The goings on of a 20-something who does way too much

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December 1, 2013

Churchill Northern Studies Centre

I am writing this about a third of the way into my 2 day Train journey back to Winnipeg from Churchill which has been my home for the last 6 weeks.

The Churchill Northern Studies Centre is basically a facility for researchers, groups and learning vacations to use to experience and research the Sub-Arctic. It takes on up to 6 volunteers over the year during the busy periods when groups and researchers are staying in the 84 beds available in Dormitories in this new purpose built building that was only opened in June 2011.

Volunteers are basically a helping hand and mainly focus on helping out with dishes and setting up the dining area but we also helped with Housekeeping, admin and stocking and tidying the gift shop and I also helped out with doing the volunteer scheduling which is not as easy as it may seem.

The accommodations are pretty good. We were staying in a slightly larger family room than the other standard size dorm rooms so we got to spread out a little bit more which is nice when we are staying there so long. We also got fed some pretty good cooking 3 meals a day and seeing as one of the cooks used to be a baker there was a lot of baked goods always available for the taking. Say goodbye to skinny waistlines when you come to stay here, I even started making use of the Gym whilst I was there because of the amount of yummy food.

As part of volunteering we also got to participate in some pretty cool outings. I personally got to go on 2 Tundra Buggy Tours (which I wrote about previously) and Dog Carting with Wapusk Adventures (Not enough snow for Sledding L). We also got to go into Churchill to visit the Eskimo Museum and Parks Canada Interpretive Centre as well as just explore the town (which is not that big).


The Great White Bear

As I was here during the Polar Bear Season you are not allowed to leave the building without a bear guard so we took any opportunity to go for a ride even if it was just to go on a Garbage Run or to go Pump Water cause it usually meant we would go on a little side trip down the coastal roads to try and find a Polar Bear which never eventuated but is always good just for the scenery.

Churchill Grain Silos


Overall it was a great way for me to come to Churchill and experience this beautiful place for a little bit longer  than the average tourist without paying the horrendous amounts of money they pay (overall I spent only a little bit of money on Souvenirs and about $800 on Flights and the Train ride). And because I got here early enough I got to see the Tundra in its Fall Colours, first Snow, Blizzard like conditions that took out our Electricity, a lost Black Bear that should of been Hibernating, Ptarmigan in their Summer and Winter colours, Aurora Borealis and most importantly got to see some Polar Bears. It’s a really interesting place to stay and you never know, I might return to Churchill again one day. J

Aurora Borealis

October 29, 2013

Tundra Buggy Adventures in Churchill, Manitoba

So today I got to go on my Second and Final Tundra Buggy Adventures as part of my volunteering at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre in Churchill, Northern Manitoba. I will write about my time volunteering in another blog after I finish up my 6 weeks here later on this week, but now onto the Tundra Buggies.

Now Tundra Buggies are basically a huge purpose built bus on wheels over 1.5 metres in diameter that were designed to go over rugged terrain and just happen to be perfect for trying to find Churchill's most famous resident, the Polar Bear. Churchill is named Polar Bear Capital of the World, this may or may not be true but the population around here is the most accessible for people to come visit, particularly during the months of Oct-Nov when they seem to head towards Churchill. This is because this area is typically the first place in the Hudson Bay where the Sea Ice forms thick enough for Polar Bears to return out to see to hunt seal after being stuck on land since about July.

Tundra Buggy Adventures is the awesome Tour Company that I got to go with for free because I technically am still volunteering on the bus helping with making Hot Chocolates for the groups coming to the study centre for special Polar Bear Programs. Otherwise to pay for it individually it is about $400 so not a cheap day out.

So I got to go on two adventures- the first was on the 18th of October and the second was on the 28th and the difference in the landscape in these 10 days was quite interesting. The first tour we had really just had a small amount of snow so the landscape was only a little frozen and snow covered but now the landscape has become very wind blown (helped by the 70km winds we had) and sections of the bay were starting to freeze up. It was nice to see this interesting change in landscape which has been an ongoing and fast change since arriving to Churchill only 6 weeks ago.

Anyway, onto the Polar Bears! On the first trip, we saw a total of 7 bears including a Mother and her yearling cub (means the cub was born to Winter's before) and two males play fighting and sparring. The Mother and Cub were quite a rarity apparently and we didn't really know they were there until they snuck around the buggy ahead of us and started heading towards us not quite knowing what to do. In the end, once I pushed myself towards a window, I could see they got as close as 1 metre next to the bus when they walked past it and the cub was making a lot of noise (which you will never hear an Adult doing). It was a very special moment, especially when it was the first really close bears I had ever seen.
Mother and Yearling having a cuddle

Mother and Cubs heading away from the annoying buggies

After we could no longer see the Mum and it's Cub we kept going on the ex military roads through the Wildlife Management Area until we got to the Tundra Buggy Adventures Lodge (where people with a lot of money spend a fortune on staying in luxurious caravan like accommodation in the middle of the Tundra) where we spotted two Males being very cosy together and having a nap. We ended up watching these two for a while as they eventually got a bit active and play wrestled and some sparring to test out there limits of strength for when the real fighting happens on the ice over females. Needless to say it was a very distracted lunch out here, as the bears were very cute and were very interesting to watch especially how they interact with each other on land compared to the solitary life at ice. 
Two Males sniffing each other

Playfighting!

