Colorado – Day 6 – Art, Aviation, and Cars

Our last day of the trip started with us having breakfast at the hotel buffet, before driving to the Denver Art Musuem. The Denver Art Museum contains over 70000 pieces of work spanning across multiple buildings. The museum’s origin can be traced back to 1893 when the Denver Artists Club was formed. In 1971 the museum moved into the Martin Building, designed by Gio Ponti. In 2006 the museum expanded into the Duncan Pavilion and the Hamilton Buidling.

For lunch we stopped by Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que. I had the Real McCoy BBQ sandwich, which was a huge mistake. It was so large that I could barely finish it, and I ended up not even having dinner because of how full it made it.

We then drove to the Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum satellite location to explore some old war bird planes that were visiting for the week. I even got to climb through an old B17 Bomber.

We still had some time to kill before heading to the airport to fly home to Calgary, so we stopped by the nearby Vehicle Vault Museum. There was an excellent collection of classic vehicles from the very early 1900’s, all the way through to modern vehicles.

It was now time to head to the airport. Denver Airport is probably just about the worst airport experience I’ve had in all of my travels, with exception to Nairobi, Kenya. Why? They only have two security areas; Security North and Security South. The lineups for both are multiple hours, so unless you have a priority pass you’re likely not going to make your flight, even if you show up two hours before your flight. Even TSA Pre-Check lines are extremely long, so forget about that. Luckily my dad has priority pass, so we were able to breeze on through, but it was no obvious where you needed to go right away. After passing security you must take a train from the Main Terminal to your terminal of departure, which is also another bottleneck. Luckily the main terminal is trying to do something to fix this problem, but it’s years in the making. I’m sure the terminal design made complete sense before 9/11 when there wasn’t the need for security.

Colorado – Day 5 – Denver Zoo & Wings Over The Rockies

Today started off with us visiting the Denver Zoo. The Denver Zoo has over 3500 animals spanning 550 species on 80 acres of land. It was neat petting the manta rays, which I hadn’t done since I was a kid. I was a bit skittish because I didn’t want to get stung. Other highlights included watching the elephants play, and the various monkeys getting into fights. For only $20 USD this zoo is quite the bargain!

After the zoo we had some salad at a vegetarian restaurant called Chop Shop. Following lunch we went to Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum. The Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum is located on the former Lowry Air Force Base. The museum was opened in 1994 and features a collection of 50 military / civilian aircraft from 1939 to 1990.

We then explored downtown by driving around for a bit, however we didn’t get out to do anything. We originally were going to go to this indoor Neon Light exhibit, however we changed our mind when we saw parking was a bit of a nightmare. We then drove to the satellite Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum location, however they were closing earlier than their posted time on Google, so we decided that we would come back tomorrow. On our way back to the hotel we stopped in at Brothers BBQ for dinner and had some brisket and burnt ends. Once we got back to the hotel we watched Border Security on television and chatted until it was time to go to bed.

Colorado – Day 1 – Ghost Towns

It’s been a few years since my Dad and I went on a father-son trip somewhere. This year we decided to go to MColorado. Dad and I had been talking about doing some hiking in Maroon Bells, Colorado for quite a few years.

We flew on a direct United Airlines flight into Denver on an Airbus A319. After landing in the mid-morning we picked up our rental vehicle, a Ford Explorer, and started off on our journey.

First stop was Bass Pro Shop to pickup some bear spray, followed by a quick lunch at Good Times Burger & Frozen Custard. Dad and I both just had a burger, and a diet Pepsi.

