Archives for category: Canada

When travelling, I love checking out the local markets. Some of my strongest memories include trying to buy lettuce and a tomato from farmer’s market in Bosnia, taking pictures of intense old-lady cheesemongers in Paris, and putting various foods on a stick into my mouth at a night market in Cambodia.

So I was pretty excited to discover that Toronto now hosts a flower market that features local growers, sellers, and stylists. 

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Sometimes Torontonians need it spelled out for them.

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The flower market is pretty hip.

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Getting inspired.

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Wild fields and country in the city.

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I decided to go for it and bought four bunches (for only $20!)

I loved being able to buy flowers- a wonderful perk of not travelling.

I didn’t quite realise exactly how many flowers I’d bought until I tried to figure out where to put them all. It’s a week later and my tiny apartment is still chocked with bright blooms and I’m happy. I try to remember this kind of feeling- the feeling of being home and able to buy myself flowers to liven up my own space- whenever my feet get itchy and my fingers start googling destinations and seat sales.

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I could fit the most stems into my sangria pitcher (in which I have never made sangria). On the dining room table (seen here with butter, sugar, and a brick from the beach at Leslie Spit)

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This is my only actual vase. In the kitchen.

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In a milk-bottle-looking bottle that was bought with orange juice in it in London in maybe 2008 and never re-used until this day. In the kitchen.

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In the entrance in a storage jar.

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In the bathroom in a jam jar.

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In the living room in a balsamic vinegar bottle.

The next flower market will be on September 13th. See you there!

 

Yesterday was boring. I barely left my apartment and the sky was grey. I felt a bit lonely, more than I did when I literally was alone on the other side of the world. Even buying myself flowers didn’t make me feel much better.

So today I went out and travelled. I shook myself up and remembered what I love to do: discover the world. Even if it’s only going a few subway stops away.

I got up early (for a Sunday), and made my way east to Corktown, the oldest neighbourhood of Toronto for a Jane’s walk. It was beautiful and sunny and very chilly.

I found out about an 1800 duel caused by some rumours about a lady and that escaped slaves from Kentuky started the taxi company that would lead to the TTC (even if just in colour scheme) and saw the stables where the horses who made cookies for Mr Christie lived.

I saw the first free school and discovered the area is called Corktown because the first wave of immigrants came from Ireland- not necessarily from Cork itself, but still. And because there was a cork factory in the are. And I realised I know nothing much at all about my own city.

Everything was so colourful, I thought I’d share some pictures of this morning:

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A laneway that used to be “muddy and sketchy” (and across the street from the first Loblaws grocers’) and is now hoity toity.

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Pink building and blue sky.

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Workers’ row houses from the 1800s. That’s very old for Canada. Notice the red and white bricks- both made here but at different brickworks.

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Bright Street.

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The Magic Building.

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A guy.

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The Dominion Hotel (attached to the brewery). Now hosts jazz and rockabilly.

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Trees and shadows of trees.

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The Berkeley Cafe, where I used to go for lunch breaks when I used to work in the neighbourhood. A great place to overhear conversations and theatre gossip (lots of theatres nearby).

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The Opera Company and the Berkeley Theatre- old gas works buildings.

I have been home for over six months, yet it still feels like I just got back. I’m still out of loop on the theatre scene, I still haven’t caught up on all the 2013 movies, I still haven’t unpacked all my boxes, and I’m still saying “well, I just got back from a trip” when people ask what I’m up to.

So I’m feeling a bit like a tourist in my own country, happy to rediscover it all armed with a few more points of reference and comparison.

With a very snowy winter, a job that involves showing off my country to young people, and two days of back-to-back Olympic hockey wins, I’m feeling hyper-aware of my Canadianism.

So here’s to living it up, Canadian-style, and enjoying the winter:

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I tried curling for the first time. It was ridiculously fun to throw a rock down a sheet of ice. The sweeping not quite as fun.

 

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Whenever the temperature goes above -8°, it’s a good time to go for a walk in the secret neighbourhood of Wychwood Park in Toronto.

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Barrelling down snowy hills in an inflatable tube! A cheap and cheerful alternative to skiing.

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The local wildlife. Back to posting pictures of birds!

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The local food: poutine! Not exactly your traditional, hole-in-the-wall-greasy-spoon version (where you layer fries, cheese curds, gravy, fries, cheese curds, and gravy), but this one still did the trick with its squeaky cheese and heart-attack potential.

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If you pass a half-frozen creek, you must go break the ice with your boots for that pleasing sound and to watch the bits of freed ice float down stream.

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After the ice storm, the trees were glittering in the low winter sun.

I haven’t had a real winter in a couple of years, and as my tan fades, I am thankful to be back in Canada, despite the sore throat and frozen toes. And power cuts when it’s -20°C.

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Snow makes everything seem old-timey.

The power in my apartment cut out over 60 hours ago because of the ice storm that hit Toronto on Saturday. Luckily I have family in town and have been going from one place to another as power cuts in and out.

