My First Real Canadian Winter

I’m sure everyone’s sick of hearing that 2014 began colder on Earth than it was on Mars, but this level of chill is completely new to me! Growing up in Victoria, BC, winter meant a slightly wetter, chillier time of year. -10C was pretty much as cold as it got, and snow was light, beautiful and fleeting.

Pretty much the coldest winter I experienced in BC. Near Mt. Washington, Vancouver Island.

Pretty much the coldest winter I experienced in BC. Near Mt. Washington, Vancouver Island.

I knew that moving to Stratford would be an interesting experience once winter rolled around. The obvious answer is that it is cold. Cold. Cold. Cold.

This was also the year of the South-Ontario Ice Storm and the Mid-Western States’ so-called “Polar Vortex” (most Canadians would call it “Winter”).

Ice-encased antenna! I've never seen anything like this before!

Ice-encased antenna! I’ve never seen anything like this before!

I’m dumbfounded, I’m immobilized, I’m very, very cold. I’m also surprisingly… clumsy. I mean, I’ve never been the picture of grace, but walking in the knee-high snow and icy patches I am filled suddenly with childlike incoordination.

My arms stick out to keep precarious balance. My steps are small and quick and often result in slips. I stare at the ground to increase my chances of finding sturdy footholds, and when I fall, I fall all the way down and stay there until there is a strong hand to help me up.

Needless to say, it’s very time consuming and a bit embarrassing to go out for a walk. As a 25 year old adult, I’m re-learning how to walk.

Winter also offends my stylish side.

Other than the countless days indoors and the pillow-filled layers of clothing that render me almost completely immobile when I do go outside, winter in Ontario is remarkably enjoyable. I’m just glad I don’t own a car!

I have one friend from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan who I know rolled her eyes through this; “Girl, you have NO IDEA.”

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Long-Time-No-See! Or Read?

I haven’t written in almost two months. I could blame this on being busy – which I gloriously have been – but it’s also laziness’ fault. Here are some of the things I’ve been up to, to tide you over until my next post 😛

I went to BC! Saw some nature, some ocean, some hippies, some Penthouses, and my friend’s wedding!

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Some nature.

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Some ocean.

Evidence of nearby hippies.

Evidence of nearby hippies.

Very excited to spend the morning on the Penthouse balcony!

Very excited to spend the morning on the Penthouse balcony!

Penthouse view.

Penthouse view.

The beautiful bride!

The beautiful bride.

I made a dope Halloween costume that I was WAY too proud of!

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I felt so badass as Bane!

And of course I needed a Batman!

And of course I needed a Batman!

Found some nature to look at in Ontario – I’m really glad that exists here too!

Wildwood, near St Mary's, ON

Wildwood, near St Mary’s, ON

Tobermory, at the tip o' the Bruce Peninsula on Lake Huron, ON. Photo credit to Tyler Maxwell Photographic Designs: http://tylerjgmaxwell.wix.com/photographic-designs

Tobermory, at the tip o’ the Bruce Peninsula on Lake Huron, ON.
Photo credit Tyler Maxwell Photographic Designs: http://tylerjgmaxwell.wix.com/photographic-designs

Tobermory, ON. Tyler Maxwell Photographic Designs: http://tylerjgmaxwell.wix.com/photographic-designs

Tobermory, ON.
Tyler Maxwell Photographic Designs:
http://tylerjgmaxwell.wix.com/photographic-designs

Thank you everyone for continuing to read even while I wasn’t posting fresh material! It’s incredibly flattering to see my number of views grow every day. Anyway, here’s hoping I get it together so I continue sharing my travel and life adventures!

 

Super, Natural British Columbia

Yup, that’s what the BC motto is!

Having just booked a trip to BC in October to attend a wedding, I find myself getting excited to see all the sights I used to call home!

Here are some nostalgic and beautiful pictures of the most wonderful place on earth!

