The Great Flight from Sydney to Sydney

After 6 weeks of happily living and working on a farm, I realized I had some hostel vouchers I need to use up so I’m on the road for a few weeks to discover the coast.

But let me pick up where I left off last – the long, dirty, painful flight from Sydney, Canada to Sydney, Australia.

Flight1

Sydney to Toronto

The day started early at 2:30 am. I hadn’t been sleeping well the past few days (apparently the stresses of last minute pre-trip stuff and of sharing a room with a boyfriend when you’re used to having your own sleeping bubble were getting to me) so I had probably only gotten about an hour’s nap in.

Whatever.

You don’t need to be well rested to sit on a plane for two days.

Since Ed and I were flying out the same day, me to Australia and him to New Jersey, we had arranged to be the same flight to Toronto. The same ungodly 5 am flight to Toronto.

So up at 2:30. Last minute baggage rearrangements. Force down a breakfast (doesn’t it feel like we just had supper?). Pile into the car. Panic that we’re running late. Go over packing list in head. Check for passport, phone, wallet. All ok. Check for credit card, bank card, hostel card. Shit. Forgot hostel card. We’re about 15 minutes away from home. No time to turn back.

Where is your hostel card? Maybe I can mail it to you?” My mom offers.

I try to remember the last place I put it. I thought it was in my wallet. Guess not. Ed reminds me I took a picture of it so I’d have the number. I leaf through the card pictures I took. It’s not among them. Dammit. Ed insists that he remembers me taking the picture. I scroll through my emails to the scanned documents I send to myself. Ah! There it is, on the last page, after my passport. Which explains why I can’t find the card. Like all last pages of scanned documents, it’s still sitting in the scanner. Looks like I’ll be using that scanned image from now on.

We get to the airport much earlier than expected. I guess even in places where there is no traffic, it’s still faster to drive at night. And, unlike its Australia namesake, Sydney, NS airport is very small. Only two gates. After goodbyes to my parents, we went throught the security queue and squeezed into the tiny waiting room. I tried to fill up our water bottles, but no drinking fountains and the facets seemed specifically designed to not fit a bottle under them. I refuse to pay 3$ for water so going thirsty it is.

When boarding time came along, Ed nudged me onto the plane, where I promptly sat down and passed out.

When I opened my eyes, we were sitting on a runway, not moving. Did I miss take off and landing? Are we in Toronto?

Ed shook his head. “There’s something wrong with the fuel tanks, they can’t get fuel in.

So much for sleeping through my first flight, but for once I’m glad that both of us have really long layovers at Pearsons. We could sit on the runway all morning and still make our connections. I go back to sleep.

From then on, the flight was uneventful. Despite our delays, we were barely an hour late into Toronto. We roamed the airport looking for food we could agree on. Ed hates breakfast food while I could dine on bacon and eggs all day. We found some place that looked like it could serve both our needs and sat down. Unfortunatly for Ed, though, they refused to feed him lunch yet, he was forced to trade his meaty sandwich for an eggy one. At least the food was pretty good. I got eggs and steak and was quite impressed with the quality of the steak.

Ed’s layover ended before mine, plus he had to go through customs, so after eating, we walked to the airport border and I watched him go through the door towards the customs agents. I gave myself a few seconds and wandered back to my terminal.

All By Myself – Toronto to Vancouver

Not sure why, but the 9 hours I had left to wait went by fast. I don’t remember what I did, probably a combination of reading, playing phone games and staring at the wall, but before I knew it, I was getting on the plane.

Despite the airline completely ignoring my seat selections when I had booked the ticket (why did they even ask me to choose a seat when I booked if they totally ignored it?), I was still sitting somewhere decent and the flight to Vancouver was pretty smooth.

Vancouver was to be a quick stop to trade passengers, but they asked us to get off the plane with all our belongings anyway, to “clean” the plane. Oh well. Would be nice to stretch my legs. Plus Vancouver airport is pretty interesting.

Reboarding, however, didn’t happen when it was supposed to. Accustomed to delays, I didn’t look up from my book. I had no one waiting for me on the other end and my 9 am predicted arrival time gave me lots of time to make it to my hostel before night!

Finally, after about a 20 minute delay, the airline agent picked up the mic.

“Thank you for your patience. On the way to Vancouver, there was an incident.”

The waiting room went dead quiet. Except for one girl on the phone who clearely didn’t catch the word “incident”. She looked startled when everyone turned to stare at her.

“We hit a bird.”

There was a communal sigh of relief and the agent let us know that we’d be kept updated on our flight status.

In the end, though, it was decided that they couldn’t confirm the safety of the plane until morning and that we’d all be sent to hotels. It was getting pretty late at night and I’d been travelling for well over 24 hours already so the prospect of a free shower and a few hours in a cosy bed didn’t bother me as much as it bothered the other passengers.

The process was surprisingly smooth. The airline gave priority to families, which is fair considering travel and delays are a million times harder on kids and parents than on the rest of us. Eventually, after a few other queues, I queued up for the shuttle to the Delta.

Now, while reception at the hotel was totally ready for us, the shuttle didn’t change its schedule to accommodate 200 sudden patrons. Being a backpacker, I got kinda lucky. I’m so used to carrying my luggage that it didn’t even occur to me to queue up to stow it. I just walked up to my seat and crammed all my belongings into my lap. Those queueing to give their luggage to the driver had to wait up to 2 hours to get on their hotel shuttle.
Just in case you were wondering, it was pretty glorious to have a hotel shower and have a big soft bed ALL TO MYSELF. I made sure I took up as much room as possible.