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People go nuts with the lights. And it’s tacky and beautiful.

I remember a few things I don’t like about winter at home:

When your scarf gets wet from snow or your breath’s condensation and then rubs up against your chin

Dry skin, wet feet, the inevitable runny nose

Getting slushed by passing cars

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Snow in the city mutes everything. Everything becomes quiet and cozy and nostalgic.

But when the air is crisp and the sky is blue and the setting sun makes all the ice-covered branches glisten like a Christmas card overloaded with glitter, winter in Canada is exactly perfect.

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The ice storm hits.

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Frozen smoke-tree flower.

Or when the snow is falling in big fat cottonball flakes and you sit by the window with a cup of tea and a book and you don’t have to go to work tomorrow.

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Christmas snow, typical Toronto house.

This time last year, I was alone in the middle of New South Wales, watching the rain wash away the road.  Turns out that Christmas only really feels like Christmas when it’s winter and you’re with your family putting together a jigsaw puzzle. With chocolate and clementines.

Happy holidays, everyone!

I’ve had my passport stamped for the first time since I left and had a bunch of questions about my life, plans and bank account sternly thrown into my face. I pased and took the ferry from Victoria (British Columbia) to Port Angeles (Washington).

My time on Vancouver Island began and ended on a boat, which makes sense seeing as it’s an island.

Sun on the ferry from Horseshoe Bay (Vancouver) to Nanaimo (Vancouver Island).

Ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles.

Victoria was sunny and beautiful and, most importantly, was to be explored with my friend Caitlin (beautiful Caitlin whom I hadn’t seen in 3 years).

Caitlin having tea at the trendy little restaurant we went to in Victoria.

We explored Victoria, especially the frozen yoghurt shop. Those little bubbles of fruit bursts you can sprinkle over your frozen yoghurt are amazing and weird.

Caitlin told me about totem poles, their meanings and uses and the way they were pretty much stolen, thinking it was a way to remember cultures that were assumed to be dying.

Totem pole at Thunderbird Park, Victoria.

We noticed many problematic depictions of the First Nations and weirdly normalized colonialism. Most of them in souvenir shops, but many around the city too:

Was this the Hudson Bay Co’s slogan? Even so, it’s weird to have this hanging in a mall. Even weirder, it was put there in 1990.

But it was a beautiful, sunny few days (though that wind off the water can be quite chilling) and walking around aimlessly was just the thing to do.

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Where one might take high tea at the Empress Hotel. We obviously didn’t, but we did run around the hotel pretending we might.

For a blog about theatre, I haven’t written much about it recently. Summer is pretty slow for regular theatre seasons, but we were really lucky to catch a good one in Victoria.

The Little Shop of Horrors at the McPherson Playhouse in Victoria (Blue Bridge Rep Theatre)

Although I really didn’t have opening night attire, I pulled together a (relatively) clean t-shirt and the one skirt I brought so we could attend the opening of Little Shop of Horrors (thanks again, Jer, for the tickets!). I didn’t know the show at all- I only knew that it featured a special type of venus fly trap. But when I noticed that a couple of cast and creative team members had been involved in Ride the Cyclone, I knew it was going to be ok. Or better than ok.

When I saw that Kholby Wardell was in this, I knew we were in good hands. Here with Damon Calderwood and Sara-Jeanne Hosie.

Actually, it was a really great production and I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time. The design going from black-and-white to colour as things liven up may be a bit predictable, but it was done so smoothly and beautifully and cooly and I loved it gosh darn it. The whole thing was fun and excellently performed, and perhaps with a tiny bit more accent work for a certain character, it would be the absolutely perfect way to spend a Victorian summer evening.

I have been on the road (or, more acurately, away from home) for a week and a half now, and guess what? Canada’s beautiful. I am currenly in D’arcy, British Columbia, and I have to keep reminding myself to look up and not take that I am surrounded (literally surrounded) by mountains for granted.

Just because it’s in my own country, doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to be in awe of this place. There’s no place like home. Especially if your home is 9,984,670 square kilometres.

After a couple of rainy days in Jasper National Park, I hopped on the train (well, waited around for a few hours in a packed train station until the train was ready to board two hours late) and made my way to the big city of Vancouver.

Entering the Rocky Mountains, British Columbia

The train ride was slow, but the mountains were just so stunning, it was nice to have the chance to take them in.

Pyramid Falls, British Columbia. The engineer slowed the train down so we could take pictures.

I stopped pretending I wasn’t taking pictures from behind a window.

Once in Vancouver, I quickly bought a bus ticket to Pemberton (conveniently the train and bus stations are in the same building) and then turned around to see my friend Alyssa, who’d come to surprise me. Slightly surreal, and totally great.

Surprise (but too brief) visit from Alyssa and Aimee in surprisingly sunny Vancouver.

The bus to Pemberton let everyone else off in Whistler and I moved up to see the road through the windshield- these mountain roads, even the highways, are a bit too windy for my sensitive inner ear.

I arrived in Pemberton just in time to check out the farmers’ market with my aunt before driving to D’arcy.

When we got to the house, we almost immediately (ie the next day) packed up the truck and headed off to work. My cousin is working on tracking grizzly bears in the area and I got to tag long. That meant I got to go to parts of the country very few get access to. It was absolutely breath-taking.

There were mosquitoes, some barbed-wire and stinging nettle action, and I did step in a creek (good news: my new socks and shoes dry quickly), but we didn’t end up in a ravine when our truck slid sideways where the road had washed out and we didn’t get eaten by bears.

Michelle takes me quading for the first time and I live to tell you about it.

I mean, look at this…

That’s me pretending to be a biologist, collecting bear hair, trying not to breathe in the bait smell or hoards of mosquitoes.

Bears are attracted to rotting cow’s blood. Biologist need strong arms and stronger stomachs.

This black bear visited the hair trap- cutest picture the motion-sensored camera captured. For more info on the project, check out: https://www.facebook.com/BCGrizzly

 

High up in the alpine- the surreal landscape left by forest fire.

 

Just hanging out, eating Cheerios.

 

Just your typical view.

 

Beautiful British Columbia.

I’m off! The first leg of my travels have taken me from Toronto to Jasper (Alberta).

Saying goodbye to my brother and father at Union Station in Toronto. My bag is very new and shiny.

Freight trains have the right of way, which means this little train had to wait and wait throughout the night. But it doesn’t matter at all to me that’s we’re two hours behind schedule.

Trains trains for days and days.

Boys from Ottawa travel West with their guitars without cases and play Let It Be, which is at first is a bit obnoxious and then charming and then obnoxious again. On the train, you can watch the sky become light and listen to 20-year-old boys compete with pot stories and be glad they’re both getting off in Sudbury.

The soothing sounds in economy class.

On the first day on the train, I thought maybe I’d become un-fun and too uptight to travel like this. But it turned out that it was because it was my first day and I hadn’t quite relaxed enough to truly appreciate how cool it is to sing along to stummy renditions of songs by The Arcade Fire at 6am.

Ontario’s trees and water are very pretty.

I shunned away negative thoughts and enjoyed speaking to the nurse from Kerala sitting across from me. I learned the word for tiger, but I’m not sure exactly in which language. Ontario is beautiful and huge. The Arrogant Worms were right when they said “There are rocks and trees and trees and rocks and rocks and trees and trees and rocks; there are rocks and trees and rocks and rocks and trees and trees and rocks and water.” But they’re really nice trees and rocks and water and the sky is an unbeatable blue.

Train (and hostel, it turns out) breakfast, lunch and dinner.

After days of Ontario, it seemed that we whipped through Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I slept through Saskatoon.  At 10:30 pm, the sun wasn’t quite set yet and there were hundreds of huge dragon flies outside the train window. I listened to farmers talk about crops and the politics of selling elevators.

The prairies.

When we pulled into Winnipeg before anything was open in the morning, I unsociably separated from the little train clique that had formed because I wanted to be alone and walk in silence for a while in the Forks and not go searching for bacon and guitar strings. I met a couple from Rimouski that had ridden their motorcycle all the way to Winnipeg and were getting ready to ride back through the US. They suggested I take the half-hour boat tour. And I did. And it was amazing to be outside with the fresh air and wind whipping through my hair after days on a train.

You cannot buy a cup of coffee in the Edmonton train station.

From Edmonton to Jasper, I sat upstairs in the bubble car, where you can get a higher-up, better view of everything (including bug carcasses splattered across the front windows).  Watching the Rocky Mountains appear behind the trees and through the clouds was amazing. The pictures of this moment are not amazing. But this is how excited and in awe we were:

Jacob, Olia and Matt as the Rockies appeared.

When we arrived in Jasper, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay on the train. Looking out a window now, it’s slightly weird that the trees aren’t whizzing by. They’re just rooted there.

But then I walked around the town full of adventure equipment shops surrounded by mountains, had a sandwich on fresh bread, caught the shuttle to the hostel surrounded by forest and mountains, listened to ukulele tunes around a camp fire and slept in a real bed (top bunk, mind you).

Elk!

And after spending a morning at Maligne Canyon checking out falls and rivers and tasting buffalo berries (bears eat 200,000 of these berries that taste like cranberries, soap, and cigarette ash with a lovely astringent aftertaste a day), having my breath taken by Maligne and Medicine Lakes, and, as the other people in the little tour took a cruise around to Spirit Island, my amazing guide Marie and I walked and saw flowers and lichen and when it started to pour, took refuge under trees with a deer.

Jasper National Park.

Now I don’t want to go back on the train tomorrow to continue the journey. That’s the trouble with travel: you’re constantly leaving. This can also be a good thing, depending on the context. My hope for this trip is that I’ll always and consistently be sad to be leaving places.

My home sweet home for the next little while.