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For sure! I don't really know what are plans are going to be when we arrive in London as there's been a pretty big change in plans. Three weeks ago my mom went into the ER and they discovered she had gall stones, like, a ridiculous medical emergency amount (she's been complaining about this problem for a year and a half!! and they just now found what it was, but that's a different thread). 5 days later my dad went to the ER for chest pain. Turns out the man who eats unbelievably healthy, goes the gym, and takes is BP every day has a blockage in his heart. It's not very serious from what we gather (although they're being pretty closed mouth about the whole thing), but there's pretty much no chance my parents are going to come.

Soooooo, my brothers and I are going alone. This is cool, because they'll likely be less arguing (because we always argue on vacation), and we'll also have more freedom to go out and have fun without worrying about annoying my parents. Anyway, that's why I'm not sure what the plans will be when I get to London, but I may just send you a PM in the next couple of weeks.
Sorry to hear about your parents, erinjane, but does that mean there's more flexibility for you to come to Glasgow? zoya and I would love to meet up with you! We'll introduce you to the haggis.
It could very well mean that. My older brother and I are trying to loosen up the plan a bit, and we have a few free days around may 5-14.
zoya is out of town (she's back in the States) until the 10th (I think) and then we'll both be around.
*curses exams*

erinjane, sorry to hear about your parents, I hope they both feel better soon!
So the boy and I just applied for our passports today. We're taking a birthright trip to Israel at the end of May. I REALLY hope that we'll get the passports by then; we have about 6 weeks. It says on the website that average processing and delivery time takes 3-4 weeks. We can expedite it at any time, but I don't want to pay an extra $60.

Anyone been to Israel before? We'll be there for 10 days. Most of it is scheduled, group activities, but there will be one day that we'll get to go off on our own, I think in Tel Aviv. We chose a hiking trip, so we'll be far more immersed in our surroundings than if we were on a bus or bikes. I think we pretty much walk the whole trip. Aside Tel Aviv, we'll visit Jerusalem and I think Bethlehem too. Actually, here's a sample itinerary. We even get to spend one night camping in a desert!

So any suggestions what we should do in Tel Aviv, if anyone's been there? Thanks!
Humanist, the mister went to Israel a couple of years ago and said the landscape and historical sites (especially the Masada) were stunning. A hiking trip sounds ideal and the itinerary you posted includes a visit to the Dead Sea which should be cool.

I can't advise on Tel Aviv as he stayed in Jerusalem. It sounds like your accommodation will be booked for you but let me know if you want the name of his hotel in Jerusalem: he said it was a lovely place to hang out in as well as to stay.
Google something re tourism and Cape Town, and find this thread!

Hey, how is everyone keeping?

(This forum format doesn't like my old name/password)
omg, is that really meerkat???*waves*

humanist, i can only say that i am jealous. i would love to go to israel on a hiking trip. it's pretty high on my list of cool things to do, someday. *fingers crossed for you to get your passport soon*

one of my best friends goes to london on a regular basis. there have been some noises made about my tagging along with her late this summer. i almost fainted at the very thought, i was so excited!
so, meerkat! i'm in Cape Town for a workshop this week - any specific recommendations of must see/must do for my after hours? restaurants, shops, good places for live music? am across the street from the aquarium, near Victoria and Albert Waterfront....
Spent an hour researching a looong post. . . . and it got destroyed!!!!!
The shortened version . . . .

Don’t know how much of Cape Town you’ve seen already, or what you have for transport . . . .

Of course there is loads to do and see in the waterfront itself, but it is overtly touristy. To escape that, and within walking distance, go up Portswood Rd to Somerset Rd (300meters from Breakwater Lodge), cross the 10 lanes of traffic, and either:

-turn right along Somerset for a 300m strip of cafés and stores right on Somerset, facing the new football stadium.

