Thessaloniki, Greece

Like most of my trip, my itinerary has been dictated by price. The cheapest way to get from Italy to Greece was by flying from Naples to Thessaloniki.

I had never heard of Thessaloniki before, but I knew I wanted to see a different part of Greece before meeting my mom in Athens and seeing Santorini and Mykonos with her. I debated going to another island, but the island ferries are even more expensive than some mainland flights and take much, much longer.

As I researched the city leading up to my arrival, I got pretty excited. This city in Northern Greece has consistently been ranked as one of the best vacation destinations for young people. In 1997 it was nominated as the Cultural Capital of Europe and in 2014, it was named the European Youth Capital. Thessaloniki is known for its modern cafes, unique pastries, and vibrant nightlife. It’s also one of the most historical cities in the region. It was a major hub connecting Europe to Asia. During the Roman and Greek empires, it was a capital city and then became the second largest city behind Constantinople during the Byzantine era. Even though a fire destroyed the city in 1917, it was rebuilt and even though the city now has modern high rises, there are still ruins scattered between the streets!

I had a Couchsurfing host lined up who had great reviews. Apparently he picks up visitors directly from the airport and his mom makes them home cooked meals! How could I pass that up? Unfortunately a week before I was due to arrive, my host cancelled. Luckily Thessaloniki has plenty of young people who are active hosts on Couchsurfing. I messaged a woman my age named Katrina. She immediately replied saying she was out of town during that time, but I was more than welcome to use her empty apartment for free!

It sounded too good to be true. Who would let a total stranger into their home unattended? I decided to see how far this would go! Katrina explained that she would leave the keys with the cashier at the 24-hour store downstairs.

My flight was uneventful and I arrived in Thessaloniki around 9pm. I caught the bus from the airport and immediately fell in love with the city. The streets were so alive! Even though it was late on a Thursday, people were out enjoying coffee with friends. Everyone was dressed up with their makeup done perfectly. There were modern cafes with creative branding and design everywhere! It felt like I was back in Auckland where the vibe of the city was upscale and posh.

I was still weary about the apartment situation. I didn’t have a backup plan! But I easily got the keys and discovered that I was staying in a 5th floor unit overlooking a busy street near the university. It was in the heart of the city!

In the morning, I enjoyed some coffee on the balcony before heading to join the free walking tour. Since I didn’t know much about Thessaloniki, I figured it was a great way to find out. The tour group had several others from Europe and Cyprus, but I was the only American.

Our guide, Yannis, told us stories about the haunted buildings and showed us the old Roman agora. I’m not the biggest history buff, but I loved hearing about the urban development of the city. I had been wondering why there wasn’t a metro system for such a modern city. Apparently officials keep trying to get one built, but each time they start digging, they find ruins or run out of money! Yannis joked about how mismanaging money is in Greek DNA.

He also explained why the city is made of ugly apartment buildings with no design aesthetic. Back in the day, the city was desperate for land. They agreed to give free housing to anyone who would sell them land. As a result, numerous apartment buildings had to be constructed quickly and cheaply.

During the tour, we went inside the Church of Saint Demetrios. As legend goes, he was a Christian who was imprisoned for preaching his religion during a time when Thessaloniki was ruled by pagans. They kept him in an old Roman bathhouse. During the gladiatorial games, a young warrior beat all of the more experienced gladiators and credited his victory to the Christian teachings of Demetrios. The king had no choice but to execute them both. After Demetrios’ death, they realized his body didn’t emit a foul odor like other humans, but it smelled like flowers. They created an elixir from his remains that healed the sick and wounded. As a result, they hailed him as a saint and many worshippers come to the church (located above the bath house in which Demetrios was imprisoned) to pay their respects.

After the walking tour, I went to the grocery to get food to meal prep. Eating out used to be my favorite part of traveling, but it’s not as much fun when you’re alone! And the language barrier makes the process very exhausting. I’ve mistakenly ordered the wrong thing more than once! Plus it saves money. Unless I only ate street food (yummy but unhealthy!) then I’d be spending 20-30€ per day on food. Instead, I got four days worth of food for 17€!

