CA: The One with the Severe Delay

Hi.

How are you? You’re well? I’m very pleased to hear it.

I’m good, too, thanks for asking. I’ve been very busy.

What do you mean you don’t want to hear my excuses? They’re very good excuses!

Oh, you do want to hear them… Erm, well, I’ve been working? No, okay, that’s not good enough.

How about that I’m still getting settled in Vancouver? Yes, I know it’s been two mont—yes, I understand that it’s a poor—Okay okay, fine, you got me.

 

The reason, and pretty much sole reason I have not updated my blog (as promised, I shamefully add), is due to my laziness. I’ve had ample time to write about the things I have done, and yet, I always find something else to do instead of documenting my days.

Canada Day – the day I wrote and published my last post – was over a month ago now. That is shameful. I had every intention of talking about my experiences of Canada Day and the following few days but, truth be told (I am aware, family, before you mention it)… I wasn’t very impressed by the celebrations.

I didn’t even take any pictures. There was meant to be a large and spectacular fireworks show to commemorate 150 years of freedom. I did attend, I’m very proud to say. You could pay for prime viewing in an over-crowded and tightly packed square by the waterfront. Obviously, I didn’t because I’m not a fool (and I also don’t like people).

Instead, we circled round the bay to the other side in Stanley Park… where it was still pretty busy. As anyone who knows me in real life will know, I’m not a fan of huge crowds of people. This was pretty much my worst nightmare, surrounded by random people, all being loud and boisterous as they waited for the fireworks to start. Somehow, we found a patch of grass to sit down on and waited, growing more and more annoyed by the people around us, for the fireworks to start.

When they did start, I wasn’t very impressed. Perhaps it was the limited view I was subjected to by the people standing in front of us. Or, perhaps, it was because I didn’t think the show was that impressive. Fireworks are fireworks, and unless there’s something truly spectacular or different about them, it doesn’t feel very special to me. That and there were too many people. Way too many people…

What else have I done that’s kept me so “busy”? Not a lot that I can think of, and even less that I have pictures of. When it comes to posts that have been … ah … delayed, I find the best way to deduce what I have done worthy of mentioning, is to scroll through the few pictures taken on my phone.

Lo and behold! We have the answer. Two things spring to mind.

The first, of which, I admit, there is a very limited selection of pictures to show you, is one of the great tourist attractions that every newbie to the city of Vancouver is meant to do as soon as they arrived – Granville Island. Me being me (for there is no better way of explaining it), I did not head to Granville Island like I was expected to. Why would I conform to such ridiculalities (yes, I did just make up a word and I only regret it slightly)? POWER TO THE PEOPLE. Or, you know, just pure laziness.

Anyway, back to Granville Island. The way I had been told about Granville Island, was that it was an island with lots of market stalls and more food than you could possibly eat.

IMG_20170725_145709073_HDR

It was not what I expected when we got there. It was touristy. Very touristy. I would compare it to Blackpool or to Niagara Falls, but it doesn’t quite reach that level of tacky tourism. No, there was a certain quaint charm to the island, I must say. Despite the fact that it wasn’t quaint – it’s quite big, in fact. Quaint feels right, though, for some reason. It was relaxing, let’s go with that.

Yes, relaxing. There were plenty of tourist attractions (such as tacky shops, boats for hire, that sort of thing) but also there were some delightful places. Places such as a Glassblower and glass shop where you could watch the Glassmith (you can also call them a Gaffer I just found out (how exciting is that?!)) as he heated, shaped and moulded intricate glass bowls, pots, and ornaments. Safe to say I was very content with watching the Gaffer (see?!) as he worked; my friend, however, was not. So we had to move on fairly quickly.

YET THEN, MY FRIENDS, THEN. We stumbled upon a Blacksmith (Ironsmith? Not really sure if I’m honest). I can’t say he was doing much at the point where we visited him, but the work around the workshop was pretty impressive. Iron railings, chandeliers, that sort of thing. I get a little bit too fascinated by trades like these.

Moving past my obsessions, the rest of the island was a strange mix of everything. There was a famous brewery (apparently) dominating centre stage. The line-up (YES, I DIDN’T USE “QUEUE” – SUE ME) stretched waaaay longer than I would’ve been prepared to wait. It reminded me of Willy Wonka and his Chocolate Factory … sadly I didn’t have a golden ticket.

There was a market indoors that was jam-packed full of tourists. I was intending on buying quite a few things, but left with just an ice-cream in my hand due to the insane traffic. I do have to admit, though, after we made our escape from the torture that is people, the view from Granville Island is quite pretty. There is lots of water about (due to it being an island… obviously) so, naturally, the scenery is very nice. Picturesque, even (set myself up nicely there):

IMG_20170725_145801107_HDRIMG_20170725_151449121_HDR

 

I am sure there is more that I did in between seeing Granville Island and my next activity, but, basing it off the pictures on my phone, I didn’t. So, therefore, I have no recollection of it. That’s bad, isn’t it?

