Hostel Limitations

Chad and I now find outselves in a lovely wee village (if you use the Canadian terms of classifying it; since it has a cathedral, they think it is a city) of Stirling, Scotland. We are here because it is close to my awesome friend Grace, and it is always an adventure to visit her.

IMG_4316

The biggest adjustment on this leg of the trip isn’t that we finally saw snow fall and actually stick to the ground. The biggest adjustment is that up until now, we have been living in our own little space (either hotel rooms or apartments) and had a bit more freedom. Now, however, we are living in a hostel. This means I haven’t been keeping up with my exercises (besides walking a ton). Cooking becomes more complicated because we have to wait our turn in the kitchen. And we actually left for an overnight trip on Valentines Day to get some privacy in my favourite city, Edinburgh.

All of that isn’t so bad. The reason I am writing this post so early, however, is the fact that the only other person in our 12 bed dorm seems to have some medical problem that makes them snore so loudly that I cannot sleep. I went to bed early last night, as I started to fall asleep while reading, and when he went to bed, I woke up. And again at 1am. And 3am. And I’ve been up since about 5am, finally getting out of bed around 7am. Somehow, Chad is still in there, but I escaped to the common room to catch up on Facebook.

Anyway, assuming I don’t pass out by the time Chad and Snoring Guy get up, Chad and I are planning to visit Stirling Castle today. I visited on a day trip with my Mommy back in 2009, but there have been lots of renovations since then, so I am looking forward to it. I’ll hopefully convince Chad to bring his camera as well, since he takes gorgeous photos, and we’ll make a day of it (which you pretty much have to at the price of 13 quid per person). Speaking of budget, we have about 7 weeks left, and I’m really hoping that my $5000 will stretch that far. The Excel spreadsheet I am keeping is telling me that I don’t have much left, especially with the amount we are spending to stay in Dublin next month (let alone how expensive it will be to drink there), but I figure that is what Christmas money is for. I just need to make sure that I have some cash on hand when I get home, so I can get the last few things I need for my brother’s wedding. And then return to the reality of needing a job.

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Blyth Fish & Chips

Today, we walked 16.6km, round trip, to go visit the sea side and have some excellent fish & chips at Coastline in Blyth. Strangely enough, it wasn’t windy today (which is uber weird for this area), and the weather was perfect for this trip – a tiny hint of crispness in the air, but not overly cold. According to my step counter, I burned over 800 calories, which pretty much makes up for the fish & chips, which were delicious.

The haddock was the length of my forearm.

The haddock was the length of my forearm.

This particular restaurant is a local favourite, and although it was the least busy our hosts had ever seen it, there were maybe 2 tables available inside and people sitting outside/taking their fish & chips as takeaway to the sea side.

Blyth Sea Side

Along with lunch, there was tasting of really delicous, old school ice cream – I really enjoyed the wee bit of mint ice cream I snagged (and would have got my own, if I had been able to find some lactose intolerance pills, since I ran out while we were on Crete). It was a very enjoyable walk to and from the beach, and we paused to take a wee jaunt along the beach and let the boys play in the park adjacent for a little while.

Needless to say, we were all zonked out from all the exercise and fresh air. Chad even had a nap. I love getting that much movement into our adventures.

 

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Crete to Cramlington

After many hours, much coldness and a surplus of being over-tired, Chad and I made it to Cramlington in one piece each.

After packing and tidying up the apartment that had been our home for a month, we got a ride from our landlady, Antonia, down to the bus stop at 2pm (Heraklion time). She was super sweet, and we loved staying at her place because she occassionally brought us baked goods and the rent was very afforadable. The bus arrived about 5 minutes later and took approximately 45 minutes to get to the airport. At this point, we were way ahead of the game, because we built in extra time for this part of the travel (since we neither had a bus schedule, nor did we know how long it would take to get to the airport). Since we couldn’t check our bag in until 3:30pm, we found a place to sit and read, and I grabbed a sandwich, since I couldn’t eat too much of the cake our Antonia had brought for fear of Lactose Intolerance making my life hell, I also grabbed a sandwich. This immediately attracked new friends:

Heraklion Airport Kitty

Each of the two cats scored a sliver of bread from the end of my sandwich, and one got a pat on the head from Chad.

