Kaunas

Our second stop of our Baltic adventure was Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania. We arrived by bus, and walked to our hostel, the Monk’s Bunk. (It’s an easy 15-minute walk from the bus station to the hostel, with only one leftturn)

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Follow the backpacker to Monk’s Bunk

We had been told that the hostel could be difficult to find, and they weren’t kidding. Located on Laisves, it’s actually behind the buildings on the street. You walk through an archway, and you’ll see a hiker painted on the wall, with an arrow pointing towards the hostel. It’s located on the second floor, with their private rooms being in a separate apartment on the fourth floor. (There’s no elevator, so be prepared to carry your bags!)

During our two-day stay in Kaunas we toured the castle, as well as did our own little walking tour around the city. And we made up for not visiting any museums in Vilnius by going to a gem museum and the devil’s museum.

Our walking tour of Kaunas began at our hostel, down Laisves to Zemenhofo, where we saw a sign post pointing to a ‘Gem Museum’. So we headed down Zemenhofo to the end, went back to Laisves….no sign of a ‘Gem Museum’. It turns out that the ‘Gem Museum’ is actually a jewellery store with quite a few different types of gemstones on display. It’s located at the corner of Zemenhofo and Kurpiu.

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Relaxing on the pedestrian street, Laisves

From there we headed back to Laisves and walked on to the old town hall, which is now the city museum….and which was never a church by the way. It may look like it started life as a church but it wasn’t. For a nominal fee you can tour through the town hall, seeing the history of the city. Worth a pop in, especially if it’s a gray overcast day!20160803_034557

Our next stop was the castle, which is incredibly interesting, with a dungeon that you can explore (but it’s tiny, so there’s not much exploring.) The stairs leading down to the dungeon are on a steep angle, but it’s short. At the bottom, there is a round chamber with stocks, and chains, which you can play around with (although there is no way my head and hands are going into a set of stocks.) An archway leads you into another chamber, with a few placards that give the history of the castle and prisoners that were held there after various wars.

From the dungeon you climb up the narrow, stone, spiral staircase of the central tower (and only tower….) into various rooms that display period clothing, archaeological items, paintings…you can even step out at one point for a view of the rivers and city.20160803_102355

Walking back towards the hostel, we took a different route, taking Gertrudos and then down Daukšos, and stopping in at Hop Doc for some beer and food, before spending the evening in.

The next day, we headed in the opposite direction. We headed down Micheviciaus to the funicular, taking it to the top of the hill.

We then walked down Zemaiciu, to a set of stairs, with a fountain at the bottom, leading back up the hill, which we explored. Back at the bottom, we headed along Putvinskio to the Devils’ Museum – which started off as a private collection – consists of artwork from around the world (paintings, masks, statues) depicting various versions of the devil.

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That Time I Bussed to Riga

From Vilnius to Kaunas, and Kaunas to Klaipeda, we had arrived at the bus station and just bought our tickets then and there for the next bus. And we had had no problems. The buses were coach buses, large enough to accommodate 40 to 50 people (I’m guessing) with free wifi, outlets to charge phones, and space to stretch out a little.  We envisioned no problems with our proposed Klaipeda to Riga trip – buses definitely ran the route (we had checked before deciding to visit Klaipeda).

The first bus was at 10 am, so we arrived at the bus station around 9:30 and walked up to the ticket counter.

“Hi, two tickets to Riga?”

“At 10?”

“Yes.”

“One ticket.”

“Oh, no, two tickets. We need two tickets.”

“No, one ticket. There’s one ticket for Riga. Maybe, ask the bus driver. Maybe. MAYBE.”

“Ok, I guess we’ll ask the bus driver.”

How, we thought, had the bus sold out? Is the route extra popular? Was it because it was a Saturday? Was it because it was the first trip that day? Maybe it was because it was the first trip of the day on Saturday on an extra popular route!

It turns out that it was nearly sold out because it was essentially an extended mini-van/mini-bus. Able to sit about 20 people. We waited until all the passengers with tickets had boarded, and approached the bus driver to find out if maybe, just maybe, there was enough room for the two of us.

