Europe: Day 5

Munich, Germany

The day started out later than I had expected. I wanted to get up early enough to get breakfast since I had a long trip to Munich but since I got to bed late last night, I couldn’t get myself out of bed on time. Nonetheless, I had some errands to run before catching the train.

I will be staying with my friend Mel in Munich so I’d thought I’d grab her some flowers. I wanted to pick up some in the Cologne train station but then I’d have to tend to it for the next few days. There was a florist shop in a store not too far from the hotel so I rushed on over to get one. I later found out that there was a florist in the train station that I could have gone to rather than rushing to the other one.

I hopped on the train and found my seat. I sat across from an older gentleman and the seat next to us were both empty. The train started moving in the direction that I was facing but after falling asleep, the train changed direction so now I was going backwards. That gave me a headache!

Upon arriving in the Munich train station, I found that the weather was just as hot as Cologne. By the time I found Mel, I was already starting to sweat. Mel had to hand in a final assignment for her courses so we walked on over to her school. Now I’m starting to get drenched even more! But on the bright side, I got to see a bit of Munich before heading over to Mel’s apartment.

After settling in, I got changed into something more comfortable and cooler and then we took off. Just on the first day alone, Mel gave me a crash course about Munich. We walked all over the place and according to my smartphone, I walked at least 20km. The previous day I walked about 30km but that was over the course of a day. In Munich, I walked the 20km just in a few hours. It’s a good thing I’m still rather young.

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Our first stop was Marienplatz. It’s the centre of Munich and located in it is city hall. There’s a glockenspiel in the tower but I missed that time when it went off. We head across city hall, into St. Peter’s church. I believe it was a 13 story climb up to the top.

The view from the top of the tower is amazing. You can see a 360 degree view of Munich. For example, views of popular landmark such as the Olympic park, BMW Headquarter and Church of our Lady. Just standing here gave me a glimpse of the days to come.

As we were walking around and taking pictures, we noticed that everyone was gone and there were no new visitors to the tower. Someone said something on the intercom but it wasn’t audible. After taking a few more pictures, we decided to head down and continue our walk. As we got to bottom, Mel noticed that the door was slightly ajarred. Upon opening the door, we realized that the tower has been closed for 30 minutes. The person working at the entrance must have left the door ajarred so we can leave. If someone had closed that door, we would have been stuck in the tower.

We carried on and walked towards the tourist area. There, I found shops to purchase post cards and magnets. At the end of the tourist area is one of Munich’s famous brewers, Hofbräuhaus. We didn’t go inside for a beer. That’s for later.

Not too far from the tourist area is Maximilianstraße, known for its expensive shops. Just looking on the street, you can see a bunch of expensive cars parked along it. Cars like Mercedes AMG SL65, Ferrari F12 Berlinetta and a BMW i8. Just the price of these three cars alone is will over $500,000! These are cars that I can only dream of owning but perhaps one day I can buy a used one.

We passed a street car that looked like there were people inside having a partying. Or perhaps some sort of beer tasting event. The weather outside was a little hot so a nice cold beer would hit the spot. But looking at the faces of the people inside the street car, it didn’t look like they were very satisfied. Then we noticed that the street car had a few windows opened. The AC must have broken down so they’re no better off than we were.

We came to a bridge that crosses the river Isar. It is the fourth largest river in Bavaria. On the other side of the bridge was the Angel of Peace. We didn’t look much into the subject. I saw it, took a picture and moved on.

I guess this guy was very eager to get a picture of the Angel of Peace that he got out of his car to take a picture. If that was me, I’d just take it from inside the car. But I think that the angle that he got was better.

We walked along the Isar and came to the English garden, where we found a bunch of river surfers. I’ve seen this type of thing on YouTube before but wasn’t sure exactly what I as seeing. Apparently, there’s a part of the river where the river narrows and created a permanent waves for surfers to enjoy. Each surfer took turns jumping in and the next would go when the current surfer wipes out. This part of the river isn’t that wide so it’s cool to see how the surfers manage to go left and right. Some would even splash water at surfers and bystanders on the river bank.

