Adopting a one-eyed approach

20526167_1256062091187992_6271297141424176015_n.jpg

Well today on paper I thought was very much a Simmo day. We had a visit to the BMO field to watch Toronto’s soccer side, Toronto FC play New York City and after that a short walk across the road to the Toronto Festival of Beer.

The day started the way it has done the last few days. My alarm going off, me getting up and studying whilst Claire enjoys the holiday time in bed. Claire calls it dedication and praises it, I think that there is a little bit of madness involved and it captures my compulsiveness to a degree and once I set my mind on something I’m completely one-tracked about things. In my own head, I’m not exactly sure this is so much of a good thing. My life has tended to go from me being very interested in things and then, not so interested in things. But I think this time it maybe quite different, although maybe this is just a hope.

Study though goes well. I still have these little panics, that Claire is growing very used to, when I just don’t think I’ve done enough and should in fact be studying 24 hours a day. Claire attempts to give me perspective but such is my way, I perhaps don’t listen too well the first time. But with a bit of reflection, I slowly come round. I mean it’s not the be all and end all is it? In my humble opinion your primary relationship with your partner is that.

In fact we both just lazed a little bit this morning. I headed out over the road to the Steam Whistle brewery to check out their merch, the place was full because the Blue Jays were playing today and their stadium is about 200m away.

After this we headed out on the 40-minute walk down to BMO field, along the waterside. We stopped momentarily to get some nitro coffee from a Starbucks stall on the way. The walk was nice although the temperatures today were particularly hot. I think the mercury hit 34c and it felt like that for the majority of the day.

As the stadium itself came into view, for any sports fan like me, it was a pretty monumental sight. The crowd was like a sea of red swarming towards their temple to celebrate their gods. Sport is like that eh? Everyone there for the sole purpose of supporting one team. All joined together in that support. I suppose really it’s nice being part of something lots of people believe in. That really is the attraction of sport. That’s what drives us to go along, week after week, a sense of belonging and a sense of us.

I thought the game might bore Claire a bit. Soccer is a game I grew up with in the UK and ever since I’ve arrived in Australia, I’ve heard people describe it as boring. And to a degree I get this. Being surrounded my games where 100 points are scored, and then going to watch soccer, which could well be a 0-0 draw, it’s easy to imagine this. But soccer is like chess, it’s in the build up. Goals don’t just happen, they are planned moves ahead.

We were certainly in for a treat. Four goals, two penalties, one missed, one scored. TFC (as they are known) win 4-0. For the first goal, as is my luck, I was out buying a souvenir TFC beaker, with no TV screens only audio commentary. The commentary was so bad, I was convinced New York has scored until I got back to my seat and checked out the score. What pleased me the most though was that Claire actually seemed to enjoy it. I understand sport is my passion and I get you bring people along with your own passion. But considering what I consider a popular opinion in Australia I thought Claire might not enjoy it. I wasn’t particularly ready for her when I got back to my seat, berating me for missing a goal and how good it was. She seemed to genuinely like that it wasn’t a game about brute force and there was a lot of skill involved. And I loved her passion for it, much as I love her passion for new things.

We both left the stadium jubilant after the victory of our adopted MLS team.

The beer festival is a funny story, I’d originally bought the tickets not realising the soccer was on. So in fact had early entry tickets, even though eventually we entered 5 hours after we could have got in. Everyone else queued and we entered the special, early entry line (with no-one in). The festival was in a park and the beer stalls I suppose were off every pathway. One thing that surprised me was the amount of big breweries there (Bud, Coors, Moosehead, Molson and lots of internationals). The smaller craft guys were probably about 10-15 in number and around a fixed spot.

There were 2 or 3 stages each with a different artist. We hung around the main stage, Claire commenting how the whole beer festival site smelled of cannabis. Having never tried it, I just had to take her word for that. The bands were good, the craft beers I’d never tried and we didn’t buy a single token past our 10 each we got with the ticket. We had a nice surprise when one band, played a cover of their favourite rock song ‘You shook me all night long’, which most Canadians didn’t seem to know. But if you’re from Down Under, AC/DC are a fixture eh? The main act was Alan Doyle, who seemed quite famous, and had a very Irish sound. His music got the crowd going which is always a good thing.

The three hours we got there were probably just perfect and we wandered the 40 minutes home along the sea front before heading for my second pizza in two days from the local supermarket (who double as a takeaway pizza shop).

Holidays require you to be ingenious, take yesterday. Toronto FC won’t let you print tickets until 2 days before. So what happens if you don’t have access to a printer? Well there is another option, you can send the tickets to your mobile, but guess what, it has to be a US or Canadian mobile. Arrgghhh. Well luckily enough we have some Canadian and American friends and we got this sorted by sending the tickets to them. And then they forwarded them to us.

Our penultimate day was one where we were again planning to divide and conquer. Claire’s plan was to revisit the St Lawrence Market and mine to hit up some sports shops and breweries. Unfortunately the market is closed on Monday so poor Claire was dragged on a brewery tour of Steamwhistle Brewery. They are interesting they do just one beer but try to do it well. We went on the brewery tour and actually got the honour of sounding the steam whistle, which you can hear all over the park. The tour was simplistic but good, at only $12 each and three free drinks, including a bottle that you walked around with on the tour (imagine that in Australia).

We then had to do a bit of admin, so I could study on the flight home to Australia. So into FedEx we went to do a bit of printing before hitting a backstreet gelato shop. My flavour today was Rum and Condensed milk! Can’t say it tasted anything like that but hey, maybe my tastebuds are completely screwed from all my eating and drinking escapades.

We then split up in different directions to commence our final(ish) shopping of the tour.

We met at our final nice restaurant destination, Richmond Station. The service was actually exceptional, in Canada we’ve experienced a lot of slow service from kitchen to table. We’ve never really been sure if this has been deliberate, but what you’d expect to be a quick one course meal has taken us upwards of an hour and a half. Tonight, three courses served in an hour and a half, nice service, drinks were fantastic and so was the food. I’ve found the more upmarket restaurants in Canada a bit less snobby than the ones in Australia. We’ve turned up in shorts and a t-shirt and nobody really looks down their noses at you because everyone is dressed the same. It’s quite refreshing really.

We’ve moved onto the Aquarium for our last stop of the day. It is literally five minutes walk from our apartment and a good way to finish the night. The aquarium was as okay as aquariums ever are. To be honest Claire had eaten most of the fish in the aquarium in the last couple of week, so it might explain the scared look on their faces as Claire peered into their enclosures. There were some fish and some jellyfish! You could touch things, and there was a big travelator through a giant underwater tunnel. I wanted to check whether they served any sort of fish in the café but I didn’t really get the chance.

We were both glad to get home and put our feet up. It’s been a flat out few weeks and I think we’re both looking forward to getting home. For me, I’ve loved being on holiday but I do crave routine! This obviously will be interesting because in a couple of weeks, the routine I’ve been following for the last 15 years is over and I have to establish a new one.