More Playfighting!

After watching them for a while we checked out another 2 Polar Bears that were hanging around near the lodge then started heading back. On the way back we went along a coastal area called Gordon Point to search for Arctic Fox we found a very cute young one camouflaged young one, after a few minutes it very quickly disappeared and that was the last of our animal sightings for my first Tundra Buggy Adventure.

The Second Tundra Buggy Adventure 10 days later was a lot colder and extremely windy so we didn't have a clue if we would see a few or many but we ended up seeing 12 Bears which was awesome. The first bear of the day was inspecting and leaning up against some other buggies ahead but it decided it just wanted to stroll past us, but he was still probably only 2 metres away from the bus.

Female right next to the buggy

We continued on and saw a few from a distance strolling along the coast and having a nap and then just before we got to the Lodge that had all the bear action last time, we came across at least 6 buggies checking out 2 sleeping bears. We decided to sit in this spot for a while and see what happened. Our patience paid off because we got to see them sparring at first off behind some Willows until a third (a little beat up!) bear came and crashed the party.

Two Males Sparring while the third comes in to crash the party

But after a while two of them got back into the action while the third one sat and watched. Luckily this time it was a little closer to the bus but we still had another buggy in the way most of the time.


Sparring

After they got tired of this they went there seperate ways and one of them went to go and lie in a Kelp bed which apparently is a favorite hangout for these bears during time on land.

Hanging out in the Kelp

We kept heading around the lodges and we were rewarded with seeing this big Male hanging around the Lodge. Apparently Big Males don't tend to head in this direction until a little closer to freeze up but we were glad to see him.

One Big Boy!!!

Eventually we got back out onto that Coast road and just came across 2 young Arctic Foxes chilling out next to the water. So cute and they are so tiny they couldn't walk straight in the strong winds.

Two Arctic Foxes! So cute!

After that it was time to head back to base, on the way we saw a few more Bears from a distance with gave us a great total of 12 bears.

As Polar Bears were my main reason for coming to Churchill, I was definitely not disappointed with the luck I had with the Bears on my two trips. It was so fascinating to get so close to these beautiful massive creatures that are so dangerous they have to be discouraged from coming into town. I would recommend it to anyone, even though the tour is expensive, it is something you do once and you treasure forever because there are not too many places you will get to be this close to a Polar Bear and not be at risk from being eaten.

The Tundra Buggy Adventures  is the company I went with and there are also two other companies that offer similar tours. Great White Bear that enters the same Management Area and Great Bear Lodge who can only stick to the public Coastal Roads and probably see less Bears.

October 3, 2013

Montreal- An Amazing Summer Part 1

So I have now moved from Montreal to Churchill, Manitoba (at least for a few weeks so I thought it was time to give an update on how much I got done of the list of 100 things. It may take a few posts but here is a few to start with.

01. Feel the rhythm and watch medieval sword fights at the Tam Tams every Sunday afternoon at Mont-Royal
We made a flying visit to the Tam Tams one Sunday afternoon after getting some Aussie Meat Pies from TA, which is just up the road. It wasn't super spectacular but its a nice place to relax and have a Picnic on a Sunny Summer's day whilst listening to a Drum Circle that is made up of anyone who brings a drum and wants to join in. There are also lots of people selling stuff around the Angel statue. 

02. Have a picnic and give free hugs with electronic beats and funky DJ`s at Piknik Electronic, Sundays at Jean-Drapeau
Piknik Electronic is quite famous amongst the younger crowd in Montreal and I had heard about it before getting here so when I had the opportunity to visit this Sunday institution on a Saturday for free as part of Weekends du Monde (a festival combining many different cultures over the course of two weekends) I jumped at the chance despite the boiling humid sunny weather and the fact I was alone. Let me start out by saying that Piknik Electronic is not exactly a relaxed Piknik in the park, when I was there it was fairly hot but did not provide a lot of shade especially under the dance floor which happens to be under some weird sculpture. But after finding a semi shaded wall to lean against with the River behind me I settled in to enjoy the music and people watch. The music was pretty good, the dj playing whilst I was there had a didgeridoo and other instruments which he would occaisionally add to the mix, the dance floor crowd was getting in to it and the people watching was pretty interesting so definitely worth a peek especially when its free. After watching for a little bit I decided to go for a wander through the park which is very shaded and relaxing but after a couple of minutes I decided to turn around at this point I am greeted by a lonely man taking the opportunity to try and pick a girl up in the park. After realising I do not speak Francais he switches to English and invites me to go for a walk with him as he is lonely, I quickly say no, thank you and start speed walking in the other direction but not before the guy is like "Why not, I am a gentle person", I'm sure thats what every murderer or rapist says to there victims. So my Piknik Electronic was slightly tainted but still a great people watching experience.



