A Travellerspoint blog

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Start of my trip

Amsterdam

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On request and for my own fun and memories, but also a bit inspired by Jimmy my Dutch/Australian friend, I have started to write down my experiences from my trip. Sort of like I did about 10 years ago when travelling around Australia for those who remember that :-).

After my final goodbye drinks and my final final goodbye dinners and some more drinks it was time for me to leave Australia for my long exciting trip.
Its Friday the 2nd of December 2011 and Ilya arrives at my house to pick me up to bring me to the airport.
Standing in the line for the check-in/bag drop off we had to play a little game. Since my ski bag was already 12kg over the weight limit and I had one big backpack with a separate bag with my ski boots this was going to be a tricky but fun game. When the lady behind the counter asked me to put my 1.8m ski bag on the belt to check the weight I managed to get the end of the ski bag on the garbage bin behind her and just one end was resting on the belt. So suddenly the ski bag was super light. Ilya pretended that the bag with my ski boots on his shoulders was his own bag. While walking to the oversized luggage drop off point, we managed to squeeze the ski boots in the ski bag and give the 36kg overweight ski bag off with a big smile on our face.
We grabbed a final beer together and said our goodbyes. Off I went to the plane.

The trip itself to Europe was not so bad this time, but how good or bad can an 28 hour trip be right?

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When I arrived in Amsterdam I had never received such a warm welcome. The whole family standing with banners waiting for me (I still have them) It was the first time that I met my sweet little niece Lola not even a year old and had not seen her before. They were all there all my nieces and nephews as well. Off course this welcome is what I will expect every time from now on so I hope they realise this ;-)
We all went to my mother’s house and had family morning coffee.
After a bit of relaxing it was already time to get ready and take care of the Sinterklaas presents and all the traditions involved. So off shopping straight away.

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For the people that don’t know the Sinterklaas celebrations, here in short. On the 5th of December its Sinterklaas his birthday. In The Netherlands, we all celebrate this with the whole family and we all get lots of presents. Our family did this the traditional way this year so we had to make a surprise for someone in the family relating the present your giving plus you have to write a poem relating to the present and surprise as well.
This comes down that on the night of the 5th of December, when the whole family is together we spend the whole evening eating, drinking, open presents and reading the poems. (this is day one of eating a lot/too much in December)
The kids in particular enjoy this day the most since they already have a two week lead up to this night with smaller gifts in their shoes every night/morning. I am sure you can google if you want to know more about this subject. You might want to introduce it in other countries across the world.

After Sinterklaas festivities it was time for me to visit friends and family I haven’t seen for a while. Lunch here dinner there followed with some late drinks somewhere else again. Pretty full schedule but really good to see everyone again. In preparation of my trip in Asia in a few months time. I also had a quick stop at the Vietnamese embassy in The Hague. Dad joined me and had a fun day out followed with a nice dinner. From dinner in The Hague, to have dinner in Rotterdam, Breda and many dinners in Amsterdam, a birthday in Tilburg, a party in Lelystad and final fun party plus late night shopping in Zaandam. I still like the pants Yvonne I am glad I bought it in the end (funny dress code parties)

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While I was in Europe I also visit my good friends Maarten, Dani and their little Janick in Frankfurt. It was really nice seeing them after such long time. They moved from Australia back to Europe about a year ago (if I have my dates correct here). Also a good excuse to see Frankfurt. It’s just before Christmas and the centre of Frankfurt is in full swing of the festivities. The Christmas market is on and with a Gluhwein in our hand walk through the city. The next day we visited an old monastery and had a wonderful dinner with a local beer to finish this day. All together I was nicely spoiled and really enjoyed Frankfurt. Thank you Maarten and Dani.

Back in Amsterdam I spend most of my time on the professional photo shoot that I gave to my whole family as a present. I will not get to much into this, since this could take up a few pages by itself. But long story really short. After the initial shock that a strange person was going to take photos of everybody in their own homes I think everybody in the family enjoyed it. I am super happy now that we have beautiful photos of everyone and I can start putting the family photo book together soon. Big thanks to Mandy Pieper that was so patient with all of us :-)

That was Amsterdam already, time flies when you have fun.
Ok back in the plane, but this time just a short flight. One flight of 9 hours considered Short. At least I thought it was 9 hours I seriously can’t remember and don’t want to look it up right now.