We fly tomorrow around 8pm and hence we do almost still have a full day here in Toronto, however I’m not sure how much we’ll get done. We have some plans but I’m very conscious these have to be fluid.

IJS 31/07/2017

The power of leaving things unsaid

20525427_1255198347941033_7804915267284035665_n (1).jpg

Well a morning of study was again in order for Thursday. But I did make a significant achievement. The first essay I’ve submitted in over 20 years, and who knows it might be as bad as the ones I submitted 20 years ago too! My day, as a few days have in fact started, started at lunchtime with a trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario.

In all truth, I was feeling quite drained and maybe some of this was the long day I anticipated the day after at Niagara falls. Our train would leave at 8.20 in the morning and not get back till after 8pm at night. I got to the gallery, in what I must admit was a pretty grumpy mood. I’d studied all morning and I suppose I just felt a little bit sad about things. At this point in time everyone should be feeling pretty sad for Claire because she was the one who was going to have to put up with me. In fact she pretty much always does an amazing job of it. I knew I was being a little snappy and short, and she just has this amazing patience and will ask what is wrong (it’s the psychiatrist in her) until I finally crack, tell her I’m grumpy and then everything is alright again.

I suppose when you think about it, these things only have power when you keep them hidden, when they are unsaid. And as soon as things are out in the open, everything is suddenly a lot rosier, the anxiety drifts away and what a few minutes ago felt tense is suddenly back as it has been. It’s a nice feeling letting go of things.

The art gallery was fun. I definitely have a new found appreciation of them since I met Claire, sometimes you feed off your partner’s enjoyment. How enthusiastic they are about things pulls you in. I mean I loved the baseball the other night and I know Claire isn’t a big sports fan, but I reckon she had an okay time because I was really into it. That excitement and passion rubs off.

Back to the gallery, we saw the Georgia O’Keefe exhibition, which was really good. She painted a lot of flowers and skulls from what I could see. She was an American artist, referred to as the mother of American modernism. Her work was nice. The skull stuff though, in my mind, was futuristic and probably something I saw in my university years on people’s walls but as fantasy stuff, not Georgia O’Keefe’s. If you want to check out some of her stuff, you can see it here: https://www.artsy.net/artist/georgia-okeeffe

We headed home and for once decided we’d actually eat in for a change, with a difference though! The supermarkets over here actually sell either pre-cooked food or hot food you can just take home and eat. I honed in on, you guessed it, a chicken schnitzel with some marinara sauce on top and to pretend I was healthy a few roast potatoes, carrots and other roasted veggies. Saying that, it was probably the healthiest meal I’ve had all holiday really. Tiredness is funny when it just hits you and however much you try to fight it off, sometimes the only way to deal with it is to give in to it and actually rest. I’m very bad at this, but as I get older, I’m getting better.

A couple of hours on the couch was enough. We went out again to the Ed Mirvish theatre to watch ‘Beautiful’ a play/musical about the life of Carole King. It was basically songs from start to finish, and most of them I knew. You don’t really think of how many songs Carole King wrote, but just think of One Fine Day (The Chiffons), Locomotion (Little Eva and later Kylie), Pleasant Valley Sunday (Moonkees), Will you still love me tomorrow (The Shirelles) and Up on The Roof (The Drifters) as an example of a few, there are many many more. Again Claire was really into it and dragged me into it. Her dancing in the seat next to me was encouragement enough!

We headed home, about a 30 minute walk across town to a nicely cooled apartment. That has been my strategy these last few days to make it as cold as possible when we go to bed, to help us sleep better. It worked a treat and I slept through until Claire’s alarm rudely awoke me the next morning at just after 7am!

As usual I stayed in bed until about 15 minutes before departure and then hopped up, showered, dressed and was ready. It’s a talent I’ve mastered over the years. We got to the station thinking we’d be early. In fact the queue was probably a 100 deep by the time we reached it. We queued for maybe 20 minutes before being let on what seemed a pretty empty train. It soon filled up though. The ride to Niagara was fairly uneventful. Not as eventful as the ride back but I’ll leave that story for later. Approximately 2 hours later we arrived at Niagara station. One thing we have noticed about Canada, is outside the major cities, the train stations seem a long way from civilisation. As we stepped off the train, we hadn’t a clue where to go or what to do. But thankfully unlike my childhood, we now have Google Maps!

A quick search and a bit of research online told us to head to Rainbow Bridge and we were off. About 30 minutes later, the falls came into sight! And what a view. There are basically two separate falls, the first one is completely on the American side and is pretty impressive in itself. The second, Horseshoe Falls, the most famous one, is 1/3 American, 2/3 Canadian and is quite awe inspiring. It’s just one of those things, that you’ve seen on television a dozen times but nothing quite gets close to actually being there. We took a thousand pictures (most of which are actually on Facebook!) and Claire even got to use her new selfie stick (which she got free with a bottle of wine!)

In my mind I didn’t quite understand how we could fill 7 hours there but in fact it was really quite easy. The walk to the falls took a good hour and a half, after numerous photo opportunities. We walked a bit further and explored some gardens just after the falls, where we saw our first chipmunk in the hot house. However, unfortunately we missed the photo opportunity so you’ll just have to trust me on this one. Chipmunks and squirrels are extremely similar but we were pretty sure with those strips running along its back that it definitely was one!

We then took the incline rail, basically a giant cable car up a sharp hill into the middle of the town (or really a series of hotels and casinos). A late lunch we picked up at a Lebanese restaurant just outside the casino and I had my first Shawarma. Which I learnt was basically a souvlaki or kebab! But hey if they call it a different name, I have to try it. Just gotta cross Beaver Tail off my list now and I’ll have the hat-trick!

A gelato followed, just because we’re on holiday and I’m sure I read somewhere you should have an ice cream everyday (I may have written that). We returned to the falls for a last few looks and I got asked by a couple to take a picture of them. I readily agreed and just to try and make them laugh, I asked what they’d like in the background, maybe the bridge? To which they replied ‘the waterfall’ without laughing. Well I thought it was funny.

The train ride home was interesting. We were maybe 30 minutes late leaving and during that time this guy was just pacing up and down the carriage and not just pacing the same distance, but varying distances constantly. And I mean he was passing my seat probably every 10 seconds. Finally as the train started to move he sat down. I then popped to the food carriage of the train to buy a couple of drinks and the women there with me stopped the conductor and let him know that this guy was acting very suspiciously. She was a little embarrassed to point him out, so I let the conductor know that I knew who she was talking about and I’d point him out. The conductor seemed to sort it and in spite of Claire and I expecting a SWAT team to step on the train at every stop, nothing happened and we got back to Toronto fine.

Dinner at home again because it was getting late and looking forward to a quieter day tomorrow.

Well Saturday, in spite of earlier plans of heading out to the Woodbine, turned into a rest day. Lots of study done in the morning, then lunch at the Amsterdam Brewery on the beautiful harbour front, followed by a bit of shopping before pizza and a couple of drinks at home. I did however finally get my taste of beaver tail!

