I spent the majority of the 8 hour flight discussing my plans to consume as much as I possibly could. Upon arrival in Seoul, I suffered through the long bus ride embarrassed by the sound of my stomach growling loudly over the silence. Fortunately, the rest of the crew shared my sense of urgency and we agreed to meet for dinner shortly after checking in. We met in the lobby and waited for the people who had said they'd join us and were nowhere to be found. It happens every trip. We wait around for ages before finally deciding that maybe they changed their minds, although I'm certain they never had the intent to join us in the first place.
Sometimes I cringe at the idea of going for dinner with the crew. It often consists of endless rounds of drinks, drunken stupidity, and then splitting the bill despite some of us having drank only water. This time I lucked out and ended up with only 4 others, all happy to have a quiet dinner and enjoy what we came for... food! We had a couple of first-timers, who we introduced to the culinary amazingness that is Korean barbecue. I ate until I felt that another bite would make me unable to walk back to the hotel. On the way back, the 2 of us that opted not to go for post-dinner drinks stopped into 7-11 to grab some snacks to keep in our room. I walked by the ice cream coolers several times, determined to make it through the night without my favourite green tea ice cream. When the girl I was with decided to give it a try, I caved and bought one for myself as well. We walked back to our hotel, ice cream in hand, and called it a night.
The next morning, I woke up bright and early. I lounged around my room watching the Discovery Channel before venturing out to wander the street. I grabbed a coffee for the walk, feeling a bit fatigued despite my 10 hours of sleep. It was a beautiful day, and the streets were lined with stalls selling flowers for "Parent's Day"... Apparently in Korea they share the day rather than having separate occasions. Realizing it was nearly lunch time, I returned to my hotel room to wait for a friend that I was meeting. I first met Jungrak a few years ago when he was living with my friend Jess. For whatever reason, he'd come all the way from Seoul to study in my uneventful home town of Red Deer. Every Korean I'd ever been friends with had a "Western" name as well, so I felt the need to name him. I called him River, despite never having met a westerner or any other person with that name. It stuck, and to this day our mutual friends know him as River. It just so happens that he is home in Seoul for the summer, so we made plans to meet up. I waited in my hotel room until he called to tell me that he was in the lobby. After we were reunited, we headed out to the street to enjoy our day.
After establishing that we were both extremely hungry, we decided to go for lunch, making our way to Coex Mall via the metro. I chattered away excitedly, happy to be on the other side of the world with a friend from home. I wanted to try some new and tasty Korean food, so River led me to a restaurant and ordered a yummy stew-like dish called jjimdak. I thoroughly enjoyed every bite, again eating until I couldn't possibly eat any more. Despite my objections, he treated me to lunch... Thanks River!
In typical fashion of food addict me, we hadn't made plans past eating lunch. We wandered the mall before River had the idea to go to a temple across the street. Hundreds of beautiful colour paper lanterns were strewn above in preparation for Buddah's birthday. Some of the lanterns had a paper attached with wishes written on it. We walked around the temple taking photos and talking about old times. I was craving green tea ice cream yet again, so we walked back to the mall, wandering until we found it. Sadly, I realized that I needed to make my way back to the hotel shortly to get a bit of sleep before the flight. River told me that he was going to get a haircut nearby, and I mentioned that I needed to do the same. Of course, I intended to get a haircut in Canada, but he came up with the brilliant idea of going in Seoul where they do a great job for a fraction of the cost. I was reluctant, feeling a bit nervous about getting my hair cut by someone who didn't speak my language, but River was now extremely excited and promised to translate. Well, what the heck, you only live once, and I like to think that I'm mildly adventurous. Hair grows back. Koreans DO seem to have beautiful flowing locks. River led me to an elevator in a building that didn't look like it offered much. Once the doors opened, however, we were in a pretty and modern salon, complete with a buffet and fresh juice! He translated to the staff who led me to wash my hair. As they chatted in Korean I made sure to remind River that he needed to tell them not to cut it short. Once my hair was squeaky clean I was led to the styling chair and met my stylist... a Korean man with a pink shirt, black bow tie, and perfectly groomed moustache. I liked him already. He nodded knowingly as River explained what I wanted, apologizing to me for his inability to speak English. I sipped my iced green tea as he proceeded to give me a makeover. When all was said and done, my haircut was perfect and I happily headed to the front to pay. Before I did, a lady stopped me to give me a hand massage. I love Korean salons!! After a photo with my awesome stylist, I paid and headed back to the hotel.
I hugged River goodbye after a fun reunion, and told him I'd see him soon somewhere in the world. Realizing that I had limited time to sleep before the wake up call, I crawled into my bed and got a tiny bit of rest before it was time to go. When it was time to go, the purser did a head count and realized that one person was missing. Upon further investigation, we discovered that the crew member had not checked out of her room. Her belongings were still there, but she was nowhere to be found! We waiting for awhile but we couldn't delay the flight, so we set off, hoping that she was okay. I knew that we had a long night ahead so I planned to sleep on the hour and a half bus ride. Instead, I was kept awake by the pilots talking about their yachts. What a tough life.
I struggled to stay awake for the 9 and a half hour journey back to Dubai, but somehow I managed. Back to the desert to catch up on my sleep before I jet off to Toronto this weekend!