-turn left for 700m to the “Waterkant” area (not same as waterfront – Waterkant has Dutch pronounciation). This area is the center of Cape Town’s gay & décor scene. Browse a bit up the streets to mountain side of Somerset. (the lower side of Somerset gets seedy/risky)

If you want to spoil yourself with a taxi ride, head for Camps Bay beach front for sunset over the sea (6.20pm this week). Lots of cafés and music spilling onto the pavement. Totally safe to stroll alone at night for someone who is even slightly streetsmart.

Apparently, center of the late night music/club scene is Long street (3km from hotel). But not a safe area to be alone unless you can run fast and shout load.

Observatory main road is popular with the university students – a bohemian area (7km from hotel)

Kirstenbosch gardens should appeal to you: perfect serenity in the city, vistas, walks, 2 decent restaurants, and amazing plants.

Only do Table Mountain in very good weather. The restaurant on top closed last week for renovations in the off-season.

The must see and do’s are well known. Don’t try to do them all in one go. Come back for later visits, hire a car and stay in a B&B. Suggest you suss out the B&B’s in the Waterkant area while you are here now – that indicates the general standard available all over Cape Town. Further from the waterfront you will get the same standard, slightly lower prices and secure parking included.
Sorry Damona, in the re-post haste I forgot to be civilised! Hi! *waves back*

This board really doesn’t like me – I think I have been brown-listed here. 90% of the time when I try anything, the system simply logs me out. grrrrr

Maybe start up a copy board again???? ;-)
The Kirstenbosch Gardens are really lovely, with lots pf space to wander around and some lovely floral/fauna that you can only find in Cape Town's microclimate. There's also a penguin reserve just outside the city which is great fun.

*waves at meerkat* Nice to see you again! The board's been playing up generally over the last few weeks, so it's not just you.
exactly right, meerkat, i am at the breakwater lodge. interesting used to be a jail.

many thanks syb and meer for the suggestions. i haven't seen the gardens, and i do want to do that. don't think i'll have time this trip, though.;

i've been here before, was just wondering if anyone had any specific restaurant recommendations.

i adore busties. just adore them.
thanks syb and damona!
damona, you'll get to travel someday, if that's what you want to do.
syb, I would love the name of the hotel in Jerusalem. Yeah, i guess our free night is in Tel Aviv, but maybe we'll get to visit the hotel. If he has any other suggestions, I've love to hear them!
how did that happen is it for work or something
I'm going to Glasgow on May 7th, returning on the 23rd. I'm going with my granny -- who is only 68 so still very young and spry -- and staying with family. I am really looking forward to the trip, as I have never been overseas before. Is there anything in Glasgow that is a must-see? My granny already said we have to go to the Barras, and we're going to do day trips to other places. I'm really excited!
Just got back from Vegas and this time went to Mandalay bay has anyone stayed there before
QUOTE(lananans @ Apr 21 2008, 10:43 PM) *
I'm going to Glasgow on May 7th, returning on the 23rd. I'm going with my granny -- who is only 68 so still very young and spry -- and staying with family. I am really looking forward to the trip, as I have never been overseas before. Is there anything in Glasgow that is a must-see? My granny already said we have to go to the Barras, and we're going to do day trips to other places. I'm really excited!

lananans, apologies - I meant to post a reply and then forgot; I hope you see this before you leave. The Barras is a must although it's not as impressive as it once was but you should do the hop on/hop off open bus tour as it takes in all the other must sees too (Kelvingrove Art Galleries which is a must for Dali's The Crucifixion, alone; the Charles Rennie Mackintosh sights (Glaswegian Art Nouveau architect and designer); the People's Palace; the city's oldest house; the religious museum; Glasgow University and the surrounding West-end, including the Botanic Gardens; Glasgow Cathedral...) Places to eat should include Arisaig on St Vincent Street (city centre) and/or Stravaigin on Gibson St or Ruthven Lane (west end) for traditional Scottish fayre and you should definitely have a curry in Glasgow as we have some of the best Indian food outside of India! You should also take a journey on the Glasgow underground; we call it the Clockwork Orange or the little toy train - we're ahead of our time when it comes to public transport! The Science Museum also makes for a nice day out as does taking in a film at the Glasgow Film Theatre, which is an Art Deco building, or a play at the Citizen's Theatre, or The Lighthouse museum and the Transport museum are nice to walk around and GoMA is a must (all of these are central, in "town" or nearby).

For day trips you should definitely take the train through to Edinburgh and Stirling.

Any other questions and/or specifics then just ask and I hope you have a great time in the dear green place! Here's hoping the lovely weather we've had continues for your visit.
Humanist, hope this isn't too late:

Lananans, I enthusiastically second all bunnyb's suggestions. My favourite places to eat in Glasgow were The Ubiquitous Chip in the West End (on a little laneway of Byres Road, which name I've forgotten but I practically lived there for four years) and Garibaldi's in the city centre. Dunno if they're still there or if they're still good, but the Chip in particular had great Scottish food and lovely surroundings, as well as a fine whisky selection. wink.gif
Yes, the Chip is an institution and it's on Ashton Lane, which is a lovely part of the city (runs parallel to Byres Road in the west-end) and eventually leads onto Cresswell Lane where there are some lovely boutique shops. I too spent four plus years there and thereabouts (it's uni land).

Oh, there's also Oran Mor at the very end of Byres Road (across from the Botanic Gardens on Gt Western Road), which is a beautiful coverted church where you can eat or drink or go to A Play, a Pie and a Pint, which is a matinee performance of a play complete with a pie and a pint of beer for £10!

eta: if you're wanting some luxury then go for oysters and cocktails or even afternoon tea at the Rogano in Royal Exchange Square; zoya and I went there recently and had a great (albeit a little expensive) time.
hi all - I second Rogano - kind of spendy, but if you like oysters, they're great there - and they come from Loch Fyne, which is only about 1.5 hours from Glasgow. The Barras is cool, but the market is only open on Saturday / Sunday, so it's not really worth it to go there during the week. Also, your gran may remember Barrowland as a dance hall, but these days it's a concert venue, so you can't get in unless there is a rock concert - it's great, though, totally dark, dreary, and chock full of history.

A walk in Glasgow Green is nice, and down along the clyde there is a nice path to walk along. There is a museum in Glasgow Green called the People's palace, and last month when I went in there, there was an exhibit about the history of Glasgow from the 40's/50's til today.. It had tons of photos and memorabilia - you might like to check that out (your gran may really like it too) and as with all museums, it's free!

being the lover of local crap food, I think that you should go to a chippie and get a bacon roll for breakfast. Just sayin'. For Indian, I recommend Mother India or Mother India Cafe (the cafe does small plate versions of the full meals at Mother India) absolutely fantastic.

and if you feel like stepping away from the relatives for a night (or lunch) PM me! I'm sure Bunny would be down for that as well! I'm limited on my days I can hang out to the 3rd week of the month because of being really busy with work, but would be cool to hang out.
So my travel buddy just emailed me to tell me she has a serious infection and has flown home. So I'll be traveling around Europe for 5 weeks on my own. I'm nervous but kind of excited too. I'll have a lot more freedom, but has anyone else traveled around Europe by themselves? At least I'm armed with my lonely planet book.
thanks syb! The photos of the hotel on the site look really beautiful!

We're leaving in 10 days. We still have to look over the supply list they sent us and get stuff, but otherwise, I'm trying to not get overwhelmed about everything before we leave-just get together the stuff we need and show up to the airport on time. The stuff that people get stressed about in traveling like tickets and hotels is all covered for us, so there's no reason to get worked up, I hope!
Our first flight to JFK leaves at like 6 am, so we'll just pull an all-nighter and sleep on the plane. For some reason i can't log into the website, so I'm not able to see the actual itinerary for our trip yet-which is what I'm most excited about.
So...I've been told that flying east is okay, but flying back west is grueling, and the further the trip is, the worst. It's an 8 hour time difference, and about a 14-15 hour flight. We'll leave Israel around 5 am, and we'll be back home in the afternoon. Does anyone know if it would be better to sleep as much as possible or as little as possible on the flight back?

ETA: I got the itinerary
Thursday, May 22 – Departure
Depart JFK at 6:15 PM
Arrive at the airport four hours early

Friday, May 23 – Arrival / Galilee
Landing at Ben Gurion Airport at 11:55 AM
Travel northwards to Caesarea
Caesarea – Roman amphitheater on the beach
Travel northwards to Tiberias
Return to hotel & prepare for Shabbat
Kabbalat Shabbat program
Overnight: Eden Hotel Tiberias / Tel: 972-4-6790070

Saturday, May 24 – Galilee
Walking tour of area
Havdalla ceremony - Welcome a new week
Kinneret Cruise - Boat ride on the Sea of Galilee
Overnight: Eden Hotel Tiberias / Tel: 972-4-6790070

Sunday, May 25 – Upper Galilee
Nahal Yehudia - Canyon hike
Jordan River rafting - Relaxed rafting on the upper Jordan River
Evening: Israeli Folk Dancing
Overnight: Eden Hotel Tiberias / Tel: 972-4-6790070

Monday, May 26 – Tzfat
Tzfat - Jewish mysticism's birthplace
Mount Meiron - Nature walk & tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai
Overnight: Beit Tzaida (JNF), Tzukim / Tel: 972-4-6207442

Tuesday, May 27 – Galilee / Tel Aviv
Nahal Amud - Canyon hike in the Galilee mountains
Swimming & water sports in the Kinneret
Travel southwards to Netanya
Overnight: Margoa Netanya / Tel: 972-9-8624434

Wednesday, May 28 – Judean Desert
Travel southwards to Judean Desert
Tel Azeka – Biblical story of David & Goliath
Hirbet Midras (Midras Ruins) - hike, tunnel and caves
Welcome Israeli soldiers for ‘mifgash’
Nahal Abuv - Canyon hike
Overnight: Inbar Arad, Negev Desert / Tel: 972-8-9973303

Thursday, May 29 – Dead Sea
Ascend Masada - Via the Roman Ramp
Masada - Ancient mountain - top fortress
Descend Masada - Via the Snake Path
Ein Gedi - Nature walk to the desert waterfalls
Dead Sea - Floating at Ein Bokek Beach
Travel southwestwards to Sde Boker
Overnight: Sde Boker Hotel, Negev Desert / Tel: 972-8-6532828

Friday, May 30 – Negev / Jerusalem
Camel trekking - Travel the Judean desert in style!
Nahal Chavarim - Canyon hike
Travel northwards to Jerusalem
Machane Yehuda - Colorful Jerusalem marketplace
The Kotel - Reflection at the Western Wall
Return to hotel & prepare for Shabbat
Kabbalat Shabbat program
Overnight: Zippori Hotel, Jerusalem / Tel: 972-2-6752911

Saturday, May 31 – Jerusalem
Walking tour of area
Ein Karem - Walking tour of picturesque village
Relaxation time
Havdalla ceremony - Welcome a new week
Psik Theatre - Evening of culture
Overnight: Zippori Hotel, Jerusalem / Tel: 972-2-6752911

Sunday, June 1 – Jerusalem Foothills
Final mifgash with Israeli soldiers
Rappelling - Shilat Cliff
Taglit birthright Israel - Mega Event
Overnight: Zippori Hotel, Jerusalem / Tel: 972-2-6752911

Monday, June 2 – Jerusalem / Tel Aviv
Yad Vashem - Holocaust Memorial & Museum
Har Herzl - National memorial
Travel westwards to Tel Aviv
Free night out in Tel Aviv
Overnight: Tel Aviv Seanet / Tel: 972-3-5171655

Tuesday, June 3 – Tel Aviv
Independence Hall - Declaration of the modern State of Israel
Rabin Square – Memorial to Yitzhak Rabin
Nahalat Binyamin - Market & street festival
Tel Aviv Beaches - Relax along Tel Aviv's Mediterranean Coast
Jaffa - Ancient seaport & artist colony
Group night out in Tel Aviv

Wednesday, June 4 – Departure from Israel
Departure from Ben Gurion at 4:50 AM
Arrival at JFK 10:35 AM
humanist - your trip looks amazing! as to jet lag / sleeping on planes vs not.... When flying over the Atlantic Ocean, I've always slept when going east, and stayed awake when going west. Stay awake on the plane coming home, then stay awake when you get home until a reasonable hour to go to sleep (like 9 pm) then just let your body sleep as much as it wants to.

sometimes it takes me 2 days, I'll get up for awhile on the 2nd day and do stuff, then just sleep as much as I want again. Then I'm fine. I'm not of the opinion that you should get your body "back on a schedule" I say just sleep at somewhat regular hours until your body is done with it.
Have a great trip, humanist!

I'm going to Florida for three weeks in July: Kissimmee, Orlando, for weeks one and three and Sarasota the week in between. This is my visit to the States, let alone Florida, so I'm looking for the whole experience as well as theme parks (especially Disney) aplenty! Does anybody have any recommendations for things I must do/see/eat (I love restaurant recommendations)?
anna k
I am interested in going on some kind of a group tour to London. I want to visit London, but I don't want to feel lost or lonely, and I don't have any close friends to go with. Does anyone know of some kind of group tours that may have a theme to it, not just going to tourist areas, but some kind of specific theme where I can meet interesting people and see different parts of London?

Also, I am interested in going to Lisbon or Paris. Are there other kind of non-cheesy tours to go on?
Thanks, bunny & zoya! We're leaving for the airport in about a half hour smile.gif
See ya'll June 5th!
Okay so my boyfriend is in the UK for the next month in a study abroad thing, and I'm meeting him in Europe at the end of that. Planning it was a drag at first (very intimidating) but I'm starting to get really excited now. I've got my plane ticket and my train tickets from London to Paris to Brussels to Amsterdam. I just need to figure out how to get from Amsterdam back to London, because that's where I'm flying back out of. It seems impossible. If I had known better, in the beginning I would have had my boyfriend meet me in Paris and just skip London altogether... the exchange rate is worse, they don't participate in the Eurail thing (making a rail pass not worth it), and now this. And it's more expensive getting in and out of England than travel between other countries.

But whatever. We're trying to do couchsurfing instead of staying in hostels. We're all set for London and Brussels, but still haven't found people to stay with in Paris and Amsterdam. As a really shy and socially awkward person, the couchsurfing thing is a little intimidating but I think it'll end up being much better than a hostel.
Hey, HT! If you guys need a "friend" on couchsurfing, let me know. It really helps to have a profile that's well filled-out, with a few friends and references. Also, I know someone in Amsterdam you could probably stay with, who I stayed with. I could just point you in the direction of her CS page. But they are the nicest people ever and they made my time there so great, and I bet they'd let you stay if they're not already booked.

PM me if you want.

ETA: You're right, it is more intimidating that staying at a hostel, but it can be soo much more rewarding. I mean, I had hosts that I didn't connect with, and that was fine, and I can't say I've had any bad experiences. But the good experiences- I was just blown away by people's openness and generosity. We were staying in Marseille and we got to see stuff we never would have gotten to see if it hadn't been for our host. He took us outside the city to the seaside in his car, we went hiking, and had an amazing picnic. Other times I've been taken to house parties or small shows or brunches. And it makes a trip more memorable when you can look back and think "oh yeah, in Paris we stayed with Pierre and Claudette" instead of some generic hostel.
Anna, I just got back from London and Paris. I don't know about group tours, but I found they were both pretty easy to figure out after I oriented myself. I went to London with my brothers and met friends there but I was alone in Paris. There's tons to do in both cities and if you stay in a hostel you'll be sure to find people to hang out with. If you just want a good group tour of the cities definitely check out the Sandeman tours.
I did the one in Paris (and a second one just of Montmartre) and Edinburgh. They're about 3.5-4 hours long and they show you around the main area's and tell you the history and what the buildings are, etc. They're really great and free. At the end you tip your guide, but they always do a great job so I give them between 5-10. In Paris they also had a pub crawl that was great to meet people. I would suggest checking out some hostels and finding one that organizes events like pub crawls or tours or things like that because it's a great way to hook up with other solo travelers.
Does anyone know if I am able to text message humanist while she's in Israel? Is that like an extra she/both of us would have to have on our phones?
polly, I don't think most cell phones work abroad without a sim card (or whatever they're called).
QUOTE(edie52 @ May 22 2008, 02:53 PM) *
Hey, HT! If you guys need a "friend" on couchsurfing, let me know. It really helps to have a profile that's well filled-out, with a few friends and references. Also, I know someone in Amsterdam you could probably stay with, who I stayed with. I could just point you in the direction of her CS page. But they are the nicest people ever and they made my time there so great, and I bet they'd let you stay if they're not already booked.

PM me if you want.

ETA: You're right, it is more intimidating that staying at a hostel, but it can be soo much more rewarding. I mean, I had hosts that I didn't connect with, and that was fine, and I can't say I've had any bad experiences. But the good experiences- I was just blown away by people's openness and generosity. We were staying in Marseille and we got to see stuff we never would have gotten to see if it hadn't been for our host. He took us outside the city to the seaside in his car, we went hiking, and had an amazing picnic. Other times I've been taken to house parties or small shows or brunches. And it makes a trip more memorable when you can look back and think "oh yeah, in Paris we stayed with Pierre and Claudette" instead of some generic hostel.

Yeah I feel like it'll be better to see the inside of people's houses, talk to them, eat with them, etc. instead of just staying in a hostel with a bunch of other tourists and keep our outsider perspective the entire time. And when i tell people about this they all question its safety, but to me it seems on par, if not safer, than a hostel. Before I discovered couchsurfing I was worried about leaving my backpack in a hostel and having it get stolen.

Do you know anything about couchsurfing etiquette? there is this couple from Paris that I messaged the other day. They logged in 9 hours ago but the message in my outbox is still marked as unread. I really, really want them to say yes, because they seem perfect, but their reply rate says 87%, so I don't know. I don't know if I should start messaging other people or not- is it acceptable to ask multiple couches and then say "never mind" to some people if you get accepted by more than one person? I know I have a month before I leave, and people don't know what they're doing that far ahead, but I want to get this done so I can stop worrying I'll be stranded.
Yes, IMO it's okay to message multiple people, and if necessary politely explain later to some that you already found another place. I think most people do that, and expect that others are doing the same, otherwise you might just get stranded... when I was trying to go to Stockholm I found the Perfect People, and put my hopes on them, but they didn't write back until weeks later (when they apologized and said that there were other things going on in their life at that time). 87% is a pretty good reply rate, but I'd still write to a few others.

It's good that you're being selective though. Some people write mass copy-and-pasted emails and people really hate that. You've probably read the rules and guidelines on the site, right? I found them really helpful.
anna k
erinjane, thank you. The flights to European cities are $1,000+, and I'm currently saving my money to afford a flight, as well as meeting fellow travellers and enjoying a foreign city. I hate that it's so expensive for me on my salary, but I'd love to go. I'm not interested in doing volunteer/aid work, I don't feel like I have the compassion or humanitarianism to help people in poor countries, selfish as it sounds. I just want to walk around a new city and meet new people.
Polly, it may depend on your network, but my sister in NYC and I text all the time, and I'm based in Europe. I would just try it and see.

HT, because Amsterdam and London are both major European hubs, you should be able to find cheap flights pretty easily. Easyjet show fares of about €35 one way between Amsterdam and LDN(about $55.00). Getting to Schipol, Amsterdam's main airport, is pretty easy from the main train station: a 20 minute train takes you straight there.

Be warned: Easyjet are evil in the same way Ryanair(another cheapie airline) are evil: they restrict your baggage and try and sneak in additional charges when booking. Their fares are good though, so they're worth checking out. Look around for other cheap flights too. Google Amsterdam flights which should throw up some options.
Thanks- she managed to reply to my message just before leaving JFK, and said she was keeping her phone turned off from that point on. So I got my answer and found out it won't matter while she's there.
She text messaged me from Israel- they arrived safely!
I just looked up the weather for London, Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam in June, and it said at that time of year they're all usually low 60s, raining half the time.

Is that true? That seems so cold for June (I'm one of those people who thinks 85 is perfect)! I mean, it'll make it easier to pack since the temp is really moderate and the same in every country, but I have a hard time believing that. Wow.
The weather is unpredictable in Europe; I personally found Paris to be one of the coldest places I've ever visited. London in June is usually very warm, I'd say in the 70s (?); we work in centigrade here so I know it's normally in the high 20s or low 30s or was the last time I was there over the summer (August last year, June the year before, July the year before that). That temp is warm for us and in the 30s is classed as a good summer!
Well, at least I know to bring a couple pairs of jeans, tee shirts, a couple cardigans, maybe a dress for if it actually does get hot, a pair of sneakers, and a pair of flip flops. Even that sounds like a lot, but I always overpack. And in my day to day life I wear lots of layers and obsess about how I look (ie I hate wearing tee shirts without a cardigan because my big boobs look weird; I have "fat" days- stupid petty crap like that). Before this I was thinking it would be hot during the day and cold at night so I'd have to bring clothes for both, that all matched with each other. I was freaking out. haha. Now all I have to worry about is rain. My sandals are waterproof, so i don't need to worry about cold wet feet, but finding a crappy raincoat that folds up into a small pouch has actually been a total pain in the A. I'm starting to think a travel umbrella might be better anyway.

I'm getting anxious about couchsurfing too. We're going to London and Brussels first, and we have couches there, but I'm having trouble with Paris and Amsterdam. No one knows that far in advance if they can host anyone, but I leave in 3 weeks and I don't want to take off without knowing where I'm staying since it'll peak travel season and we'll never get a hostel last minute.

Well that was a book. A chick-lit book. So I'm gonna stop writing now.
I'm home! I'm finally feeling well enough to post since I returned from Israel on the 4th. After flying 8 time zones west for 15 hours, my body/mind/immune system really took a beating. I was healthy throughout the trip, but it was really hard coming home, especially because I've had so much stuff to do, and so little energy. Come 11 p.m. Chicago time, it was time for me to wake up in Israel-so I was seriously sleep-deprived for a few days. To make matters worse, I caught a cold because my immune system is shot with the screwed up sleep. I'm popping magic supplements though, and it seems to be going away. 5 days later I'm finally starting to feel back to normal.

But the trip was absolutely incredible, and I want to go back. I'm glad to be home for the comfort of familiarity, but I would've just been happy traveling that country everyday, forever. I took many, many photos; I just need to upload them and hopefully print them out and get them in an album. I'll put them online first though. Israel is gorgeous, and there are so many cool cities and lots of beautiful vegetation. They really put so much effort into natural growth- dense forests, trees and flowers everywhere. A LOT of palm trees. We did a lot of intense hiking-in mountains, canyons, deserts and forests-complete with waterfalls.

I think my favorite parts were swimming in the Mediterranean, floating in the Dead Sea, consuming ice cream and beer almost every night, and the Tel Aviv craft market. We really lucked out with our group-a total of 42 people. Apparently they group randomly within those who apply for each trip, but we really had such a wonderful group. Everyone was just smart and fun, and more than a quarter of the group was queer, including both of the staff members. Out of the 15 or so queer people in the group, more than half of them were women, two of them F to M, and one of them in rabbinical school. And this wasn't even the LGBT group! Over the 12 days we were there, I felt connected to so many of my companions. At first it was overwhelming; I didn't think I'd even remember 40 people's names, but I did, and made a lot of friends. The boy and I were the only couple there, and we were told many times that we handled ourselves very well. I made a purposeful effort to avoid him through a lot of the trip. I was glad he was there, but I wanted to experience the trip on my own and not have to think about our relationship. I mean, I live with the guy-it didn't hurt to miss him a little.

I swiped a couple of good photos from our trip's Facebook group:
by a canyon waterfall (that's me standing on the right in the hat and black swimsuit)

the boy and I on a Mediterranean beach

I never went on Facebook, avoided it, even-but there's so much activity on there with the group, it's kind of irresistible. Damn it.

There are really just so many things I could go on and on about, it would take several pages, and I doubt anyone would read it all, so I just have to say that I loved Israel, the trip was non-stop fun and excitement, and we want to like, live there now. And we can fairly easily! Definitely considering in the not-too-distant future.

Oh, and I got my first-ever tan!!
now that you are on facebook, you can create an album to post all of your Israel pics. wink.gif
I'm leaving on Sunday, and I finally got all my tickets and places to stay sorted out, but packing has been a huge pain in the ass. I thought jeans and tee shirts would be fine for mid-60s weather, but I've been lurking on a European backpackers message board and when i posted my packing list these hardcore backpackers who usually yell at people for packing too much yelled at me for not being prepared for hot days. My backpack may look huge but I realized it actually doesn't fit a whole lot of stuff in it, although when I put it on my back it feels heavy and looks gigantic. I think the support panels and stuff take up a lot of the space. Plus I'm short and kinda small so any pack looks like it's going to swallow me whole. If I try and squeeze more clothes in for hot days and it's cold there the whole time I'm going to be pissed. And anyway if it does get hot I can just buy something. I'll probably see lots of sundresses and stuff to drool over.
HT, beware the bullying online backpackers! They can have good advice, but often, on thorn tree and similar, they're convinced there's only one way to do things, usually on $1 a day.

I would say pack light, always a good idea. However, also keep in mind dollars will buy less clothing-wise over here... At worst, travel wash is your friend. tongue.gif
Yeah well I said I was bringing a sundress in case it got hot. I thought that would be good enough but apparently not. So I have some comfy cargo shorts made of lightweight material that I might wear on the plane and to sleep, and those will work for hot weather too. And you're right, I'll just have to wash my clothes a couple times.
anna k
humanist, that sounds so great!

I've been researching Lisbon a lot more lately, looking at buses and subways to get around, as cabbies can be notorious for taking the long way to drive up charges. I'm not even really interested in shopping or drinking or seeing touristy places, or trying to see the whole city. I just want to walk around and take photos and get to know and understand a different place, be very chill and quiet. It's a trip I'm planning for, but I feel nervous going on my own. The only option for a partner is my sister, but I really don't want to bring her with me (she can be annoying), and I don't have any close friends to bring with me. I keep trying to find group trips, but no luck. I feel nervous but excited, and I would have to check with my boss that I could take a week off in the fall.
A sundress should be very useful, especially as it is still the case in several places in Europe that a person wearing shorts=American tourist.

My mister really enjoyed Lisbon when he went there anna; I think he mentioned tiled streets, which were beautiful but tricky to walk up hills on!
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