IJS 30/07/2017

The Big City Smoke – Toronto

20264977_1252303218230546_4046221104599365636_n

Toronto! It’s big isn’t it? Having only been to Kingston and Ottawa prior, nothing really prepared us for the city as we stepped off the train. Not even Melbourne. The city is colossal. As is the main station, Union Station. In fact the station is so big, I reckon you could spend a whole day just figuring a way out of it. I counted 27 platforms at least and everything seems linked by a series of tunnels, which I can only describe as a rabbit warren.

Once you’re out of the station though, you just look up and see tower blocks. This truly is the big city. Our apartment was just round the corner from the station, so in spite of the 20 minutes exiting the station, we still made it there within 30 minutes of stepping off the train. We walked into our apartment and noticed to our amazement that it looks over the Baseball Stadium (the Rogers Centre) and the CN Tower. We’re also very close to the elevated freeway, which means getting used to the sound of cars at night too, but hey we’re only here for 7 nights before heading back to the colder climate in Melbourne.

We arrived mid-afternoon and to be honest we didn’t do much, we headed out to the supermarket for some supplies. Making our own breakfast is a great way to save some cash and allows us to release that to spend on something else. We did head out to a recommendation in the Lonely Planet, Bymark restaurant, that is owned by a famous chef, Mark McEwan. It was candlelit and very atmospheric, and as with most restaurants we’ve found, it wasn’t very busy at all. The menu was good, in that, there was a lot of fancy dishes but they did have their own burger (which goes for a very reasonable $38). Claire had some fish as she has been having for days now; unfortunately because I’m no fish fan we very rarely have it at home so it’s a perfect opportunity for her to indulge.

The next day was to be a study day for me in the main. I’d dropped the ball in Kingston and with an essay due in a week and my now being a week behind in my reading, I needed to get back on top of things so we could enjoy Toronto together. I sat and worked from 8am until about 4pm, with a short break to chat to my folks and to head down the chemist for some supplies. At least now I can say I’m on track again. Claire spent the time having a massage and shopping before we caught up at a restaurant our host had recommended, Dimmi bar and restaurant. It turned out to be a delightful Italian meal of pizza and salad.

Our final destination (or in my case the 2nd) of the day was the Tarragon Theatre, which was showing a play called Permanence. We’d done a bit of online research and the reviews were good. We didn’t really realise how small the theatre was though. For any of you that know La Mama Courthouse in Melbourne it was a similar size. The play was amazing, one of the best I’ve seen for a while. It was about an English artist and a young American doctor who have an affair and the progression of that affair. It was extremely well acted and the pieces between scenes were done very well where they darkened the stage as the actors arranged for the next scene but in sight.

As we’d walked in the usher had let Claire know that there was full frontal male nudity; they must have thought Claire was particularly sensitive to this. But she just replied ‘goody’ and walked in. In spite of the near full day of study, I had a ball and looked forward to a fuller day of being a tourist the following day.

The tourist day went well, our first stop of the day was St Lawrence Market, which I suppose is the equivalent of Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. It sold a range of fruit, veg, meats, deli stuff and some arts and crafts. We wandered round the market, not buying much, I reckon maybe 85% of the people wandering around were tourists and the stallholders must just assume everyone is there to look instead of actually buy anything. The market was nice if a little unimpressive if I’m honest. Nice to look at but not really much to do.

This was though out launching pad into the Distillery District of the city. The whole district is housed in the old Gooderham and Worts Distillery which was founded in 1832 and by 1860 was the largest in the world. Luckily they now house a brewery, The Mill Street Brewery, which rightly or wrongly is in the Lonely Planet. I say wrongly because it was full of tourists, which made for quite a packed experience. The food was good though and I managed to get through 9 new beers before we headed outside for some air. We had sat inside for a reason, because the brewery is in there and the smell of the brewing is something Claire really likes. I don’t mind it too though.

As we walked outside to check out the shop, which wasn’t really much good. We noticed a more senior lady had collapsed and was being treated by paramedics outside. I’m unsure whether it was the beer from the brewery itself or maybe the exorbitant prices in the shop that caused her to pass out!

At this point, Claire expressed a desire to look round some shops and suggested I might like to go to the Hockey Hall of Fame whilst she did. It was a great idea. I’ve never really watched a lot of ice hockey. However I’m always interested in sports museums and what I garner from them. The museum seemed to just be full of huge glass cases with actual jerseys worn by players and their hockey sticks as well. This went on for possibly 200 cabinets, which if you don’t know the game too well can be a bit of a drag. I did however find the 3D theatre and watched a short film specially made for the Hockey Hall of Fame. It involved lots of pucks and ice fragments seemingly coming towards your head. It was quite enjoyable though. As ever on exit from the museum the way out lead you through the shop.

Claire was waiting for me and before our trip to watch the Blue Jays tonight at the Baseball stadium just across from our apartment; we popped into Sobeys Urban supermarket on the Harbour front. And the most monumental thing happened. I grabbed a few cans of beers because they make Budweiser with the local teams logo on (which I thought would be cool to bring home). When I got to the till, I was asked for identification! Gotta be the best moment of the holiday so far.

We went home briefly before we headed out to the Baseball at the Rogers Centre for the game between the Blue Jays and the Athletics. I don’t know too much about baseball but I roughly know the rules of the game. I don’t quite understand why they play the same team everyday of the week but hey I don’t need to know absolutely everything to enjoy it. The baseball signalled a number of firsts, my first time paying $12 for a beer, it was nearly a pint so it’s probably not far off the MCG. The next first was paying $15 for a beer, but it was the biggest beer I think I’ve ever seen in my life. The can was 740ml and was a bit of a beast to handle. But handle it I did. We had the obligatory hot dog, we clapped along and I even bought a Blue Jays hat. The game itself was great, so different from anything I’d seen in Australia and the UK. The sounds, the noises, the atmosphere and the bright lights from the advertising hoardings. Even the corporate boxes looked like they were bedrooms, they had curtains on them and were above and around the scoreboard. The Athletics scored early on in the game (the 5th innings) from what I can remember and the Blue Jays scored nothing all game until, the final innings, the 9th. All of a sudden out of nowhere they hit a home run to level the game at 2-2. Then the next batter in hit a home run too to win the game. Such a great feeling, crowd was going crazy and we got to leave the stadium with lots of happy jubilant fans.

That capped a great first three days in Toronto.

IJS 26/07/2017

#WeddingTimes

20374468_1248765875250947_2515935006263171025_n

Kingston sits roughly between Ottawa and Toronto. And is in fact the reason why we’re here in Canada in the first place. Claire is a Maid of Honour at a school friend’s wedding who now resides in Kingston.

It’s nice having an apartment instead of a hotel room. Today I finally got the chance to make my own interpretation of a Canadian breakfast, without the lashings of maple syrup, and used the half kilo of bacon I bought yesterday. I thought I’d need oil in the pan, but so much came off the bacon at one point I’m sure it was floating. Some giant bread, a bit of cheese and I was done. I’m not sure how Canadian it really was, but it certainly seemed to fit the size and fat requirements.

