Friday, May 14, 2010

Copenhagen, Denmark

I traveled to Europe last week visiting England, Sweden and Denmark. Along the way I met up with a few friends and had a great time! I will write more about the trip soon, but for now I would like to share with everyone a new travel video for Travel Yourself about my time spent in Copenhagen with Chris from The Aussie Nomad! :)

Travel Yourself - Copenhagen, Denmark from Cailin O'Neil on Vimeo.

24 Hours in Halifax, Nova Scotia

I have started taking the Matador U Travel Writing program. Here is a post I wrote that was one of my assignments! :)
Nova Scotia is a province in Canada and Halifax is its capital city with just under 400,000 people. The province is a peninsula off the east coast on the Atlantic.

Some of the main economic generators are the Canadian Navy and tourism. Many people who visit this city arrive on cruise ships (100+ a year) and they often have only a 24-hour time period to see it. For that reason I have decided to put together this list of things to do in Halifax in 24-hours.

1. Start the day in a “Titanic” way – literally.

When the Titanic sunk on April 15, 1912, one of the first boats to arrive on scene was from Halifax. This boat (the MacKay-Bennett) picked up roughly 300 bodies from the wreckage including that of the famous millionaire Jack Astor. Once the bodies were brought to Halifax, the few families that could afford it, had their loved ones shipped back overseas, including Jack Astor, however many could not. Due to this, Halifax has three different cemeteries where passengers of the Titanic are now buried, a great thing to see and visit in Halifax. There is even one tombstone which reads J. Dawson and it is believed that is where James Cameron got the inspiration for the name of the main character in his film “Titanic” played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

2. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

Here you can find more information on the great ocean liner along with many artifacts including the only deck chair to survive the sinking. The museum is said to have the “world’s finest collection of artifacts” from the ship! It also has tons of artifacts from Canada’s naval history, as well as information about the Halifax Explosion. In December of 1917 during a bustling war time, Halifax’s harbour was the last stop for many ships before going off to Europe for the war. One foggy fateful morning two ships (one carrying tons of ammunition ) collided in the harbour causing the largest man-made accidental explosion. (At the time, it was the largest man-made explosion in the world prior to the bombing of Hiroshima)

3. The Halifax Citadel Hill

Halifax is commonly known as little San Francisco because of its many hills. Citadel Hill is an old fort in the middle of the city, sitting on the highest point. The fort was built in this location because of its great view of the whole harbour, specifically the mouth, so deffenders could look out for incoming attacks, however it was never actually attacked. The fort has now been turned into a museum where you can experience the 1800’s in Halifax. Also, every day since 1856 (except for Christmas day) at exactly noon they fire a cannon signalling the changing of the guard.

4.The Waterfront & Great food

At this point you are probably feeling pretty hungry, so it is a great idea to head back down to the waterfront and grab some famous fish and chips or fresh lobster with a delicious thirst quenching Alexander Keith’s beer. Halifax has the longest wooden waterfront boardwalk with restaurants along the way and great views of passing ships.

5. Brewery Tour

Head over to Alexander Keith’s Brewery, where you can go on a tour. The tour takes you back in time to the 1800’s. You are leadthrough by different characters from that era who worked in the brewery. The tour finishes off with a great sing-a-long and a stein of the freshly brewed good stuff.

6. Harbour Cruise

There is no better way to enjoy this harbour city than a boat ride. Halifax has the second largest natural harbour in the world. There are many boat tours to choose from, be it a sail boat, paddle boat or even an amphibious vehicle. Along the waterfront you will also find companies that have dinner cruises, booze cruises, whale watching and even deep sea fishing.

7. More great food

You are bound to be hungry again, so time to head a few blocks in from the water to enjoy one of the many fine restaurants. From Greek to Chinese, Italian to Indian you are sure to find something you like. Food is reasonably priced, however if you feel like something fancy there are higher end restaurants as well. You can look forward to spending as little as $2 for some street meat or as much as $52 for a steak.

8. Drinks & Dancing

Halifax is a College town with four universities. It also has the largest number of bars and pubs per capita in Canada, if not in all of North America. If you are not wiped out from your long day, hit one or two of the bars and dance the night away. A few places even stay open until 3:30 A.M.

