Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Winter Solstice

So today (Dec 21, 2010) is the Winter Solstice, at least in the northern hemisphere. It's the Summer Solstice in the southern hemisphere. Today is the shortest day of the year in regards to daylight hours for us northerner hemi's. After today we get more daylight! Wohoo...it's not a wonder this was celebrated back in the stone age. Not only that but it's also a full moon tonight. And to top it off there is a lunar eclipse happening at 6:38pm ET (3:38 PT). National Geographic's webpage has the info. This is a rare occurance indeed. I think it's kinda cool. And a different thing to think about in between all the hurriedness of the Christmas Season. Well it's off to sleep for me on the longest night of the year. Summer is on the horizon.


Tuesday, 2 November 2010

What constitutes a hometown??

Probably the most common question asked amongst traveler's is "Where are you from?" And you would think that is an easy question to answer. For many it's the place where you last resided or where they grew up. Both valid answers. But for those of you who might be just a tad bit deeper (or drunk) this question may have more facets than a 14-carat diamond. Let me show you what I mean....

View of The Sleeping Giant, Thunder Bay, ON
Okay, so I was born and bred in the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. It's located on the north shore of Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. To be technically correct, I was actually born in Port Arthur, Ontario. However, a very long time ago (I am NOT disclosing my age), shortly after I was born, the towns of Port Arthur and Fort William amalgamated to form the the city of Thunder Bay. Woohoo....a new, modern city embracing all that comes with...oh who am I kidding. Nothing really changed except the name.

Cherry Blossoms in bloom, Vancouver, BC
A moderately sized town of approx 100,000, Thunder Bay was known as a mill town and a bit of a gateway to Northwestern Ontario. According to my parents, Finnish immigrants, Thunder Bay was the greatest place on the earth. I believed them.  I could speak Finnish to anyone in the area of Bay St, people easily knew what Finnish pancakes were and we all knew that Santa Claus was from Lapland (the northern area of Finland). I also knew when locals were speaking Ukrainian or Italian. I enjoyed perogies and pasta dinners from local orthodox churches the Italian Hall, respectively (which to this day I love both cuisines). It was Euro-ethnic heaven. And very blue collar. That's how I grew up. So why is it that I have such a connection to Vancouver, BC,  where I have spent a mere 7 years of my life and the rest were in Thunder Bay? Yes, I love cities - fairly big ones. But Toronto is too big for me to live in and I hated New York (granted, there were extenuating circumstances when I went to New York that clouded my impressions, but still...) My heart is in Vancouver. It's also in Paris. I also have no doubt that when I finally visit my dream country of Australia that I will love Sydney and/or Perth. Is it that I love the variety and diversity of larger cities? Is that I just dislike the slower pace of a smaller city or town? With these questions in mind, I often wonder where my hometown really is. If it goes by where I wish I was, I think I'd be an Australian by now even though I've never been there. If it was based on the cities that I love for so many reasons then Vancouver is home just as much as Paris is. Or perhaps the city where I grew up and learned to love and  hate it at the same time. I do have nostalgic love of Thunder Bay due to my my past and for my bestest friends who are still there (you know who you are) yet I hate it for being so backwards. And I mean that in the political sense...Thunder Bay is run "ass backwards" just as much as Vancouver ignores it's problems (i.e. the Downtown East Side). Oh what to make of it all.

Arc d'Triomphe, Paris
Perhaps the best summation is that my hometown changes as I change. It WAS Thunder Bay, ON, it's currently Vancouver, BC and hopefully in the future it will somewhere in Australia. And always, always Paris owns a part of  my heart and soul. Here's to our hometowns, wherever that may be.

Burrard Bridge, Vancouver, BC

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The fabric of my soul

I love to travel. Anyone who knows me, knows this to be true. If I am in a position where I am unable to travel, I travel around my city. Plain and simple. I am also working on making my lifelong dream of taking an RTW (round-the-world) trip. That is one reason that I am not currently travelling as I am saving my pennies to do this trip. So it with this in mind that I pose this question: Is travelling tangible? I ask this because of a conversation I had with my friend A. Now A doesn't care to travel. She's quite happy to go about her day without thinking of what far reaches of the world would be cool to explore or find adventure in. Nor is she akin to flying great distances to relax on a white sand beach to listen to mariachi music while sipping on rum punch. If she wants to go to the beach a visit to the local ones here in Vancouver will suffice. Perhaps because we share these differing ideas regarding travel that she often asks me "Why do you want to go around the world?" Now I could give a list a mile long of reasons why but the simplest answer would be that I love the world and want to see all that it.