Anyway, yes, next activity. I have the benefit of having befriended someone (on the train from Toronto, no less) who works for an animal rehabilitation centre connected to the Vancouver Aquarium. So, naturally, she gets free tickets to the Aquarium. Ergo, I get free tickets to the Aquarium. Ipso facto, I don’t have to pay extortionate prices to see animals in questionable captivity.

That might be a little excessive, but yeah. The Aquarium is very expensive, and Gen (my friend from the train – only the occasional person actually gets a name drop), the one who works for the animal rehabilitation centre, explained the moral dilemma of handing over the animals to the care of the Aquarium. Still, the Aquarium wasn’t too bad. Lots of pretty things to look at.

IMG_20170803_153104233

IMG_20170803_154158025

 

IMG_20170803_154938631_HDR

Okay, so he’s not as pretty to look at, but still…

 

INCLUDING PENGUINS. Penguins penguins penguins penguins penguins. PENGUINS. I get very excited by penguins. They make me happy. But that’s enough of that.

 

What else to tell you about? Life continues steadily. The weather’s been very odd. British Columbia has had a lot of forest fires recently due to about three weeks of horrid, unforgiving sun. Let’s put it this way: certain areas of British Columbia trying to deal with these forest fires are the size of a European country. It’s that bad.

Due to the fires, there’s been a constant sheen of smoke marring the sky and, most tragically, the mountains. I can no longer step outside my front door and gaze longingly at the mountains. Now I  have to squint and just about make out a big lumpy shape. It is getting better, though. We had a full night of heavy rain which was just perfect for me. I love sleeping to the sound of rain and I was getting fed up with the heavy weather.

Now it’s a nice mixture of cloudy, windy and sunny. Maybe not the best of the forest fires, but at least the air’s clearer and I can breathe without too much fear of inhaling poisonous fumes.

 

That’s about it! Sorry if this wasn’t worth the wait … I can understand why.

You know what? I’m not even going to promise an update soon. That’ll just get your hopes up. The next post will be posted when it is posted. Kapeesh?

CA: The One with the New City

I postponed writing this blog post for many reasons.

The first, of course, being that I am lazy. That seems to be a common theme throughout my daily activities. The second, possibly more plausible excuse, is that I haven’t quite settled myself in Vancouver yet. Sure, I’m not living out of a hostel, but I am crashing on the floor of my friend’s room and have been doing so since I got to Vancouver, just over two weeks ago.

The third, and my favourite reason, is I wanted to have enough to write a detailed post about (or as detailed as my posts get in between all the gibberish and ramblings) in order to keep you guys well informed and (hopefully) entertained.

I can safely say, we can begin now, with an assortment of activities I am ready and willing to talk about! Most of it is scenic, so prepare yourselves (especially you, Dad), for some jealousy.

Vancouver, so far, already feels more homely to me than Toronto did. Certainly, I feel more comfortable in the city, and I think I know the reason. Through my many amblings throughout the city and the subsequent hikes/walks on the outskirts, I’ve been reminded strongly of New Zealand and the city of Wellington that I still dub my home-away-from-home. Perhaps it’s the rolling hills and startling mountains that surround the city, and the ease with which they can be accessed. Either way, I’m having a very good time, and I’m looking forward to exploring even more of the surrounding scenery.

I have, also, found a place to call my own! So, hopefully, I’ll get into a lovely rhythm of writing blog posts left right and centre, as long as I can keep my laziness at bay. Also really need to get into the habit of doing some actual writing, too… Since the train, very little has been done.

 

On to the exciting things, though!

My first night in Vancouver was an unmitigated disaster. We decided, despite a severe lack of sleep from the train, to go out and get drunk. I, being the true party animal that I am, almost fell asleep with a drink in my hand. Never have I had the experience of literally falling asleep when talking to somebody, my eyes prematurely closing against my will.

Wait, hold on, no, I have some views to show you from before the embarrassing incident. In Downtown Vancouver, there’s a park called Stanley Park (I know right?  It sounds so chavvy). It’s a very pretty park, and safe for the most part, as long as you avoid it at night-time. Through the park, there is an area called English Bay (…yeah, obviously), with a spectacular view over the water. Being the cheese balls that we are (meaning the Choo Choo Clan and myself (I didn’t actually mention that’s what the train crew and I dubbed ourselves, did I?)), we headed there for sunset and had a lovely time sat at the beach, watching the sky and its multitude of colours bask the waters. And then we got drunk. Or at least, the others did. I just got tired.