Cross-Emirates Road Trip

May 5, 2011

Taking advantage of the fact that we both had a day off, my friend Frances and I decided to go for an adventure! Despite having lived in the United Arab Emirates for a whopping 17 months, we'd yet to visit the capital city, Abu Dhabi.
After a bit of research we found our way to the bus station, where we purchased our tickets with the assistance of the overly eager employees. Our first adventure began when we decided to make a quick trip to the washroom before boarding. We stared at the hole in the floor squatting stalls, contemplating whether we were capable of waiting 2 hours. I opted to wait and refrain from drinking too much water, while Fran had no choice but to experience the local culture.
We got our seats on the bus and began the journey. It felt as though we were barely moving as cars sped past us on the highway. The bus was ridiculously slow, but eventually we made it to Abu Dhabi.
I really wasn't sure what we were expecting, but when we arrived we found ourselves lost as to where to go and what do to. We'd spontaneously decided to go on this road trip without any knowledge of the city. Seeing as how we were at a large bus station, we figured somebody inside would be able to give us some advice. We were met with blank stares as we explained that we were from Dubai and would like to go see the tourist attractions. Okay, so maybe this wasn't going to be such an exciting day. Finally, we found somebody who actually spoke fluent English. He suggested that we start at Marina Mall. In typical fashion of this country, the highlight of the city was a mall. We hailed a taxi and set off for the mall, relieved as we entered the more modern area of the city. The bus had dropped us off in somewhat of an industrial area, where we'd stood out as the only westerners. Once we finally reached the mall our stomachs were growling and we set out in search of lunch. We chose a cafe and stuck with salad for a healthy start to the day. One thing that struck us as odd was the fact that in the middle of the public mall, smoking was permitted. I've been around the world a time or two, and most places in that I've visited have banned public smoking in recent years. We shrugged it off, although slightly annoyed at the fact that our clothes would smell like cigarettes once we'd left.
We figured that our best bet for seeing the city was to take the Big Bus Tour. We'd be able to hop on and hop off wherever we desired, although we only planned on getting off once due to our limited time. We forked over the cash and got on board, sitting on the upper level in the open air. Despite the breeze as we were driving, it was ridiculously hot under the desert sun. Summer is just around the corner, and it won't be long before outdoor activities become non-existent once again.
We took photos as we drove past the Presidential Palace and other random spots. Aside from far more landscaping and greenery, the city wasn't much different from Dubai.
At the Grand Mosque stop, Fran and I hopped off the bus. It was an amazing building, perfect for taking many photos. Inside, we were directed to a changing room where we donned the mandatory black gown and an abaya to cover our heads. This of course led to giggling as we took photos of ourselves dressed like locals. I must say, the local women can pull off the look far better than I can. We wandered the mosque, photography it's many columns and tiles until we heard the call to prayer and were forced to leave. Back on the bus, we drove along the beautiful coast, taking in the sunset over the water. The bus stopped at a carpet market, and a market full of all sorts of random household goods. The strange looks and staring men were enough to convince us to stay on the bus.
Both of us were feeling quite sleepy by the time that we'd reached the mall once again. We filled up on a delicious curry dinner and then caught a taxi back to the bus station.
The bus ride back was 2 hours of torture, as an extremely annoying family in front of us filled the otherwise silent bus with irritating noise. The children crunched on a massive bag of chips and the baby cried, while the father shouted into his phone that rang every 5 minutes. I was extremely tired, but each time that I drifted off to sleep I was awoken once again. As if this wasn't enough, there was a horrific smell from somebody who clearly had gas issues. The lights of Dubai were a great relief. Fran and I fled the bus at the first stop, catching a taxi back to our apartments. It had been an extremely long and tiring day, but we can now say that we have seen Abu Dhabi!