Upon arrival in our accommodation for the next few days, I had a few concerns about the bed. The mattress was particularly soft, one of those that you sink into when you sit on it and with my back problems of the last year and even a few hip problems before we left, I was dreading waking up in the morning with some part of my body feeling sore. I was pleasantly surprised, body felt fine and instead of Claire having to listen to me waffle on about things aching (to which her usual reply is, you are old you know) I had to listen to her tell me that I’d been snoring for the fifth consecutive night running. Having come from a king bed in Ottawa to what we’d consider a double bed, there was absolutely no escape either.

I’ve had a good wander around Kingston over the last few days; first we headed out to the military college on an island you reach via a road bridge. The college was pretty deserted but it was a pleasant walk. The next stop was a brewery, the Stone City brewery on the main street. We’re noticing most of the breweries here follow a slightly different model than their Australian cousins in that they tend to be shop fronts, the staff don’t seem that knowledgeable about the beers and there is never a brewer in sight. The Stone City brewery however did have a brewery in the back of the shop, but I doubt it really serviced more than the 8 taps they ran (of which I sampled all). The other brewery here is straight across the road from our accommodation. I can actually see people sitting outside it from the windows in the lounge. We got round to visiting this one on the day before we left. It definitely modelled itself on an English pub and even served a couple of hand pumped ales. I’m still unsure whether they’re made for this hot weather (25c-35c at the moment), but it’s nice to taste something a bit different.

What has surprised me so far, is that we have been in a number of breweries but absolutely no-one has commented on my Prancing Pony brewery hat that I’m wearing. I’m sure in Australia if I could visit all these breweries, someone at some point would comment on it. My guessing is as above, the people we’re chatting too aren’t the real beer experts, but rather there to serve us, not engage us in conversation. Saying that though all our interactions have been very friendly and nice throughout both Kingston and Ottawa.

Another thing in Kingston that intrigues me is the wind turbines just off the coastline. I remember the debate raging in the UK when I left about whether they were an eyesore or not and the decision was made over there to position them out at sea rather than viewable from the shore. My own take here in that they enhance the coastline rather than take away from it and provide something else to view on the horizon.

I decided to bite the bullet and pop into Starbucks for a coffee, and apart from them completely not understanding what I was ordering (how is a Latte that hard?), the service was quick, efficient and the coffee that came out the other side was quite delicious and I didn’t have any complaints about it. I wonder if we taste-tested coffees, where they’d come on the list. Probably not as far down as we think I reckon. I think we form opinions about the size of the organisation and in our minds think that detracts from the quality.

Saturday was the big day. It’s great nowadays that the world is so small, we can just jump on a plane and endure a slightly boring journey and arrive the other side of the world to help old friends celebrate these occasions.

For me though, some of the lead up and the day itself was, at times, extremely hard. The last real wedding I’d been to was my own and the majority of you will know how quickly and suddenly that union ended. Weddings follow the same linear structure the world over and every step of the way, brought a memory back for me. There were parts that were harder than others and lots of parts that were fine. Claire in her own amazing way was outstanding throughout (this is the woman who decided on my wedding anniversary to take me out to dinner in case I felt sad). She didn’t really push me but provided support where she could. It’s hard, because really it’s just my battle and I completely comprehend that it’s not a nice thing for other people to have to deal with, especially Claire. I guess with more exposure to these events, things get easier in the future.

I did as usual tear up the dance floor later on in the night though. I guess because I still haven’t run this holiday, we could consider this exercise and in fact the only exercise I’m going to get. The wedding was beautiful; I’d say especially Claire’s speech, which was related to how the bride and Claire used to watch Dawson’s Creek when they were kids and how everything in life can be related to Dawson’s Creek. I just wish I’d watched it…. well maybe not. And it was nice listening to the speech with the perspective of not knowing what it was really about. It’s always nice to see people happy, it doesn’t always have to be all about your own happiness eh? And the bride and groom certainly looked that.

As we were walking back to our apartment, we both couldn’t remember the last time we wandered home post midnight. I resisted the urge to get another beer out of the fridge. I get wiser as I get older.

The day after the night before. It’s never a stunningly productive one eh? Having gone to bed at 3am, after watching Claire strangely wipe make-up off her face with olive oil, I wasn’t in a particularly exploratory mood. More of a lie on the sofa and complain about how my feet were hurting kind of mood. We of course managed to wander out for our now daily ice cream, but that was about the sum of the whole day really.

Toronto was approaching fast!

IJS 24/07/2017

Do you have any Megalodon sharks in Australia?

20229050_931492943658186_554337028008455687_n

An early wake up call to listen to my collaboration session at 5.30 am with my tutor and classmates. I managed to reveal where I was by saying to everybody good morning instead of good evening. Lots of suggestions that I should go and get a coffee. The session was good and helpful in giving me some guidance on how I should be writing my essay which is due next week.

After the hour I popped back into bed for a few hours and finally arose at 9.30am. Claire went out to do a bit of shopping or rather something in particular that she had her eye on. I sat back at the desk and continued working on what I hope is a masterpiece. But in reality will probably be a very average essay after 20 years out of the game. Claire returned with a coffee and the morning ritual had begun. Who doesn’t have a coffee as part of their morning ritual eh?

This was out last morning in Ottawa and we quickly packed up the suitcases and checked out. An Uber was booked to take us to the train station where we’d catch a train to Kingston for the next leg of our trip. This leg really is the reason we came, Claire is Matron of Honour for a school friend who lives in Kingston. The Uber driver was interesting to say the least, for one he had a skateboard in the boot (trunk), he dressed like a skater too! I reckon when he isn’t getting uber jobs he is doing half pipes down the local skate park. Once he figured out we were Australian, he seemed to have a morbid fascination with the dangerous animals of Australia. I tried to move him off the topic three of four times but it kept coming back to sharks and how many people they ate a year. He then went into listing sharks and asking if we had them. Luckily I’ve watched Shark Week one or two times on Animal Planet so was able to answer the majority of his questions. I’ve probably done a disservice to ever Aussie that will get in his cab going forward because he will expect them to have a conversational understanding of sharks of Australia. Interestingly he asked me if we have any Megalodon sharks which have been extinct for over 2 million years. I said ‘yes of course’. He seemed impressed.

The train station seemed very efficient, it must have been built and operated by Germans. They loaded the train at least 30 minutes before we were due to go, weighed our cases. And had a few laughs with us. I know what your thinking….had a few laughs with us, they can’t be German! The train itself was large and comfortable and sold beer. They are a bit like a plane with full internet connectivity and movies/tv shows. Unfortunately I couldn’t find Sharknado.

As we travelled across this beautiful country it got me wondering, why can’t planes be like this train. Its got plenty of room between seats, you sit in twos and some people go backwards. Why exactly are planes so uncomfortable? I presume its a cost thing and they attempt to heard as many people in as possible. But for 20% extra would you be willing to pay for an extra bit of comfort? Trains feel like a mode of transport from a bygone era but what better way to traverse a country. Our internal trips in Canada are both by train and if this one is anything to go by I think it will be a most pleasant experience.