It was a short night and by 8 am, along with the rest of the “bird plane” as we had been named by the airport staff, I was standing at the gate with a family and an airline agent.

“We were wondering if you would mind changing seats. See, this family with small kids is split up. If you would agree to move to this seat here, they could sit together and you would be next to an empty seat.”

We’re all going to the same place and I definitely feel for parents travelling with small kids, so I shrugged and told them no problem. The family must have been pretty stressed about the situation because they were the most grateful people I’ve seen in a long time.

Vancouver to Sydney

My new seat ended up being pretty amazing. I was moved from a window seat (nice views once in awhile but having to climb over two people every time I want to pee) to an aisle seat in the middle sections with an empty seat next to me (so no views but total bathroom freedom and no one next to me bugging me when they have to go). The woman two seats over was quite awesome as well – a former world traveller from Newfoundland who was moving to Australia with her Australian husband and their two young children. We shared long distance dating stories, comiserated about Newfoundland weather and compared travel logs. I expressed my admiration of her bringing two young kids litterly around the world from St. John’s to Australia, with all their worldly belongings. I had enough trouble going by myself with a backpack. I can’t imagine the strength this woman had to manage it with her entire family as a permanant move. She didn’t even look tired. Her kids, as well, were probably the most well behaved kids in the history of flying. I want to know her secret.

Finally, FINALLY, we touched down in Sydney, Australia.

Flight2

The flight crew distributed immigration cards. My heart sank a bit as I read them.

Are you carrying medications, firearms or explosives? Not sure why they’re all in the same question, but yes, no, no.

Are you carrying any items that have been used in freshwater? Sandals from the New Jersey canoeing trip. Shit.

Have you been to a farm or a national park within the last 30 days? Dammit dammit!

There’s no way they’re going to let me in their country!

I though about doing this trip in reverse and panicked a little.

Immigration, however, proved to be totally different than Canada-US immigration. When travelling between Canada and the US, they question you a bit as they stare at your squirming, deciding whether your squirming is suspicious or not. In Australia, they used an invisible stamp on my passport and wordlessly waved me along. I swear the guy didn’t even look at me.

The next stop was a lady who asked me if I was carrying medications. I said yes. She asked me if they were for myself. I said yes. She let me proceed to quarantine. (Wait! I thought, aren’t you going to ask me about firearms and explosives?)

At quarantine, they asked me about my freshwater use and farm experiences. She seemed uninterested and waved me along. I have heard of people having to get sprayed at quarantine, but I suppose it depends what country you’re arriving from. Apparently, no one cares if you pet a sheep in Canada.

At last, exhausted and loaded up with bags, I stumbled out of customs into arrivals, completing the journey from Sydney to Sydney. I tweeted and Facebooked a quick picture, then went to search for the train into town.

They put a McDonalds at International Arrivals so us North Americans don't have too much of a culture shock.

They put a McDonalds at International Arrivals so us North Americans don’t have too much of a culture shock.

Posted in backpacking, Globe Trotting | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The End of the Epic Drive: The Maritimes

At the New Brunswick/Nova Scotia border. Note the Acadian flag in the background.

At the New Brunswick/Nova Scotia border. Note the Acadian flag in the background.

After almost a full month on the road, I was finally at the last leg of the drive, the Maritimes.

maritimes

First stop was my aunt’s place in Miramichi, New Brunswick (1 on the map) and the second was my parents place outside of Sydney, Nova Scotia.

My aunt lives in the house my grandparents build when my dad and his siblings were young (I like to lightheartedly refer to it as the “family homestead“.) I hadn’t been there since I was a teenager, but I love going when I was a kid. The house in deep in the Miramichi region, on a large piece of land out in the country. I have so many memories of running through the field, climbing trees and jumping off the wharf… I hope my aunt lives there a long time so that I can bring my kids, once I have kids.

As usual, our schedule was kinda tight so we only spent a night. I didn’t get a chance to show Ed my favorite neighboorhood attractions: Gordon’s Warf (apparently renovated from the ruined warf I used to jump from as a kid) and McDonald Farm. I did, however, make a point of visiting my grandparents before we left in the morning. The graveyard by the little church they used to attend is just across the street. It’s really not the same as meeting their physical bodies, but regardless, i was happy to introduce Ed to them.

We made it to Cape Breton in pretty good time. Even with my GPS getting all weird and sending us across a cute and short but stupidly overpriced and necessary ferry. (I suspect the ferry pays Garmin to have their GPSs send visitors.)

I hoped that a couple of days at my parents’ would have been sufficient, but it was still pretty rushed. My parents are very supportive of my adventures in a “we’ll be there for you but we’ll let you make all your own mistakes“, which is fantastic for my independence but perhaps not the most time efficient way of doing things.

After about 6 trips into town (my parents live almost an hour out of town so each trip is an en-devour) over 4 days due to my forgetting yet another piece of paperwork, we had my car tuned up and transferred over to my dad for safekeeping, and my banking arrangements made (other than the parts where the bank screwed up and I had to chase after them to fix. I love my bank but their Sydney branch makes me want to scream. My parents tell it’s the Cape Breton way – everything is sloooow and stress-freeeeeee. Except for that kind of pace just makes me more stressed out.)