IMG_20170610_211618526_HDR

 

received_10155366858649395

The cheese is real.

 

The next adventure was a hike we went on with only three of us. I’m saddened to say that the number of Choo Choo Clan members has dwindled in Vancouver, and there are now only three of us living in the city.

A little bit of Vancouver information for you. Its geography is a little bit skew-wiff (apparently that is not a word, but a very commonly used one in England at least), so I’ll try to explain the best I can. You have Vancouver itself, so the city, encompassing Downtown Vancouver, East Vancouver and the like. Then, to the north, on a separate spit of land connected by long bridges, you have North and West Vancouver, which are technically their own cities and not part of Central Vancouver. This is where the rich people live, and incidentally where all the best views and hikes are located. To the east (past East Vancouver), is Burnaby, where I work, which is also its own city. It’s just sort of been adopted by the city of Vancouver. And to the south, you have Surrey (yes, Surrey), which I can’t comment on as I’ve never been.

Moving away from the academic and to the informative, I did venture out to North Van (because I’m cool and abbreviate unnecessarily) in order to do a hike. The big and most popular hike is up Grouse Mountain, which was our intention from day one. However, due to bad weather, the mountain was closed, so we opted for a hike up Grouse’s baby brother (a sentence I never thought I’d say): Mount Seymour.

Before anyone makes a joke about Seeing More from Mount Seymour, I assure you that I did the same. To mixed results. Word puns don’t work as well on non-Native English speakers…

Regardless, the hike was okay! Again, the top trail was closed due to bad weather, but we did find another trail a little further down that was nice, until it abruptly ended, and only later did we find out that trail, too, had been closed.

After the hike, seeing how we were not fully satisfied, we ventured, to Lynn Park. In the Vancouver area, there are two suspension bridges: the Capilano Suspension Bridge, and the Lynn Park Suspension Bridge. Capilano you have to pay about $30 for the privilege to cross it, whilst the one at Lynn Park is free. You do the math(s).

I probably preferred Lynn Park to Mount Seymour, solely because there was Mour to Sey (I told you). There was the bridge, obviously, as well as a cute little footpath before a pretty-looking lake.

IMG_20170612_182812249_HDR

 

That lake, though, had nothing on the lake I visited on Monday. It was called Buntzen Lake, and it was breathtaking. You know how I said the Grand Canyon just didn’t look real in photographs? The lake was kind of the same, except pictures just don’t do it justice. Sprawling trees rose high and around the body of water, spanning 4.8km (Googled). I can proudly say I walked the full perimeter of the lake, in between a long sunbathing and swimming break. I burnt on my chest. Quite badly … but it was well worth it! The lake’s water was beautifully cold, and whilst my friend was submerging them self inch-by-inch with agonising slowness, I calmly waded in and embraced it. Slightly worried for my sanity, but there you go!

IMG_20170626_132237804_HDR

 

IMG_20170626_144442248_HDR

Here, you can even have a cringe-worthy photo of me

 

IMG_20170626_132230632_HDRIMG_20170626_154934233_HDR

The last stop for this blog post, was a viewpoint and sunset. Vancouver has lots of lookouts/viewpoints where you can take in breath-taking views, and Cypress Viewpoint is one of them. Located in West Vancouver, it’s really only accessible by car (luckily I have befriended someone with a car – I’m very smart, see) but provides an amazing view of Downtown Vancouver and its surrounding area. Once again, pictures don’t really do it any justice, but I’ll try my best.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

We stayed there for a good hour, before the numerous bugs finally scared us away with their incessant hovering and potential biting. Honestly, my chest is so itchy from the sunburn I could be covered in hundreds of bites and I wouldn’t even realise. You’ll be pleased to know though that my chest is no longer red and it didn’t peel. A miracle times two no doubt.

 

That’s about it since I got to Vancouver! Work is work, obviously you’d rather hear about the exciting travelling things I’ve been doing.

I actually write, or at least finish, this post on Canada Day, which is both the day I move into a new place and, obviously a huge celebration for the country. Not only is it there far superior version of America’s Independence Day, but this year they celebrate 150 years of being free of the evil and enslaving British… yaaaay.

More to follow, I am sure.

 

 

CA: The One with the Train

If someone were to say to you: “Hey, do you want to go on a four-day train journey with no bed, no shower, and no WiFi?” would your reaction be, “AW, HECK YE!” (a very traditional Kiwi response to a large majority of things)?

No, it would not. Nor was it my reaction when I heard about it. Here’s the thing. Four days without showering, sure, I could do that. Being allowed to slum it and not be judged it is a great feeling, so the idea of four days without a shower actually appealed to me.

