Archives for posts with tag: Photo

Canadians assume you go to Cuba for all-inclusive beach vacations, a normal assumption since it’s cheaper to book that type of vacation than just a flight by itself.

Having opted out of the resort-style in order to to stay right in Havana (while still getting the airport transfers and hotel included- sweet deal!), I felt a little nervous- as I always do before a trip- that I’d forgotten to how to travel and that I would never figure it out again.

But the shock of the sight of the ocean and cars from the 1940s reminded us what it is like to discover and rediscover, my mother and I dusted off the frustrations of airports and broke out our rusty Spanish. Once settled, we slowly began to learn how to navigate the puzzling streets of Old Havana.

We also learned how and where to change money (flexible fact: to change money at a fancy hotel, you have to stay at a fancy hotel… which we weren’t. Exceptions occur on Sundays, sometimes).

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Our nearly-daily money-changing ritual at la cadeca (we aren’t very good at estimating how much we’ll need, apparently).

After being taken for a ride and charged $5 for two tiny bottles of water the first day, we also learned where to eat and to ask how much things cost before agreeing to them, no matter how thirsty we were.

When our feet got tired and hot, we’d duck into fancy hotel lobbies. This is where we realised that while our little hotel may be fine for us (the towel-folding art delighted us each evening when we got back), it was no fine hotel. For instance:

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Not our hotel.

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Not our hotel.

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Not our hotel.

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Swans made out of towels in our hotel!

We did get a little sick of the dust and chaos and and noise and this was supposed to be a vacation! So I got a beautiful sunburn on the Playa del Este, the local beach (about 20km from Havana) and had the best shrimp I have ever had in my life at the canteen near the beach.

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We sat in the shade all day, and yet…

I ended up as pink as this delicious mountain of grilled shrimp.

I ended up as pink as this delicious mountain of grilled shrimp.

My mother and I went to Cuba and spent a week walking around Havana.

Despite the overwhelming taxi options in Havana (classic Cadiallac, coco taxi, horse-drawn carriage, scooters…), we walked. And slowed down by our feet and the humidity and the heat, we saw all the textures of the falling-apart colonial houses, the layers of arches and doors and courtyards, the restoration, the sleeping dogs, and the dusty streets.

Here are a few shots of walls (and one dog) in Havana:

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Freezing my feet off on a train platform (despite fancy new angora socks and fidgety dance moves) was worth the sight of an almost empty frost-incrusted Chateau de Versailles.

No crowds. Quiet and crisp.

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Frosty dude.

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Perfectly still lake in the gardens.

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The palace with mist and shallow frozen puddles perfect for cracking.

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Royal sheep

My new year’s resolution to write (more often, more consistently, better, at all) has all but been forgotten. But February 17th is a new day and to kick things off around here with a manageable post, to dust off the key board and get back into the world of words, here are some pictures from my recent escape to Iceland and France. Enjoy!

We flew to Paris with Iceland Air, taking advantage of their free stop-over option. Just a short one because Iceland is very expensive. Surprisingly for an expensive place, many hotels and shops and random ice-cream shops in the middle of nowhere will give you free coffee. “No charge,” they’d say. And we’d be happy and warm and awake.

On our first day, the only place we felt we could afford in Reykjavik was a salad and soup buffet- unlimited food and a nice ambiance!  The rest of the time we feasted on grocery-store nibbles (not pictured).

This soup was coconut (Thai-inspired) and delicious and warmed my insides. It was so good I didn't think to take a picture until it was pretty much done.

This soup was coconut (Thai-inspired) and delicious and warmed my insides. It was so good I didn’t think to take a picture until it was pretty much done.

We had heard about some sort of famous hot dogs that are a staple of drunken Icelanders. We put all our krona together and bought a couple.

Don't tell Iceland, but these hot dogs are just as horrible as they look. Both parties got sick after eating these. Never trust weird creamy mustard crap.

Don’t tell Iceland, but these hot dogs are just as horrible as they look. Both parties got sick after eating them. Never trust weird creamy mustard crap.

Our flight to Paris was cancelled due to wind, but we managed to afford another day in Iceland by getting a hotel room and meals paid for (thanks, Iceland Air!)

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This was our official voucher for our dinner at Olsen Olsen, issued by the hotel.

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This is an Icelandic hamburger and fries meal. They have powdered ketchup if you want your fries to taste like ketchup chips.

When we got to Paris (just a day later than expected), we mostly made ourselves baguette with ham and butter, being the thrifty foodies we are. These were eaten in various cemeteries and on basilica steps.

There were exceptions to the ham and baguettes since we wanted to sample Parisian delicacies. Obviously.

We braved the line-up at a very popular “best falafel” place in Le Marais and I didn’t order falafel.

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This is a chicken shwarma as big as my hand.

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This is the chicken schwarma after I ate it (with help).

After walking off the schwarma and falafel, we stopped for your typical patisseries.

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This is a chocolate eclair. I forgot to take a picture until I was halfway done.

Moving on to dinner, Paris is the city to indulge in prix-fixe, multi-course bistro dining.

For my birthday, I was taken to such a fancy-pants establishment. Check out what I ate (all in one sitting!):

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It was such a fancy-pants place that they gave us beautiful bread and a terrine and pickles. I forgot to take a picture before we massacred it.