After a long walk, we came to the Chinese tower and a biergarten. Mel has always told me about biergartens but I had no idea what she was talking about. In Canada, we just have pubs that have a patio. That’s the closest thing that we have to a biergarten. But after seeing an actual biergarten, I wasn’t even close. Forget the patio, a biergarten is a massive area with hundreds of tables for people to sit around and enjoy some ice cold beer. There could have been 500 people in this biergarten, easy.

Mel ordered me an Augstine(?) and a “radler” for herself. I’ve never heard of either but Mel tells me that a radler or shandy, is half beer and sparkling lemonade. Legends suggest that it’s mixed this way because of cyclist. You don’t want to drink and ride a bike. I tried a bit of radler and it tasted like Sprite.

We ended the night with more walking, this time in the direction of the theater area. It would have been nice to catch something in the theater, even if it was in German but perhaps next time.

This first day in Munich was just packed with many sights, a lot more than I had expected. Mel was a great tour guide. The things that we did today are probably things that I would have never seen or done if I had wandered around on my own. It’s nice to have someone who knows their way around and I rather enjoyed the company.

My impressions on the first day in Munich is that there’s plenty of things to see and do so it’s definitely worth spending a few days here. I didn’t have anything planed out for Munich because I didn’t have much time to do any planning. The only thing that I was interested in seeing was the glockenspiel in Marienplatz. Munich is a city that I would like to come back to, just to see and do some more things.

Europe: Day 4

Berlin, Germany

The central train station in Berlin was pretty big. My train arrived on one level and I had to go down another level to get to the main street. I believe the train is accessible on three levels while the station has six levels contain commercial property.

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It was also hot in Berlin, but I did not do much walking around. I had to meet up with a friend in the evening so I spend a bit of time in the hotel, just to cool off. I was going to go check out the remains of the Berlin wall but the train ride took a lot of energy out of me. It was a 4hr ride from Cologne to Berlin. At the beginning of the trip, I was seated in such a way that I was looking in the same direction that the train was going. Since it was going to be a long ride, I took a little nap. By the time I woke up, the train was going in the opposite direction. I can get a little motion sickness sometimes when my eyes do not agree with my brain. I tried to ignore it and get back to sleep.

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Around 7:30PM, I meet up with my friend Yaroslav. He used to work with me in the Hamilton plant before moving to Germany for work. I probably haven’t seen him in about four years. We ended up walking around for a few hours before sitting at a restaurant in downtown Berlin to have something to eat and a beer to drink. Yaro ordered a couple Warsteiner. It tasted similar to Heineken in Canada.

We caught up for a few hours and next thing I knew, it was almost 4:00AM. I needed sleep before catching my train to Munich. The train to Munich would be a 6hr train so I wanted to grab breakfast at the hotel the next morning but since it was so late, I couldn’t get up in time for breakfast. Oh well, I’ll just grab something before getting onto the train.

So Berlin was a write off. I guess I should have planned things better. I did not get to see as much but I did managed to catch a quick glimpse of life in Berlin. Even ran into some “ladies of the night” along the walk. They left my friend and I alone but approached a bunch of others. I enjoyed Berlin, whatever part of it I saw.

Europe: Day 3

Cologne, Germany

I was greeted with hot weather in Cologne. From what I can tell on the weather map, all of Germany is in the 30s and can possibly get into the 40s. I arrived in Cologne around 4:00PM so that gave me just over 5hrs to walk around. But with the weather, I wasn’t sure how much walking I wanted to do. Had to man up and battle the heat anyway.

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It took me about 10 minutes to get from the train station to the hotel. I stayed at Lint Hotel Köln, which was located fairly close to the Rhein. My room was located on the 3rd floor. I forgot that in some places in the world, the 3rd floor is actually the 4th floor. And with no elevator service, it was a little tiring climbing up four flights of stairs with a suit case.

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One of the main places that I wanted to see in Cologne was the Cathedral. I’ve seen pictures and miniature version of it in the past but when I saw it in person, I was amazed with its size. It was massive! I couldn’t take a picture of the whole thing with my camera so I had to use my smartphone to take a panoramic photograph of it.

