March ’17 Favourites

March has been a ridiculously full on month. I started the month skiing in Banff and now, more than 12 000 km later, I’m back in New Zealand. I’m happy to be home but I’m also exhausted because my body thinks I’m still in Pacific Time and I now need to find work and a place to live – fingers crossed that April will bring me some good news in that department. I feel like a years’ worth of things happened in March but here are some highlights:

VANCOUVER: Despite its reputation as being constantly rainy (which is mostly accurate), Vancouver had the most beautiful weather when we left. The clouds skirted away and the snow of the previous weeks melted, giving us the first blue sky and sunlit warmth we’d experienced in a long time. Our final day we had brunch out and then wandered the Granville Island market, Vancouver ensuring it was hard for us to say goodbye.

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The view of Vancouver from Granville Island

NEW ZEALAND: Lox and my homecoming wasn’t nearly as lovely as I had hoped because Wellington saw literally the worst traffic ever on the morning of our return, so no one was waiting for us at the airport. Having been out of the country for a year, neither of us had a working cellphone so we spent the first 15 minutes of our arrival feeling very abandoned and very confused. Eventually, Lox connected to the airport wifi and my parents called him through Messenger, letting us know that the traffic meant they had moved only about 500m in the past 2 hours, so it was basically impossible for them to pick us up. Despite the lack of an emotional homecoming, it was so good being back in Windy Wellington, driving along the harbour, seeing our hills (somehow greener than anywhere else I’ve ever been), and now we have a story to tell about our return home. It’s been really great catching up with people who I haven’t seen in forever and I’m so happy to be back here (and I’m so happy to be drinking our tap water again wow).

MUSIC: I wasn’t sure if I liked Lorde’s new song when I first heard it. It’s so different from anything on Pure Heroine that it felt wrong. The song has grown on me and now I realised I do like it, it just doesn’t quite feel like a Lorde song. Despite my initial doubt about it, I fell absolutely in love with this cover of “Green Light”, I can’t stop listening to it:

TV: I am several years late to the party, but I have been loving “The Mindy Project”. It’s super refreshing watching a show where I actually relate to the protagonist – I see so much of myself in Mindy and her insecurities and I love it. I left Canada with about 6 episodes left of the most recent season, so I’m hoping kiwi Netflix will be a bro and get the rights to it soon.

CATS: No surprises here. I was so happy that Tom still loved me when I came back and I’ve spent the past week reminding him that, despite the awesome Airbnb cats I met, he’s my number one (I am aware that it’s weird to talk about your cat like that, but hey, I’ve never pretended I’m not weird about my cat):

Canada, I’ll miss you, but New Zealand, I’m so happy to be back.

On My Way Back Home

I haven’t done a life list in so long (probably because I’ve actually been writing real posts about my life) but the times they are a-changing so I wanted to do a quick update post:

  • I leave Canada in four days. My head can’t comprehend that I’ve been here for almost an entire year and that it’s almost over.
  • This also means it’s been nearly a whole year since I’ve driven a car.
  • All the Northern hemisphere blogs I follow keep saying things like “Summer is almost here!” whereas the kiwi ones are saying “Bye summer, see you in December!” Having a real winter with actual snow and freezing temperatures has been really cool, but it’s also felt kind of interminable, and I’m a little gutted that I won’t see summer until the end of this year.
  • I’m really going to miss the awesome veggie restaurants in Vancouver, and the ease with which I can find decent meat alternatives. Gardein crispy tenders, how will I survive without you??
  • I’m also bracing myself for the moment I log into Netflix in NZ and see there are half as many shows available.
  • Canada has been amazing and I’ve loved living here, but I’m so ready to go home. I miss my friends, I miss my cat, I miss my piano, and I really miss Wellington. It’s fun to travel and see new places but I’m convinced Wellington is the best place in the world (especially when I haven’t seen it for a while).
  • I’m a little concerned about how my body will function when I get home. I’ve been road tripping with no real schedule for close to 5 months so I don’t know how I’ll cope with a regular 9-5 job (which, hopefully, won’t take me too long to find).
  • Actually, coffee will help. Delicious, consistently perfect Wellington coffee.
  • Everyone seems to love telling me how difficult it is to find housing in Wellington at the moment, which has to be the least helpful thing you can tell someone who is looking for a place to live. Pro-tip: if someone is about to undertake a task that is possibly difficult, wish them luck and give them optimistic thoughts, instead of a boring and unhelpful “that’s going to be really hard, you probably won’t find anything”.
  • I’ve essentially only hung out with Lox for the past year so I’m going to have to make sure I haven’t got too weird and I’m actually still okay to be around. He still likes me when I’m mean and grumpy but other people probably won’t.
  • The title of this post is, unsurprisingly, a song title from a band I’ve seen live, and I’m really hoping some decent concerts will be happening in NZ this year.
  • In 5 days I reunite with this tiny man and I am so excited to see him again:

🐱 #mactomnom

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February ’17 Favourites

LUCK: Right now we’re in Banff again, getting a few days skiing in before heading back to BC. Banff is continuing its trend of being the best place ever – after our first night, we went to the front desk at our hotel because our key card wasn’t working. Instead of replacing our card, they upgraded us to the “King Jacuzzi Fireplace Suite”. The biggest thing I’ve ever won is a free coffee from Tim Hortons and I have never ever been upgraded, so I am beyond stoked to have a fancy room for no extra cost. It also has a ridiculously beautiful view – when I look out the window, I’m greeted by mountain. I’m pretty sure Banff is the most beautiful place in the world, I don’t think I could love it more if I tried.

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The view from my hotel room

MUSIC: I know she’s been around for awhile, but I only just discovered dodie and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with her music. “Sick of Losing Soulmates” was the first song I heard and adored, but I think “When” is my absolute favourite. She’s already super popular but if you haven’t already heard of her, you should absolutely check her out because her music is lovely and heartfelt.

COFFEE: In Vancouver, I searched for the best coffee and thought I found it. But despite being my least favourite Canadian city, Toronto actually has the best coffee in Canada. Technically I discovered Fahrenheit coffee last month, but I did visit it again this month so I’m classifying it as a February favourite (plus it’s so unreasonably good, I really needed to mention it here at least once).

TRAVEL: I’ve been in three different countries this month (Canada, Iceland, and the Netherlands) and now I’m hyperaware of the fact that in less than 3 weeks I’ll be in New Zealand. It feels very strange knowing I’ll be home soon but also pretty welcome – Canada is cool, but wow do I miss my cat.

Road tripping around Canada: Quebec City

As you probably know, Lox and I are now road tripping back west, so we’re going to end up at some of the places we’ve already visited again. First on the list of repeats was Quebec City.

Old Quebec ✨💛✨ #explorecanada #explorequebec #quebeccity

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I liked Quebec City the first time we visited, but the second time around I was really struck by what an amazing place it is. It’s old, so much older than a lot of cities in Canada. The architecture is stunning and feels just like being in Europe. Despite all the hills, the cool parts of town are all close to each other so it’s a very walkable city. While wandering, we stumbled into the Marché du Vieux-Port which was gorgeous – there’s something about fairy lights that will make me fall in love with anything.

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Like Montreal, Quebec City has some of the best food I’ve had in Canada. Paillard was a beautiful boulangerie that’s perfect for lunch, Poutineville is now tied with La Banquise for my favourite poutine (pro-tip: get the smashed potatoes instead of regular fries), Casse-crêpe Breton has delicious crepes (sweet & savoury), and we found actually good expresso from Café Maelstrøm.

Quebec City is home to the Musée de la civilisation, which we got a chance to visit this time around. Pretty much every exhibit was interactive, making it much more fun than just walking around and reading information plaques. In a beautiful stroke of luck, there was an exhibit on cats & dogs, complete with features such as cat & dog themed Guess Who and an obstacle course to determine if you were faster than a dog (we were not). There was another exhibit about illusions, where you did a variety of tasks utilising different senses. It was also my first time experiencing virtual reality – one exhibit called “The Library at Night” used VR goggles and transported you to 10 different libraries around the world. It was very cool but also slightly terrifying, as it made me realise that the future of horror movies is totally going to involve being attacked in VR.

Quebec City is going down as another one of my favourite places in Canada, and Quebec itself is probably my favourite province in this beautiful and strange country. Tomorrow we leave Quebec City for Ottawa (another repeat) and I feel really happy with how we spent our time here.

Road tripping around Canada: The Maritimes

After spending over a week in beautiful Quebec, Lox and I headed to New Brunswick. We didn’t have much interest in it, but we wanted to get to Prince Edward Island and to get there, we needed to cross the sparsely populated NB. We only had a couple of days there which we spent chilling out in our Airbnb – the most beautiful old farmhouse with a cat that I fell in love with far too hard.

