A Travellerspoint blog

Cancun and beyond

semi-overcast 24 °C

Well, happy Boxing Day everybody! May you be blessed with all of the discounted merchandise to your heart´s content. I was sitting at my gate at Pearson for my first flight to Cancun via Washington, DC. Now I know what you´re thinking. ¨Ashley, why on earth would you go to Cancun, one of North Americas biggest destinations, when you could quite litterarlly go anywhere else on the planet? First of all, to achieve my goal of visiting 100 countries by the onset of your twilight years, I can't be choosy. I pretty much have to go everywhere. And I'd also like to cross Chichen Itza off of my wonders of the world goal.

Wait, hold on a minute.

Ok, I´m back. I had to board. I was one of the first people on. Which is weird because I´m almost always last to board.

So after my darling cousins decided to generously provide me with cab fare [lol! ;)] at the Churchill Christmas Eve party, and of course the Christmas Day shindig at my Aunt Lorraine´s house, I take to Pearson Airport for my 6am flight. I really should think about relocating to Missasauga to cut down on the needless back and forth to the airport. The crowd at Pearson really wasn´t that bad for a major holiday. Security and customs were closed when I first got there, so I had to wait in line for a few minutes to get in. The plane had to be `de-iced` prior to takeoff so that delayed takeoff for a little bit, but not so much that I missed my connection in Washington, DC.

So I get off the plane in Washington after a few brief minutes of shut eye on the plane. An early morning flight after getting home late in the evening is not conducive to restfulness. I start my hunt for a starbucks or any other source of caffiene. I see one but I´m a tad put off by the line that looks to go all the way to oval office. So I skip the latte that I crave and head straight to my gate. I always, always, always request an aisle seat. Im not particularly claustrophobic in any other area of my life, but when it comes to planes, I´ll admit that I am. After a few more zzz´s randomly punctuated by the cries of a screaming baby, I arrive at my destination of Cancun, Mexico. Not quite as hot as I thought it would be. About 24C. I hop on the bus to my hostel. Hit the hay for what I intended to be an hour long cat nap only to wake up 4 hours later. I couldn't get back to sleep, so I decided to go to dinner and try the local cuisine. I had some tacos which weren't really tacos at a local restaurant. And wander around the neighbourhood. Not nearly as scary as my mom wants me to think.

So Cancun was pretty cool, and I mean that literally. It barely rose above 25 degrees. But I had a great time there. My first activity is to Chichen Itza. It was pretty awesome. With the whole "As of December 21, 2012, the whole world will cease to exist" the Mayans conjured up, tourist attraction has increased. It was cool and all, but I'm not convinced that the apocalypse is near.

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Day 2 was spent at an ecological park. I got to do one thing that I always wanted to do, was swim with dolphins.

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I decided to fly from Cancun to Belize City. Immediately I realize that Belize City is kind of a bust. There just isn't much to do here and my hostel is quite a distance from the town. The one thing that did give me a little chuckle, is when I crossed paths with the family van from the mid 90's.

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Leaving for Flores, I hope for more. Especially since I'm spending NYE there.

Arriving at my hotel, I'm a little upset that it a tad far from the city centre. The city is an island and my hotel is on the mainland. Its connected by a causeway. I go through Sapphire's contents. I managed to get a few masks in Mexico and Belize, hopefully I'll be able to get one here too.

This is my first hotel in a while. While I guess its nice to have your own room every so often, I do appreciate the hostel atmosphere more.

A few hours before going out for NYE, I meet up with a guy from The Netherlands who is also travelling alone. We decide to party it up together. I don't remember too much from that evening, as it was NYE after all.

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Some kids setting of firecrackers as the clock strikes 12
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With the amount of alcohol I consumed the night before, Tikal on New Years Day is out of the question. Man, I miss my early 20's. I could drink my liver into oblivion and be peachy keen the next morning. The second I hit 26, those days were over.

So I spend the day in my hotel room, the breeze from the water is a welcome surprise as I sleep it off. Going back to the T-dot tomorrow.


AC

Posted by AshleyC 04:19 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Rocking the Andes

As many of you may know, my biggest goal in life is to spend my 50th birthday in my 100th country (Note to all: January 21, 2033. SAVE THE DATE!). Followed by a circumnavigational trip starting in my hometown of Toronto, going west to end up in my beloved T-Dot once again. Woven into that goal, are a number of smaller goals. One of them being to see the Seven Wonders of the World. So far I've seen The Roman Colosseum, The Great Wall of China, and Petra. On my endless conquest for global domination, I recently swung by Peru to cross one more country (bringing my count to 42, based on the guidelines of The Travellers Century Club ) and see Macchu Picchu, my 5th wonder of the world.