Mini-Holiday in Shanghai!

May 2, 2011

Following a busy weekend in Toronto with my family, I was feeling jet lagged and lacked ambition to do much at all. I'd been rostered on a trip to Shanghai, where I planned to catch up on my sleep over the course of a shockingly long 55 hour layover. It was a brand new destination on the A380, and unlike myself, the majority of the crew had never visited the massive Chinese city. During our briefing they quickly made plans to venture out to the famed nightclubs and busy markets. I kept a low profile, hoping to hide from the party crowd upon arrival.
I was happy to find that my friend Vanja would be joining me for the weekend. We decided to go with the flow and do whatever felt fun at the time.
We arrived mid-afternoon, and as the rest made dinner plans, I wasn't feeling capable of doing anything other than sleeping. I retreated to my room where I was thrilled to find that we'd arrived just in time for the Royal Wedding!! I'll admit, I'm a sucker for fairytale stories and since my own engagement 5 months ago, I've become mildly obsessed with weddings. I crawled into bed to watch just as Prince William made his way to Westminster Abbey. I proceeded to watch the entire ceremony, wiping tears from my eyes as the royal couple said their vows. I'm really not sure how I'll maintain my composure when it's my turn. After they were pronounced wed, I was fighting fatigue and decided to give in. I snuggled up in my cozy bed and called it an early night.
I was up bright and early the next morning, ready to meet Vanja for a massive buffet breakfast. I'm normally opposed to eating in hotels, but I'll make an exception when it comes to China. I'd read an article in the local paper stating that less than a fifth of all restaurants in Shanghai met good food hygiene standards. The same paper had an article about cinemas using toxic fluorescent brightener in their popcorn, and the two articles were enough to persuade me to dine in my clean hotel. We spent nearly 2 hours in the buffet restaurant, loading plate after plate of breakfast goodness while catching up after a few months. Vanja had never been to Shanghai and was hoping to visit the markets. I wasn't particularly enthusiastic about spending my day bargaining for lower prices of fake designer handbags, but I really didn't have much else to do so I agreed to tag along. We met up with a first class crew member and the first officer and together made our way to the Yatai underground markets. Nothing appealed to me, but I giggled as I watched the others desperately bargain with the stubborn Chinese sales ladies. No sale goes down without a fight. After a few hours we were exhausted from wandering from shop to shop filled with the same items. We returned to wait for the shuttle back to the hotel.
With plenty of afternoon ahead of us, we sat in the hotel coffee shop and sipped lattes over typical random crew conversation. We parted ways to relax for a few hours, agreeing to meet up for dinner later on. Vanja and I had our hearts set on sushi in the Japanese restaurant, and we were devastated to discover that it was closed on Saturday and Sunday evenings. We sadly made our way to the other restaurant, unable to fulfil our sushi craving. I must admit, the salmon that I ordered instead was cooked to perfection.
It had been a long day and we were both feeling ready to call it a night. As the rest of the crew prepared for a big night out, Vanja and I (the 2 youngest crew members, might I add) were off to our rooms for the evening. I spent awhile talking to Ryan, but the phone connection was terrible and we eventually gave up. It was time for bed!
Like the previous day, Vanja and I met up for breakfast again in the morning. I loved the buffet and the variety of foods from every corner of the world. I showed my Canadian pride by eating waffles drowning in maple syrup. I would have liked to have done something a bit interesting that day, but Vanja wasn't up for venturing to the city and the rest of the crew were too hungover to leave their rooms. I settled for a lazy day, going for a quick walk around the area to avoid spending the entire day in my hotel room. For whatever reason, we are placed in a hotel in the middle of nowhere. I received strange looks as I wandered amongst the locals. I was a bit sleepy despite a good night's sleep the night prior, so I decided to take a nap. I thought I'd get in an hour's sleep at the most, but to my surprise I didn't wake up until that evening, only an hour before the wake up call! I got ready for my flight and headed back to Dubai feeling very well rested! It had been an uneventful layover, but I'd enjoyed the time spent relaxing. I was happy to be headed back to Dubai, home of far more appetizing cuisines!