Thursday, May 22, 2014

Not Possible

Our first stop for the cruise was in Bari, Italy. We weren’t getting into port until almost lunchtime though, so we had a pretty relaxing morning. I decided I wanted to try out the group stretching on the Lido deck, so I headed up there before we were going to meet for breakfast. My family ended up getting to breakfast a bit early and sneakily took some pictures of me stretching!

We had a tasty breakfast (mine involved hashbrowns, cheese, fruit, juice, croissants and a freshly made doughnut) and headed off the ship to check out Bari. We decided to take a cab into the old city, since we weren’t sure how far of a walk it would be. It turns out it would have been VERY far! We managed to all fit into one cab, with me suspended above a space between two captain’s seats. The driver dropped us off in Piazza San Nicola, which I joked must be a tribute to St. Nicholas (or Santa Claus). It turns out that I was right. As we walked around, we saw tons of lights being set up for a festival of St. Nicholas, too.

After some wandering and taking enough pictures of churches to last a lifetime, we stopped at a restaurant, one of the few places open in early afternoon, for some real Italian pizza. After our snack, we wandered down to the water before heading back to pick up a cab.

We found a cab similar to what we took down and asked the driver to take the seven of us back. He argued back and forth with us that no cab could take seven people and when we explained to him that we had arrived together, he said it was “Not possible!” Um, actually it was. Finally, him and a buddy decided they would give us a deal on two cabs and we got back to the ship in time to soak in the hot tub before dinner.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Water, Water Everywhere, But Not a Drop to Drink

Today was the day! We were getting on our Mediterranean cruise! I stayed back and packed up while the others took Brian, Esther and Betty Jean on a walk to St. Mark’s Square, since they hadn’t had a chance to see it yet. I was on vacation and wanted to sleep in! I also had the surprise of being treated to more buttery croissants when they returned.

Then, we were ready to head towards the cruise ship terminal. We locked up the apartments and headed to the vaporetto station with our suitcases. We were learning that you had to fend for yourself here and had been working on the art of making human walls to stop people from cutting in line. This definitely almost happened while trying to board the boat. They even stopped letting on suitcases halfway through our group because the boat was so busy, but all seven of us managed to rush on, while the attempted line-jumpers had to wait for the next one.

We got off at the final stop, Piazzale Roma, and attempted to find the train to the cruise ship terminal. It seemed like a great idea that there was a train to get us out there. After walking in a few circles, we finally found it. We got settled on the train and quickly discovered that we would only be sitting for about three minutes. Then, we were up again to get off! We thought it would be a quick walk to the terminal because we could easily see it from the platform, but then we had to keep walking . . . and walking . . . and walking. We were at the FAR terminal. We were pretty much ready to pack it in with sore backs and no energy when we finally arrived.

We were able to get rid of our suitcases (finally!) and headed in to register and get our cruise cards. Unfortunately, the ship got in late due to some weather in Dubrovnik and we ended up in line quite a bit longer than expected. We were able to snag some water and juice while waiting though and one gentleman waiting near us took it upon himself to walk up and down the line offering people cups and water.

Finally, we got moving and after going through security, boarded the ship and headed to the lunch buffet! We found lots of great things and once we were stuffed, we went down to the rooms to check them out and get changed into bathing suits for some hot tub time!

We left port around 5:00pm and travelled down the Grand Canal and into the lagoon. It was a little nerve-wracking to see our massive ship try to navigate between the markers showing deep water. We watched from our rooms at the back of the ship and then rushed to get ready for dinner, since we were the first sitting.

We had heard rumours that tap water wouldn’t be automatically ready at the dinner tables (and even available at all), as we had experienced on all of the other cruises we had been on. After sitting down and taking a look at the menus, the drink server arrived to take our orders . . . and the rumours were right! They wouldn’t let us have water, unless it came in a bottle and was of the fizzy or mineral variety! We were pretty surprised by all of this and my mom, being my mom, wasn’t going to let the issue drop. We had heard that Americans got free water tickets for dinner, since it was something they were “used to with dinner.” My mom marched down to Guest Relations and explained the situation and how Canadians drink water with dinner too! She did it . . . she got us our water! It still came in a bottle, but at least we weren’t going to have to lug down tap water in our own water bottles from the buffet.