Usually grocery shopping is my favorite activity. Sometimes I explore supermarkets in foreign countries even if I don’t buy something. It’s so interesting and there are always new and unique foods. But there’s definitely a learning curve. In Italy, I had to get used to printing off produce codes myself instead of having the cashier do it like in America. But Greece has definitely been the toughest country to shop in. Nothing was in English! Usually labels at least have a brief English description… but not in Greece! And there was no pre-packaged meat. I’m not talking about hot dogs or lunchmeat. There’s no ground beef or chicken breasts to pick from. You have to order from the butcher directly. I love this concept, but it’s hard when the butcher doesn’t speak English and I can’t point and grunt.

I ended up buying frozen meatballs to make a Greek vegetable soup. For lunch, I got smoked sardines to eat with eggs (unrefrigerated of course!) and steamed broccoli. I made it work without fresh meat!

The next day, I wanted to see the waterfront. Our tour had covered the interior of the city, but Greece is known for being on water! The entire city is shaped like a horseshoe around the bay. There’s a long seaside sidewalk that runs the entire distance and it seemed to be a popular activity to take a stroll. It was only 75 degrees, but the sun was STRONG. I was sweating just walking!

I stopped by a cafe to get a coffee and people watch. It was hard to find a spot! The restaurants and cafes had people packed in like sardines. The drink of choice in Greece is a “Freddo espresso.” It is essentially black espresso that is shaken with ice, creating a foam on top. You can also get a “Freddo cappuccino” that has milk and a much thicker layer of foam. I tried both and preferred the espresso.

See the ruins in the background? It used to be the palace of Emperor Galerius. My favorite cafe overlooks this historical site and and really makes you think about how even the powerful fall someday.

The majority of my trip was spent cafe hopping! The weather was gorgeous and, unlike Italy, it is Greek custom to spend hours relaxing at a cafe. I even verified with Yannis and he said Greeks are much more leisurely than Italians. I also used cafes for their WiFi! The only downside of my free apartment was that it doesn’t have any. I ended up downloading episodes from the Netflix app and watching them on my phone in the apartment during downtime.

The only confusing part of cafe culture is how they deliver the bill. Usually coffee is served with a cookie (all cafes use the same cookie company so they’re bland and prepackaged, unlike in Amsterdam where you get freshly baked cookies) and a glass of water. This seems like an invitation to enjoy a leisurely snack, but the bill is also given at the same time as the coffee! I suppose it is so you can pay whenever you’re ready, but it also prohibits ordering anything else. I also had a bad experience at a cafe where the waitress (after only 15 mins) asked if I was ready to pay. I said I wasn’t finished and she said, “Ok well you pay now anyway?” Maybe she was getting off of her shift, but I felt rushed and not at all welcomed!

During one afternoon at a cafe, my host texted me. She said she realized she had forgotten to return a library book and asked if I could please drop it off. I wasn’t doing anything else so I said sure! It was a fun adventure to go to the local library. There should be a website or app that lets travelers run errands for locals. It’s a great way to see the city! Otherwise, I loved wandering through the waterfront parks. There are so many! My favorite was the area around the White Tower – perhaps Thessaloniki’s most iconic landmark. The Ottomans constructed it as a fortress to protect the harbor but it was also used as a place for executions.

In true Katie fashion, I scheduled myself too much time in Thessaloniki. It’s known for being a party city, but since partying isn’t a priority on this trip, there wasn’t much to do once I had seen all of the historical sights and tried the local coffee. I tried to connect with other travelers, but there weren’t any Couchsurfing meetups. Thessaloniki reminds me a lot of Portland – it’s a vibrant, youthful city with a great quality of life and amazing restaurants and bars, but otherwise not a whole lot to see or do.

I am on my way to Athens to meet my mom. We have about two days to explore the city. It’ll be interesting to see if that is the perfect amount of time. It doesn’t seem like much, but you can do a lot in 48 hours!

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Pompeii & Ercolano, Italy

I ended my trip in Italy the same way it began: battling sickness. Luckily this time it was only a minor cold instead of food poisoning, but I still felt terrible. Spending all day exploring a new city isn’t as much fun when I constantly have to cough and blow my nose!