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Once you get inside, you can see even more how majestic the cathedral is. The nice thing about being inside was that it was nice and cool so I took my time walking around. It wasn’t as crowded as I thought it would be inside. There were a lot of people outside in the square so I though that inside would be just as crowded but it wasn’t. I walked around inside for about an hour or so. There was so much to take in. The ceiling looked like it could be 100ft high. Just looking up, it made me wonder how something like this could be constructed. I was a little bit in awe with the height of the ceiling and not to mention the intricate details of everything. From the outside you can see multiple spires, statues of saints and even gargoyles.

There were some restoration construction happening on the outside. My friend, Mel said that they’re trying to clean it up a bit. You can see in the picture above that one side of the church is darker than the other. I guess they’re attempting to power clean off the black material that’s covering everything but at the same time, they don’t want to damage anything in the process.

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After visiting the cathedral, we took a walk around the Rhein. The Vikings tour boat was be boarded. I’ve seen commercials about this tour on television from time to time. I always thought that the ship was a bit larger than this. But perhaps this is the smaller version that stays within Cologne. The shore of the Rhein had lots of people, sitting around enjoying the day.

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We crossed the Rhein on a bridge that was covered with love locks. I’ve seen these locks from the train but wasn’t sure how to get to this area. Also, I’ve heard that some places are starting to remove these locks because the weight is becoming too much for the structure to handle. It’s a little sad to hear but I guess safety first, right?

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At the end of the day, we went up on the Cologne tower to take in a panoramic view of the city. In the observation deck, there are glass dividers that has outlines of famous buildings in the distance. It was unlikely that I would make it to all of these landmarks so it good to see what and where they are.

After the observation deck, Mel and I grabbed drinks in the nearby university district. Things were cheaper in there. It was nice to see Cologne and it was great catching up with Mel. I didn’t care too much about the sites. I haven’t seen Mel since she visited Canada a few years ago so it was good to hear that she’s doing well. And she was an awesome tour guide as well!

Europe: Day 2

Amsterdam, Netherlands

I woke up early in the afternoon. I set the alarm the previous night for 7:00 AM and I’m not sure what happened but I didn’t hear phone alarm go off. The alarm automatically snoozed itself and never came on again. I think the only reason I managed to wake up was because the other guests were coming downstairs for breakfast. My room is in the basement so I hear a lot of the noise from upstairs. I even hear when someone flushes the toilet.  It’s a weird noise that sounds like the sink in my room is going to be flooded from a flow back.

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I got out of my room around 11:00 AM, grabbed a quick cup of coffee and left the hotel to explore more of Amsterdam. I wanted to visit the museums but there were long line ups for tickets and entry. I didn’t feel like waiting in line in the sun so I just walked around, taking pictures.

I walked by the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum. I’ve always been pronouncing Van Gogh as “van go” but it’s actually pronounce “van goff.” The Rijksmuseum had a fashion exhibition which looked a bit interesting but I’m not a big fashion person so I didn’t go in. It would have been a waste of money for me. The picture that they had that the front of the museum of a woman in a hooded ninja outfit was good enough for me.

On the other hand, the Van Gogh museum might have been more worth my money but I wasn’t sure. I don’t know how to interpret art so unless the museum was free, I wouldn’t be getting much out of it.

After walking around all morning, it was time to grab some drinks… and continue to do a bit more walking. I took the Heineken Experience tour where I get to learn about the history of Heineken, all the while, having a few glasses of their world famous beer. It was a self guided tour. There was wifi in the area so I used it to download their app that will be my audio guide. A certain spots, there are staffs that will answer any questions I had about the beer. At one of the spots, if I had answered their questions correctly, I would have received a free glass of beer.

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After walking around for about 30 minutes, it was time for more beer. I had the options of pouring my own beer, which cost two tokens. Or walking down the hall and having a bartender pour my beer for me, which gives me two beers for two tokens. I opted to pour my own. They show me how to pour Heineken properly. It was something along the lines of having the glass tilted at 25 degrees, filling the glass up until the foam touches the rim and straightening out the glass. As the foam subside, the line between the beer and the foam should be within to the red star. Since I got it right on the first try, they only took away one token away which meant that I would get a second glass of beer down the hall.