He stood there doing calculations (If 2 people get off in the next city, but one person gets on, and if 4 people get off at the second stop, but only 1 gets on…) before deciding that yes….there was juuuuuust enough room for the two of us. So we loaded our bags onto the bus, clamored aboard, and realized……the only two seats left together were at the very back, between a very tall man, and a man with the widest shoulders I’ve ever seen. (This includes football players I’ve seen on TV).

Right after we got on, another passenger (also English speaking) asked for a seat on the bus, and (somewhat) badgered the bus driver into giving him the one open seat on the bus. When he finally boarded the bus, we headed out towards Riga, with the two of us squished in the back.

The bus stopped in Šiauliai and a few people got out to stretch their legs. We briefly changed seats (they came back, we had to move back to the squished seats), and then it happened.

Someone new got on.

And walked to the back.

And walked to the front.

And started debating with the driver.

And someone turned to us (having heard us speaking English to one another) and said “Too many tickets sold, haha.”

I have no idea what happened with the woman who had bought a ticket but had no seat…she wasn’t on our bus as we headed out towards Riga. All I know is I spent 4 hours crammed into a seat and had to unfold myself when we finally arrived.

But we made it!

 

Vilnius, Rain and Relaxing

Things were hectic for me this summer, starting a new job, and getting ready for our European vacation. After our African safari adventure, we decided to go back to Europe for a vacation focused more on relaxing than on daredevilry. So we settled on a tour of the Baltic states – starting in Vilnius Lithuania, heading up through Latvia, and ending in Tallinn, Estonia.

Our first day in Vilnius was full of errands – buying some clothing (our bags had managed to miss the flight from Toronto to Warsaw), and getting a sim card for our phone. That was definitely worth it – we paid a few euros, and had internet all the time, not having to rely on wifi (that may or may not work) at cafes and restaurants.

20160801_093723While looking for a (relatively) cheap clothing store, and place to buy a sim card, we got to wander around Old Town Vilnius, including the Republic of Uzupis. Once one of the roughest parts of the city, it’s now an artists haven, and full of quirky charm. Walking into Uzupis, you walk past their constitution which has been translated into quite a few languages. The mirrored plaques line the street as you walk towards the main square of the republic.

20160731_093842We ended up spending a lot of time in Uzupis, simply because we got a lot of rain while in Vilnius. The third day of our trip, we headed out towards the bus station, our intention being to visit Trakai, but alas, it began raining while we were halfway to the station. We ran under an arch to take a look at the weather forecast…..and it was going to rain all day. So instead we meandered through the Old Town, and then back over the bridge into Uzupis, where we sat on a (covered) patio at a pub along the river. We also conveniently looked across at an art installation of a swing under the bridge.

After some food and drinks, the rain had abated somewhat, so we headed to the main square, where we stopped into a little cafe/bar/pizzeria, which was thankfully toasty warm inside, but it wouldn’t have mattered.  Because on the patio, across every second seat, were fleece blankets. For the next three weeks of travelling, it was a sight we would get familiar with. (And it’s seriously something we need to get on here in Ottawa!)

Our last day in Vilnius we took a hike through Bernardine Park, which borders Uzupis.  We started at St. Anne’s Church (or The Spikey Church, as I called it before I googled it for the real name) and wandered along the well-tended paths along the river, before crossing over to the other side, and doing a u back in the direction we had come from. The path here was a little rougher, closer to a hiking trail than a walking path. We finally came across a little used trail heading up the hill at a steep angle, and we decided to head up back to the street. Luckily for us, we came out behind a post office, so I could pop in and send off the thousands* of post cards I had written.

20160801_095918‘Lithuanian Post’ in Lithuanian is ‘Lietuvos Pastas’ so I was going to make a joke about sending my postcards by penne….but I figured I probably shouldn’t.