I checked into my hostel midday and spent the rest of the day getting settled. One thing that always makes me feel at home is meal prepping. If I have healthy food in the fridge, I can relax. There was another female traveler hanging out in the hostel lounge, so I chatted with her and asked where the best grocery store was. Google maps is basically useless when it comes to Italy.

She told me there were several “Mom and pop” stores that had the basics, but the closest real supermarket was in the next town over. I ventured out and saw the small shops she mentioned, but they didn’t have the specific ingredients I needed like butter lettuce, green onions, and avocados. Instead I kept walking. Ercolano wasn’t very pretty. None of southern Italy was pretty except Positano!

I ended up walking 3 miles round trip to the store, but it was worth it! Something about the fluorescent lights and ample choices makes me feel relieved. Maybe I’m getting a bit homesick so I’m looking for places that remind me of America. Luckily this place exists:

I returned to the hostel and began cooking in the kitchen. Most hostel kitchens are massive to accommodate the number of guests, but this kitchen could barely fit 3 people at once. As I was cooking, an American woman came in and said “I need to cook. Are you done??” I explained that I had just started and it likely would be awhile since I was meal prepping, but I could make room for her. She said, “I am hypoglycemic and I need to cook now.” I repeated, “There’s plenty of room for us to share.” She was not happy and stormed out. I had specifically picked a time when most people were gone from the hostel so I wouldn’t hog the kitchen. I guess you can’t please everyone!

That evening, I discovered that my dorm had two snorers, so I fished my ear plugs out of my bag and put them to use. I can’t believe I suffered so many years in vain. Ear plugs totally work! Sure, it’s not 100% silence, but it muffles the deafening snores to a quiet hum.

The next day, I woke up early to explore Pompeii. The Airbnb listing had said the hostel provided free breakfast, but the owner was charging everyone 3€ for it. I know that’s a cheap price, but a lot of travelers specifically pick hostels based on breakfast availability, so to lie about it seems shady! I skipped it anyway and had my meal prepped “Southwestern Hash” with steak, potatoes, peppers, and egg on top.

I took the train to Pompeii, paid the 15€ admission, and set off. They had several options available for tourists ranging from free maps to 8€ audio guides to 50€ tour guides. I picked the cheapest option, naturally. A map is all I need!

The map also had a few interesting facts that I had forgotten since high school history and Latin class. After Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79AD and covered Pompeii in ash, the city wasn’t discovered until 1748! I didn’t realize it was buried for so long!

Mt. Vesuvius is the only active volcano on the European mainland. There are a few more in Italy, but there all on islands. Throughout the recent centuries, it has regularly erupted every 20 years, but it hasn’t since 1944!

Pompeii has a large amphitheater and Pink Floyd once performed inside it!

The #1 aspect of Pompeii that surprised me is it’s vast size. I had expected it to feel like a museum and be shuffled down a few streets and see a couple ruins of houses. No. It is an entire CITY! Walking around the entire thing would take more than 5 hours, according to the map. There’s street after street of homes, businesses, parks, and temples – and once you get away from the major intersections where tourists loiter – it is eerily silent.

It’s sobering to have spent the last few months exploring major cities and then realize that any of them could face the same fate as Pompeii. Natural disasters happen all the time. Even if they aren’t destroyed by fire or flooding, they’ll be gone someday. Nothing lasts forever. Cities are conquered and bombed and rebuilt. Even Europe’s oldest cities are still only a blip on the timeline of Earth.

When I was staying in Soccavo outside of Naples, my Dutch roommates spent Easter at Pompeii. Our host laughed and said, “Why there?!” and they explained that it was relaxing. I completely agree. Once you get away from the tourist clusters, it is a wonderful place to relax and think about life.

I returned to Ercolano from Pompeii and was craving familiar comfort. You know how you feel after a long vacation when all you want is your own bed and surroundings? I’ve been feeling that lately. I think I’m just severely disappointed in Italy and want to leave ASAP! Life here is difficult – walking down the street is a constant barrage of harassment, ordering at restaurants is impossible due to the language barrier so I don’t do it, and even trying to relax at a cafe isn’t culturally accepted, so I am forced to spend all my downtime at home like a hermit! Luckily I’ll be seeing my mom soon, so that should cheer me up.

