Monday, November 30, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The last day.
I made it to Victoria exactly three weeks after I started in Halifax, and as you can see from the title of the post, I made it under budget.
If you’ll excuse me, I just have to take care of something over here in this corner.
(clearing throat) Ahem. Ok, now that I’ve taken care of that urgent business, allow me to tell you about my time in Victoria.
I seem to remember telling you how excited I was about finishing my long bus ride saga. Well, I was unaware of how far away the ferry is from downtown Vancouver. In order to get from my brothers apartment to Victoria, I had to take the SkyTrain, a bus, another bus, a ferry, and one last bus. All told, it’s about five hours. Normally, I would have freaked out and started pacing around the ferry. I however, was on my best behaviour. Why? Because I was docking in Victoria! I had made it to the end of my journey, and the end of the country. I was looking out to the Pacific Ocean and it was so beautiful.
When I arrived in downtown Victoria, I was met by Astrid and Todd of A-Channel Victoria. They filmed a spot for the nightly newscast with me, and as usual I was too nervous to remember if I sounded coherent or not. Marc (remember him?) met up with me half way through the interview to play tour guide for me, and Todd got shots of us walking through the water front and Chinatown, cheesy background images that always make me laugh. All in all, I think the interview went well, and Astrid was really nice. She pointed out all sorts of historical buildings and things of interest. Thanks again guys!
Once I was done the interview, Marc and I went to lunch at this great vegetarian restaurant where I ate the biggest mushroom burger I’ve ever seen. Seriously.
We walked around all day and checked out the best Victoria had to offer. In fact, we walked around so much that I missed the last ferry to Vancouver that I could have taken, and I had to spend the night on Marc’s couch. Luckily, it was a very comfortable couch.
I closed off the night at a local pub, where Marc and I had a few beers to celebrate the successful ending of my adventure.
I just want to say thanks to everyone that helped me out along the way, and to those people that supported me at home. You are all so amazing and I couldn’t have done this without you.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
What? You heard that? No, I do not sound like that all the time, I was excited.
I happen to love Vancouver. As you may know, I love the mountains, and the ocean, and lucky for me, Vancouver has both. I also love my brother, who happens to live in Vancouver, and who I was excited to see.
But what did I love most of all? Knowing that I just got off my last long-distance bus ride of the whole trip! As much as enjoyed all of the bus rides and the time it gave me for soul searching and people watching, I was SO EXCITED TO GET OFF THE BUS that I may have let out an involuntary squeal. Or six.
One downside, though. When I arrived in Vancouver, it was only about 3:30 in the afternoon, and Josh was busy with a meeting at SFU until 5. So, I could shlep all the way out to SFU with my gear, or I could get a locker at the bus station, store my stuff, and wander around downtown ‘till I could meet with Josh.
After about a millisecond of serious thought, I got a locker and got on the skytrain. But I couldn’t just wander alone. Instead, I met up with my new friend Marc. Yes, the same Marc from the bus. He lives in Victoria, but was spending the day in Vancouver, and was also looking for a wandering partner, so it worked out quite well.
We met downtown and promptly stumbled across the first of approximately three million sushi restaurants in the city. This one, however, had a patio, a liquor license, and some very affordable food. We filled up on sushi and beers and sat in the sun talking.
After lunch, Marc and I walked down Robson Ave, window shopping and talking until he had to catch the last ferry to Victoria (but don’t fret, Marc fans. He reappears in the next post.)
Finally, Josh was done his meeting, and we could meet downtown, I was just a short SkyTrain ride away. Or, at least, I should have been.
Unfortunately for me, there was a bomb threat called in to one of the SkyTrain stations. Luckily, no one was hurt, but it meant that hundreds of Vancouver-ites going home from work were displaced, and I had to find another route to my meeting place with Josh. Which involved me transferring buses …at East Hastings and Main.
For those readers unfamiliar with the Vancouver layout, I’ll try to explain. East Hastings is not a happy street. It’s a street where dreams go to die. And this particular intersection is known as one of the worst in Canada. And I was waiting there for my bus, when a man ran up to me. This man looked…out of sorts. Perhaps what someone might look like had they spent the last three days strung out on meth and cough syrup, but that’s just speculation. As he ran towards me, he started shouting “That one’s mine!”
Now, I’m not a shy person by any means, but when a crazed hobo comes running towards me, I get freaked out. To the point where I might have yelped a little. For those keeping count, that’s twice in one day. I jumped to the side, he stopped running, and then someone handed him a cigarette. Luckily, my bus came shortly thereafter, but I’m pretty sure that I was bought and sold on that corner for a smoke.
Once I made it out of Hastings alive, I finally met up with Josh, and we went to a relatively low-key (and free!) poetry reading/concert in Kitsilano. Now, Josh’s friend is a poet, and he gave an excellent reading at a small café in Kits. The other musicians he performed with, however, did not seem to share his talent. I just have to say this: If you’re truly a good musician, you don’t need filler, like making the audience fill out a quiz. That’s right folks, a quiz.
After we took in just about as much “music” as we could for the evening, Josh and I headed home to his place in New Westminster, and I fell asleep, anxious for the ferry ride to Victoria and the last day of the trip.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I got into Kamloops a little tired, a little hungry, and a lot nervous. I had a live TV interview at noon, and I my hair was a rat’s nest, I was wearing pyjamas, I wasn’t sure where I was, and it was 10am.
Luckily, I had managed to get a little sleep on the bus (and on the floor of the bus station in Salmon Arm – I know, I didn’t know that was a real place either) so I wasn’t a complete mess. I managed to shuffle over to the TV station and I used their green room to get myself looking somewhat respectable.
I watched the hosts come in, and I started to feel a little nervous. Then I saw the tech guys turn on the lights and start doing some pre-show taping and I got a little more nervous. By the time the other guests arrived, I had already reapplied my make-up three times and sweat through my dress. I was literally pacing the green room. Something tells me I need a little more experience in front of the camera before I become a huge star.
I blocked out most of the interview, so I can’t tell you how it went. I can, however, thank Tracy and everyone at Kamloops Midday for being so kind to me, making me a DVD of the spot, and showing an interest in the trip. Even though I was a nervous wreck, I still had fun, and you guys were all amazing professionals.
As soon as the interview was over, I changed back into my grubby traveling clothes and headed downtown. I grabbed some lunch and then made my way to meet Aehron and Kyle, my CouchSurfing hosts. After a mix-up on the bus (ok, I got lost) I made it to their cute house on the North shore of the city, and settled in.
I really liked Kamloops. It was small but not tiny, and it was absolutely beautiful. And it’s not a far drive from Vancouver either. It’s another place in Canada I’d never been before, but I could see myself living there for a little while. I walked around downtown, and through Riverside Park, and I just fell in love. There’s nothing like being a prairie girl and being surrounded by mountains. It’s an amazing view.
On my third and final day in Calgary, I awoke with a sense of purpose. I was almost through this trip, and I was making good time and staying within the budget (mostly…I did break down and get those really fancy cupcakes, but they were awesome, and I’d do it again.) I felt really good about the trip and I was determined to make the last day in Calgary count.
I should have stayed in bed.
Not that the day was terrible, just that it was too busy. I overbooked myself, I think, and I bounced around from one place to the next all day long. I did, however, get to see a lot of the city.
I had my first brush with Calgary transit when I tried to meet Pete for breakfast first thing in the morning. Calgary is a city of drivers, not of pedestrians. At first, I thought that was unfortunate. More people should take transit to cut down on traffic in a city so big. Then I found out that people drive so much because Calgary transit sucks incredibly hard.
I had to go about eight minutes away from Tami’s house to meet Pete for breakfast. In order to do this, I had to take two buses and wait 15 minutes for a transfer. I was given three different sets of directions from three different bus drivers, and when I got to my transfer point, I found out the bus I needed wasn’t running for another hour. I had to call Tami to come pick me up and drive me three blocks, because I didn’t know where I was.
When I finally met with Pete, he surprised me with a free pass to the Calgary Zoo he’d managed to scrounge up from somewhere. Normally, entrance is about $18, so that was quite a savings for me.
After breakfast, I managed to make my way back to the house in time to get picked up by my cousin Jared, who took me out on the town for the afternoon. First we went to get the best view of the city, which was beautiful. Then we drove around the long way to downtown, until we finally met up with his girlfriend, her sister, and their friend for lunch at Nellie’s, another Calgary institution. It was a little greasy, but I think that’s part of the charm.
We all walked around down 17th Ave for a little while until Jared had to go to work. The girls were happy to play tour guide, though. They took me to Eau Clair Market, through Chinatown, and eventually dropped me off at the zoo.
This is when I got my second brush with Calgary Transit. While I was walking around the zoo, feeling both awestruck and repulsed by seeing animals in cages so close up, Pete was trying to meet up with me. As his car had recently been written off, he had to take transit. And it took him approximately two hours to make it from his house to the zoo. So by the time he got there, I had walked around the entire park. Pete didn’t get to see the zoo at all, he just spent his entire afternoon going back and forth on the C-Train. Thrilling.
Eventually we both got home, I had dinner, and packed my things. As luck would have it (or it was at least lucky for Tami) Pete’s brother Marc was taking the same bus I was down to Vancouver, and his family offered to give me a ride to the bus station. It’s always nice to have someone you know on the ride, it makes it go a little faster.
But before I could leave Alberta for my last province, I got one last run-in with Transit. Both Marc and I were waiting in line at the Greyhound station to board our bus, and we were both delayed because of one surly security guard. I was told that I couldn’t go through security if Pete was on the same side of the rope as I was, and Marc had to make two trips to the back of the line because he needed to empty his water bottle. It was so infuriating, we both got on the bus a little pissed off.
Luckily, things turned around from there as Marc and I talked until 3am (not a wise choice when you have a TV interview the next day), sharing traveling stories and off-colour jokes involving the dismemberment of certain Greyhound associates.
Basically, I screwed up my dates. I miscalculated the amount of time I had to spend in Edmonton, and left for Calgary early. I was ahead of schedule! Which is great for Calgary, because I got two and a half full days to explore it. The downside is, I could have spent more time in Edmonton. Ultimately, the trip turned out to be a little Alberta heavy (sorry Saskatchewan! Next time!)
I realized this fact on the bus ride to Calgary, when it was far to late to do anything about it. After I was finished kicking myself about that, I vowed to try and really explore Calgary and take my time, as I wasn’t rushed.
When I arrive,d I met up with Tami, a friend of a friend, who promptly took me to Peter’s Drive in when I told her I was hungry. Peter’s is an institution in Calgary. With over a million and a half flavours of milkshakes, and the ability to mix and match flavours, Peter’s is the kind of place that Calgarians make pilgrimage to frequently. I got an Oreo and Marshmallow milkshake, and I was in heaven. I wish I could tell you what Tami told me about Calgary on the drive back to her house, but I honestly don’t know. I was in milkshake nirvana. I'd like to go on record here and say that along with the best nachos in Canada, I've found the best milkshakes in Canada. Period.
After I got settled in Tami’s house, I set about calling an old army buddy of mine. Yes, I seriously mean an army buddy. I worked for a brief period as an embedded reporter for the Canadian military, and I met a few troops from Calgary. I called up one of these strapping young men and, in the true army fashion, he offered to take me out for a night on the town to get blinding drunk. So, in true journalist fashion, I said yes.
Tami and I left to meet Pete and his brother Marc at the train station that evening, dressed in my backpack’s finest. As luck would have it, Tami and Marc knew each other quite well, and the group of us headed downtown for a night of bad dancing, drinking, and debauchery. We even had pizza after the bar, but it wasn’t as good as pizza corner in Halifax. All in all, though, it was a great introduction to Calgary.
The next morning, after some slightly hung-over yoga, Tami and I went for a walk down by the Bow River, which is a hot spot in Calgary. People like to float down the river, or have parties by the banks. It’s a beautiful spot. She filled me in what Calgarians like to do for cheap: not much.
As it turns out, Calgary is a fairly expensive city. There are a lot of jobs, and a lot of people with money, so everything is a little more expensive in Calgary than other places in Canada, and even other cities in Alberta.
Still, we managed to find some cheaper things to do. We walked down through Kensington, a funky, arty area of town filled with little shops and restaurants, and we drove through the downtown area.
I also managed to save money that night by staying in. Since I had another full day in Calgary ahead of me, I let myself have the night off. When Tami’s family left to go to a football game (against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, coincidentally) I watched a movie, had some leftover pizza, and relaxed. It was delightful.
Monday, August 10, 2009
I’ll admit it. I let you down, Edmonton. I didn’t give you a fair chance. But can you blame me? I was distracted. By this.
I mean really, who can resist that?
And by that, I mean, Matthew, my new cousin. He’s a gorgeous addition to our family, and he happens to live in Edmonton, so I had to see him.
That’s not to say that I didn’t explore Edmonton. I absolutely did. I took the LRT downtown and walked around Jasper St. I explored the university campus. I walked down Whyte Ave and got to try out two awesome vegetarian restaurants in the city. I even met up with Meaghan, a friend of a friend who told me all about places to go in the city. All in all, I feel like I saw a fair chunk of Edmonton in the course of one day.
Plus, I was even home in time for bath time.
Friday, August 7, 2009
And yet, everyone pales in comparison to Vincent.
Vincent, you see, is a rapping preacher. He travels the country preaching and trying to convert the homeless population of Canada to accept a life filled with Jesus and all sorts of other nonsense.
And he tried to convert me. Because he thought I was homeless. Why? Just because I happened to be sleeping in a park. Geez! Can't a woman just fall asleep in a park anymore? Where’s the love, people?
So, the story is that I arrived in Saskatoon around lunch time, and was so hungry. I could hear my stomach growling and I’m pretty sure other people could too. So I walked around until I found a restaurant that I wanted to try. It was medium price range, but the portions were huge and my sandwich was delicious. It’s what I would imagine a BLT to taste like, if you substituted deep-fried angels for the bacon.
After lunch, with my full belly, I wandered around Saskatoon downtown, and ended up walking along the waterfront of the South Saskatchewan river, which was gorgeous. And I noticed a few office drones sitting on the grass, getting their daily allotment of sunshine, so I figured this was a place to see and be seen. I plopped down on the grass and set to reading my guide book. I must have dozed off, because the next thing I know, I’m being tapped (hard) on the back and I hear
“Wake up! You don’t need alcohol!”
Vincent, it seems, had found me. He believed that I was drunk and sleeping it off in the middle of a park, and wanted to make sure that I was ok, and also that I was alright with the big man upstairs.
I was a little confused, understandably, which didn’t help matters, because everyone sounds a little drunk when they first wake up. Our first exchange went something like this:
“Wake up! You don’t need alcohol!”
“It’s ok, young lady. Everybody falters. But if you have Jesus in your life, you can follow a true path without alcohol.”
That’s when he started rapping. Seriously. I don’t need to expand on that, it’s best if you just picture it yourselves. I’ll wait.
See? It’s everything you wish it was and more. Anyway, I finally convinced Vincent that I a) wasn’t drunk, and b) was just fine with the Dude. (I figured that starting the whole ‘I’m an atheist’ conversation just then was probably unwise.)
I’d love to tell you more about the rest of Saskatoon, but it really pales in comparison to my run-in with Vincent, the rapping preacher. I will say that Saskatoon is very pretty and I liked it a lot. I really enjoyed walking around the downtown area. I found everything to be very central, and the people were super friendly. It’s a place I would even consider living.
But only if Vincent could be my neighbour.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Regina: the city that rhymes with fun!
Or so people say. I, of course, would never stoop to such crude parlance.
But I actually found Regina to be plenty fun. It’s a small city, smaller than I expected, but people are friendly and there is a lot going on. I was there just as the Folk Festival was starting, but there are festivals and events all summer. Because the town is relatively small, you can walk around the downtown area in a day and really get a feel for the city.
When I arrived early Monday morning, I made my way over to Kris and Dennie’s house on 15th Ave. After meeting all the roommates, I asked if there was a landline available so that I could do a phone interview with CBC Winnipeg. Unfortunately, there was no phone I could use. But on the even-better side, Nichole, a roommate, works for CBC Regina, heard about my story, and pitched it to her producer. I was on the air the next morning. Thanks again, Nichole!
With the whirlwind media tour out of the way, I got myself cleaned up and then Kris took me on a walking tour of the city. Unfortunately, it was Saskatchewan Day, meaning most of the stores were closed, but we still had a good time. He was a delightful tour guide, too. I got to see part of the University campus, most of downtown, and even an old high school building that was turned into a movie studio inside. It still looks like a high school outside, but apparently inside it’s all been gutted and they shoot movies and TV pilots in there. Who would have
thought that building would be in downtown Regina? How exciting!
And yet, even with all the excitement in the air, I still couldn’t hold it together. I was so tired from the ride overnight to Regina that after lunch, I fell asleep on the couch. With other people in the room. While they were talking. I so full of energy these days, it’s amazing.
I felt so ridiculous, but I was so tired! The bus ride over from Winnipeg wasn’t an easy one, and I couldn’t sleep during it. I just couldn’t keep myself awake. When I woke up, some friends were coming over for an impromptu dinner party. People started pouring into the house, cooking up yummy Indian food (samosas from scratch. From scratch! I love this house) and listening to music. Their friends were a great group of people to hang out with, and dinner was delicious. Afterwards we walked to The Milky Way, which is a great ice cream stand, and then came back to the house to chill out and have wine. It was a good summer day.
The next morning my phone woke me up. It was CBC Winnipeg on the line, and I was about to go on the air with Information Radio. Apparently, the alarm that I set either turned off or I slept through it, either way I had to get ready to go on air in about a minute and a half! On the plus side, that’s one way to get rid of nerves.
I managed to get myself through the interview, but I don’t think I was my most coherent. Next time I have an early morning interview, I’m setting two alarms! However, I did wake up and become coherent long before I had to be at the CBC Regina studios. My interview there was great, and a lot of fun. Going to the studios is really more interesting than doing the interviews over the phone.
I walked the long way home after that, had some lunch, and then borrowed Kris’s bike to ride around Wascana Park, the Legislative building, and finally, out to the RCMP Heritage museum. In between, I met up with CTV Regina for a cheesy interview on the grounds of the Legislature. I felt like such a doofus, filming b-roll of walking along the waterfront, or looking at flowers. I’m surprised I didn’t laugh more during the interview.
I spent two days in Regina, thanks to my incredibly generous CouchSurfing hosts Kris, Dennie, Nichole, Shawn, and Mike. Thanks for letting me stay in your house and eat your food, guys. I had a great time in Regina because of you.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Ahhh…Winnipeg. The exact halfway point in my journey.
It’s nice knowing that I’m halfway across the country, and past the halfway point in terms of days. It’s also great to be able to hit my hometown halfway through the journey. It’s been a wild ride across the unfamiliar, so having something I recognize crop up every now and again is quite comforting.
That’s not to say that I blew off the journey in Winnipeg. I wanted this stop to be as authentic as the rest of the trip. I didn’t stay overnight, I stuck to the same budget, and I called up some people that I knew and asked if anyone would like to take me around the city as my tour guide for the day.
As a result, I got to see the city in a way that I never had before. My partner Justin took me on a tour of his favourite place in the city, the Legislature. I had never been in the building before, and it was quite beautiful. I met some friends later for a trip to Dalnavert historical museum, and then lunch at the Forks, with dessert at the Banana Boat. More than what I saw, though, it was great to be able to look at the city through someone else’s eyes. Everywhere I go, I trust my tour guides to show me what’s important to them. In Winnipeg, I didn’t want to be blinded by what I already knew, I wanted to see the city with other people, and I think it worked out perfectly.
After a wonderful day exploring my home base, I got on a bus and headed to Regina to start the second half of the adventure.
Monday, August 3, 2009
After walking around a little, I determined that it wasn’t that Thunder Bay was inherently a bad place, or somewhere that I don’t like. It’s that a lot of the success of this trip is based on the people that I meet and get to hang out with. And because I was alone in Thunder Bay, and it was my birthday, it just wasn’t the greatest place for me. I’d like to go back one day and explore the city some more, meet up with some people, maybe have use of a car to really get around.
For me, it’s all about the journey, not the destinations.
The biggest city in Canada is the one that I have to spend the least amount of time in. Shoot.
It was one of those crazy timing coincidences that saw me coming into Toronto later than I would have liked, and having to leave the next day earlier than I had planned. It didn’t give me a lot of time to look around the city, but I take solace in the fact that Toronto is SO FREAKING BIG that I wouldn’t have been able to really investigate it even if I had a few days.
When I arrived in Toronto, I got on the subway and hightailed it to Jon’s (an old friend from high school) house. He and his girlfriend Sarah have a place in the Annex neighbourhood, which is full of old houses and also where Adrienne Clarkson lives (so swears Jon.)
Jon immediately thrust a bicycle in my face and off we rode, as Jon took me on the extremely-condensed-bicycle-tour-of-Toronto. We rode from his house down to Kensington Market and through Chinatown, where Jon says he buys five t-shirts a time for $10, but you can only wear them once each before they fall apart.
After winding our way through the busy streets of Chinatown, we found ourselves on Bloor and met Sarah for some lovely (and relatively inexpensive) sushi, to which Jon and Sarah treated me (thanks guys!) I got to catch up with Jon and find out all about being a law student at the University of Toronto, which both Sarah and Jon are. It sounds like a lot of work. I think I’ll stick with travel writing.
The next morning Jon and I went out to a cool café on Bloor called Future, which had $5 breakfasts before 11am. Five bucks for eggs Benedict! Really people, you’re just giving it away then. After breakfast we wandered downtown a little. Jon showed me around the U of T campus, and then we walked down Queen St. West. I stopped by Much Music and pretended to interview the latest teen sensation before Jon pulled me away. We had a chance to see a few landmarks (CN Tower, anyone?) but then I had to get back to the bus station.
All in all, my time in Toronto was great, but too short. That’s a city that you really need more time to explore. Next time I hit T-Dot, I’ll stay for a while.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
I woke up to my final day in Ottawa a little nervous. The day before I had agreed to be a guest on HOT 103’s morning show with Ace Burpee and Chrissy Troy (thanks again guys!). Although it’s wildly entertaining to me that other people, let alone radio personalities, find my trip exciting, it’s also incredibly nerve-wracking. Even over the phone, I get stomachaches and constantly clear my throat to check my voice still works. Come the interviews, mind you, I’m always clear and everything seems to work out, but before hand – I’m a wreck.
That morning was no exception. I have a lot of respect for Ace and Chrissy – they do a great job every morning, are always entertaining, and work very hard at maintaining their stellar reputation. (They might also read this post. Hi guys! Do you need a charming young woman to intern for you? Just an idea…) In preparation for the interview, I could have practiced what I would say or think up interesting stories to share, but all I could do was pace back and forth in the hostel room and clear my throat.
The interview flew by, and was a blast. Once it was over, I finally exhaled, and gathered my things to get on the bus to Toronto. I had planned on grabbing the 12:30 bus and meeting my high school friend Jon in Toronto at 4:30. Just as I had on my pack and was lumbering down the street, my telephone rings. I manage to answer it, and low and behold, it’s Ace again.
“Emily! We have lunch for you!”
“I’m going to put you back on air, ok?”
Apparently, I’m quite a quick thinker on my feet. Turns out, in the crazy world of CreComm coincidences, Britt, a CC grad of two years ago who lives in Ottawa, was live streaming the HOT interview on her computer at work. When she heard me speak, she immediately emailed Ace and offered to take me out to lunch and show me around Ottawa.
I was totally flabbergasted. Not only had the interview been fun, but what a coincidence! I love how far the Creative Communications Mafia extends, but it’s so shocking to me. Britt and her boyfriend Steve met me at the hostel and took me to a delicious Italian market where we bought huge sandwiches for only $5. I was shocked that there was tasty food in Ottawa for under $10, but also shocked that Britt was so excited about this project.
She and Steve shared some of their favourite Ottawa secrets with me, which I greatly appreciated, and she also paid for my sandwich, which was just sweet.
I’m happy to count Britt and Steve among my new friends, and I hope that one day I can help out another CreComm by passing along a similar kindness. So, thanks to everyone that helped me out that day: Ace, Chrissy, Britt, and Steve. You made my last day in Ottawa one of the highlights of my trip!