Posted by Nielsontour 17:00 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Canada Calgary

Calgary

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After my funny looking Indian taxi driver dropped me off at my hostel, It was time to explore the city.
In case you are bad with street names consider living in Calgary. You have the streets that go from 1st street to 51 th Street. These street go from North to south. Then you have the Avenues From 1st Avenue to 58th Avenue, these go from East to West. Not so hard to find your way around this way.
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It might be because its winter but so far I found it really quite in the city. But this might be just an Canadian thing, they have a lot of space here so why live all together cramped-up right?
The first day I did not really find anything really interesting to see and my main focus changed to seeing the city into finding a new ski jacket, new skies, helmet, avalanche beacon and other toys I did not have yet. I hired a car and started driving around greater Calgary. In many ways this is pretty similar to Australia and therefore its not difficult to find the big shopping malls. It might be worth mentioning that its freezing here and not the ideal weather to wonder in a forest or sit in a park all day. So to stay a bit warm shopping malls are not a bad alternative.
This first evening I met with Tina a good friend and diving buddy from Laurens (my best buddy) We had a really nice dinner and Tina had some interesting drinks. I just kept it to what I know “BEER” this evening made me feel a bit like a local (maybe because I had a few beers) Packed with tips and advice from Tina I was off the next day to my new home town for the next 4 weeks “Banff”

Posted by Nielsontour 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Canada Banff

Banff

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Banff is located in a National park and it is the home of many skiers and snowboarders. They drive up the mountain every morning and work a bit so once in a while. It’s also home for many Australians. The town is not a ski in ski out resort. From here you can choose between different ski areas. The closest one being Mt Norquay followed with Sunshine Village and Lake Louise. There are more areas but these are the main ones from Banff. The town itself has one main street, Banff Avenue. The other streets are probably named after the animals that were found or spotted there. From Otter, Beaver, Moose and Elk street to Grizzly, Buffalo and Wolf street.
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Y Banff Mountain Lodge

The view from my room

The view from my room


My temporary home is in the Y Banff Mountain Lodge. Here I have a wonderful room overlooking the river and the village, with the mountains on the background. No complains here. Except maybe that its getting cleaned everyday which is a bit much. So I asked to have this reduced every second day. The housekeeping girls loved me for that. The mountain lodge was an former hospital and converted into a lodge. It has a combination of private and dorm rooms, but also permanent housing for season workers on the top floor. This creates is a wide variation of people walking around the building. Quickly you will meet people in the shared kitchen, lounge or the tv room.
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After unpacking and getting settled in my room it’s time to hit the town. First stop picking up my season ski pass next stop supermarket.
I know Australian supermarkets can be expensive but here in Banff it’s not much better. But what can you expect in a ski resort. $100 dollars doesn’t buy you much. I see my bank account is going to hate me here. A bread over 5 dollars and a small piece of cheese (300gram) over 10 dollars. “how to confuse a Dutch guy” make bread and cheese expensive..

First day to the snow.
Still having a bit of a jetlag I was up early and ready to hit the slopes. Quick breaky and off to the bus. First Mountain/ski area in Canada for me is Lake Louise. IMG_1816.jpg
It’s not to cold (-10) and the sun is shining. A great way to start my ski adventure. The mountain offers complimentary ski guides that run a tour twice a day. Depending your ski level they take you on a the slopes that is suitable for you. This is a really nice way to get a quick and good understanding of the ski area. However it did not take me long to realise that the ski level of the guides was not really up to scratch and a bit to slow for me. So after one tours I had enough and went my own way.
Lake Louise got some really interesting runs and is a beautiful area with great views of the surrounding mountain ranges.

To get to the ski slopes every day I had to take the ski bus, sounds logic I know. These busses are pretty limited departing a few times in morning and after midday the bus is not going at all anymore. So no afternoon skiing if you get up late.
The alternative is hitchhiking to the mountain. This is an acceptable way of getting around here.
You walk to the end of the town and if your lucky there are not to many other hitchhikers waiting in front of you, if so you queue at the end of the line. But even if there are skiers or snowboarders waiting, pretty much every car that has an extra seat will stop and take somebody with them. One day when I was walking not far from the hostel on my way to the end of town with my skies on my shoulders, a car pulled over and offered a ride (that is what I call good hitchhiking) The guy in the car turned out to be living in the same lodge. That is how I met François-Xavier Tellier also known as FX.
Me (left) and FX (right)

Me (left) and FX (right)