After checking our one bag (we travel with a carry on each and one duffle bag), we went through security, which is always a pain in the ass because not only do I use my pockets to store things, but I often have a jacket (layering up for travelling keeps your bags underweight) and sunglasses. I also have to take out my laptop, and the empty fig aquavit bottle I have been carrying around since Portugal (because I really like the bottle), and remove my belt. The fun part of that is the jeans I currently own are way too big – in fact, I take them off without undoing them – so I get the fun task of holding them up while I walk through the metal detector. I then feel like a jerk as I have to put all my various things back on/in my pockets/around my body/on my head/packed nicely back into my bag. For some reason it always feels like it is taking forever, but it probably feels like less time for people who aren’t me.

Then we waited. And waited. Because we were early, like you are supposed to be, and got through security in about 10 minutes. Back to reading.

The first flight was from Heraklion to Athens, so it was only about 50 minutes long. We got beverages and biscuits, and I didn’t even bother trying to read.

What I hate the most about air travel is when you have to go through security more than once in a trip. Honestly, I have gotten off one plane, walked directly to where my next gate is, and I have to repeat the horror show of taking everything off/out of my pockets/out of my bags again? It was only a 50 minute wait between flights! But it wasn’t so busy, and we made it through in good time.

However, as I was called forward to start my undressing process, Chad was stuck at the front of the line, waiting for space at a scanner to free up. A small child, about waist height, was running around in this space and promptly punched Chad in the junk. When he told me the story afterward, I nearly died laughing. In fact, as I write this post, I started giggling to myself and Chad asked what I was laughing at. Now we are both giggling (quietly, because we don’t want to wake David and Emmie’s the babies), and Chad commented, “yeah… good times.”

The best part of that story is that the (assumed) Mother of the boy looked at the child directly after and asked, “did you just punch that man?” Chad only realized as he was telling me to story that she had spoken English and he could have spoken up and told her that he had just been punched in the junk (since we’ve been living in countries where we don’t speak the language for the last three month, we’ve gotten very used to just not trying to talk to random people unless we know beforehand that they will understand us).

Our next flight was really nice. I got my meal ahead of time, because I ordered a vegan meal when we booked the tickets. Really, I would have been fine with meat in my meal, but there is not lactose intolerance meal listed, and I have run completely out of my lactose pills, so it seemed like a good idea to not be trapped on a flight with stomach issues. I got a tasty pasta, dinner roll, tiny lettuce/cucumber salad and a fruit cup for dessert (which I ate first, because my meal didn’t have cutlery on the tray). Chad got a similar pasta (but with cheese), dinner roll, a side dish that confused the crap out of both of us (it looked like some form of vanilla mousse with a chocolate covered almond on time, but the almond turned out to be an olive, and the mouse was some weird cheesy/onion tasting thing; it wasn’t something we’d ever order on purpose), and a chocolate bar. We both had a wee bottle of red wine.

Unfortunately, neither of us slept on the plane. This was especially unfortunately because we wouldn’t be able to sleep until we got on the Megabus the next morning. We got our bag and caught the tube from Heathrow to Victoria station. We grabbed a little food from a wee stand (sandwich for Chad, soup for me) because realizing that the station actually closed from 1am-3am, which meant we had to go for a walk outside, mostly hoping to find an open pub in which to sit.

We didn’t find a pub, but at least the wind calmed down and it didn’t rain on us. It was actually kind of peaceful, with the exception of a few, presumably drunk, loud people causing havoc across the street at one point. We got sleep deprived enough that the phrase “Baby Road Cone Seeds” was hilarious. I snapped a couple photos, mostly to give myself something to do, as I was too tired/wired to read.

2:30am on some steps in London

2:30am on some steps in London

Eventually, we got back into the station, but it didn’t seem much warmer than outside. Then, the countdown to Wetherspoons opening at 7am for breakfast began. By this point, we’d already had to harass a couple different coffee boxes for exact change to pay to use the bathrooms, which is one of the stupidest things of all time (especially since they aren’t particularly nice bathrooms, and both the machines at which you are meant to get exact change for the turnstyles are broken).

Although a cheeky morning pint with breakfast was tempting, we were entirely too tired to drink. Both of us were looking forward to getting onto the bus and sleeping as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the universe had other plans.

We arrived around 8:15am, to give ourselves plenty of time to check the board and figure out where to meet our bus. At 8:35am, someone came on the loud speaker and said our bus was delayed, and when they had more information, they would let us know. This message was repeated about 5 times before someone else called the company directly (around 10am) to find out that we wouldn’t be leaving until about 11am. This wouldn’t have been so bad if a) we hadn’t already been awake for 27 hours and b) they told us when our bus would be delayed to straight away so we could have gone back to the pub.

