ericaamber

Posts Tagged ‘travel’

VT

In Uncategorized on October 1, 2014 at 1:11 pm

So I must preface this post by saying that I wrote it 6 weeks ago before I joined the Carnival Pride and just found it today, so if the timeline seems a little bit off to you, don’t worry, it’s ok.

First of all, in case you didn’t know, VT stands for Vessel Transfer, which is something I’m currently in the middle of. After 2 lovely weeks working onboard the Carnival Dream, i signed off in Jamaica, and flew to Baltimore to meet the Carnival Pride!! I found myself with 2 full days in Baltimore and no clue what to do. So I took a poll of all the Americans I could find. The consensus was, when in Baltimore, you’ve got to see an Orioles game!! (Baseball, in case you weren’t sure). So last week from my favorite Thai food restaurant in Mexico, I secured myself a ticket to the upcoming game. I haven’t seen a live baseball game since my seventh grade class went to Seattle and saw a Mariners game. Coincidentally, the game I attended in Baltimore happened to be the Orioles vs the Mariners! And it all comes full circle!!

First of all, just getting to the game was exciting. Props to Baltimore for having a delightful light rail train that heads directly to the stadium. I boarded the train very close to my hotel and the closer we got to the stadium, more and more baseball fans joined me. All decked out in the bright orange of the Orioles, I was grateful to them being there as I no longer had to wonder if I would get off at the right stop. Follow the hoard of orange jerseys and you can’t go wrong!! Oriole Park at Camden Yard is a really cool place. Beautiful stadium with an overwhelming amount of places to buy food and souvenirs. The game itself was a really wonderful experience! The fans were enthusiastic and clearly passionate. I loved all the fun things they put up on the big screen and how much fun everyone was having. I got myself some ball park popcorn and cheered along like a local. That was definitely something I’m really glad I did!! The light rail ride home was an experience. Here had to have been at least 100 people too many on the train and I have no idea how we made it back alive. All in all it was quite the evening and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Baltimore.

Now off to the next adventure on board the Carnival Pride!!

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Gone Caving

In Uncategorized on September 25, 2014 at 1:54 pm

When I first made plans to go to Bulgaria, my friend asked me what I wanted to see while I was there. I wasn’t really sure, so I did some googling and talking to friends and one thing that really became clear was that I needed to go see some caves!

Bulgaria is well known for it’s caves and rock formations. All over the country there are caves to visit, bats to meet and creepy corners to explore. Being an outdoorsy type person I was very excited to explore them all!! So off we went. Bulgaria is an incredible country, sprawling landscapes, from mountains and vineyards to caves and the Black Sea, there is no shortage of beautiful things to see. One of the caves we visited is called the Yagodinska cave and it has an incredible history. Some of the caves you’re allowed to take pictures, this was not one of them however you can see it here on their website:

http://bulgariatravel.org/en/object/370/Yagodinska_peshtera

Bulgaria is somewhere I never really thought to visit until I knew that I had friends who would be there to show me around and I’m so very glad I went. It’s an incredible country full of lovely people and I can’t wait to go back one day!

I have so many more tales from Bulgaria to share, but this one will have to do for now! Check out the Yagodinska cave!! I’ve also included a few pictures from the ‘Wonderful Bridge’ caves. So beautiful!

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The World According to Margit

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2014 at 1:34 am

Called ‘Margaret Island’ by the English speaking word, Margit Island, in Budapest, Hungary, is a magical island of pure awesomeness.

From the ruins of a church and Dominican convent, in use from the 13th to 16th centuries where St. Margaret of Hungary lived, and children now frolic, to a 5.5km running track around the outside, Margit island is spectacular. The island even has its own hotel, zoo, and a recreation area that includes pools, mini golf, workout machines, water slides, trampolines and food service areas. Add to that an athletics complex with diving, soccer and who knows what other facilities.

On a night walk we even discovered a casino! I spent a good chunk of my time in Hungary exploring this amazing island and each time I found something new. On one visit, we marveled at the musical water fountain which features jets of water shooting in the air to the time of the music being played, while various spotlights change color.

