Art History for Real People

If you’re super intimidated by paintings, or if you *gasp* find art galleries boring, then I’m out to change your mind. My friend Payal is an amazing artist, and a makeup blogger on Fifty Foot Lashes. We’re conspiring together to write about art in an normal way- so for me on here I talk more about the history of the painting, why it’s important, why I like it, the museum it’s in, the city it’s in… stuff like that. Payal will be doing a makeup look inspired by the painting and talking about art in a way more intelligent way than I ever could. Some paintings will inspire a DIY on my crafts and sewing blog bows and buttons. DIY is expensive, my resources are limited.

Why are we doing this?

Simple. We love art. So much. Nothing kills an art lover more than people who say they think art is boring, or that they don’t understand it. And you know what? It’s not their fault. Art education is a bit of a joke the world over. It’s not some hoity toity crap where you need to wear a monocle and top hat- though monocles and top hats do sound fun. We have no format ideas, we’re just going to kind of do it until we hit a swing that works. So, with that spirit let’s talk about art.

This is a painting called Charles IV of Spain and his family, painted by Francisco Goya.

It’s displayed at the Prado in Madrid.

So what are we looking at?

First off, the dimensions of the canvas are three by four metres. This thing is huge. Imagine, if you will, walking down the aisles of the Prado then just BAM. Holy fejula! So obviously this is something super important because well, who puts that much effort into something that’s not. *This was before bronies.

Well, when you look at the plaque you see it’s Charles IV and his family. Spoiler: On the left there’s a sneaky self portrait of Goya lurking in the shadows.

He was the king of Spain in the 1780’s. There’s a lot to know about him. Fun fact, he cared more about hunting and left politics to his prime minister and his wife. I recommend the biography.com link for non-academic purposes. He loved Goya.

But let’s get back to the Prado.

Most museums publish a guide, and if you’re into art I’d definitely recommend the Prado guide. It’s incredibly well written and  the pictures are beautiful. I read through the things for the rest of my trip. It’s so good.

But that’s not what we’re here for today. Today we’re just going to talk about how to look at art. More specifically, how I look at art. I did my field school in art history, and I take any art history or museum studies class I can now. Keep in mind, I’m probably not the most technical person in any of these aspects; I just really, really love art and want to share it.

Sandy’s Steps to Sort of Maybe Understanding Art More Than You Did Before But Definitely Enjoying it a Hella Ton

  1. Read the plate at the museum or gallery. See all that information? It tells you the artist, the approximate year(s) it was painted, and what it was painted with. In this case, it’s 1800 and oil on canvas. This is good information for many reasons.
  2. Consider the material. I have a thing with materials. I like to know exactly what something was made with. It’s also a great way to make yourself sound like you know more than you actually do because you know materials. Also, it’s fun to see how a medium plays on different surfaces. Oil on canvas looks very, very different than oil on wood. Sometimes things impress you. For example, any time anything is pastel or watercolour I get super impressed by the artist because I think of elementary school and playing with both of them and just full on sucking. Sometimes materials get weird.
  3. Consider the time in history. So here we have 1800. This gives some context. Look at how they’re dressed. How they stand. Even the body types of the figures. Having a guide or really nerdy friend with you usually helps with this a lot.
  4. Consider the subject matter. This was commissioned as a royal portrait, so we’re looking at the king and his family. This isn’t always that obvious.
  5. Ask a ton of questions to yourself. Or out loud. Depends how comfortable you are being the crazy person in public. This is literally 80% of looking at what might be the most subjective subject in the world.

What do I mean by ask questions? I find that the two most important ones are….

What do I like about this painting?

I love the dresses. Damn, there’s something about the way they dressed back then. Would I have been able to afford to dress like that? Probably not. Definitely not. Look at the shoes on the guys, too. Guys don’t dress that flashy anymore. I love the navy and the gold together, it adds a ton of richness. I love how the gold and crystals really look shimmery and life like.

What don’t I understand?

I don’t get why they look like they all have super old people faces. Even the kids look slightly middle aged. I also don’t get why the one girl is looking away. Who is she?

Wait, What?! A SIXTH STEP?!

6.Write down the painting and google it later. Most museums have websites with tons and tons of info. I also find that the masterpiece cards blog is amazing for giving information without shoving it down your throat. Find the answers to things you don’t understand.

What did you like about this painting? What didn’t you understand? Let’s talk about it.

And make sure to check out Payal’s much better analysis and the makeup that she’d better be popping on my face soon at Fifty Foot Lashes.

Art History for Real People

Quick Little Request…

Hi All,

So the other night I went to pub quiz, had a few beers to celebrate not coming in dead last. On my way home I fell on some ice right on to my bad hip. I didn’t notice that my wallet fell out of my purse from the impact.

I spent all of yesterday having people tell me that it was as good as gone, that no one would return it, basically people suck.

I didn’t care about any of the cards, the main thing was I had a ring I bought in salzburg in it, and a ring my mom bought when she was 18 in Hawaii. I took them off to eat and put them in wallet to keep them safe.. I almost lost faith in humanity and was starting to accept I’d never see them again while still doing everything I could think of. I was seriously going to wake up at like 4 am tomorrow and sit on the corner just asking people who walked by if they had seen a wallet wednesday morning. I had posted a facebook status that one of my friends had seen and apparently one of her friends had posted something looking for someone who knew me so they could get it back.

I literally picked it up from her parents place on my lunch break at work.

Not only did it have my rings, but it had all the cash, it even had the damn scratch card I bought on the way to the pub.