When we had arrived in Vilnius we had grand plans of visiting Trakai, a small historical town close to Vilnius, that includes a castle on an island in a lake. (In fact, I saw it as we approached Vilnius on our flight) as well as Grutas Park, where Soviet-era statues have been relocated/erected.  We never ended up getting to either location, unfortunately, but I guess that just means that we’ll be going to Lithuania…perhaps on our way to Belarus?!

Road Trip to Québec City

For the Canada Day weekend, the Fiancé and I decided to go to Québec City. It was kind of a last minute thing, we decided the weekend before that it would be a good, relative cheap, weekend away. One of the benefits to staying closer to home, was saving money in airfare – even the nearly two tanks of gas that we bought was still incredibly cheaper than flying somewhere else.

We booked a room on hotwire.com, and ended up staying at the Chateau Frontenac, which has a long and storied history, that started with the Canadian Pacific railway back in 1893. Our room had an ‘interior’ view, meaning that we didn’t get a view of the city or the river, but of the interior of the hotel. This turned out to be fine, as we overlooked a small garden, complete with apiary! Our room was actually split in two – upon entering, we walked past a small bathroom and into a sitting area (complete with love seat, stuffed chair, desk and chair and tv) and then the bedroom itself opened off the right of the sitting area. (We later realised it was actually in one of the turrets of the hotel)

We arrived in the late afternoon on July 1, so our first order of business was finding some food, and a drink. We headed down the Escalier Casse-Cou (Breakneck staircase) and into the Lower Town, where we grabbed a drink at Pub Des Borgias, on their small patio (great for people watching). We were already to order in French, but it turned out that our server spoke excellent English. After our drink, we headed down along the harbour to Côte-à-Côte, again getting a seat on their patio. I highly recommend their ribs – they’re cooked for over 12 hours, and literally fall off the bone. We were again impressed with the language skills of the staff – we’d been warned not to expect much English in Québec City, but it was turning out to be  far easier than we had thought

The next day dawned grey and overcast. We had found a suggested walking tour in a magazine in our room, so we headed out to do that, winding our way through Upper Tower, crossing over into Lower Town, and getting about half way around the harbour towards the Plains of Abraham when it really started to come down. We took refuge in a little cafe on Rue du Petit-Champlain.

When the rain stopped, we headed back up to the Promenade, and over the Citadel, before heading up the Grande Allée, looking for some place to have lunch. Alas for us, most places were either closed, or offered larger dishes than we were looking for, so we ended up on Rue St-Jean (a pedestrian street) where we got lunch, and drinks, at Saint Alexandre Pub.

On Sunday, we had breakfast at a small cafe across from the Chateau, then down to the Lower Town again for a short wander. This time we took the funicular up the escarpment. It offers spectacular views as it trundles up (or down).  Then it was time to check out and drive back home.

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Riding the funicular to the top of the escarpment 

Overnighter in the Adirondacks

Redfield order in ranking: 15

In all the (four) years of working on the 46, Steph and I had never had an overnighter. All of our hikes, including the entire Dix range, were done on daytrips. Last year we branched out into winter hiking (tackling first Cascade and Porter as primers, and then slogging out to Allen, and enjoying some prime butt-sliding down the slide.)

So this year, we decided that we would finally do an overnighter. We had a good idea of what items would be needed (hint: tent, sleeping bags and pads, and bear can), all we had to do was put everything into motion. The original plan was to hike in on Saturday and out on Monday, and hope to get a lean-to.

We decided to head down over the May long weekend (or rather, the Canadian May long weekend, which was May 21 to 23). We drove down Friday after work, and spent the night at the Hoot Owl Lodge to finalize our packing, and making sure all the food we had planned to bring would fit in the bear can. (It didn’t. We had to be ruthless about what we were going to bring.)

So maybe that’s the first tip. The bear can hold enough for two nights and two days of hiking – two dehydrated meals, two sandwiches, 4 peanut butter rice cakes, two pre-packaged fruit cups, two protein bars, some trail mix, carrots, chocolate covered pretzels, two pop-tarts, a mini-bota box of wine (this was cause for celebration!)…pretty much two of everything, plus toothbrushes, sunscreen, mozzie spray and any garbage we accumulated.