Pretty much from that day on we skied together every day. I must admit that FX is a slightly better skier but we are pretty close, we did some amazing runs together. Some with cool names or less cool names but amazing scary entries like: Mineshaft, Hell’s Kitchen, The Beast, Jackpot, Free Fall and Adrenaline. But the highlight must have been Delirium dive. FX even bought a Delirium dive hat after we skied this. Delirium dive is an achievement for every skier, to be able to ski this route you need to know what your doing or you might get hurt (a lot) I do have to say that I am pretty proud that I skied this several times.
Its rated double diamond but I am convinced we skied this a few times in difficult conditions that this must have gone to triple diamond. The entry we took might be rated triple diamond as well. Not sure but it’s pretty scary at times (but still fun)

Normally when you do a run the first time, it can be a bit scary but the more times you do it the easier it would normally gets. Even dropping the first few meters of the edge into the bowl.

The first few weeks I had to get into shape and unfortunate I was not able to make long runs without stopping. But as time passed it all got easier and easier. It might have helped as well that I bought some new powder skies. So diving in powder or skiing between the trees was getting easier every day.
FX loved to have front row parking at the mountain, and also taking the first lifts up to make fresh tracks. This meant that we had to leave the lodge at 8am the latest. So for the people that thought I was having a holiday please think again. Skiing is hard work you know ;-)
So I was pretty much every day on the mountain except a few days when it was -30 or colder.
On a one occasion when it was so cold we went to Torque. This area is pretty close to the village but is a real small ski area. When you have a hangover, are tired or just want to ski for half a day because its cold, it might be an option. I went here twice for a few hours and did not really enjoyed it.

I might have forgotten how busy it can be in Europe and Australia. The beautiful thing about skiing in Canada is that there are not real long lines for the lifts. Only in weekends it can get busy but it’s still acceptable. Most of the times you just ski straight to the lift and off you go.
I could probably write for hours about how nice the snow is and how great the runs but I suggest you go see it for yourself. I am happy to accompany you if you need a ski buddy. The one thing I particular enjoyed are the unmark routes that are easy accessible and that its almost possible to ski powder or at least soft snow pretty much every day. I would have like to ski a bit more backcountry but to do this safe you really need somebody who knows the mountain. So for a peace of mind of my family I did not really do this.

After a long day of skiing FX and I had often dinner together in the cafe from the lodge. Meals for under 10 dollars, and I can’t cook for less than that so why bother right? I did made some attempts with cooking however I was not always that motivated to create big meals for myself after a tired day on the mountain. Instead I went to the Banff natural hot springs a few times to recover from all my hard work. I know your feeling sorry for me right now reading all this. The hot springs is a outdoor pool where the water is around the 40 degrees. Outside it was often -20. So you dive in and in no time your hair is frozen. Funny feeling that is.
Thermo pool

Thermo pool

Thermo pool

Thermo pool


The other options for my evening program was watching a movie or going to the pub. But I think I have seen more movies than the inside of pubs and clubs. With some great new friends I met in Banff I did had some good times going out. Special thanks for Frank that arranged cowboy hats one night and made me dance on country music. (I do have to get you back for that one Frank)
But all together is was great meeting all of you guys and girls.

One of the must-do’s in Canada is dog sledding (“for sure” the French Canadians would say;)
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I was in two minds with the snowmobiling or the dogsled but I booked a tour with the dogs here in Banff. I normally not a big fan of animals doing these kinds of things but sometimes you need to make an exception. Not that I feel sorry for the animals but more that I don’t feel I have the control. Last time I sat on a horse did not give me the feeling it was doing what I wanted. Same with the dogs in the end. The little four footers know the route they are running so even if I would have liked to go in another direction they would not listen to me anyway. But despite the lack of really be able to control the dogs, it was an amazing experience. 6 little dogs can pull a big sled with 3 people pretty easy, amazing experience. I would see myself doing some backcountry tours with dogs like this. Sitting in the sled going up the hill and skiing down. Instead of cat skiing, dog skiing.

After all this fun and adventure it was time to move on to have some more fun and new adventures. It was time for me to go to British Colombia. Since the bus ride is about 17 hours I took the plane from Calgary to Vancouver. My ski bag however was still pretty heavy so I shipped this with the Greyhound direct from Banff to Whistler (next ski destination)
Up back to Calgary but this time straight to the airport.

