As we first drove into Quebec we stopped off alongside the St Lawrence River as our road into the city was right next to it. It was a great introduction to Quebec, to admire the view on such a stunning day.
From then on, it just got even better. Our hotel (Hotel Jardine Ste-Anne) was situated right in the center of Quebec City which meant we got a sneak peek before we set out to explore. We drove up and down the cobbled streets, round and round one roundabout and finally down a cute small street to our hotel- so glad it was valet parking as getting down the street was enough lol.
Our hotel was in an old building but part of a new building, Mother was very happy that we were on the old side as it adds to the character of the stay. The building was an old house/home and converted into a hotel and it was very cute as it had a living room and a fireplace at the top of the stairs.
Of course, pretty much straight away we went out to explore. We were located close to a square which I believe is called Place d’Armes, this was surrounded by lots of restaurants and shops as well as the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. It was just so lovely, honestly felt like I was on holiday (I know I was but in the same country mostly doesn’t feel like you are). And I must say Quebec city was my favourite place of our road trip! I think mum can agree?!
For the first day (half a day after we arrived), we spent the day roaming part of the city. It was lovely weather, some may say a little hot but I never moan about warm weather! We ate, we took in the scenery and tried to be that little bit french that day. The second day, we drove to a nearby waterfall (it is saying on google maps a 45 minute drive but I’m sure it only took us 10 minutes lol) which was nice to see, but you can only look at waterfalls for so long ey.
We then headed back to the city to roam some more (areas we hadn’t got too the previous day) and found some right gems!
I couldn’t recommend Quebec city enough to anyone, I would visit anytime and would also like to see it in the winter (I bet its beautiful). If anyone has visited in the winter, please let me know in the comments if its worth going? I feel I have more pictures than words in this blog post but I’m hoping the pictures do it justice.
Let’s start with the facts… Montreal is in the province Quebec and is about a 6-hour drive from Toronto- you could say 5 and a half to make you feel better, but once you’ve stopped for food etc. it is definitely 6 hours. The first time Jamie and I visited, we drove there and back in one go and it wasn’t fun. The drive I mean, Montreal is fun! Now I say this while I’m currently sat on a megabus for the next 5 and half hours to Montreal lol at the moment, I feel fine but I’m only 1 hour in (I will keep you updated) and hey ho, you gotta do what you gotta do when its cheap!
So far, each time I have visited Montreal it has been very different. The first time, Jamie and I went with his parents, the weather was lovely which made our stay beautiful. The second time I visited with my mum and to put it frank… it was pissing it down! To the point where it really limited what we could do. This time, I am actually going with work and going to watch the new Cirque du Soleil show which I am super excited about… I have also checked the weather and, it’s not raining! Phew!
The province Quebec is predominately French speaking, I do find though that most people in Montreal can speak English and they are very friendly. This definitely gives the European effect and sometimes you forgot you’re in Canada- we literally felt like we were in Europe for the weekend lol! The old town is where I have tended to visit on my trips, it is along the waterfront, with cobbled streets, cute restaurants and little stores (there’s like a million gift shops for some reason lol).
When we visited with Jamie’s parents, we were there for 2 nights and stayed at Hotel Auberge Montréal Espace Confort which was a nice/standard hotel, everything that you needed and very simple. Peanut butter and jelly croissant in the morning and I’m happy. It was a little far from the old town, maybe a 20-minute walk- but still in an area with many restaurants.
On our first visit we did a lot of the tourist activities such as visiting the Basilique Notre Dame, which is stunning.
It is $10 to get in so pretty cheap, but for me (maybe not others) it was very much, I came, I saw, I took a picture, lit a candle, used the washroom and I left. Jamie just went in to sit down. This means no disrespect, just something I am not overly interested in although it is a beautiful building.
We had dinner at a restaurant on Place Jacques-Cartier which is like a square with lots of restaurants, stores etc. There were also lots going on at the square, very lively and holiday like as well as a Ben & Jerrys Ice Cream shop that is right up my street; of course I had cookie dough!
When I visited with my mother, as mentioned we were unfortunate with the weather. We stayed at Hotel les Suites Labelle which is located near the ‘the Village’, which is very colourful and bright and conveniently located a tad closer to old Montreal (about a 10-minute walk). The hotel was again, standard- it had peanut butter, jelly croissant option for breakfast (yay!) and I will mention it had the BEST bed I have ever slept in in my life. It literally felt like it was hugging me. The only downside was it was down a side street which could seem a bit ropy.
Ps. Update on the bus, it’s not that bad! You just get a bit restless towards the end!
Now what do you do when it’s raining in Montreal I hear you ask?! Well, you go to a spa! Mum and I thought we’d take this opportunity to relax on the second day of our travels lol and went to Scandinave Spa. This place is very nice and relaxing. I have no pictures because you are not allowed to take any inside- but it has a pool which is super-hot (hotter than a normal pool) and the thing to do (apparently) is spend 15 minutes in the hot pool or area and then 15 seconds in an ice cold plunge pool, or shower. As you can imagine, we spent most of our time in the hot pool/areas and then an arm under the cold shower lol- we didn’t go in the cold plunge pool. No chance. You can also get treatments here at an extra price.