After a long and drawn out dinner, we headed off to our various activities for the night. Tanya and Stephanie tried to check out the candy store, Brian went to casino and mom, Esther, Betty Jean and I headed off to the show. Our first day on the ship definitely started out as an interesting one!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

No Touch!

Due to our early bedtime and extended sleep the night before, mom and I were up bright and early the next day. We thought we would venture out to find some treats for breakfast and as soon as we stepped out the front door, we could smell the nearby fish market. We hoped that there would be something other than fish and were delighted to see a selection of fruit and vegetables being set up nearby.

We weren’t exactly sure how to go about purchasing from the market, so we scoped it out for a few minutes, but no one seemed to be buying anything! Finally, we decided to go for it and selected a vendor that looked good. We marveled at how great the fruit looked and mom finally reached out to pick up an orange. From off to the side we heard a loud, “No touch!” Apparently, the market doesn’t open until 8:00am.

We headed off to try and find something else, especially a coffee for my mom! We found a nice, little bakery and picked up some delicious croissants and an expresso (the closest we could get to coffee for my mom).

After this, we got ourselves organized for a boat tour of Murano, Burano and Torcello with Tanya. Brian, Esther and Betty Jean were also supposed to join us, but we still weren’t exactly sure when to expect them. We hoped they would be waiting at the vaporetto stop when we got back from the tour.

Our tour was supposed to be an artisans’ tour, so we would see glass-blowing on Murano, lace-making on Burano and the local artists and Byzantine-style buildings on Torcello. We got a chance to check out St. Mark’s Square (or Piazza San Marco) while on our walk to the tour meeting spot. Early morning is definitely the time to check it out because it get crazy busy later in the day.

Our tour started off right away, with the guide telling us about the nearby islands. Some of them were used as isolation for people with dangerous, contagious diseases or as prisons in the past. We also made a quick stop at Lido (we still aren’t exactly sure why) where we learned a bit about the island. It is a long-skinny island that is approximately 12km in length. It hosts the Italian Film Festival each year and was home to the airport until the 1960s, because of its shape, when the Marco Polo Airport was built. It also has cars . . . something that the old city of Venice definitely doesn’t!

We finally arrived at Murano, where we saw a glass-blower at work. We also learned that it takes a lot of work to get into the profession because apprentices have to work with a master for up to ten years before working on their own. We saw some of their beautiful creations, including intricate chandeliers, and picked up some small trinkets, like pendants, as souvenirs.

Next up was Burano, where we would see lace-making. The first thing we noticed about this island was the beautifully-coloured houses. This is something Burano is known for. The residents aren’t even allowed to change the colour of the paint without permission. We saw the lace-maker working on a project and it looked like it would be a lot of work. Then we spent some time admiring the work. I wanted to buy everything in the shop! Like Venice, there were no cars here, just walkways and canals. Even funeral processions proceed down the walkways, since there is no other way to get off the island to the cemetery. Other islands in the lagoon serve as cemeteries, as there are none on the inhabited islands.

Next up was Torcello. The island was heavily populated for many years, but a malaria outbreak caused the island to become virtually desolate as people became sick and others tried to escape the island. Now, the island has a population of eleven people, most of who are artisans or fisherman. It was very strange to see how desolate the island was, but I was excited to see the Byzantine-style architecture, having taken art and art history all through high school.

On the way back to St. Mark’s Square we passed the only green space in Venice, a park. It was created by Napoleon when he invaded Venice! It also reminded mom and I of Stanley Park in Vancouver because people were out running and walking along the seawall.

We finally arrived back in St. Mark’s Square and fought through the crowds to see if Brian, Esther and Betty Jean had arrived. We didn’t see them at the vaporetto stop, but when we got back to the apartment, we found out that they had arrived!

After letting them get settled in, we hurried off for a gondola right, the number one thing on mine and mom’s list of things to do in Venice. We got ourselves organized into two boats and were off down the canal. We travelled down the large canal and then some smaller ones. I think we’re going to be in a lot of other tourist’s pictures because they were waiting at every bridge we came to to get their pictures!