We were nicely picked up at Kingston station by the bride to be before being dropped at our Air B&B accommodation in the middle of Kingston. After having a brief walk around Kingston I would relate it to somewhere like Williamstown in Victoria. Its on the water (in this case Lake Ontario) has a bit of seaside vibe and is full of tourists. What did surprise me and surprised me in Ottawa was the amount of homeless people on the street. I sometimes walk round Melbourne and think we have a problem but it is a greater one over here.

Its nice finally having a kitchen and being able to cook for ourselves, so off we went to the local supermarket. The supermarket resembled a large IGA and was pleasantly familiar. This is one of the shopping expeditions when the tables are finally turned and I get the opportunity to go a little crazy. I wandered off, such is my way and when Claire finally caught me (in the crisps section), I’d already got in the basket, half a kilo of bacon, a giant lump of Monterey jack cheese, a half loaf of white bread and a large two litre bottle of Canadian Dry. This sort of shopping explains why we always go and do the main shop together at home. After I assured Claire this was just my way of soaking up the Canadian culture and was as important as visiting galleries and museums ( I don’t think she believed me for a second) we headed to the tills to pay.

As we walked out the supermarket, my eyes picked out the bottle shop over the road. In we went and upon a first look around found no craft beer. As we tried to walk out, this girl who worked there stopped us and asked what we were looking for and why we hadn’t found it. We told her we couldn’t find any craft beer and which point she yelled at the top of her lungs for an assistant to come over and take us to the craft beer section. We weren’t going to be allowed to escape the shop without buying something it seemed. Luckily enough we’d missed the craft beer selection completely and once lead by the shouted out assistant, I happily purchased a couple of cans that were local to the area. I should at this point explain, that cans over here aren’t Australian size. Most beer cans appear to be 473ml.

A quick down of one of those beers and then onto a BBQ at the pre-martial couples apartment that overlooks Lake Ontario. We Looked into the horizon as the sunset (the other side of the building) and I even got to try yet another new beer. The 2 minutes back to our Air B&B certainly beat the 20-25 minutes we were walking from anywhere in Ottawa.

Tomorrow I might finally don my running gear and get to put some kilometres in my legs. Its been a couple of weeks since I have and a lot of beer and bad food has been drunk in the meanwhile so I’m not sure how I’ll go but its better than the alternative of doing nothing I suppose.

IJS 20/07/2017

The worst nightmare of any Australian

20106770_1245614432232758_5873150501596811420_n

Well what has this week been missing so far? In my humble opinion its sport. I’m not sure Claire would agree but she is lovely enough to sign up for the races, the baseball and the soccer in Toronto. I was slightly disappointed I couldn’t find any sport these first five days in Ottawa, but today we got as close as we’re going to. An Ice Hockey exhibition at the Natural History Museum.

Although I don’t know an awful lot about the sport, I do have a basic knowledge from many years ago when a friend and myself went to an ice hockey introduction at a Laneway Learning class in Melbourne. From that it evolved, I went to watching the Melbourne teams playing at the Icehouse to a small but vocal crowd. I suppose though sport has always interested me. In fact its been part of me nearly my whole life, as long as I can remember, I have memories of sitting around in front of the TV on a Saturday evening waiting for the football scores. I went to watch the team in the village that I grew up and then the team in my university town. I’ve watched numerous sport games over the year on TV, and definitely align with the opinion that sport is a theatre for the masses. I mean it has all the drama, it can move you to tears, it can build you up and tear you down again, and it is at times pure passion.

The exhibition was good, if a bit short. We were probably through it in about 20 minutes, it was very visual but not that informative. I should imagine it scratched the surface of what was an interesting history. The whole museum was a little interesting in that way considering the size of it, we managed to get round it in around three hours. Admittedly we flicked quickly through sections but I wouldn’t say unnecessarily.

We finally also got a chance to go to MosaiCanada, which is a series of sculptures to reflect Canada and its society in a park not far from the National History Museum. When I say sculptures you may think these tiny little things showing a few ice hockey players and some birds. But the sculptures were all made of vegetation and were built on a giant scale. It was quite impressive and the gardens were full of people. The free admission probably helped this and It formed part of the 150th year anniversary of Canada.

We wandered back to the museum for a bite to eat. We’ve found at least in Ottawa, the museums and galleries have been good places to eat. The food is of a relatively high standard whilst the prices are incredibly cheap, at least to our comparisons back in Australia. The museum we finished off in an hour and then we split up again today so I could come back and study and Claire could continue on her shopping expeditions.

My first essay is due in a week and a half, and having not been at university for twenty years now, I am struggling a bit with the way they seemingly want me to write things. It is quite a formal style and I must admit I struggle, and to a certain extent rebel against this notion. I love the way I write, I love my conversational styles and I don’t want to lose it. Claire is trying her hardest to convince me that if I want good marks, I need to write in a certain way, but I find something quite exclusive about the whole idea, like to be part of this club you have to write and present in a certain way. The style and especially the referencing is as hard to get your head round as the information in the essay itself and I wonder how many people get put off by this and how many good potential teachers they lose.

Anyway I continue to struggle to get my head around it and part of me, can’t wait to actually be on my practicals in schools rather than sitting at a desk writing essays! Saying that I am only a week and a half into my course and I’m sure I’ll get used to it.

Tonight of course is our final night in Ottawa and we decided to head out for dinner at a local Japanese round the corner. The menu was very familiar and my usual order of edamame, gyoza and katsu don was placed. Just like being back at home in Australia. The food was just alright, nothing special really but it was a good meal to end our time here. We then wandered down to an ice cream shop with a giant queue outside. For those of you that know my tendency to exaggeration, there must have been 15 people in the queue. I had the worst nightmare for an Australian overseas, the girl behind the counter thought I was a Kiwi after she heard Claire’s accent. I hastily explained that I definitely wasn’t and proceeded to sing Advance Australia Fair in the shop (please see my tendency to exaggerate above).

We wandered home in the humidity of the night. We leave tomorrow for Kingston, but not before a 5.30am wake up call for my visual/video conference with my class for one of the subjects I’m studying. There really is no compulsion to get up and do it and in fact my tutor has confirmed I don’t need to and I can listen to the recording afterwards, but I figure if I want to make a success of a new career at the very least I should be motivated at the start. And I certainly am.

After our initial disappointment with the hotel room, I have to say I will miss it. It’s been my home for the last 5 days.

IJS 19/07/2017

20139891_930964630377684_49077621531686652_n

20139808_930965163710964_1706911159009640041_n

Buy two drinks, pay for both

20106284_930511563756324_6459744394480504405_n

It seems like the jet lag is finally going, although waking up about 2.30 am every morning and not going back to sleep for a couple of hours and then getting out of bed might explain otherwise.

Today’s plan was simple and hopefully involved a lot less exertion than the last two days. Quite simple it was, go to the National Gallery of Canada and have a look round, then go shopping for some singlets because I only packed particularly warm stuff and it is 30c + and finally find somewhere for dinner.

Simple eh? Well we hoped it would be.

The morning started, as it seems every morning will do from now on with study. A couple of hours work done before we headed out of the door around midday. Our attempts to find a coffee shop are always pretty long winded but today we settled on the Canadian chain, Tim Horton. It was surprisingly alright, we don’t tend to visit the chains if we can avoid it, but under a new theory I have of trying not to spend too long finding somewhere for a coffee that tastes exactly the same as anywhere else this was the choice. The service was quick, the coffee was the most normal one I’d tasted to date so no complaints there from me. Oh and the size was largish but not quite as large as yesterday.

The National Gallery is a short walk away from our hotel and after barely finishing our coffees before arriving we headed into the gallery. We had three floors to explore and a café that I know promised me one beer I’d never tried before. And what a surprise that was, but I’ll cover that in a bit.

The gallery was over three floors with sections for Photography, European artists and Canadian and Indigenous artists. This is quite a lot to get through in a half day really. But we eagerly set off for the photography section, which is always a nice place to start, and I never find it too taxing. As I was wandering through the gallery and looking at the photos of normal scenes but from 30-40 years ago, I started wondering whether if I took a picture of a car outside a shop today, how many years it would be before we considered it art. I think the photos give us a glimpse into the past and probably are more intriguing for people who weren’t even born in those times.

The next move was into European Art of which we’ve seen quite a lot between us in various galleries. There were some nice pieces by Monet, Cezanne, Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollack. It is always nice to see an original rather than something you’ve just seen on a computer screen as well.

The gallery had these two big atriums that spanned the three floors, in one was a square plot planted with various greenery whilst church music played in the background. I didn’t look for the description of it but it was quite a peaceful place and sometimes I like to take my own interpretation of the art rather than listen to what the artist wants me to see. The other atrium was again a square but this time filled with water. Two oases in the middle of the National Gallery.

We popped to the cafeteria, which we visited the other day where I’d tried a new beer to add to my extensive list. I picked one off the shelf this time that I thought was a new one. Ordered a very delicious and reasonably priced Bacon Cheeseburger (these are the types of art galleries I like to go to) and sat down to consume these with Claire. I get my phone out to log my beer only to find out, the screen is telling me it’s a non-alcoholic beer. I thought that’s silly, who would create such a thing. Upon checking the can, it was confirmed! I still drank it though. It tasted a bit like beer and I wonder how much psychology would play if I’d drunk it and thought it was beer. Would I have been staggering around?

After the disappointing beer we headed back in to look at the Canadian art, which I found quite refreshing. A mix of different pieces, from paintings, sculptures to giant piece of art (a whole bedroom for example). It’s always nice to see something different and a different perspective on things. This was probably my favourite section of the gallery and probably, so it should have been. The shop was quite disappointing and seem to stock a lot of postcards and fridge magnets of art that wasn’t actually in the gallery.

After that we wandered on what should have been a quick adventure to buy the aforementioned singlets. After about an hour and a trip to H&M we got there and I dangerously left Claire in a shopping district with our visa card to continue whilst I went back to the hotel to begin work on my first assignment, I failed to mention the couple of beers I had in the fridge! But we’ve both got to have some fun eh?

Dinner was booked on the basis that there was jazz playing at the establishment we were going too. We didn’t hold out much hope that the place would be that great considering it was in the Bytown Market area of the city which appeared to be full of plastic pubs and absolutely full of tourists eating seemingly terrible food there.

We wandered down stairs into the cellar expected the worse of Vineyards but we couldn’t have been more mistaken. The place was quiet, we were given a booth right opposite the two jazz musicians who were playing and the menu included an item, which is often referred to as food of the gods (in my mind anyway). Although saying that I had never seen a chicken parma served on top of a bed of pasta before. But you know what we’re on holiday and sometimes you have to be a bit adventurous and head out of your comfort zone. So, I avoided the two pages of fish on the menu and went for the parma. I wish I could tell you it was disappointing and not up to Australian standards, but if I did, I’d be lying. It was a delight, the linguini underneath the parma went down a treat and unlike chips when they put them under the parma, it didn’t matter if the linguini was soggy. The parma itself was amazing, good piece of chicken, well cooked breadcrumb and the sauce was delicious! I will be cooking these at home from now on (when I went to have a meal that compromises as many calories as I should eat in two days!). The bar also served flights of beer and interestingly flights of wine. This place was a find, I will create my own treasure map and bury it so if I ever find myself in Ottawa again I’d dig up the map and go back.

Our plan was to stay out later tonight to watch the light display on the Canadian Parliament building. Previous nights we’ve failed because we just got tired and went to bed. We were happily strolling up to the Parliament building tonight giving ourselves a good old pat on the back for managing to stay out late. Our understanding was this light show went on all night and would repeat every so many minutes. We arrived, joined the massive crowd and watched the show. After 5 minutes it ended and everyone went home. Little did we know the show only happens once a night and lasts 30 minutes. So now we are faced with one last night in Ottawa and a crucial decision on what we do at 10pm. Will it be devour chicken parmas on beds of linguini, will it be drinking alcohol at a local venue, will it be going to bed or could it be returning for the light show and watching the whole 30 minutes.

I suppose as always tomorrow will tell.

On an interesting side note we are currently experiencing a milk shortage in our hotel room. In our fridge on the first day were about 8 little tiny plastic pots of milk. We drunk them, they got refilled. Yesterday they didn’t get refilled. Today we left a note asking for the to be refilled. They weren’t refilled! Who will win this standoff?

I’ll leave with the following, on the way back to the hotel, I saw one of the best pub A-frames I’ve seen in a while. It simply said ‘buy two drinks, pay for both’.

IJS 18/7/2017

That time we wandered into Quebec without knowing it

20106243_1243672669093601_4791029414239034608_n

Well our second full day in Ottawa. I had big plans to wake up early this morning and set the alarm for a very early (when you’re on holiday), 7.50 am. Unfortunately I then decided as it went off to change it to 9am due to the incredible sense of tiredness I felt. Isn’t this always the same though? The best sleep you ever feel like you have is between alarms and not during the middle of the night.

At 9am I arose and commenced my study for the day whilst Claire snoozed away in bed. I might have been the tiniest bit jealous but to be fair to her it wasn’t very long before she got up. A couple of hours of study were followed up by us developing the plan for the day. The War Museum was meant to be the best museum in Ottawa so that was on our list, followed by Les Brasseurs du Temps (a brewery we’d spotted in a tourist book) and then a nice restaurant in the evening, Beckta.

Heading out and having found a fairly decent coffee chain (Bridgehead) yesterday we found the one nearest and headed there for a morning/lunch coffee. Unfortunately I fell into a trap though of ordering the largest coffee under the belief they only served two sizes. What I got instead would have been over half a litre of coffee in a giantish takeaway cup. It took me nearly all the 30 or so minute walk to the War Museum to finish it off. The walk to the War Museum was slightly off the beaten track and along a lot of big roads, which isn’t our favourite thing to do but it was a means to an end.

The War Museum was impressive but we both got to a point where we just couldn’t read about wars anymore after a couple of hours. The history part was pretty interesting especially about the establishment of early Canada, the conflict between the First People and the French and then the French and the English. I quite liked the way the term First people is used. The history of World Wars I&II, I pretty much knew, but this expanded into Canadian involvement and their dilemmas about providing troops to the Allies. The later part of the museum was around the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and the Congo.

A 25 minute walk was all it took to get to the nice brewery on the river. Although again walking down pretty busy truck routes. The brewery was a little oasis in the industrial landscape. And to our mind must have been in the French side of the city. We should have guessed via the name really but everyone when they spoke to you spoke French until they realised we spoke English. I know basic schoolboy French, but it wouldn’t have helped me much more than to order a beer or say hello, thank you and good-bye. And I got to try the dish everyone is meant to try in Canada, Poutine! Basically a mix of chips, gravy and lumps of soft cheese. It felt like a typical meal after a night out of 7 pints. Although very delicious. They did do a beer tasting tray, however they called it the clock. 12 beers all set out in a circle and numbered like the positions on a clock. The menu they took you through all the beer ranging many different styles from Ales, Weizens, Stouts, Dopplebocks and Imperial IPAs. The sample size was 80ml and it cost only $17. I mean in Australia that might be the cost of a tasting paddle of 5 beers in some places and you probably wouldn’t get such big samples.

I decided to be good and not drink all of everything, rather try everything and then go back to the ones I liked. This worked well and meant I wasn’t rolling out of there after having the equivalent of three pints in an hour. The beer was just okay, I felt they maybe tried to produce as many different styles as possible rather than focusing on one or two and making a superb job of those one or two. The bar itself had over 20 beers on tap, all of them, they made themselves.

We had a nicer walk back through towards the Natural History Museum and across the Alexandra Bridge back towards our hotel. The day so far had been very humid and an afternoon trying to knock back 3 pints of beer in the sun certainly leaves you feeling drained. Luckily we had an hour and a half back at our hotel before we headed out again. I needed to finish off a bit of study so I set myself to doing that before heading out for our dinner at Beckta. The most recommended restaurant in the Lonely Planet.

We had a booking in the wine room setting instead of the main restaurant; the only difference I could really ascertain was there weren’t any white tablecloths. The food was nice and reasonably priced and as everywhere does when your exploring a new country they had a couple of beers I hadn’t tried. I was significantly flagging after dinner so we ordered dessert to keep me going a little bit longer.

After dessert, as tends to happen in a country where a tip is expected, the waiter will suddenly make conversation, even if they have seemingly ignored you all the way through dinner. The waiter picked up we were from overseas, asked how long we were in Ottawa and what we’d done today. We mentioned we’d been to Les Brasseurs du Temps and he was curious how we ended up there. I mentioned my love of craft beer and that we’d seen it in a magazine. We then got onto talking about everyone speaking French to us, regardless of whether it was the first, second or third time they’d spoken to us. He then told us something that amazed us, we’d actually walked into Quebec province (the brewery is in Gatineau) and the majority of the people in the province speak French. He told us even though he had a working knowledge of French (most people are bi-lingual here in Ottawa), he wouldn’t be able to get a job in Quebec because his French isn’t good enough. We had a good chuckle because we’d been considering going into Quebec, but didn’t realise we’d managed to walk there.

We wandered home. An early night was needed after two full on days.

IJS 17/07/2017

I’ve never had Bison

20106547_929037247237089_1632466145951222044_n

Well, the sleep was deep and it was a bit of an effort to get up. But get up we did. Due to having started my Masters I unfortunately have to dedicate some of this holiday to studying. Hence the first two hours of our day I spent busily studying away whilst Claire indulged in a bit of reading. The view out of the window of a couple of office blocks, whilst not the most attractive did distract me momentarily whilst I got lost in my thoughts around theories to understand child’s behaviour.

Midday hit and we headed out to explore. Unlike us we didn’t have too many plans and decided to wander up into the Parliament district of the city, just 10 minutes up the street from where we are staying. The parliament building was nothing like I expected, having seen the redesigned Reichstag last year in Berlin, I expected something new and modern, when in fact it was an old gothic looking building so on top of a hill with beautiful views down towards the river. Originally developed in 1859 he has gone through a bit of rebuilding and adding of sections but it generally keeps with the style.

We were both in need of a café and we’ve found that art gallery or museum cafes tend to be relatively empty, serve good coffee and of a pretty high standard so off we set for what we thought was such a café across the water from the parliament. On the way we saw the impressive lock system of 40 or so locks taking boats through the middle of Ottawa. Its quite a tourist attraction. Not so much for me, having come from the canal boating capital of the UK and having grown up with locks from a child, whilst beautiful to watch the boats come up through them, I wasn’t exactly going to buy an ‘I love Ottawa’s locks’ t-shirt.

We wandered up to what we thought was the café only to find out it was a fair size wooden shack selling hot dogs. On the plus side, it did have nice views down the river. However, it wasn’t really what we were looking for so we moved on. The National Gallery of Canada kind of fulfilled our lunchtime need, if only they had coffee though. That had some sort of jug coffee which you then added water, all I could think of was mugs of Nescafe, so instead I helped myself to one of two craft beers in their fridges. That and a yoghurt and fruit went down nicely and seemed to balance out my calorific intake from last night.

We continued to explore this district and crossed the Alexandra bridge, with amazing views down the wide expanse of the Ottawa river and over to the Museum of Canadian history. Our plan today wasn’t really to go into any of these, rather just to check them out and decide what we wanted to come back to in the next few days. We noticed though as we walked down giant plant like sculptures just the other side of the museum and wander across there to check it out. This year being the 150th year of confederation of Canada there is a lot going on and what we stumbled across was Mosaicanada, which was in fact giant plant sculptures. However the queue was so long that we decided to go back on a week day in the hope there would be less people about.

Our last trip of the afternoon was to ByWard Market, in fact it was a bit like the Queen Vic markets in Melbourne but probably not as big really. Lots of shops surrounded the market and we managed to hone in on the Rocky Mountain Chocolate shop to finally get that ice cream that we hadn’t been able to manage the night before. A stroll back to the hotel and a couple more hours of study before the start of the evenings festivities with tonight being Claire’s choice of restaurant.

Fauna, if I’m honest, wasn’t that bad. Its one of those restaurants that has just five items on each section of the menu and if you don’t like any, that’s your problem. Luckily enough I liked one of them. I mean, I’ve never tried Bison and I don’t know what a bavette is (its ribbon pasta and I got three whole bits). So me being the adventurous type (I’d try most types of burger apart from chicken), I decided to give it a go. The meat was delicious, it was served with parsnips and they had this herb stuffing coating in breadcrumbs. I mean, what is not to like. I fail to mention of course they served me two beers I’d never tried as well. But then again, if they served me Canada’s third most popular beer, I’ve probably never tried it.

Our plan was to wander up to the Parliament precinct after dinner to watch the light display, which is superimposed onto the parliament. However a little sprinkling of rain and we are easily put off. So back to our hotel room and planning our day tomorrow. I’ve decided we need to try some uniquely Canadian foods, such as Poutine or Beaver Tails. Poutine just sounds delicious to my English background, it involves chips, cheese curd and gravy. Sounds like my Uni years all over again (just wish they had that deep fried battered hamburger over here). Beavertails are a completely other beast, they are a pastry, rolled out like an oval shaped pizza and then covered in a sweet topping like chocolate hazelnut and peanut butter pieces.

I go to bed dreaming of that deliciousness!

IJS 16/07/2017

I should have had the Broccoli 

Well here we go again. Another couple of weeks of bad spelling mistakes, awful grammar and lost of apostrophes in the wrong places!

International travel isn’t sexy is it? Take this morning, we got up a time that I don’t reckon I’ve ever seen on the clock before, I know the first number was 4, the rest was just a blur. Claire rose first as is the custom in our house. If we had an alarm clock I could hit, I would have hit the snooze button. Instead I clicked the clock icon, put 15 more minutes on the alarm and drifted back to sleep. It’s funny how it seems the best sleep you get is between alarms. And off it went again, I dragged my body from bed, showered, got dressed and we headed out the door and on our way to the airport.

I hadn’t slept that well but do you ever when you know you have to get up at some ungodly hour of the morning? The drive to the airport was uneventful. We were a little anxious, upon checking our flight we noticed there was only an hour and twenty difference between landing at Brisbane domestic and transiting to Brisbane international, through Customs and onto our Canadian bound flight.

The heat as we entered the aerobridge at Brisbane was a relief compared to the cold Melbourne winter, it’s always a holiday thought but we spoke briefly about moving to a hotter climate but then quickly decided we liked Melbourne too much. Getting through the airport was quick and apart from a slight delay at immigration where of course my epassport failed once more, we made the gate just as the plane boarded.

We were lucky enough to have an extra legroom seat against the bulkhead. The last few trips have taught me to seek comfort on the longer legs and pay the extra for it. We learnt from our Berlin trip and didn’t book the outside seat, knowing the trolley constantly hits it on the way down. As usual the stewardesses gave me funny looks as I refused the meals, telling me how long it was till the next meal, I politely declined with “I don’t eat on planes”. Only afterwards did Claire let me know that they were probably making a comment about me ordering beers whilst not eating, but I wasn’t going for Boony’s record or anything. A couple of cans of Coors Lights and a Molson Canadian Lager aren’t gonna get anywhere close and hey, how do I make my money back for not eating.

The trip passed quickly for me. My idea was to try and do at least half my weeks study on the plane and I achieved this by completing all my reading for my course. I could see for poor Claire though the time dragged and a part of me felt guilty about that. I dislike seeing her sad and as soon as I finished my study we plugged in our little joint earphone connector and watched the same movies and shows.

We thought coming into Vancouver we’d have very little time to play with but in fact the opposite was true. Having initially been told by Qantas we would need to collect our bags and re-check them in we were told that they would go straight through to our final destination, Ottawa. We had some unintentional fun at the immigration gate where a machine takes a scan of your passport and then asks you to pose for a picture and prints it out and gives it you. Neither of us could get it right and I was quite embarrassed to take it up and show the officers there this wide eyed crazed grinning face I’d managed to pull.

Vancouver airport was empty and we sailed through and after wandering up and down the shops we decided our breakfast (it was now 8am in our new destination) would be taken at the first one we saw. Pretty sure they were much of a muchness but after not eating for 24 hours I’m not sure anything would have tasted bad. The bacon, egg and cheese croissant went down a treat as well as the regular coffee, which in Australia will be classified jumbo.

I’m finding Air Canada staff different, they don’t really fit the model of Australian air stewards and stewardesses. No blonde hair and tans, more just normal looking people who don’t lay on the pleasantries too much but seem to be very genuine. The descent into Vancouver was impressive over a series of islands, as we first descended through the clouds. Mountains were just poking their heads above the cloud cover, looking like peaks rising through the snow, of course though it is in the low mid twenties so no chance of snow where we are at the moment.

I’m a keen watcher of the flight path on planes, it certainly teaches you a few things. Today I learnt there was a place called Chilliwack! Strangely and luckily enough our only late arriving plane was the one into Ottawa on our final leg requiring no transfer apart from to our hotel. The flight was fairly uneventful. We’d checked ahead and uber was available from the airport so the nice Vladmir came up to pick us up. He wasn’t talkative, which after 27 hours travelling sort of suited us.

Arriving at hotels after long journeys is always a disappointment I find. You form in your mind this picture of a giant room with spas and dressing rooms and when you arrive it’s the size of a large broom cupboard. I think we both felt a little disappointed but that soon cleared and we headed out for a small supermarket shop at Sobey’s Urban Fresh (a bit like a Woolworths metro to us Aussies). It interestingly served a whole counter of hot foods, like a buffet, where you filled your tub with pasta, rice or other dinner treat and pay via the amount of grams you have. Cool idea eh? If we had this in Australia, when Claire was away, I’d never cook. The beer selection as you can imagine was wonderful to me. I hadn’t had 98.7% of it. And the rest were variations of Guiness.

After a quick pop back to the hotel to fill the fridge with our goodies we headed out to a restaurant of my choice. I fancied a burger and I noticed in our Lonely Planet a burger joint called ‘The Works’ closeby. We walked 20 minutes down a road filled with all sorts of restaurants and plastic pubs before reaching it. I’ve never been to an American diner but I imagine if you hipstered one up it would look like this. Lots of wood and industrial piping painted onto the walls. Our waitress came over, introduced herself, like you see on those American movies and asked if we’d been before. I told her not only had I never been before, it was my first night in Canada. She seemed excited. I ordered The Tragically Maple burger, thinking I might as well try a Canadian creation. I ordered their smallest beer, which turned out still to be 600ml, I supped away on a couple until my burger and Claire’s salad turned up. I’m not sure what the chef thought when the order for salad with chicken came through but I can imagine he was disgusted!

As I bit into the burger and stared lovingly at the bucket of fries they’d bought me, I realised why it was called the Tragically Maple burger, everything was sweet, the bacon, the potato bits, the few leaves, the bun and the burger. I think they dipped the whole thing in Maple Syrup before bringing it out to me. I quickly came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to finish my first massive burger meal in Canada and for once in my life instead of ordering the fries as a side, I should have taken up the offer of the steamed broccoli.

We wandered back to the hotel in the humid 26c degree heat at 10pm at night, thinking about an ice cream but I reckon that would have knocked me out for a couple of days. I live to see another day and maybe another burger. We start the beginning of 4 full days in Ottawa from tomorrow.

IJS 15/7/2017