Now, I’m a little bit creepy curious, so I decided to check up on her facebook. I saw she had started a go fund me because her parents cafe has been flooded by the trump tower construction (ugh.) and obviously someone so amazing has some badass parents. I’m going to donate as soon as they send me my new credit card. If you can, even like, a dollar would be amazing. God knows this girl deserves it.

https://www.gofundme.com/help-raise-money-for-damages

Also, the cafe got some really badass reviews, so when it reopens I’m so going.

I’m seriously in shock and like joy and elation over how amazing people are. So, donate and share it because this girl 100% deserves it.

See you in the new year x

Quick Little Request…

2016: My Year in Review

This year. Many argue the world went to hell quicker than a basket of chinchillas falling off a wagon into a bay of unicorns. The good thing is it’s inspired a lot of people to post things like, “despite the world pretty much imploding, there’s a lot of good that happened to me!” So, my year?

Well, first off, I finally came to terms with my pain and took steps to help it. I got K Laser therapy on my feet and calves, and I’m doing really, really well with it. It’s basically a cold laser that goes “hey cells! You know how to cure yourselves! Let’s do that!” I was super scared when I first got it because I thought it would be like laser hair removal which doesn’t hurt hurt, but it’s not comfortable. The K Laser is literally the most painless thing. It was great, and I recommend a chat with your doctor about it if you’re in chronic pain. Seriously, there were days I couldn’t even stand without being in excruciating pain. I still get issues, but I think that’s due to the fact that I have to rebuild my fitness and strength.

This year I also went on an awesome trip. It was my first short trip to Europe, and my first time there with friends. I stayed in my first (and last) Airbnb. It was a great trip that recharged me just enough to want to go on an even longer trip.

I also had a stay at a wonderful hostel in Shuswap and rediscovered my nature side. I’m already planning on going back for the Canada Day long weekend.

I got really into cooking. I’m loving cheese making and homemade bacon is amazing! I’m also really happy that you guys seem to like those posts!

This will also always be the year I got engaged. Wedding planning is going well, but there’s still so much to do.

Also this year I had a super big milestone in that I published two listicles on Matador Network. One on growing up in Vancouver  and one on learning to drink in Vancouver.  I’ve loved Matador for years so being able to type my name into the search bar and having stuff come up is actually amazing. I feel all proper and writer-y. I also did a guest post on my friend Tom’s blog, Something Pagan. I’ve really loved putting writing into a more collaborative space. It’s been great seeing the support that came when I put myself out there.

So, what’s happening for 2017?

I’m obviously getting married, so that will take up a big chunk of time. We’re at the point where we have a church, a reception venue complete with a menu, and my dress so that’s a pretty good start. I’m also looking forward to the honeymoon- we’re going to Australia so we can see Adam’s family before we move to Ireland. A big move and a big trip will also both take a ton of planning.

I’m also continuing with my degree and am adding a big museum studies tilt to it. I’ve always loved going to museums- in Paris I’ve been the first in and last out of the Louvre more than one- and so I’m thinking that it might be something I should look into.

I have some collaborations in the works with other bloggers, and I hope to write more. I also hope to be a bit more personal- I feel like I’ve lost a lot of that lately.

I’m finishing off the year by making a batch of my amazing eggnog so it’s ready for Christmas Eve. Between that and my signature cocktail of Crabbie’s I think I’m ready to bid this year adieu.

 

2016: My Year in Review

It’s Been How Long Since We’ve Talked About Books?!

FAR too long. I haven’t been keeping up with my round the world challenge as I’ve had some great books fall into my lap that I couldn’t resist. Also, the fun in reading is the spontaneity, so I want to keep that!

As per usual I’m not going to get tooooo into plot points here because you can definitely read better plot summaries written by other people. Know your strengths guys, know your strengths.

Let’s start this!

Please Look After Mom – Kyun Sook Shin

I asked my friend for the best book in South Korea and he recommended this to me. It’s about a mother who gets lost at a train station, and the book switches between narrators. There are parts of it that are written in second person, which I’m not generally a fan of, but… I can’t even talk about this book without getting a bit misty in the eyes. Guys, this book is SO good. It will make you cry and also really, really want to travel to Korea. But read it. Ah! SO GOOD! Just be prepared with tissues.

Smart Women- Judy Blume

My Mom picked this up at the library and I just can’t resist anything by Judy Blume. This book is about Margot and her getting over her divorce and bonding with her kids. Basically, if you’re like me and need some Judy read this.

Undermajordomo Minor- Patrick DeWitt

This book is about a guy named Lucy who’s a bit of a wimp. He travels to another town for a job and discovers that this town is weird as fuck. It’s set up in it’s own universe, it’s own time, but feels like medeival-y but not. This is one of those that I just could not put down, and can’t describe. I just needed to know what was going on; I needed to know why. This just… it’s good.

Cooked – Michael Pollan

I bought this because of the Netflix series. Now that that’s out there, have you seen the Netflix series?! I loved this book. It manages to be very detailed and precise but not preachy or text-booky. It feels like you’re just genuinely on a quest with someone who wants their questions answered. Also, the cheese nun is my new hero.

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Lily and the Octopus – Steven Rowley

Wow, okay, so this one… it got to me a bit. Like a lot. Full disclosure I got it free on goodreads and wow am I happy I did. This book… they don’t even really describe the plot anywhere because “the fun is in the read”. Don’t get me wrong, the read is fun, and I want to talk about this book but don’t know how to without spoiling it. I lost my dog last November and this book… it made me cry and miss him but also made me feel okay at the end? I read it on my weekend in Shuswap. I needed some alone time so when my friends went to town I stayed at the hostel to read. They came back to me sobbing but like… damn this book is good.

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

I had seen this book flying around with it’s swirly print and wondered what all the fuss was about it. It wasn’t until my Mom got it as a gift from a student (she’s never got a book as a present before. We were both confused, but happily intrigued) and said I should read it. She told me it was a light read. In one way, it was. But… okay, I can’t give away the end, but I’m mad at this book. Like actual anger is radiating from me thinking about this, which is really good. Books that make you feel strong emotions are the best.