We followed up with a delicious pasta dinner (which mom and I were too tired to try the night before). Although I was full after, I couldn’t stop thinking about how good it was! We finished up the evening with some wandering through the shops to pick up last-minute souvenirs and some gelato. Then we headed back to the apartments to get some sleep before embarking on the cruise the next day.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Welcome to Amsterdam!

Myself, some of our extended family and a few friends were supposed to set off for a Mediterranean adventure on Thursday, May 1, 2014. We were going to be flying to Venice, on Thursday, May 1, 2014, arriving on Friday, May 2, 2014. On Sunday, May 4, 2014, we would be embarking on a cruise with stops in: Bari, Italy, Katakolon, Greece, Santorini, Greece, Piraeus, Greece, Corfu, Greece, Dubrovnik, Croatia.

It is a six-hour time difference and even longer combination of flights! As it happens, we had a bit of a delay to our trip. Italy, Greece and Croatia would have to wait a bit longer for us. We had a serious lack of internet while away, so I will be posting about our experiences over the next week or so.

After myself, mom, Esther, Brian and Betty Jean arrived at the airport in Toronto nice and early, we found out that there was bad weather in New York and they changed our flights . . . to 6:00am the next day!

We weren't having it, so at the last minute, mom and I were sent off to a KLM flight to Venice, connecting through Amsterdam. It all happened so quickly, that we didn't have any time to chat with our other three travel companions and had to simply run off. We now have passport stamps from the Netherlands! I was pretty excited because many of the people I worked with (and will be working with again) are from a Dutch company and I’ll get to tell them about my stop next time I see them.

The food on the KLM flight was awesome and I even had a beer to go along with my dinner. It all came in cute little containers and tasted pretty good! It also seemed like they never stopped dropping by with drinks and snacks (although you could sleep and they would leave you be), which made our unexpected detour much more pleasant. I napped a bit, read a bit, visited mom a few rows up and watched a movie, all in addition to the food.

Finally, after our connection at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, we arrived at the Marco Polo Airport in Venice, Italy! We were hoping that shortly after this we would see our three missing travel companions, but they didn’t seem to be showing up. After some other family members and friends arrived on a flight from Paris, France, where they had already been exploring prior to our cruise, we gave up hope that the others would be arriving today.

Exhausted, we headed into Venice on a vaporetto, a type of waterbus, after a long hike out to the dock in the rain. We rolled our suitcases onto what we thought was the spacious boat and had a seat. I commented how smart it was to be able to roll suitcases on since this was the airport stop. Then, the actual vaporetto showed up . . . and it appeared to be very tiny! We had to lug our suitcases across the gangplank, where they were piled into the top section of the boat, while we crawled down underneath. We watched in sadness during the trip as rain poured down on a few suitcases belonging to members of our group. Hopefully our accommodations would have lots of blankets to warm us up, since our clothes obviously wouldn’t be doing that!

We ended up taking the wrong vaporetto and were a bit far from the apartments we would be staying in. We had to cross the Realto Bridge, which is composed of approximately a million steps, with our giant, soggy suitcases in tow. Luckily, two very nice tourists helped me out because I am just too small to be dragging a bag that large up and down stairs! We finally ended up in our apartments and after trying to get some messages through to our missing travel companions, mom and I passed out for the night in a series of naps. We hoped that this would get us on Italy time for the rest of our trip!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Lauren Takes to the Airport for the Last Time

Well, this is it. I no longer have my fancy security pass and I'm playing the role of passenger today. I've been at the airport for the past 14 hours, since I came in for my last day of work today and decided I wasn't going to leave!

We had our Christmas luncheon today, where we all dressed up in ugly Christmas sweaters, ate lots of tasty food and participated in a gift exchange. Since I had nowhere else to go, I got to spend time chatting with some of the other engineers, directors and even the vice-president of engineering!

In case you haven't heard, I was also selected as Co-op Student of the Year for 2013! I'm thrilled about this and I'm sure that the airport is breathing a sigh of relief that their experiment in hiring me worked out so well. I even got to chat a bit with our new CEO at the luncheon, since he had also heard about the award!