Saltspring Island

Saltspring Island

Saltspring Island

Saltspring Island

Powell River

Powell River

Powell River

Powell River

Warship graveyard, Powell River

Warship graveyard, Powell River

Near Parksville, Vancouver Island

Near Parksville, Vancouver Island

Quallicum Beach, Vancouver Island

Quallicum Beach, Vancouver Island

Looking onto Brentwood Bay and Mt Baker (I think), Vancouver Island

Looking onto Brentwood Bay and Mt Baker (I think), Vancouver Island

Brentwood Bay, Vancouver Island

Brentwood Bay, Vancouver Island

Sooke, Vancouver Island

Sooke, Vancouver Island

Victoria Inner Harbour, Vancouver Island

Victoria Inner Harbour, Vancouver Island

Vancouver

Vancouver

So stoked!!

Have you ever been to BC? Where is your favourite place?

 

10 Tips for Easier Travel

Travel is stressful. As a seasoned traveller myself, I have made many mistakes and experienced much stress and have therefore accumulated a bit of airport travel-savvy that I’d like to share with you. Follow these steps, relax, and enjoy your travels!

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1. Pack light:

I cannot stress this enough. I have now travelled to and from the UK twice with 2 suitcases. It’s the worst. Adding on the usual $100 fee for an extra checked bag (depending on the airline and whether or not you have a first class ticket – which I’ve never had the privilege of), plus the terrible experience of lugging two bags through a busy airport – I assure you, IT’S NOT WORTH IT!!!

I don't think the cat needs to come...

I don’t think the cat needs to come…

When I start packing, I want nothing more than to cover all possible bases. Like this:

“What if I get hungry, or thirsty, or bored, or need to wrap something, or lonely… what if there are no chairs, or stairs?”

Pack what you think you need and then HALF IT.

Bring versatile things. One pair of jeans, plain t-shirts, shoes that can be worn casually or in a dressier setting, one purse (that is also preferably part of your carry-on), one jacket, and ladies should bring one or two dresses that can be beach or party appropriate!

A quick, summery option to take you from beach to bar!

A light, summery option to take you from beach to bar!

This of course all depends on the duration and destination of your trip, but the general idea applies to all… PACK LIGHT.

2. How to pack:

I use an excellent method of packing that makes the most out of limited space. It’s not exactly a secret, but it was passed down from my grandmother to my mother to myself. Instead of folding your clothes or laying them flat, roll them. Roll them as tightly as you can.

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This method is proven (by me) to fit about 75% more stuff in a suitcase than folding. The downside of this is that you inevitably end up with more weight. This is where you have to make a decision about what is more important. Do you really need an extra 2 pairs of boots and your cat? Even better, use this method to bring the same amount of stuff but in a smaller suitcase!

As for your carry-on luggage, I would highly recommend that you choose a backpack. This saves you from the difficulty of maneuvering both your checked suitcase and a rolling carry-on: it can be tricky! There are certainly specific things you will need in case the airline loses your checked bag (see tip #4), but I have always found my travels more enjoyable when I only pack my carry-on to a maximum of 75% full. That extra 25% is to be filled with snacks for the flight once you’ve passed security! That way, the food doesn’t contribute to your total weight (well, not your luggage weight), and you can rest assured knowing you have something more delicious in your future than airplane food.

Another good thing is to put all your liquids and gels under 100mL that you are carrying on into a small re-sealable plastic bag at home, so you don’t have to root around in your bag to do this at the airport.

**If you know for sure your bag is overweight and you want to avoid paying the overweight fee, there’s something you can do to shave off a few pounds. I don’t recommend this, but it did get me out of paying overweight fees on my recent return to Canada.

Here it goes: In your carry on, pack a collapsible or reusable bag, like mine from Longchamp.

I LOVE my Longchamp!

I LOVE my Longchamp!

On the day of travel, wear as much stuff as possible. I wore my heaviest boots, leggings under a floor length skirt, t-shirt, cardigan, jean jacket and two more jackets (I zipped the outer one so it just looked like I was wearing one bulky jacket). Once you’ve checked your bag, proceed directly to security. When you remove your jackets (as you must these days to go through security), do it so they stay within each other and do so early in the line-up, so the security staff don’t notice your multiple jackets. This way, they look like one big jacket when you plop them in one of those plastic bins.

Once through security, grab your stuff, walk out of sight, get your collapsible bag out of your carry-on and shed your excess layers. Yes, you will have one extra carry-on bag now, and you still have to be careful not to attract notice from the airline workers when you are boarding (they can make you check you extra bag, and you’ll have to pay for it) but as long as you keep your cool and don’t appear to struggle, you’ll be fine! Remember, this is unfair advantage and should only be used in weight emergencies.