Also, the novelty of the Pigeon Girl was wearing off after the first 45 minutes. This girl two seats over from us and terrifed of pigeons. Since the weather was crap, there were a lot of pigeons who had snuck inside to sit atop the warm televisions that display travel information. Every time a pigeon came remotely near her, she flailed. It was really funny for the first little while, but near the end I was hoping the birds would just attack her or something.

Once we finally got on the bus, I was out like a light. It was a 6.5 hour journey, and I woke up half a dozen times, but I felt way better after the rest.

Once the bus let us out at Newcastle, I texted my mates to try to figure out where to meet them, as they had come him her Dad’s car and would be giving us a ride to their place (for which we were very grateful). Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glance of a couple walking the opposite direction, and just from their backs, I knew it was them. I spoke a quick, “follow me!” to Chad and started in their direction, weaving through people to catch up and anounce, “Hello, lovely people” right behind them. Much hugging, introductions between Chad, Emmie and David and then a short walk to the car, and a short ride to her Mom’s, to pick up their extremely adorable and lovely boys, Vincent (2.5 years old) and Aurelio (just celebrated his first birthday on January 9th). Emmie and David’s house is very close, so we had a cup of tea, waited for the boys to finish dinner and wandered back to theirs for a delicious dinner, sharing of fun things from the interwebs and an early turn in. Since the wee ones are up so early, Emmie and David decided to take the new, extremely comfy sofa that turns into a bed in about 2.5 seconds and gave us their room, which was extremely sweet of them. I slept so ridiculously well now that I wasn’t trying to sleep sitting up.

I’m really enjoying seeing my lovely friends again, and am excited to do even more exploring with them tomorrow. We had a rather chill day of grocery shopping, kid’s telly, ParaNorman (so cute) and cider and Arkham Horror (I’ve never played a boardgame more complicated than Monopoly, so I was a wee bit lost, but it was fun and they helped me out, and we all won in the end – YAY).

Right; sleep, more adventure tomorrow. I love my life.

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Cretian Relaxation

My volume of posts has dramatically decreased since we got to Crete, but I assume you that this is not because we haven’t enjoyed our stay. Quite the opposite – we have loved our time here, but we have taken a much more relaxing approach to this location. Heraklion (or Gazi, the subdivision in which we are residing) is very quiet this time of year, and we unconciously decided to take things nice a slow.

Chad got a lot of programming done, I got a lot of my zombie blog written (more importantly, I havne’t given up on it, which is unusual because I tend to start hating the fiction I write after a few days), and I even started a blog on which I post my fitness updates (so this blog could be focused on travel once more). I’ve read tons of Kathy Reichs novels, and have even made it through 4.5 Harry Potter books since we got here (which I had never read before). We’ve started watching Heroes (which I enjoy – when it was aired, I missed an episode early on and then was confused the next time I watched it, so I never stuck to a viewing schedule; I also moved to Europe near the end of the first season, and missed the rest of it).

I looked in the mirror earlier before I started my last Cretian workout and was pleased that I can actually see some progress. My waist it getting very slim, and I like what I see.

The next couple months are going to go at a much faster pace. We fly to London in a few hours, then stay over night in the bus station for our 9am departure to Newcastle to see David and Emmie, a couple of lovely friends who I haven’t seen since 2009 – and we get to meet their two little boys, for which I am very excited as all the photos I gave seen of them on Facebook are ridiculously adorable. We’ll likely hit Edinburgh again, and then visit the lovely and talented Grace in Stirling. We will be housesitting in Biggleswade near the end of the month, and plan to hit Dublin for St. Paddy’s, then follow the awesome talented Joey Clarkson around on tour in the UK. Busy, busy, busy, but I am looking forward to the challenge of keeping up with my fitness while seeing friends and having face-paced adventures.

Next update will be from Newcastle. Thanks for having us, Crete.

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New Blog; This One Will Focus on Travel Once More

Hello lovely people following me around Europe (and I mean that in the least creepy way),

I know I have posted quite a few fitness blog posts here in the last little while, and since that’s not what travellers want to read, I have decided to start a blog specifically for my fitness updates. It is called Simply Squats (I like alliteration, and I’m pretty good at squats). I’m going to try to keep it simplistic, because fitness shouldn’t be complicated. If you are interested, take a look. If you aren’t – good news for you, no more fitness post clogging up this travel blog!

On a travel friendly note, we found out that there really isn’t a way to get to the mountain we want to climb right now, since there is construction, the bus no longer goes anywhere near there and the path to the top is hard to find if you aren’t with someone who has been before. Boo! Oh well, we’ll figure out some more adventures before we leave.

