October 27th, 2011

The Plan Of Attack!

Having switched my great American adventure to start on September 9th I started to make plans about when to leave work and what to do before and after my tour. I heard that my second favourite band, Motion City Soundtrack, were doing an amazing, once in a lifetime series of shows that were in late August. I found that because of my new tour schedule then I wouldn’t be in town for the New York date, the closest place to Toronto on the tour, but that the San Francisco date was only a little while before my tour started and conveniently located. I booked myself a ticket and started to work out a travel plan around it.

I looked at flights from Toronto to San Francisco but ‘international’ travel is expensive. So I found a reasonable priced bus to New York and a deliciously cheap flight from New York to San Francisco and locked those in. My departure date from Toronto would be August 20, which just so happened to be the last day that I was allowed to stay in my summer residency at the University of Toronto. Everything was falling into place.

It took a while for me to realise that I had about 2 weeks to actually fill between arriving in San Francisco and leaving from Los Angeles on tour. Having not had the time to fit in San Diego when I first flew into the US, I figured it was the perfect time to slot it in. I organised to stay in San Fran for 6 days, bus it down to Los Angeles for a few days, then grab another bus to San Diego for 5 days. My plan in San Diego was to see the zoo and SeaWorld. Then I’d get the same bus back to Los Angeles (Greyhound do a wonderful free return ticket deal!) and chill for a few days before setting off adventuring.

The next week was full of planning and researching and booking, looking at hostels and tickets and modes of transport. So many websites and maps and prices! But it was all worth it. Everything slotted in perfectly and I was set to get exploring.

My first snag came when I received an email telling me my seat on the bus from San Francisco to Los Angeles had not been secured and there was no more availability for that day. Being the only bus I managed to find that did that route and knowing public transport wasn’t an option, thanks to a very lengthy online article I stumbled across, my only options were to look at flights or change my schedule. Luckily, I found a flight that including taxes turned out only $20 more than the bus. The only thing was I’d have to get a shuttle from the airport which adds about another $25. But for my piece of mind I booked it anyways. Seemed like a cheaper and less painful option than trying to shuffle around my plans.

So I was all set for my adventure, the most important part being my 26 cities, in 22 US states, in 26 days extraveganza! Excitement started to set in, despite all the logistics and packing dramas. USA here I come!

Final Days…

DATED: WEDNESDAY 10TH TO THURSDAY 11TH AUGUST 2011

After seeing the ridiculous line up last week and opting not to wade it out, I finally made it back to the Royal Ontario Museum for a second look around during their free Wednesday afternoon viewing. There were kids and tourists everywhere! I am a little relieved that the museum where I worked never implemented something so appealing. Once I got in there I realised there actually wasn’t much that interested me that I didn’t see on my last trip but this time I was armed with a camera (with full battery) and snapped up some pictures I missed before. This time I also visited the gift shop where I made a rather modest purchase. My favourite being a little stuffed bald eagle toy for Kieran to continue on our Scrubs related ‘eagle’ joke. I wasn’t there very long but was content I’d seen everything I needed to.

Later that night I received a text from Thomas to say that everyone was heading over to their place for drinks. Having missed our little get-togethers, or at least their frequency, I was more than happy to head on over even if just to see everyone again. Sol was in town so that was an added bonus. Everyone sat around catching up, talking about our plans as some of us are planning moves to Vancouver and it was the first time in a long time we were all together. For some reason Dave mentioned an old 1970’s soft-core porn film, Flesh Gordon, an obvious take on Flash Gordon. It was put on the TV and we all watched it for a few minutes before getting distracted by the conversation again.

Then Sol in his infinite wisdom put on ‘real’ porn. Something about nurses. And doctor. From the flashes (pun not intended) that I saw it seemed to have no real storyline but apparently it had won awards. (???) I tried to avoid taking any notice of the screen and continued to chat away to everyone. What exactly went so wrong that a pleasant get together with friends could turn into a porn party!? A fricken porn party!! Eek!!! When I mentioned I had never seen porn and wasn’t watching what was playing, Sol & Shane decided to pause it and then get my attention in the general direction of the screen and deem that as me having seen porn. Pretty sure it doesn’t work that way but they can have their menial pleasure. (Pun definitely intended!)

Tanya and Peter left early as they had work the next day and had missed all the action. (PI*) The rest of us ended up staying well into the morning. Sarah and Yann made a move to leave and as per usual with our group they got distracted and we all continued to have fun.

Shane had headed to bed as he did have an early morning and was wishing we’d all left. Yann had started messing around with Dave’s guitar and a sing-a-long ensued. A little bit of Wonderwall, some America and ultimately One by the amazing U2. (Who my mum played to me in the womb! - That’s for Scarlett!!!) But this rendition wasn’t like the others. We slowly moved down the boys hallway as we sang and settled in front of Shane’s door. Then we serenaded him through his bedroom door. Now to explain why we did this and why this song, well, why was because he had gotten upset with us still partying when he was trying to sleep and the song was just for him as he’d sung it the week before at karaoke. Regardless of all that it was beautiful. One of the best and most striking moments of my trip. Definitely a moment locked away in my memory bank!

The party ended late very early in the morning with us all planning to reconvene in the afternoon for a picnic. Earlier in the week I had a spontaneous urge to have a picnic. Since my departure from Toronto was not too far away I decided the sooner the better and Wednesday seemed to be the best day for most of our crew.

I had gone a little crazy and bought a stack of food and when the others arrived it seemed they had too. We had bread and crackers and dips and cheese and pepperoni and chips and drinks and Oreos and lemonade and soda and goodness knows what else! We all eat until our bellies hurt and decided a little bit of Frisbee-related horseplay would top off our afternoon in Queen’s Park.

Some of us decided to take full advantage of the splendid weather we had and took a trip down to the public pool along the lake. On route we found a park with four swings, perfect for our band of four - Sarah, Thomas, Dave and myself. It was a lovely way to enjoy the serenity by the water and the view and take in the fresh air and beautiful sunshine. I decided to get some video footage of us swinging life away. Another one of those captured moments.