Tell me what you’re reading since I need more books to devour!

 

 

It’s Been How Long Since We’ve Talked About Books?!

Drunk in Costume

There’s a sociological concept called ethnocentrism. My prof introduced this by telling the class a story about a community in Central America. They’ve basically made a neighbourhood in a dump. There’s apparently even a school. Since there aren’t many options after graduation the people who are born there tend to die there. Every single nose in that classroom did the thing where one nostril just gets twitchy and rides up slowly. The prof noted that we were all judging based on our standard of culture. It can be as real as landfill living, or as random as Italians turning off the wifi when it rains. It’s unavoidable, we all do it. Part of the amazing thing about travelling is seeing what’s universal and what’s not. If you’re aware enough of your ethnocentrism to realize it and tuck it away, you can end up with some pretty cool habits. Also, if you’ve been doing it all along you can now tie it to actual sociology and use it as a stepping point to learn more about sociology because it’s awesome and not enough people study it.

Basically, that was a really, really heavy intro for a not heavy topic. What I’m going to be blithering on about for a while is my biggest point of ethnocentrism. The one thing I refuse to check because honestly, while Thanksgiving is the best North American holiday (the real one in October. November is too close to Christmas, like do you even finish your leftovers before you make another turkey?!) , the most fun has got to be Halloween.  While I do admire that other cultures may have more kind of random dress up parties, these seem few and far between after one leaves college. Halloween is a beautiful time when everyone’s just like, “yeah, let’s wear a costume and have some drinks and eat some sugar.” It’s fantastic really.

If you do end up celebrating Halloween, or any fancy dress occasion on the road because well, hostels try, you end up in a weird spot. You’ve packed light. What do you wear for a costume? I

What do you even want to be? I have some basic guidelines:

  1. Don’t be an asshole. Seriously. Don’t. Don’t make jokes about other people’s culture. Do not, for the love of all that is good and holy, attempt to change your skin tone. If you even have the thought of, “hey, is this going to make me an asshole?” Then abandon the idea because it probably will.

Actually, that’s it. That’s one basic guideline. I feel it’s sadly not as observed as it should be.

Most of the ones I’m showing here don’t involve much- I’m trying to keep them without really any sewing. If you want to see my costumes that I’m making hardcore for this year, my friend and I have a sewing blog. I’m posting a few tutorials within the next week. They’re simple this year, and would be achievable while on the road… but I’ve learnt that while everyone carries a sewing kit, very few know how to use one.

Bank Robber

I’m actually doing this one this year, so it mayyyyy be a bit of a cop out, but it’s a good costume. Basically all you need is a striped shirt, and a pair of black pants or leggings. A black tuque and black gloves would be great to complete it, but not 100% necessary. If you have an old black t shirt, you could even make the mask.

Literally any animal

Claire’s is pretty multinational, but look for anywhere with jewelry for kids. You can usually find some sort of ear headband. Wear whatever colour top matches with jeans. It’s a bit of a cop out, but always works in a pinch.

Roman God or Goddess

White sheets and safety pins work wonders.

A Kid

Wear PJ’s and put some eyeliner or washable marker freckles on your face. If your hair is long enough pop in some pigtails, if not give yourself some bedhead.

 

Sports Fan

I have a thing where I try to buy a rugby jersey for every country I go to. If you have, or are carrying some stuff from your hometown, deck it all at once. The thing that makes it costume-y? Pop some face paint on. Having “GO SPORTS TEAM!” on your cheek makes it.

Tacky Tourist

Just being yourself tbh. Wear that camera on its neck strap and some socks with those sandals.

Lumberjack

Flannels are everything and you should pack tons of them. Pop one on with some jeans, a tuque if you have it, and sing some Monty Python for full effect.

Laundry Bag

This one take a bit of effort. Wear a comfy outfit, and safety pin a bunch of your other clothes to you.

Beach Goer

Wear a swimsuit. If you want to put some effort in, 60’s hair and makeup always looks cute with this.

A Mirror

This is the costume that proves you can never be too lazy to dress up. I also had to think of all the other costumes above so I could write about this, which is why some of them are super weak. (actually, upon my pre post reread, I’ve determined they’re all pretty good.) Procure a cosmetic mirror on a handle with a hole (easily found in any grocery store) and some string (dental floss works well.). Thread a length of string that fits well over your head through the mirror hole, and get yourself a necklace. When someone asks what you are, say what they are. Note that a LOT of the time people won’t get this right away, but will come back and tell you you’re a genius.

Any dress up party is only as fun as the enthusiasm you put into it. You know who isn’t having a good time?

Sulky McSulkertan in the corner who is trying to be cool.

I make sure to pack a few things I could incorporate into a costume just in case, and I’ve never regretted it. Look at all the things you can do with basic suitcase stuff. Imagine how creative you’d get if you raided the school supply section of the supermarket. Put the effort in, feel the passion, have the fun.

What are you being for halloween?

Besides a person having a shot for me 😉

Drunk in Costume

Fall!

So fall happened in Vancouver. It went from 26 degrees to 14 pretty much overnight. I’m starting my cicerone (essentially a beer sommelier) journey, so I’m studying like a fiend. Also, I’ll be blogging more on my DIY blog as I’m going to be non stop crafting in service of planning my wedding (!!!). Adam finally proposed and it changes some things. The most applicable being….

The amazing around Canada trip has to be postponed.