Regardless of how many times I am asked this question from A, she will inevitably ask it again. However, it was after one particular conversation that started with her infamous question that got me thinking. We had decided to go to a cultural festival in Surrey, just across the river from Vancouver, called "Surrey Fusion Festival". A veritable feast of all things foreign, especially food, with over 25 countries and regions represented, live music and environmentally friendly businesses spread out over Surrey's Holland Park. It was A, myself and our new friend Cynthia, whom we had met early that day. Cynthia was visiting the Vancouver area from Jakarta, Indonesia and agreed to join us as we went globe-trotting, at least figuratively. I also was able to glean some information about Indonesia from Cynthia as it's islands are on my RTW itinerary (Java, Flores, Sulawesi to name a few). So after stuffing our faces with tasty ethnic delights, watching a First Nations Pow-Wow, and listening to Indian bangra music, Cynthia parted ways with us to go meet some friends. A and I took a break from the hot summer sun in a shaded area and lounged on the grass. In an attempt to impress A with the joys of travel I told her she now had a friend in Indonesia that she could go visit.
     "Yeah, I suppose." She replied. "I'm sure you'll be taking her up on her offer to visit."
     "Absolutely! Indonesia is on my list," I said with a smile as I picked at a blade of grass. "Even better when a local can show me around. So you have no desire whatsoever to go off and see a place you've never been?"
     "Maybe to visit someone, but that's about it. I had an interesting conversation with a friend a while ago. She asked me is if I could chose between a trip to, say....Disneyland or a computer, which would I chose? I picked the computer. Because it's tangible. I can see it, feel it. I can use it. But a trip you can't. Once it's over, it's over." She shrugged her shoulders and took a sip of her Coke. "That's how I see it."
     "Though trips give you experiences." I countered, "And memories." We both paused for a moment. "I guess I shouldn't expect that you'd come visit me at one of my exotic locations then?" I inquired.
     "Just send me a postcard or two." she said with a grin while standing up. "Now let's go see what's going on at the International Stage."
Canada & Indonesia

Later that day, as I head home on the Skytrain and gazed out the window to the city below me, I started to think about our previous conversation. Sure materials things are tangible, can be measured for value but aren't experiences valuable as well? Aren't they actually invaluable? For all my travels I have memories tied to them. I have experiences, good and bad, that I have taken something from them. I have strengthened friendships through travels. I have had my breath taken away by travels. I have been scared. I have laughed. I have been brave. I can recall an entire range of emotions that I have had on travels. Something, that I am certain most material, tangible items can not provide me with. Sure, I love my creature comforts. I won't deny it. But when I think of times when I have had to step out of my comfort zone, learn a life lesson or grow closer to someone, it was not a TV, handbag or bedroom suite that did it for me. It was the experience, travel related or not. Experiences become a part of you. They help shape and mold who we become. They become a part of the fabric of our soul. And for me, travelling is one way to gain those experiences. To weave it intricately into my soul. And I love it for that. 

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Reminiscing: The Red Beacon In The Sky

A little bit ago I was perusing some sun vacation brochures. As I passed the section on Cancun, Mexico I saw a page for a beach front hotel called the Intercontinental Presidente Cancun Resort. Set upon the white sand beach facing the Caribbean Sea it towers above the hotels beside it. This 4-star hotel is where I resided for a wonderful week-long vactation many, many years. However, it is forever known to me as "The Red Beacon In The Sky."  An odd reference for a resort hotel is what you're thinking! Let me fill you in on how the red light on top of the tower of this resort was a beacon for me and my friend on a night that we have a good chuckle over now and again.

I don't have a photo of the hotel so this was taken from the Intercontinental Presidente Cancun Resort's website. Notice the tower section of the resort.