My morning runs were ever so much more entertaining here, although they had to be early, as temperatures soared up to the high 30s, even hitting 40 one day (degrees celsius!!) The edges of the island are peppered with sun worshippers working on their tans while small passenger boats and river cruise ships motor slowly alongside.

At night, we stood on Margit Bridge, one of the 9 bridges along the Danube in Budapest. From there you can see the beautiful Chain Bridge and the lights of the Parliament as well as those from the castle district. My dear friend Andi is a wealth of knowledge about Hungarian history and I was eager to learn, asking to hear the stories that went along with each monument, building, or statue.

All in all, I think it’s safe to say that I fell in love with Budapest from my first visit to this wonderful island. I will most certainly be back!!

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You Might Be a Backpacker

In Uncategorized on June 20, 2014 at 11:41 pm

In all of our adventures both recently and in the past, some events stuck out in our minds as classic traveler situations. Mostly hilarious, sometimes annoying, backpacking is quite the way to travel. So we came up with a bit of a list….if any of these sounds like you, you might be a backpacker……

– you have been stuck at a truck stop in a foreign country with no idea when or if your transportation is coming

– you have chosen not to use the restroom rather than try to stuff both yourself and your backpack inside

– you have not known what time it is for an extended period of time, not because you don’t have a watch but because you actually have no idea what time zone you’re in

– you have had spirited debates with your travelling companions about what time it is and have to eventually ask google to find out what time zone you are in.

– you have accidentally knocked someone over on the subway/metro with your giant backpack. (Bonus points if you managed not to laugh…I laughed, it was horrible)

– you wake up in the morning and it takes you at least five minutes to remember what country you are in

– you have legitimately been unable to fit your entire traveling party plus backpacks into the elevator

– you have wet wipes in every single pocket of your backpack

– you have washed your clothes and worn them again the next day rather than unpack your perfect Tetris packing job

– you have lost a member of your traveling party in a train or bus and just have to hope they understood your frantic hand signals explaining where to meet you

– you have sat in a pile of your belongings and sadness trying to figure out how to get them all back in to a backpack that suddenly appears much smaller than it was

– you have taken up more than your fair share of public transportation seats rather than unbuckle yourself from your backpack

– you have thrown away clothing to make room for souvenirs/alcohol

– you have thrown away clothing because you’re just tired of carrying it

– you have two sets of tan lines, tank top lines and back pack lines

– you have set up camp in a coffee shop for more than two hours in between flights, shoes off, devices plugged in, using ALL the wifi, shamelessly nursing a coffee for as long as possible.

Do you have any to add???

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The Day of Three Cities

In Uncategorized on June 13, 2014 at 3:49 am

One of the most memorable days on this trip has to be a day that we shall call ‘The Day of Three Cities’. When we booked the trip, we knew we wanted to see Florence, but we also knew it was very expensive to stay there, so we decided to leave Venice early in the morning, catch the train to Florence, spend the day there, and take a night train to Caserta where we would meet my lovely friend Marco who I hadn’t seen since my first shipboard contract. Whilst I was booking the trains, I realized that we would have 2 hours in the Pisa Centrale train station before the long train ride to Caserta. I recalled from my time on the Legend that the leaning tower of Pisa was not too far from the train station, so we could see the tower at night then catch our train. I ran this by the girls, they agreed, trains were booked, we were happy. To be honest I might not have ran it by them and just booked it, but…well…details.

Our last morning in Venice arrived; we got up and onto the train and off we went. Arriving in Florence, we found a place to check our bags (platform 16!!!! A stoic Italian gentleman informed us) and away we went to explore. Florence is truly a beautiful city, and having the whole day to explore it, we wandered up and down streets, into gelato shops and across bridges. We wandered up to the highest vantage points, introduced ourselves to the statue of David, and spent some time in the church at the top. Finding a fabulous restaurant at the bottom of the hill, we had some lunch with wine and enjoyed each others company.

While up at the top wandering around, we noticed a plethora of photographers and videographers and wondered what it could be. It was only later on after we had connected to wifi that we discovered it was in fact the paparazzi getting ready for the wedding of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, festivities which we could see from a distance later on in the evening.

Returning to the train station, we caught our train to Pisa, which was…let’s just say….not the fanciest of trains that we caught during our trip. However we called it our midnight train and randomly broke into verses of Journey’s ‘Midnight Train’ and that made everything better. As we arrived into Pisa, my heart sank as it had been almost a year since I’d been to Pisa and at that time we had arrived on a different side of the city and walked towards the central station. AKA….I wasn’t sure what we were doing. We all had massive backpacks on and it was 1am…but our spirits of adventure persevered and off we went into the night. I won’t bore you with the arduous journey of three girls in the night searching for a leaning tower….let’s just cut to the chase. We found the leaning tower and it is just as brilliant at night as it is in the daytime!! We had the entire place to ourselves other than some mischievous Italian youths and we had a great time taking the traditional tourist pictures holding the tower….or pushing it over!

Success put a swing in our steps on the way back. Except for Saffie who had recently broken her foot and also packed quite heavily. But what couldn’t lift her feet still lifted her spirits and we made the short trek back to the train station, stopping only to get Emma a Nutella crepe…which was entirely necessary.

Our train from Pisa to Caserta looked as though it were one of those cool sleeper trains that you see in movies.

It was not.

Upon entering the cars, they looked quite like the Hogwart’s Express from the Harry Potter books, however once we got going, it was more like the train from the movie Eurotrip. Foreign strangers with less than pleasant odors and no English skills made for a very interesting train ride, one which only Emma managed to sleep on, and only because she covered her entire head and shoulders in her jacket. Saffie and I huddled away from our stinky bench companion and tried to sleep, however were often awakened and weren’t particularly comfortable. But it certainly was an adventure, one which I would never take back, as it is hilarious to think about now.

Finally, we arrived in Caserta, at 8:30am that morning, bedraggled and sleep deprived, however we had successful been in three cities that day!! From Venice to Florence to Pisa, and good times were had by all.

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So heavy!!!!

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Us ladies having a lovely time in Florence

Maybe it’s because I’m a Gondolier

In Uncategorized on June 5, 2014 at 6:18 pm

The striped shirts of the gondoliers are possibly one of the most widely recognized symbols of Venice. One of my goals in life has always been to enjoy a good old fashioned gondola ride.

As children, my sister and I would listen to tapes at night, stories, with Tchaikovsky’s Four Seasons and other classical music as the soundtrack. One of these tapes spoke of Venice and the canals. I couldn’t even tell you exactly what they said in the story, but I vividly remember the soundtrack as well as being left with the distinct impression that life would never be totally complete without a gondola ride.

Unfortunately for past Erica, the Legend European season passed without a gondola ride, for various reasons which aren’t necessary for this story. Fortunately for present Erica, my traveling companions on this vacation also realized the crucial importance of gondola rides and we all agreed that it was a splendid plan.

Although it was a gloomy day that threatened to rain on us, we thoroughly enjoyed our 45 minute gondola ride. Seeing Venice from the canals is a completely different view than walking the side streets. Traversing under the skinny bridges and around the tightest corners was a grand adventure indeed. The gondoliers themselves were a show, yelling to eachother, jovially greeting the passengers of other gondolas; Our gondolier even cheekily kidnapped a piece of another gondola. Only for a moment, as it was returned after some quick words in Italian and a jolly splash of an oar. They use their arms and legs and feet as well as oars to navigate the tiny canals, pushing off of walls and ducking under bridges. Steering a gondola and navigating the narrow canals is a very tricky business, and they all really seemed to enjoy it.

We most certainly enjoyed it. It might even be one of the top 5 events of the trip. We even made up a song, in which we changed the lyrics from one of the Carnival show tunes to be about Venice instead of London. It is amusing how our work is never far from our minds. Not in a stressful way, but merely in an ever conscious way. Without Carnival, we never would have met, or had the same vacation time, or known the same songs….this incredible vacation would cease to exist in the sands of time. So it’s fitting that there’s a little sliver of Carnival Cruise Lines magic sprinkled into our vacation.

In conclusion, if you are going to Venice, get yee to a gondola, you won’t regret it.

Maybe it’s because I’m a gondolier….that I love Venice soooooo….

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Photo credit goes to the lovely Sarah (Saffie) Midgley, thanks for loaning me the photos babs.

Good Morning Italy

In Uncategorized on June 3, 2014 at 6:25 am

I must preface this post by saying that it’s not current even though it says ‘yesterday’ in there as if it’s current. It was current when I wrote it, and I did have every intention of posting it immediately so as to be the kind of blogger who is very up to date with everything. However, as it does, life got in the way and I am now one of those bloggers who is apologizing for the delay and getting around to posting it a week later. In my defense, life is a grand adventure and the first rule of adventures is that they can be very distracting.* That being said, I quite enjoy a cheeky blog post written in first person present so I’m not changing it….I hope you enjoy a small tale of Italy….

As our train gently whirrs through the Italian countryside, I’m overwhelmed with waves of nostalgia as memories from the Legend Europe season come flooding into my brain. Arriving into Milan yesterday was hectic, finding our hostel stressful, and we really just focused on getting ready for today. When we booked the trip, it was hundreds of euros cheaper to fly into Milan, which is why we did, it was really only a stopover point. Arriving to a taxi strike meant lots of wandering, trams, trains, me speaking pieces of broken Italian, and by the time we got to the hostel we didn’t have much interest in exploring the city itself. Sorry Milan, I’m sure you’re lovely, I’ll have to give you another chance next time. We did, however, see a crazy massive cemetery and the beautiful architecture of the train station, so there’s that.

Up this morning at the crack of dawn, still exhausted from the calamity of Amsterdam, we arrived at Milano Centrale and located our train after several delicious Italian coffees (and a tea for Emma, she’s jolly well British that one is). Snuggled in my cosy Trenitalia seat, gazing out the window, I’m feeling particularly thoughtful. I am so excited to experience Venice again and in a whole new way. I can’t wait to see the city anew through the eyes of my friends and to remember old adventures. I think that has been one of my favorite parts of this trip so far, not only seeing new things myself, but watching my friends discover parts of the world that I already love. Their excitement makes me excited all over again, as though I’m seeing things for the first time as well.

That brings us here, to the train, still whirring along. I almost feel as though someone hit the pause button, and I have a small window of time with my thoughts. The girls are sleeping like angels, and the rest of the people in our car are eerily quiet, as if they know I need this time to myself. Looks like I still have time to catch a wee nap before we arrive. Dearest Venice, I can’t wait to see you again!! Ciao!!!!

*The second rule of adventures is to wear layers, because you never know!

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Weekends in Amsterdam

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Amsterdam is a very dynamic city. It has so many different facets and personalities just waiting to be discovered.

Saturday morning I went for a lovely run down by where the cruise ships come in, it definitely made me a touch nostalgic, and it felt strange to be there without the majestic shadow of the Carnival Legend looming in the distance. I love to explore via my morning runs because it feels very unobtrusive. No one suspects early morning runners to be tourists so you really feel like a local. Saturday morning was fairly quiet, people going to work, house boaters enjoying a morning coffee on their open decks. Some dog walkers and other runners exchanged morning greetings with each other.

Saturday night, taking the advice of a bartender close to our hostel, we wandered into a live music bar in the clubbing area of Amsterdam. The band was fabulous and by the time we left the bar, it was packed and so were the streets. Saturday night in Amsterdam is electric. People everywhere all with different agendas but all enjoying themselves. Business people just finishing late dinners, families taking evening walks, club goers just getting started. The later it gets, the more the streets are populated by nightlife enthusiasts eating from boxes of ‘Wok to Walk’, looking for the next party, or just trying to find their hotel rooms. Our hostel, The Flying Pig, was ever entertaining, a haven for free spirits and fellow travelers. There was always someone to share a story and a beverage with, but everyone also did their best to keep the noise to a minimum in the dorms, for those of us who wanted some rest. Our particular dorm slept 32 people, which was definitely entertaining. The girls and I had our own little corner, and in the five nights we spent there we watched dozens of jovial strangers move in and out. We began to feel like old pros, chatting with each new group about their travel plans, or where they had come from. I had a tougher time than some, as I’m a light sleeper at the best of times, and an insomniac at the worst, but it was an adventure and I wouldn’t change it for the world. We met some of the most wonderful people in The Flying Pig, and I highly recommend it.