On my last day in Italy, my head cold was in full swing. I also had run out of things to do! What was the point of wandering around town like a zombie? Instead, I took a relaxation day and watched Netflix on my phone. Other travelers also seemed to have the same idea, since they didn’t leave the hostel either! Remember the Italian pastry called sfogliatelle I was disappointed in? I tried it from another bakery and it was MUCH better! I’ll definitely miss it when I’m back home.

As I write this, I’m in the Naples airport getting ready to head to Thessaloniki, Greece. I didn’t know much about it, but I spent some time reading up on it this morning and it sounds incredible! Basically it’s the cultural (aka hipster) capital of Greece!

The Amalfi Coast, Italy

The sudden change of accommodation was actually a blessing in disguise! I had always planned to spend one day exploring the Amalfi Coast, but the location of my new host’s apartment in Meta allowed me to see more of it. I would have never set foot in Sorrento or gotten the change to sail the waters if I had stayed in Soccavo the entire time.

The Amalfi Coast is the name given to the collection of towns located on the along the rocky mountainside. You’ve probably seen photos of the colorful towns that look like they’re about to fall straight into the water! Each town has its own character, but most have become quite touristy. Getting to the heart of the coast from Naples takes an hour train ride plus an hour bus ride, so most people choose to stay directly on the coast, making it an expensive destination!

I was staying in Meta, a small village near the first major Amalfi town of Sorrento. I met my host, Armedeo, and he showed me my private room. He has a penthouse apartment with several rooms that he rents out on Airbnb and uses for Couchsurfing. He said he had a full house, but I only ever saw one other person.

My bedroom had a beautiful balcony overlooking the mountains and coast. I spent as much time out there as possible! The only downside was my host. As he was showing me my room, he said, “I hope you understand, but the sheets have not been washed from the last two guests. It is expensive to wash these sheets so if you want fresh sheets, you will have to pay me and it will take a day.” I wasn’t looking to spend additional money or sleep on a bare mattress for a night, so I said it was fine, but made sure my disgust was obvious. I asked for additional towels to lay down first. What kind of host doesn’t wash sheets between guests?!

On my first full day, I planned to take the bus to the famous coastal towns of Amalfi and Positano. But first, I wanted to try the famous Italian pastry – sfogliatelle. I had seen them everywhere and they looked delicious. So I woke up early and headed to the best rated bakery in Meta.

To be honest, I was disappointed. The pastry was bland and the filling was like gel instead of a fluffy cream. It did not live up to expectations!

After waiting 45 minutes for a ridiculously late bus, I was on my way to Amalfi. The ride was gorgeous, but it was hard to enjoy when the bus kept almost hitting other cars! The roads along the coast are so narrow that often only one vehicle can fit at a time. The bus would keep honking to let oncoming traffic know to stop, but they never did. The journey took much longer than an hour because we had to keep stopping to reverse because there was gridlock!

I arrived in Amalfi and there were swarms of tourists. It isn’t even high tourism season yet! I immediately escaped the busy plaza and found quieter alleys to explore. There were so many stairs! It makes sense since the town is built vertically on a mountain, but it’s hard to believe until you have to climb them all!

Amalfi is known for its beautiful lemon trees that grow everywhere. The entire town smells like fresh lemon and there are tourist stores dedicated to lemon oil, candles, and candy! The lemons are massive and I saw some the size of a football!

Amalfi was interesting, but the views weren’t that great and there wasn’t much to do other than go shopping or eat. I took the bus to the second famous town of Positano. I had never heard of it before, but all the online recommendations said it was a must-see. I am so glad I went because it was a million times better than Amalfi!

There weren’t as many tourists and the views were indescribably better. I spent hours wandering through the streets and hanging out on the beach. If I ever return to the Amalfi Coast, I am definitely staying in Positano.