My journey starts out in the city of Lima.

I spent my first day in Lima on a day tour of the city. Two things I quickly learned;

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One, Peruvians are sex fiends, as you will see in many of my pictures (any blood relatives of mine may want to walk away now).

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Secondly, like many other countries, Peru seems to be inspired by Canada's banking system. Scotiabank conquers all other South American banks in Peru's larger cities.

To be completely honest, there is not a great deal to see or do in the city of Lima, I am sad to say. One particularly place of interest is a cathedral, Monasterio de San Francisco . Before entering, the guide asked if were at all chlostrophobic. The proper question would have been if were at all uncomfortable around dead bodies. Our day guide takes us through a maze of tight and dark corridors, we get to large room and there are bones... everywhere. Skulls, femurs, little bones, small bones... just bones everywhere. Another one is an art gallery by the name of Museo de Arte Viirreynal Pedro de Osma. Housing colonial paintings, furniture, tapestries, metal pieces, among other collections.

Upon returning to the hotel in the Barranco neighbourhood of Lima, I met Holly, my roommate for the tour, the group of people that I would spend the next 2 weeks exploring the country of Peru with and Roberto, our gap guide who reviewed the trip with us. While I was excited, the details were a bit dull. Explaining every city got a bit repetitive after a while. I think I dozed off for a second.

After a night in a freezing and cold hotel room, we take off for Nazca on our 'Nice Local Bus'. Which broke down in the middle of the night somewhere in between the two cities.nicelocalbus

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The only thing I was interested in doing while in Nazca was to take a flight over the Nazca lines. Which I did do and I enjoyed it. I just wish my stomach felt the same during the flight. Being turned from the right side to the left and then over and over again in the air does not does not bode well for the old digestive tract. The Nazca Lines were, however, every interesting. I especially enjoyed the 'astronaut'.

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After recovering from what I can only describe as a 'turbulent' flight, we all headed to a pottery studio. This studio seemed to excel at, what appeared to be 'erotic' pottery. Like I previously stated, all blood relatives should proceed with caution.

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After leaving Nazca, we were off to the city of Arequipa. Which turned out to be a favourite. We started off with a trip to Santa Catalina Convent which I found to be surprisingly enjoyable, going back in time in a religious setting in what looks to be a very comfortable living space. Followed by a stop at a restaurant which specializes in Cuey, a local delicacy, otherwise known as deep fried guinea pig.
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After a few days in Arequipa, we took of to the Colca Canyon, the land of the colca leaves. The first destination (after a brief nap at the hotel) was the hot water springs. Given that it was temperature was barely in the teens (Celsius), slipping into a nice and bubbly hot spring surrounded by the beautiful mountains was a welcomed detour. Although getting out was a process that was less than desired.
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The next day, before taking off to Cuzco, we went to the top of the Canyon to look at the Condors of the area. They were pretty hard to see.
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After the show, we headed to the famed city if Cuzco. Being one of the oldest and and continuously inhabited city, it truly is fascinating, not to mention HOT, for once. The Inca built interlocking stone walls line most the side streets. If I have one tip for those heading out to this neck of the woods, is to wear a good pair of hiking boots for the cobble stone streets, but you should be wearing them anyway to get through the Inca Trail. This is the area where I learned the most about Peru during the Inca times. They're way of life, what the ate, where they lived. But if you want to know, you'll have head down there and find out for yourself!

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After Cuzco, off to the small fortress and village of Ollantaytambo. This town is known as the best surviving example of Inca urban planning and and engineering. One thing that stands out the most is the town's aquaducts. They line the streets and you can hear running water from all areas in the city. Also the place of a local Guina Pig farm (Cuey anyone?) , which we also checked out, before shedding a few tears over their unfortunate destiny.
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After one night in Ollantaytambo, it came to the point that I feared and anticpatd the most. The Inca Trail. Three days of hell followed by a few hours of heaven. In detail, four mountains in three days and all on the most rock and unsteady terrain you could ever imagine. I must say, the 'steps' that they speak of aren't so much steps, as much as the are a pile of rocks assembled on an incline.
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So after 3 days of the biggest uphill battle of my life, really, no pun intended, I reached the Sun Gate.
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This is Macchu Picchu. One of the Wonders of the World and the cherry on my Peruvian sundae.
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One more Wonder and one more country crossed of my list. Next stop, who knows?