In there, we did find the time to squeeze in a trip to Louisbourg (and I congratulated myself on bringing my family national park pass – that trip alone was worth almost as much as the whole annual pass) where I befriended a sheep, ate 17th century style bread and learned how to spin wool. I tried to teach Ed about French Canadian history, but I think by then he was a little tired of my constant lectures.

This sheep likes to be scratched behind the ears.

This sheep likes to be scratched behind the ears.

We also stopped by a McDonalds so I could show Ed that the McLobster is a regular thing in Nova Scotia.

The McLobster!

The McLobster!

We did a little scenic road trip too (my parents love scenic roadtrips – something I kind of inherited, I think), stopping at a canal. My dad caught a fish on the second cast so we figured the fish were hungry that day and gave fishing a try. Even though I’d fished a lot as a kid, I still struggled to get my line without accidentally assaulting my neighbours. Ed, on the other hand, picked up a rod for the fist time and fished as if he’d been doing it all his life. He’s such a natural at the most unexpected things. The fish my dad caught was a fluke, though (or perhaps it was the last fish in the canal), and no one there caught anything else that day.

First (and only) catch of the day.

First (and only) catch of the day.

Then, before I knew it, it was time to packup and head over to the airport for the very action packed flight “From Sydney, to Sydney“.

Cher, my parent's ninja cat, says hi.

Cher, my parents’ ninja cat, says hi.

Posted in backpacking, Globe Trotting | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Epic Drive: Quebec City

Whew! After some unplanned oopsies that threw me into the thick of things for about a week, I finally sat down long enough to edit and post the Quebec City portion of the Epic Drive.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about living on a farm, it’s that you never know what will happen next. Thankfully, I got a nice, relaxing weekend off. A heat wave settled in on top of our drought and anything more exerting than eating ice cream on the couch takes a lot of effort, so the weekend off is doubly appreciated. I did a bit of writing in hopes to catch up to today…I’m really excited to post about my adventures in Australia, but, before that, I really do want to relive and share my visit back home. It’s a long post, especially considering we were only there for two days, but I guess that if you move fast, you can pack a lot of adventure in two days.

I also found the pictures Ed took, which is why this post is suddenly filled with pictures of me. I apologize if my unruly hair and lack of posing skills break any computer screens.

Homecoming

Highway 40! (Yes, I know 20 is faster but I wanted to take the 40, dammit!)

Highway 40! (Yes, I know 20 is faster but I wanted to take the 40, dammit!)

Quebec city is home. Always has been, always will be. I mean, my Rocky Mountains are home too, but Quebec city is slightly more home than the Rockies. Not sure I’d want to live in Quebec anymore (political drama, much?), but it’s still as home as home gets.

I hadn’t been back since moving out West three years ago. In that time, my parents sold the house I grew up in, most of my friends moved away and my baby brother bought a house in the distant suburbs.

So Ed and I showed up at Andy’s house with my car full of luggage and unloaded into his spare bedroom for a few nights.

I should probably mention here that I hadn’t seen Andy since I don’t know when. It may have even been before I went out West. And I think I had only talked to him once, at Christmas or something. Every family has something they’re terribad at and mine is keeping in touch. Still, siblings are siblings: the kids you once took your baths with, the kids you picked up and threw out of your room when they messed with your Barbies, the kids you banded with when your parents lost their tempers, the kids you fought over the TV remote control with. When I was little, I’d see my dad visit his siblings and his siblings visit him (my mom never visited siblings because she was an only child) and I couldn’t wait for my brothers and I to be adults with our own separate lives so that we could visit each other.

Andy and Ed got on well (which wasn’t a surprise, really, Andy is super charismatic and Ed gets along with almost everyone) and I got to enjoy my childhood wish of being an adult who visits their adult sibling. Andy and I have always been on the same rhythm too (our middle brother, Chris, functions on a different beat… I’m not sure how to explain it other than with musical terms), so it’s almost eerie how easy it is for us to reconnect after a long time. Even though we haven’t spoken in years and live on separate sides of the continent, we still use a lot of same words and tend to say the same things.

Sight Seeing

La Chute Kabir Kouba, in my brother's neighbourhood. (Random fact, a good CEGEP friend of mine sat on the Chute Kabir Kouba park's board of directors for years. That friend is now also in Australia, but nowhere near me.)

La Chute Kabir Kouba, in my brother’s neighbourhood. (Random fact, a good CEGEP friend of mine sat on the Chute Kabir Kouba park’s board of directors for years. That friend is now also in Australia, but nowhere near me.)

Poor Ed got dragged all around town, to my old neighboorhood, my old ski center, my old lake beach, my old scout meeting place and all my favorite nooks and crannies downtown. I’m not sure what he thought of the whole thing. I don’t think I left him much room for opinions! I feel like he didn’t quite get the fiery passionate love I have for my hometown (he was probably too overloaded with all the stories and info I threw at him), but he did notice a lot of the city’s characteristic traits and ongoing soul-searching.

While we were downtown, we walked by the parliament which had this growing on front of it:

Canada 2 and Australia 1 032

I thought it was a brilliant idea: it’s a public vegetable garden. While most of the garden is used to grow food for a charity organisation that provides to needy families, a few rows are for visitors to help themselves. It’s super nice – instead of wasting ressources on a pretty but otherwise useless flower garden, they’ve planted something lovely AND practical. (Note that the practice is not new, I can’t remember where the original public vegetable garden – but it started somewhere in Europe I think. I’m just really glad that the idea was trasmitted to the parliament grounds. Hopefully more public gardens will follow suit.)