I hadn’t intended to swim but when we got to the pool if just looked so inviting that I decided to go in fully clothed. Luckily I was only wearing a light dress and some leggings, nothing I was too fussed about getting soaked. It’s been quite a while since I’d been swimming and it reminded me just how much I’d missed it. More tranquility to add to a rather glorious day.

I decided to head back to the boys place for a spot of dinner, courtesy of Tom’s culinary skills, and to finally watch MacGruber. The boys had been quoting it a whole bunch and I had wanted to see it since my houseboat trip back in January where my friend Eddie kept using it to beat us all in the movie game. I’d read a little bit about it and had some expectations as I had loved MacGyver, the show that this film way parodying. Sadly, it left me underwhelmed. It did have a few ‘classic’ lines (PI) and some decent laughs. It won’t be making my list of favourite films but I’m glad I got to watch it with the boys as they really do love it. (Well, at least Shane & Dave do!)

All in all a pretty awesome day spent with good people and full of lovely memories. I think I’m going to miss this!


*Pun Intended


You can see the photos from my first and second trip to the ROM here:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150199650166437.314856.696421436&type=1&l=32022b9751
And photos from the picnic and swing session here:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150244292046437.327626.696421436&type=1&l=85a7e827a5  

DATED: MONDAY 1ST TO SUNDAY 7TH AUGUST 2011 

August has arrived and it’s definitely feeling like my time in Toronto is drawing to a close. I’ve nearly finalised all my plans for my epic seven week adventure across the United States of America. I’ve even given notice at work and it would seem ‘tis the season to leave as others are also moving on to bigger and brighter things. So if you want a job pimping books in downtown Toronto - Now is the time!

Thomas was back from his east coast adventure with his friends from home, Amy and Aoife. We celebrated his return with predrinks at the boy’s house (currently sleeping 6!) and a night out at The Wreckroom, which has become our regular haunt (it’s the free entry and the cheap drinks!) I got to meet Thomas’ travel companions and the newest permanent addition to their household, Dave, who looks just like Leigh Whannell (if you ask me!)

The four boys together - Thomas, Declan, Shane & Dave - are hilarious. There new addition brought new and interesting hilarity out. Although the Dirty Dancing quotes got a bit much by the end of the night!

A Little More FREE-dom!

DATED: TUESDAY 26TH JULY 2011

Other than my mini visit from some fellow Aussies and my taste of French Canadia tour, not much else has happened this month. I did manage to catch a free screening of Paris Je T’aime as part of the Six In The City festival, the same one at which I saw Scott Pilgrim. This time I had a friend with me, for at least part of it. Yann met up with me a little bit after it has started. I had invited him since he is of French heritage and was probably the only person I know in Toronto who would have even considered coming to watch it with me. Glad he did. It was good to have someone to discuss the film with and even better to just catch up with a friend. Being a film made up of short films, written and directed by different people, there were bit that I liked and some bits I didn’t. I felt like the section 14e Arrondissement really resonated with me. Oh the loneliness! Le Marais & Tuileries were funny and Faubourg Saint-Denis had a nice twist ending. There were two others that I adored. Okay, so I liked the film, a lot. I appreciated the subtitles even more!

Things have started to just revolve around work like they did at home, so it’s starting to not feel like an adventure anymore. I’m not meeting any new people and the old people are busy making money for their next adventure. I don’t begrudge them for it because I am in exactly the same boat. Money gets tight and we got to do what we got to do! I’m just growing weary of Toronto and very much starting to look forward to my US Adventure come September which I am slowing piecing together. It’s getting très exciting.

I managed to go see another film for free, this time at Yonge & Dundas Square. The theme for their summer movies, which run on the same days as the ones at the harbourfront, is musicals. They showed West Side Story and since I was free and looking for something to do and had never seen it, I went down to check it out. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and there seemed to be less people there or maybe just more space. I didn’t love the film but I do enjoy seeing new interpretations on the age old Romeo & Juliet, star-crossed lovers, tale. (I even saw Gnomeo & Juliet, which was really quite cute if you ask me!) I have a feeling that had Tony not been easy on the eyes then I may not have enjoyed it at all. I did enjoy finally hearing the full version of I Feel Pretty, and not just my friend Andrew’s hilarious rendition, was an added bonus.

So Frenchy, So Canadian!?

DATED: MONDAY 18TH TO MONDAY 25TH JULY 2011

Since I knew my time in Toronto had a deadline I tried to find the time off work to make a trip to Quebec. My main focus was Montreal but I was also interested in seeing Quebec City. I managed to find what I thought was a reasonably priced tour that hit both stops, as well as Ottawa and the Thousand Islands, both in Ontario. Luck would have it that it happened to be running, and have an available seat, for the only full weekend, plus Monday, that I actually had been given off. I bought myself a ticket and packed a small bag for the 3 day trip. Only downside of this adventure was that the bus left at 11pm on the Friday night and I can’t sleep on planes, trains or even buses. Silver lining to that is I had to work Friday and the late departure fit perfectly with my schedule. Then we would get all day Saturday in Quebec City, all day Sunday in Montreal and Monday would be our journey home with stops in Ottawa, for a half day, and a cruise around the Thousand Islands.

Arriving in
Quebec City at 7am, we had time to spruce ourselves a little before heading into the heart of the city for some breakfast and a walking tour with a local guide. Being in faux-France I had a croissant for my morning meal with some chocolate milk. I had some time before our tour so I took a quick walk around the area in the quiet of the weekend morning. Our tour guide for the day spoke to us in the heavily accented tones of his native tongue, French. He told us about the history of a lot of buildings we past through. We learnt about the origins of the walls which line Quebec City, one of the oldest remaining walled cities. He also told us about the use of the river, the Fairmont hotel chain significance in the city and the history of Cirque du Soleil.

When our tour had concluded we’d seen a walled city, a hospital turned hotel and a monastery turned university. We split up for lunch and had free time for a bit of shopping. I took the opportunity to get some souvenirs and a few little presents to send home. I also found a shirt that I thought really summed up Quebec City. It was in the style of the ‘I Heart NY’ shirts but instead said ‘J’ Heart Quebec.’ Oh, the French Canadians can be punny! I also found a cute lane full of artists and their paintings of the city. Quite delightful.