While travelling with work, we went to see Cirque du Soleil (Volta). The show was amazing and very different to the previous show that I saw (Luzia) as it is more sports focused. Volta is currently touring and I have just finished working with the show in Toronto, their next stop is Miami!!! Looking for them, leaving us behind in the cold to the sweet hot weather in Miami.
Cirque du Soleil was located on the waterfront, which also has lots of activities including a zip line, cute stores and food stands.
The hotel I stayed in this time, my gosh- was amazing! St Paul Hotel, located in Old Montreal- I wanted to live there lol! But it was super expensive, so if you do fancy treating yourself I recommend St Paul for sure!
Just a quick 5 minutes down the road from St Paul is Le Cartet Resto where we went for breakfast… it was deliciousssssss- take a look for yourself!!!
Going with my colleagues/friends from work, I got to experience Montreal a little differently as one of them had been many times before. Now if you want a lively evening then I definitely recommend going to Crescent street, there are lots of restaurants, bars and clubs in this area and for sure busy, even on a Wednesday night! We ate at Wienstein & Gavino’s which was super delicious (they have a Nutella cheesecake! YES!) and then went for drinks at Thursdays bar.
I also recommend going up the Mont Royal for a nice hike and to get a nice shot of the city, you can see everything from up there (45 minutes from old Montreal) and very beautiful.
I hope you have enjoyed my little story of visits to Montreal and start around for my next blog post 🙂 until next time…
I feel like I need to start of by explaining my absence- now there is really no excuse but (I hate it when people say this but now I understand) I have been extremely busy this summer. The good news though is I have plenty of stories to tell and lots of places I’ve been and seen. So I will start from the beginning, my mum came to visit me after 16 months of not seeing her. You can imagine my excitement! 🙂
Now here was the plan, the first two days she got here I decided to show her the 6 (Toronto- it’s what us folk refer to it as here 😉 drake influence you know). We went up the CN Tower to the 360 Restaurant for dinner and to watch the sun set and then on the Saturday, shock I took her to Niagara falls. But then we did go to Niagara on the lake, which was new to Jamie and I and let me tell you- its gorgeous. It’s a cute little town which actually has a lot of British influence.
Now after I had shown my mum the typical tourist attractions in Toronto and Niagara, it was time to hit the road for out ROAD TRIP. First thing Sunday morning, we were off… first stop was OTTAWA (the Capital of Canada)!
It took us about 5 hours to get to Ottawa and it decided to torrential rain as well which didn’t make it any easier. Now I would say I am a confident driver back in the UK but driving in Canada is a different story. I would love a Canadians perspective on this, but I think the drivers out here on insane. Everyone cuts each other up, goes so fast- it really doesn’t surprise me how many accidents there are. Anyway we arrive in Ottawa around mid afternoon and were worried we weren’t going to have much time to explore as we were leaving the next morning. I can tell you now, we were wrong… we explored what we wanted of Ottawa all in that afternoon.
I would definitely recommend staying at this B&B if staying in Ottawa. The host was very pleasant and gave us all the information on Ottawa we needed, as well as some recommendations on where to go after (we’ll come onto this). AND he has a dog, which is always a bonus for me… AND the breakfast was delicious… it had me at homemade breakfast muffins, croissant with Nutella, granola- all that good sweet stuff lol. They do savoury options as well but if you know me…
Personally, Ottawa didn’t do it for me, an afternoon was enough there. But if you are interested in Parliament, Museums and spending over the odds for dinner in Byward market then this is the place for you.
Now the next day we were heading up to Montreal, and our host recommended driving on the Quebec side and to go through a small town called Montebello. Here there is the largest Fairmont Chateau in the world and let me tell you, it is grand. This is definitely what I like about meeting people and the advantage of having a car… to be able to discover treasures like this that we wouldn’t have known about if it wasn’t for our B&B host.
We literally stayed here an hour as thats all we had on the car park lol, so we had a cup of tea, admired the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello and left; short and sweet!
Next we went to Montreal for a 1 night stay, unfortunately the weather was shocking and a lot was closed because of the rain. Click here to read what I got up to the other times I have visited Montreal.
This was unfortunate for my mum because I wanted to show her Montreal but hopefully our next stop made up for it… QUEBEC CITY!!! I’m just going to say it now, I love Quebec City!It’s so strange cause as we drove towards Quebec city, the weather just got brighter and brighter… its like we drove out of the storm and came into the light. It was perfect and as you can see from the above picture, I (and we) was excited! Click here to see what we got up to in Quebec city (I wanted to do a separate post as we stayed for a few days and got up to lots).
After a great few days in Quebec city it was time to make our way back to Toronto, but it is an 8 hour drive (it doesn’t sounds a lot but when we drove to Montreal which is 6 hours, we said we would never do that in one day again). So, we decided to stop off somewhere on the way. Mum had definitely done her research and was reading about Canada and saw a place called a thousand islands, which I googled and it looked cute so thats where we stopped!