Ed and I each ate a tomato. They were delicious.

DSC_0053

We also stopped to relax at the Artillery Park, which was one of my favorite museums as a kid (I used to be a huge local history nerd and just loved these interactive sites.) Even if you don’t want to see the exhibits, there are a lot of spots in the park to sit and relax. Plus the view is pretty nice, as seen above.

In terms of food, we had brunch at Chez Temporel, a tiny cafe on a side street of the historical part of town. Its semi-hidden location gives it a local secret feel, though Trip Adviser makes sure that travellers who do their homework are rewarded with yummy soups and sandwiches.

Another restaurant we went to was Le Gros Hector, which claims to have invented local delicacy pain à viande (basically seasonned ground beef in a hot dog bun) upon my brother’s suggestion. It was a good idea. Despite rollerblading by it all the time in the summer (it’s right by the multipurpose trail that I was a regular on), I had never been there and it is somewhat of a local landmark. Over the years, it kept it’s authentic old school Quebec casse-croute vibe too – a vibe I can’t really describe with words out of fear of “getting it wrong”, but that I was happy to show to Ed (accompanied by stories of epic casse-croutes in random trailers along remote highways).

While in the city, we stopped for drinks at two places. The first, Le Sacrilege has lovely courtyard, perfect for cold beers on hot, sunny days. It’s been a favorite of mine since before I was old enough to really know what bars were. When strolling down St Jean with my mom, I’d see the long, narrow courtyard entrance and imagine all sorts of stories of magic and mystery. Now that I stop by once in awhile for a drink, it’s less mysterious, but it still has a ancient magic feel.

Stop to check a message and someone takes your picture.

Stop to check a message and someone takes your picture.

The second place was l’Atelier, another recommendation from my brother.

Look at us, taking an artsy picture!

Look at us, taking an artsy picture!

L’Atelier is a new (meaning I don’t think it was around the last time I was in town) place on Grande Allee specializing in creative cocktails and tartar. Two of my favorite things! To my deepest sadness, I had no room in my belly for tartar, no matter how delicious (I’ll just have to go back!), but Ed and I did have some fun ordering funky cocktails while soaking up the nice weather on their terrasse.

Tracking down friends

Of my friends who were still based in the city, almost all were travelling abroad. I love that my friends are globe trotters too, but it does make homecoming meetings a challenge to coordinate.

My old childhood friend S, however, confirmed that he was currently in town and that he’d be happy to get together with Ed and I.

S I hadn’t seen in…13? 15? years. This is where Facebook is pretty nice. S was a friend from my scout group – as the troup’s two resident computer game geeks we gelled pretty fast. (As a side note, we also went to the same high school, but I don’t think we ever really crossed paths in the hallways. )Sadly, after I moved away we fell out of touch. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, we started leaving each other likes and comments, so when I thought of friends still living in QC that I might like to visit, S came to mind.

Like most other reunions of old friends, it was like we’d only last seen each other the day before. (Except, perhaps the hour or so we spend getting up to date about our respective life event from the past 15 years.) I don’t think either of us has changed all that much. Plus, much to my relief, his English is fantastic him and Ed could interact without me having to translate everything.

The Road Must Go On

After cramming a week’s worth of activities in 2 days, we said goodbye to my brother and thanked him for his hospitality.

As usual, I left with an endless mental list of things I want to do next time I visit. Becase I think it’ll be less than 3 years before I visit again. I might even visit for a decent amount of time. I’m not sure I ever want to deal with all the drama that comes with living in Quebec capital again, but it’s still home and I feel that the city with feature in one or several upcoming chapters of my life.

Never too old to take a picture sitting on a cannon! (But it is easier to climb on when you're 10.)

Never too old to pose for a picture sitting on a cannon! (But it is easier to climb on when you’re 10.)

Posted in backpacking, Eating, Globe Trotting | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Epic Journey: North America cross country drive, Sherbrooke/Montreal

I had been looking forward to bringing Ed to my home province for so long. I’m a Quebec city girl through and through and I couldn’t wait to show Ed my old stomping ground. As I look through my photo gallery, though, I realize that I was so much in my emotions that I totally forgot to take pictures. We spend almost a week in French Canada and I took a total of two pictures. One with a high school friend I was visiting (not a blog-type picture) and another for the next post.

So first stop was Sherbrooke. First stop should have probably been Montreal, but the map in my head was wrong so I made arrangements for Sherbrooke first, then Montreal. (By the way, the Quebec part of the trip was probably the most work to plan because there was so many people I wanted to see and I had to coordinate my schedule around them. Which is probably easy for all you socials out there, but I can barely send a Facebook message, much less coordinate visits with 5-10 different parties in a matter of 5 days.)

Oh! And I remembered you can do maps with Paint (I’m so spoiled with nice software that I forget Paint can do a lot of things, and is way easier to use too), so here’s a map:

That's sorta the road we took.

That’s sorta the road we took.

Anyway, to get to Sherbrooke from New Jersey I had to take a tunnel through NYC (a 13$ tunnel dammit. Another thing about East Coast driving, avoiding tolls is waaaaay harder than in the Midwest.) There were lots and lots of cars and it moved very slowly and I gave myself a pat on the shoulders for travelling on a weekend and not during weekday rush hour. From that day onward, I have been bragging about the time I “drove in NYC“.