We want to get married in Vancouver and many of his friends and family want a big trip, so for the most part it all works out. The thing is, not everyone can make it, so we want to have a reception in Melbourne, where Adam’s from. So, instead of planning just a trip I’m we’re planning a honeymoon, which by the way, is super weird. The tentative plan is to fly in to Brisbane (Air Canada just opened up a direct route) and then drive down the coast to Melbourne where we’ll spend some time with the family, and do the Great Ocean Road. After that we’ll hop on another flight and head to Ireland where we’ll spend an indefinite amount of time.

So, that’s what’s been going on. It’s going to be a very interesting year, but I’m happy at the end of it I get to spend the rest of my life with someone who thinks that packing up and moving to Ireland is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

Fall!

Say Yes To Cheese

One of my favourite parts of travel is eating.

Actually, it’s probably my favourite. Specifically, eating cheese. This is Adam’s favourite too, and is one of the many reasons we work well as a couple. Seriously though, cheese and charcuterie are our things. If we’re eating at a restaurant that has a charcuterie platter, we automatically get it. If we don’t know what to cook, we make a charcuterie and cheese platter. So, when shopping for his birthday present I got him none other than:

A home cured bacon kit! 

We started it yesterday, and I haven’t tried the bacon yet, but it looks amazing. It’s pretty easy so far- you put the included Prague salt in with a pound of salt and a pound of sugar and then dredge 0.9kg of pork belly in it. It sits for a week, then you infuse it with liquid smoke. The amount of the base cure- the salt/sugar mix- that you get out of this is actually hella impressive. We have enough to make many a slab of bacon. We made this one plain without additives and we’re using the liquid smoke, then we’re going to make another additive free one in the smoker. After we compare that, we’ll get fancy with recipes from one of the books I got him…..

 

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Charcuterie!  Literally just a book with recipes for meat, salt, and accompaniments to them. We were looking through it and are super excited. On the book front I also got him…

 

Artisan Cheesemaking at Home. I’m not going to lie, I really don’t think we’ll be able to pull of the level of beauty in this book. I mean, there’s burrata recipes in here. BURRATA! If you’ve never had it, it’s literally a ball of mozzarella hiding a delicious, creamy centre. Also, it might be the most delicious thing in the world. The biggest problem is that one ball costs $16 at Whole Foods. I first encountered it while working in Taranto. My host family took me to this restaurant that was literally just all about mozarella. There were knots of it, balls of it… anything imaginable. But the star was burrata. I’ll keep you updated on my experiments. Speaking of experiments….

I also got him a 4 Cheese Making Kit!  Honestly, I think if you don’t know what to get someone, get them a cheesemaking kit. I’m going to start with a quarter review of this- it makes ricotta, paneer, chevre, and cream cheese. Since it was Adam’s birthday, we had a bunch of people over. We created a simple menu. We wanted to keep it delicious, easy and cheap since we had 9 people. Homemade pasta with a simple marinara, garlic bread, and homemade ricotta. We started with the sauce. I didn’t want a super fancy sauce because I wanted to really focus on the ricotta as the special area. So, I put in a stick of butter, 2 cans of tomatoes, and a quartered onion. I used one can of crushed tomato and one can of diced. There’s really no reason for it either, it’s just what I had. All the big bits broke down pretty well, so I think it’d even work with whole tomatoes.

This is it bubbling away after a few hours. It’s seriously as easy as bringing it to a boil and letting it simmer. I added a little salt and pepper at the end.

Then we started on the ricotta. Apparently it’s SO easy to make. You literally just heat the milk….

Then add lemon and strain. Why do we buy this stuff?! The kit came with cheesecloth, some cultures that I guess are for the cream cheese and chevre, and a cheese mold.

Yeah. We made this cheese. Like made it. Making cheese is seriously magical. When the curd separates it just looks… bewildering. I can’t wait to make the rest of this kit. So far, it’s a 10/10 would definitely buy again.

One of the best parts of cheesemaking? Whey. I read somewhere you could cook pasta in it, and man was this stuff amazing. It added a whole layer of flavour too it.

I forgot to take a picture of my first plate which would have been better and less pasta on a dirty plate, but man… I totally forgot because I got so into how amazing this pasta was.

Now fingers crossed that next time I’ll be making homemade carbonara with some amazing home-cured bacon….

Say Yes To Cheese

Where Do I Sleep That Night?!

I was bored and ended up on Buzzfeed, as you do, where I came across this article https://www.buzzfeed.com/scaachikoul/i-went-to-a-summer-camp-for-adults-and-it-got-weird?utm_term=.dcWp5O0QQ#.klZVwWKoo

For those who don’t want to read it, and honestly, it’s super tedious so I don’t suggest you do, the author is doing what started out as a review but turned into a weak expose on an adult summer camp. She ends up hearing of a supposed sexual assault on a drunk girl, then spends the rest of the time gossiping about it with other people while judging those who came there to party hardcore in the woods.

This article made me think a lot about hostels and bus tours. When I was eighteen I did my first trip alone and chose to go on a Topdeck tour.  It seemed like a good idea to have someone kind of holding my hand, but still offered me great independence. I loved the crap out of that trip. I met people I still talk to, I had a great time. It was a trip that fit well with my personality- lots of time around people, however the option to spend time alone in the day. I did my due diligence. I talked to multiple travel agents; I read every online review. I went into it with the expectation that I would party a lot; that cliques might form. This is what I feel the author of the buzzfeed piece didn’t do. Why would they send this author who is so clearly against the target market of the camp into it for an honest review? Why didn’t she read the multitude of yelp reviews (all of which are 5 stars, by the way) and see that every. single. one. mentions hardcore parties? What did she expect at a camp that advertises a late night open bar? Now, I’m not speaking to the sexual assault. I don’t know the girl, I don’t know what happened to her. She’s not speaking out and the author made no attempt to get her side of the story.