After lunch we drove to our first major stop of the day; the Argo Gold Mine and Mill. The Argo Gold Mine and Mill is a former gold mining and milling property located in Idaho Springs, Colorado. The mill at the entrance of the tunnel was in excellent condition, and remains intact over 100 years later. The Argo Tunnel was built between 1893 and 1910. Over $100 million of gold, and $200 million of other high value ores were mined prior to the tunnel closing in 1943 due to a major flooding accident when they tried to blast the Kansas Boroughs area. The flooding spilled thousands of gallons a minute of acidic water (pH 3) all over the area. A federal moratorium was also placed on gold mining during World War II, which didn’t help. In 1976 the mine was purchased by a local investment group led by James Maxwell, who wanted to showcase a prime example of the Colorado gold rush mines. It was renovated and reopened as a tourist attraction. In 1978 the mine was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Working conditions at the mine were brutal, with the average worker only living 3-5 years after starting work there. In 1996 a waste water treatment facility was built to treat the acidic water, which was still flowing at a fairly high rate of a few thousand gallons per minute, because the acidic water was killing the fish. In 2015 a 5 foot thick concrete wall, and a dedicated pipe and valve was built to contain the water and control the flow rate to a more manageable 700 gallons per minute. Overall the mine and mill tour absolutely impressed me.

After visiting the gold mine and mill we drove to our next stop; Blue Lake. Blue Lake is a man made dam that provides drinker water to Blue River and Breckenridge.

It was then time to head to our hotel, Mountain Chalet in Aspen. The drive went over the Independence Pass Continental Divide. Standing at just over 12000 feet above sea level, this beautiful drive offered stunning views of the valleys below. It was pretty chilly up top; only 6 degrees Celsius or so.

Just after passing the top of the pass we found a historic mill site called Farwell Mill #2, which was part of Independence Ghost Town. It was a 20 stamp mill that crushed gold ore. The mill was originally opened in 1879 as a 10 stamp mill, however it was quickly realized that an expansion was required, and Farwell Mill #2 was opened in 1881 with an additional 20 stamps, along with the Brown Tunnel to deliver a greater load of ore. By the end of 1883 the major veins of the mine were fully extracted, and the mine was quietly closed. The mine re-opened in the 1920’s with a new gold rush, however it only produced small amounts, and was later abandoned again.

The total drive from Denver took about 8 hours with all of our stops. I suspect you can get there in 4.5-5 hours without stops. After checking into our hotel we walked to a restaurant called Brunelleschi’s, which was recommended to us by our hotel concierge. I had a pizza, and dad had some asparagus and mushroom risotto.

On our way back to the hotel we stopped at a grocery store to pickup food for tomorrow. I ended up writing my blog, and chatting on the phone for a bit with Julie, before heading to bed.

The Last Day – Bali, Indonesia

Today was our last day of our trip. We started the day off by taking a GRAB (Think Uber) to Biku, our favourite restaurant in the area. I had a breakfast sandwich, and some chai tea. It was absolutely delicious!

The morning was spent relaxing by the pool. During that time I phoned Air Canada and purchased us some upgrades to Business Class for $2650/pp. I didn’t want to deal with economy class for 27 hours. We ended up having lunch at Riva Bar & Restaurant again, since it was convenient. We both had some chicken wings. The afternoon was spent in our private plunge pool, and then we tried to nap for a few hours, since we had 27 hours of travel ahead of us.

After our attempt at napping we went to the Jamie Oliver restaurant that was nearby for dinner. Julie had a burger and fries, while I had a lasagna. The food was pretty good. There was a family at a table next to us celebrating the second birthday of their son Oliver. Oliver had a very beautiful Disney cake which I commented on, and before we know it we were both offered a slice of cake. It was pretty good!

It was then time to walk back to the hotel, finish packing, and head to the airport. On our way walking back to the hotel there was an middle aged Indonesia man hiding in the dark on the corner who “offered” us some Cocaine… I’ve been proposed drug deals in my past travels, but never as casually as this guy. Haha. Once we got back to the hotel we packed our bags, and booked a GRAB to take us to the airport. The ride, while only 3 kilometres, took us nearly an hour. We had a really good conversation with our driver.

Our first of three flights was on a Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800 to Sydney. The flight lasted about 6 hours. While masks are still a government mandate by essentially every country in the world, I noticed that about 30% of the flight didn’t seem to care, and the flight attendants didn’t seem to make a fuss over it. It appears Australians might be fed-up with the rules.