The lack of a bed?  Eh, I can’t say this concerned me too much. Sleep would seem very unimportant on a trip like that, anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I love my sleep, but four days without sufficient amounts didn’t worry me nearly as much as I thought it would.

But four days without WiFi? Without my precious connection to the outside world and all its inappropriate useless information? No contact with family for four days (wait, that’s actually a positive)? Ooft, the thought of that scared me. I’d be forced to occupy myself with … other things. Like socialising. Or reading. *cringe*

Then guess what this clever blog-writer goes and does? He books the train. Because flying is overrated, and I knew it would make all my Canadian friends jealous. Apparently every Canadian dreams of taking the train from Toronto to Vancouver, spanning three days and four nights, slumming it and wallowing in self-filth. Gotta dream big.

IMG_20170607_143801397

No, in all seriousness, I had mixed thoughts from the Canadians I know when I mentioned I was taking the Canadian (as the train is called) across the country. The majority recoiled in fear, stating my days would be filled with suffering and sleep-deprivation, and a general abysmal view at the world for those days cooped up inside a constantly moving tin bucket (technically stainless steel, but let’s not go into technologies). The others recoiled in equal manner, yet it was more in jealousy than in fear.

Here’s the thing, though. Since arriving in Canada, seven months ago, my time has been spent entirely in Toronto. Apart from that one day trip out to Scarborough, which technically (shit, those technicalities are back), is still in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and henceforth is banned from any further debates about if I ever left Toronto.

So getting a train all the way out to Vancouver, where I pass through four different provinces, was a very exciting prospect. Of course, I could’ve flown, but where’s the fun in that? This way I get to actually see the country I came to see, rather than flying directly from one city to another.

IMG_20170607_144009378_HDR

Before I go into a very detailed analysis of the train and its features (that’s a lie, I’m going to do a general overview), I just want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the train and its encompassing days. Not only that, but I would recommend it to anyone who has a need/desire to travel between Toronto and Vancouver, or vice versa. I would also do it again myself, though maybe not for a while…

Why would I do it again? I’m very glad you asked. There were several, if not a lot, of reasons why. But first, the downsides. Obviously, no WiFi was a killer. But that, in turn, led to a positive that I’ll outline in a minute. The other major downside was the sleeping. There was Economy class (the cheapest, and, surprise surprise, the one I went for, or there was the prestigious Sleeper class. Sleeper class afforded you a cabin to yourself, a bathroom, and, in some lucky cases, a shower.

Economy provided you with a reclining seat, a communal toilet, and a drinking fountain. Really not much else. The seats did recline, but they were so uncomfortable that I don’t think I saw a single person use them how they were meant to be used. If you were lucky enough to be travelling alone and not have a stranger sat next to you, you could almost get comfortable by spreading out across both seats. When I did this, I ended up with an unbelievable cramp in my foot. Not sure if anyone else did…

Okay, there you go, the downsides. Now for the upsides!

The Skydome. A communal area where Economy passengers (the poor people) could sit and take in the rolling views and landscapes that sped past us as we traversed the Canadian wilderness. The windows weren’t the best for viewing. The iconic picture you see of this train, of the glass carriage with clean, sparkling glass, comprising the walls and roof, is reserved for the rich ones who can afford cabins for themselves. Our Skydome, was much less fancy. True, you could see out the windows in the walls, and out of the windows in the roof, but the effect was rather ruined by the … casing? Not really sure what you’d call it. You’ll see what I mean in the pictures. So, yes, the Skydome was a highlight. Not only for the views, but for the communal purposes it brought with it.

This leads me to the positive I half-mentioned earlier: the people. A lack of WiFi forces you to socialise, to escape from your shell and protective bubble of isolation and communicate with other humans. It’s a disgusting act. A horrifying, unfair and forced desperation, so as not to go crazy in my isolation aboard such a vessel.

In truth, I’m not bad at socialising. Particularly when you’re forced to talk to people (unless you hide in your seat the whole journey, which I’m pretty sure one guy across from me did), it’s not difficult to make new friends. It does also help being English, I’ve found out… Aboard the train, there was me, the Englishman, an Irish girl, and two Welsh guys. That was it for the Brits. I was actually very surprised by the lack of other travellers. I think I met one or two backpackers such as myself, but the majority of people were either Canadian, or just there for a holiday.