Cheers,

-AC

Posted by AshleyC 08:33 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

My first regular vacation.

sunny 5 °C

Most people only take off once or twice a year. Unlike most people, I require extended periods of nothingness to recharge my batteries. I decided to do something crazy, and go on a one week vacay. Do as the normals do.

So anyway, Christmas at the Churchill house was business as usual. After the presents are opened, I hail a cab and head straight for Pearson Airport. I arrive to a somewhat empty terminal. I chose to leave Christmas Day for two reasons. One, most people will have left by Christmas Eve. And two, if I don't stay in Christmasland for atleast a little while, my mom will kill me and sell my carcass on the black market for $50 or best offer.

My flight is 40 minutes late. BTW, why on earth do they announce 'This is the final boarding call for...' when they make said announcement 50 times? Anyway, Its not so much of a delay that I miss my connection in Frankfurt, Germany. However, Sapphire, my dear sidekick, does. So I'm stuck in the Geneva airport for three hours waiting for the next flight from Frankfurt to come in. Hopefully with her on it.
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Sapphire

So after 3 hours of butchering the french language, sipping $8 diet cokes, and browsing the overpriced scarves in the shops, I reclaim custody of Sapphire and jump on the train for Interlaken.

I first visited Interlaken (twice) in 2006, while backpacking through Western Europe. I found out about the tiny tourist town shortly after that trip began. I was sitting in the Amman airport waiting to board my flight to Cairo when I run into a few other travellers who were working in Egypt. They gave me a list of 'off the beaten path' places to see longer than my list of people whom I plan to get revenge on. Interlaken was one of those places. Went there for the first time in March 2006. Loved it so much; I returned in June, right before my flight home.
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Interlaken, Switzerland

So anyway, I get off the 3 hour train ride to Interlaken in the middle of the night. Fortunately; I have a fairly good memory, so finding my way back to my hostel was pretty easy, even in the dark. And Switzerland this year is really mild, about 5 degrees. So no snow to trudge through with a 15 kilo backpack! I check into my hostel completely exhausted. He tells me 'There is problem with your room..,' And I immediately think, 'hmmm... There may be a problem with the palm of my hand... bitchslapping your face!' He rectifies the problem (he lost the key), and I pass out until morning.

So day one....I normally get terrible jetlag when travelling. Infact, I've fallen asleep, in public, while having a conversation with someone on more than one occasion. But it didn't effect me at all this time. Which means that I was fully alert for my snowboarding lesson with Ian, my Scottish instructor. That's one more thing, Interlaken is such a tourist town, that even the locals are foreigners. Anyway, I've always wanted to take up snowboarding, but like judo, hot coal walking, flying aircrafts, and being nice to people, I could never found the time to do it. So I decided that this is as good of a time as any and book a lesson for my time on the Swiss Alps. I actually picked it up rather quickly. And before I knew it, I was crashing without causing bodily harm to my self or others.

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Over the next four days, I get better and better. And by that, I mean I cause fewer and fewer inconveniences to people when they swerve around me as I pick my butt up off the slope. And I get to know local bar staff better and better.

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The slope bar, made out of snow

On New Years Eve, aside from getting plastered and partaking in activities that I won't disclose, I decided to see what paragliding is like. One word... SNORE! While I got really high up, and was able to take some amazing pictures, not the adrenaline rush that bungee jumping or skydiving have to offer. It was a first of one minor event. My instructor, Dominik, was born and raised in Interlaken. In my previous experience, no one ever is 'from' Interlaken. But there is a first time for everything.
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Dominik, setting up the chute
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I spend my night testing the limits of my liver function and, well, other stuff.

New Years Day, I wake up late and spend the day shopping around for souvenirs things that I don't really need and call my mom to let her know I'm still alive (she worries... alot). Take a 3 hour train ride back to Geneva for my flight home the next morning.

In retrospect, I should have made my departure the day after I actually left. The Geveva airport wasn't just crazy on Jan 2nd, it was chemically dependent schizophrenic with bipolar tendencies and illegal substance abuse issues. I have two connetions this time. One in Vienna (the same airport with a sex shop in the terminal, just so you know), and one in London's Heathrow.

