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Tag: europe

If it wasn't for Canada, we wouldn't have these guys!

North America vs. Europe

After galavanting around Europe for the last three years, I have really started to see the difference between my awesome home country (Canada) and Europe, as a whole. I would never change the fact that I grew up in the amazing country that I did, but living in two totally different continents really gives you a different perspective on oh so many things. While I never could have fathomed these differences just travelling back and forth, in comparison to living a daily life, I thought other people may be interested in knowing the differences between the two (strictly my opinion, of course). So, I have thought of the biggest differences between North America and Europe, and crafted it into a lovely blog post for you to read, while you are in your car during rush hour or sitting at in the park browsing the interwebs…

Live Life to the Fullest

Having lived in a few European countries, I can definitely say the quality of life is better. Why that is, well, that’s a whole other blog post, but I can indulge in this topic a little bit. I think life in North America is a lot more money/business-driven when you look at it from a grand scale. I am catching myself here because while living in London, I really had this very same ‘Go Go Go’ vibe – but to be honest, I think London, and UK in general, is more influenced by America, more than any other European city. Aside from that, I feel the general atmosphere in most European cities is much more focused on just generally enjoying life more, spending more time with family/friends, and not taking life too seriously.  As much as I love a fast and motivating setting, I think it’s a lot more important to “stop and smell the roses”. People really seem to embrace that notion. I feel that in N.A, people are very focused on the “get up,  work, go to bed, repeat” way of life and it really makes you forget about what’s important. Yes, we need money to survive, but maybe if we weren’t so consumed with buying shit we don’t need, we could care a little less about flashy things and more about the people around us. This brings me to my next point…

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Living it up! Beach Lyfe

Less Shit

Yes, I say it bluntly and maybe the subtitle can be seen as rude or derogatory, but nothing else makes my point any clearer. When I lived in North America, it’s all about stuff. Anything from nice cars (maybe 3 of them), fancy kitchen tools (that you never end up using), 25 gadgets that do who-knows-what, to buying a million different hair products, moisturizers, nail polish, and so on (clearly speaking from a women’s perspective here). In N.A it is such a consumer-driven society, what we own for some reason gives us our self-worth. And at the end of it all, we have so much shit filling up our big houses, and no savings to give us a quality life. Now, I am obviously not speaking for everyone but I know the majority lives like this.

My priorities and spending habits changed completely once I moved to EU, but I am just as guilty as most the majority at one point in my life.  I have always hated Wal-Mart and have barely shopped there, they are horrible on so many levels and most importantly to this article, they fuel these overspending habits. I remember one time I actually went to Wal-Mart to get something for my house that I couldn’t buy anywhere else, no clue now what that was, some $60 item.  No word of a lie, I left there and I spent $500! My friend Joe and I looked at each other, thinking the same thing – “What have you done!?”- in a totally exaggerated way. We thought it was funny at the time. But really, what did I do??? I felt like such a moron, I’m pretty sure I never went to Wal-Mart again after that.

Anyway, back to the point. People in EU, from my experience, really live within their means. You don’t use credit cards like we do in N.A, you don’t finance a car you can’t afford in the first place. You simply spend what you have on the things that you need. Such a simple system yet it has been obliterated by mass consumerism. This is one thing I will definitely never miss.

 Be Naked!

Want to walk on the beach… naked? No problem (not from what I’ve seen, anyway – balls out). But really, life here in EU is just much more liberal. I know where I am from (Ontario), we have super strict liquor laws, for example, whereas here, generally, you can buy booze anytime, almost anywhere, and you can drink it on the street, too. That being said, there are the anal areas on Europe as well, Sweden has the same law structure with alcohol as Ontario, but I am not sure anywhere else in EU is like that. I honestly can’t think of many other examples when it comes to how liberal N.A is vs. EU, I guess it’s just a vibe you get. I don’t know. I would like to end this by saying though, that Canada has a very liberal spirit as well. People are very accepting, generous and would pretty much help you in any situation (“If you want you can have all my money, and my leg, eh?”).

Um awkward... Is this sheesha...or..?

Um awkward… Is this sheesha…or..?

Active Living

I know this point is only valid simply because the infrastructures in EU and N.A are different, but it is still a major point for me. When I lived in Canada, I drove everywhere. It was next to impossible to have a life without a license and a car, because things are just not as close nor do we have as common and as efficient public trans. Hopefully in the future this may change, because I really feel my life is made so much better by not having to drive everywhere. On the contrary, I really do miss driving as I literally never do over here, and it would be great to have a vehicle  for long summer drives and random road trips, but I would never want to go back to driving as much as I did. Depending on the city in EU, you can pretty much walk or take the tube anywhere. It’s generally much cheaper than driving and you can avoid the annoyance of traffic and bad drivers. Hope I am not sounding too negative, I am just having flashbacks of driving many times in Toronto with morons who cut you off or just don’t know what the hell they are doing. Ok, rant over :).

Overall, I really find the concept of walking everywhere appealing, and probably contributes to that better quality living (for me, anyway).

 

Ok, I now realize maybe I am hating on North America a little too much in this article. Please, to everyone who reads this, believe me when I say that I absolutely love my home country and wouldn’t trade my previous life there for the world. But, as I said at the beginning of the article, when you live in two different places, you really start to see things differently and you can’t help but compare them. Also, who knows, many may disagree with me on everything I have written here. And that’s ok! This is strictly my view and I think it’s interesting to see how other people view the world. That said, thanks for reading, and please comment below with any feedback. Maybe you have also lived abroad and have some input, or you just want to tell me how wrong I am. Good or bad, I would love to read it! Cheers everyone …And I am proud to be Canadian (Living in Europe) hehe! 😉

If it wasn't for Canada, we wouldn't have these guys!