But, yes, I made a wonderful group of friends, and some are even staying in Vancouver for the foreseeable future!

received_1964769960409143

A bit about the journey. Toronto to Vancouver took three days and four nights (we were also about five hours delayed, but apparently that’s a common occurrence), and it passes all the way across Canada. You pass through four different provinces: Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. The scenery in Ontario, once you leave the GTA, was beautiful, with trees and lakes on either side of the train (as well as a good deal of flooding). Manitoba was … less impressive. The Canadian Prairies have their home here, and in Saskatchewan, so there is a lot of flat land without much to see. Saskatchewan was much the same. Alberta is when it started getting good again. More trees, and even a few mountains started to appear. But it wasn’t until we reached the border of Alberta and British Columbia that the real views started.

The Rockies are not to be understated in their beauty. Dramatic wilderness, diverse wildlife, and alpine lakes make the mountain range a true joy to look at (yes, that description was stolen straight from Wikipedia). I didn’t actually take any pictures of the Rockies… for one thing, it started to rain, so it became very tricky to get a good shot through the streaked windows. Also, pictures just don’t do it justice. We even saw some bear cubs! That was definitely a highlight.

 

IMG_20170609_163747276

My favourite picture, for some reason.

 

 

And now I am living in Vancouver, which, so far, seems like a beautiful place to live. It’s even surrounded by mountains, so I’m sure on a nice day I’ll end up taking lots of pictures. And don’t worry, I’ll make sure to share them with you all.

 

 

CA: The One with Casinos

I would like to start by putting my family’s mind at ease by stating that nothing untoward happened whilst I was in Vegas. I am not in any crippling debt to one of the casinos, nor do I find myself married to some stripper I met on a night out. Though, it would’ve made a good story if I now was…

That being said, Vegas did happen. But we were sensible, and I, at least, didn’t gamble away any of my money. Just my Uncle’s… heh.

I’m getting ahead of myself though! Before Vegas, my uncle, Mark, and his partner, Stephen (from now on referred to as ‘my uncles’ for the sake of ease), joined me in Toronto for a couple of days.

Despite a truly horrendous ordeal revolving around lost baggage, I think they had a good time? A lot of the time was spent clothes shopping (with good reason), but we did manage to at least see part of the city. I took them on a brief tour, down to the harbour front – where we, of course, passed the CN Tower. I always think it’s worth seeing the tower, but not worth going up it. It’s difficult to really appreciate the scale and size of the tower, until you’re stood right beneath it. It really does, as a tower should, tower over you.

What’s worth seeing at the harbour front? I’ll tell you. The Music Gardens. One of my favourite places in Toronto. Sadly, there were more people there than usual (could this be to do with the weather being sunny, instead of cloudy and windy?!) but I still thought it was beautiful. My uncles are very much fans of music, so I thought it seemed appropriate to show them.

We meandered are way back to their hotel, getting swarmed by Blue Jays (the baseball team) fans. Now, the next day, our intention was to go to Niagara Falls and obviously see the Falls, but also do plenty of wine-tasting.

Unfortunately, I ended up having an unpleasant night of throwing up, so instead of inflicting my suffering upon the others, I let them go to Niagara whilst I had a quiet day of queasy resting.

But then it was Vegas time!

Vegas is a very strange place. For those of you who haven’t been, from a tourist point of view, there isn’t much to see apart from the main Strip. This is where all the outlandish hotels (and subsequent casinos) are. What I didn’t realise until I researched the city, was that the hotels are the tourist attractions. Not just for the gambling, but for the crazy designs of the buildings.

There is a hotel based around a miniature Eiffel Tower, one with a pyramid and a sphinx, a medieval-style hotel called Excalibur, and one with a rollercoaster that takes you round the skyline of New York.

IMG_20170531_110720188_HDRIMG_20170531_124300987_HDR

 

We stayed in the Bellagio, an almost normal looking hotel. I mean, it’s very grand and over the top, but for Vegas that’s quite tame! The view from my room was sensational.

 

I couldn’t quite work out what times the fountains put on a show, but it was quite regular! Getting pictures of a show like that though is extremely difficult, so sorry to disappoint in that regard.

As for what we did in Vegas, I can’t say we did a lot. There was plenty of gambling, of course, and we did walk around the Strip plenty. The only issue was that, whilst it was unbearably sunny, it was unbearably stuffy. I can deal with sun, but if it’s either stuffy or humid I start to struggle.  I suppose we were in the middle of the desert, so it was to be expected, but that didn’t mean I had to enjoy it!

We did, however, go see a magic show on one of the nights! Famous Vegas comedic magicians called Penn & Teller. They practically live in the Rio hotel (a very ugly and tacky building – feel free to Google), and have, apparently, been working together for four decades! The show came very highly recommended by the people of reviews in general, so we were all very excited to see them in action.