Now I don't know if you've ever been to Heathrow, but gargantuanaly massive barely describes the size of it. I walk for about 2 miles through several corridors, go through security for the third time that day, take a bus from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3, and walk about another 3 miles to the waiting area. If you want an idea what's like, imagine Eaton Centre on either Christmas Eve or Boxing Day. Both descriptions are accurate. When I checked in Geneva, I could only get boarding passes for Geneva and Vienna, I would have to check in again to get my boarding pass in Heathrow. I check in at the Air Canada desk and one of my biggest fears occurs.... THEY ASSIGN ME A CENTRE SEAT! I hate the centre seat. I am a claustrophobe that doesn't like talking to people when she can't fake a cell phone call and walk away. There is a sign on the desk that an upgrade can be purchased for the bargain basement price off $600. Can you say SOLD?! Unfortunately, this particular flight is booked solid and there aren't any available.

So after chatting on facebook, British style, for a few hours to get rid of the stirling change that a forex won't take, I stroll for another 2 and a half miles to the gate and get on board. Fortunately, the people next to me can sense my irritability and don't attempt to make small talk with me. Or worse, chat up a storm with eachother! (That's what happened when I flew home from Europe in '06, incase you were wondering).

What happened at the end of the flight was a shock to everyone. The pilot announced that we will land and hour AHEAD of schedule. Pilots can sometimes make up for lost time in the air when a plane is delayed, but landing an hour early 'just because' isn't an urban myth, its just something that doesn't happen. My guess is that, after recent events, the aircrew suspected a passenger of having explosives strapped to his genitals, yet again. And rather than create a scene and strap the person down, be proactive and get to the ground early. Thanks Air Canada, you finally did something right. So I land in my hometown of the T-dot, take the airport express bus home and now I'm here, writing about it all.

Next stop, who knows.

Peace out

AC

Posted by AshleyC 16:42 Archived in Switzerland Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Update on me, myself, and I

So I haven't had any exotic trists as of lately. I've mostly been staying at home and trying and failing at becoming an adult. My latest excursion outside of the t-dot was to Ottawa to see The New Kids On The Block. My parents never let me see them when I was little, so I made it my business to see them as an adult. When they were set to play in Ottawa, I coughed up a very large amount of money to go to the meet and greet before the show. And that is where this story begins.

The venue they were playing in was the Scotiabank Place, which is in a subberb waaaaaay outside of the city. I hopped on a bus for the 1 hour journey there. But to my dismay, the bus wouldn't take me too close to the venue, several kilometers away infact. So when I saw that I could cut through a feild to get there faster, I decided to do it. The feild didn't look too bad. Just a few thatches and stuff. Thought I'd run through as fast as I can, I'll make it for the meet and greet. So I'm charging through... Trying to make it on time... And then I slip on something and fall... in a ditch... full with water. I'm completely soaked from the chest down. The only silver lining is that despite falling into a freezing cold ditch, my hair remained dry. However, my cell phone (or mobile, whatever floats your boat), camera and Ipod were all trashed. So not too many pictures. The two pictures I do have of Ottawa I took with my cell and uploaded before the concert. Obama visted Ottawa last year and a local bakery created (or just renamed) the 'Obama Cookie'. And I received the picture of me with the New Kids On The Block.

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I may take a trip somewhere, I don't know where and when yet.

AC

Posted by AshleyC 12:08 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

A day in the life


View Where in the world is Ashley Churchill on AshleyC's travel map.

I have a bad habit of completely forgetting my blog. Especially when I'm home and living amongst the normals again. My favorite Belgian brought it to my attention that I should keep updating it. So here I am, talking about the monotonousness that is my life at home. Buts lets return to a little but before that.

So after Norway, which would have been a blast if Lonely Planet hadn't lied to me, it was London. Along with being one of my favorite cities, it is also the most expensive city. People say Moscow is the most expensive, but I disagree. Which is why is helpful to have a good friend to crash with when you're in town. While in London, I spent a great deal of time at the National Archives researching my family tree. I don't care how long it takes or how far I have to go, I will answer the age old question "Can I weasel out some inheritance cash from the Winston Churchill estate?" And the answer is.... I dunno yet. Same as last time I went there. But I did learn tones of stuff that I didn't know about my family before. For instance, my great grandfather was a newspaper delivery boy in 1901. I also went to his prior residences. The apartment building that he used to live in the early 1900's is still standing. I rung the doorbell to see if I could have a peek inside his old flat. No one was home. I later took my friend, Antonia, to see if his house from his early 20s is still standing. It is not. Just a big empty space where his house would have been.