I had walked 10 miles and I was starving. For the first time during my time in Italy, pizza sounded good. I never eat pizza in America. It just isn’t a food I enjoy. When I do eat it, I prefer deep dish with lots of toppings. Basically the exact opposite of the thin, simple Napoli pizza!

But still, I sought out the best pizza in Sorrento and kept an open mind. I ordered the simple Margherita with ricotta stuffed crust. It is impossible to order a single slice. You have to get an entire pie! And you’re expected to eat it all! They brought it to my table and it looked unappetizing. The cheese and sauce were complete liquid on top of the crust. It looked more like soup.

The proper way to eat pizza in Napoli is to cut it with a knife and fork. Picking it up is impossible since it is so watery. I took a few bites and it was… disgusting. The cheese was so oily and congealed. The crust was so thin I couldn’t taste it. It felt like I was eating pure cheese and olive oil. The crust was perfectly fluffy and tasty, so I just ate that part.

When I returned home, my host said he needed to speak with me. He said he rented out my bedroom on Airbnb so I could only stay one more night. I explained that he had accepted my Couchsurfing request and knew I needed a room until the 12th. He offered for me to rent the room at half price and he would deny the Airbnb guests. This felt like a scam, so I said I didn’t want to stay there. Why do I keep running into flaky Italian hosts?!

Perhaps to make up for his inconsiderate actions, my host invited me on his boat the following day. He owns a sailboat and operates small group tours. Instead of being hospitable and letting me go for free, he said it would be 30€ or half price. I didn’t want to give him any money since I felt he was trying to nickel and dime me at every turn, but other boat tours were expensive and I figured I wouldn’t get another chance to go on the water. I agreed.

His elementary aged daughter joined us along with three other tourists – one Italian and two polish. The tour wasn’t much of a “tour” as it was a boat ride. He didn’t give information and mostly spent the 3 hours talking to the other Italian in Italian. His daughter was a complete brat and kept interrupting him by screaming “PAPA!!” repeatedly and slamming her hands on the boat controls. At one point, she stole my sandals and taunted me by pretending to throw them overboard. Her father did nothing.

Aside from the unpleasant company, the boat ride was enjoyable! It was so relaxing to be on the water and see the towns from a different perspective. I even got a chance to steer the sailboat!

That evening, I headed to my next accommodation. I gave up on Couchsurfing in Italy and chose to rent a hostel room through Airbnb. I had enough Airbnb credit to cover the five night stay. The hostel was located near Mt. Vesuvius, which was perfect because Pompeii is the last spot on my list of places I want to see!

Floating on the Surface

Last weekend, I took the plunge. I scheduled a “float” appointment. I’ve wanted to do it for years now, but never made the effort. I was never scared to do it, I just didn’t want to pay the lofty $60-70! The idea of floating is to spend 90 minutes in a tank filled with 10 inches of salt water. You’re meant to float on the top of the water and experience total sensory deprivation and relaxation.

Luckily I found a Groupon that lowered the cost to a reasonable $30. I read the Yelp reviews of the “spa” and they seemed to be split. Some customers loved the place, but others wrote harsh reviews. Most of the bad reviews had to do with pricing or saying “They made me cancel my appointment after I showed up 30 minutes late! So unprofessional!” So I took those with a grain of salt.

I took a leisurely walk to the spa on Saturday afternoon. It was nestled on a residential street and would have been easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it. I walked up right as another customer did. We approached the door and saw a sign with an arrow, pointing to the house next door. So we walked next door and saw another sign with an arrow pointing to the first house! We were confused. After a bit of back and forth, we realized the arrows were instructing us to enter through the tiny gated alley in between the houses! So strange.

Once we opened the gate, it made sense. There was a nice courtyard with a pond and flowers and beautiful trees. We walked into the reception area and it was crowded. There was one woman working the front desk and she didn’t have an ounce of urgency. After about 8 minutes, it was my turn to check in. She took my ID and I filled out the waiver. She asked if I needed a towel. I said yes, and she handed me what can only be described as a dish towel.