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All that drinking made me hungry so I stopped by Febo, a fast food automatic food store. It’s similar to a vending machine only the slots are usually refilled with new items as they are sold. I purchase a “Rundvleeskroket ” which is a roll filled with delicious stuff. I think it contained meat and vegetables covered in a sauce and some other stuff. I didn’t question what it was filled out. I just ate it. It was good!

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While the sun was still out, I visited the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam. One, because I am a book worm and two, it gave a great view of Amsterdam from the top floor. This library puts all of the library that I’ve been to, to shame. Everything is so clean and organized. And it’s so quiet too! There was even a restaurant on the top floor. So you can enjoy a bit to eat while reading a book and taking in the view.

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As the sun headed down, I went over to the red light district. It’s just as the name suggests, filled with red lights. Well, not everything but “certain” places. If I headed down some ally ways, I found naked women in the window, advertising their services. I caught eye with one of them and I could have sworn that she rushed for the door to get me in. Sorry, lady! I’m on a budget.

Photography was prohibited in that area but I managed to snap a quick picture. Very interesting to see.

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Amsterdam was a great place to visit. Everyone is very friendly and laid back. And that’s just not due to the weed smoking. Mind you, people were smoking weed just about everywhere. I probably got high from second hand weed smoking. The bicyclist on the other hand are very aggressive. If you’re walking in an area where it’s designated for bicycle, you better hurry and get out of the way. Public transportation was a breeze to use, not that you needed it. If you’re ever interested in visiting Amsterdam, I think two full days if more than enough.

Europe: Day 1

Amsterdam, Netherlands

I started the European trip at St. Pancras station in London. I’ve never taken the train from St Pancras International before. The process is very similar to the airport. You check in, go through the screening process and then you have a little chat with the border guards from France. It’s pretty straight forward. The part that threw me off was when I had to wait for the train. It took a few minutes for the information to show up on the monitors. Until then, people were just sitting around. It was fairly crowded since no one knew exactly which platform they were going to. Then once the information showed up, there were hundreds of people walking around, trying to get to their platform.

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I boarded the Eurostar train from London to Brussels Midi. And then switched over to the Thalys from Brussels to Amsterdam.

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The ride was fairly quick. The train was going so fast and it was so smooth that I sort of lost track of time. I dozed off a bit and by the time I woke up, we were already through the “Chunnel” and somewhere in France. There was a stop at Gare de Lile Europe station before moving on. I thought it was a direct train to Brussels so I almost got off the train. At this stop, the passenger sitting next to me got off the train so I had both seats to myself. Not that it mattered but it did help with sleeping on the train.

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I thought that my stop in Brussels would be a quiet one but then I remembered that I had to get my Eurail pass validated. Luckily, there were staffs at the train exit who pointed me in the right direction so validating my pass was pretty quick. Getting to Amsterdam was a breeze.

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Once I arrived at Amsterdam Central, I had to find my way around. I tried to purchase a ticket from the machine but for some reason it kept asking me for my final destination but my final destination wasn’t listed. The girl at the information both told me that I could purchase a ticket on the tram. That’s what they call light rail here in Amsterdam. The driver asked if I wanted a one hour ticket or a 24hr ticket. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for the rest of the day so I opted for the one hour ticket. It was enough to get me to my hotel and then back to Amsterdam Central. In the end, my hotel wasn’t that far anyway so I just walked everywhere.

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After settling in to my room, I went back out and explored Amsterdam. There city was busy with tourists and locals moving all over the place. Most of the tourists were either sitting around having a drink or waiting for the tram. After walking a few blocks, I kept seeing people with a cone filled with fries so I thought I’d give it a try. I think I got some fries from a place called Vlaamse Frites, not too far from Amsterdam Central. They also threw on a bit of mayonnaise as well. I guess that’s how they eat fries here. I could have chosen ketchup but I can get that back home.

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After walking around for a bit, I was starting to get tired. I don’t think I’m fully over jet lag yet so I stopped by for coffee at Dam Good Coffee. I’d have to say that it was dam good. I’m just not sure if it was €3.60 good. But
oh well, when you’re on vacation, you pay vacation prices for things.