04. Grab yourself a Beaver Tail, 127 de la Commune E
Beaver Tails are a bit of a Quebec tourist trap (have never seen them out of Quebec Province) that you find in a chain of stores usually where tourists congregate. They are basically a doughnut like pastry rolled out into a long strip and then topped with your desired topping from plain cinnimon and sugar to fancier creations. For my first Beaver Tail foray whilst visiting Just for Laughs I decided to go with the Oreo one which basically consists of Vanilla icing piled with cookie pieces. At $7 this is pretty expensive and I only ate half of it cause it was so insanely sweet I could not fathom how anyone could eat the whole thing. They are yummy but maybe stick with the ones without icing unless you love the sugary stuff.

07. Have fun being green by renting a bike free in the summer at Mont-Royal metro (Desjardins info booth right outside the exit) or Bixi-ing around town
We decided to rent a Bixi bike and attempt to ride to Parc de Rapides and along the Lachine Canal to the St Ambriose brewery terrase. After cycling all the way to Parc de Rapides and eating Baguette and Salami's from Atwater Market we decided to head straight to the brewery cause cycling when you haven't done it for a while hurts, still a very fun day though and one day I will make it along the canal.


Parc de Rapides

08. Jazz it up at JazzFest in the summer!
The Montreal Jazz Fest is apparently the biggest one in the world, not surprising when they have about 350 free shows and another 150 paid shows. This year it happened in Late June and it happens around Place de Arts which is also the home of a lot of different festivals over the Summer worth checking out including Francofolies and Just For Laughs which I have written about below. The Jazz Festival is a very busy event that has about 8 free stages set up around Place de Arts and has acts from all over the world. The best act by far was The Cat Empire which were not scheduled to play but were a special surprise act and they were very, very good. Well, worth coming to Montreal around this time but expect a lot of crowds.
The Cat Empire
09. Walk Plateau-Mont-Royal and Village and discover shops, cafes, culture.
The Plateau is probably one of the nicest areas to live and hang out in Montreal. It has lots of nice cafes, restaurants, plenty of unique shops and plenty of green spaces. Its also an area without a lot of culture and a great mix of people from all around the world. Just go for wander around the Plateau and you will always find something new.

11. Explore some art and history, and/or hide from the rain, at Montreal’s museums
Montreal has a great selection of Museums and many of them are free most of the time or at least a little bit of the time. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts or Musee de Beau Arts is free all the time (except for temporary exhibits) and you can easily spend a few hours here wandering around all the exhibits spread across three buildings. The Red Path Museum is also free all the time and focuses on Natural History and has a very old Natural History vibe about it as it has been there for 100 years. If you're lucky enough to be free on a Wednesday night then you can visit the Contemporary Art Museum or the Musee McCord. Together I only spent a couple of hrs visiting both of them. The Contemporary Art Museum has some interesting temporary exhibits whilst the Musee McCord has a very interesting area on the history of different districts of Montreal which I enjoyed cause I could match up the place to where I had lived or been There are also plenty of other Museums worth a visit all over Montreal.
                                                             
Museum of Fine Arts


Contemporary Arts Museum

12. Grab some fresh and organic ingredients at Jean-Talon , biggest and best farmer`s market in town. 
Jean Talon Market is awesome. Has a huge range of fresh produce and stores filled with everything to make your taste buds salivate. A must visit for any foodie especially during Summer.

16. Get some bagel action at Fairmount Bagels or St-Viateur Bagels. No need to argue which is the best, just try both! 
I have now been to both. They are both delicious so I could not argue which is better but Fairmount has a bigger selection whilst St-Viateur has more stores either way make sure you try the ones straight from the oven cause they will be amazing.
21. Visit the Oratoire Saint-Joseph
Saint Joseph's Oratory is a very big church/cathedral near Mount Royal. Its free to go in and have a look and has some really nice wood carvings inside. There is also a nice view from here to the North over Montreal.


22. Quack at the ducks at Parc Lafontaine. In the winter you can ice skate there.Parc Lafontaine is a lovely place to sit and have a picnic especially if you get take away from La Banque which is just around the corner. We also saw Shakespeare in the Park here at an open air theatre and there are many other shows over the summer.
24. Watch the fireworks of Loto-Québec either from the Old Port, the Jacques Cartier Bridge, or from l’Île St-Hélène under the bridge.So over the Summer in Montreal there is a Fireworks Competition which you can view from the Old Port. It is a pretty spectacular fireworks show and something nice to check out on a warm Summer's evening.

As you can tell there is a lot to see and experience in Montreal and I will tell you more in my next post.

My Long Train Adventure From Winnipeg to Churchill

So as part of my adventure to Churchill to spend six weeks volunteering at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre I had to choose from two options to get to this super remote town on the shores of the Hudson Bay- rail or fly. So whilst flying is much quicker than the 45hrs scheduled train journey it is also 3 times the price ($325 for train return and over $1000 for the plane from Winnipeg) so for the economically challenged we choose the budget option.