Posted by Nielsontour 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Canada Vancouver

Vancouver

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After a short plane ride I arrived in Vancouver. From the airport I took the sky train, this is a 15min ride from the Airport to Vancouver city centre, nice and convenient. The sky train is a fully automatic train system that does not require a driver on any of the trains. Maybe because of this it rides on time. Pretty amazing system.
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Quickly I settled into my hostel. Although it was not that quick since the first room they gave me was too dirty and smelly, even by my standards. But I got a nice room in the end that I shared with Greg, an Australian guy.
Vancouver city is not that big and everything is within walking distance. There is a real nice old part of the city called Gastown. You have some nice cafe’s and restaurants here. IMG_1855.jpg
After a few beers in the bar under the hostel it was time to get some rest and be ready for a long day of sightseeing the next day.
It was weekend and I noticed some people walking around in/with their ski/snowboard gear. So of course I had to follow them. After a 30min bus ride and ferry ride from the city I ended up at the Grouse Mountain. The gondola stops right at the bottom of the bus stop. It was tempting to go up but I knew I would get frustrated being surrounded by skiers and not be able to ski myself. So I did myself a big favour and stayed at the base.
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On the bus ride up the mountain we passed a tourist attraction “swing bridge” so instead of going up with the ski lift I hopped back on the bus direction town, and played the good tourist and paid a fortune to see a walking bridge over a river. That day I think I saw the most boring job of all times. There is a person that has to watch the tourists crossing the bridge. He sits in a little hut on one end of the bridge and just starring at the people and the bridge. Not sure why but it looked like he was taking his job seriously. He could be practising to become a driver for the fully automatic sky train? He might not know he was actually not needed at all but out of kindness his boss gave him a job, something like that.
The swing bridge had a courtesy bus back to the centre back to town. so packed with 50 people in a “Historic bus” off I went.
I did my best to find some more tourist attractions but I guess in winter there is not much happening. There might be some museums I am not to sure, I never really looked into that.
So I ended up shopping, walking through the city and taking a little water bus.
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This cute little ferry/bus brought me to the Vancouver Public markets. As you might expect you can get your normal fruit and veggies but there is also a section at the market, where you will find food stalls where you can have a nice lunch or early dinner.
After a few days wondering around in Vancouver I jumped on the bus to Whistler.
Greyhound

Greyhound

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Canada Whistler part 1

Whistler part 1

Whistler Creekside

Whistler Creekside


The Whistler Greyhound bus depot is in Whistler creekside. This is where I sent my ski bag to, from Banff. Since its been a few days my bag should have arrived here already. Unfortunate things don’t always go as planned and my ski bag with all my ski gear plus a lot of clothing did not arrive.
Nothing I can do about this right now, so I took taxi to my new temporary home. For the next 6 weeks I would be staying in a 6 bedroom apartment. Before you think that I had the whole place to myself, that was not really the case. I was sharing this apartment with 11 other people. Most of my house mates worked or just had a holiday for the whole season. My 6 week stay was considered short. The apartment is located just outside the centre.
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When your standing in front of the house you can see the two mountains on both sides of the village. The village is in front of you. On the right Whistler mountain and on the left Blackcomb mountain. In between the two peaks is the “world famous” Peak to Peak gondola.
The village is about 25min walk from the apartment. There is the option to take a bus but often the easiest transport is the taxi. However on my arrival the sun was shining so after dropping my bags in my room I walked to town to explorer beautiful Whistler.
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Whistler was together with Vancouver to host the 2010 Winter Olympics (for the people that forgot this fact) The town is not that massive and has a nice feeling to it. There is one long scroll from the end of town “Market Place” to the base where the lifts are and where both Mountains meet (Whistler and Blackcomb) Its zigzags through the town and on both sides you have shops, cafe’s, bars, clubs, restaurants and some more shops and some more bars. To welcome myself I had a drink in the Bar “Amsterdam” Surrounded with some Dutch street names and traffic signs. The beer tasted fantastic.
With some really expensive basic groceries, back to the apartment I made the mistake of walking back with the heavy bags instead of taking the bus or taxi. I only made this mistake once (well twice but second time I had too much to drink and thought I could lift the world)
The next day I went back to Whistler Creekside to collect my ski bag from the Greyhound depot. But unfortunate the bag was still not there. This annoying story repeated again the next day and despite that I was on the phone with different departments from the greyhound every day, they had no idea where my bag was.
So instead of walking around in a ski resort being frustrated that I could not ski, I booked myself a little holiday to Los Angeles. There was a chance that I would never see my ski bag with all my ski gear in it again. That idea in my head made me feel pretty sad.
So back to Vancouver with the bus, straight to the airport with the sky train without driver and on the plane with a pilot. LA here I come (again)

Posted by Nielsontour 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

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