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As the sun started to go down, I continued walking around and exploring the area near the train station. The view from just about any where is great! Since there’s so many canals everywhere, you can’t really go wrong with the view, especially during sun set.

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Before heading back to the hotel, I stopped by Café The Flying Dutchman for a beer. Had a few words with the bartender who gave me a brief history of Heineken. It’s the only beer that she drinks. After taking my first drink of the beer, I can say that there’s a big difference between what I was served and the Heineken that we get in Canada. The Heineken in Amsterdam is a lot smoother and has a bit of a sweeter taste. It’s unfortunate that you can only find this in Holland. The exported beer that everyone else gets outside of Holland is, how do they say, “schijten!”

Stop in London

The flight overseas left Toronto a little late. I forgot the reason why it was slightly delayed. I think they were just waiting for people to show up. It worked out the best because I received an upgrade to business class. I didn’t take full advantage of it though. It was nice that I had more leg room (a lot more leg room) but flying causes me to get sick sometimes.

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Sunset at Pearson

Since we were delayed a bit, I cause a nice sunset out the window.

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Twilight

As we flew east, we saw less and less of the sun. The picture is a lot brighter than it actually was. The purple hue was more visible. It looks almost like the northern lights.. almost.

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The flight from Halifax to London was fairly smooth. I managed to get the whole row to myself. The flight was fairly packed except for the seat next to me so I took advantaged and turned it into a bed. I manged to sleep for a couple of hours in total which is helpful when you’re flying across time zones.

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Waiting for luggage

I was hoping that everything would be smooth when I landed but it wasn’t. I was a little motion sicked from the flight and the foot that I ate during the Toronto flight wasn’t sitting well in my stomach. On top of that, my luggage was delay because it was shipped on another plane. A plan that arrived an hour and half later. So I had to sit around and wait because I couldn’t leave the baggage claim area or else I would have a hard time getting back in.

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Since I had to sit and wait for so long, I just wandered until my luggage arrived. Apparently, it’s Terminal 2’s birthday.

when I got into London, went over to Jenn’s and sleep for a few minutes. We grabbed dinner and theater later that night. We dined at Côte Brasserie, a french restaurant and saw “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” that was showing near by. The food was okay. We ordered the two course meal off the pre-theatre menu. I started with the seasonal English asparagus, served warm with a tarragon and chive vinaigrette and ordered the char-grilled chicken breast with basil potato purée and sauce vierge as my main course. Had a lovely time!

After dinner, Jenn went to meet up with some friends but I went home. I’ve only had a couple hours of sleep and jet lag was slowly kicking in. I passed out when I got back to Jenn’s flat. It took me a while because central London was packed. It was Pride London 2015.

Off to Europe

And so it begins. Just waiting for my flight to board from Toronto to Halifax. As far as I know, I do not yet have a seat. I’m not entirely sure how that happens.

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Apparently the flight was oversold by two seats. So they’re going to board everyone and then see if there’s any no-show. This will be interesting as I have a connection to catch in Halifax.

Update: Flying business! Which comes with a meal!
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Update 2: 25 places I would like to visit one day

A few years back, I updated my list of 25 places that I would like to visit one day. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to visit a few more. So here’s the updated list.

  1. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
  2. Great Wall of China, China
  3. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
  4. Paris, France
    I will finally get the opportunity to visit Paris for a few days. The main attractions consists of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre.
  5. Machu Picchu, Peru
  6. Istanbul, Turkey
  7. Italy
    I will be visiting Venice, Florence, Rome and Milan. I’ll be in Rome for a couple of days and I plan on visiting the Vatican.
  8. London, England
  9. Taipei, Taiwan
  10. Galapagos Island, Ecuador
  11. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  12. Tokyo, Japan
  13. Berlin, Germany
    I will be in Berlin for a day, visiting sites and catching up with an old coworker. I will also be stopping in Cologne and Munich.
  14. Sydney, Australia
  15. Lisbon, Portugal
    Initially, Lisbon was on my list for this Europe trip but I took it off since it would be too long of a distance between Lisbon and Paris. It would take about a day out of my rail pass, so I will have to save this for next time.
  16. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
  17. Easter Island, Chile
  18. Bangkok, Thailand
  19. Banff National Park, Calgary Alberta, Canada
  20. The Maldives
  21. Athens, Greece
  22. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
  23. Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA
  24. Seoul, South Korea
  25. The Pyramids, Giza, Egypt

Here’s what my Eurotrip will look like.
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Life on two wheels

A couple of months ago I bought a motorcycle. It’s an entirely different experience when you’re riding a motorcycle compared to driving a car. I’ve only been riding for a couple of months but I love the feeling thus far.

