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My ABCs of Travel

I saw this topic being passed around by travel bloggers awhile ago and I thought it’d be a great framework to get me started. A little get to know me post, if you will.

A: Age you went on your first international trip
It may have been before, but the earliest I can remember was when I was 9, being in Ontario for my birthday and crossing the border at Niagara Falls into Buffalo. I don’t remember much about that short day trip other than goingfor wings. Buffalo wings in Buffalo…it just had to be done.

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where
My first ever pint of Guinness in Dublin. It’s hard to beat a pint served right at the brewery. Second runner up: Goose Island’s Honker Ale. Chicago totally counts as foreign to this Canuck.

C: Cuisine (favorite)
Southwest followed by Indian. If someone invented a butter chicken burrito I might be in heaven. On second thought, maybe those should stay separate dishes.

D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why
Tough call. The scale is going to tip slightly in favour of Ireland over Costa Rica here. That trip was a planning milestone for me – my first big international, multi-town road trip. Driving on the other side of the road! The country was different from home but not so different as to be intimidating…except the roundabouts. Don’t get me started on the roundabouts.

I’m not sure I really have a least favourite. LA maybe. I was underwhelmed.

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”
Every now and then it just hits me where I am while traveling. “Wow, I’m watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.” or “Wow, I’m standing in a castle that was built 800 years ago.” or “Holy crap I just survived white water rafting in Central America!” Those moments just make me pause and really try to savour my surroundings.

F: Favorite mode of transportation
Segway. They may be geeky but they’re super fun. Unless zip line is a form of transportation. It’s not? Ok, Segway wins then.

San Francisco Segway

G: Greatest feeling while traveling
The exhilaration of seeing something with your own eyes that you’d only read about before. For examples, the first time I laid eyes on Blarney Castle or the Statue of Liberty were some pretty cool moments. They make me want to go out and see ALL the things.

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to
I think it’s safe to say that I haven’t really experienced hot yet. Living in Newfoundland, we put on shorts when the weather hits double digits (that’s 50F for you Americans). Hottest temps that come to mind would either be hot and dry Guanacaste, Costa Rica where I felt like crispy bacon or hot and humid Toronto last summer where I felt like a cooked noodle

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where
I had great service at the Westin Alexandria when I was travelling on business. The check-in clerk got me a street map, recommended restaurants, and even took his own personal time to look into where I might find some live jazz nearby. The next day another staff member walked me outside and around the corner to show me where the Starbucks was located. Small things but they were above and beyond what I expected.

City Segway in San Francisco also stands out. After a rather hellish journey across the country it was refreshing to have a tour go so well. There was only myself and one other tourist on this evening jaunt so it was a pretty informal zip around the city. Afterwards our guide invited us to join him for Irish coffees on one condition, it was on him. Oh twist my rubber arm.

J: Journey that took the longest
Due to of a cancelled United flight my journey from St. John’s to San Francisco went from 16 hours of flights and connections to a neverending 60 hours. What should’ve been three connecting flights turned into 21 hours on a bus, 7 hours on a ferry, 8 hours on a plane and countless hours waiting in airports. I lost a day and a half of my vacation but it made me savour each San Fran moment just a little bit more. And hey, I got a good story out of it!

K: Keepsake from your travels
For awhile I was collecting mugs but they pile up pretty fast and I can only drink so much tea. So I switched to postcards and fridge magnets. I like that my fridge is becoming a record of my journeys. If I keep going I’m going to need a second fridge. I’m ok with that.

L: Let-down sight, why and where
I think was expecting more awe-inspiring moments during my quick two day stay in Los Angeles. The beach in Venice was spectacular but LA and Hollywood itself…meh. Sure, it was cool to see the Hollywood sign with my own eyes and check out the footprints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre but beyond that I could take it or leave it. If someone wants to bring me back and show me what I missed, well, I wouldn’t say no.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel
That moment in NYC when I realized that I could handle travelling to big cities and to new places where I didn’t know anyone local. I didn’t get robbed, lost or kidnapped. I can do this! And you know what they say, if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in
The hotel with the most charm would have to be the Listowel Arms Hotel in Listowel, Co. Kerry, Ireland which boasts a connection to Daniel O’Connell and Charles Parnell. You certainly won’t find a 15th century castle practically in the backyard at most hotels. There was no shortage of food with the included breakfast and the dining room had a great view overlooking the River Feale.

But for over the top views? The Hotel Royal Corin in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. I arrived at night so when I woke up in the morning and flung open my curtains I wasn’t quite prepared to see the Arenal Volcano literally across the street. Any hotel that has their own volcanic fed hot springs is ok in my books.

O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?
I have a small stuffed toy puffin who travels with me, named Bleecker. I take photos of him all over the place. He’s even travelled without me to Germany, Belgium, France, Scotland, Austria, and the Czech Republic. He’s a well travelled puffin.

Bleecker at Niagara Falls

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?
I’ve got stamps from 5 countries: England, Ireland, France, Costa Rica and the US. I’ve got multiple stamps from my trips to the states over the last 4 years.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where
Does Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls count as quirky? It’s certainly kitchy as hell.

R: Recommended sight, event or experience
The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. It’s so much fun to climb over these stones, even seniors were acting like kids. The formation is so incredible that it’s not hard to imagine that giants really did construct the geometrically shaped pillars.

S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling
If it’s a particularly memorable trip I have no problem paying for some sort of unique quality souvenir. I came back from Belfast with gorgeous red leather shoes. On my trip to NYC for my 30th birthday I paid a visit to Tiffany & Co and left clutching a small bag in their signature blue. I like souvenirs that don’t scream “I was in [insert place name here]!” but trigger those memories for me.

I will also pay for a cool experience. Eventually the shoes will wear out and the necklace will tarnish but I’m always going to remember the thrill of riding my first wave or seeing London from a bird’s eye view. $175 to walk around the edge of the CN Tower? I will happily fork over the cash next time I’m in Toronto while it’s on the go.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done
I swore up and down that I wasn’t going to kiss the Blarney Stone. It was just too cheesy. Besides, how unsanitary is that stone with everyone leaving their slobber all over it, or worse. I never realized just how close it was to Cork and I knew my dad was curious so we decided to at least visit the castle grounds. I still wasn’t kissing any rock. We got there early in the morning and almost had the place to ourselves. We explored the castle ruins and carefully climbed all the way to the top. There was nobody waiting and the attendant was looking at us expectantly so…what the hell…we went for it. In the end I’m glad. We were probably only going to pass this way once so why miss out on an experience?

Kissing the Blarney Stone

U: Unforgettable travel memory
It may sound sappy but my unforgettable memory would be all of the new friends I’ve met along the way – some of whom I still stay in touch with. I find that travelling solo leaves you more open to talking to new people. Being open to that has led to some really fun sushi dinners, brewery tours and shots of tequila along the way.

V: Visas, how many and for where?
I haven’t needed a visa yet for the few countries I’ve visited.

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?
This is something that needs to happen soon. There hasn’t been one stand out wine experience yet. Someday I’m hoping to visit vineyards in Chile and then I will definitely have something for this answer.

X: eXcellent view and from where?
City views: New York City from the top of the Empire State Building and Chicago from the Sears Tower. I don’t care that it’s been renamed, it will always be the Sears Tower to me. And don’t get me started on “Rogers Centre”.

Scenic views: Watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica was spectacular. Palm trees silhouetted against an orange glow, next to an endless expanse of white sand beach and ocean  is not something I get to see very often.

Y: Years spent traveling?
Traveling without family has only been the last 7 years. I’d done a few smaller trips to Toronto and Halifax but the first trip where I really felt like I was traveling was when I went to the UK with a friend in 2004. In the last year or two I’ve really increased the frequency of my trips to new places.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?
I haven’t really attended too many sporting events while traveling. I guess the closest things to zealous fans that I’ve encountered might be the Irish folks who gathered in the pub we were staying at to watch Ireland take on Wales in a 6am match during the Rugby World Cup. For me, getting up that early means dedication.

Well folks, thanks for sticking with me. Have you done your own ABCs of Travel? I’d love to read them.


  1. Christine | GrrrlTraveler says:

    January 7th, 2013 at 10:42 am (#)

    HAHAHA.. That photo of you kissing the Blarney Stone is a riot. I didn’t know you could kiss it that way… or maybe you were hoping to avoid the community spit wall.

    Cute post. I like the idea.

  2. Melissa Hogan says:

    January 7th, 2013 at 10:54 am (#)

    haha That’s how the attendant told us to do it! Sit on the mat and lean back, then he grabbed my jacket and kind of shoved me into the hole and told me to “Give it a big smooch”. The actual stone is at the bottom of the overhang so it’d be more awkward to reach it from your belly.

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