We also had Knossos pretty much to ourselves the other day (minus one other tourist). It was quite beautiful there.

Knossos

 

 

Update on the Mosquito Situation: I have at least 15 bites on my face, one of which is on my lip. It has become a nightly ritual to wander the bedroom and squish them with the flick of a towel. Once I think I have got them all, I try to go to sleep, and inevitably heard the buzzing again. Needless to say, I haven’t been sleeping that well.

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Blast from the Past

While sitting here, completely awake due to the dreaded mosquitos, I received the following e-mail (from a send I didn’t know, and with no subject; I know, I live dangerously):

“Hi,

One of my students is doing your creepy monologue and needs to have an authors name. What name would you like him to use?
Kevin Edgar
Drama Teacher
Power High School
Power, MT”
How odd…
I sat here and went, “huh, well, that is way to specific to be spam and it isn’t try to scam me or get my to buy something.” So I looked up this man’s name and city/state, and yes, he is in fact a real person. The I looked up my name and “creepy monologue”. Nothing came up. I tried just “creepy monologue” and found a page I haven’t thought of in ten years.
Behold, a project from Writing 12, a course I took during my last year of high school.
I replied to Mr. Edgar with my name and how to say my surname (“trit” like “wit” and “hardt” like “heart”) and thanked his student for chosing my work.
Now I’ll have to reread all this stuff and cringe (hopefully not too much – I mean, kids in drama classes in the states are doing my monologues, after all).
EDIT: So, I scanned through them, and they aren’t so bad. Just don’t bother with the one called “Jail”. Now that I have skimmed a bit, I remember having written those one acts/monologues, but haven’t thought of most of them since high school.
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Mosquitos

I really don’t like them. I don’t see any use in them. And they have kept me awake for the last week.

I’ve easily killed about 20 of the little bugger by bashing them against walls with the flick of a towel, but every time I think I’ve killed them all (or killed enough to scare the others away), I turn off the light, try to go to sleep and then….

bbbzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

It is driving me nuts. It’s not only the sound that is bothering me, but the annoyance at the fact that I have on fewer than 8 mosquito bites on my face, and one as fresh as last night. These bites are itchy and they are making my already broken out for no good reason skin look worse than I’d like.

I’ve tried sleeping with my head under the blankets, but I can never seem to pull it off. It gets to a point where I can’t breath well, and that keeps me awake. The other night I killed a couple who landed on the hood I pulled over my head by slapping myself in the skull – but I sensibly washed that hoodie and it is not yet dry.

They have been attacking Chad, too, but the thing is – once he decides to fall asleep, he’s out like a light. I can’t seem to pull that one off, and instead, I’m bundled up in bed with my laptop, determined to write about this nuisance, and research a plan of attack.

Mosquito

My inspection of the Wikipedia article on this matter confirms that these things are just plain bastards.

“The cycle repeats itself until the female dies. While females can live longer than a month in captivity, most do not live longer than one to two weeks in nature. Their lifespans depend on temperature, humidity, and their ability to successfully obtain a blood meal while avoiding host defenses and predators.”

I suppose I just have to keep killing them and hope I squish the female before she lays any eggs. Gross.

“Many methods are used for mosquito control. Depending on the situation, the most important usually include:

  • source reduction (e.g., removing stagnant water
  • biocontrol (e.g. importing natural predators such as dragonflies)
  • trapping, and/or insecticides to kill larvae or adults
  • exclusion (mosquito nets and window screening)”

We don’t have any stagnant water in the house, besides in the toilet and in closed water bottles. I have no idea where we would get dragonflies, and although they would be a prettier infestation, I don’t know if the landlady would approve. I’m good with killing the adults, and if I knew what the larvae looked like and found any, they’d be done for as well. Most of these windows have screens, and we don’t open the ones that don’t.

“Plants can also repel mosquitoes, such as citronella, catnip, marigolds, ageratum and horsemint to name a few.”

You can bet your bottom dollar that if I find any of these plants, I’m grabbing one. And wiping a leaf all over my face so those jerks stop eating it.

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Random Acts of Fitness

As you may have noticed, sometimes I talk less about how we are travelling and more about how I am working out while we are traveling. This is simply because that’s what I have been doing with a lot of my time, since I now have literally no excuse to keep me from getting healthier.

A challenge came to me from the Get in Shape with About Time 6 Week Holiday Workout Challange: “take a video of yourself doing workout moves in a public place.” I saw that and went, “hells yes.” I grabbed Chad, he grabbed his camera and we wandered around the city centre and made the following video today (link should go to the video on YouTube). I hope you enjoy.

http://youtu.be/mS6rJuvL3HM

P.S. As a side note, I can tell you about the jeans I am wearing in the video, which only became mine yesterday.