I arrived nice and early at Winnipeg’s Union Station and after navigating the current construction works found the Luggage Counter so I could dump my bags and forget about them for 2 days. As it was only 10am and the train didn’t leave till 12.05pm I had pre-planned to head to the Forks Market which is about a 5 min walk from the station and probably the nicest and closest place to find food. I decided to have a quick breakfast at The Pancake House before picking up some baked goodies from the Tall Prairie Bakery (you must try the Cinnamon Buns) as I knew the options on board the train were fairly dismal in selection.
After returning to the station and waiting around for a bit we finally boarded the train and pulled out of the station at 12.10pm and got 5 mins away before stopping on the outskirts of Winnipeg for like 10 mins.

On board the train there was 3 main carriages- a Sleeper Car (for the people who want to fork out more money to get a proper bed to sleep on), an Economy car where all us poor folk get to sit with plenty of leg room and not many passengers (maybe 15 people to begin with and down to 10 people by Saskatchewan before getting a few more locals hopping on and off for the grocery run to Thompson) and a dining car with only a small selection of takeaway style food but they do serve alcoholic drinks.

The journey takes you past fairly similar terrain for the first day of the journey with mainly just prairies and a small section where you can see the Riding Horse Mountain Range in the distance. Other than that not much except for a Mother Black Bear and her 2 cubs that I happened to sleep through L
Having been on this train, I now understand why it takes so long to cover such a short distance as the train seems to crawl along at a speed similar to walking.
The train doesn’t stop very often though, but it does seem to stop by random roads to let locals off next to there waiting friends and families in there cars.



On the Second Day of the Journey the Train stops in Thompson for a 5hr scheduled stop if it gets there on time. My train arrived just before 3pm so there was only about 2hrs to make the 1km walk into the Thompson to visit the Mall and stock up on goodies. Its also a good place to buy anything else you may have forgotten as there is also a Walmart in the Mall which is much cheaper then the one Store in Churchill. So just before 5pm everyone piles back onto the train including many locals doing there grocery run and tourists who have driven all the way up to Thompson. They also add an extra Engine on here cause its a long way if one breaks down.

After Thompson there are only 1 or 2 stops before Churchill, so after a stop in Gillam the train has a long slow run up to Churchill. This part of the journey is the slowest and bumpiest as it is very hard for the tracks to be maintained as there is no road North of Gillam. So if you get a little motion sickness then beware.
By this point in the journey it is Boreal Forest and by 9am you should be in Churchill. My train arrived by 8.30am which is apparently fairly out of the ordinary for this train.




Overall, it’s not a bad journey, just remember to take plenty of food on board as the dining car serves only Microwave meals but you can get them to give you hot water and they will Microwave stuff for you. Also, if the train is quite empty try to get a set of four seats facing each other as this will be a more comfy nights sleep. And bring a Sleep Mask, Pillow, Blanket and Ear Plugs cause otherwise it will be a much more uncomfortable journey. Oh, and plenty of things to read and watch, and make friends with people on the train. I would recommend catching the plane back though if you can afford it. 

If you want more information on this train journey and prices head to Via Rails Website-http://www.viarail.ca/


May 30, 2013

LIFE IN MONTREAL AND MY QUEST TO COMPLETE 100 THINGS TO DO IN MONTREAL

Hi everybody, as you can see it has been a while since my last posting so lets see if I can keep this updated at least over this Summer in Montreal. So after driving over 10,000kms from Panorama where we were working in the Winter via Florida we finally arrived in Montreal which is our destination for the Summer. After a lot of job hunting and house hunting it looks like we're hopefully set enough to enjoy what Montreal has offer. During my many hours of website trawling I came across this list of 100 things to do in Montreal so my goal is to try and get as many done as possible and I will try and update you on how each one goes.