3. Don’t be ignorant about your luggage weight and size:

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Nothing annoys me (and airline staff!) more than people who argue about their luggage. It wastes time and is futile. Look up on your airline’s website what your luggage allowances are for your specific ticket. Measure and weigh your bags before leaving home so you know what to expect at check-in. If your bags are overweight it’s your own fault. Don’t argue, just pay the fee and be wiser next time!

4. Keep ALL important belongings in your carry on bag:

Everything of value you should carry on your person at all times while travelling. Of course, there are the obvious things like your passport, travel documents and money. You should also carry with you any documents that you will need once you reach your destination (hotel details, addresses, booking numbers, concert tickets, future travel documents, any important medication WITH your prescription if possible). If your airline loses your bag, you will still be able to have a semblance of a vacation. To read about my recent experienced with lost luggage, click here.

5. Ladies, use a cross-body purse:

For safety and security, travel with a purse that zips closed and has a cross-body strap. My travel purse also has a flap over the zip. This ensures minimal risk of pick-pocketing or purse-snatching! Wear it your whole vacation for maximum security!

For extra protection, wear it the other way around so the flap can't open without someone pulling it away from your body.

For extra protection, wear it the other way around so the flap can’t open without someone pulling it away from your body.

6. It’s better to be 4 hours early than 5 minutes late:

This is pretty self-explanatory. Your tardiness delays everyone on the plane. It can cause people to miss connections, delay other take-offs and landings at the airport. I was late once, and received the most awful glares from the other plane passengers. When the airport says, for example, be 3 hours early for international flights (again, usually found on their website), they mean it – this isn’t to annoy you, it’s a necessity. Also, when you do arrive the recommended 3 hours early, check-in and security lines are usually shorter and less stressful (no need to clock-watch!), which means more time to relax after security!

7. Drugs, drugs, drugs:

I get very travelsick. I cannot travel without the help of some sort of anti-nausea medication. Gravol in Canada works for many people (not me, unfortunately), Dramamine from the USA (like a dream), and Travel Calm and Joy Rides in the UK (work the best for me). The best part is that these often make you so drowsy, you sleep for most of your flight.

8. Travel with a buddy:

I always find that when I’m travelling with someone, the stress level goes way down. You can bounce things off one another, entertain one another, and help carry each other’s bags.

9. Travel in the off season when possible:

Rates are lower, airports are less crowded. Awesome.

10. Don’t stress, just accept the situation:

I used to stress about travelling a lot. I especially dreaded the 8 to 10 hours of flight time I typically would have to endure (flying from British Columbia to the UK).

This doesn’t sound particularly ground-breaking, but to be perfectly honest I just started to accept it. I accepted that the flight was going to feel like my whole life, like forever. Once I resigned myself to this fact, they weren’t so bad. Also, no clock-watching!

I can haz holidayz?

I can haz holidayz?

What travel tips do YOU have? Which of these tips will help you in your future travels?

A Love Letter to Canada

Canadian-Flag

My Dearest Canada,

I love the UK very much, and I’m sorry, but I needed to give our relationship a chance. We certainly had some good times. While I lived in Edinburgh I was able to experience so much. Some of it was good: beauty, history, independence, travel, solitude, friends and personal growth. Some of it was bad: finances, my living situation, jobs, cold people, short winter days, the inability to foster my own happiness, and increasing loneliness. In the end, the bad outweighed the good, and though I am stronger for the experience, Canada, I have returned to you.

Saltspring Island, BC

Saltspring Island, BC

Your beauty is boundless. From the mountainous west coast of British Columbia, to the vast flatness surrounding my current small-town Ontario residence.

Looking from the Malahat to Willis Point, Vancouver Island BC

Looking from the Malahat to Willis Point, Vancouver Island BC

Mt Baker from the Malahat, Vancouver Island BC

Mt Baker from the Malahat, Vancouver Island BC

Quallicum Beach, Vancouver Island BC

Quallicum Beach, Vancouver Island BC

Jellyfish forest (NOT usual!), Todd Inlet, Vancouver Island BC

Jellyfish forest (NOT usual!), Todd Inlet, Vancouver Island BC

Winter in Stratford ON

Winter in Stratford ON

The universal friendliness of your people is overwhelming. My first day back, I was smiled at and greeted by so many people that I ran to a mirror to see if there was something on my face! There wasn’t. This is just the way of Canadians. I had forgotten. And though the Canadian sense of style may not be up to par with the UK, there is a much greater appreciation for inner beauty.