We stayed with my friend MC in Sherbrooke, whom I was really excited to see again. We became friends in CEGEP in Quebec city and fell out of touch for awhile. She contacted me when she was travelling in the Rockies and her and one of her friends stayed a night or two at my appartment. I have a lot of admiration for MC, she’s extremely genuine, intelligent and thoughtful. Her friend is just like her, so we hit it off really well and I was very happy to have supper with both of them in Sherbrooke.

An interesting fact is that I actually lived in Sherbrooke for nearly 3 years. I did my undergrad at the university there. Another interesting fact is that I remember next to nothing about the city.

My friends took Ed and I for a walking tour around town and, with a few exceptions (funny how well I remembered the bus station) it was like the first time I was there. I mean, Sherbrooke HAS changed in the…8? (omg has it really been 8 years?) since I left, it’s always been a lovely place but I feel like it’s really growing and finding its identity now, but still, you’d think I’d remember more of it.

After a night in Sherbrooke, we got up early and set out to meet my high school friend and her young family in Longueuil (south shore of Montreal). I tried to show Ed my old school on the way out, but the roads were wierd (I accidently even ran a red light..oops!), we were running late and I couldn’t find the way into campus. So I pointed it out in the distance and we drove as fast as possible to Montreal.

The meetup with A and her family was sadly pretty short. I suspect I caught them at a bad time, so we just had brunch together and went our separate ways. A was the first out of our circle of friends to get married and have kids (actually, I think she is the only one married since our other friend with a family doesn’t believe in marriage) and I was so thrilled to meet her little one. It’s funny how I feel like none of us have really changed, yet our lives are so different than they were when we went out into the world at 16-17.

After brunch I painfully made my way onto the island (for the geographically challenged, Montreal proper is an island) to meet up with another friend, also named A. Again, I congratulated myself on the choice of day: Sunday is the perfect time to visit Montreal. The parking was both ample and cheap. And to my greatest relief, no one broke into my car (nor vandalized it for no reason, which seems to happen to a lot of people when they visit Montreal).

A2 had just moved into a trendy apartment near the old port so after showing us his cool new dwelling (and his fantastic workplace…I was seriously considering a career change after seeing where he works!), we brought Ed down to see old Montreal. “It’s like a crowded Quebec city” I explained to him, eager to show him the real thing.

And because I was anxious to get to my brother’s place in Quebec city before it got too late, after supper we hopped in the car, I got us onto the 40 (I know the 20 is faster, and my GPS was quite angry with me but I have so many happy childhood memories of the 40 that I was determined to stir up) and off we went. (Hmm, I made that sound so much simpler than it was… After been honked at dozens of times, caught in a handful of intersections, hyperventilating as I barely made it through a bagillion left hand turns, we made it onto the 40 without me dying of a heart attack. I brag about the NYC drive, but the Montreal one was so, oh so so so, much worse.)

Posted in backpacking, Globe Trotting | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Epic Journey: North America cross country drive, New Jersey

So much about writing regularly about all my adventures, yeah. It’s been awhile.

I don’t know if anyone still remembers my existence, but a promise is a promise (and that does include post cards which I promised many people… they are sitting next to my bed waiting to be written) so here I am, trying to catch up.

I made it to Australia, I got to tour the Sydney and Melbourne regions a bit and I’ve been working on a farm on the Liverpool plains for the past two weeks. It’s everything I dreamed of when I decided on this part of the Epic Journey so you won’t be hearing any complaints from me! (Except maybe on how expensive the internet is, which is a major reason I haven’t been around but that’s a topic for another day.)

But before we were so rudely interrupted by my lack of writing, I was telling about my drive across the continent. I believe I left off while I was staying with Ed in New Jersey. It seems right to pick up from there.

I did originally write part 2 of the Epic North America Drive as one big post, but even by keeping my writing to the depth of “we went to x and it was fun“, it was too long to be worthwhile. So to make this travelling journaling more readable, I’ll feed it to the blog bit by bit.

Oh and I was going to make a nice map of the whole drive to make visual types, like myself, happy, but I realized I don’t have any imaging software on this computer and not enough data to download one. So you’ll just have to look at the one on the previous post and imagine the line being all the same colour. (The map isn’t 100% accurate regarding my itinerary, but it’s close enough.)

The second part of that journey leg was really different from the first. No less hectic – I don’t know how to be not-hectic, but instead of exploring my focus was more about reconnecting with (and showing Ed) places that are significant from me. Because, no matter how much I try to escape it, I was born and raised on the East Coast.

New Jersey

When you’re driving, you know when you cross the invisible border between the Midwest and the East Coast. Your thoughts go from “why is everyone driving so slow?” to “HOW THE HELL CAN EVERYONE DRIVE SO FAST?!?!” Your bladder becomes easier to empty, the gas prices skyrise and you longingly reminisce on having 6 lanes to yourself as you try to squeeze into the one, winding, hilly lane that somehow fits two directions of traffic, several packs of joggers, a lost herd of cattle and a pair of cyclists (plus that guy who finds some way to pass you).

I’ve always kinda wondered how anyone could live in New Jersey. It has the knack of being too crowded and too sprawled at the same time, it has very little local pride, it’s stupidly expensive for no reason, and, besides beaches and Atlantic city, it doesn’t advertise any really memorable feature. Since sampling its driving conditions, I REALLY wonder how anyone can live in New Jersey and be willing to step outside their houses.