After strolling through his old neighborhood, its pretty easy to see why he fled the country. I know it was a hundred years ago (how many people can use that phrase and actually mean it?), but it was pretty nasty. After that, I went out drinking with Antonia and her friends from work where I threw up from drinking for the first time since high school. I vaguely remember looking down at the ground at the beer garden and thinking 'Red? What did I have that was red? Oh, wait a minute, it must have been the 11 glasses of Rose that I had tonight.' Antonia and I also saw a play while in London. I don't remember what it was called, but I sort of liked it and Antonia really hated it. "Mind numbingly mind numbing" were her exact words.

Anyway, after living the London life for a week, it was off to Amsterdam again for my flight home. And you can't just pass through Amsterdam, you have to stop and smell the ganga-scented roses. So after I few days of sex shows, getting high on city property and wondering how I woke up in a tulip garden, it was time to put this journey to an end and go home. So I arrived at the Schipol Airport bright and early for my AM flight to NYC which would later bring me home. I arrive at the Airport and check in. I go to the bag drop off and I get stalled. For whatever reason, they can't let me drop off my bags. After sitting on my bags at the drop off desk for an hour, they tell me there has been a configuration change and the flight is cancelled. They send me to the next flight gate to NYC where I'm put on standby. No luck. My only chance of getting back to North America is to take the same flight for the next day. After shoving some cash (600 euros!) and hotel vouchers in my hands, I'm off the Crowne Plaza hotel where I'm to spend the night courtesy of KLM until I can get me a flight. And as you can imagine, the Crowne Plaza was pretty suite. And I say 'suite' because it was an actual 'suite', not just a single room. But I'm still pissed off at KLM for constantly making my life unnecessarily hard. After taking what I assume was my complementary bath robe, variety of mini hard liquors, and pocketing my 600 euros in compensation, I was off bright and early to Schipol in an attempt to arrive at my flight and actually get on it. And I did. The flight back to North America was pretty uneventful. No mid flight u-turns, babies, decompensating elders, or anything of that matter. KLM did step up their game with the entertainment on demand. But it will take alot more than all 3 seasons of 'House' to get me to fly with them again.

The travel agent that I bought my tickets from could not fly me out of Canada, so I chose to fly out of NYC. Which means returning to NYC. And like with Amsterdam, I decided to stop and smell the garbage and urine scented roses of NYC. You don't really realize how much changes until you leave home for several months and then return. This could not have been any more evident then when I arrived in NYC. I'm walking down Times Square, minding my own business and BAM! New Kids On The Block are staring at me from a ginormous billboard. As a child, I loved them. But my parents never let me see them in concert. So when I found out the they were performing at the Today Show the next day, I had to go. And after 'seeing' that performance, I knew I had to make it up to the 7 year old outcast that still resides deep inside of me to make the absolute best of their reunion. I am going to get as many dates as I can and I'm invoicing my mom for every one of them. So after nearly enduring a stroke from all of the New Kids madness and further maxing out of my credit card, I was ready to head home.

Back to life as I knew it in the T-Dot.

My first order of business was to get a job. It was a little slow a first. I hadn't worked full time since before travelling abroad. So about 3 years. But I eventually was offered a job as Office Manager for a TV company, which I took. Not too shabby. Most of what I do is tech support for the rest of the office. The people here are somewhat behind the times of technology. Not that I'm particularly ahead. But I try to keep them in the dark as much as I can in regards to that. Its not bad, but I definitely won't be spending a great deal of time there.

My second item on the agenda is to buckle down and buy a house, condo, or someplace to call home that is as far away from Scarborough, but still in Toronto, as I can get. I started looking seriously a few weeks ago. Its alot of weighing of the scales. I like this unit, but this building. I like this location, but these views. I don't know if I'll ever find one that suits my fancy. Other than that, not much else is new. I really miss being on the road. There is something about the fact that every day is a new experience that is so exciting to me. It doesn't seem to matter that I could possibly be risking life or limb. If you don't take risks, where is fun in anything?

Next stop... who knows.

AC

Posted by AshleyC 11:34 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

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