Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

Christmas and NYE in Canada (19 Dec 14 – 03 Jan 15)

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

The two weeks around Christmas and New Years we spend in Canada – mostly in Vancouver, with a three-night stint in Yellowknife in the North Western Territory.

J has extended family in Vancouver, and her mum and brothers also had come, so we spend a lot of time with family eating. Vancouver has some fantastic food, at a fraction of the price we would pay in San Francisco, so we indulged quite a bit: Chinese, Japanese, Indian, seafood, as well as some fast food specialties, like the “Japadog” which is a Japanese style hot dog – sounds strange but is actually very delicious. Other than eating, and of course celebrating Christmas with the family, we walked around the city a lot, including a visit to the Christmas lights display in the Van Dusen botanical garden, which is really very impressive – trees and plants around the whole garden are lit with lots and lots of lights, and there are also some themed sections like a gingerbread forest.

The highlight of the trip, however, was the visit to very cold (-30 degrees) Yellowknife. We had come mainly to see the northern lights, for which we had booked two nights of aurora viewing in the “aurora village” half an hour outside Yellowknife. The stay came with warm clothes (definitely required), transport etc. The village itself is not really a village, but rather a tourist operation with “tipis” that you can sit in and have a hot drink to warm you up between being outside and looking out for the aurora, a restaurant, gift shop, etc. On our first night, we were quite lucky since the aurora put on quite a spectacle shortly after midnight, with green, white and pink lights swirling and dancing across the whole sky. While we have some (long exposure) photos, it is quite difficult to fully imagine or describe all the detail and the movement of the lights in the sky – truly a unique and amazing experience! The next night, we were far less lucky – it was a bit cloudy so we could hardly see the lights, but after our experience the night before we were not disappointed at all.

In the daytime, we did some other winter activities: one day, we went ice fishing. Our guide, Greg, took us out on the ¬†frozen lake in his little ice fishing mobile, which looks like an oversized and closed snow mobile. It has four holes in the ground through which you can fish, after having drilled holes in the ice with a massive hand-held drill. We didn’t catch anything, but since Greg operated a camera in one of the four holes, we could at least see a few fish below the ice, but they were apparently not hungry since they weren’t interested in our food. At least, the evening of that day we went to eat some fish – at Bullocks, which is a local joint that offers fish and chips that are expensive, but also extremely extremely delicious.

Another day, we went snow mobiling one the lake, which was a lot of fun – a bit like riding a scooter, but across an endless snow-covered white desert. The lake is so solidly frozen that for multiple months each winter they operate an official highway on it. In the afternoon, we went dog sledding – two persons on each sled, pulled by four dogs. Our dogs, however, seemed to be the worst pick: the two in the front were constantly distracted, looking back or trying to lick up some snow, and a third dog refused to run at all, sitting down again and again until the guides took him away. Only when the guides gave us one of the other sled’s dogs did we pick up some speed, but we still were the last ones to finish the course.

The cold in Yellowknife was really quite something. It has been a while since I have experienced cold winters in Germany, but -30 degrees is really a different world even to the -20 centigrade it sometimes reached in Germany. At that low temperature, every exposed part of skin hurts, and just from breathing, your nostrils start freezing – we were definitely glad that we had proper rental clothes provided by the various companies organizing the activities we took part in!

Some pictures follow.

5 Continents in P6 Pt. 7: Toronto, Washington (Again)

Monday, February 11th, 2013

From Washington, we took a plane to Toronto — we wanted to see another country on our trip and neither of us had been to Canada before. We had been worrying that it would be way too cold up there, but it actually wasn’t too bad, and the first two days we had quite nice weather. On the first day, we visited the CN Tower, a Toronto landmark that between its construction in 1976 and 2007 (when Burj Khalifa overtook it) was the tallest freestanding structure in the world. With a cloud-free sky you could see quite far from up there, but more interesting than the view to the sides is the view down — the observation deck has an area with a glass floor, and even though it should be perfectly safe you get kind of dizzy just looking down through it. After the tower, we went to Toronto Music Garden, a garden designed after J. S. Bach’s First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello (which is quite an interesting concept, and makes for a nice garden, even though it would probably be more beautiful in summer), and walked around through the city bit.

The next day, we went to Niagara Falls. We had booked a tour that was gonna pick us up in the morning, and we were expecting it to be a bus — instead it was a black stretch limousine, with only three other people! Traveling far outside the peak season does have its advantages sometimes! The falls themselves are amazing, especially the ones on the Canadian side (the Niagara river separates Canada and the US, and there are two falls next to each other, separated by an island that belongs to the US). The Canadian falls are shaped like a horseshoe, and enormous amounts of water are thundering down so that the falls are always covered in a cloud of mist. With temperatures well below freezing, that meant that all the trees and plants in the proximity were covered with a thick layer of ice — quite an amazing sight! After the falls, we went to the small and cute (albeit somewhat touristy) town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, which actually was the first capital of Upper Canada (which now is Ontario) in the late 1700s. After we spent some time walking around the streets there (and getting a hot tea to warm ourselves up), we then as the last stop of our tour went to a winery, where we tasted some of the local wine, especially the ice wine which the region is famous for. In the evening after the tour, we went for dinner with some INSEAD students who are now in Toronto — which was great fun.

Starting Thursday evening and running all through Friday, we had a big snow storm, which meant that we spent most of the time just relaxing in the hotel. By Saturday, when we were supposed to fly out to Boston, the storm had left Toronto… but collided with another one in the north east of the US to form the massive blizzard “Nemo”, which hit especially Boston really hard. Of course, our flight got cancelled, but we also thought that it simply might not be a good idea to fly there even a day later when probably the city would still be cleaning up the damage and potentially be without power or public transport. So instead — we ended up going back to Washington because we found a cheap flight. In Washington, we basically only spent the night, to then on the next day go back to my relatives in Chadd’s Ford, PA. In effect, instead of our planned five-city loop we ended up retracing a four-city itinerary, since after Chadd’s Ford we will go back to NYC and fly back out to Germany from there.

Some pictures follow.

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