It was just over a 5 hour drive from Quebec city, one positive about driving in Canada, well Ontario/Quebec specifically it is very simple. A lot of the roads are highways so its easy to navigate, the tricky part is the cities (and the crazy drivers). As well different provinces have different rules such as you can turn right on a red light in Ontario but you cannot in Quebec. Also, always research which side of the road you are driving on- we have been here over a year now and I have definitely spent some time on the wrong side of the road.
When we got to our B&B in Thousand Islands, Gananoque we were blown away by the view as well as the house we were staying at. Riverview B&B, Lansdowne House was on Thousand Island Parkway which runs along side the River. All of the properties along this road have a pretty stunning view as you will see below.
The evening we arrived, we went into the town which was like a 10 minute drive away and found a cute place to eat. The town of Gananoque is very cute and picturesque. The houses are adorable and the lake is calming and beautiful. We had a little stroll around before heading back to get some kip.
The final day of our trip we only had a 3 hour drive back to Toronto, so we booked onto a boat trip around the thousand islands in Gananoque. The boarder to the States is located in the middle of the water so its interesting to which islands are on which side. This was a nice and cute end to our road trip.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Mother and I’s 5 night, 6 day road trip, it was a great adventure to endure while my mum came to visit and I was so happy that I got to spend some quality time with her as well as exploring together. Mums last 2 nights we spent at home in Toronto before the dreaded goodbye. Miss you mum, come back soon! Xxx
The beautiful wonder of the world, that is, Niagara Falls!!! I will admit, it is truly stunning- but… I have seen this stunning wonder 3 times already and funnily enough I am going tomorrow too lol- my mum is visiting me and I haven’t seen her in 16 months!!!!!
First things first though, I’m not sure about you guys but I thought Niagara Falls was in Toronto, or at least near it… it is not! It’s in Niagara (who’d of thought?!), well I guess it’s not too too far away, it’s about a 2-and-a-half-hour drive, or about 3 hours on public transport (train and bus) or there is a bus trip you can buy from Toronto to Niagara Falls and Niagara on the lake (which I haven’t been too yet, but will be going tomorrow- so stay tuned). Niagara has many different aspects to it, you have the falls; which really do take your breath away. You have the strip of Niagara (Clifton Hill), which to be honest (don’t hate me) reminds me a little of Skegness (UK), I think it takes away from the natural aspect of the falls as it is a very built up and kid friendly. It has a little fair, every fast food restaurant (except McDonalds funnily enough), gift shops, treat shops, a Ripley’s Believe it or not, casinos and much more.
Got to get that TIMMIES shot
I’ve had a Wendys every time I’ve been Niagara
Then you have ‘The Q’ which is Queen St in Niagara. It is a shame because The Q seems like it was the hustle n bustle once upon a time, but now you just see closed down businesses and hotels. You’re just waiting to see the tumbleweed roll across the road. It is very airy, but it’s kinda cool and calming.
The Q is where Jamie and I got off the bus and walked from to the falls, it was so nice to see the cute little houses overlooking the lake, which is so sooooooo blue- it’s gorgeous!!! It’s also crazy to think that you are looking directly at the states. Some of the houses have the Canadian flag outside and then on the other side they have the American flag.
As you get closer to the falls, you can certainly hear the roar of the water falling. It’s exciting, I will let you know though- the actual falls is the last one you see lol there are other falls as you are walking to it and Jamie and I kept getting excited like is this one it? But it wasn’t, and then when you see the actual Niagara Falls you are like ‘ahhh that’s it!!!’.
Now there are different ways you can see the falls, obviously from the side walk, by boat (Maid of the Mist), behind the falls and there is a zip line you can do in front of the falls (which Mum and I will be doing tomorrow). All the others I have done already- so I thought I would share my array of photos with you so you can see the view from each. I will also link all of them, so if you are stopping by Niagara Falls, you know where to go! 😉
Behind the Falls
Behind the Falls
Top of the Falls
Isn’t he a stunner?!
I hope you have enjoyed the pictures… I feel this post is more pictures than words but it’s something you have to see for your own eyes- the Niagara Falls talks for itself and its truly stunning! See you in my next one.
Sorry it’s been like over 2 weeks since I’ve posted, my aim is to post once a week and I have failed already L but to make up for it, I will continue to bring great content ;)! Carrying on from my previous post, which seemed to be my most viewed post so far (so let me know if you want more of that kind of content) I thought I would put together some tips, hints and information on getting settled in Toronto, Canada (specifically).
First of all, if you have managed to get a visa for Canada then well done you- personally I thought it was the most stressful process, its literally like trying to get Glastonbury tickets; they sell out so fast! I’m not going to talk about the process of applying for a visa but if you would like me to do a post on it, let me know in the comments below. Now you want to get set up for when you do the big move, I suggest joining groups on Facebook for people who are in similar situations to you, Jamie and I are in a ‘Brits in Toronto’ and ‘Irish in Toronto’ groups on Facebook (I know we’re not Irish lol) and I’m assuming there will be similar groups depending on where you are going- you just need to search J I didn’t know about these groups until an Irish friend at work told me about the Irish group and then a couple of months later an English friend told me about the Brit group. These groups are so helpful as everyone is in the same situation, people are asking questions (I found my hairdresser from a recommendation on there), giving advice (you can help people if you know), selling things (we brought our shoe rack from the group lol) and often arranging meet ups so you can make friends (we are yet to go to a meetup).