When we met back up outside the famous Château Frontenac we walked up past the spectacular parliament house to Observatoire de la Capitale where we could get a great view of the city. I managed to find silver roofed churches and Monopoly style houses from such a vantage point.

Again we had free time before meeting up to get the bus back to our hotel. I decided to check out the Inuit art gallery I had seen on our walk. There were so many beautiful pieces, just a little too much out of my price range. Still glad I had a sticky beak.

Once we were back at the hotel I took a little time to read by the pool while the others napped. I’ve never been good at catching a kip. It was good just taking time to relax after walking around all day.

We all met up to get the bus into town and grab a bite to eat. I tagged along with some of the girls I was rooming with and after a few hurdles (like not knowing a word of French) we got our meals, woofed them down, then ran to catch the bus, excited for our next destination.

Turns out we had picked the best night to be in Quebec City. Cirque du Soleil were performing Les Chemins invisibles for free (yes I did say FREE!) underneath a freeway bridge. Apparently it’s a regular thing and we were to see the third installment called Le Royaume de Tôle. By the time we got there it was packed but we managed to find a reasonable vantage point and I tried to grab some photos. Sadly, a lot of them came out blurry (curse you low light!) but my videos of some of the acts were pretty good.


 After the show we had the option to head out with the group but I was so knackered and more interested in resting up for Montreal that I decided to get a good night’s sleep instead.


http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150248996351437.329171.696421436&type=1&l=bb949c398b


The next morning we said goodbye to Quebec City and headed for Montreal. On our way into town we stopped off at the old Olympic stadium, from when Montreal hosted the 1976 Games, a decision which cost them C$264 million and put them in debt for 30 years. We also saw the outside of the Biodome, which, given the chance I will come back to Montreal to check out, even if only to make Pauley Shore jokes!

We were let off the bus at Place Jacques-Cartier, from which I managed to find an artist’s market down a pokey little laneway and then stumbled upon some cobbled streets and a great Inuit & Native American art store. I found genuine raccoon skin hats (aka ‘coon caps!) for only $40 and now regret not deciding to buy one after the long and anguished internal debate that I had. I did find some super cute presents for my mum and of course for myself!

After some more souvenir shopping and random wandering I found myself out the front of the Notre Dame Basillica. As I was restricted for time I just took a look around the outside but will definitely make the effort to check out the inside if I ever come back.

I continued wandering until I ended up back at Place Jacques-Cartier square. I took a peek at the Château Ramezay and then went in search of lunch, as I decided to put sight-seeing over tummy feeding due to our time restraints, as I could always just eat on the bus. We all met back up at the bus and made our way to our hotel for some rest.

I had planned as part of my trip that I would try see part of the Just For Laughs comedy festival while in Montreal. I set out from my hotel in search of the venue in which Deanne Smith was performing. After about 20 minutes of trying to find a street which I am convinced does not exists, I gave up and wandered back to the festival area in the Place des Arts. As the only performance happening at that time was in French, the jokes were over my head so I went in search of food. I took a look around the streets and explored Montreal a little by night.

I headed back to the hotel umming and ahhing about whether or not to head out with the group for the night. Finding out that my other roommates were going to go, I went too. We ended up at a rather small, but luckily cover charge free, nightclub. Somehow our tour director managed to wrangle some free vodka and we all had shots together. There was still some left over so the director handed me a vodka and orange. I am never one to say no to free booze! Most of the group that had gone out was Brazilian. Because of my roommate who had made friends with them, we all got to chatting and dancing and they all got to drinking! It was fun just to have a chilled night dancing along to some house music.


http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150253435246437.330512.696421436&type=1&l=6f2ede2feb


The following morning brought a longish drive to Ottawa. Since our tour guide had been to university here he knew quite a lot about the area and shared a little bit of that knowledge with us as we drove in. Being the capital of Canada there are quite a lot of old parliamentary buildings and monuments.

We were dropped off at the ByWard Markets and I made my way in search of beautiful architecture, which most of the other went in search of shops. Not too far from the market I found a gorgeous war memorial and then took a wander through a park. I also took a look at some statues from the history of Ottawa and the provincial flags that line the river. I then decided with the little time that I had left I should probably find food so I headed back to the market. There I found a basket of strawberries for $5 and 2 litres of apple cider for $2.50. I then stumbled upon a cute little bakery where I got myself a lemon meringue pie (something I had definitely missed on my trip) and a few ‘Oh Canada!’ gingerbread cookies.

Upon reconvening at the bus we made the picturesque drive to the Thousand Islands. About 15 minutes out it started to bucket down with rain. When we arrived at the islands it seemed too miserable to want to head out on a boat for an hour. I definitely didn’t feel up for it as I didn’t even bring a jacket with my for the trip. (Stupid mistake! But in my defense I left a 35 degree Celcius day that felt like 41 degrees. Yuck!) We voted about what we should do and after a few polls and a little bit of time the weather had died down a bit and we decided that this was the only chance we’d get so we may as well get on the boat.

The tour through the islands wasn’t quite what I expected but I’m not sure if that is a good or bad things. I really had no idea about the islands and had only heard that they were meant to be beautiful. What I definitely didn’t realise was that the islands were in a body of water with Canada on one side and America on the other. The cutest thing there is these 2 islands, the big one on the Canadian side and the small one on the American side, with a bridge joining them. It is in fact the smallest international bridge crossing! And in case you were wondering I don’t believe there is any sort of screening to cross over. We also learnt about a castle that a man built for his wife out of love that even includes heart shaped stones in the wall. It was pretty spectacular and quite the grand gesture.

After our little cruise we made our way back to Toronto, stopping in Hamilton, at a truck
stop, for some dinner. We arrived back about 9pm and parted ways after our weekend long adventure.


http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150253499686437.330547.696421436&type=1&l=d6562832f0

The Dangers Of A Warped Summer Of Awesomeness!

DATED: MONDAY 11TH TO SUNDAY 17TH JULY 2011

This week bought my first visitor from home. Okay, so she wasn’t actually visiting me, I just happened to be in a town when she come visiting.

When she first arrived I took her for some late night eats at my favourite place in Toronto, Sneaky Dee’s. We ordered ourselves some tex-mex treats and settled in for some catch up chats. This time I got to sit in the booths out the back and this gave me the opportunity to check out some awesome graffiti/art.

After enjoying some good food and talking through our respective travels we figured to was time to call it a night.

The following day we decided to hit up the Toronto Islands from some relaxation and sunshine/fresh air/grassy goodness between our toes. Much to Steph’s delight we discovered a Franklin garden. That’s Franklin, the animated turtle, Franklin. We also enjoyed a nice amble along the pier and meandered between grassy knolls.

Later that day Steph was joined by some other boys from home (home being Perth), being Dayne, Aaron and, a boy I think I met once or twice, Ryan. The next day they went on a tour to Niagara Falls and were meeting up that night to catch a baseball game. I had organised it since it’s one of the fun semi-touristy things to do in Toronto. Unbeknownst to me, Ryan is actually a pretty decent baseball player and he had been lucky enough to play in the US twice.

My Torontonian friends (the Irish) and my visiting friends (the Australians) were joined together for the game. Even though some of us had been a few times before it is always fun to experience the atmosphere with first timers.

Friday bought the highlight of the week, Warped Tour! I had originally planned my trip around Warped Tour. I was going to be in California in early August and see all 3 dates around LA. Since I’d decided to stay longer in Toronto I wasn’t able to make it to Cali. Instead I would be in Toronto when it rolled into town.

With Steph and the boys in town I was actually going to have people to share the day with. The others had been having trouble with their phones so I was unable to contact them, and with the dilemma I had making my way out to the venue in Mississauga, I was happy to spot them ahead of me in the ginormous line to get in. Since Warped don’t post the band schedule ahead of time we had no idea if we were missing anyone amazing while we were waiting. Luckily, we made it in with time to spare before anyone I was amped to see started.

To be honest I was only really excited about The Dangerous Summer, A Day To Remember and 3OH!3, with The Dangerous Summer being the only band I hadn’t seen before. It was ridiculously hot, I believe 36 degrees Celcius, and there was only one set of water fountains hidden away from the stages, making the day a little bit of a challenge.

I saw Dance Gavin Dance first who were amazing, especially with Jonny Craig back on lead vocals. He’s one sexy ginge! Straight after that was The Dangerous Summer. I had high expectations for them and they exceeded them beyond belief. They were definitely worth every cent of the ticket price and all the drama related to me getting there and back. Following them I headed over to see MC Lars. It wasn’t your normal Lars show as he was playing with Weerd Science but it was pretty fun and Lars is looking mighty fine these days!

I didn’t have anyone I wanted to see so I headed past The Dangerous Summer’s tent as they had said they’d be hanging out there after their set. The line actually wasn’t too bad so I jumped in. The boys were actually real sweet. I got a photo with them and started to chat with AJ, telling him I’d come all the way from Australia. He told me they were planning to tour there in September but I told him I would still be in Canada but would have moved to Vancouver when they play Toronto again. I told him I was glad I finally got to see them. He thanked me. What a sweetheart. Definitely the nightlight of my day!

After that I went and saw I Set My Friends On Fire. I just wanted to head their song ‘Things That Rhyme With Orange.’ They were pretty impressive and I really enjoyed watching them. Apparently so did everyone else because the crowd got a bit rowdy!

In the late afternoon I had no one at all that I wanted to see so I chilled in the food pavilion, killing time. I managed to run back into Steph and she informed me the delicious Johnny Craig was in the drinking area and they just had photos with him. After having to throw out my empty water bottle upon entry (go figure!) we looked around for him, only to discover he was walking out. Just my luck. So sadly, I am yet to meet one of the most beautiful gingers. But I do hear he’s a real arsehole, so maybe it’s for the best. Definitely don’t want it to turn me off his music because his voice is fucking amazing!

Steph and I headed off to see Enter Shikari, a band we’d watched together a few years back. They were pretty fun. Then I went off to see A Day To Remember. They had the stage decorated with an inflatable version of themselves. Pretty cool. They, as always, were fricken awesome. I went a little crazy and this was probably the point that killed my voice because of all the singing. The crowd got crazy and I nearly ended up being knocked to the ground. The usual for ADTR! One of the highlights of my day for sure.

I went to see Less Than Jake while waiting for the next band on that stage. Glad I did actually. They were fun and funny and they got a 12 year old boy up on stage and shaved him a mohawk. Once it was all done he was rocking out with the band. Such a rad little guy. Hope my kids are that cool!

To finish off the day I watched 3OH!3. They have pretty high energy and really get the crowd going. It was perfect to end the day on a high, singing along and shaking my booty.

My day was pretty amazing, despite my ridiculous sunburn I got on the top of my calves (which you can see in my Warped photo album!), and a great way to end my week. Definitely a nice break from the daily grind.



Photos from Toronto Island:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150189792511437.312137.696421436&type=1&l=1edcb6e700
Photos from Warped:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150340638801437.349925.696421436&type=1&l=30e9ed601c

FREE-dom!

DATED: SATURDAY 18TH JUNE TO SUNDAY 10TH JULY 2011

By now I was nice and settled into my new job. I seemed to have my head around what my role was and was feeling okay about everything. I’d even made friends with some of my co-workers. Real friends. Facebook friends!

One night after work Rob, an American, fellow book pimper, and I headed down to Yonge & Dundas Square to catch a free show as part of the North By North East festival, the Canadian equivalent of South By South West.

Sadly, we didn’t make it in time to see Men Without Hats but we did make it in time to see the awesome Devo. It was pretty odd seeing 60-something year old men still rocking out with their crazy head gear and crazier costumes. It was fun being one of the youngest people at a show for a change.

It was a good evening. They performed the three songs I knew but sadly they didn’t close with Whip It like I would’ve expected. They played that one somewhere near the start. But you can’t really complain when it’s a free concert, now can you!?

A week later Rob and I embarked on another free performance endeavour. This time it was to see the legendary Aretha Franklin as part of the Toronto Jazz Festival. There were so many people there that we couldn’t get near the stage. Once it started we discovered that the sound on our side of the stage was pretty bad which meant people started leaving part way through. That gave us the chance to shuffle ourselves closer and try get a decent view even if we couldn’t hear any better.

Luckily, we got close enough that the rather tall Rob could snap me a few photos. They turned out okay which made up for the negatives of the night. The shit sound and the mediocre weather paled in comparison to the most disappointing thing of the evening, Aretha didn’t give us any respect. That’s right, no R.E.S.P.E.C.T!!!

The deal was that if Rob came with me to see Aretha (truth be told I’m pretty sure he wanted to see her anyways) then I would go with him to see Shad, a Canadian rapper (and winner of last year’s Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year, beating Drake, which I am assured is a big deal!). So on Canada Day, July 1st, we headed down to Metro Square (where we’d seen Aretha) and were just in time to see Shad.

I must say I was very impressed. He was smart, eloquent, respectful, infectious and surprisingly adorable. He had lyrics about his family and his heritage, including a track with poetry written by his mother, about his passion for rap and even a catchy little ditty about his full name and how to spell it. Was very happy with Rob’s recommendation.

That same night The Roots were playing. Rob and I had talked about seeing them but when we saw the advertised $50 price tag we both kind of balked. But having seen the set up for the Aretha show, and with The Roots set to perform on the same stage, we realised that the tickets were just to get into the tented area for the show but we could still hang around in the square and see their performance.

Again it was a good performance and everyone seemed to be having a pretty chilled celebration. I was fairly excited when they ripped into The Seed (although I do prefer the Punk Goes Crunk/Person L version better!) It was great just being able to enjoy a fun night of booty shaking with a good friend and an even better selection of artists.

Another free thing I got to do was see a movie for free. It was part of a festival they had down at the harbour front called Six In The City, where they show six films over six weeks with each one showcasing a different city. The opening film of the festival was Edgar Wright’s loveletter to Toronto and my favourite film, Scott Pilgrim vs The World. I went alone as everyone else was busy but still enjoyed myself. There were people there dressed up, and in character, and the guy who introduced the film, from the Toronto street press Now, was oozing excitement in anticipation of the film, even though he, like most of the crowd, had seen it before.

Smashed in there somewhere was the boys housewarming. Thomas and Declan had waited until their friend Shane had finally arrived. Poor thing spent 16 weeks waiting to find out if his visa would be approved. As per usual a hang out with the gang consisted of everyone (except me) drinking a lot and we all just sat around talking shit and listening to music. Good times.



Find photos of Devo and Aretha here:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150244292046437.327626.696421436&type=1&l=85a7e827a5

DATED: SATURDAY 11TH TO FRIDAY 17TH JUNE 2011

Let’s just say that June was looking to be rather uneventful. With myself and most of the others now working, it was really hard to find time (and energy) to get together. On top of that we’d already done most of the touristy things in the first few weeks.

On the Saturday we made our way to Vaughan again to go to Splash Works, the water park at Canada’s Wonderland. When we arrived we had a little bit of a ticket issue with Gary but it was actually a blessing in disguise as the delay was just long enough for us to realise a storm was coming. It started to absolutely teem down and the thunder and lightening quickly followed. With that we grabbed the bus back to Yorkdale. Some of the crew headed back downtown but Sol, Declan, Yann, Gary and myself stayed around to watch X-Men: First Class.

The amazing thing about cinemas here is you can take hot food in with you, as long as it is sold in the cinema complex and this cinema had a Burger King. I got a meal to warm myself up since I was saturated from the rain and to keep the hungry tummy gremlins at bay.

The film was surprisingly good. James McAvoy was stellar as always. A very well written and witty character. I found the origins stories quite interesting. And Kevin Bacon as the bad guy was awesome.

After sitting, drenched, in a heavily air conditioned theatre I stopped by H&M to get myself something warm to wear. I found a super warm sweater, a pretty scarf and some wicked arm warmers on sale. I also got the bag I’d been eyeing off for weeks for only $2. Bargain! The day wasn’t a complete bust.

The next day, after waiting all week for a phone call, I found an email from the summer residence I’d applied to live in. Finding out I was meant to move in the day before, I packed up all my belongings and tried to find a strong boy or two to help me move. Finding them all busy, Sarah was so gracious enough to give up her lunch break to help me carry everything to my new digs.

We got there, got my keys and headed to my room. Dropped my stuff off and checked out my new building and neighbourhood. I spent the next few days getting to know my new hood and kind of fell in love with it. So happy to finally have a room of my own, even if I do still have to share a kitchen and bathroom. I was definitely in desperate need of some alone time. You really appreciate the little things like being able to change my top without fear of someone walking into the room. Ah, peace!

The only other interesting thing that happened that week was the Stanley Cup hockey final, game seven. In case you’re not familiar with it, the Stanley Cup is the most coveted prize in professional ice hockey. In the final the Vancouver Canucks had to play the Boston Bruins and win the best of seven games. The Canucks had won the first two on home ice in spectacular fashion, despite the Bruins dirty on ice antics but had then lost the next two quite embarrassingly in Boston. The third game being the worst, the Canucks going down 1-8. The Canucks got their game again at home for their fifth clash and skated by scoring 1-0. Game six saw the Bruins tie it all up and result in the need for a game seven. Even more hockey for me to watch!

The last game of the 2011 Stanley Cup season happened on the 15th June and I met up with Thomas and Declan, and their friend Shane who just arrived from Ireland, to watch it together and cheer the Canucks on. Sadly, the best team won and the Bruins took home the cup which they definitely deserved. They well and truly outplayed Vancouver. The final result: 4-0!

And if you didn’t hear about it, Vancouver fans are really bad losers and there were riots throughout their own town. Crazy!

August 16th, 2011

Let’s Go Blue Jays!

DATED: FRIDAY 10TH JUNE 2011 

Being a Friday night, what better way to spend it than at a baseball game with some friends. The whole crew was there - Sarah, Yann, Gary, Tanya, Peter, Sol, Thomas and Declan - albeit they arrived late but we settled in with some drinks and munchies to watch the game.

Tonight’s game was my beloved Toronto Blue Jays versus the Boston Red Sox. Sarah has a soft spot for anything Boston but was still cheering for the home team for the night. It was a pretty interesting game despite nothing sensational happening. Sadly, the Blue Jays lost despite all our support.

I remembered my camera this time so I captured some photos, a lot of them of my main man Arencebia. I also got photos of other stars like Bautista and Nix. Check them out!



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Escape To Wonderland!

DATED: WEDNESDAY 8TH JUNE 2011

"Canada’s Wonderland: It’s where dreams go to come true!”
–Thomas Phelan-

With the weather  predicted to be 31 degrees (that’s Celsius, of course!) and all of us not working (Yann quit his job to come for the adventure! Or at least that’s how I will tell the story.) we decided it would be a good time to head to Canada’s Wonderland, a theme park about an hour from downtown Toronto, (that’s public transport time!) more specifically their elaborate water park. After all meeting up on the subway, we headed off.

Arriving there we discovered the water park was only open on weekends, despite it being summer holidays, a fact the Internet neglected to make obvious (or failed to share at all!) Our crew for the day – myself, Thomas, Declan, Sarah, Yann, Peter, Tanya and, new recruit, Gary (yet another Irishman!) – decided we’d just wander around the park, clockwise it would seem, and select rides that took our fancy.

There were a few in the bunch that didn’t partake in some of the rides due to their specific dislikes/fears; whether it was heights, the feeling of falling, the resulting dizziness or going upside down. I must admit to some degree I’m not okay with any of those but with the chances of anything going horribly wrong (à la Final Destination 3) very slim it was pretty irrational to be afraid of a ride. Gary pointed out all fears were irrational and with that being a very valid point I decided to overcome ignore my fears and go on all the rides the others suggested. Oh and of course to preserve my dignity! Honestly, in hindsight, after the first ride we went on, nothing really instilled fear in me but I did dread going on some of them. It was mainly the coasters that had me worried as I’m really not a fan of the feeling of falling or the going upside down part. Eek!

One of the best rides actually went upside down but didn’t make me feel nauseous. I really enjoyed it. The boys and I actually liked it so much we had two turns in a row as it was quiet while we were there. There was a similar ride we’d experienced earlier which I enjoyed because it was like extreme swinging. (Using that term makes me think of the Hilltop Hoods clip!)

We found a pretty awesome ride, the only one with water, (since the designated water park area was open and it was incredibly hot!) which involved cascading down a waterfall and ending up drenched by the backslash. It was amazing! The line was incredibly long so we only went through once but we did stand up in the ‘splash zone’ through at least four other turns to get saturated again by the splash from the ride. Everyone left there with smiles plastered on their faces.

We were on our way to the Behemoth, an incredibly massive roller-coaster with a ridiculously high and pointy section, when we decided to jump on The Bat. I was anxious about this one as you go through two loops, upside down, forward and then do it backwards. We were held there for so long before the ride started that I though I might wet myself in terror. Finally it released us and we shot through the ‘bat’ forwards and it was relatively harmless. Thinking it’d hold us for a equally as long wait as at the start before it shot us backwards I relaxed only to be instantly shot backwards through the ride. While being gutwrenchingly terrifying, it was amazingly thrilling and we all enquired about going on again only to be told the pack was closing.

It was 6pm. The Internet had said the park was open until 9pm so we ended up not having planned our trip so well. We had only made it about halfway through the rides and had missed the one we’d been building up to all day, the Behemoth. Slightly morose, we headed back to collect our belongings and grab the bus home. As we were packing up it started to rain.

Following the rain came a massive thunderstorm just as we were making our way to the bus. As we drove back to the subway station we watched the lighting crack all around us. So vivid. So close. It was so intense. Yann helped lighten the mood with his own rendition of Kiss From A Rose by Seal. A song now etched in my mind at that moment.

All it all it was a good day. I didn’t let the freak weather at the end sully my memory of the crazy fun we had riding our way around Wonderland. I only hope we can go back again soon and check out the amazing water park. I left the park bruised and battered, with a throbbing neck and very tired eyes but a very warm feeling in my heart. It had been such a fun experience to share with my new friends.

Colour Me Indigo!

DATED: MONDAY 6TH JUNE 2011

(Only those of you paying attention will get the title of this one!)

Today marks my first day working in a Canadian workplace! I can now officially say I work ‘in a bookshop!’ I am envisioning it being something like the show Black Books. I’d like to be Bernard but I know I’ll be Manny! No seriously, it’s going to be fun. A little bit hard since I really have no idea about books but I am incredibly confident in my ability to serve customers so that bit is going to be easy. The book smarts can come later. (See what I did there!?)

The first thing my new boss said to me was actually that he knew when he met me that he wanted me to work in his team, that I would fit in really well. He listed a lot of things that he identified in my from my interview. Some true, some not so true. Man I’m good at that bullshitting interviewing thing!

Luckily my first day went well. I learnt got told a whole bunch of stuff and they gave me a gift card for $5 just for starting work there. Bonus! My co-workers seem like fun and the job seems breezey so I’m actually looking forward to what’s to come.

After my first day I headed down to Sugar Beach, a man-made white sand beach conplete with banana lounges and beach umbrellas along the Lake Ontario foreshore, to see Dallas Green perform, under his City & Colour moniker, for the launch of his new album Little Hell.

By the time I got there is was incredibly crowded but for some reason they had the area around the stage taped off. About 10 minutes before the show was set to start they cut the tape and everyone charged towards the front. I found myself a semi-uncomfortable stop up on a hill with a decent view of the stage. I set up my camera and awaited the start.

The band came out and Dallas introduced us to his new record. I was scared I wouldn’t like his new stuff (I always have that niggle of fear when one of my favourite artists release something new) but everything was beautiful. He has a great collection of catchy rockier tunes and softer more melodic numbers. It was a short show but he managed to pepper it with some older songs and the atmosphere was incredibly charged.

I left with a great sense of excitement for the new album and having felt like my first day had been quite fulfilling.



You can find a few photos from the City & Colour show here:
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"On An Island In The Sun…"

DATED: SUNDAY 5TH JUNE 2011

One of the last things left to do in Toronto was to explore the Toronto Islands in Lake Ontario, just a short boat ride from downtown. Some of the boys from the hostel had organised to have a barbecue out there and asked our crew to come along. Sadly, Sarah was working but the rest of us - myself, Tanya, Peter, Yann, Gary, Thomas & Declan - headed over to explore and have a bit of fun.

After getting off the boat we took a walk across to the other side of the islands to Manitou Beach. The others went for a swim (I didn’t have anything to swim in as I’d come to hang out and have a barbecue) and played a bit of Frisbee and volleyball. I spent my time on the shore, soaking up the sun and capturing a few photos.

After a few hours we headed to get some food and make out way around the island, stopping off at the Centreville Amusement Park. I wasn’t really up for going on a ride but the others went on some sort of sensory experience nestled in the back of the park.

When we were done there we found ourselves a nice patch of grass in the sun and played a game of Ultimate Frisbee. The game requires quite a lot more stamina and fitness than I possess so I wasn’t the greatest player but at least I gave it a try.

After that we were all pretty tired and since we couldn’t get food where we wanted on the island, we headed back for the mainland. I remembered that the Old Spaghetti Factory wasn’t far from the docks so we made our way there for dinner. For less than $15 each we got a ridiculous amount of bread, an entree, a main meal of our choice (I went with the manicotti, which is pretty much exactly like cannelloni) and dessert. My main meal was awesome and I left feeling quite full and rather chuffed.

I think everyone would agree that it was quite a good day of relaxation and fun, even if we didn’t get to hang with the others like I had planned.



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Making Progress…

DATED: MONDAY 30TH MAY TO SATURDAY 4TH JUNE 2011

My fifth week in Toronto got a little bit quieter. With Sol gone (That’s right, he went off to camp, on Saturday, for Summer. Did I not mention that!?) and the others having moved into their sublet, I was on my own again in the hostel.

Luckily, I had my second job interview to distract me. Again I was left with nothing to wear so I had purchased another H&M dress to wear. This one was a pale pink, rather modest, and somewhat fitting for a job interview.

My interview this time was with the assistant manager of the store and covered some of the same questions, just a little more specific. Being a business running inside a hospital I fielded some questions on my experience with similar environments/experiences and felt like I answered them quite well. I got to know a little bit more about the job itself and the people I’d be working with.

Again it was over very briefly but I felt fairly confident in my efforts. And who can complain about getting through to a second interview for the only job you actually applied for!? I just had to wait a few days to know whether or not I had the job. Fingers crossed!

Having not much else to do and only really seeing the others at night, I was quite delighted to be asked by the bar manager to pick up where Sol had left off in painting the tables for the hostel’s patio bar. So my week consisted of my touching up painting over the old flags that were on each table so they were all shiny and new again. This time they also had lacquer so I sealed them all as well. It took me a few full days and a few hours here and there to get it all done to my liking. My work actually got me 4 free nights in the hostel, much to my surprise. Works out to be the same as being paid minimum wage here. Handy!

On the Thursday, when waiting for Sarah, as we were going to have lunch together, I got a call from the bookstore to tell me that I had been successful and that they wanted me to start work the following Monday. I was so excited to now have something to fill my days with. I shared the news with Sarah straight away. We also met up with the boys, Thomas and Declan, who I filled in on my news.

Thanks to my new job I had to go pick myself up some new clothes to fit in with the dress code. After scouring H&M and other cheapish stores, I ended up at Sears where I found discounted black pants that fit me perfectly and a respectable collared black top to team with my black shoes. I also treated myself to a new warm jacket, since the weather was still miserable, in celebration of my new job.

While being a rather lazy week I managed to accomplish a lot. The only thing left was to find a place to live!

Open Doors & Beachside Views!

DATED: 28TH & 29TH MAY 2011

For one weekend a year, here in town, over 150 buildings are opened up to the public for them to have a little look-see for the annual Doors Open Toronto. A lot of these places are not normally accessible to us mere mortals pedestrians. In order to be a part of this event the buildings must have been built before 1940 and you can look at any or all of them (if you have the time!) for free. That’s right, FREE!

While this may not be something that everyone gets excited about but I am in awe of old buildings, enjoy perusing the architecture and sticky-beaking inside. I set out on my own on Saturday and my first stop was the Old City Hall building. By far my favourite building in Toronto, that I have seen, from the outside so I was very excited to take a look inside. The building was designed by Edward James Lennox who also designed Casa Loma, another notable Toronto landmark, and about 70 other buildings around town. These days Old City Hall is used as the provincial court house. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside but I did get to look at the amazing foyer, complete with murals, and an example of one of the court rooms. It was just like what I would imagine an old court room would look like. It even had the upstairs viewing area, reminding me of the court room used in the film version of To Kill A Mockingbird. The decor of the whole building screamed English to me, an obvious influence from the motherland. I only wish I could have seen the court house in action, with the cute little judges in their robes and wigs. That’s all I could think of while wandering around. From the outside you couldn’t tell that the building actually surrounds a square courtyard which I peered down into from the top of the stairs, through a pretty spectacular stained glass window. Although the inside is a little too regal, with it’s marble floors, for its Romanesque Revival style exterior, (like a lot of E.J. Lennox’s work and other buildings around Toronto) it’s still my favourite building in this town.

After that I was bound for a fire house at the top of town, station 311, about an hours walk from where I was. Well, what was probably meant to be an hour turned into two and a very sore body. I kept passing intersection after intersection, hoping the next street I would get to would be the one I was looking for. Eventually I found it and went in for a look around. It was rather dull. I guess I say that in comparison to what my expectations were. There was just a few rooms, a pole next to the stairs, lots of uniforms lined up in a sort of locker room and a fire truck parked out the front. With no one there with me to take a photo of me behind the truck’s wheel or at least hanging out the window I was a little let down. It was all over a little too quickly for all the walking that I did. Luckily there were some lovely buildings to look at on the walk back down the hill, homeward bound.

Since most of my Saturday was filled with walking I didn’t have much time and/or energy to look at any of the other buildings on offer. I had made plans on Sunday to go explore The Beaches with James but I decided to squeeze in a little excursion beforehand to the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre and the Arts & Letters Club of Toronto, time permitting.