01. Feel the rhythm and watch medieval sword fights at the Tam Tams every Sunday afternoon at Mont-Royal
02. Have a picnic and give free hugs with electronic beats and funky DJ`s at Piknik Electronic, Sundays at Jean-Drapeau
03. Bike along the 14.5Km of Lachine Canal and catch the wonder of the old Port
04. Grab yourself a Beaver Tail, 127 de la Commune E
05. Join Cat’s Corner’s LARGEST PUBLIC SHIM SHAM for a free swing dance and free Charleston classes. Look for the big crowd of Lindy hoppers dancing in the streets of Blvd St Laurent!
06. Salsa it up with Salsafolie at the Old Port on Saturday afternoons
07. Have fun being green by renting a bike free in the summer at Mont-Royal metro (Desjardins info booth right outside the exit) or Bixi-ing around town
08. Jazz it up at JazzFest in the summer!
09. Walk Plateau-Mont-Royal and Village and discover shops, cafes, culture.
10. Head over to Schwartz`s on St-Catherine for a deli and smoked beef sandwich experience like no other (the cherry cola goes down real well too!)
11. Explore some art and history, and/or hide from the rain, at Montreal’s museums, free:
• The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is always free
• The Red Path Museum, offering a variety of exhibitions from Ancient Times is always free
• The Contemporary Art Museum is free on Wednesday evenings from 6-9 pm
• The Canadian Centre for Architecture is free on Thursday evenings after 5:30 pm
12. Grab some fresh and organic ingredients at Jean-Talon , biggest and best farmer`s market in town. Also check out the other cool farmers markets around town.
13. Have a Bohemian experience, great ambience, cool live music, yummy and cheap food at L’Escalier (Berri-UQAM)
14. Parc and picnic it up at one of the many lovely parks in and around the city. Parc-Nature De L’ile-De-La-Visitation, Parc Angrignon, to name a few.
15. Try one of the biggest, yummiest and best presented sandwiches at Santropol, 3990 St-Urbain.
16. Get some bagel action at Fairmount Bagels or St-Viateur Bagels. No need to argue which is the best, just try both! Warning: on weekend mornings the queues can get pretty crazy!
17. Climb Mont-Royal at 5am and catch the sunrise!
18. Have a sweet maple experience at a cabane a sucre (sugar shack) in the winter time (maybe not the best place for vegetarians/vegans)
19. take advantage of the free wifi service offered in many cafes/pubs around the city
20. Sample some fave eats and/or take a food discovery tour with some CS’rs!
21. Visit the Oratoire Saint-Joseph
22. Quack at the ducks at Parc Lafontaine. In the winter you can ice skate there.
23. Have some old-fashioned pancakes served plain or with one of over 20 different fillings, and brunch it up, atChez Cora.
24. Watch the fireworks of Loto-Québec either from the Old Port, the Jacques Cartier Bridge, or from l’Île St-Hélène under the bridge.
25. Look at the city at nightime from l’Île Jean-Drapeau and/or from Mont Royal
26. Find a new literary world at La grande bibliothèque Nationale
27. Go kayaking at les îles de Boucherville or just wander around…
28. People watch on St-Laurent
29. Go on a walking graffiti tour of the city. Lots of great artworks to see/photograph!
30. Spend a day in roller coasters at Six Flags (LaRonde) 
31. Watch a hockey game at any local pub/bar/dive and watch as people go nuts with excitement
32. Walk around the financial district while NOT wearing a suit during rush hour (hehe I get a kick out a the funny looks people give)
33. Bike down any street in Westmount from the Boulevard. It’s super scary! Make sure to drop by Bilboquet in Westmount for fun, creative and yummy icecream flavors.
34. Get shitfaced (really really really drunk in other words) and eat poutine at 3am
35. Go make friends with gypsies at Café Sarajevo on Beaubien
36. Watch a Serie B at Cinema Parallèle (ex ex-centris)
37. Dance and discover at the Festival Nuit d’Afrique (in July)
38. laugh at the Festival Juste pour Rire (in july)
39. Learn new things from exposition at Centre des Sciences in the Old Port
40. Go karting “all you can drive” all night long for 75$ (at the largest indoor go-kart center in HOMA : Action500)
41. Do speed boating, rafting or Jet boating on the St-Laurence River
42. Discover the silophone on the old port
43. Pay what you want and have a decent meal at Taverne Crescent @ 1433 Crescent (press: http://ow.ly/h1WL)
44. Cycling the Island by it’s cycling path web
45. Join some CS events, take some snaps and add them to the CS Montreal Flickr pool
46. Swimming and tanning at Parc Jean-Drapeau’s pool
47. Run through the dancing fountains just outside Jean-Drapeau Metro
48. Shop ridiculously inexpensive curiosities on Bazaar, church sales and garage sales
49. Having a floating bath at Ovarium
50. Breakfast at a restaurant (wearing jogging pants!)
51. Walk the Nouvelle-France style streets of Old Montreal
52. Offering no resistance to a gigantic Tonkinese soup (Vietnamese “Pho”) at Pho Viet on Amherst or Pho somethin! on ste-catherine, close to Foufounes
Électriques…that one that looks like a cafeteria! (and dare to resist the fried banana!!)
53. Catch a show (dance, musical, concert, theater, circus, opera, ballet…there are of all taste)
54. Feel the vibes of freshly arrived Spring on Avenue Mont-Royal and the Mountain. There are many wonderful cafes and restaurants such as Le Pistou dejeuner, Cora’s, l’Avenue du Plateau