She instructed me to wait on the bench and someone would show me to the tanks shortly. This little spa was busy! I saw 30-40 people come and go within the 15 minutes I spent waiting. Most people seemed to be using the spa pools or getting a massage. After awhile, a woman walked up and asked “Are you the floaters?” The guy sitting next to me said yes and we followed her to the tanks. I was a little concerned. The lockers where we were supposed to store our clothes were located all the way across the spa. We would have to strip down and then walk past the showers, sauna, relaxation room, and then into the float tank room. There were signs everywhere saying that it was a “Clothing Optional” spa and told people not to exhibit creepy behavior. What?!

I assumed it would be a normal spa with normal sized towels and a tank in a private room. I didn’t pack a swim suit. You’re supposed to float naked!

My float parter and I went to the lockers and he started to strip down. I turned around and played on my phone until I could tell he was finished and had left. I have no interest in seeing a strange hippie get naked! I changed and wrapped myself in the mini-towel as best as I could and scurried into the tank room. Luckily there wasn’t anyone in the sauna or showers, so it was okay.

The tank room had 2 tanks the size of large ice coolers. They were slightly separated by a large folding wall, but there still weren’t any doors for privacy! Each tank had a slanted door, similar to a cellar. My float partner insisted he have Tank #1… I’m not sure why, but that should have been my first warning sign!

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I put petroleum jelly on my cuts so the salt water wouldn’t irritate them and then jumped in.

The water was warm. Almost too warm! I climbed into the tank and shut the door behind me. It was dark and the air was human. I laid down in the water and let myself float. It was a little uncomfortable at first. The water was pushing my back into a weird arch that wasn’t natural. I tried moving my arms in different positions and felt that the “goal post” felt the best. I closed my eyes and tried to relax.

I “relaxed” for about 20 minutes before I became bored. I couldn’t fall asleep because it was so cold! The top half of my body was above water and there was a ventilation fan that continually blew cold air into the tank! I ended up shivering most of the time and resorted to swimming around to try to stay warm. I realized I could easily just exit the tank and leave… but I paid money for this! It was kind of a cool feeling to float around on the top of the water. I had about 2 feet on either side, so I gentle pushed myself back and forth across the tank.

Before I knew it, I heard the knocking on my tank door that signaled the float was over. I listened for my float partner and waiting until he exited the room before I opened my door. I quickly grabbed my towel. The spa had become a lot busier and there were several naked people showering as I walked out. I was covered in salt water and I still had to walk home, so I needed to rinse off. I pretended to read a brochure until everyone left and I could shower in peace (as peaceful as an open shower with no wall or door could be!)

Inevitably, as soon as I started to rinse off, an old lady wandered in and started showering next to me. I’m not sure why this experience felt so awkward when I’ve already been to a naked bath house in Korea. Maybe because I was a foreigner it felt new and exciting. In America, it just felt weird. I showered as quickly as possible and put my clothes on before fully drying off.

I checked out and left the spa as soon as possible. Apparently my float included a complimentary 30 minute soak in the hot tub room… but the idea of sitting in there with more naked strangers was not something I was interested in.

I don’t think I would float again, even if it was at a more private spa. I never felt fully relaxed because I was so cold. Even if it had been warm, I don’t think I would have experienced the full sensory deprivation. My tank had flashing lights that reflected off the water and I could hear footsteps whenever anyone walked on the floor above us.

I would recommend floating if you want a unique experience, but definitely go in with low expectations!

A Weekend in Vancouver, Canada!

As I took the majority of my vacation days when I went to Asia, it has been hard to find the time to travel! One of my good friends, Alicia, is leaving to go to grad school, so we decided to go on a weekend trip to Vancouver, Canada, as a final hurrah!

I have been to Vancouver once before in 2013, but Alicia had never been. We took the Bolt Bus ($80 round trip!) and stayed at the Cambie Hostel ($15 a night!) in order to save money. The Bolt Bus takes 8 hours and has stop-overs in Seattle and Bellingham, Washington. It takes a bit longer than driving, but is so much cheaper! And it has wifi and outlets, so we spent the entire time napping and listening to podcasts.