The second flight was on an Air Canada Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to Vancouver. On this flight we had our upgraded Air Canada Signature business class seats. For dinner I had blackened smoked trout for an appetizer, followed by a delicious red wine braised beef cheek. I may have also had three servings of cheese and crackers for desert… I did manage to nap on and off for about half of the 16 hour flight, although I was still fairly tired by the time we arrived in Vancouver. On the way into Vancouver there was a beautiful clear view of Mount St. Helens. Wow!!!

Customs in Vancouver was a total breeze, taking a total of 3 minutes. Following customs we endured a 15 minute walk to the Air Canada lounge, where we spent the next few hours relaxing before our final flight back to Calgary on an Air Canada Airbus A319. Wait a minute… didn’t Air Canada retire those a few years ago at the start of the pandemic? Well yes… but they’ve since taken this very select one (C-FYKC) out of storage for whatever reason.

Julie’s Parents were waiting for us in Calgary, and drove us home, which I greatly appreciated.

What’s next for travel? Dad and I are off to Colorado in a just over a week, and then Julie and I are off to Palm Springs the following week.

Travelling to Bali, Indonesia

Today we woke up at 430am to catch a 730am flight to Denpasar, the capital city of Bali, Indonesia. I woke up feeling quite unwell so I didn’t feel like eating. I attributed my stomach problems to the noodles in my Laksa Soup, that I ate the previous day, being made of rice. I have developed a rather large sensitivity to rice, corn, and potatoes within the last six months.

The flight to Denpasaar was on a SCOOT Boeing 787-9, and took about 2.75 hours, which is a very short hop for a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. SCOOT is a low-cost subsidiary of Singapore Airlines that was started in 2012. It merged with Tigerair in July 2017. The airline was fairly “hip” and had electronica music playing upon departure and arrival, as well as a neat rainbow inspired lighting scheme.

After arriving in Bali we took a GRAB (think Uber) to our hotel; Ratan Hotel Uluwatu Pecatu, about 30 minutes (16km) away. The hotel was fairly nice for only $40/night, however they could have cleaned the room a bit better. The small private pool area was quite nice, but we never used it, because it was too cold. Haha. Before diving into our adventures let’s look at the history of Bali, Indonesia.

Bali History

Bali is a province of Indonesia, and is the westernmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands. It was originally inhabited around 2000 BC by Austronesian’s who migrated originally from Taiwan. Culturally and linguistically, Balinese people are quite closely related to people of the Indonesian archipelago, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Tourism makes up for about 80% of Bali’s economy. Bali is the only Hindu-majority province in a Muslim-majority Indonesia, with roughly 87% of Balinese people adhering to Hinduism. Bali’s capital city is Denpasar, which is comprised of about 2.3 million people. Bali has a total population of 4.3 million people, which means over half the population lives in the capital.

Exploring Bali

After napping for about four hours we dropped off our laundry to get cleaned. Laundry is very cheap to get washed in Indonesia, typically costing about $1/kg. It was then time to get some dinner. We ate at Warung Boga Sari. Warung’s are typically where the local’s eat, and it’s cost is typically $3-5 and is based on the weight of the food served. We had a bunch local Indonesian dishes, including Tempe, which is fermented Tofu. It’s one of my favourites so far. On the way back we stopped in at Indomaret (Not Indomarket. Think 7-11) for some water, and a few snacks. We really struggled to stay awake, so that was the extent of our day.

Travelling to Singapore

Today Julie and I set off on a 17 day trip to Singapore and Bali, Indonesia. We booked Premium Economy seats through Air Canada for just under $1200 return. Some of the cost was covered by Air Canada Aeroplan points.