Ah, the excitement of going on vacation!  My first trip to Cancun was going to be great! We had been bumped up from a 3-star resort to this 4-star one. I was anticipated relaxing on the beach, playing in the crystal blue waters of the sea and to shaking my booty on the dance floor at all the popular clubs. Trina, my BFF and partner in crime was joining me on this adventure! The great part was that Trina had been to Cancun the year before and knew all the places to go as she had met a local who had shown her and her friend which places were "happening".

Once we arrived and settled into our hotel we thought we'd look around the area as it was late afternoon and the beach was emptying. We left the hotel to wander around and Trina pointed out a few places of interest. We opted to head to a section on the strip that has several bars and restaurants to have a cooling drink. We had changed some of our money before we left into the local currency to have on hand, the rest we would change the next day, to get the best rate of course. So a drink and then unwinding at the hotel was the plan. Ah...this is the life. Hot balmy weather, a cool refreshing drink and nothing to worry about except how I was going to pass the time on the beach in the upcoming week. A well deserved vacation for the both of us! As we were were taking in the sounds, smells and sites of Cancun I was handed a flyer about a pub crawl happening the next night.  I look over at Trina who is laughing and engaged in a conversation with the young man who is handing out the flyers. She introduces me to Macco...the local she met the year before. What are the chances??? She never had any contact with him since she was last in Cancun (this was before Facebook or Twitter). It ends up that Macco was in the employ of the company organizing the pub crawl. He asks us if we want to attend and we bought our tickets right then and there. After a bit more conversation and meeting a couple of Macco's co-workers we decide to join them later on in the evening to go to La Boom Night Club - he tells us that he can get us in for free. Wohoo!!

Since nothing really happens until about 11pm we head back to the hotel and get ready. I  decided to wear my new sundress and fun new sandals. A great start to a great vacation. Dancing tonight, beach and pub crawl tomorrow and then a day at Xel-Ha after that. This vacation was off to a great start!

Again I have no picture. This one is from: Inertia Tours

We meet Macco and his 2 friends and they hire a cab. The five of us pile into a the small taxi and head over to the club.  As we are zipping along Kukulcan Boulevard, Macco turns to Trina with a cheeky smile, "Trina would you be able to pay for the taxi? We can pay you back once we are inside. One of our friends there will give you the money."  Trina looks to me and says "I only have a few pesos. You?"  I do have a few left so we pool our resources to just cover the fare. No biggie.  As promised, Macco gets us into La Boom for free but disappears after that. We didn't see him or his friends again all night. Somewhat odd but whatever -  we were there to have fun so we headed to the dancefloor.

About 2am we were both tired with aching feet. Heading outside we quickly learn that the buses stopped running at 1pm. We were stranded!! What were a couple of young girls to do? No buses, no cab fare and only our feet to get us anywhere. So that what we did - we hoofed it.  "It can't be that far right?" I wonder aloud. Never ask that question when you're wearing new shoes!! Trina looks in the direction of our hotel and points out a red light high atop a building. "There it is!", she exclaims. "That red beacon in the sky is our hotel." " The red beacon in the sky!" I repeat, "Okay, let's go."

Tired, hot & with blistery feet, our conversations went something along these lines: 

Me: "Ugh, my feet hurt. I think my blister's have blisters. Are we there yet?"
Trina: "Well take your sandals off and walk on the grass. Keep looking to the red beacon in the sky!"
Me: "Ooohh...good idea. Ah...that grass feels so good."
Trina: "Watch out for dog pooh."
Me: "Oh ya had to say that didn't cha?! Ugh...I want to be sleeping in my comfy bed. Are we there yet? Onward to the red beacon in the sky."  (Well maybe I wasn't so cheery but I don't think I should be using colourful language here. Though we did have a giggle or two on the way about our predicament.)

As we walk along the sidewalk (the grass in my case), numerous taxi's would slow down and ask us if we need a ride. Our standard reply was "No tengo dinero" (translated: "We have no money").  Cabbie after cabbie asks us and  over and over we rattle off our reply. Then one cabbie tried a bit harder:

Cabbie: "Taxi?"
Trina: "No tengo dinero."
Cabbie: "Oh no problemo. You can pay me in your room."
Trina & Eeva: "WHAT?? NOOOOOO!! GO AWAY!" and we stood there for a few moments, rather shocked as the cabbie drove away.
Eeva: "Can you believe that?? So do you think he actually meant "in our rooms" or that we pay him at the hotel, ya know run up to the room to get money?"
Trina: "Hmmm...well even if he did, we wouldn't of been able to anyways...no tengo dinero at the hotel either. Let's keep walking. The red beacon in the sky is getting closer."
Eeva: "The red beacon in the sky."

