Packing Guide: Minimal Backpacking

I recently went on my first trip where I brought no suitcase. It was absolutely life changing. Not carrying so much stuff with me was quite liberating and made travel so much easier. It was a 2 week trip and I brought this 22L Northface backpack. I have a bad back-scoliosis & spinal fusion- so I needed something with really great back support and weight distribution. I love. love. love. this backpack. Its one of my most favourite things I’ve ever bought. backpacking1

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In terms of clothes, for a two week trip, this is what I brought:

  • 3 tank tops
  • 1 t shirt
  • 3 long sleeve shirts
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 2 pairs of black yoga leggings
  • 1 plain dress
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 1 bralette & 1 underwire bra
  • underware

This was along with 1 pair of flexible running shoes & 1 pair of flip flops! It was MORE than enough and I ended up re-wearing much of it easily.

I found it most difficult to cut down my toiletries. Truth is, we don’t need as many toiletries as we tend to think. After working on this blog, I ended up taking a shower and FORGETTING many of the things I thought were essential in there!! I traveled for 2 weeks with no razor, conditioner or body wash. While I wasn’t exactly ‘clean shaven’, I survived, and you know what? I felt great.

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  • Dove original deodorant
  • Tarte blush & brush
  • Tarte Lights Camera Lashes Mascara
  • Venus Razor
  • Neal’s Yard Remedies to Roll ‘Travel’
  • Rituals Travel Size Sakura Shampoo
  • Rituals Travl Size Spirit of Hammam body cream
  • Diva Cup (just in case!)

Also, quite hilariously, when my friend and I got to the Amsterdam Airport and went through security, I was stopped. What was suspicious in my bag? My Diva Cup !!! The agent, who was a woman, opened my toiletries bag and my little bag I keep the cup in and said ‘what is this?!’. When I told her it was a menstrual cup she quickly closed it and let me go. Hah!

I had initially packed my bras, underware & toiletries together. However, going through airport security multiple times, I quickly realized that my toiletry bag (the lips one!) would have to stay out and at the top of my pack- as it had all my liquids and I would have to remove it each time!

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Finally, came all my extras. I brought all these things EXCEPT for my big camera. I thought about it and thought about it and eventually decided that I didn’t want the anxiety of it getting broken or lost. Its also quite heavy and would have required much more ‘effort’ to lug around. In the end, I’m pretty pleased with my decision logistic wise- I didn’t have to worry about being careful with my bag or where it was going to fit- however, now I wish I had some of the pictures it could have taken!!! Backpacking, I found, is a real negotiation of comfort and luxury. Its prioritizing based on what matters to YOU and for this trip, ease of mobility was more important than bringing the camera. I ended up only taking pictures with my iphone- which works just fine!

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  • travel yoga mat by MANDUKA
  • Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho
  • Travel Journal
  • Super absorbant Microfibre Antibacterial Travel Towel (This was a life saver)

More on the trip in later posts- we traveled through the Netherlands & Greece and I have lots of pictures and stories to share!

xx

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The Saint-Etienne Cathedral in Metz, France

While I can’t say that Metz is my favourite city I’ve ever visited, I can say with a huge degree of honesty that it holds my most favourite cathedral, which makes this a travel story that I must tell.

The train to Metz cost more than I thought and seemed to be a little bit longer too, but was made fun by the lovely ladies I was traveling with. It was a dreary, rainy Saturday in February that we decided to go and boy, did we make a mistake in not brining a map. We got off the train, starving and ready to be tourists in France. Only we ended up going the wrong way from the train station and walking about 20 minutes AWAY from the tourist part of town we had wanted to be in. Lost and turned around, sopping wet from the soggy rain, we went walking up and down the same street, trying to figure out which way we had gone wrong. Eventually, after speaking some broken french to a stranger and realizing that he too was directing us in the wrong way, we made it to the part of town we had wanted to be in.

It was adorable, with lots of shopping and places to stop and pick up pastries or meringues.But the absolute best part of the day was the cathedral. Now, before this trip I had never heard of Metz or this cathedral. I had absolutely no idea what I was in for.

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Nicknamed ‘The Lantern of God’ (and rightly so), Metz Cathedral is known for its ***fantastic*** stain glass windows & gothic architecture. Walking in, I was absolutely amazed. Even on this rainy, ugly day the colour from the windows was glinting everywhere.  The high ceilings and archways are enough to make you feel as big as an ant, but paired with the colourful glass windows and I was speechless.

metz5metz3 If anyone reading this has seen disney’s version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame- I felt like singing ‘God Help the Outcasts’ like Esmerelda in front of the stain glass. (then again, i’ve always wanted to be Esmerelda so maybe thats not such an odd thing for me)

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All in all, if you happen to be in the Lorraine region of France any time soon, it is WELL WORTH the trip to Metz for the cathedral.

It will forever be one of my most favourite churches I’ve ever seen.

Travel Guide: Trier, Germany

Across the Luxembourg border is a town called Trier- the oldest roman city in Germany. I was drawn to going for its easy travel (one hour from Luxembourg by train), history and shopping. I loved it from the moment I arrived- the train station is only 10 minutes away from the centre, making it super easy to walk down. The place I stopped into (as usual) was the info centre. Usually in every town theres an info centre either in the train station or in the city centre. I got a map and a list of tourist activities and I was on my way. trier2

The first place I hit was right beside the info centre and was one of the oldest places in the city. The Porta Nigra is a huge Roman city gate built out of sandstone between 186-200 AD. It was given its’s name ‘Porta Nigra’ (latin for ‘black gate) in the middle ages however the true Roman name for the gate has been lost in time. What I found most amazing was that the gate would have been taken apart stone by stone for building materials in the 11th century if not for a Greek hermit monk named Simeon who lived in the gate. Previous to living in the gate, Simeon had lived in a cave off the shore of the Red Sea, but left because he was he found he was too often disturbed by other people. I loved hearing the bits and pieces of his story and kept imagining him living in the (freezing) cold gate, alone, all day long.

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The rooms were huge and lonely but absolutely beautiful. Graffiti is carved into the stones, a mix of historical carvings and modern swear words. trier4trier5

trier7trier6One of the other things I lvoed about it was the long hallways and winding stairs. Each area had a long hallways connecting it with huge arched open windows, allowing you to take pictures of the town below. All together the experience cost 4 euros and was well worth it to wander around. Plus the view is fantastic.

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Next, I went and got myself a real german pretzel ( really great choice by the way) and made my way to the cathedral. On the way I stopped around town mostly because it all looked so cool and colourful. This fountain is in the middle of the square making it a beautiful meeting point for people. For a while I ate my pretzel and watched family and friends meet at the fountain, hugging and speaking german or french.

trier-13Finally I got to the cathedral. Inside it was massive- high ceilings and beautiful artwork. What amazed me most was the organ up on the wall. I would’ve loved to hear it played to know what it sounded like. It was so incredibly massive. trier-12trier-10trier-11

After being a tourist for most of the day, I resigned myself to shopping at T.K Max and some other shops. I got myself a Dunkin Donuts coffee and headed home. It was a great day of solo travel and my very first time going to a new country completely alone. I find travel empowering. It confirms that the crazy things I think I can’t do, I can.

Trier may not be the world’s hottest city to visit but I do recommend if you are in the Luxembourg area or even Germany, that you take a stop, even for a few hours and visit the Porta Nigra & Cathedral. They have beautiful stories attached to their history waiting to be explored.

xx

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Living in Luxembourg So Far

luxtitle.jpgIts been exactly one week since I’ve moved to Luxembourg and its been a crazy busy week at that. Between doctors appointments, TB tests, immigration papers, driving in a new country and sorting through 3 different languages here- its been hectic. Yesterday, I was finally able to get out and explore a little bit and I’m very happy for it! This country so far is beautiful and I can’t wait to see more of it.

lux2I took the bus into the city centre not exactly knowing where I would end up. After walking a bit from the bus stop I came to the WW2 monument- something I had only seen while driving by. The first thing I was amazed at was the view. The 3 plateaus with valleys in between make for awesome sights in Luxembourg and really show the age of the country. While it is winter here there was still lots of green moss and ivy to brighten things up (unlike in Canada where all you can see is snow!). As it was Sunday, church bells seemed to be ringing all around making it even more spectacular.
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I then crossed the street to find the Cathedral Notre Dame & the National Library. Just inside the cathedral doors is a history of Luxembourg in french, german and (thank goodness) english! I found it very helpful. After reading I went to walk into the cathedral to wander around only to find that mass was still going on at 1 in the afternoon! Whoops. Sundays are taken quite strictly here and select shops only open 2-6.lux4

Finally, I was able to find the main centre square. This is where I would recommend you start because its where the tourist office is! After loading myself up with maps and guides I was able to continue on my way knowing where I was going. I ended up headed to the Palais Grand Ducal – which is where the Grand Duke lives. Its right in the middle of town and surprisingly open for the public to walk around it. It is only open for tours July-September but still a wonderful site to see with its grand doors and rapunzel-esque towers.lux6lux7After the palace, I made my way onto a tiny ally, lit with paper lanterns. In front of me was a couple that were clearly entirely infatuated with each other, kissing and groping and laughing big, full laughs. It was nice to walk under the lanterns on the cobblestone path and be reminded that there is more love than hate in the world. Originally I had doubted whether I should take the ally, being a lone female tourist, but fear lost and fought through the doubt. Trusting will lead you where you need to be and if my gut had screamed louder I would have trusted that too. Popular media teaches us to be very wary- especially in Europe- however theres a difference between fear and caution, i’m learning.lux11.jpg

Suddenly I found myself at a lookout over the most beautiful little town I have ever seen. There was snow covering the roofs of the houses with chimneys puffing steam into the air. There was a yellow chapel looking building with a tall point reaching into the sky and it was all set against the mossy rock from the plateau above. It was like out of a story book. I only stayed briefly because my hands were starting to **freeze** but it somewhere I will most certainly be returning to.lux5.jpg

After wandering around as a tourist, the shops began to open up. There were a few I had never heard of (Pull & Bear?) and some I was very familiar with (Esprit, my mamas favourite when I was younger). I wandered into an H&M not thinking i’d find anything but ended up realizing that they sold home goods. Perfect timing for me to start making my little apartment space more mine. I bought some things that were all on sale (great sales) and am feeling more at home now.

All in all, its been an exhausting first week of firsts- first time driving in a (completely) different country, first time having a TB test, first time being somewhere that english isn’t the base language… its all coming together very slowly. I had a massive break down mid week because of a spider incident. It was a big one and right beside my bed. With that, everything came crashing in. The fact that i’d come so far from home and wasn’t sure what for. The fact that I left behind those I love in search of some sort of early 20’s wanderlust fulfillment. I doubted it all. I fell apart. But my touring around has helped me see that the firsts & the falling aparts are good. We adapt. We learn. We grow. I’ve see two other spiders since and I’ve handled them accordingly, with no tears, no fast breathing. More importantly, I haven’t fallen apart, and I know if I do that I can put my pieces back together again.

After all, ruin is the road to transformation.

Much love,

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Edinburgh Castle Travel Diary

About a month ago, my best friend and I took a trip to Edinburgh, which quickly became one of my favourite cities that I’ve seen yet. While there, we woke up extra early one morning in order to be the first into Edinburgh Castle that day. When we got into the city from our hotel we were met with this sight: ed1. Now, historically, I’m not too sure how people did these on the daily. All I can say is, they must have had great butts. After the enormous set of stairs was a nice walk down the Riyal Mile to the castle. It was a super cold day and we bundled up as best we could. By the time we got to the castle it was nearly 9:30am and the sun was just finally coming up over the city. The sky was bright blue against the skyline of old buildings mixed with new. The castle, which is on this beautiful green mossy cliff was golden in the sun and looked straight out of a fairy tale. I’ve been to the Tower of London & Windsor castle and Edinburgh castle beat them both by a long shot. ed10ed12img_4928ed11

Entering the castle, you walk through a massive arch way and enter the ticket area. What blew me away was that the castle continues to go upwards through the cliff. There is a rock wall as you enter that just seems to climb up forever.ed9ed7ed8

We bought our tickets and audio guides (I love audio guides in touristy places) and, though quite frozen, we headed in. On the other side of all the touristy gift shop and ticket book was a couple lookouts, which encompassed the entire city we had been walking the night before. Looking out over the city I convinced myself that in some past life I was a Scottish princess and lived in this gorgeous castle (can you tell I’m an english major?). ed6We spent I think 2 hours wandering the castle, listening to our audio guides. In the prisoners ward, I ended up taking my bra of inconspicuously because carrying a backpack while wearing a bra is uncomfortable. Historically, Alisa was laughing, that some prisoner had probably wished for just such a thing 200 years ago. My favourite part of the castle however, was where Queen Mary gave birth to her son James. It notes that its quite a mystery as to whether James was in fact her son, as there were baby bones found in the walls of the room. ed5

After the castle we went to a small pub on the Royal Mile where we had a baileys and coffee to warm up along with the best brie panini and carrot soup. It was a pretty near perfect morning/lunch and I would highly recommend anyone visiting Scotland go to the Edinburgh castle in the morning and watch the sunrise. It will make your trip.

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