Side trips if you have more time:

1. Halifax has a great farmer’s market worth the visit every Saturday morning at Alexander Keith’s Brewery market. (Soon to be down the road and seven days a week!)

2. A 45-minute drive out of the city is the popular Peggy’s Cove, a quaint little fishing village with the most photographed lighthouse in the world. It is also possible to go there from the city by boat for a full day tour of the area.

3. On Saturday afternoons the oldest pub in the city “The Split Crow” has a happy hour from 3-4 P.M. where you can get three beers for $5 (this also happens Wednesday and Thursday nights from 9-10P.M.).

Halifax has tons of historical, fun, and tasty things to keep you busy and is definitely worth a visit.

** This is an article written for my first Assignment in my Matador U Travel Writing program. This is my second publishing of this article as I got some comments on it, took them into consideration and edited it a bit further.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

February 10th - 12th, 2010 Fiji

I tend to procrastinate..... A LOT.
I am finally writing to wrap up my wicked Fiji trip last February.
Wednesday and Thursday were my last two days in Fiji on the main island of Viti Levu. This trip was not long enough to really enjoy Fiji and do everything I wanted to do, but by taking a tour it was a great way to see as much as possible in the little amount of time that I did have.
Wednesday was an inspirational day. We started off with a short trip to a small town where we bought school supplies and candy for a school we were going to visit. You can see in the video in my previous post just how adorable these kids were. They were also so amazed, by my camera and video camera and could of played with them for days. They asked me if they were going to be on TV after I made a few videos of them!
Beautiful kids and I told them I would send them the photos later. I hope they like them!
I will add more photos on my main site. One little boy even asked me for my autograph. He was so cute!
Also on that Wednesday we also visited yet another village and met with a chief who was not only Chief of his own village but was also the Chief of the whole province that we were in. Of course, a lot more Kava was had. The Chiefs wife and sister also taught us how to make our own bracelets out of grass.
After the Kava ceremony we requested permission from the Chief to go bamboo rafting on a river that crossed through his land and had a great relaxing lazy river time. After we headed to our resort for the night.
The resort on Wednesday was my favorite resort of all the places I've stayed on this trip. It was only 5 years old and was owned by a New Zealander. The prices were really cheap if you were staying in a dorm room, and they had everything you could want. It was very secluded on a piece of land that jutted out into the ocean with a nice sandbar. You can see some video footage of it as well in the video in the previous post. This resort was called Voli Voli and I wish I could of stayed longer!The next morning I actually got to sleep in a bit and lay out in the sun before we continued on our way back to Nadi to complete our full circle tour of the main Island of Viti Levu. On our way to Nadi we stopped at a tradional Indian restaurant and learned how to make our own roti (flatbread). The food was delicious, and I was surprised to learn that Fiji has quite an Indian influence and actually has a 40% Indo-Fijian population. The British brought many contract workers from India to Fiji in the nineteenth century to work at the Sugar factories and the population now is made up of their descendants.Our last stop before finishing our trip was to some natural hot springs and mud baths.
I had never been in a natural mud bath before, but it had to have been one of the must disgusting things I had ever felt! It was very lovely though after you got use to it! Creepy though because you can't see what is touching you in the mud and water. It was very warm and the mud came up to my waist, then it was all muddy water. It was almost impossible to walk around in and felt like I was in a pot of running mashed potatoes!
The hot springs and mud baths sat at the bottom of a mountain, in the middle of no where of course. There were no showers for you to get washed off in later or, houses to get changed in. One of the two outhouses that were there had its toilet sitting outside of it (obviously broken). The idea was for people to jump in the mud bath first, then head for the hot spring to wash off. At this point on the bus there was about 7 of us and I believe Hanna and I (my new Swedish friend) were the only ones to get into the hot spring to wash off.
To me the hot spring made me feel the exact thing Lobsters must feel when we stick them in a pot of water. It was extremely hot, it hurt to touch. It took me a good 10 minutes to get in, rare for a hot spring! The temperature was 45+ but other people were in it, enduring it so I thought I must be able to do it. A french lady next to me commented that since Fijians use to be Cannibals this must be where they take the dumb tourists to boil them before they eat them.....
I definitely didn't stay in the hot spring long, but I survived.
Following the mud baths and hot springs I was dropped off at my last hotel near the airport where I would stay until I flew back to Australia the next day.