If it wasn’t for Canada, we wouldn’t have these guys!

 

 

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Top 5 (Tourist) Things to do in Barcelona

Barcelona; The city of art, history, beauty, (seasonal) warmth and great Sangria. On your visit here, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with what to do, see, eat, and how many types of Sangria they have (50+ kinds – true story). So, as a travel enthusiast and minor Barca expert, I am fulfilling my foreign duty to the masses, by telling you exactly what you should do when you get to this Wonderland. Top five, Let’s get started…

 

La Sagrada Familia (church) – Calle Mallorca, 401  08013 Barcelona, Spain

Close Up Church

 

Beautiful church by Antoni Gaudi that is a must-see and maybe one of the biggest tourist destinations. Its construction started in March 1882 by architect Francisco de Paula del Villar where he then, in 1883, commissioned Gaudi to continue its construction. Gaudi worked on this masterpiece until 1926, where he then passed, and to this day is being finished my architects and students, alike. After all, Gaudi once said, “The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is made ​​by the people and is mirrored. A work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people”.

 

Not only is it amazing from the outside (front and back), but the inside is even better. Entering the church will usually require you to wait in the queue however it generally moves quickly, and costs about €15 for the basic tour, which can include a headset with audio, overviewing the background of this historical gem. If you are going to take the time to venture inside (which you should!), I strongly suggest you go after 2pm, so you can travel up the towers. Just the basic inside tour will allow you to see the amazing stained glass work and eccentric internal architecture, quite possibly being the most amazing thing you have ever seen!

 

Park Guell (park) –  Carrer d’Olot 5 08024 Barcelona

Park Guell

 

Centered at the top of the city, past the wonderful district of Gracia, is Park Guell. Also one of Antoni Gaudi’s works of art, this is a park you should go to and get lost in for a day. Being at the top of the city, you can expect fantastic views of the city, right down to the Balearic sea. Entrance is free, however I recommend bringing some coins as you will see many local performers that are unlike the most typical.

 

Walking through the park reminds me of a certain classic Disney film – Alice and Wonderland. You are surrounded by greenery, beautiful plants, amazing Gaudi architecture and sculptures. If you want to relax with a drink, soaking in the beauty, there is a cute outdoor cafe where you can sip Sangria!

 

Port Olimpic (The sea!)

 cava-beach-barcelona

I don’t think I need to say this, but if you are planning a trip to Barcelona, the beach is somewhere you just have to go! As a tourist, most people will think to go to the main city beach, Barceloneta. Although very nice, it is incredibly packed when the warm weather sets in, with both other tourists and the many peddlers (If you hear “Agua, cerveza, beer”, do not make eye contact). When planning a day at the beach, you should definitely bring an umbrella, water, snacks, beer, and of course, cava (Spain’s version of champagne – and better!).

 

Once you are packed and ready to go, you can either take the train or, much easier, a cab. If you take the train, try your best to take it from the yellow metro line (L4) which is accessible from most areas, specifically the core of the city, and get off at Port Olimpic. The beach is not far, and to be honest, the easiest thing to do is just follow people who have umbrellas and beach gear! This beach, allbeit still busy, is much better than the main city beach, also being cleaner. This is a great spot to tan your day away, with the glorious Balearic sea only steps away.

 

Montserrat (mountain)

montserrat-barcelona

Described by many as the “sight of a lifetime”, Montserrat is Spain’s first National Park and comprises a multi-peaked mountain, specifically three main ones. It’s most often described, visually, as “pink peaks”, as the peaks are slightly pink (duh?). This is definitely a full-day trip if you want the real experience, so keep that in mind.

 

The easiest way to get here, is to take a train from Plaça de Espanya. You can then take the rack railway, which would mean you get off at Monistrol de Montserrat. Or, you can go the adventurous route, and take the cable car by getting off at Montserrat Aeri (don’t do it if you are afraid of heights!!).

 

The mountain is truly unlike many things you have probably ever seen, like a thousand natural sculptures with a spectacular view of this great city. Convinced? 😉

 

Las Ramblas (street and market)

bubbles

For a resident of Barcelona, the last place you may want to go to is Las Ramblas if you’re agitated by pushy shop owners, a fast walker, or generally dislike massive groups of people. If you haven’t caught on yet, I am a bitter beotch when it comes to tourist areas like this one. BUT, don’t let my negativity influence you – Las Ramblas is a must-see street that you need to visit while you’re here.

Where do I start – Street performers, gorgeous flower stands, music, art, you name it, it’s probably here. Take an hour and just travel down this yellow brick road, you may not be in the market for overpriced souvenirs, but it’s worth it. There is also a fresh market on this street (I can’t give exact number) but if you ask, someone will point you in the right direction. In my opinion, the market is a must!

One last piece of advice: Keep your pockets empty, your bag closed and around your shoulder, and don’t let the street peddlers distract you. It is not as scary as I make it sound, however these are just the best precautions. Pickpocketing here is an art, and it will happen without having a clue, so just be careful!

 

This list of Barcelona sights is very much like my visits to Las Ramblas – Short and sweet. It would certainly be impossible for me to give you every go-to spot is Barcelona in just one blog post, so let this post me the first of many more. I have only covered the most popular landmarks of the city. I haven’t even started on the restaurants and bars! Stay tuned tomorrow for my next post on some more area-specific top visits!


Ciao, ¡salud, Peace & Kitties!

 

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