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All loaded up and ready to go

We woke up excited on Saturday, and we in the parking lot by 6:30. We had to finangle some parking (we, um…created…a parking space.) but by 6:49 we were signed in and off on the trail.

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Good morning trail

Which for some reason had grown far, far steeper than we had remembered. It started off with some rolling terrain, before hitting a steep curve at the hour mark. But we kept up our pace (slow, our pace was slow, but steady) stopping a couple of times to remove layers, and to eat and drink some water.

And that’s the second tip. We each carried a litre water bottle, full, and 2.5-litre camelbak bladders, also full. There’s enough water along the trail (and occasionally, over and under as well) that there’s no need to carry that much. In fact, on the hike out we only had water in the water bottles. (Hint three – make sure that your water purification system is handy)

Somehow between last summer, when we did Cliff, and this May long weekend, I had managed to forget about the water crossing about an hour and half in. How I did this, I don’t know, seeing as I have the balance of a three-hour old colt (bad) and always end up turtling over rocks. And with a large, heavy pack on….turtling wasn’t going to work. (I know because I tried and nearly tipped over into the water.) It’s not that the water was particularly deep, it was just deep enough for me. Steph made it over, dropped her pack, and came back to grab mine when….he appeared. My hiker in shining gaiters (I’m sure those gaiters weren’t shining by the end of the day, but they certainly were when he appeared beside me). He asked if I was having trouble, asked if my pack was heavy, then easily swung it up and bounded over the rocks on wings of gortex (or whatever his boots were made of). After that it was easy enough for me to turtle over to the other side.

(Which brings me to this: there is a high water bridge. We still have no idea how we managed to miss seeing it, other than there is no sign when coming in from Upper Works. Coming out again, there is a sign, so we took the swinging, scary, suspension bridge of doom back over, thus freeing us from relying on strangers of unusual helpfulness.)

We came to the Flowed Lands Interior Register shortly before we hit the 3-hour mark. We were bouyed by our time, and excited to be that close to our final destination. We had been aiming for the Uphill Leanto, but had readjusted to finding something closer to Lake Colden, as the extra 2.6 miles from the dam to the lean was going to cause us serious endurance problems with the packs on. (Hint 4 – those packs are heavy heavy heavy, and less is more!)

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Scrambling down

We scrambled along the trail, which had gotten woolier – more large rocks to scramble up, over and around, as well as being relentlessly up. We came to the Colden Dam an hour after signing in at the interior register, and crossed over.

Where we couldn’t find a leanto. There was a sign to one, but….no lean to (possibly it was across the water.) So we headed back over the dam, and to the McMartin Leanto, which was less than 5 minutes back along the trail.

For those planning to stay at the McMartin leanto, there is water access nearly across from the leanto trail – there is a large “No camping” sign about a 30 second walk back up the trail (towards the dam), and a snaking herdpath down to the river.

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Home sweet leanto

Lucky for us, there was plenty of room in the leanto – someone else’s gear was neatly stashed along one side (he would in fact hike out that evening, so we ended up with the leanto to ourselves.) We dropped the heavy packs, ate some lunch, packed our day-packs with items we might need, and headed out to conquer Mount Redfield.

And this brings me to tip 5 (possibly 6 if you think of the water tip as a hint) – there is a reason that people hike in with the heavy packs on one afternoon, hike the next, then hike out on the third day. Because you will probably be exhausted from carting around that massive bag, and all that weight.

Since we were as exhausted as we were, we decided to leave the Gray-Skylight hike, and do Redfield. We have a grand finale planned for July, and Gray-Skylight-Marcy is a doable loop, but Redfield was off on its own lonesome, orphaned last year when we summitted Cliff.

We made good time to the Cliff-Redfield junction, arriving just over an hour after leaving the leanto. We had been told that the hike to Redfield was by far easier than Cliff, and was more of a hike than a climb.

It appears everyone lied to us.