My new hobby is having photoshoots with the cats at our Airbnbs 📸🐱 #cats #airbnb

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After chilling out in NB, we headed to Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island. PEI was similar to Tofino, in that I assume it’s glorious in the summer but kind of irrelevant during the rest of the year. There were some fantastic coffee shops and the farmers market was very cool, but so much of what could have been on offer was closed. Canada has this weird thing where during “winter” – really from October to April – everything shuts down. I was pretty disappointed the Anne of Green Gables house was closed – we drove to see it anyway, thinking we could just take a look around the outside, but no such luck – there were NO TRESPASSING signs everywhere so we really didn’t want to risk it. PEI was very pretty, but I can’t say I’d recommend it to anyone or want to visit it again.

We hadn’t originally even planned to visit Nova Scotia – I may have forgotten that it existed – but our hosts in PEI asked if we were headed there, so we decided we may as well knock out all of the Maritimes. Halifax surprised me – I wasn’t expecting much but it’s actually a really beautiful city. We were treated to stunning weather and it was actually pleasant to be outside for a change, so we spent our time wandering the city. The Halifax Harbourwalk was especially beautiful and made me forget that it was still winter.

Hitting the east coast means that we are officially halfway through our road trip, and only a couple months away from heading back to NZ. Now we’re slowly headed all the way back to Vancouver, hopefully stopping at some new sites – and stopping again at places we loved! – along the way.

Voyage au Canada: Montréal

I can’t speak French. Parlo un po’ d’italiano and entiendo un poco de español, but my French is limited to parlez-vous anglais? and inappropriate lines from Moulin Rouge. The only French part of the world I’ve spent much time in is Paris, and in all honesty, most people speak English anyway so it’s no big drama being monolingual. I knew that I shouldn’t expect that same level of comfort in Montreal, so I was prepared to flounder. Before arriving, all I had been told was that it was freezing and that the drivers were very aggressive. That combined with my lack of French made me a little apprehensive about visiting Montreal.

So I was pretty surprised to discover that I loved Montreal. It was super snowy when we arrived so the car skidded around a bit, but we didn’t notice drivers being any worse than the rest of Canada (fun fact: Canadian drivers, especially those in Vancouver, are the worst drivers I’ve ever come across – I’ve had Canadians confirm this with me so I promise I’m not being unfairly judgemental). Our Airbnb was really lovely: we stayed with a vegan couple who gave us awesome restaurant suggestions and they also had two adorable cats. There we brought in the New Year, joining the NYE party our hosts threw. Despite being the only non-French speakers and the only monolingual people in the room, we had a really great time. Everyone spoke at least a bit of English and the language barrier was less of an issue the drunker people got.

We spent most of our time in Montreal eating and wandering the streets, though we did stop in the Underground City and I finally bought myself a hardier winter jacket on sale – they really weren’t kidding about Montreal being cold (one day it took us about 20 minutes to dig Cindy out of the snow). The city itself has such a cool vibe. It reminded me a little bit of Vancouver’s Commercial-Broadway area mixed with Gastown, mixed with a bit of Wellington’s Cuba St and Newtown, mixed with the picturesque parts of Paris. Old Montreal especially feels like you’re actually in Europe, and is one of the prettiest places I’ve been.

As well as being beautiful, Montreal is home to some of the best restaurants I’ve tried in Canada – amazing breakfasts at L’Oeufrier, a huge portion of Indian food for only $8 at Chand Palace, authentic poutine at La Banquise, and the best Montreal bagels from Fairmount. I still haven’t found any coffee shops to rival Wellington, but our Airbnb had an espresso machine that made a pretty wicked long black. Luckily, Lox loved Montreal just as much as I did, so we’re planning to visit again in early February – hopefully then we’ll find some good coffee shops! I never expected to fall in love with Montreal, but now, along with Vancouver and Banff, it’s one of my favourite cities in Canada.

Dreaming of a White Christmas

All my life I’ve wanted to experience a white Christmas. The Northern Hemisphere idea of Christmas permeates culture everywhere, so much so that typical emblems of the holiday are basically synonymous with winter. And now, I’m in Canada and it’s Christmas Eve, there’s snow outside, the temperature essentially demands you wear that ridiculous jumper – and it just doesn’t feel at all like Christmas to me.

Something that I probably should have realised is that traditions are a big part of how you define things. To me, Christmas has never been about snowflakes and woolly jumpers – it’s been about 25°C sunshine, being mildly annoyed about waking up at 8 to go to church, sleeveless dresses, the inevitable game of backyard cricket, pohutukawas in full bloom, and being surrounded by all of my family. It’s lovely here in Ottawa (plus our Airbnb has 4 cats, a definite bonus), but it doesn’t feel any different to any other day. I’m excited to finally get my white Christmas, but I’m preparing myself for the homesickness that’s bound to hit pretty hard tomorrow.

Merry Christmas 🎁🎅🏽🎄 #flossumthepossum

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