Ziplining in Esquimalt, Vancouver Island BC

Ziplining in Esquimalt, Vancouver Island BC

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Warship graveyard, Powell River BC

Although we have our problems and our history, I still believe that you, Canada, are the lesser of many greater evils. And though I may very well walk away from you again in search of greener pastures, I will always, unfailingly, return.

Happy Canada Day.

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With everlasting love, (and a new patriotic t-shirt)

Ambling Alana xox

Searching for Nessie: Northern Scotland with a Fellow Canadian

Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle

Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle

I was very lucky to have one of my best friends, B, come to visit me for three weeks. After months of planning and anticipation, we were finally together and able to begin our Northern exploration. Our itinerary was rushed – 3 days, 2 nights for a whirlwind tour of Inverness and St Andrews.

Inverness is about 4 hours north of Edinburgh by bus or train, and is most sought by tourists for its proximity to the infamous Loch Ness. Of course, B and I decided we would be the ones to FINALLY discover the truth behind the mystery of the Loch Ness monster. Previous explorers were clearly not up to our intellectual level, which lead to their inevitable failure. We, however, would be the ones to find Nessie.

Oh look! There she blows!

Oh look! There she blows!

When we arrived at Loch Ness, I was pleasantly surprised that (other than the castle) it looked very much like my home on Vancouver Island in Canada. Strange.

Scotland? Or Canada?

Scotland? Or Canada?

The main tourist attraction at the Loch, other than Nessie spotting, is Urquhart Castle.

Some

Some of these ruins date back to the 13th century!

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After spending a few hours at Urquhart, B and I sat down on the beach for a snack, and a dejected last effort to spot the monster of the Loch.

No, B, it's just a swan. Sorry.

No, B, it’s just a swan. Sorry.

Back in Inverness, I was determined to have a look around before the sun set and we were hostel-bound til morning and departure for St Andrews.

Inverness

Inverness

Inverness was surprisingly stunning. I had no idea what to expect of this city in the north, but I would love to go back there one day to see what else this wee beauty has to offer.

Inverness Castle, having been rebuilt several times.

Inverness Castle, having been rebuilt several times.

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River Ness

River Ness

After a suffocating sleep in a room shared with four men who had clearly won and decided to use a lifetime supply of axe (lynx) body spray, B and I woke to a beautiful day, and our impending train ride to St Andrews. I must say, this train journey held the most spectacular highland scenery. B concluded that Hogwarts could easily be hidden somewhere in these remote hills, and that we should probably go looking for it.

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I decided that this would probably not be a stellar idea since Hogwarts has muggle-repelling charms placed on it, our search would be for nought.

"Is that it? Is that it?" No, B, no."

“Is that it? Is that it?”
No, B, no.”

When we finally arrived in St Andrews, I was reminded of all the reasons I fell in love with Scotland in the first place.

Magnificent view of St Andrews Old Course

Magnificent view of St Andrews Old Course

Scottish people make fun of St Andrews for being too English, since the University draws a lot of posh students, and the reputation of the golf courses draw a lot of, well, those kind of people. Golfers. But these are not the things that make St Andrews special to me. It is seriously an amazing place. Between the sea, the cathedral and castle ruins, the long-running beach and the accessibility of the whole town by foot, it is the perfect specimen of British-seaside-village.

Puffin roosts!

Puffin roosts!

 

Cathedral ruins

Cathedral ruins

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Castle ruin!

Castle ruin!

I was delighted that I largely remembered how to get around, my last time there having been nine years ago, and I even recognized the building I had stayed in!

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B also loved St Andrews, being an avid fan of the Royals, especially Will and Kate.

Site of the Royal first date...?

Site of the Royal first date…?

We took a long walk down the beach, famously featured in Chariots of Fire. We did not run.

View from the far end of the beach.

View from the far end of the beach.

I was disappointed that we had to leave so quickly, but we’ve made each other a promise that, when we are rich of course, we will come back to Britain and rent a car so that we can create our own schedule.

A final LOL

A final LOL