I have no recollection of what time we arrived at our hotel or how long it took. It might of been 45 minutes later or 2 hours. All I know is my feet hurt and we were propositioned by a cabbie (well maybe not?? Ya know the language barrier and all). But looking back Trina and I shared some good giggles over it all. Now, that's the best way to remember those minor travel mishaps. OH! And I have also learned to NEVER wear new shoes out dancing. Or to walk back to your hotel in them cause you didn't change enough money to the local currency. Here's to The Red Beacon In The Sky!!

Trina in Cancun! Heading out to the pub crawl, which we did have fun at the next night. And we never did get the cab fare back from Macco.

The crowd from "The Ultimate Pub Crawl". We're somewhere in the back.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The wettest city in Canada

Although Canada's wettest city is in BC, it is not Vancouver. It is Prince Rupert, BC. A port city on the northwestern coast of BC, just north of the mouth of the Skeena River. Now I am going to just go with what they say about it being the wettest city but personally have never experienced that. I say that because in the half dozen times or so that I have visited it has never rained. In fact it has been quite sunny. Sometimes cool but always sunny. Granted I was always there in the summer or late spring so perhaps that is why. Though according to my family who lived there for about year, it felt more like 10 years due to all the rain and overcast days. Which is why they moved to sunnier pastures approx 150 km/85 miles east to Terrace, BC. So with my visits to my family and a 5 month spell in the spring & summer of 2007 when I lived in Terrace I made a point of incorporating day trips to Prince Rupert. It's a great little picturesque town on the backdrop of some amazing scenery. Truthfully my favourite part is always the drive along The Yellowhead Hwy (Hwy 16) between the two towns. It's winds along the coast of the Skeena River on one side and Coast Mountains on the other. Although the drive is approximately 90 min it usually takes longer as I insist on stopping to take photos of the breathtaking scenery:

The Yellowhead Hwy enroute to Prince Rupert in August 2008.

We just crossed over this bridge and took a right and found this spot which is boat launch. The Skeena River has some great (salmon) fishing. This spot is not far from Terrace.

 just about 2 km outside of Prince Rupert. It is modelled after the first Shoe Tree near Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. And no, I haven't nailed my shoes here...yet.

Once in Prince Rupert, I almost always go to Cow Bay Village. This area, which is right on the water has some great shops, restaurants, art galleries, coffee shops, pubs and the like. Much of it is  built right over the water. You get the sense that you've stepped back into time with the restored heritage buildings and marine and rail themes - a testament to days gone by.

Another area that I enjoy is walking along the rail tracks along the harbour. Mariner's Park is another place that I like to wander around. Then
perhaps do some shopping downtown. There are some great trails around the city and outside too. And it's an accessible city: drive, bus, plane or ferry (from Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Port of Prince Rupert

Old Rail Station

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


"Van-Can-tastic" is a (non)word I heard on the news today that was submitted by a viewer to describe the Winter Olympics that just finished up yesterday. I don't know who came up with it but I think it sums things up very well.

Although I had been looking forward to these days I really didn't know what to expect. Was my everyday life going to be disrupted? Was I going to be able to participate in any way other than watching the TV? Was I going to regret staying in town? Overall, every thing went smoothly and little disruption in my daily routine. I also made a point of visiting as much as I was able to in regards to the pavillions and free activities that were being offered downtown. I even made it downtown to watch the women's and men's gold hockey games! And no regrets for sticking around. I was so fortunate to experience some of history. And for anyone who wonders if the photos of the crowds on the streets were for real - -THEY WERE!! No photoshop tricks there. I have never seen anything like it. And the energy! The energy was, simply put, nothing short of amazing! So much pride. Canadian pride and the pride of all the other nations who were represented. It was magical. Yes, the games did start out shaky, however, our enthusiasm and collective pride brought a vibe that was contagious. YAY!! And 14 gold medals didn't hurt either.