We had to take a bit of a milk run approach to get to Singapore, travelling from Calgary to Vancouver on an Air Canada Boeing 737-8 MAX, then from Vancouver to Tokyo on an Air Canada Boeing 787-9. We were upgraded to Business Class (Air Canada Signature Class) for only $200/pp on the Vancouver to Tokyo portion of the trip because of my Aeroplan status. We had a six hour layover in Tokyo and used it as an opportunity to take a shower ($10), and relax in the lounge. COVID is currently having a major impact on Japan at the moment, and foreigners are not allowed to visit, unless it’s for business purposes, therefore the airport was ominously quiet. In fact, our flight was the only one that evening, as you can see by the flight billboard. Originally we were only supposed to have a four hour layover, but our next flight was delayed due to a late arriving inbound flight.

The next leg of our journey was on a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER to Singapore in Premium Economy. The seats were fairly comfortable, however the food wasn’t as good as on Air Canada.

We finally arrived at 3:45am and checked into our hotel; Yotel Singapore Changi, a pod style hotel which is located inside The Jewel at the airport. I have previously stayed at a Yotel hotel in Amsterdam in 2018 when I went to Kenya. You can checkout my blog on that adventure here. The Jewel is a nature-themed entertainment and retail complex inside of Changi Airport. The Jewel, which cost $1.7 billion to build, was opened in mid-2019. It features the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, the Rain Vortex, and is surrounded by a luscious terraced forest setting. I’ll check it out more tomorrow morning.

The Rain Vortex was designed by WET Design, which has created some of the world’s most famous fountains including The Dubai Fountain, Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas, 1988 Lisbon Expo Fountains, Fountain of Nations at EPCOT in Florida, etc. I’ve seen all the above forementioned fountains, with the exception to the Dubai Fountain, as I’ve yet to visit Dubai. WET (Water Entertainment Technologies) was founded by Mark Fuller, Melanie Simon and Alan Robinson in 1983. All three worked as Imagineers at Disney. Their original creation was the Leapfrog foundation at EPCOT.

Having been awake for over 30 hours it was time to get some sleep. We opted to not set an alarm, as we wanted to catch up on some much-needed sleep. It was about 4am by the time we went to sleep.

2022 Springbank Air Show

A few weeks ago I attended the Springbank Air Show. After a few years of not attending any air shows it was great to be back. It certainly didn’t disappoint and featured the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, a CF-18, Northern Stars Aerobatic Team (Brent Handy, Todd Farrell, Greg Hume-Powell), Skyhawks Parachute Team, a P-51 Mustang, a Vought F4U-7 Corsair, and Kyle Fowler’s Long EZ Aerobatic Airplane. This air show made me decide that next year I would like to attend the EAA Air Venture in Oshkosh in July 2023.

Portugal – Day 1 – Porto

Today I embarked on a 12 day trip to Portugal. On my trip I’ll be visiting Porto, Lisbon, Sintra, and Cascais. Usually when I fly to Europe I fly via Amsterdam with KLM, or Frankfurt with Air Canada, however this time the best route was via the Azores with Azores Airlines. My first flight was on a a Westjet Boeing 737-700 to Toronto. My second flight was on a brand new Azores Airlines Airbus A321neo LR to Puerto Delgada, Azores. It was only delivered a few days ago, and still have plastic wrap on some items. This was the most turbulent flight I’ve ever been on in my entire life. Quite a few people got ill, and someone had some cardiac issues from stress, however we didn’t divert due to being so close to the Azores when it occurred. My third and final flight was on an Azores Airlines A321neo (non LR). I was upgraded to business class for both the Azores Airlines flights, which was a nice bonus. The food provided onboard was pretty good too!

After arriving in Porto, I took the Metro, which really was not a metro but rather a light rail vehicle, to my hotel called Miragaia Riverside Suites. The front desk gentleman took the time to show me all the great spots I should visit, and recommended a few restaurants that I should try. After checking in I slept for about two hours to get a bit of sleep before I ventured out to explore.

After waking up I headed out for the evening to do some exploring. Before I dive into what I explored, lets go over Portugal’s history, and Porto’s history.