On my last long European trip there was a big group of Australians who did their very best to prove the Australian abroad stereotype right. There was also an Australian girl who said things like, “I’m not like other Australians. I like to be quiet and read a book. I’m not like those country people and it’s such a shame that’s what people think of us.” Honestly, as loud and annoying as the partiers were sometimes, quiet judgey girl was so, SO much worse. People like that are exhausting. Nothing is good enough for them, and I find I tend to get into the habit of trying to impress them which kills me because literally no one will ever impress that girl. Nothing will ever be good enough. I have a theory that people like her tend to read hostel reviews, see it’s a party hostel and stay there intentionally so that they get to feel superior about themselves.

So, in the interest of learning something I’m going to take you through my hostel review research comment reading process. I’m thinking about taking a trip to Dublin as I haven’t been there before. I don’t know the greatest place ever to stay there, so I’m going to plug things in on hostelbookers and take one at random.

First off, the most important thing to do before reading reviews is to decide four things to focus on. I present my list, in no particular order:

  1. A common room. This is important. I like to have at least one big night in every city so being able to meet people to go on said night with is key for life and predrinks.
  2. Great location or super close to transit. Obviously.
  3. A clean kitchen if they have one.
  4. Good beds and showers.

Okay, Kinlay House Dublin, let’s see what you’ve got. All reviews are taken straight from their review page exactly as written.

Liked: Gret location. Clean rooms, bathrooms cleaned often and to a high standard. Late check out for £5. Free breakfast was a god send, lots of cereals toast and toppings to choose from and unlimited tea and coffee. Comfy beds and lots of room and storage in the rooms. Overall great hostal and would definately stay here again.

Disliked: I stayed here with 12 others for my birthday and we had a room all to ourselves. We were planning on having a little drink before going out however no alcohol is allowed in the room and this wasnt stated when booking. It didnt really bother us to not drink before hand however i do think this should be stated. ALso check in isnt 12noon it is infact 2pm. This is also stated incorrectly online.

Customer would recommend this property

What I can surmise from this: Well, the positives are great. Honestly, I can’t remember the last hostel I stayed out where alcohol was allowed in rooms. I also can’t remember the last time I followed that. All in all, that’s not a big deal. Kudos to these guys for not rule breaking.

Liked: Good facilities, breakfast provided and good common room. Beds very spacious.

Disliked: Overcrowded at times but manageable. Check out time too early. Bed frames low quality, top bunk and bottom bunk can feel every movement.

Customer would recommend this property

What I can surmise from this: Breakfast seems to be pretty amaze to be mentioned in two reviews. As for the quality of bunks, I go into hostels expecting the worst of Ikea, so the spaciousness is nice to know.

Liked: Breakfast, fast internet, lots of charging outlets

Disliked: Lots of things hostels normally provide are charged here, e.g. Luggage storage, printing. Also this is not a youth only hostel

Customer would recommend this property

INTERNET! I completely forgot about that on my list. I’ve stayed in enough hostels with crap internet. I’m not sure why he mentions it’s not a youth only hostel. Most aren’t. I’m just confused as to why that’s a negative? Am I too old for hostels? This kid clearly has no idea whats up. Also, what hostel doesn’t charge you to print? Where are these magic unicorn hostels where everything is for free and there’s no one under the age of 25?

Liked: The hostel is very central, right by the Temple Bar area. Perfect for going out to explore Dublin and for nights out. The 24-bed dorm room was clean and spacious and overall it was great value for money.

Disliked: There weren’t many plugs in the rooms, and the plugs weren’t located conveniently by the beds. The washrooms and showers were not clearly indicated to everyone whether it was for males or females so a lot of people would accidentally use the wrong ones. The common area/lounge/kitchen is not open 24 hours. One specific staff member was rude to my friend and I, which makes me think customer service and communication could still be improved.

Customer would recommend this property

Great location! Again, what hostel has enough plugs? Complaints about gendering of bathrooms…? Who gives a crap?

Liked: Pretty good location -airport bus stop out front. rooms & bathrooms clean. Ok price

Disliked: Shower not warm enough but seemed ok after I told them. All toilet seats loose so slid side to side. No lift. No alcohol policy in common room & rooms (why not have a bar?)

Customer would recommend this property

Good on the hostel for addressing the shower issue but holy crap, the common room was dry?! hmmm….. That kind of goes against one of my four.

Liked: The old interior was lovely.lovley looking place.

Disliked: needs more seats in the common area.to many couches where one person would take up three seats.

Customer would recommend this property

Okay, so I was really waiting for one comment of this caliber. This person was mad someone would take up three seats and blamed the hostel for it. That is a person. A person did that. Be mad at people.

So, all in all, would I stay here? No. Not because it’s not a crazy party hostel, if I was staying here for 3 nights I wouldn’t drink on 2 of them. I just want the option. I know who I am, I know what I like. However, if everything was booked I ended up at this hostel I’d probably have a great time because I try to make the most of things… also it’s in Temple Bar so I’d definitely go to a pub… but it wouldn’t be my first choice.

Just as a comparative exercise I’m also going to take a look at two hostels in the same city- two I’ve stayed at.

We’ll start with the Hostel Leidseplein. I stayed here on my last big Europe trip. I booked last minute, so I didn’t do much research on it.  I’ll give my review after the others, and I’ll try to keep my comments on comments pretty neutral.

Liked: The staff were nice, the hostel entry was secure. The hostel had wifi and a computer that were both free to use. Luggage storage was easy, useful and free to use before checkout.