Living in the six!
Once you have booked your one-way ticket, I do suggest having accommodation booked for at least a week or staying with friends or family if that’s available for you- just so you can get familiar with your surroundings etc. and know where you want to be based.
We stayed in a B&B for 10 nights until luckily we were offered to stay in Jamie’s boss’s condo for 3 weeks and then moved into our cute basement apartment at the beginning of April; which we had found on Craigslist. You can also search other websites such as viewit and kijiji. The only problem with some places is that they want a letter from your employers etc. and if you have just moved here and without work it can be a little tricky. Referring back to the Facebook groups again, quite often people will be advertising a room to rent etc. so again its handy to consult the groups especially as these places might not require you to have a job at first etc. To give you a range on prices, for a basement apartment not directly downtown but close by you can pay around $1000, if you are looking to live in a condo then you will be paying $1500+. Personally, I am glad we have started off in a basement apartment as it allowed us to get our money right and continue to do a lot of activities as well as saving some money and hopefully in the future we will move into a condo because to be honest, I wouldn’t mind a good view; this obviously all depends on how much you earn also. My last point is to google the area that you have found a place to live in before you agreeing to living there. The last thing you want to do is agree to something to find out later it’s a dodgy spot. Jamie and I fell lucky with our place, as we really weren’t familiar with the area but we visited at night and in the day prior to paying the deposit. We also google mapped to see how far it was from an area we were told not to live in and luckily we were far away. There may be a church next to a strip club at the top of our road but the people in our neighbourhood are super friendly. Just only the other day, this man was saying Portuguese to us and waving an umbrella- I immediately thought ‘he’s crazy’ but it turns out he wanted to give us the umbrella because it was due to rain. Bless his cotton socks, we took the umbrella and my gosh did it chuck it down. He was our savior!
What our landlord set out for us
We thought we’d brought a lot
Work Work Work
Sometimes in the Facebook groups, people will put if their company are hiring etc. I also strongly recommend signing up to job agencies, all of them. Whether they have a position that you want for long term or if they have on going temporary work to get you experience, money and out of the house; it is worth it. Before you start applying though, make sure you do some research and update your resume (CV) accordingly. Here are a few tips I personally recommend for your resume:
Include your new (local) cell number (I suggest getting a local SIM ASAP)
Do not include your address, hiring managers do not need to know where you live at this point and it is a security risk- just include the city you live in.
Tailor your resume to the specific role you are applying for- I feel like this is common sense now?
Do not put the country your previous roles were, hiring managers should not be prejudice to where you are from but this is to make sure they cannot be.
Say resume rather than CV, so they know you are clued in.
I also strongly recommend getting LinkedIn (if you haven’t already) as there are so many articles on there on how to improve your resume, your interviewing skills and so on. I have found it extremely helpful and you can also apply for jobs on there and connect with recruiters, hiring managers etc.
Now enough of the grown up stuff, what other information can I give you to prepare you for Toronto and Canada?
– Tim Hortons is everywhere! They love it and I love it!
– There’s also a lot of Starbucks, people just love their coffee (I’m not a coffee drinker myself, but I guess that saves me money lol).
– Poutine is Canadas delicacy- its chips (fries), cheese and gravy. Personally, it sounds like something you have after a night out lol, I’ve had it once- it’s nice, but I prefer other foods.
– There is a ridiculous amount of adverts (commercials) on TV- and I mean RE-DIC!!! You watch the first minute of a program, then there’s an ad- WTF! There is normally 3 ad breaks for a 30-minute program (compared to 1 ad per 30 mins in the UK). It used to really wind me up, but I tend to record my programs now and then watch then to avoid this scandalous nonsense.
– Something that took some getting used to is places and directions are given by north, south, east and west rather than (like back home) up/down the road, then take a left/right lol. I’m secretly memorizing ‘never eat shredded wheat’ in my head and thinking where the heck is north or south lol. But to make things easier to anyone who comes/visits here, the lake (Ontario) is south. So when someone asks where you live, you would say west and then give them the nearest intersection- now north America will think this is normal but not for us Brits. This was so strange to get used to but now it comes naturally to us. I’m afraid when I visit home, I’m going to say ‘north up Westdale lane and then go west to head into town’ wahhhhh, people are going to say/think ‘YOU’VE CHANGED’ but nooooo I’m still me.
Everyone also thinks you’re from Australia- I get it allllll the time, and when you say you’re not, they say are you from London? No I’m from England, not everyone lives in London you know. I mean I don’t always get angry but it can be annoying, quite often people are just really interested and I think it’s about 80% of my conversations with new people lol.
Anyways I’m rambling on now, next stop Niagara Falls…
Now I wanted to write this post as I feel sometimes people assume that those who have gone ‘travelling’ or to live in another city/country are ‘living the dream’ constantly. Don’t get me wrong, I am so glad that Jamie and I decided to make the move to Canada but it isn’t always ‘living the dream’, there is some reality to it. As I mentioned in my ‘Views in Toronto’ post, Jamie found a job pretty quickly. He had an interview on the third day of us being here and then started the following week. For me, it wasn’t that easy. I will mention, Jamie had actually applied for his role while we were in Calgary and they got back to him the day before we came to Toronto so it was lucky we had our flight booked and heading that way.
As Jamie starts his first day, I am sat in the B&B room (a different one, we changed from Downtown Home Inn as they were fully booked so we couldn’t extend, boo) and I’m thinking to myself ‘shit, what do I do now?’ lol reality hit. I continue my job search, I had already applied for a few jobs as most nights we would have an hour or so looking/applying for jobs as well as looking for somewhere to live. But so far, no news. We had found a place to live though, we went to view it one evening after Jamie had finished work and I put the deposit down the following day unfortunately though we couldn’t move in until April 1st and it was still the beginning of March. It was a 1-bedroom basement apartment close to downtown (30 min subway ride) which at first we were unsure about as we don’t have basement apartments in the UK and didn’t like the idea of it. However, after living there now for the past year- I love it, it is just what we needed to kick off our lives here. Good price, good location and great landlord. Our landlord (bless him) asked us if we had a bed or a TV and we were like ‘no, we have our backpacks and that’s it’ lol and he said he will sort it out… we hope so lol.
Jamie’s first week went by, without me getting any phone calls or emails from potential employers. But on a brighter note, Jamie’s new boss offered us to live in his empty condo in Oakville where Jamie was working (until we could move into our basement apartment). So on the weekend, we ventured to Oakville with our backpacks, my pull along case, Jamie’s other backpack and 2 Ikea bags- we had brought ourselves our very own towel each and duvet cover and sheets (yay). This was a lot to carry to the subway, on the subway, to the train station, on the train, onto a bus and then a 10-minute walk to the condo. Looooool what you do when you’re travelling ey haha, I remember walking on the road nearly crying because I just wanted to get there and Jamie was like a mile ahead of me. By this point I hated carrying my backpack around. I despised it lol. But finally, we arrived.
Oakville is such a lovely town, so many beautiful houses- definitely a place you would like to bring up your children and they can safely play on the street. Our condo was nice, it wasn’t furnished, it was just what his boss had left there from when they lived there but fortunately it was the essentials we needed. The supermarket was literally 3 minutes from the condo so it was a great for the next 3 weeks. It was only until Jamie went back to work on the Monday that I realized… there’s not a lot to do in Oakville. The gym was a good 30-minute walk and we hadn’t signed up yet as I didn’t have a job- so Joe Wicks on YouTube it was then. It was the second week that it really hit me, tell a lie- it hit me the first week but I still had Toronto to go and explore, our place to sort out, people in the B&B to talk too. When I was in Oakville, I was literally alone- it was sooo quite in the day, literally no-one was around.
This is when I started to become a little sad, I was getting frustrated that no-one had contacted me in regards to a job. I had literally applied to everything I wanted to do and didn’t. Because of my frustration and loss of determination I became lazy, I didn’t want to get out of bed, I had no energy and I was really missing home. I really did rely on my family and friends to pick me up, but sometimes it was a daily thing where I felt I needed to speak to someone to assure me we had done the right thing by moving here. Because of my mood, this also effected Jamie- he felt sorry for me and wanted to come home earlier to be with me but also needed to get the hours in to earn money.
Don’t think I want this post to turn into a depressing moan, I just want people to know that its normal to go through these feelings. I personally don’t think about the negative when I want to do something- I like to think of the positives and strive for what I want to do. Whereas Jamie sometimes think about the negative and worries about the ‘what ifs’. Jamie was very lucky to find a job so quick; which is great but don’t think because you haven’t found a job straight away there is no hope. I personally didn’t think about how long it would take me to get a job before I came travelling and looking back now, it took me just over a month.
Getting those interview outfits ready!
Getting those interview outfits ready!
I had applied to a job posting on a website that happened to be advertised through an employment agency and someone called me from the agency. Now I was new to the agency world but attended the interview and got to find out how agencies work. Unfortunately, the job that the agency put me forward too, decided to not move forward with my resume (CV) due to lack of administrative experience, but I decided to continue following up with my representative to see what else was available and luckily enough (I do think sometimes timing is key) the day I decided to call they had an internal role available and I’ve been there ever since.
My purpose of this post is to show you that sometimes it is an emotional rollercoaster when trying to find a job and settle in to a new country when you don’t know anyone, especially when you are unemployed. Jamie and I brought a certain amount of money travelling and wanted to limited ourselves to that amount hence we wanted to start working after our month of travelling. The strain of me not having a job for the second month meant Jamie was paying for the both of us. I am so thankful to Jamie for supporting me and us through that time as it wasn’t easy for either of us. I was also reluctant to tell my family and friends that I wasn’t very happy because we had spent 2 years planning to come here and then I was sad in only the second month. But telling them made me realise how much I love my family and the support they give me and also how much my friends were there for me. I will never take anyone for granted and make the effort to maintain my friendships back home as these people mean the world to me. I understand not everyone have others to talk to and if you are reading this post, believe me- you will get there. You may have your ups and downs but keep going and your time will come- my next post will give tips and hints on how to help you become employed (it will specifically be based on my experience in Canada, but you never know it may work elsewhere too).
So here we are, the last city we visited before settling down and looking for work, the end of a month’s travelling… we are in TORONTO!!! Funny thing is, we weren’t going to come to Toronto because to fly from Edmonton (which by the way I didn’t do a post on because it wasn’t worth it) was super expensive. It is actually really expensive to fly around Canada, it’s cheaper to fly to the States or equal to fly to other places in the world.
As soon as we walked around Toronto, I loved it! Jamie wasn’t so sure at first but soon came to realise that there is so much going on here!!! So much to do, and so much to see and my blog is going to showcase that… I think when people think of Canada, they think ‘cold’, ‘snow’, ‘bears’. I know that was a lot of the conversation topics we had when we told people we were moving here. But it’s so much more than that, Canada is actually super-hot in the summer!!! Hotter than I expected… I mean we was wearing clothes that we would wear on holiday, not what I would wear in the UK. And with the warm weather comes so much possibilities and opportunities… anyway I’m jumping ahead of myself. Let’s talk about when we got here… when it was still snowing lol.
We stayed in a B&B called Downtown Home Inn, which I recommend to anyone who comes to Toronto. We were a bit skeptical at first because there is no reception or anyone to greet you, they leave the key at the door and email you a code and BAM you’re in! The B&B is a cute town house converted into a B&B, the décor is lovely and the amenities have everything you need. Every cereal, bread, bagels, milk, orange juice, snacks, that’s all stocked daily. There are utensils so you can cook your own meals as well which was handy for us travelers. It is also nice to have a communal area to see and talk to other people, I used this as an opportunity to talk to Canadians/others and get to know about Canada as much as I could (Jamie thought I just ask too many questions lol). The location is great, you can walk to Yonge-Dundas square in about 15 minutes (if you’ve never been to Toronto, you may not know what Yonge-Dundas Sq is but no worries, we didn’t either- you can trust me though, it’s a good location).
To be honest, we weren’t quite sure what Toronto had to offer except the CN tower which we didn’t want to go up yet as it was winter and there wouldn’t have been a clear view. But the B&B had lots of information on things to do so we basically explored the different neighbourhoods Toronto has to offer in our first 5 days (we booked 5 nights at the B&B). I’m not sure about other places (in the world, depending where you are reading from) but where we are from (Nottingham, UK) there was a town center where most people would go for shopping, restaurants, cinema and most social activities and you would just say ‘nipping to town’. It’s completely different here, there is no town center where everything is and all in walking distance- there is downtown Toronto which is split into different neighbourhoods in which you go to depending on what you are doing. Different neighbourhoods are known for and have different things (see map below).
We weren’t in Toronto very long until we decided we would settle here, it was a mix off we are this side of Canada anyway, it’s so expensive to go back west and we genuinely liked the city- but wasn’t sure what to expect. Jamie also had contact from an employer in Toronto who wanted to meet him so we went with it. Our second day in the city, we brought a local SIM (647 gang though, not 416), set up a bank account and prepared Jamie for his interview the following day. The third day, we had to venture to Oakville where the interview was- we thought Oakville was in Toronto but it turns out it isn’t lol. The location was on an industrial road (Jamie works in the trade) but we had no idea where we were and it looked like we were in the middle of nowhere. Whilst Jamie was in his interview there wasn’t much for me to do so I found a Tim Hortons (seen as they are everywhere) thinking yes, I’ll just sit here until he is done- well that wasn’t the case, as it was an industrial estate it was drive through only. So I got my peppermint tea, and stood on the side of the main road casually waiting for Jamie to finish lol. I was thankful that he didn’t take that long to woe them and was offered a job (woo). He was starting the following Monday.
I’m going to split the first month or so (of Toronto, whilst we were getting settled) into a 3-part series as it’s the best way I can think to do it and don’t want each blog post to be too long. The next post I’m going to do is a ‘real talk’ post, about my personal experience of finding a job in Toronto, settling in and about the ups and downs I/we went through. The final post, I want to write about the best way (that I recommend) to help you settle into a new city and find a job, whether it be Toronto or anywhere you have chosen to adventure too. It’s a big decision and step to make, that I know a lot of people want too or have done so I thought it would be helpful and insightful to see it from my point of view and hopefully helps others too. Also some tips and hints that I wish I knew before I came here but have learnt along the way. So stay tuned for part 2 coming soon.
We spent 1 night in Lake Louise and to be honest, it is all you need (in the winter) unless you have the money to stay at the Fairmount hotel (wish I did!).
We stayed in the town of Lake Louise- which is about a 10-minute drive to the lake. The town is cute and has the essentials but not much else. We stayed at the Mountaineer Lodge that was your typical wooden cabin kind of look hotel, it has a Jacuzzi (which is always a plus)- breakfast was included and delicious- no complaints really and would defiantly recommend.
As soon as we got to Lake Louise and checked into our hotel, we fueled up on a delicious wrap and hot peppermint tea (its chilly in February) at the Trialhead Cafe ready to walk to the lake thinking that this is what everyone does- until we realized that no-one else was walking… and there was no-one else around… whilst walking in the woods… which was soooo beautiful by the way- its when nature honestly makes you smile and breeeeath; it was a true winter wonderland and so refreshing.
Now the problem was, coming from the UK and not being so clued up on bears in Canada- we did wonder ‘what if we woke up a bear?’ Yes, I know that they are in hibernation, but we don’t know where they are hibernating and if its possible to accidently wake the beautiful creatures up. Although I would really like to become friends with a bear I’m not sure it will want to be my friend. So we freaked ourselves out thinking that no-one is around and can hear us scream if we did come across a bear, we had watched a survival program once and there is basically no way to save yourself against a bear unless you stand up to it and hope it backs down. So we decided to walk on the road, which also isn’t the best idea as all the smart people are driving up to the lake. Anyway I think it took us about 1-2 hours to walk there, no joke (according to google maps it takes 1 hour, but we took a little longer due to exploring along the way)- by the end I had been through every emotion possible (blown away by the beauty, scared by the bears that weren’t there, angry at Jamie for not protecting me from the bears that weren’t there, laughing at Jamie sinking into the snow without snow boots on, exhaustion wondering when we would get there, worried thinking will we ever get there, happy at the beautiful views, ecstatic I saw some huskies, and then over whelmed when I saw the lake with my very own eyes; as you can tell we are quite the hikers lol).
Now onto the lake…
It literally is a wonder of the world (well it should be, because I don’t think it is), it is breathtaking, amazing, beautiful- makes you realize how naturally beautiful the world can be sometimes. With it being February, the whole lake was frozen over and you could walk on it. Again, not something us Brits are used to and from speaking to Canadians you can walk/skate on a lot of lakes in the winter out here, this was quite surreal for us- walking on a lake? Surely it isn’t safe, but we did and we didn’t fall threw- I’m not sure if anyone has? I may look into that actually (ps. There is a sign to say walk at own risk). They had also just recently had the Ice Magic Festival (an ice sculpture festival) so that was cool to see, and you can skate around it, there were also areas where you could play hockey and then obviously you can walk for as long as you could see.
Now I will state here that Lake Louise will always have a special place in my heart, as my boyfriend of 3 and a half years decided to pop the question whilst walking across the lake (and I said YESSSSS!). I honestly had no idea and it was only when I could see him becoming nervous I thought ‘OMG ITS HAPPENING’ and burst into tears. So well done to my fiancé along with Lake Louise who made me the happiest girl ever!!!
So, the night draws in… we get a taxi back to our hotel (you must be crazy if you think we are walking again), we Jacuzzi, we shower, we get ready and head out for dinner around 7.30pm. We walk into a restaurant only to be told ‘oh we are closing in 10 minutes’. Are you crazy? Closing at 8 o’clock, what kind of place is this! We look around and start to realize there isn’t a large selection of restaurants, in fact there was only one other- so our decision was made (for us), we will go to that one. The restaurant was ok, better than the, ‘petrol station’ or ‘gas station’ dinner we thought we were having; so just be aware, if you visit Lake Louise and stay in the town- go out to dinner early!
Also be aware that a lot of places in general are closed over the winter, including Lake Moraine (the road is closed October- May). We really wanted to visit Lake Moraine as well as it has been my screensaver on my laptop for like 2 years (since we have been planning to move to Canada) so we wanted to see it for real! Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, I believe (and the taxi driver told us) there isn’t enough tourism in the winter to maintain the safety of the lake hence it is closed off. We also saw some super cute lodges (Paradise Lodge and Bungalows) on our walk to the lake, they were stunning, wooden and proper country feel lodges- these were also closed but I have definitely got my eye on them for when we return (we want to return in the summer and see lake moraine). Overall, Lake Louise was a memory and experience we will never forget, it literally was the best 2 days of our travels and definitely lived up to its expectations. We would highly recommend it to anyone, even in the winter. Any questions you have, please write in the comments because I couldn’t recommend Lake Louise enough and love talking about it hehe.
Calgary we had a split visit as we spent 2 nights at a value inn, then went to Lake Louise for a night and then returned to Calgary for 1 night at NUVO Hotel before heading up to Edmonton. I recommend the latter hotel; the 1st hotel was fine, there were just a few things we weren’t sure about- but it was an experience and that’s what travelling is about. The hotel reminded us of something out of a movie (see picture below), somewhere you’d expect to be a crime scene lol. For example, there was an empty pool, the reception lady was behind bars I’m guessing for her protection and we found porn magazines under the bed. We were on a main road so I’m guessing the hotel was for guests that are on the road a lot and can just pull in for a night. We made sure our belongings were locked up safe though! To be honest, I enjoyed staying there- relishing in our travels and trying something different for sure.
We arrived in Calgary on a Wednesday and I specifically remember going to the reception and asking ‘so where can we grab some food around here?’, there was a ‘Dennys’ across the road but we wanted to go downtown and to a restaurant (so by the way, this hotel was a CTrain ride into the city- maybe like 10 minutes). And the women’s reply was ‘sooo, hmmm, places aren’t usually open on a Wednesday evening’ lol you can imagine our reaction. We were like surely this can’t be right, so ignoring her advice we jumped on the CTrain to downtown- and she was right, we could hardly find anywhere that was open. I’m sure there were some places that were, but it was the evening and we hadn’t been downtown beforehand so unfamiliar with the area and couldn’t find anywhere. We jumped back onto the CTrain and went to another stop where we saw a supermarket to grab some food but ended up finding a restaurant that was open and was actually busy and had great food (and lots of sport, lucky Jamie).
Calgary is such a nice city, it is built up like any city and is clean, there is a big shopping center, good food places- there is an equivalent to the CN tower called the Calgary Tower however there are lots of taller buildings around so we didn’t see much point going up it; maybe it’s worth it? They have a cute park that had an ice rink there and wasn’t busy at all so we relaxed around there for a while. Overall, we liked Calgary and it was a place we considered living as its right next to the Rockies but why we were there I felt like there was something missing and there just wasn’t a lot happening. Don’t get me wrong, we were there in the winter and I would have loved the idea of the summer there and just heading into the mountains at the weekend but the city was just lacking something. I guess writing this blog post makes me realise that we didn’t really do much there just explored the city. We definitely would like to revisit Calgary in the summer before we head into the Rockies and would definitely like to go to the stampede. I will keep you updated 😉
See you on the next one (more pictures on the next one I promise)…
After our magical time in Whistler, we decided to explore Vancouver for 5 nights, which we had heard so much about! (By the way we booked our journey one bit at a time, before we left the UK we had Iceland and Whistler pre-booked and everything else was just what we fancied doing next; we wanted the freedom to choose when and where whilst travelling as well as getting settled into the country and setting ourselves up for the 2 years we had on our visa). The journey back down to Vancouver was just as gorgeous as the way up but unfortunately it rained that whole day which ruined the visibility from the bus window; I still managed to snap some of it though.
We decided to stay in a hostel for our 5 nights due to the expense however, I don’t think we would return to this hostel again- yes it was fine for those 5 nights on the cheap but I don’t personally think I would or could do it again. And that’s all I’m going to say on that lol. I will also mention that, it rained 4 out of the 5 days we were in there, so I feel my opinion and time spent there does not reflect the true experience of Van- we were restricted to what we could do. We would like to return though, preferably in the summer when we know there could be less rain. If anyone has been to Vancouver and can recommend their favourite things to do in the summer, I would love to hear them.
So what did we do with our time in Vancouver? In Canada? What’s something I feel you have to do in Canada? Well there are lots, but yes we went to a hockey game! Vancouver Canucks against Minnesota wild! We caught the bus there, and it seemed the majority of the bus were going to the game too- but it was such a great atmosphere, you could tell everyone was hyped for the game and of course there’s always one major fan, chanting for the Canucks to win; it was great, I loved the spirit. We had possibly the cheapest seats so we were up in the stands but I could still see all the ants playing and I could definitely hear the music. The whole arena is full of great atmosphere and they love to get the crowd going… unfortunately Canucks lost that night, but it was a great experience.
On the day we finally didn’t have any rain we decided to go to Stanley Park, which is huge park along the ocean, close to downtown Vancouver. It’s so airy and spacious- a great place to get away from the city. There are lots of things to see and do in Stanley Park including the aquarium (which we didn’t go to unfortunately as the queue was so too big for our liking). We just decided to have a nice long walk and see what was to offer. It wasn’t too busy either which was nice (probably because of the weather) but there was one point where there was literally no-one around, it was like we had gone of the beaten track- but we hadn’t, and we came to a large pond that was really murky and had a shivery fog over the top of it and was a little creepy. Now we aren’t chickens but when you’re unfamiliar with a place, it can be quite un-nerving, we would prefer it if people were around so we know we haven’t wondered off into the forbidden. We soon saw someone after that but we tried to get back onto the trail everyone else was walking on. I can imagine Stanley Park is the place to go in the summer as it’s a great place to escape and I’m sure that pond livens up as well, once the fog disappears lol.
Of course, whilst in Vancouver we looked around the malls, ate out (as well as in our hostel- we asked the locals who recommended ‘No Frills’ for our groceries). We went to Gastown that was pretty cool, lots of historic buildings and I also must mentioned we experienced our first ever Tim Horton‘s in Vancouver! I was told about Tim’s coffee (double double etc.) before we came to Canada however, I am not a coffee drinker and neither is Jamie so it was never really an interest to us. IF I WAS TOLD THERE WERE DONUTS, then I would have gone there sooner. Our first meal was the pulled pork sandwich, with a Canadian maple donut and a peppermint tea, Jamie had the Boston cream and green tea and ever since then we were hooked!!! Even to the extent that I now own a Tim Horton’s credit card, where I earn Tim’s cash lol- not that I eat donuts that regular as I haven’t had one for a while- I’m hooked on chicken noodle soup at the moment for some reason (call me crazy, I only first had it for the first time like a week ago).
That concludes our visit to Vancouver, like I say there are so many more things we want to do in Vancouver and have a list for when we return- let me know what your favourite things are to do!