It was a long slog up a river, scrambling over rocks and under fallen trees. I fell more times than I wish to count (scrapping my knee, ripping a hole in my pants, and grinding dirt into a cut on my palm) but the view was incredible – Skylight looming beside us, Marcy looming behind us, and Redfield in front. We hit the summit at 2:13, not quite two hours after leaving the junction. It’s possible that had we left the hike until the day after we could have been quicker – we were definitely feeling the strain from having hiked the packs in.

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Number 43! Only 3 left

A group of guys made the summit before us, and we could hear one bragging that he was at number 39, so I felt the need to yell out “Number 43!!!” because dammit, I’m so close! We joined them on the lookout to stare out at the Lonely Mountain (aka Allen), before heading back to the summit to eat some more, and whinge about how tired and sore we were.

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Allen, the lonely mountain

The hike down was a lot quicker, especially as we knew where the route was this time. On our way up we had a few moments where we weren’t sure if the trail went up the side of the brook, through the brook, or even crossed the brook. There are small cairns, but they can blend in if you’re not paying close enough attention. But tip 6: the route never crosses the brook, it frequently follows the brook, is in the brook, but never crosses to the other bank. The trail when it is on the land is very easy to see and follow.

We stopped once to refill our camelbaks (and treat the water, just in case) and to talk with a few other hikers who were heading up Cliff. We staggered over the suspension bridge (muttering pleas under our breath as it swayed over the rushing, snow-melt infused water below), and then over the dam and to our leanto, where we found our leanto mate packing up to head out. A ranger had told him there was a 20% chance of rain overnight, and a 70% chance of rain the next day, so he decided to head out early. (Great for us, we got the leanto all to ourselves!)

Our night was quiet (no bears!) and amazing – the soft rain did start around 3 in the morning, and the sound of it hitting the roof of the leanto (solid, no leaks!) was peaceful. The rain continued into the morning – going for the bear can, which had been carried out away from the leanto, kind of sucked, but we took our time, gathered up our gear and repacked, and by the time that had finished…..the rain had stopped. We got to walk out again without rain dripping down our backs. Tip 7: if it has just rained, don’t grab a tree for balance, you will shake the rain on the leaves down your back. We did slide a bit on the slick trails – they had been wet on the way in, and man were they waterlogged on the way out! Gaiters were definitely the way to go.

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You know it’s a maintained trail because of the logs

My last tip for an overnighter: keep some water and food in the car. It was nice to get some filtered water and food that we hadn’t been eating for two days.

Total climbing time: 11 hours 7 minutes
Left parking lot at: 6:49, back in leanto at: 5:56
Summitted Redfield at: 2:13

 

Mini-Break Boston

Last year, Ross and I won a trip to Toronto, and we ended up with a $300 gift card on Porter. (The gift card came after we had already bought our tickets.) With time running out to use it, we decided to hit up Boston for a mini-break weekend.

Because I work a compressed schedule, I get Friday afternoons off (I work longer hours Monday to Thursday to make up for this time) which is great for heading out on a weekend trip. We arrived in Boston around 6 pm, and took a cab to the hotel. (It was close to $30 when you add in tip and tolls.) We could have Ubered, but I was ready to just get to where we were going, so cab it was.

We had booked our hotel through hotwire.com, and were pleasantly surprised. We ended up with a reservation at Omni Parker House, the oldest continuously operated hotel in the US. (The oldest continuously operated hotel in North America is in Montreal, in case you were wondering.)

Omni Parker House still encompasses the ornate decor of the 1850s – the high ceilings in the lobby have decorative woodwork trim, and large chandeliers hang over heavy tables decorated with fresh flowers. Even the elevator doors have patterned overlay (perhaps tin?) It was a little disconcerting to walk in in jeans and sweaters. But we were given a warm welcome, checked in quickly, and shown to our room.

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Are you there Boston?

The next day dawned…..overcast and grey, not bright and clear, but while it threatened to rain, it didn’t. We headed out on a wander, our go-to destination activity. We briefly followed the Freedom Trail, accidentally in the wrong direction, ending up at the starting point in Boston Common. Rather than turn around, we continued on through the park, and across the street to the Boston Public Gardens.