Disliked: The room as small and cramped. The bathroom was smelly, dirty and there was one between 12 in the dorm. The beds were small with no ladders for the bunks, making things difficult, Plug sockets were sparse in the room making charging a problem. Breakfast was bread (no toaster), tea, coffee, and some spreads. We were also charged almost an extra 10 euros than agreed. Location central but located on a busy street with tourist traps. Unsuitable for anyone with mobility issues (very steep stairs, no list).

Customer would recommend this property

Free wifi and computers are great. When my tablet broke, they were a godsend. I’m just putting this out there, I am not a fan of the ensuite bathroom. I think open floor plan bathrooms are so much better. That way you don’t end up hating the one guy who spends forever in the shower then eons doing his hair. The breakfast sounds pretty crap, but free, so. The money thing is worrying. The thing about tourist traps makes me wonder. Honestly, a lot of downtown any city in the world is tourist traps. Leidsplein is the main downtown area so… yeah. Also, Amsterdam is known for it’s super tall, very old houses. Stairs tend to rule in Europe.

Liked: location is excellent, and the rooms and bathroom are ok for the price.

Disliked: There´s no locker or anywhere to leave your things, and actually someone stole the cellphones of 2 guys in the room next door. Breakfast is extremely basic and they charge you for leaving your luggage in receptions after check out, even if it is for a couple of hours.

Customer would recommend this property

This contradicts the other review about free luggage storage. I’m going to put an aside about the theft thing even though I said I’d be neutral. Every day I left my dayplanner and passport with the front desk for free. It was super secure.

So basically, from the comments would you stay in this hostel?

Like I said, I booked pretty last minute, and I think my review will be biased towards just being happy to find a hostel. The jetlag hit me while I was staying here, and after spending one day in Leiden with a friend and her family (go to Leiden by the way. It’s 40 minutes from Amsterdam and is the prettiest, most like fairytale Dutch city I’ve ever seen), I spent the next day literally sleeping in the hostel. Breakfast, yeah, it kind of sucked, but I’ve had so, so much worse. I tend not to think of hostel breakfast as a thing- it usually is just bread and spreads. If you go in with low expectations, you get the fun chance to be surprised when it rocks. The addition of a toaster would’ve been nice though. When I was there people were marvelling over the fact that they had both vegemite and marmite. I found it secure enough- the fact that I could put my essential stuff behind the desk was great. The wifi, as I remember on my catch up to life day, was absolutely badass. The bathroom was pretty decent- they cleaned it twice a day. The noise… I mean, you’re in the same square as the Bulldog cafe and all the clubs. Considering that, it was pretty quiet for what I expected. I also loved that my bed was against the window so I got to watch and judge people. This hostel is great for when you want something central, clean and quiet. I’d definitely stay there again.

Now, another hostel I stayed at in Amsterdam. I ended up at The Hans Brinker on the aforementioned Topdeck tour when I was 18. It came with the tour company, and I didn’t choose it. Keep in mind at that time their marketing was “the worst hotel in the world” now they’ve calmed it down but it still focuses very much on the fact that it’s a budget place. Let’s look at the reviews.

Liked: Great bar, toilets in each dorm. HAPPY HOUR!!

Disliked: No ladder for bunk beds.

Customer would recommend this property

We know I like a good happy hour! The ensuite bathroom thing again. With the no ladder thing, this is actually weirdly common. Why hostels? Why?

Liked: Location was excellent, close to the nightlife and not a far walk to other areas.

Disliked: Some areas need improving.

I’d like to know what some areas are, walking distance is great.

Liked: It had a really great atmosphere, and is definitely one to consider if you are after a fun stay!

Disliked: The room was fairly basic, although it was sold to us this way so we expected it.

Customer would recommend this property

Honestly, I picked Amsterdam as the subject for this experiment because I expected some truly heinous reviews I could debunk, but the internet’s letting me down.

Liked: very good situation in the center of Amsterdam breakfast good bedroom clean and spacious

Disliked: very bad smell in the toilet and the shower

Customer would recommend this property

Clean is important. Sometimes you have to wonder if the smell is like a lack of air freshener thing, or like, a super hungover person was in there for 2 hours thing.

Liked: location..breakfast hall…..staff….

Disliked: appalling noise on first night…though staff sorted some of it out at 5 am for me..people fighting in next room..but other noise was appalling all night….the other three nights were quiet

Customer would recommend this property

Again, this is the fault of people. If one out of four nights was loud I’d count that as a hostel win.

Liked: Really most of things about this place is great: it’s superclose to the center (aprox 5 tram stops) near to Melkweg and Sugar Factory, clean, nice party atmosphere, linen and towels are included as well as breakfast (starts from 7:30). Reception was nice at every time of the day, gave directions, borrowed me a charger for my phone, I could use the safe deposit to leave my camera for the time of party. I loved happy hours at the hostel’s bar (prices are really low). I would say – the best choice in the city 😉

Disliked: Well it’s not a big deal as you can leave important stuff at the reception – lockers in rooms are pretty old and locking anything valuable inside is pointless as they work SO SO 😀

Customer would recommend this property

They lend phone chargers?! A lot of lockers at hostels suck. It’s nice you can leave stuff at reception.

Liked: I liked that the bar had cheap drinks and that the people staying in the hostel were lots of fun! I also liked that there was a club in the building and free breakfast.

Disliked: I disliked having to wait to enter and exit the building and the club was very loud in the rooms until very late at night (4 am) even when only a couple people were in there. I also didn’t like how basic the hostel was for the cost. Everything was quite old and not very comfortable. It is also quite far away from most of where things are going on. 15-20 minute walk to the bulldog and the red light district. The lockers in the room were also quite small.

Customer would recommend this property

You can’t complain about the clubs noise after saying you like having a club in the building. It’s one of the world’s trade offs.