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Fully knowing it was going to be far too rich for an appetizer, I still ordered a shrimp risotto with squid ink. The presentation was much nicer before I was half-way through with it (pictured here).

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This was some kind of lamb. I might remember what it was more clearly if I had remembered to take a picture before I was done eating.

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Delicious chocolate and cherry dessert. Looks a mess here but was quite nice when it arrived at the table when most instagrammers photograph their food.

We had big plans of avoiding touristy things and just, you know, being in Paris. Instead, we got Nutella-banana crêpes and went up the Eiffel Tower.

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Crêpe et tour Eiffel. Looks gross. Wasn’t.

So that was a compilation of some of the food I ate. One day I will write some posts about the beauty of a frosted-over Versailles, the amazing geothermal wonders of Iceland, and all the things brought into relief when you’re used to travelling solo and then suddenly aren’t.

 

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!

You wouldn’t know it from what I’m about to show you, so there are a few things you should know before scrolling through the following pictures:

1- I don’t eat burgers that often. I just happen to take pictures when I do.

2- I love to try new things and I tasted a bunch of awesome non-burger dishes in my trip around the world. The most memorable will probably be the subject of my next post (looking through my photos looking for my burger ones, I noticed I take a lot of pictures of food).

3- I know you will judge me for eating so many burgers and I will be able to defend myself with the following arguments: burgers are relatively cheap and very filling, they are easy to eat, when you’re overwhelmed by a menu they are a simple choice, burgers are delicious.

So, just because, here are some shots of me eating burgers around the world:

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Burger in fresh sourdough bread on the piers in San Francisco. With Anne-Marie.

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Still in California, trying the infamous In-N-Out Burger (that I’d never heard of until then). In Santa-Barbara with Courtney and Karel.

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Speaking of infamous- here’s the Fergburger. I mean. Just look at it. In Queenstown (New Zealand) with Yvonne.

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Made our own kangaroo burgers at the hostel in Fort Macquarie, Australia. It was pretty good. With that nice French guy from the hostel.

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Believe it or not, this is a burger from a French restaurant in Pondicherry, India. It wasn’t awesome. But look how tanned I was. With Uk and Anu.

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This chicken burger was as big as my head, was delicious, and was the only affordable non-supermarket lunch we could find in Hvar, Croatia. With David-Marc and those two cousins from BC.

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After-pub burger at Wannaburger in Edinburgh. This may or may not have been a 2-burger day. I’ll never tell. With Gerry.

You may also have noticed I only own black or blue t-shirts. But rest assured I live a varied and interesting life, whatever else these burger photos may imply.

 

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Doesn’t this look like something that would be on a feel-good-self-help-type post? I’m thankful for my brother and that he can jump high; thankful for the sunset, Croatia, and my camera.

This weekend was Thanksgiving for us Canadians.

I didn’t have a turkey or cranberries or even mashed yams. But I did use the 12 hours on the bus home from a weekend in New York City to think about all the things that I’m thankful for. Cheap fares on the Megabus being one of them. The experience of getting on the Megabus in midtown New York as fifty other Megabuses were also loading and then sitting in a Megabus for 12 hours not being one of them.

But I am thankful for the trip of a lifetime. For the friends that I got to visit around the world. Thankful for the friends I made along the way, thankful to the people who gave me directions, suggested I try amok, put me up, put up with me, took me to plays, ate cake with me on rainy days, taught me ridiculous sentences in their languages, and understood when I freaked out about ticks and monkeys.

I am thankful for being home now, thankful that I have a home where I bump into friends and old teachers on the street. I am thankful for the friends I get to see now that I’m back. For my family. For sunny days and crisp leaves. I am thankful for the fact that after living out of a backpack for a year, settling down for a while seems like an exciting adventure.

I am thankful that I can write all this cheesy goop and that you won’t mind too much.

 

On my bus trip from Montreal to Toronto, I noticed I was wearing shoes I’d bought in Sarajevo, jeans from Barcelona, t-shirt from Zagreb, and socks from, well, Toronto.

On my bus trip from Montreal to Toronto, I thought about how this would be the last bus trip (or trip in general) for a while. I am home now and things are falling into place. I am home and things like babysitting commitments now dictate which city I should be in.  I have found a room of my own and a job that starts after Thanksgiving (which means one more month of vacation! Where should I go?). Things are falling into place and I have a year of unreal memories behind me.

So, for your random pleasure, here are photos of some of my favourite animal street art from my trip. Because I don’t think you want to hear me complain about how overwhelming it is to pack and move house, especially after your entire life fitting into a 40 litre backpack for a year.

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Sheep, Barcelona (Spain). “Je suis ceux que je suis.”

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Zebra, Pula (Croatia).

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Otter?, London (England).

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Bush baby, Copenhagen (Denmark).

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Rabid squirrel attacking other skinny squirrel, London (England).

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Wild menagerie, Copenhagen (Denmark).

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Zebra-man. Half zebra, half man, all zebra-man. Berlin (Germany).

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Warrior horse (and others), Barcelona (Spain).

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Octopus, John Lennon Wall, Prague (Czech Republic).

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Snake, Portorož (Slovenia)

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Cheetah and baby cheetah, Ljubljana (Slovenia).

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Zebra crossing (for a literal take on street art and zebra crossing), Belgrade (Serbia).

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Cat (and humans), Mostar (Bosnia).

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Birds, Kochi (India).