55. Dine at O’NOIR (rue Ste. Catherine) – you eat your meal in complete darkness! Seriously, you can’t see a single thing. They play live music, also. Interesting experience. Also support a great cause as all the waiters are blind.
56. Sample dragon’s beard candy & bubble tea in Chinatown
57. Get your Mexicana fix – delicious & inexpensive at Chipotle & Jalapeno (1481 rue Amherst)
58. Help somebody move their couch on Moving Day – July 1 (which is also Canada Day!)
59. Chocoholics – Go to Juliette et Chocolat, have an old fashioned hot chocolate and smile. There’s one on St Denis and another at Laurier (less busy, and nicer interior).
60. Go to one of Montreal’s Sidewalk Sales (Vente de Trottoir) It’s a mix between a fair and a sales event. Lots of great deals, music, open terraces, performances, face paint for kids (and adults!). Wonderful experience!
61. Have a creation sandwich or Mish Mash at the ever famous “Cosmos” in NDG
62. Go to the “Comedy Nest’s” open Mic night and cheer some folks on
63. Go see the lemurs at the Biodome and do the dance from Madagascar…I like to move it, move it! I like to move it, move it!!
64. If you’re at the Biodome anyway, then why not go next door to Stadium Olympique and get one of the best 360 views of the city?
65. Try your luck on locals with some french pick-up lines (click on this link and scroll to the bottom of the page)
66. Go to Westmount Library, it’s wonderful. And visit the greenhouse close to it. Specially in wintertime.
67. Have a walk in Saint Henri. Discover G-Etienne Cartier Square.
68. Have a drink at Burgundy’s pub, and enjoy the terrace
69. Taste the best Ice Cream in Montreal at “Le havre aux glaces” (Jean Talon and Atwater markets).
70. Taste the best beer in Montreal at micro-brewery “le dieu du ciel“. There are many other micro-breweries in town too, or if you’ve got transport and time why not take the Quebec Microbrewery tour?
71. Go to René Lévesques Parc at the end of canal Lachine
72. Discover the “musée en plein air” (outdoor museum) and the St Lawrence Shore in Lachine.
73. Enjoy a chocolate tea in “Cha Noir” teahouse, in Verdun. Just sit there, relax and understand that life is beautiful
74. Discover Montreal’s “network of large parks” (“le réseau des grands parcs”)
75. Go dancing and admire the panoramic view at (Altitude) 737 top terrace
76. Have a peaceful walk in “Notre dame des neiges” cemetery
77. Discover the new festival place of the season
78. Challenge yourself at the “defi de l’île de montreal” : a 128 km roller blade race all around Montreal Island. Third saturday of october. This one is just crazy.
79. If you survive the previous one, challenge yourself at the “24 hours Inline Montreal” as a solo skater.
80. Buy a last minute ticket at “la vitrine” lot of nice events for a good price there.
81. Discover all the free stuff in “maison de la culture” network” (lot of amazing free show, but you’ll need a proof that you leave in Montreal).
82. Go to the “Diese Onze” bar any tuesday and enjoy a Jam session (jazz) with a nice cocktail. Just go there any other day to enjoy very good live music.
83. Every sunday evening, from october to may, go see the Ligue d’Improvisation Montréalaise (LIM – in french) at Lion d’Or. They are just amazing.
84. go to Bistro a Jo-Jo on Saint-Denis; any night but especially Friday and Saturday. Listen to some very loud, very good blues-rock.
85. Celebrate Quebec’s national holiday – St-Jean-Baptiste – with a parade and many parties around town. The biggest of which is at Parc Maisonneauve (near Olympic Stadium).
86. Go on a Vegetarian food tour around town
87. Window-shop and people-watch along Rue St-Denis.
88. Get a Free Tour of Montreal’s City Hall, From May through October, the Hôtel de Ville, Montreal’s majestic City Hall, built 1872 – 1878, offers a free 45-minute guided tour.
89. Learn to dance! On Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday nights throughout the summer, dance instructors lead free ballroom dancing lessons in Parc Jean Drapeau.
90. Find your balance on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m., the Centre Bouddhiste Kankala offers free guided meditations (Méditations guidées gratuites).
91. Grab your bike and join the Critical Mass, last Friday of every month. 17h30 at Phillips Square, Ste-Catherine @ Union.
92. If you prefer to ride after dark, there’s the Midnight Mass and also the weekly Thurs night bike ride, gather at 22h30 @ parc Lahaie on the corner of St-Laurent and St-Joseph.
93. Head to meetup.com, find a group for whatever you’re into, meet some new people and have fun!
94. Get some Montreal’rs out and up early to continue the sunrise bike ride tradition!
95. Meet some friendly CS’rs at the Montreal Weekly Pub Meeting (Location may change from week to week, so refer to keep an eye on these forums)
96. Grab a very tasty orange-cream soda drink (add some of their vanilla soft ice cream to it for an extra special drink mmm) at The Orange at Namur metro.
97. Go to the Free feast at the Krishna Temple at 5pm on Sundays
98. Explore abandoned building sites in the Mile End
99. Go to a to yoga class on Friday nights for a $5 donation (Moksha Yoga, St Laurent)
100. And don’t forget a good poutine (there are 25 varieties to choose from at last count) at La Banquise! It’s recommended you have beer before *and* afterwards 
It is a fairly diverse and interesting list although some of them are definitely not going to be achieved. Considering how much time I have in the last 10 days I have not done that many but here's my experiences so far:

10. Head over to Schwartz`s on St-Catherine for a deli and smoked beef sandwich experience like no other (the cherry cola goes down real well too!)
So on my birthday last week I got taken on a tour of Montreal to enjoy all the typical sights and tastes of Montreal. Part of this walk was a stop for lunch at Schwartz's which is actually on Rue Saint Laurent Boulevard. Now any visitor to Montreal is told to eat three things-Bagels, Poutine and a Smoked Meat Sandwich from Schwartz's (all of which are on this list and all I have done). Because of this there is usually a line up to get into this famous deli especially at Lunch and Dinner time, this was also the case on my birthday so after a short wait in the line we discovered the take out section of the deli where you can usually get your sandwich straight away and then take it away or eat it in the back. We decided to eat this chocker filled sandwich in the back. If you have never seen or tasted this sandwich it is probably at least 5cm of smoked meat (aka as Pastrami in the rest of the world) sandwiched between 2 slices of bread with a little bit of mustard. As it was my first experience with this delight I knew what to expect but I wasn't prepared for just how much meat there was. Quite yummy but not the place for vegetariens. Next time I go there I will have to brave the line and try it in the traditional deli setting.


16. Get some bagel action at Fairmount Bagels or St-Viateur Bagels. No need to argue which is the best, just try both! Warning: on weekend mornings the queues can get pretty crazy!
So also as part of my Birthday walk we also stopped at St-Viateur Bagels so I can only judge on one of these famous places so far. Basically though Montreal Bagels are made differently to New York Bagels as the dough is different and in Montreal they get rolled into a ring then put on a stick and cooked in a wood fire oven so the shapes are never the same. When we got to the shop we just asked for the freshest which were nice and warm Sesame Seed Bagels. We enjoyed these delights in nearby park and they were definitely worth the hike to get there. Now I just have to try Fairmount's Bagels for some comparison.

63. Go see the lemurs at the Biodome and do the dance from Madagascar…I like to move it, move it! I like to move it, move it!!

Last Sunday was International Museum Day so as part of this Montreal has free admission and special activities at 34 museums across the city. Our 1st stop of the 4 museums we saw was the Biodome which is west of downtown Montreal. The Biodome is home to 5 different ecosystems-Tropical Rainforest, Laurentian Maple Forest, Gulf of St Laurence, Labrador Coast and Sub Antarctic Islands. These ecosystems are all inside a building with a huge glass roof. On the day we were there it was chockerfull of people so the Animals were either hiding or you couldn't see past the sea of people in front of you but on a quiet day you could definitely sit and observe some pretty cool creatures. Biggest disappointments for me were not finding the Sloth and seeing the Beavers massive dam but no Beaver.

100. And don’t forget a good poutine (there are 25 varieties to choose from at last count) at La Banquise! It’s recommended you have beer before *and* afterwards
 This was my most recent accomplishment. So I have obviously eaten Poutine before, in Montreal and in Canada but I had not been to Montreal's most famous location. So stuck away near Parc Lafontaine on the Mount Royal Plateau is La Banquise, a 24 hr Poutine place that offers you way too many ways to have Poutine with everything from Vegetarian options to Bacon, Chicken, Sausage and any other combination they can think of. Poutine to the  uninitiated is Chips with Gravy and Cheese Curds piled on top but here they offer you that with a whole lot more options. After a lot of umming and ahhing I decided to go with the La Matty which was a combination of Bacon, Onions, Mushrooms and Green Peppers. Now Poutine is typically fairly hard to eat a full plate of on your own just because it is so rich so it was even more of a struggle with all these extras. Its hard to describe the taste but it is good but you do feel like you have eaten something pretty bad and unhealthy for a while afterwards. My next test is to eat it with a beer before and after it.



Till my next experience, Au revoir!

November 7, 2011

My almost Arctic adventure to Iceland Part 1

Well, I have definitely been busy in the last few months so I will try and do a few posts about different legs of my trip.


So firstly its off to Iceland where I spent nearly 3 amazing weeks. So firstly I decided to take the slow but relaxing way to Iceland on a Smyril line ferry (mind you it took me nearly the whole ferry journey to realise it wasn't Smyrll) that departed from Hirtshals in the North of Denmark and takes 3 and a half days to reach Seydisfjourdur in the East of Iceland with a half say stopover in the gorgeous Faroe Islands capital of Torshav. I stayed in a 4 bed shared cabin with luckily only 3 of us as it is squishy that was very comfortable and had a TV with a lot of English programs to while away the hours.


So after 3 nights on a ferry and a bit of confusion to what time it actually was I finally arrived in Iceland at 10am on the 6th September. After the horrible but quite short walk to my hostel, I learnt that I couldn't check in for another 7 hrs and I was in a town with a population of 500 people, none of which seem to actually walk around there town. So I did the only thing you can possibly do in a town like this, and that was to walk back out of it. After tramping along the side of the road for half an hour I found a trail and decided it would be smart to avoid said muddy trail whilst wearing white Volleys. But after coming across a gravel track I decided what the hell and I preceded to follow the grey gravel road through the gorgeous valley hills to a waterfall that I didn't even realise existed. Inspired by the beauty and spying another waterfall in the distance I decided to keep going and risk it cause it didn't seem too bad. Boy was I wrong, when I soon realised that there are hundreds of trickling streams that you have to cross whilst walking across a very soggy bog. I ended up abandoning my quest as my shoes were taking on a tinge of mud and were soaked through and being only 1pm I still had many an hour to kill before I could do much about it. Needless to say there wasn't much else to do, so when 5pm came I was well and truly ready to crash with some Danish cider.