I have a replacement coming in for January, so hopefully the student will be able to find as much value in this experience as I did. I think that the biggest thing I took away was the confidence that was reinforced in me to actually believe that I'm ready to be an engineer (well, an EIT), once I graduate.

I spent my last few hours at the airport with a few of the (female) engineers that I had become close with. We sat around in the Fairmont lounge, which felt pretty classy, even though I was wearing a sweatshirt. I think my uncle would also approve of the beverage I enjoyed before heading to security.

So, you might have seen the WestJet video where they asked passengers for their Christmas wishes and then there were gifts waiting at the destination. WestJet also gave me a bit of a gift this evening too. Although I'm convinced that my stuff has been multiplying in my suitcase because there is just way too much of it, apparently I've just accumulated too much stuff since moving here. My three bags weighed in at 51lb, 58lb and 61lb. Since the overweight limit is 50lb, they were going to be nice and only charge me overweight for two of the three bags. Today was a pretty busy travel day (apparently the busiest of the year) and the payment system was on the fritz as I was going to drop my bags. So, the agent said "Merry Christmas!" and told me that I didn't have to pay because they didn't want to deal with it. Thank you WestJet!

What else have I been up to this week, other than packing? Well, I decided to go to the Hannah Georgas concert last night at the Commodore Ballroom (she's really great live!) and passed marketing with flying colours! I also made these lovely candy cane reindeer because I'm just so crafty (and really like glue guns).

So, here it is. This will be my final post, since I'll hopefully be boarding soon (since the unusually massive amounts of snow are melting just fine) and landing in Toronto in a few hours (if the freezing rain can hold off). I am taking to the airport for the last time . . . for now, at least!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Still Holding Down the Fort Out Here!

So, I might have done that thing where I don't blog for a really long time again. Oops. I've been up to a lot though, between Sparks (we went to the firehall and the library!), school (been doing lots of 41X and have finished marketing, I believe, successfully!), work (I coordinated the building of a can sculpture and we had our Christmas party on Saturday night, which was awesome!) and adventuring around Vancouver (the aquarium, Science World and this crepe place that I found!) with the boyfriend.

Just to make things easy on you, I'll post lots of pictures, so those of you who are writing exams can save your brainpower for that.

The Vancouver Aquarium

We just really love it here. We probably should have just bought season passes because this is the third time I've been here since May and the fourth time this year. We saw the penguins (who never swim, ever), sea otters (they were feeding them shrimp treats!), the dolphin show and a sloth. The jellyfish exhibit was also on, so we had fun looking at that!

Science World

We hadn't made it to Science World yet, so we thought we would head over there one weekend. We went through and explored all of the exhibits (I might have also been very sore the next day from trying to beat the boyfriend in a jumping contest) and saw a movie in the IMAX dome, which was at the top of the facility. We had to walk up this long and winding ramp to get there, which was pretty cool! I created some energy in the running machine (which lasted about 10 seconds) and saw conveyors (I think work is getting to me) and a Pelton wheel (applied fluids and thermodynamics will never let me forget because this is the second Pelton wheel picture I've had in my blog!). We also saw a dinosaur (skeleton) and played with some fun machines.

Trixi's Crepes

I found this place one evening on my way to Sparks and have been going every week all month. I sit in there and have a crepe dinner between work and Sparks, since I don't have time to go home, and I work on the crossword or sudoku (usually I'm done this already because I've become a sudoku master while commuting to work) or read the newspaper. So tasty!

Can Sculpture

I coordinated and executed the building of this can sculpture at work during the airport's big charity blitz for the same food bank that we volunteered at earlier in the year. I drew up the design (the airport logo), selected the cans (which were actually not all correct when delivered, darn it grocery store!) and helped coordinate volunteers to build it on the day of the event. That's (almost) 800 cans you're looking at!

So, that's been most of my adventures lately! I've got less than two weeks left out here, so it will mostly just be packing and wrapping things up. My last Sparks meeting is this week and I should probably get around to my work report at some point.