Friday, November 18, 2011

The answer is a Backpack, always a Backpack!!

Once you become a real traveller you really can’t go back to a suitcase lugging one week vacationer. Even though I wasn’t on a one week I was lugging a suitcase. I figured this would be better for bringing over my friend’s snowboarding clothes and the shit load of Canada mitts I bought for people. I thought I was doing well, that was until I met my opponent: The budget Airline!

The English Boy and I were off to Karlsure....Karlsrua...Karls what?!

Anyway we were off to Germany to visit my best friend from Canada.

My original plan was to wear my friend’s board coat and pants on the flight then only my clothes and toiletries would go in my backpack and we would be sorted. The boy decided he wanted to bring his fancy digital SLR camera which took up his whole carry on, so we needed my suitcase. We had to pay an extra 25 pounds each direction to bring on a case weighing no more than 15kg. I believe my suitcase alone with nothing in it weighs about 10kgs; there must be lead weights imbedded in that thing. There really wasn’t much in there but we were over the 15kg at the check in counter. So there I was sitting on the floor of the Stansted airport putting everything in my carrying on bag, leaving a few items in my actual suitcase so I wouldn’t be charged 20 pounds per kilo over.

Looking at the contents left in my suitcase I was beginning to realize my backpack would hold way more and weighs nothing. These cases are quite deceiving. Really people must just use them because they don’t want to look like a backpacker because they really aren’t practical at all.

I feared the gate was going to say something about the size and weight of my carry on because it contained the majority of the contents of my suitcase. Instead we were held up at security and there was a huge line of bags to be inspected and the boy’s camera bag was last in line. The grumpy security officer told us if we didn’t have liquids in our bag then we wouldn’t be in this situation. We didn’t have liquids though! It was just his camera equipment and an over cautious person on the scanner machine. I left without him as our plane was boarding and ran through the airport to the gate which was the further away. Luckily there was a huge line of people and when I arrived they were only boarding priority members which in his German accent sounded like piratey members and confused the hell out of me. The boy also made it onto the flight, although in retrospect I would have been a much happier person in Germany if we took off without him....but I won’t get to that yet.

Tracy's Guide to Exploring London: Part Two

Exploring London Day Two

I attended a travel writing seminar in Washington DC in 2006 and the editor of the magazine told us the best way to discover a city is to walk walk walk and walk. Your shoes should fall apart by the time you get back from all the walking. Most importantly get completely lost, throw your map away and get lost.

The getting lost part isn’t so much a problem for me with or without a map. I took myself into Central London from Ealing and left my camera behind. I had been to London several times before and had done the touristic things. So in the end how many photos of Big Ben can you really have? My friend who I am staying with wasn’t a fan of my leave your camera behind and just experience idea. He seems to think a lot of my ideas are silly but we won’t go there right now. What if I saw something unexpected that I wanted a photo of or something I really wanted to remember?

This all goes back to my to use a camera or to not use a camera debate. Do you remember a moment better with a camera because you have caught that moment frozen in time forever? Or are you missing out on the moment and only remember it all from that photo and not what actually happened?

To end the debate I decided my first day I just want to take it in absorb it and be in the moment. Let my mind and senses take over. The rest of the days my camera will be with me, like it always is my little green friend.

I wandered Oxford and Bond streets with their old buildings that house popular clothing shops like Top Shop, H & M, River Island and Urban Outfitters. I then walked through James Park where I sat on a bench and ate my lunch. A strange Chinese man was taking sneaky photos of people in the park. The fountain at Buckingham Palace was getting a facelift so it all didn’t look so nice. I carried on to the houses of Parliament, Big Ben, The London Eye and the Thames.

I came here to this city to visit old friends but as I wandered the streets of Central London I realized the city itself was an old friend. I felt comfortable navigating the tube and the streets. I gave tourist directions to the Tate Modern and because I have seen it all before I could just enjoy it. It’s nice coming back to a city in another country, going to your favourite shops, knowing where the cool little cafes are and quiet parks. I could have brought my camera but instead I will relay on my memory and if that fails me at least I know when I am old, senile and living in the past I will live this day all over again and enjoy the shops, the cafes and that strange Chinese man in the park with a smile.

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