I wish I could show you with my photos what it was like here in Vancouver but unfortunately my camera broke. Luckily, my best friend has taken even better pictures than what I would of had (having a 10x optical zoom compared to 3x makes a difference). Thank you Trina for allowing me to use them.

Large Canadian flag covering the scaffolding of a building undergoing renovations. I think it's a great way to cover a building!

The Olympic Cauldron - our newest attraction!

Me, Trina & Shannon waiting in line at Russia House (it took over Science World during the games). The 2014 Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia. We got their early and only had to wait 2.5 hours to get it (believe me, 2.5 hours was a SHORT wait for some things).

Watching the Women's Gold Medal Hockey game at Robson Square. We just scored & the crowd is cheering!

Courtesy of Corina, owner of Moose's Down Under and friend to Trina's family, we got a table at her restaurant (which was packed) on Sunday to watch the Men's Gold Medal Hockey WIN!

The crowd cheering for Team Canada. What a hockey game!

There he is, the boy who scored the golden goal! Way to go Sidney Crosby!! And Luongo (Vancouver Canucks' best ever goalie), Perry, Toews, and all of Team Canada Men's Hockey Team!!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Let The Games Begin!

I just finished watching the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies (via TV) and am filled with awe pride for my country, city and athletes.

Living in Vancouver and watching over the years how the city has prepared has been interesting. Whether you are for, against or ambivilent about the games, you can't deny that a tale of history is emerging. This is the third Olympic games that have been held in Canada. I first watched the Montreal Summer games when I was but a child (and cried and cried watching the closing ceremonies because they were over, at least according to my dad). I remember watching a bit during the Calgary Winter games in 1988 but I was only 19 and had more important things to do (like shop). I was still proud though, that the games were in Canada. Now 22 years later (and only somewhat more mature) I am thrilled that my city and country is welcoming the best of the best in winter sports. I am even more thrilled that THIS WILL BE THE YEAR that Canada wins gold on home ground. The media campaigns have been stating this over & over and it's true. I saw it in the faces of Team Canada as they entered BC Place. You can feel it all over the city. My friends believe. I  BELIEVE!

Like it or not, the Olympics are here. It is a wonderful celebration of sport and sportsmanship. Kudos and best of luck to all the athletes. I couldn't do what they do. I don't have the discipline, the drive or the talent. They are to be celebrated!


Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies.

photo from www.examiner.com

One a sad note, I'd like to extend my thoughts, prayers and condolences to the family, friends, teammates and country of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who was killed in a practice luge run earlier today. May you find peace and your spirit live on.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Day Trippin' - Victoria

There is nothing like a day trip to break up the monotony of regular life. That's one of many features that I love about Vancouver and area. So many nearby places to experience: Harrison Hot Springs, Fort Langley, Whistler, The Gulf Islands, Victoria, Bowen Island. Heck, you can even cross the US border and go to Bellingham, WA! What a great way to spend a day off.

As much as I like the idea of those day trips mentioned above, I actually have only gone to two places. Yes, I admit...I am a day-trippin' freshman. One that is still in freshman year when I should have already graduated college! Well at least I know I have that option of a taking off to explore one of these locales.

In Victoria, BC lives a friend of mine, so naturally I make a point of visiting her a few times a year.  I love the idea of meeting a friend for lunch in another town.  I am not talking about crossing a street in Vancouver and meeting them in  Burnaby.  I mean going some distance just for lunch and maybe some shopping. When I worked in a travel agency, at time when discounted or free travel was a common perk, I loved flying from Thunder Bay in the early a.m. to spend the day shopping in Toronto only to return that same evening. It made me feel privledged, even if the flights were usually free. For me, visiting my friend in Victoria is same. I love how it sounds to say "I just spent the day in Victoria.". Funny how the mind can conjure up these ideas and associations. Silly? Perhaps, but I like it.

I'll leave you with a few pictures from my time "wandering" around Victoria BC:

(Top) A BC ferry returning from Vancouver Island as I head to it.

(Below) The marker for the start of the Trans-Canada Highway.
"Hip Hip Hooray"!