We arrived at 9pm on Wednesday. We found our way to the hostel and checked in, only to find that the remaining 2 beds in the room of 8 were top bunks. Lame! I spent the first night sleeping above a Brazilian guy who kept tossing and turning the entire night. Doesn’t he know that bunk beds shake?! He also kept itching his skin incessantly which was pretty gross.

The next day, we decided to switch beds to the opposite side of the room, away from the weird Brazilian. I got a bottom bunk next to a window that had a breeze, so it was great! We spent the entire first day walking around Vancouver and Stanley Park. We walked a total of 15 miles!

The food in Vancouver is so expensive. An “inexpensive” meal in the “$$” range is $15-$20! That’s too much to spend on lunch, so we brought a lot of protein bars and ate the complimentary muffins the hostel provided. We did splurge a couple of times on nicer food. My favorite was a picnic board where you built your own sandwiches! The entire platter was $15 and we split it between the two of us. Extravagant but cheap!

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On Friday, we found a bar to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics. It was a lot of fun and we even got to see the city light the Vancouver Cauldron from the 2010 games! That night, we planned to go to the Richmond Night Market which is famous for Asian street food and unique wares. We spent $9 to get there and it took 45 minutes on public transit. Once we arrived, there was an additional 15 minutes of walking to the market and being shuffled around by crossing guards and crowd management. It was packed! We stood in line for 20 minutes before deciding it wasn’t worth it. The food was still expensive ($10 for street food!) and the fairgrounds were exploding with people. There wasn’t an inch to move inside the fence! We left and took the train back to Vancouver, feeling defeated.

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The next day, we took the ferry across the water to North Vancouver where we went to the Lonsdale Quay market. That was much better! We didn’t find anything to buy, but it was nice being on the harbor. We stopped by a restaurant to get brunch. Did you know that in Vancouver, Bloody Marys are called Caesars? They’re made with clam juice, too! Pretty tasty. I also got to have taiyaki – my favorite fish shaped pastry I discovered in Tokyo! We ordered 3 of them to share… one with beans, one with custard, and one with nutella!

On our final day, we stopped by Tim Horton’s, the famous Canadian coffee chain. I ordered “one iced coffee” which typically is just black coffee with ice. I was served a beverage that was almost white in color and tasted like melted ice cream. It had so much cream and sugar, it didn’t even taste like coffee! Since turning 24, I’ve realized that I need to start asking for what I want, especially in stores. So at Tim Horton’s, I had no problem with telling the barista that I wanted a BLACK coffee. She seemed irritated, but ultimately switched out the coffee. You’ll never get what you want if you don’t ask!

The bus back to Portland was less fun than the ride to Canada. A loud group of 20-somethings got on in Seattle and kept LOUDLY talking about attractive women and explicit topics. The entire bus kept giving them the stink eye until they got the message and shut up. Some people just don’t know how to act in public.

Overall, it was a fun trip! Vancouver is a great city with amazing food (if you want to spend the money!) There aren’t many cultural or historical sites, so there isn’t much to tour. Unless you have friends who live there or are into the bar scene, I wouldn’t recommend going there on a long vacation, but it’s great for a short trip!

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Summer Kickball League!

I wanted something new and fun to do this summer, so I joined a kickball league with two of my friends – Leila and Joe!

We signed up for the league and were placed with other players who didn’t have enough people to form an entire team. Most of the teams we play against are groups of friends or coworkers who signed up together as a team. We are the underdogs! So far our season is 0-2, but there are still 6 weeks left of the season, so we might still win a couple.

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Vote for Eyes on Broadway!

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The local newspaper has a yearly “Reader’s Poll” where readers nominate local businesses in a variety of categories. We won the title of “Best Eyewear Shop” in 2015… and we’ve been nominated again for 2016!

As I am in charge of our social media, I am inadvertently responsible for our victory! If you wouldn’t mind, please vote for us at the link below…

http://wweek.secondstreetapp.com/l/BOP-Voting-2016/Ballot/LocalBusinessService

It does make you enter your email and zip code, but it doesn’t send you any spam. It is just to verify that you’re an actual person!

You can find us under “Local Businesses” and then halfway down the page “Best Eyewear Shop.” Results will be published in July! Fingers crossed!