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Showing posts from July, 2017

Holding Pattern

So I'm here in London (Ontario) for the next week or so.  I would've been long gone by now but I have a long-standing opportunity coming up next week in Toronto it would be unwise of me not to try to take advantage of.  If it doesn't happen, no big deal, and if it does I should still have plenty of time to explore the world.  I'm in London vs. Toronto for the week because this is where my family is, and the hotels cost a hell of a lot less.

London is a mid-sized Ontario city.  Being close to the 'downtown' as I am makes for an interesting juxtaposition between the small wholesome suburb-like city one imagines when they might bother to think of London and the reality of a core just as sketchy as one back home.  Within a few blocks I've seen beggars, guys getting arrested, and people clearly on drugs.  Outside of that small area?  Clean-cut with the slightest hint of hipster.

For the most part though, it's kind of boring.  But the free time gives me some…

Final Thoughts on Sin City

Somewhere in the tumult of the walk through the Casino floor to get to the elevator to my room on my last day here, the thing that had been building all week became  clear:  I do not care for Las Vegas.

There is an argument that could be made that the gambling and the artifice and the appropriated culture and the top-down enforced unnatural 'classiness' -- all designed to separate tourists from money -- is somehow refreshing in its frankness.  At least Las Vegas is honest about what it is, the argument would assert, and that's noble in its own way.  But I won't be making that argument, because I think it's bullshit.

Las Vegas, has, since the mafia first moved in, been a city that has fed on -- feasted on -- hope and optimism.  People looking to have a great time and being served substandard entertainment, 'top-quality' food at absurd prices, and of course the opportunity to win all of it back.  Or you know, lose a bunch more.

This is not a hot take.  This …

The Canyon that Earned its Name

There are things that always seem less impressive in pictures.  I mean, the Grand Canyon is something we've all seen a million times in a million ways.  But standing there, as close to the edge as I was willing to get, I couldn't help but be completely awed by the sheer... grandness of it.  Miles wide, multi-colored, and shockingly beautiful--it was the absolute highlight of my trip to Vegas and of my whole travel adventure thus far this year.

I got picked up at 6am by the friendly tour guide at Pink Jeep tours (a concierge recommendation -- and it was a good one).  Our tour guide was Debbie, a woman in her sixties who was responsible for driving us all the way to the Canyon while simultaneously entertaining and educating us.  Her enthusiasm for her job was terrific and her energy level was higher than anyone else on that bus.

Accompanying us were a family of three from Ireland, an Australian gentleman in his late fifties, a young woman who arrived to attend a bachelorette ea…

Fare Thee Well Love/Wakin' Up in Vegas - A Medley

Yesterday I woke up so close to the Atlantic I could smell the salt in the air.  Today I woke up in a city carved out of the desert.  Modern travel is weird.

Spent yesterday with my long-lost buddy Mike (long-lost in that I hadn't seen him in 25 years -- he knew where he was the whole time).  I had a mild scare with fusion-Dave (they saw some mild damage which I told them I took a picture of at Pearson but they had no documentation on hand -- later they called me back and said it was on the record as pre-existing so crisis averted).  Afterwards Mike took me out to Peggy's Cove.  You know Peggy's Cove, with the rocks and the lighthouse?  Even if you've never heard of it or seen it, just imagine what Nova Scotia is.  Yep, that's it.

After quick visit to the Swissair Memorial nearby it was lunch and the airport.  Getting out of Halifax was only slightly later than expected but I was on edge.  I only had 85 minutes of layover time according to my boarding passes.  By …

Just the Hali-facts Ma'am! OMG I'm so hilari

Yes, I had the lobster. For lunch.  That's what everyone always asks when you go out east.  Did you have the lobster?  I did.  It was tasty.  It was not, as legend has it, dramatically cheaper than it is in Toronto.  Maybe that era is gone for good.  Globalism finally run roughshod over the crustaceans.

Halifax is scenic, but not the most scenic city on my tour so far.  Quebec has that crown.  Still, it has a fun waterfront with unique museums and areas of historical interest.  The Citadel of Halifax is not entirely unique.  Hell, it's not even the first citadel I've been too this week.  Comparing the two, I'd say Quebec is more interesting historically but Halifax puts on the better show.   Admittedly I didn't see the change of the guard in la belle province but this citadel had regular musket firings and I was right on time for noon gun, which is a gun they fire at noon.  It was also free, thanks to my Canada 150 parks pass which they conveniently handed to me u…

A Night of Miles and Danger

Night driving is a zen exercise for me.  The dark empty road lit only by the sky and my headlights pushes me into a form of self-meditation that evokes a feeling of tranquility and reflection.  And that's how it was for most of the night trip from Quebec City to Halifax.  The last couple of hours, however, were a white-knuckle terror ride.