Portugal History

Let’s take a look at the history of Portugal in brief. People have been living in Portugal since about 30000 BC. The first Portuguese were hunters and fishermen. In 5000 BC farming was introduced. Portugal entered the bronze age in 2000 BC. Around 700 BC Celtic tribes entered Portugal from the North, and introduced them to the Iron age. Around the same time Phoenicians (now Lebanon) was also trading with Portugal for tin to make bronze. In 600 BC the Greeks began trading with the Portuguese.

In 210 BC the Romans invaded the Iberian Peninsula and began conquering the area. The Roman empire began to decline by the middle of the 3rd century, and by the 5th century the Roman Empire in Portugal collapsed. In 409 AD the Suevi (Germanic people) invaded Portugal, and in 585 the Visigoths (Spanish people) conquered the Suevi.

In 711 AD the Moors from North Africa began to invade the peninsula, taking the south. Portugal received it’s official name in the 11th century. In 1095 the King of Leon granted Portugal to his daughter Dona Teresa and her husband. When her husband died she married a Galician noble, which caused the Portuguese nobles to overthrow her during the Battle of Sao Mamede, which was led by her son Don Alfonso Henrique, who then became ruler of Portugal. Talk about being stabbed in the back by your own family!

After becoming King of Portugal, Alfonso set about recapturing territory from the Moors, and eventually defeated them in Ourique in 1139. In 1147 he captured Lisbon, which eventually became the capital in the mid-13th century. Portugal continue to grow until 1348-1949 when the Black Death wiped out about 30% of the population.

By the late 14th century Portugal was drawn into war when King Fernando died because his daughter Beatriz, who became queen, married Juan of Castile. The Portuguese feared that Portugal would become united with Castile and cease to be independent, so they rose in rebellion. Naturally the King of Castile invaded Portugal to support his wife. This war went on for two years, until the Portuguese army won at the Battle of Aljubarrota. Dom Joao became the King of Portugal, and Portugal remained independent.

In 1386 Portugal made an alliance with England. In the 15th century Portugal’s naval fleet grew significantly, and they ended up capturing Cueta in Morocco in 1415, Madeira in 1419, the Azores in 1427, Tangier in 1471, and Bartolomeu Dias in 1488.

Ever heard of Christopher Columbus from Spain? I’m sure you have; well he set sail and discovered the West Indies in 1492. Because the new lands were south of the Canaries he claimed they were his. This argument was ended with the Treaty of Tordesillas being signed in 1494; with Portugal and Spain agreeing that all new land west of a line 370 degrees west of the Cape Verse Islands would belong to Spain, and anything east belonged to Portugal.

Portugal continued its expansion around the globe establishing colonies in Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, and even some parts of India. The expansion continued until 1578, when King Sebastian I died in a war in Africa, without leaving a heir. This lead to a steady decline of the Portuguese empire. From 1640-1668 Portugal fought the Restoration War, which restored the King of Portugal, and fended off the Spanish trying to take over Portugal. They also had to fight off Napoleon, which the British helped with.

Portugal began its independence in 1812. A fun fact that many of you may not know is that the ruler of Brazil became the King of Portugal during the 19th century, and the capital city was moved from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 1808 to 1821. In 1910, the First Portuguese Republic was established after a Republican revolution that also brought on the King’s resignation. It was ended in 1926, in a coup d’état that resulted in a military dictatorship.

In 1933, the Second Republic, also known as Estado Novo (New State), was established by António Oliveira de Salazar. Salazar’s dictatorship was notable for nationalism and isolation, which saved Portugal from being a part World War 1 & 2. He always tried to keep Portugal’s colonies under his rule and many Portuguese had to fight Portugal’s Colonial Wars. This led to the end of Salazar’s dictatorship on April 25, 1974, when the peaceful Carnation Revolution, a military coup d’état, took place. Portugal became a democracy in 1975, and joined the European Union in 1986. Today Portugal has a population of 10.3 million people.