From there, we headed into the Beacon Hill neighbourhood, back into Boston Common, and then over to the Financial District, at which point we thought ‘we should probably settle on a destination.’

So we picked Faneuil Hall. Which is probably better visited on a warmer, sunnier day. While there were loads of people popping in and out of the buildings, it wasn’t a great day for people watching. The indoor markets were crammed with people, and the outside saw people hurrying to get back inside. But the food smelt amazing (we didn’t stay to eat, as there was no where to sit and our feeties were hurting) and I could see this being a great spot to sit and relax on better days.

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The best part was the dinosaur

After a brief stop at a pub, and then back to our hotel room for our City Pass vouchers, we headed back west to the Museum of Science.

Side note: If you’re trying to decide if the City Pass is it worth, the answer is yes and no. We enjoyed not having to stand in line to buy tickets to the Aquarium, but for the amount of time we spent at any one attraction….it was more that we felt since we had bought them, we might as well visit them.

Back to the trip. We headed to the Museum of Science, arriving an hour before it closed. We traded in our vouchers for City Passes, and headed into the museum, which is…a little dated. Maybe I’ve been spoiled with the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology, when it was open here in Ottawa, but this one was a little flat. The optical illusions were a little dated (and the lighting needs to be fixed) but we still enjoyed an hour of looking at things and playing with things, and watching the chicks hustle in their incubator.

On Sunday, we woke to partly sunny clouds, and we thought we might be in luck. We headed to the Skywalk, another attraction that came with our City Pass. If you’ve been to the top of the Empire State Building in NYC, or Chicago 360 (formally the John Hancock Observatory) than you’ll have an idea of what this is. If you enjoyed those, you’ll enjoy this (and vice versa, if you’re tired of panoramic city views, this is a miss.)

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The only time I’ll cross this line is walking along the road trying to get somewhere else

While we were on top of the world (or at least of Boston) it started to drizzle, and it stayed that way for most of the day. We walked back to Boston Common, coming across Duckling Day (which I’m still not entirely too sure what that is, but it involved a school band and face painting) and then back to the hotel to rest in the lobby (and use their wifi).

Once we were rested (or our feet were) we walked (do you see a theme  here?) to the New England Aquarium. Which probably wasn’t the best of ideas, seeing as it was Mother’s Day, and a rainy one at that. But we went in anyway, as it was the final attraction that we wanted to visit on our City Pass. Inside was the usual hubbub of tiny humans and penguins. We meandered around the exhibits, staring at fish (including some that we had seen while snorkelling in Hawaii), slowly making our way to the top of the central aquarium. Then it was back down, over to the octopus tank, and out.

No trip to Boston would be complete without some local flavour (Ross had eaten chowder for dinner the night before, but I’m not a fan of seafood), so we went back to the hotel and ordered some Boston cream pie at the restaurant. (In the hotel history, they say that the dessert was invented by their chef, or possibly his assistant, in 1867. Although Wikipedia states that it was actually 1856.)

A whirl-wind visit, but a fun one, the weather notwithstanding. It would be fun to go back in a summer month, and follow the Freedom Trail to the end, as well as visit the North End, and The Paul Revere House.

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This is a cat I found in a bookstore in Boston. It is now my favourite place.

 

What’s in Your Phone: Travel Apps

The advent of smartphones has made my travelling so much easier. And I don’t just mean being able to Skype people at home, or ask Trip Advisor for a restaurant recommendation while on the road, I also mean the issue of what in the world do I pack in my carry on to keep me occupied on a flight? Now I don’t have to pack one thousand and one things in my pack, I just have to download them to my phone. (I have a Samsung, so I generally save apps to my memory card, rather than to the internal memory.)

I live in Ottawa, so FlyCanada (an app from the Ottawa airport) really helps out, in that gives you the status of flights, both arrivals and departures. It’s really convenient – I can check my flight status to help me plan when to arrive (i.e. if the flight is delayed, I won’t be sitting around the airport for several hours.) Other airports may have their own app.