Hilly roads where you lose sight of what few vehicles are in front of or behind you.  Opposing traffic visible for only short stretches before being hidden beyond trees -- giving you the feeling of being alone in the world.  An onslaught of torrential rain.  Curves that seemingly pop up out of nowhere and run the gamut from relaxed to near-hairpin.  And of course, utter and total darkness beyond what meager visibility your headlights can give you in the downpour.  All of this made me feel like I was driving a hellroad straight into oblivion.  It was not especially fun.  But it did keep me awake.

The drive out of Quebec was fairly uneventful.  A…

Insérer le Titre Ici

I was there.  On the Plains of Abraham.  The battlefield where the control of our young nation was decided in blood and gun smoke.  And there, in the distance, was a woman.  Doing soundcheck.
It turns out Quebec City has a pretty kickass music festival every year.  And the main stage is in Battlefield Park where the British finally defeated the French and took control over what would eventually be Canada.  Even as a I took a tour of the Citadel, the great fortress that was never taken (and never attacked), we could hear the music in the distance.  The ominous echoes of a violent history overtaken by alternating francophone and anglophone folk-rock felt particularly... Canadian.
The Citadel, still technically an active military base, was an interesting look into the British era of control over Quebec and how a francophone battalion (now regiment) came into being and won honour for the country.  In front were two soldiers in full red regalia, bearskin caps and all.  Their faces never w…

Beauty and Pain in Montreal

No one in Montreal eats lunch at their desks.  Today, around noon, every sidewalk cafe was full.  Every restaurant was buzzing.  Every park had people eating bag lunches or doing the picnic thing -- with blankets and baskets -- the whole nine.  It felt good.  Made the city feel alive.  Unlike Ottawa, which is 20% historical attraction 80% standard issue Ontario town, Montreal is proper city.

One with crowds and traffic problems and everything you could possibly want or need.  Felt like home.  Only, y'know, Frencher.

I started at the Basilica Notre Dame which seemed like a good central spot for my Uber to drop me off.  Quick aside: This is the first time I ever used Uber.  I know they're a shady company that's done some questionable, disgusting, and probably outright criminal stuff, but wow are they convenient. 

I actually had little-to-no interest in the Basilica but I figured since I was there and the line wasn't so long...

I was honestly shocked at how beautiful it …

Saying Hi to Bytown

The thing that occurred to me walking around the Parliament buildings is how defensible they are.  At least by 19th century standards.  All three blocks were open to the street but the back end is basically a sheer cliff down to the water.  It would take significant ship-based cannon fire to do any real damage to them.  And to do that you'd have to dodge the cannon placements that would undoubtedly be on the riversides.  So it's either that or take the whole city first.

This is what I think about when I walk around a place with history.

Ottawa turns out to be a lot nicer as a pedestrian than a driver.  I checked out Parliament (though I was too late to grab an inside tour), went to the new Bank of Canada Museum (did you know you're the raindrops in the great wave that is the Canadian economy? Because you are), The National Gallery (which I went into because I happened upon it and ended up spending a ton of time in), and the Canadian Museum of Nature (which was fine but I&…

A Hundred and Fifty Years of Beers by a Lake

What does a hundred and fifty years of Canada really mean?  I think for most Canadians it means going a little more special on their July 1st celebrations and a small but relevant tingle of patriotism that feels warm and good and inclusive.  And that's a great thing.  Canadians worry a lot but we don't have all that much to worry about.  We're not in an active war zone, our economy is doing fine, and no one is attempting to strip us of our rights and freedoms.  Canada has been a pretty good country on the whole, and it deserves another 150 years.  If it screws up, we'll make a call then as to whether to continue or not.

I picked up the new Dave for an 11 day journey out from Toronto to Halifax.  2017 Ford Fusion.  Drives nice but you can tell it's the base engine.  It's fairly pep-less.  Got a really good deal which I assumed was related to a specific car needing to go to Halifax but I upgraded to a different vehicle with no issues, so... I don't know how …