Porto History

Porto is Portugal’s second largest city, with a population of 1.7 million. The city center has only 230,000 people, but the metropolis is quite large. Porto is situated along the Douro River, and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Porto gets its named from “Oporto”, which translates to “the port”. Pretty self explanatory.

Porto was originally settled in 275 BC by Celtic people. The Roman’s, Moors, and Napoleonic’s then came and occupied the Iberian Peninsula, which we learned about in my writing of the Portuguese history. During the Roman occupation the city was developed as an important commercial port, with trade routes all over the world.

During the 19th Century Porto became known as the city of bridges, with its first permanent bridge being built in 1806. Sadly that bridge didn’t last very long, collapsing only three years later under the weight of thousands of fugitives from the French invasions during the Peninsular War. That bridge was replaced by a suspension bridge called Ponte Pensil in 1843, however only the support pylons still remain today. The Ponte Dom Luis I, designed by Teophile Seyrig, who was a former partner to Gustave Eiffel, eventually replaced this bridge. The final bridge, the Ponte D. Maria railway bridge was opened in November 1843, and was designed by Gustave Eiffel, who created the Eiffel Tower.

Today you can explore some beautiful UNESCO World Heritage sites in Porto, such as the historic city center, Luiz I Bridge, and Monastery of Serra do Pilar. Porto is also home to Port Wine, which a red wine that is fortified with Brandy.

Exploring Porto – Day 1

Bolsa Palace, also known as the Stock Exchange Palace, was built between 1842 and 1910. The palace is located beside St. Francis Church of Porto, which was once part of the St Francis Convent, which was founded in the 13th century. In 1832, during the Liberal Wars, a fire destroyed the cloisters of the convent, but spared the church. In 1841, Queen Mary II donated the convent ruins to the city merchants, who then used the spot to build the seat of the Commercial Association. The project, designed by Porto architect Joaquim da Costa Lima Junior, began construction in 1842. The Neoclassical palace was inspired by the designs of other structures that had recently been built in the city. Most of the palace was finished by 1850, however the interior took until 1910 to complete.

Across from Bolsa Palace is Mercado Ferreira Borges. This large red iron building was built in 1885 and named after a famous politician from Porto that supported the liberal troops during the civil war during the 19th century. It was originally intended to be a market, but was never used as one. It was originally built to replace an older market in Ribeira, however didn’t quite fit its purpose. Instead, it was utilized as a warehouse for military equipment, a community kitchen, and in 2010 it was turned into a nightclub and a restaurant.

There’s a very special McDonald’s on Aliados Avenue housed in a beautiful 1930’s era Art Deco building. The previous tenant was the Imperial Cafe, which had a large copper eagle at the entrance to the building. This eagle is still there, and now proudly showcases the McDonald’s name below. McDonald’s moved into this location in 1995. Of course I had to get myself a double cheeseburger while I was here.

Garagem Do Comercio Do Porto was originally the home of the newspaper “O Comércio do Porto”, but is now used as a parking garage, offices, and housing. The building, designed by Rogerio de Azevedo, was built between 1928 and 1932. This Beaux Arts (Art Deco) style building is quite unique, as the lower floors are used as a parking garage, and due to the shape of the building a helical parking ramp was used.

Edificio do Comércio do Porto is a Beaux Arts (Art Deco) styled condominium complex next door to the parking garage. The building, also designed by Rogerio de Azevedo, was built in 1930.

Culturgest Porto is an Art Gallery is a beautiful Beaux Arts (Art Deco) style building not too far away from the previous two buildings. It was designed by architect Porfirio Pardal Monteiro, and was built between 1924 and 1931. The building even features some neo-classical design features.

Banco Montepio is across the street from Culturgest Porto, and is another stunning Beaux Arts (Art Deco) building.

Municipal Theater Rivoli opened its doors in 1913 as a National Theatre. In 1923, just ten years later, it was updated and became a movie theatre, and could also house opera, dance, theatre, and other concerts. It was designed by Julio Brito. In 1994 the theatre was closed to undergo an extensive restoration, and was reopened again in 1997.