None of us were wowed by it, sadly. I will admit, some of the tricks are amazing. It’s one thing seeing it on TV, but another thing entirely seeing it in real life. Making things appear from absolutely nowhere is mesmerising to see. But, for some reason, the three of us left feeling a little disappointed. I don’t think any of us can explain why, we just didn’t find it as fascinating as we had hoped.

 

On our last day in Vegas, we made the long voyage to the Grand Canyon. What I didn’t realise (and in hindsight probably should’ve) was that there were different parts of the Canyon you could go to. The closest to Vegas and the most popular was the northern rim. So, obviously, we went to the southern rim (I think?). And I have to say, it was by far the most impressive thing we saw on our trip.

It is huge. I mean, yes, I knew it was a Canyon and one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, but it didn’t quite prepare me for its depth. Every picture I took looks fake, as though I’ve edited in a background and just left it as that. The pictures just don’t quite do it justice. I advise everyone to go see the place for themselves!

 

 

And that was Vegas! I flew back to Toronto the next day (after a few rounds on our lucky-not-so-lucky slot machine), and my uncles flew back to London. A very big thank you (again) to them for taking me to Vegas. I had an absolute blast.

Today, in fact, I am embarking on a four-day train ride across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to talk about in the next post!

 

CA: The One with the Birthday

It’s  official. I have reached the ripe old age of twenty-one (which is exactly the same term I used when I turned nineteen – I haven’t changed, have I). The big Two One. I can no longer hide behind the comforts of claiming that the age of adulthood doesn’t strike until the Americanised age of twenty-one. When I turned eighteen it was much the same. That sense of denial of entering the adult world. Let’s be honest, who really wants to be an adult? All this adulting (autocorrect changed that to adulating, a word I had to look up much to my shame) is tiring, you know? So many responsibilities, it really makes you miss the good old days of youth and of rash and immature decisions. Take me back, please.

Ah, who am I kidding! I’m still only twenty-one. There are plenty more rash and immature decisions to be made, just possibly with a few more repercussions clinging to them as I can no longer use the same excuses as I did when I was younger.

During my last birthday post – a full two years back when I turned the “nothing special” age of 19 whilst travelling Australia – I used Urban Dictionary to find a suitable description of the age. Let us see what comes up when I type in twenty-one…

Okay, no, Urban Dictionary is never a good idea to use. I have no idea how I found a description about nineteen, but twenty-one either referred me to the card game (also known as Blackjack), or to a disturbing amalgamation of the two numbers involving a toilet. Let’s move on, shall we?

Now, I know for a fact that turning twenty-one means I can now drink in America! But what else comes with this “life-changing” age, most importantly back in the UK? Well, let’s make a list, shall we?

  1. Adopt a child (not sure I’m ready for this)
  2. Supervise someone learning to drive (if I’ve held my licence for three years, which I have not)
  3. Get a pilot’s licence (that’s pretty cool! Not that I have any intentions on doing so, but the option’s there, right?)
  4. Be sent to prison (…yay)
  5. In the States: obtain a concealed weapons permit (why am I not surprised?)

Well, there we go. A list of five things, and I’m not sure any of them are beneficial to me in the slightest. Let’s just go back to being able to drink in America, shall we?

Much to my excited trepidation, my uncles have, as a birthday present, offered to take to Las Vegas for about a week. Not sure why I’m telling my followers this, as I’m pretty sure it’s all family members (who have known of this plan for a long time), or friends (who I’ve bragged to about this trip for a long time). Still, yes, Vegas! Booze (of which I’m sure there will be plenty), gambling, and general frivolity. At least I can happily escape all blame by saying it was entirely my uncle’s idea? Any family members with concerns about my wellbeing whilst out there, please address all to the Uncle. Thanks.

Back to my birthday. Being the irresponsible adult that I am now, I, of course, threw a house party. In my defence, it wasn’t a very wild house party. We were loud, true (so loud the police came to say hi at one point, in fact), but nothing was broken, and as far as I know, only one person threw up. Into our sink, though, which was very thoughtful of them. Of course, they did also steal my alcohol. Karma has a way of working out in my favour, sometimes.

received_10209681668865701

 

 

received_10209677053510320

I just wanted to include this because… Well, just look at it!

 

 

May seems to be the party month. Perhaps it is because the weather is finally showing signs of improvement. True, about a week ago there was a mass flooding across most of Canada. Toronto itself was mostly fine (apart from two miserable days of nothing but solid rain), but Quebec was in utter shambles. Pretty sure I saw somewhere on the news that the army was called in to help!

There’s also this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPG4yWj1C3g – the most Canadian thing you will ever see.