Sunday morning I went for the same run, but it felt as though I was running in a different city. In the same manner that Saturday night exploded with activity, Sunday morning in Amsterdam was boisterous and lively. Everywhere along the water, families laid out blankets and picnics and little children in bathing suits dipped their toes in the water. Dogs chased frisbees, and moms with strollers chatted to each other. People everywhere loaded up their boats with supplies for the day, preparing for a day on the water. The people of the Netherlands all seemed bound and determined to enjoy their Sunday in the glorious sunshine.

Tourists headed to the Anne Frank haus, or the Van Gogh Museum, took river cruises, and marveled at the beautiful architecture. I think that sometimes in a city with such a revered nightlife, there can be a tendency to forget about the rest of the hours in the day. Amsterdam has so much to offer everyone, no matter what time of day or what your interests are, there is something for you in Amsterdam.

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Turn it Up!!

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2014 at 1:45 am

I very rarely blog about technology….actually I don’t think I’ve EVER blogged about technology but this is a special case. So here I go, blogging about technology. There’s quite a lot of instances where travel and technology come together, sometimes they clash, but sometimes it is a beautiful thing. Myself, I’m a music junkie, I love to be surrounded by music and think life is better with a soundtrack. So naturally, I like to bring the music with me wherever I go. I have had numerous speakers in my life, most of which I have broken, particularly when traveling because I tend to sit/sleep/stand on my luggage with wanton disregard towards the possessions within the luggage. Last year when I was in California, on a whim, I bought this neato little cordless speaker guy that kinda looks like a orange grenade but is way better because it only blows your mind with awesome sound.

I didn’t really anticipate this speaker to A) be very loud or B) last longer than that vacation because it was quite inexpensive and I’m a notorious speaker breaker. Low and behold, I got that speaker back to my hotel room and it played not only loudly, but clearly as well. I would also like to point out that it is now May of 2014, I purchased that speaker in October of 2013. That little orange ruffian has been through a vacation, a ship contract and now another vacation and has yet to be destroyed. (I probably shouldn’t jinx myself, or it might break before vacation is over!!) it’s practically indestructible!! It charges from a USB connection, lasts for ages, and somehow has survived the life of Erica. I didn’t know who made this little guy until I closely examined him this morning, looks like Phillips does. All I can say is brava little guy, turn up the music and keep it loud!! Everyone who likes to take their music worldwide could do with one of them in their suitcase!!

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Paris and the Grevin Wax Museum

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2014 at 9:38 am

The second leg of our epic European adventure took us to glorious Paris!! Having not been to Paris in what feels like eons, I was very excited to return. One thing I’m very very glad we did was purchase the Paris Pass (www.parispass.com). If you haven’t heard of these handy cards, they have them for lots of major cities across the US and Europe and they are very clever. You can purchase them for varying numbers of days and they include your admission to multiple museums and tourist attractions all over the city, as well as metro passes and hop on and off buses. It can even get you discounts at restaurants! We purchased the Paris Pass for two days and really made the most of it. We went through our trusty little books and picked out all the things we really wanted to do. One of those things was the Grevin Wax Museum. I love wax museums but one of the things that always annoys me is that you can never seem to get really good pictures in them and I always want to get right in the action. The Grevin Wax Museum did something I’ve never seen before, it let guests dress up and pose with the wax people!! There were designated spots around the museum where you were provided with props or costumes and allowed to join the show!! My personal favorite was when we donned crowns and capes to join the kings and queens of years gone by. I absolutely loved this chance to ‘interact’ with the wax sculptures and if every wax museum did this, I would be a happy camper for sure!!

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