Liberdade Square (Praca Nova) dates back to 1718, when an urbanization project began, which resulted in the creation of some new streets and a new square. The square was limited in size due to he medieval walls of the city, which are no longer there. In 1788 a neo-classical styled convent on the south side of the square was built where the medieval wall once stood. This building is the oldest building that faces the square. During the 1800’s the square became increasingly important, with the municipality moving to the north side of the square in 1819, the D. Luis Bridge being built in 1887, and the Sao Bento Station opened in 1896. It quickly became a political, economic, and social centre for Porto. In 1866 a monument dedicated to King Peter IV was placed inaugured in the middle of the square. The monument was designed by French sculptor Anatole Calmels. In 1916 the municipality building was demolished, and a large boulevard and new municipal building (Porto City Council) was built on the north side of the square.

The Porto City Council building was built between 1920 and 1955. It was designed by architect Antonio Correla da Silva. In the centre of the building is a 70 metre tall clock tower. In front of the building is a statue of a poet named Almeida Garrett.

The Sao Bento Railway station is a beautiful French architecture style railway station that was opened in 1916. It was designed by José Marques da Silva. Inside the building is a beautifully decorated ceiling, and large panels of Azulejo tile that were designed and painted by Jorge Colaço. The murals represent moments in the country’s history and the multicolored panels depict rural scenes showing the people of various regions.

Rue 31 de Janeiro is a street located in downtown Porto that features stunning view of Clerigos Tower, and the history Porto downtown buildings. I will visit Clerigos Tower on another day.

I finished off my day at Colossus Craft Brewery by having a flight of beers; an American Pale Ale, an American IPA, a local double IPA, and a south. The brewery was opened in 2005.

Be sure to check back soon, when I explore more of Porto tomorrow.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 20 – Flying Home

Today was the final day of my trip. It was time to start the long journey home. First flight was on a Lufthansa Airbus A320NEO from Helsinki to Frankfurt. The flight was an hour late leaving Helsinki, which left me very little time for my connecting flight. I had to run through Frankfurt airport, clear customs, and clear security before boarding my second flight, a Lufthansa Airbus A320NEO to London. Both of those flights were in business class, which is essentially just economy class seats, with the middle row blocked, and meal service.

When I arrived in London it was much more relaxed, however still a fairly tight connection. I just had to clear customs, and walk quite the distance to my final flight back to Calgary on an Air Canada Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. This flight was also taken in business class. I’m always impressed by the level of service provided by Air Canada in their Signature Class. My favorite food I always look forward to is the cheese board and port for desert.

After arriving in Calgary, I cleared customs, and my dad picked me up and dropped me off at my apartment.

Where will I go to next? With COVID-19 still fairly prominent, and the latest Omicron variant causing havoc, I don’t currently have anything planned. I spent the Christmas holidays in Victoria with my family. I will do some skiing, and hiking during the winter. It may be a while until you see another post from me.

If you like the content that I produce and want to donate money towards the upkeep of my site, or buy me a cup of coffee please feel free to contribute towards it. I really appreciate it.

Eastern Europe Trip – Day 18 – Tallinn, Estonia & Helsinki, Finland

Today I slept in until 8:30am. After getting dressed I walked a few minutes away to Cafe Rotermann and had a coffee and a traditional Estonian breakfast.

First stop of the day was Patarei Prison, a former sea fortress and prison, located on the shore of Tallinn Bay. The fort was built between 1830 and 1837 as part of the fortifications for the tsarist Russian state. In 1863, Tallinn was removed from the Russian Empire’s list of fortressses due to Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War, and the fort was converted into a barracks. After the Republic of Estonia declared independence in 1918 it was reconstructed into a prison, and was used until 2005. Patarei is one of the most prominent symbols of Soviet and Nazi political terror. The prison was closed and is currently planned to open as a museum in 2025. I was able to sneak a few photos of the site, due to poor security. I had to be careful as there was barbed wire everywhere. What a special treat it was to explore this place!

