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Views in Toronto

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. IMG_2832
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).

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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.

Jollietravels xxx

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Lovers in Lake Louise

18051773_10154707942359195_22615939_nIsn’t it just so beautiful?

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.

18073348_10154707941309195_1976583040_nNow 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.

DSCF3310Now 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). DSCF3286Overall, 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.

See you soon,

Jollietravels xxx

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Cool in Calgary

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.

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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). IMG_2691.jpg

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)…

Jollietravels xxx

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Vancouver

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.

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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!

Jollietravels xxx

2016

First up, Iceland!!!

Well, Reykjavik, Iceland was just fantastic! If you want a holiday or a short break that’s a bit different, Iceland is your place. Yes it is cold (so be prepared) but it’s an adventure and such a beautiful city, with lots to do!!!

We stayed for just 2 nights (which wasn’t long enough), and arrived at the Ice Hotel Marina just as the sun was setting. The Ice Hotel Marina was such a lovely and unique place to stay; from the moment you walk in, there is a funky lounge area with unique pieces of furniture. Not to mention all the other cool rooms and facilities. This included a small gym, cinema room and a decent sized library room for you to chill and read your latest book. The hotel reception leads to the rooms on the right and a restaurant on the left, in which the food was absolutely delicious and we would highly recommend. We also had our included breakfast in the restaurant, that consisted of all the food you could possibly think or not think of to have for breakfast.

Our full day in Reykjavik was jam-packed, so we got up early and crammed our faces with breakfast. The strange thing is, we felt like we were up earlier than we was as the sun doesn’t rise until 10am. Here are a few photos from our tour around the village:

As soon as we had finished looking around the streets of Reykjavik, we had to head back to the hotel as we were going to the Blue Lagoon; despite the snow storm that was currently surrounding us. All our transport around Iceland we arranged beforehand and was reliable; despite what you think, they will turn up hah… well they did for us. The bus journey to the Blue Lagoon was quite a rough one as the wind from the snow storm was quite strong and rocking the bus, despite all this nothing was stopping us from getting there and getting in the lagoon…

It’s funny because when you see the lagoon on Instagram or Pinterest etc. you see this picaresque, stunningly blue water normally with a gorgeous human in the middle. Now we struck unlucky and because of the snowstorm it was more of an adventure than a relaxing swim in the lagoon; it was still enjoyable though and great to see. When you arrive you are provided with a wrist band which is your money whilst in the lagoon so you don’t have to take anything with you. We had the ‘Comfort’ package which included entrance to Blue Lagoon, Silica Mud Mask, use of Towel, 1st Drink of your choice and an Algae Mask (which you can take home with you or put on whilst you are there). They recommend to keep your hair tied up as the water can be very drying and damaging; but is meant to revitalise your body. The water is very warm and very salty so try not to get any in your mouth. I 100% want to return maybe when there isn’t a storm through shade on us.

Back to the hotel, we were meant to see the northern lights in the evening however the storm was too bad and they would not have been visible so the trip was cancelled. If you do book a package like we did, and your Northern Lights trip is cancelled then it is valid for a year in case you re-visit Iceland again to see them (bare this in mind, but we didn’t return unfortunately).

Overall, we absolutely loved Iceland!!! It was something different to anywhere we have ever been, it was freezing (not cold, freezing), it had beautiful scenery and the buildings were beautiful. The food was some of the best I have ever tasted and there is so much to do. The only concern was that it is quite expensive whilst you are there, so if you are going to visit Iceland… research how long you’re going to be there and how much you need to take with you. See you for now Iceland, we will be back!

Jollietravels xxx

Watch our vlog on Iceland, click the link below…