They were half slung in a dumpster with some other clothing. The dumpster had been emptied within the last day, so they weren’t touching anything, and I grabbed them as I walked past on a whim. Figured they wouldn’t fit, but if not, I could at least make some patches for my other jeans (which are now way too big and have huge holes in the thighs).

They fit! In fact, they are slightly too big, but that’s what belts are for.

I’m assuming someone tossed them because the back of the leg was getting a hole at the bottom, like someone had been stepping on it, but
fortunately, I’m super short and had to roll the hems up 3 times for them to be the right length, which makes that defect null and void. I don’t usually go for light denim, but free is free.

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Rain, Rain, Go Away

Although yesterday was a dazzling example of what weather should always been when living on a island in the middle of the ocean, today has decided to make up for it with rain and grey cloud moodiness. We were able to get outside during a break in the rain to grab a couple six packs of water (yes, I live life dangerously, and yes, I’ll be delighted when we get back to parts of the world were I can just drink the tap water instead of purchasing water bottles), some more dolmades (yum!) and rice for dinner. The sun is setting now (it’s about 5:15pm), so unless we decide to explore in the dark, our plans to go into the city centre will have to wait until tomorrow.

No matter, though, we have plenty of time. I got another great sleep (after fearing that I wouldn’t because my hips were really sore from working out, which made getting to sleep a challenge), and finished my fitness calendars and workout routine before Chad got out of bed. I’m also doing really well at completing my daily writing project – I have decided to write one page per day in 2013 (standard font size, standard page in Microsoft office). I’m also posting each page daily on a different blog. It’s a work of fiction that is written journal style, and although I might end up hating what I have written within the next week and wanting to quit, it is a goal of mine to stop taking myself so seriously. I didn’t make a goal of writing something good, I just made the goal that I would stick with writing a page of fiction a day in one continuous plot. If you are interested, you can find it at A Year In the Life of Miriam Summers. It is an interesting challange, because if there are plot holes, I can’t just edit them out, as the previous days are posted online. I just have to work my way through this story, and not worry about editing. Perhaps I’ll get slammed for it, but I doubt that anyone is going to read it every day, let alone read it that closely.

We weren’t the only ones taking cover from the rain, it seems. We found this visitor in the bedroom (on the floor, thankfully, not in a bed) and politely asked him to take a trip back outside:

IMG_3965

We also have tons of teeny, tiny snails living outside our door (and at least one large one, although have haven’t seen him/her since the first day), so I will try to remember to snag a few pictures of them at some point.

The best part about gross weather is curling up with tea and a book. I’m working my way through the Kathy Reichs books. I’ve read a few before, but I am reading them in order this time (so I can see what goes on with the Andrew Ryan subplot), and have made it as far as “Monday Mourning” which is the seventh book in the series (which, I believe, has fourteen books). What would I do on this trip without my Kobo? My best friend would be delighted to know I have all of the Potter books on there, although I still haven’t read a single one (I tried when they first came out, but after page 10 of the first book, I gave it back to my little brother, completely uninterested; I’ve seen movies 1, 2, and 4 – missing 3 because said bestie complained so much about changes that I never got around to it).

Island life is much less stressful than Athens. We are really enjoying it. And Antonia, our landlady, keeps making baked goods, which Chad is enjoying. She also had home made jam (made from figs), home made olive oil, home made vinegar, fresh picked lemons and oranges, and herbs she collected herself waiting in the apartment when we arrived. I like her, and not just because she said I reminded her of her daughter when we first met. She’s sweet, and also enjoys island life much more than the stress of the city.

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January Workout Challenge Calendars

I had a question from the last entry regarding the January Calendars I use as extra workout challanges. On top of my 6 Week Holiday program from the Get In Shape Girl and my training from hundredpushups.com, I am using the following calendars to push my routine a little farther:

Aspire to Inspire Challenge

January 2013 Extra Workout ChallengeBlogloties January

Fab AbsLove Your Body - Tone It UpLunge-A-ThonPlank ChallengeJanuary Burpee Challenge

 

 

I don’t do everything from every calendar every day (since today was a push up day and one of the calendars called for 30 more pushups, I didn’t do that bit), but you can get a sense of more things to do (or just do these calendars if you are looking for somewhere to start).

Also, disclaimer: I’m not a health professional. Speak to your doctor before starting a fitness regime. And eat your veggies.

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