Second stop was the Town Hall Pharmacy, which is Tallinn’s oldest pharmacy, of Europe’s oldest pharmacies, dating back to the early 15th century.

Close by is St. Catherine’s Passage, also known as Monk’s Alley, winds its way from Vene Street to Müürivahe Street. The alley is lined with buildings that were built between the 15th and 17th centuries. The alley retains its medieval charms and was last restored in 1995.

When you exit St. Catherine’s Passage you can see Hellemann Tower and the Town Wall Walkway. Hellemann’s Tower, a three-story tower, dates back to the 14th century, and is integrated into the Town Wall.

It was time to grab some lunch, and I didn’t feel like sitting down at a restaurant, so I just grabbed a cheeseburger from McDonald’s.

My final stop in Tallinn was the KGB Museum at the top of Hotel Viru. Hotel Viru was completed in 1972. The building was the first high-rise building in Estonia. The Soviet Union hired a Finnish construction company (Repo Oy) to build the hotel. Construction started in July 1969, however the construction company went bankrupt in the middle of the project in 1971 due to a fire breaking out on the top floors in December 1970. Finland found another company to finish the project, and the hotel was opened on May 5th 1972. During the Soviet era, the 23rd floor of the hotel housed a KGB radio centre, which was used to eavesdrop on hotel guests. 60 of the ~500 rooms had concealed espionage devices, as well as some of the tables at the hotel restaurant. They were even clever enough to hide espionage devices in cigarette trays.

The KGB, known as the Committee for State Security, was the main security agency for the Soviet Union from 1954 to 1991. It was the chief government agency of “union-republican jurisdiction”, carrying out internal security, intelligence and secret police functions. The KGB was officially dissolved on December 3rd 1991 when the USSR fell apart.

The KGB left in a hurry in August 1991 when Estonia gained independence, and the secret rooms were not found until 1994! The former radio centre is now a museum, and is left virtually untouched from how it was found. The hotel is still in use today, with 516 rooms.

Once I arrived at the airport I went through security. I made a mistake at security and forgot to drink all my water in my water bottle, so I was pulled aside to check my bags. While my bags were being checked there was this elderly Russian lady who was also getting her bags checked. The security guard unzipped her bag and pulled out two containers. Container #1 had some weird dark brown frothy liquids, however was under 100ml. He asked her some questions in Estonian, and she responded in Russian and used a lot of gestures. He placed the container back in the bag. Container #2 was a re-used gummy vitamin container (~250ml) that had a clear frothy liquid in it, with… a bunch of leeches! He pulled her aside and they went into a private room with the bottle. I’d love to know the discussion that occured in that room. Upon returning he placed the bottle back in her bag, and zipped it up. It appears she was likely using the leaches for some old wives tale treatment…

After going through security I had a beer, and a croissant with ham and cheese while I waited for my flight. My flight to Helsinki was on a NORRA (on behalf of Finnair) ATR-72. This was my first time flying on an ATR-72, and it was really neat to watch the de-icing boots work on the short 30 minute snowy flight.

Once I arrived in Helsinki I took the train into the city, which took about 45 minutes. Once I arrived at the central station I took a short walk to Friends & Brgrs, and had an absolutely scrumptious cheeseburger, while overlooking the busy street below.

Next door was a liquor store, where I picked up a few IPA’s, before heading to my hotel to check in. Alcohol in Finland is by far the most expensive of all the European Union countries.

It was time to check-in to my hotel; Noli Studios Katajanokka. The room was $115/night which was actually a steal for Finland, which is one of the most expensive countries in the European Union to visit, besides Norway. The room was very well appointed, with a small kitchen, a gorgeous bathroom, a small living room area, and a bed on a raised part at the back. After checking in I went downstairs and spent a few hours in the spa.

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