I purchased a 2008 Honda CBR 125R. It’s a small little bike that’s great to learn with. I’ve already dropped the bike, after only having it for 3hrs. When I took possession of the motorcycle, I rode it to Walmart and rode around the parking lot for a few hours until I got the hang of the controls. After that, I wanted to take it home but wasn’t entirely confident yet. Home was 15km away but it meant that I would have to ride around in regular traffic. After calming my nerves a bit and seeing that the roads weren’t busy, I took the plunge and decided to ride it home, but with a pit stop at the office. That’s where it happened!

I turned into the parking lot and slipped on some gravel at low speeds. Since I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, I went for the front brakes to slow me down even more. That was an amateur move. In hindsight, I should have used more of the rear brakes to stabilize myself rather than the front brakes. When you ride over gravel, grabbing the front brakes causes the suspension to compress and slows you down, but the kicker is that the back wheels, where all the power comes from, still wants to move forward. So when I grabbed the front brakes, my bike went from under me. It slid about 5ft and I fell on my right side. Luckily, I had a protective jacket on so the fall wasn’t too bad. I got right up and assessed the damage. There was a bit of an oil spill so I thought the engine was damaged during the fall. At the time, I didn’t have any concerns for my own wellbeing. I was more in shock with the fact that the motorcycle may be damaged beyond repair than any physical pains that I was feeling. I guess the adrenaline kicked in so I didn’t feel any pain. The fall ripped my gloves and gave me minor abrasion on my knee. The motorcycle on the other hand had a bit more damage. The muffler was scratched but still intact. The right handlebar end, mirror and brake lever and upper cowling were also scratched. The right turn signals broke off and needs to be replaced. Other than that, the motorcycle still ran perfectly. My right shoulder and chest were sore for a couple of weeks. But once I was fully healed, I was ready to get back on the bike.

Luckily, I was healed in time for the motorcycle safety course. The course was very informative. They taught me the basics of riding a motorcycle. I should have stayed off the motorcycle until I had taken this course, but I was anxious to ride. The course started off slow, with riders pushing each other and then we move our way up to starting and maneuvering the bike. The emergency stopping part of the course was very valuable. I’ve already had to use it numerous times. Drivers of cars just don’t see motorcyclist. They can be staring right at you and still not see you. So when you’re on a motorcycle, you’re on your own.

In a car, you have a higher sense of safety because you’re surrounded by a metal cage that will protect you in case of an accident. There are air bags that can be deployed if you get into a fender bender. On a motorcycle, you have a helmet and whatever protection that you’re wearing. While riding you have to be on a constant look out. It’s up to you to pay attention to your environment and make sure everything is in the clear. After riding for a while, you start to know when a driver is going to do something stupid. I tend to keep my distance.

As it stands, life on two wheels is great! I’m out on the road whenever the sun is out. There’s a sense of freedom that you get when you’re on a motorcycle as opposed to being behind the wheel of a car. I make the most of the season while I can because I don’t plan on riding during the winter.


No more financial updates

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on my site. But it’s nothing that I’m not accustomed to. Sometimes, I go MIA for a whole year before I am motivated to post anything. Seeing as my last post was dated way back in April, I figure that I might as well start up again. This time, I’m moving away from finance. I’m doing an OK job with keeping my finances in order so no need to keep track of it on here. I’ve been tracking it with You Need A Budget. It’s a great software!

I think for the next month or so, I’d like to refocus on my photography. It’s been a long time since I picked up my camera. I don’t want to lose whatever skills I have. Next month will be a good time to get back into it since I’ll be taking a trip to Europe. The plan is to post pictures whenever I have an internet connection. So perhaps it will be nightly updates. We’ll see…