South America—Rio de Janeiro

December 15th, 2011 § 0 comments

Nothing about South America is what I expected. It’s a huge continent, and you can’t hop from country to country like you can in Europe; it took four hours just to fly from Brazil to Argentina. There are entry fees and visa’s required, which seems exciting until you actually have to pay them or get one. Because you have to fly everywhere you want to visit, I had to ask (and then pretend to be) a travel agent what would be a doable two-week trip. I had to fight my instincts for months while I planned, otherwise we would have covered all of South America in fourteen days. When the trip was finally narrowed down to Brazil and Argentina, the debate over Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo began. It’s hard to ‘pick’ a city when you don’t really know what it is you’re picking, but I chose Rio on the advice of a good friend. In the end I planned what was probably the most reasonable vacation of my life: one week in Rio, and one week in Buenos Aires.

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At Long Last: Montréal

September 12th, 2011 § 1 comment

It’s a city I’ve wanted to visit for a long time now, and one I haven’t ever lived too far away from. When I lived in Chicago I remember spending a decent amount of time wishing I could visit Canada, as it seemed so close. After a false start and a few passport problems, I finally made it past the U.S./Canadian border. It still seems strange to me that while I’ve traveled outside the U.S. a great deal, I’ve never visited our two nearest neighbors: Canada and Mexico. I wish train travel was a bit more romantic than it actually is. I wish the bathrooms worked correctly, and that dining cars served more than pre-packaged snacks, but neither does. It was certainly a beautiful ten-hour ride upstate; the tracks running along the river and through forests and fields. The sun was setting as our train, finally fully inspected, was allowed to continue onwards toward Gare Centrale. Montréal itself is only about an hour from the border, and it was dusk when the silhouette of the city skyline appeared outside my train car window. Reading up on the city before I left, I had already dispelled my preconceived notion that Montréal is a small, quaint city. It’s a large, busy city with more modern buildings than historic ones.

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