Now, however, the weather is showing signs of improvement. It was 17 degrees and sunny all day yesterday. Somehow I managed to burn my arm, but no other part of me? Either way, on the day I’m writing this, it’s about 20 degrees and cloudy. But, oh boy is there a big but (and I cannot lie), tomorrow it’s meant to be a whole 27 degrees! And sunny! All day! Much exclamation!! I’ll be stuck at work, but that’s not the point.  There are going to be many barbeques enjoyed upon our dear patio.

That’s about it for my birthday.

It’s worth noting that, as an almost birthday present, at the start of May I went to another concert. This one I actually paid for. I was very happy. Obviously, the artist I went to see was marvellous, and I loved every second of her performance, but the band (technically just artist) who opened for her was the main surprise.

IMG_20170503_221022122received_10158667730405204

 

It was a solo man, armed with one of those electric beat makers (is there even a proper name for them?), a mini-drum kit, and a violin. He put so much energy into his performance and just looked so happy. It, in turn, made me very happy.

IMG_20170503_200538029_BURST007

 

I expect that my next post will be after Vegas, so all my family members can wait in suspense to see what shameful things I’ve been up to! Except for my uncles, who will probably be spear-heading these shameful activities…

 

 

CA: The One with the Island

I completely forgot to write this one, going to be honest! Can’t even claim it’s been a hectic week or so – it really hasn’t.

Let’s jump straight back into it, shall we?

 

IMG_20170327_150725447_HDR

One of the few things I was insistent that Bryony experience was Casa Loma. For those of you who don’t know me (which is a very select few who follow my blog) I have a deep fascination with Medieval Fantasy, and Casa Loma is one of the few places in Toronto that almost satisfy me in that regard. It just needs more knights walking about it, then the fairytale would be perfect.

Not really sure how much to write about Casa Loma, as I’ve already been and wrote a pretty in-depth description of all the different rooms etc.

When I was there (with Gemma – you can tell I like showing people this out-of-place-miracle-of-a-house) last it was in the run-up to Christmas, and obviously there were Christmas decorations scattered among the grounds, even different Christmas trees in each big room to symbolise something!

This time, unsurprisingly, there were no Christmas trees. A minor relief, I believe. I’d be worried for the Canadians if they were still celebrating Christmas, four months on. I’m not really sure what was there instead, apart from some pretty rad (that means ‘radical’, for you old folk) wood carvings of animals.

IMG_20170327_145134461_HDR

Apart from that, I didn’t really see anything else new. There was a pretty museum across from Casa Loma, however. We didn’t go in (due to an extortionate entrance fee), but the grounds were very pretty to walk round. And sit in. We did a lot of sitting. Being a tourist is seriously tiring.

IMG_20170327_153053993_HDR

Now comes my second escape from the busy, hectic, world of Toronto city. Something I’ve been wanting to do, but due to weather concerns I’ve never done, is to venture across to Toronto Island. When I say venture, I mean a twenty minute ferry ride from the city to the island but still, it makes a big difference.

The weather was bearable, I suppose. The occasional bout of sunshine breaking through the grey-cast clouds. It was at least warmer than freezing, and the wind kindly kept at bay most of the time.

It was very pretty. And peaceful. Due to going during the week, and before the summer period, the Island was pretty quiet, which was both good and bad. Nothing was open, so our options were fairly limited, but it did mean there were less people to annoy me!

Toronto  Island all gives you an exceptional view of the city if you look north (hence the cover photo). I’m going to include another one just because I thought it was seriously impressive.

IMG_20170328_155756056_HDR

We spent a lot of our time just wandering round, exploring the connected islands. Some of the islands are residential, and feature some truly wonderful buildings. I’m thinking that you guys, mum and Charles, would enjoy a retirement there.

IMG_20170328_154954880_HDR

 

We also, as is to be expected from any person visiting Toronto as a tourist, went up the CN Tower. I have very little to say about this, so there you go.

 

Thus concluded Bryony’s trip out to Canada to see me.  I hope she had a good time.

Another thing worthy of mention in this post is my delightful job. Thanks to them, I got to go to a music concert for free!

A French singer/songwriter called Jain designed a watch for Swatch and the company needed two people from the Toronto area to go to the gig in order to promote the new watch. So, guess what? I decided to go.

I can’t quite say the music was to my taste (a strange mixture of French Pop and African beats) but the atmosphere was terrific. Plus, it was free? So who can complain?

IMG_20170403_222500308

 

Now we look towards the future. I am delighted to say that my time in Toronto is drawing to a close.  I have a found a job for the summer out in Nova Scotia, on the beautiful island of Cape Breton. I have to say, I’m mostly excited for the change of scenery. Urban landscapes, bustling hordes of people and pandemonium have grown rather thin on me after five months in Toronto. To venture out to the far east, where trees are plentiful, along with tranquillity and peace, sounds like a dream right about now.