So, as for my opinion of the Hans Brinker? I had SO MUCH FUN THERE. If you’re down to party all night, then this definitely will be your jam. Nothing was the best, but everything was clean, and the common areas were amazing. The most important thing? They never oversold anything. You knew exactly what you were getting. I think that if this was any other place reviews would be crap as crap can be. It’s a smart move on their part. I find it interesting that they don’t accept stags or bachelorettes, and also that they don’t let people over the age of 35 in the dorms. I know a ton of people who would stay there and have the best time, but honestly, I wouldn’t stay here again. Part of that is the new branding looks wayyyyyyy to annoying hipster for my taste, and also the fact that there’s some pretty legit ageism in the dorms. I think there’s better places to stay that are closer to the city centre, but…. a piece of my heart is still there.

So, this post kind of got away from me, but basically my point? Make a list of things that are important to you. Know yourself. Don’t trust an atmosphere rating because that really could mean anything. I mean, I’d give atmosphere of both hostels in Amsterdam 100% but they were vastly different. Also, if you want the quiet nights but might want to try the party once or twice… I’ve seen many a quiet hostel have an occasional rowdy night, however I’ve never seen party hostel go silent.

Choose wisely.

Where Do I Sleep That Night?!

HI-Shuswap Lake: Why Did I Come Home?

I mean, you can tell from the title I had fun so this post is really just going to be me going on about how much fun I had.

With pictures!

So, the first weekend in August is BC day where we celebrate…. how arrogant we are about not being a frozen tundra like the rest of Canada? Something like that. The important thing is we get the Monday off. This tends to fall close to, or spot on to, my birthday, so I tend to have an easy time of convincing people to do what I want. And I wanted to camp. The problem is some of the pickier of my friends are just not outdoorsy kind of people. So, when I was procrastinating I found something. A hostel. On Shuswap lake. And I spent a year convincing people to go with me. Then Adam moved here, and I was like, “we’re going, care to join?” And surprisingly enough they did. We went up with a group of 7 people.

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The front is a blink and you’ll miss it type place- the sign is on the far left. It’s right on the Trans-Canada Highway. My parents knew it as “that building” and couldn’t believe there was anything there. I knew better though. After my rural hostel experience in Austria I believed in the travel magic to deliver unto me awesomeness.

The concept is that there’s some rooms in the house, you can tent where you find room, and most importantly, the dorms are old cabooses.

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There’s three cabooses, but I’m working with a blackberry camera here so I don’t have the greatest scope. One was booked out by a family, one was female only, and one was coed. I booked the three girls into the girls dorm just in case more guys came for the coed, and Adam was in there. The rooms weren’t the biggest dorms. I mean, they were cabooses! Each had 6 bunks, a bathroom, a chill out area, and a kitchen.

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The mattresses were some of the best I’ve had in hostels, and the pillows were beyond badass. The cabooses got cool in the night, which is a big plus for me, and I slept well for the first time in months. It’s been hot in Vancouver and I was just so, so happy to be in a real sleep environment where I could get blanket cozy.

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Just off the cabooses was a common area and a hut with another kitchen, bathroom, and shower stalls. I’m going to be real here- I didn’t shower the entire time I was there. Two of my friends did though and assured me the water pressure and heat were excellent. The kitchens were great too.

The real beauty was the water. You walked down this path, passing a sweat lodge,

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to get to the lake.

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That water. It was cold, but we still went in. I haven’t seen water that amazingly clean in a long time. The canoe on the dock? You can use it for free. You can row to a beaver dam. There’s just so much cool.

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Alternate dock activity? Drinking and eating chips.

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Or, like my friend and I, bonding like men. This involved manspreading, holding cans, and saying yup to each other. We bonded. Also note: I am wearing all the clothes I packed save for a driving t shirt, plus Adam’s hoodie. The weather report said it would be over 30 degrees every day. We had a lot of rain and thunderstorms on the last day we were there. I need to learn I don’t pack well after a couple of drinks.

But…

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I found something to do. Read all day, party all night!

When you book you get an email explaining things. Like….

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THE CAT! I love this cat. He would absolutely not let me take a picture, so I just took one of his face. Beautiful, cuddly cat.

AND

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DOG AND LLAMAS!

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Look at those majestic animals. You can feed them. Feed Llamas! The animals are great. It’s so naturey.

As for food, we did a huge Costco run and brought up cold cuts for lunches and hot dogs and s’mores for nights around the campfire. But what about breakfast? I’m assuming you asked because you, you are an involved reader. Pat yourself on the back.

Well, for like $5 a day the hostel does ALL YOU CAN EAT PANCAKES!

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These ones are blueberry peach. Now, we all know I can eat. I never got more than 3 pancakes in. It’s filling.

So, would I stay here again? HELLS YES. I already want to go back. We became good friends with the workawayer, (BECAUSE THEY ARE WORKAWAY HOSTS AND SUPPORT IT AND SO MANY GOOD VIBES!!!) and like, the owners of the hostel… it’s just like… indescribable how hospitable they are. Being there just felt like a magic wonderland of everyone being friends. Travel magic wonderland. If you go in with the expectation that it is a rural hostel, it’s a 10/10. Go here. Stay here.

And to book and for prices and such, and much better photos, click here.

As for photos, I’ll leave you with this one:

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It’s a llama. Judging me for leaving the awesome hostel and going back to real life.

 

 

 

 

HI-Shuswap Lake: Why Did I Come Home?

Travelling When Your Body Just Won’t

I have compartment syndrome.

It’s a super scary condition where your muscles don’t want to be contained in their muscle holder anymore.