When I got to the theatre there was a line down the block and I thought about just bailing. But seeing it as my only chance to look around inside, for free, I decided to just join the back of the queue and hope that I wasn’t too far down the line and would actually make it inside. Turns out they had a really good system in place. We all filed into the lower level, the Elgin Theatre, and all took seats. An older gentleman welcomed us and proceeded to give us a lovely rundown of the history of the theatre, being the only double-decker theatre (that’s one theatre positioned directly above another theatre), and information about the kinds of things it had been used for.

After that we headed upstairs to the Winter Garden Theatre for yet some more history and an in depth description of the theatre’s construction. Some interesting things that I learnt were that the ceiling over the seating in the Winter Garden theatre is decorated with approximately 80% real leaves that have been through a process to preserve them in a life-like state and that the ceiling of the Elgin theatre is actually floating, it is suspended from the floor of the above floor. They also told us about some of the amazing productions that have taken place in the theatre, like Cats and The Who’s Tommy. (I actually sat in a chair dedicated to Tyley Ross who played the lead in Tommy in 1995.)

After our informative talks and a look around the theatres we were invited to hang around to look at some memorabilia and perhaps purchase some wares, with all of the proceeds going to keep the theatre running. They had some postcards and badges and even a book for sale. I got myself a badge for my collection and picked up the book, as well, as a memento because it was full of wonderful photos and ran through the history of the building. When making my purchase the lady who I gave my money to told me that the man who had compiled the book was standing right behind me. Unbeknownst to me one of the men who had talked us through the history of the theatre had actually written a book about the history of the theatre. I got him to sign my copy and thanked him for his informative speech and shuffled out.

I looked at my phone and realised I actually had enough time to squeeze in a trip up to the Arts & Letters Club. I headed further up Yonge St (which for those of you playing at home is the longest street in the world and the same street I had spent what felt like all day schlepping up the day before!) and easily found the quaint building at 14 Elm St. Luckily I snapped a photo of the historic society sign out the front as I was informed on the way in that there was no photography allowed. It was of course to protect the artworks but I really just wanted to take photos of the building. The best bit being the view from the balcony in the great hall and maybe the super cute, despite being remarkably plain, staircase.

Having spent a little too much time exploring, I raced to meet James for our trip to The Beaches. He decided, that since we were in the neighbourhood, he’d like to take a quick look inside Old City Hall too. So in one weekend I got to explore it twice!

After another sticky beak we jumped on a streetcar out east. Thanks to James’ choice to sit near the front we got semi-harassed by some crazy homeless guy for part of the way who made inappropriate comments and felt up my leg. Eek! Luckily it was just before we arrived at our destination.

When we jumped off the streetcar I saw another fire station, this one also open as part of Doors Open Toronto. James agreed to come take a peek with me and was very please to find an old style Pepsi vending machine where the cans were only 50 cents. Bargain! I took a more in depth look around. This station, 227, was much like the one I’d already seen but I did get to enjoy a nice mini-tour with one of the fireman who filled me in on some history and the amount of call-outs they get a year. Pretty crazy!

With that, we made our way to explore The Beaches. Our journey started at the Kew Gardens where we looked at the Alex Christie gazebo and a few war monuments. We met a sweet little squirrel that a lady was trying to feed a mint. He took it, tried storing it in his mouth, then spat it out and decided to try bury it. All of which I got photos of. Absolutely adorable!

We made our way down to Kew Beach and checked out the Leuty Lifeguard Station. We then followed the boardwalk along Lake Ontario. We just wandered around looking at everything and pretty much followed the path hoping it’d take us somewhere good or at least back to the road. Turns out it didn’t lead back to the road but we negotiated our way there with minimal backtracking. The road we did find came out at Woodbine Park which we followed back to the main road. We spotted a cute Irish pub called Murphy’s Law and decided to get some food there before heading home. It was actually quite nice sitting outside, eating a delicious burger and relaxing after our stroll along the beach. It was a great way to spend a Sunday.

I don’t think words can do these places justice (at least not my words) so check out my photos or even better check them out for yourself if you ever come to Toronto.



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July 23rd, 2011

"We Live For The Game, Game, Baby, The Hall Of Fame, Fame!"

DATED: THURSDAY 26TH MAY 2011

After only a day’s notice and lots of fretting over not having an appropriate job interview outfit, I had decided on a new dress I had purchased from H&M and made my way to my meeting.

The job I was interviewing for was in a bookstore, inside a hospital. I got their nice and early and met with my potential future boss for a semi-formal chit-chat. He said he wanted to get to know me and my work experience to see if I’d fit well in his small team.

The questions were kind of expected, the usual. I never prepare for interviews as I’m pretty good with coming up answers on the spot but I really should have planned ahead for the most obvious question about what books I like. Well, let’s just say I don’t think I answered it very well and didn’t even think to mention two of the authors who’s catalogues I have read most of: Nick Hornby & Chuck Palahniuk. Or even get some cred for loving Shakespeare!

Otherwise, it all seemed to go pretty well and at the end I was offered a second interview for the following Monday. Fairly easy twenty minutes of my life.

I had made plans to see the Hockey Hall of Fame with Hannah when she finally came back to Toronto and since she was back, we decided to do it after my interview. It was quite a good time to do it. It got my mind off the interview, even though it went okay, and I learnt a lot about the history of hockey.

The funnest part was finding a hockey stick belonging to Tim Horton who, unbeknownst to me, was a long term player for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I already liked him for starting an awesome chain of cheap coffee shops with delicious pastries and other assorted goodies, but he became even more impressive when I found out he played ice hockey.

I really enjoyed the film on the story of the Stanley Cup and felt like I learned a lot about people’s passion for the sport. After that we actually went up and got to touch the Stanley Cup. So awesome! The room it was kept in was spectacular as well. Sensationally high ceilings with a magnificent dome covered in beautiful stained-glass panels. I snapped a photo of every section just to make sure I remembered them all.

Before we exited we explored the gift store (well, you have to exit through the gift shop!) but I didn’t actually find anything I really wanted. I know, SHOCK! There is a first time for everything.

The day was quite successful and I was thoroughly surprised by how much I really enjoyed the hall of fame. So much so I’d love to go back again. Same time next year!?



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