But regardless, it’s Ed’s home state and we had plenty to do. (“What are we going to do at your place for almost one whole week?” I asked. Silly me.) We met up with our guild leader for most of a day (which is something I always look forward to when I got to New Jersey. Meeting up with guildies is like my favorite to do and our guild leader is a super cool guy.) We went to dinner with one of Ed’s clients/friends and her brother in New York (Becco’s – a higher end but still super reasonably priced Italian place in…um… a part of NYC that looks a lot like everywhere else in NYC), also a fantastic evening. Thinking back, I should have used the oppertunity to dress up, with it being NYC and all but… I think by the time I reached the East Coast I was so tired of packing and repacking that I was just wearing one of two outfits (nice outfit or comfy outfit) all the time.

Then Ed talked me into canoe-camping.

Generally I’m the outdoorsey one in the relationship. He’s a great sport (and i mean it – a really great sport. I’ve dragged him to do so many crazy, uncomfortable things and he NEVER complains) about eveything. Camping, though, is one of those things I did lots of as a kid/teenager and I feel like I’ve been there, done that about it. But Ed loves camping. And he likes canoing. I don’t play well with others so kayaking is my sport. My canoeing excursions generally end with me turning my paddle into a weapon. But since he always follows me on my adventures, I gave it a go. And it ended up being really fun.

Canada 2 and Australia 1 024

We floated down the Delaware River Gap, which runs between Pennsylvania and New Jersey (and not Delaware, at least not at that height).

IMG_20140821_125549

I can see why a lot of canoe camping journeys use it: it was perfect. (If you’re looking to do the same thing as us, the company we went with was Kittatinny Canoes. They did a good job and, as far as I can tell, they were easy to book/deal with.)

The water is calm, but there’s enough of a current to keep us from having to work hard. I asked for a shortish route, so we did 21 miles and we probably could have finished in one day. (But what’s the fun in that?) The whole river is beautiful (I swear! My pictures just kinda suck.) and there are nice campspots to choose from along the way.

We were lucky with the weather (besides the lack of light not being ideal for photos). It did rain. And thunder and lightning and flash flood warnings and everything, but it did so after we finished supper and got our campsite all ready. So we barely go wet at all. I was nervous about the canoes getting washed away, but clever thinking had us pull them way up on the shore and tipped outside down, so everything was fine the next morning. (Other people we met were not so lucky: one group had to hunt down an escaped canoe at 3 am. If any of my childhood canoe camping in a wet climate adventures taught me anything, its how to keep canoes from fleeing into a swollen river.)

By morning, the rain had almost stopped and by the time we were ready to set off, it had dried up completely. I know. Look up “lucky” in the dictionnary and you’ll see a picture of our faces.

As a side note, I got really dirty. Like, really, really dirty. No matter how much I scrubbed, it took me a good week to get all the dirt off me. I realize how old and no-fun I’m getting: there was a time where being THAT dirty would have been the coolest. Ah well.

Next stop, the Westernish part of La Belle Province!

Posted in backpacking, Globe Trotting | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Epic Drive Thus Far

Blue is what I've done, Red is still upcoming.

Blue is what I’ve done, Red is still upcoming.

I added it up and since leaving home I’ve spent 296.32$CAN on gas. The mileage, I didn’t track. Did have to stop for an oil change in Winnipeg though.

So far it’s been pretty smooth. No flat tires, no car break-ins, no encounters with unsavory types, no collisions… Knock on wood.

I’ve kept with my main goal of “doing cool things in cool places“, but as far as keeping records, well, let’s just say I update Facebook once in awhile so my mom doesn’t think I’ve died a horrible death. Even with forcing myself to take it easy, I still seem keep running from place to place until I collapse from exhaustion.

On a side note, like all trips I do, I’ve been in constant battle with myself, with, on one side, the urge to see every friend ONE MORE TIME and DO ALL THE THINGS, and on the other, an OMG I JUST NEED A FEW HOURS OF PRIVACY. Don’t let it fool you, travelling alone does not mean travelling lonely. Half the time I’m just looking for excuses to lock myself in a bathroom with a book for an hour so I can do nothing and not feel guilty (Disclosure: I am writing these very lines while locked in a bathroom with my laptop and my phone).

Anyway, back to the happy stuff. A detailed recap of everything I’ve done would be super boring and take forever, but for those who are interested in my adventures, or who are planning this kind of journey themselves, here’s a summery of the places I went, the lodgings I found, the food I ate and the fun things I found to do.

Stop: Edmonton

Henna art done at the Pakistan tent during the Heritage Festival. (I swear that my hands are not usually this swollen. Was a hot day.)

Henna art done at the Pakistan tent during the Heritage Festival. (I swear that my hands are not usually this swollen. Was a hot day.)

Where I stayed: HI-Edmonton Hostel (2 nights), Fannon‘s (1 night)
What I remember eating: Food I brought with me, the yummy ethnic food of Edmonton’s Heritage Festival and an amazing homecooked meal at the Fannon household.
What I did: Heritage Days and went to Fannon’s birthday party.
Comments:
I stay in Edmonton all the time, so this was mainly to wish Fannon happy birthday (and return the book I borrowed from him – good book by the way. You should read it.) and meet his newborn son, as well as say goodbye to a former coworker who’d helped me out when I first moved here. My stay happily coincided with Edmonton’s Heritage Days, which is one of my favorite events. Each local ethnic community puts up a tent and sells foods and crafts, presents some samples of their culture and just radiates awesomeness. If you’re in Edmonton, Heritage Days is a must-see. On my way out of the city, I also stopped at Ben‘s. After all those hours in WoW challenge modes together, I was glad to finally have the oppertunity to visit him. I did forget my (horse)riding boots at his place, though. Oops.