We’ll see how I feel after I get there!

CA: The One with Scarborough Thrown In

Always feels awkward coming back to my blog after a stint of silence. What’s even more difficult is trying to remember what I’ve done in order to write about it. You’d be surprised how much I rely on the pictures I take to remind me.

Of course, I reason I am back is because I do have things to walk about. A week’s worth, in fact. Oh how busy a week it has been. Full of sunshine and rain and wind and now snow today. I’ll never grow accustom to the indecisive weather.

Well my dear friends (and most likely relatives), for those of you who are curious and wonder “what has Richard done the past … two months since he wrote about Graffiti & Snow?” allow me to explain in few, short words that we can all understand the heartache of. I have been working.

I wish I could expand further upon that but there really isn’t much to tell. True, there have been small living changes, and quite a lot of drama at work, but not enough to write a full post about. So, alas, I fear that, after I have spoken about this week, I shall, once again, disappear into the nothingness of cyber-space until another exciting event springs into my life and sparks a desire to inform the selective world that chooses to read my blog of nonsense.

 

And so it is, now that my crudely drawn-up excuse for inactivity has been offered as tribute, that I now talk about the more exciting shenanigans. This week (or last week, technically), over in sunny ol’ Toronto, I was joined by Bryony, my school friend who I have known since the tender age of twelve.

Before she came out, we spent a while trying to plan what to do. In case you didn’t know, it’s surprisingly difficult to plan tourist related activities when you have no idea what the weather’s actually going to do. Our original plan was to spend a few days in Toronto, then head to Montreal for the rest, something I still haven’t done. In order to save money, however, we elected to stay in Toronto. We also found out that the majority of activities Bryony had found she wanted to do were centred around Toronto, so who could fault us for our decision?

As it turns out, we probably made the right choice. Montreal, over the past week, has had miserable weather, full of flurries of snow and bitter winds. Toronto’s been quite mild, in comparison. You’ll understand what I mean by mild in a bit.

She arrived (naturally) on a Wednesday, and much to our delight, the weather for the following day showed blue skies and sun all day, albeit with a peak temperature of one degree. I thought, seeing how we would have the rest of the week’s mediocre weather to contend with, getting out of the city and seeing some of the more rural areas of GTA (Greater Toronto Area) would be a swell idea.

So we headed to Scarborough. Researching places to go has enlightened me to the various English names that surround Toronto. London is a mere two hour train journey away; Peterborough is about the same in the opposite direction. Further south, nearer to the States, Kent and Windsor sit on the coastline. And who can forget by favourite place of them all: Barry.

Either way, back to Scarborough. A popular destination in the charming town (I say charming, there wasn’t really much to it) is Scarborough Bluffs, a delightful Cliffside park that reminds me strongly of Dover and its white cliffs (see the cover photo for my proof).

We spent a full day wandering, exploring the sights. I hadn’t realised how much different being cooped up in the city was until I got out of it. It was so peaceful. It helped we were some of the only ones there, save for the residents. But I really had missed the tranquillity of it all. I was very happy getting lost in the trees for several hours. We even managed to sunbathe for a bit, the weather was that good!

IMG_20170323_141608102_HDR

 

The next day, sadly, did not come with pleasant sunshine. It rained. Thankfully there was no wind, but still, coming to Canada from England and experiencing rain four out of the seven days you’re there? It wasn’t the best weather for dear Bryony. Still, we made the most of it!

In amongst the breaks in rain, we did manage to head to graffiti alley, where I attempted (and failed) to take an artistic picture. It’s also where we got our only cute selfie of the trip.

IMG_20170323_104518420_HDR

received_10212466664044317

 

Ah, and then there was Allan Gardens. A somewhat out of place botanical garden in the centre of Downtown Toronto. Inside, however; a very important factor if the day promises drizzle. I was surprisingly impressed by the gardens. When I say gardens, I do really mean several greenrooms attached together. Nevertheless, upon entering, we were underwhelmed by what we saw. Pretty trees, true, but it was a singular round room, stuffed full of people. Why on earth was this place so highly rated?

Then realised we’re a bunch of idiots and found the pathways that took you to the other rooms. After that, I could see why. Plenty of colour, and life, and even turtles!

The highlight, however, was most definitely the model train going round and round its miniature train track. I spent longer than appropriate trying to get a decent picture of the train as it chooed its way round.

IMG_20170325_150415062_HDR

There was even a cacti room! Weird things. I had some knowledge to spew out but have forgotten since our visit … the knowledge will forever be cloaked in mystery, apparently.

 

 

I don’t want to dull you with too much information, so I’ll split Bryony’s visit up here.

Make sure to tune in next time for some spectacular views of Toronto!