The next day I realised that booking a flight out of tiny town at 7pm at night was the worst thing I could have done. I ended up spending nearly 11hrs in the Egilstadur Airport where they only have 4 flights out a day, all of them to Reykjavik and I was there for the take off of every single one. But eventually I made it to Iceland's Capital and a very quirky hostel so I could begin my SEEDS adventure the next day.


This is the Waterfall that was so worth getting muddy for! 



Torshav-Capital of the Faroe Islands




View of some of the 17 Faroe Islands

I hope you enjoyed my rant and I will post more Icelandic blogs very soon. I'm thinking a food inspired one next :-P



June 14, 2011

Turtles, Snorkeling and Two Weeks Of Paradise

So I just spent the last two weeks in the gorgeous Perhentian Islands off the North East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. I was lucky enough to enjoy two weeks volunteering with the Help Our Penyu Turtle Project on the main Perhentian Island in a small resort completely isolated by land. Bubbles Dive Resort is located on a beautiful secluded bay away from the rat race.

The main goal of my visit was to help the Turtles. So this pretty much involved the other volunteers and I taking it in turns to do either a Turtle Watch (8pm-3am) or a Poacher Watch (3am-8am). For the un-initiated this means you walk up and down the beach about every hour checking for tracks and nesting Turtles. And as Bubbles is the third largest nesting site for the Green Turtle then you have an extremely good chance of seeing one. I was initially quite concerned that I would miss the tracks but I soon learnt that there is no chance of this as they are usually up to a metre wide and look a bit like a bulldozer going up the beach.

So once you find a Turtle it turns into the waiting game as it can take on average about 2 ½- 3 hrs to complete the process. So first the Turtle will dig out a body pit with their front flippers then they will use their back flippers a bit like a scoop to delicately dig out a chamber for there eggs. Once satisfied with the depth of the chamber (usually an arms length deep) she begins to lay her eggs which can range from 2 (a very odd occasion) to 150. So by now she could have been working on this nest for more than an hour. So then begins the cover up. First she uses her back flippers again to softly cover the eggs with sand then she begins to move forward with her front flippers, flicking all the sand behind her so she ends up creating a fake body pit to distract predators about 2 metres in front of the eggs. Through this entire process we are recording everything from Track measurements, to the size of the turtles shell and then the times for each step.

And sometimes it can turn into a bit of a rescue mission as on one occasion I had to get the saw out and cut down a branch as she started to panic when she couldn't find her way out between two trees. So you can see why Sea Turtles need all the help they can get when you take into account all the horrible things can happen to them. In the two weeks I was there, one nest was eaten nearly entirely by a Monitor Lizard only days out from hatching (luckily there were still some left as I got to release some of these hatchlings, so cute :-p ), then 4 chambers were eaten by Red Ants and these were also only days away from hatching, so you can imagine how disgusting it is to find poor babies being eaten alive by ants.



But then if all that excitement is not enough then we all got to lead at least one Snorkel Tour which takes us and the other tourists to some gorgeous locations. Including Coral Garden with a gorgeous array of Tropical fish and even the odd Bumphead Parrotfish and Blue Spotted Yellow Stingray, then its onto Turtle Bay, where yes you guessed it you get to see some Turtles in there feeding grounds. After all that excitement its off to Shark Bay where you get to swim with Black Tipped Reef Sharks which get up to about 2m long. I really enjoyed these Snorkel Tours although the abilities of the guests can range from expert divers to never having swam in there life so you can really make a big impact on some of these guests. Then you've got jungle trekking, the odd use of your handy man skills, a traditional Malay Dinner in the village and then a beach clean to round out the two weeks.


The food was unlimited so every meal time you can pig out to your hearts content with a mix of Asian and Western food. Then with a full belly and a tired body its usually time for a nap in a hammock. I also saw some pretty intense storms. Usually when it rains in Malaysia it pours so you get massive winds blowing you away whilst huge droplets of rain pound you from the East. And it pretty much always happens when you’re eating dinner in the open sided restaurant so everyone dashes to pull down the plastic walls and runs from the tables next to the open sides. Probably the worst part for me was all the injuries sustained. I still have a water logged ear and my feet have so many wounds I don't know what to do with them plus the cold showers weren't that pleasant.


I really enjoyed the experience and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in Conservation (especially Turtles) and doesn’t mind living in a Tropical Island Resort for a while away from the grind (although there is wifi so you can't escape that much). If you want more information head to http://www.helpourpenyu.com/

Thanks to Dan, Hailey, Al and the other vols for making it a great two weeks :-)