The magical medical practitioners think it happened as a combination of stressing myself out way to much and overworking my already injured body. As a kid I wanted nothing more than to be a prima ballerina. This didn’t pan out as I have exactly 100% the opposite natural body you want for ballet. I have hips, I have a bum, and I hold weight in my stomach. It’s not exactly graceful. But I tried. I loved- still love- to dance. When I was 15 I went to my then family doctor and asked about this weird pop thing my hip was doing. He told me it was nothing and not to bother him with stupid problems. Yeah. I continued to throw myself into performing through dance, intensive theater camps, and started competing in musical theater the next year. My hip didn’t get better. It wasn’t until I was 22 during a rugby practice where a coach heard the noise. At that point I had been playing for a few years with a break to study abroad. My coach looked at me, informed me that wasn’t normal, and gave me the name of a sports specialist who I saw that week. Keep in mind I hadn’t really seen a doctor that wasn’t at the walk in clinic since I was 15. I went and he diagnosed it as snapping hip syndrome in 5 minutes. I walked out with a physio referral and started on that path. I probably wouldn’t have been in that sort of pain for that long if I had been better about resting and not going in to intensely. I was still playing rugby and… man, I love playing rugby. It’s definitely one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I love the crap out of that sport, I loved the people I was playing with. So play I did.

After my friend passed away I kind of gave up on life. I stopped playing rugby, stopped going to the gym… stopped giving a shit about anything really. I lost my biggest support system and that took its toll. I still have to deal with it every day. Losing someone you were that close to messes you up. My feet started to scream bloody murder whenever I stood up and after much fighting my Mom made me go back to the doctor to get orthotics. I went and mentioned that when I walked a lot my shins hurt SO bad and it hurt to even touch my calves. That’s when I got the compartment syndrome and instructions to keep very lightly active- which at that point I wasn’t, to not google compartment syndrome and, most importantly, to keep my stress levels down. I tend to be a very high stress person so I figured that was impossible, got my orthotics and hoped for the best.

Eventually it all caught up with me and I found myself having to miss a day of work to spend in the hospital because I was absolutely sure my foot was broken but had no idea why. The doctor at emergency checked me out and diagnosed me with plantar fascitis in both my feet. I had no idea what that meant and vowed to wear my orthotics more. He gave me celebrex to take and I was, once again, told to be lightly active, rest, and keep my stress levels down. During all this I managed to do two summers working at summer camps in Italy. I didn’t have the same problems there. Working with kids is pretty stressful so I still can’t figure out why I wasn’t in pain.

By this point my sports specialist had retired, which was terrible because he was the best doctor I’ve ever had. He was direct but caring, and you could tell his focus was completely on his patients. My mother had found a new doctor and my feet were getting much, much worse. I could only walk for about 5 minutes before the pain became unbearable. My mom kind of took matters into her own hands and made an appointment with the doctor and bribed me out of the house with a shopping trip. My anxiety level was high, but I like the new doctor. I’m still on her patient list. She referred me to a pain specialist in the same clinic who wanted to start K Laser. I had four treatments and things were better. I could walk for a half hour after the first one. After the fourth one I went to London and Paris and something weird happened. I walked. I walked for five hours one day and didn’t even feel a hint of a throb. I was enjoying walking. I reported this back to the doctor when I went for my fifth and final treatment. He thinks it might be a climate thing and that I should move to Europe.

Alas, the point of this trip isn’t to talk about all my pain and reinforce the fact that I really, REALLY should live in Europe. Bonjour France, je veux moi? It’s to talk about the how. Since I did spend two summers in Europe with chronic pain while working and whatnot I’ll give my list.

  1. Carry all medications with you in your carry on. Luckily they only lost my luggage on the way home, but damn were those some bad days until it got restored to me.
  2.  Make sure your medication is legal in the country you’re going to. I worry about this all the time even though celebrex is pretty standard.
  3. Talk to your doctor about transitioning through time zones. When I went to Australia I lost a whole day. I tend to keep my Ipod on Vancouver time no matter where I go so that I don’t accidentally wake people up when I call home. Sometimes you end up taking what you take at noon at home at eight pm away, which is reasonable. However, sometimes you end up needing to take it at 2. Figure out the time zones and talk to your doctor.
  4. For the love of all that is and ever was do not start your medication on the trip. Take it for at least two weeks before. Finding that celebrex worked for me was hard. I went through some other pain meds that had side effects that… wouldn’t be what you’d want in a shared bathroom situation. (This also plays into why I hate ensuite bathrooms at hostels, but that’s another post.). You need to know how your body reacts to what you’re taking. For instance, I had to learn the hard way that if you ignore the label and take celebrex without food you will not be a happy camper. I tend to prize celebrex because it worked for me but meds are different for everyone. I’ve even heard of some people having weird side effects from the generic. Do not take this grace period for granted. Seriously. Very, VERY important.
  5. Give yourself permission to feel like shit and hermit for a few days. I’ve been to Genoa many times but I’ve never seen any of it. There’s a hotel there  that’s not far from the train station and whenever I’m there it’s where I stay. It’s clean, not to expensive, the shower water pressure is awesome and their wifi is full on badass. I get an inordinate amount of food, take the longest shower ever and just relax. I’m an introvert with extrovert qualities and I need the recharge time. Even with a cold it’s not fair to do a shared room when you’re sick or injured. Let yourself have that down time and don’t let anybody make you feel bad for it. If you’ve booked a hostel and just need a day to hang around the building and the two blocks around it, that’s fine. Take care of your mental health and your physical health will follow. After my Genoa stays I go wherever I need to after feeling like a renewed person. If I have a bum around the hostel day, usually I feel ready to go and end up having amazing nights.

When you have chronic pain it sucks. Going places sucks. Getting out of bed most days is a marathon… but it’s possible to push through it and have some great experiences.

Just give yourself permission to feel it otherwise I’m sure your head will explode.

Travelling When Your Body Just Won’t