Stop: Calgary
Where I stayed: HI-Calgary Hostel (1 night)
What I remember eating: Chicken at Boxwood
What I did: Had supper with Voss and Vid
Comments:
Like Edmonton, I’ve visited Calgary enough times that I was pretty much just there to say hello and goodbye to some friends whom I really don’t get to see enough. If you’re visiting Western Canada, though, stop 3-4 days in Calgary. It has the vibe (and the delicious food!) of any modern city, with some good ol’ fashion cowboy feels. Typically Alberta.

Stop: Regina

The Willow on Wescana.

The Willow on Wescana.

Where I stayed: HI-Regina Hostel (2 nights)
What I remember eating: Soup and bison (or other game…I can’t remember!) burger at the Willow on Wescana.
What I did: Visited the Saskatchewan Legislature Building, rollerbladed in Wescana Centre, explored downtown.
Comments:
Regina isn’t a very big city and I was satisfied after a full day there. Wescana Centre is really lovely and I was super excited to get to take out my rollerblades. The multipurpose path isn’t maintained QUITE well enough for easy blading, but I did manage to skate around most of the park. The hostel was quiet and cosy and I kinda felt bad for the staff. The place is a little run down, but I don’t think they get nearly enough traffic to have the funds to really renovate. Other than the showers hidden in the basement of the hostel (I swear I was terrified of being assaulted each time I took a shower), I really enjoyed the hostel and wished I could do something to help them.

Stop: Winnipeg

What a great view point!

What a great view point!

Where I stayed: Couch surfed with the best host ever! (3 nights)
What I remember eating: Many dishes at Folklorama! Meiji Sushi, Bodegoes at the Stadium.
What I did: The Brazillian, Japanese and Chinese pavillions at Folklorama, shopping at the Forks, touring St Boniface, seeing a Goldeyes (baseball) game, exclusive tour of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Assiniboine Park/Zoo
Comments:
The more I get to know Winnipeg, the more I solidify my belief that Winnipeg is Canada’s most underrated city. (Perhaps because I have yet to see its Winterpeg incarnation!) It seems like there’s always something happening and something new to discover around every corner. The hostel I had stayed at last time had changed ownership and didn’t seem like somewhere I wanted to be anymore, so I decided to try my luck at Couch Surfing…. BEST DECISION EVER! My host was just amazing. I stayed with her for 2 days and 3 nights and she made sure I had a safe and action-packed stay in her city. She worked at the Ballet, so I got a free tour, got to meet many of her coworkers (my little girl within was exstatic about meeting professional ballet dancers and my grown up self was delighted to see some behind the scenes magic), including a world renown choreagrapher. She took me to a baseball game, the local market and to the French district (St Boniface). Once again, Winnipeg was a journey highlight. I’m not really one for long term city life, but I think my love affair with Winnipeg could one day extend to the possibility of me settling there for a few years.

Stop: Itasca State Park, Minnesota

So peaceful!

So peaceful!

Where I stayed: HI-Mississipi Headwaters Hostel (1 Night)
What I remember eating: A can of soup I had brought with me.
What I did: Hiked and took lots of pictures.
Comments:
After the hussle and bussle of cities (and before the hussle and bussle of more cities), I was super happy to turn into Itasca State Park. And while I was expecting some relief, I had no idea how impressed I’d be. I hiked around for a few hours after I got there (saw the starting point of the Mississipi! So cool!), just completely in awe of how beautiful and peaceful it was. And yep, this is coming from the girl who spent the last 3 years hiking Jasper. It’s just a totally different kind of beautiful. After the cliffs and peaks and other Rocky Mountains drama, it was soothing to see Mother Nature take on a more gentle presentation. The hostel was quite exceptional as well. I was the only traveller staying, which was a bonus, but even if the place had been busy, the impeccable rooms, the spacious kitchen, the excellent bathrooms and the lovely manager made me vow to tell everyone about how they should make a trip to Itasca and stay at the hostel.

Stop: Milwaukee

Where I stayed: Oestrus‘ Couch (1 Night)
What I remember eating: Transfer Pizzeria. Stopped at Caleo Coffeehouse in Kenosha on the way out.
What I did: Caught up with the awesome O and hot yoga.
Comments:
Milwaukee is another underated city, although a few wrong turns can bring you into some odd looking neighbourhoods. This time I wasn’t staying long enough to linger (O had to go kick some Magic ass at Gen Con the next day), but we did go to eat at one her favorite places (just in time for their Foodie Week special too!) and got all caught up on our girl talk. I hadn’t realized how much I missed her! After she went to work the next day, I hit up a local hot yoga place for something to do before heading to Chicago. It was glorious! I did a lot better than expected too. Usually I spend half my Bikram classes on my back, on the verge of consciousness. This time I only got really lightheaded 3 times. No almost puking and no blacking out! (One day I’ll reach the point where my hot yoga goals will be to twist myself into barely human shapes. For now, it is still to get through a class without dizzy spells.) After a refreshing shower, I drove to Kenosha, right on the border, to have lunch, drink coffee and plan my next stop (and enjoy my last hour of not stressing over the possibility of my car getting smashed up by thieves).