In the same vein, I download (and then delete to save space) airline apps when I’m flying them. WestJet and United are two airlines that I fly with often enough to keep their apps on my phone. (WestJet because it’s an economical way to fly west, and United because most of my flights south and to Africa go through Dulles airport in Washington.)

Because The Fiance and I have membership with Priority Pass (which isn’t for priority boarding, rather it gets you into airport lounges) we have their app, to help us figure out a) if an airport has a lounge, and b) where exactly that lounge is. Best thing is, you don’t have to be connected to the internet to use it – you can look up where a lounge is in a airport offline.

Another app that smooths your travels is Seat Guru (also a website, if you don’t feel like adding another app.) This one lets you figure out the good, and the bad, seats on a flight. Fill in the departure and arrival airports, flight number, and voila – it determines what airplane the airline is using for that flight, and which seats are good, so-so, and to-be-avoided-at-all-costs.

While traveling, I sometimes have a hard time converting currency. It’s easy enough if it’s a simple 10 to 1, but if it’s a weird amount (130X to $1, for example) then I pull out XE currency. Rates are up-to-date, and take the guess work out of prices.

I spend a lot of time in countries where I speak very little, to none, of the local language. So if I need something other than a beer, or the bathroom, I whip out my Google Translate app. Not only can I type something in in English and get the translation, you can now open the app, hold it up to something printed in the local language and it will translate it for you. There is a caveat – it has to be a major language – French, German, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, although sadly Arabic doesn’t seem to be in the list.

Talking about Google, we also use the Google Drive app. We have our travel documents scanned in and saved in case of emergency, as well as copies of pre-booked hotels/activities, and frequent flier numbers.

And since I always end up somewhere that I didn’t think I’d end up (I’m big on talking with people when I travel, who then suggest a place I hadn’t known about) I also have the Trip Advisor app on my phone. Great for suggestions on restaurants, pubs, hotels, activities…

In the same vein, I have a few hotel/hostel booking apps on my phone – Hotwire.com, Hotels.com, Hostelbookers, Hostelworld. We occasionally leave a night or two unbooked for unexpected side trips. Or we book in somewhere that we don’t like….and sometimes we get a special discount if we book through the app.

I spend (probably) far too much of my travel time in NYC. So I have an NYC subway app on my phone. SO much easier to figure out the closest subway (we spend a lot of time just wandering around NYC), or what route to take to get where. A lot better than unraveling (and trying to re-ravel) a paper map.

And finally on the planning side is the Time Out app. Letting you see a list of things to do , nearby bars, and make a reservation at a restaurant, among other things, this app covers (select) cities in Europe, Africa, the US, Asia, Australia….pretty much everywhere except Canada. (Boor-urns to that!)

On the fun side, I have a few other apps to help pass the time while waiting….anywhere. At the airport, on the plane, on a train, at a restaurant….

My ereader is a Kobo, so I also downloaded their app. I sometimes find it easier to navigate buying a book on my phone – say if I’m using a wifi that’s password protected, it’s a lot easier to navigate that issue with my phone than with the ereader.

Shortyz. I love crosswords, and pre-smartphone era (which for me, was up to a few years ago) I would pack a crossword book in my carry-on. That alone doesn’t take up a lot of space, but add to it a couple of books (I got a tablet in 2010, but didn’t get an ereader until just a few years ago.), a journal, a deck of cards….and bags start bulking up. So if you’re a crossword fan, Shortyz is a great app. Download a few days worth of puzzles, this app pulls in crosswords from multiple sources, from pop culture (People Magazine) to easy-to-hard (LA Times, depending on the day of the week). Along the same vein, I also have Sudoku and Solitaire downloaded.

Buttons and Scissors is a game that involves buttons of different colours that you ‘cut’ in a straight line off the board. You can’t cut past a different coloured button, and you have to cut at least 2 buttons at a time. A bit of mindless fun, it occasionally requires a bit of strategy as you try to figure out what order to cut in to clear the board. (I also have Candy Crush, but the 5 lives go by so quickly.)