Stop: Chicago

Chicago: City of the Best Secret Tiny Backyards

Chicago: City of the Best Secret Tiny Backyards

Where I stayed: Wrigley Hostel (3 Nights)
What I remember eating: Chicago Food Planet’s Gold Coast and Old Town Food Tour, Joy Yee’s Noodles, Commonweath Tavern
What I did: Food tour, yeaaaaah!!!!! Explored the Gold Coast and Chinatown. Met up with Team Sport guildies Thespius and Jayme at the Commonweath Tavern, then with Red Tear guildy Noldor at Ravina Park for a picnic on the lawn during Don Giovani.
Comments:
Oh how I love Chicago. Like Winnipeg, this was a city I’d visited before and promised myself I’d visit again. I walk into stuff while gaping at the architecture. I eat so much I get sick. I learn a shit ton. I bond with people on the train whenever it jolts and we fall into each others laps. I have the best times with old gaming friends. I always say I’d never live in the US (or in a city), but for Chicago…. I could be convinced. This time around, Chicago Food Planet’s affordable food tours were one of the many discoveries I made. If you’re heading to Chicago, check them out! (Ask for Krista as a guide – she’s fantastic! I want to be her friend so bad it’s not even funny.) Another discovery was Ravinia Park. I was looking for a show that was more….calm… than those I normally go to and stumbled upon Don Giovani, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, at Ravinia Park. Then my former guildy Noldor suggested we meet up so I asked if he wanted to come along. And wow! From now on, this is the official grounds of all gaming meetups! It was perfect – the low key atmosphere, the beautiful music, the picnic setting… I highly recommend it. I also got to hang out with some other guildies whose feelings I probably hurt by not letting them know I was in town (I thought they were going to Gen Con! AND I didn’t want to seem like a creepy stalker). More people that I didn’t realize how much I missed them. Talk of fun friendly game nights was had… Gotta put this together, even if I’m overseas for the near future!

Stop: Malabar Farm, Ohio

IMG_20140816_110604

Where I stayed: HI-Lucas Malabar Hostel (2 Nights)
What I remember eating: The Reuben at the Malabar Farm Restaurant
What I did: Hiked, visited the farm and did some tours.
Comments:
After all the running around Chicago I did, the pastoral setting of Malabar Farm was a great place to recover. I set personal sleeping records (the hostel beds there are SO comfortable!) and spend my full day there leisurely strolling through the farm grounds (instead of blogging like I was supposed to). The farm has a lot more history than I expected: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married there, famous author (and kinda of all-around cool guy) Louis Bromfield lived there and ghost hunters flock to catch a glimpse of Ceely Rose.

And then I tackled the 9 hour drive through the rest of Ohio, Pennsylvania and half of New Jersey. But my adventures that point on are for another update.

Posted in backpacking, Globe Trotting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Epic Journey Begins! (Much more quietly than expected.)

Today is Sunday. I’ve been unemployed since Wednesday and technically homeless since Thursday. (I say “technically” since, as far as homelessness goes, living out of my car and sleeping in hostels is pretty luxurious.)

I had lots of notes about moving out of my apartment and into storage. I had notes about my last day at work. I had notes about the fun times I had at Edmonton’s Heritage Days/Festival.

I had so many notes and blog post ideas, but as the stress of customer service, of performing and of not killing people by accident is replaced by the more mundane stress of booking hostels, complaining that the friends I want to visit don’t answer their emails and hoping that no one breaks into my car, all that’s left is a lot of sleepyness. It took a couple of days to kick in- I suppose a lifetime of being ALL-GO-ALL-THE-TIME takes a while to wear off- but more and more I wonder if I’m an early victim of the zombie apocalypse.

My interactions go like this:

Other person: Hi!
Me: Heeeeeeeeyyyy…..
Other person: How are you?
Me: …sorry….what was thaaaaaaat?
Other person: How are you?
Me: Oh… Gooooooood.
Other person: ….
Me: Oooooh, how about youuuuu?
Other person: Good, thank you! Do you remember me?
Me: *little bit of drool*

Yeaaaaaaah

Anyway, here’s the general itinerary. I’ve rehearse it so often that even in my zombiness, I can still recite it flawlessly:

Part 1: Driving to Nova Scotia to leave car with parents
- Edmonton
- Calgary
- Regina
- Winnipeg
- Small town in Minnesota
- Milwaukee area and/or Chicago
- Small town in Ohio
- New Jersey
- Sherbrooke/Montreal
- Quebec city
- Miramichi
- Cap Breton

Part 2 – Australia
- Flying from Sydney, Canada to Sydney, Australia (HAHAHAHA)
- Have surfing/ranch camps in September (That’s right, not too old for camp!)
- May or may not work based on whether someone will hire me only for 2-3 months.

Part 3- South East Asia
- Spending 2 months in a small village in Thailand
- Then going wherever. Planning ahead is overrated.

Part 4- Returning home
- When I run out of money, get tired of travelling, or government wants me home. Whichever happens first.
- Don’t know where I’m coming home to. Would like to work up North, but we’ll see. Would also like to get into international health.

As usual with my backpacking trips, if you’re reading this, live somewhere along my itinairy and would like to hang out, I love meeting new people. Feel free to get in touch.

(And to those friends who never check their emails, please check your emails, hugs and kisses)

Posted in backpacking, Globe Trotting | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment