Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Sierras in Five Highlights

We are back from a week-long backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevadas in late August.  I love backpacking because it simplifies life: you get up when it's light, you see beautiful things, you eat, and you fall asleep when it's dark.  This trip took it to the next level.  Most of the 75 miles were "cross-country," meaning there was no trail.  It was up to us to navigate between stunning lakes and crushing passes.

Easy descent to Laurel Lake

Sunday, July 20, 2014

My first Ontario canoe trip

The iconic summer trip in Ontario is one spent canoeing in the backcountry.  Hiking trails don't even really exist in most places up here, so I gave water-travel a try over the May long weekend.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

This is Canada?! A visit to the Bruce

Two nights of camping on the Bruce Peninsula in early summer: crazy and short and hot and wonderful.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The World Cup in Toronto

My first visit to Toronto was during the World Cup 2006.  (Has it really been eight years?!)  One of my favorite memories is walking past a sports bar with Mike on his lunch break from his summer job and watching a bit of one of the games with a crowd on the sidewalk outside some random restaurant with TVs visible from the street.  Toronto loooooves the World Cup.

Now I live here, and I get it even more.  Thursday night, I biked home through Little Portugal as usual, and I knew that Brazil had won the opening match because of all the horn honking and jersey-wearing crowds cheering in the streets.

Little Italy just before the Italy-England game.  

Saturday morning, we went to the Danforth (Greektown) at 10am, and crowds were already chanting in preparation for the noon Greece game.

Saturday evening, we walked through Little Italy, during the "Taste of Little Italy", at the start of the Little Italy match.

Last night, I got a reminder from my hockey team that I should check the World Cup schedule before driving to our next game, and consider how whoever is playing that day - in Brazil - will affect traffic on my route in Toronto.

This city has its perks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Utah: The Beautiful Death Hollow

2014 Utah trip continued...


Sunday morning we were up bright and early to drive to the Boulder Mail Trail trailhead.  Thank goodness we failed to make it there the night before.  We would have been too exhausted to appreciate the insane views of Grand Staircase - Escalante.
Yeah.  I know.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Utah: Orange is my favorite color

We drove down a road, said "that looks neat", and starting hiking.
Photo by Katherine
Around 4:15pm on the Saturday of Easter Weekend, Christen, Katherine, and I were driving down a dirt road in southern Utah.  The day had been filled with out-of-this-world hiking and at least one too-close encounter with a snake.  The night before, we had scrapped our plan of backpacking in Buckskin Gulch due to weather (notwithstanding the assurances of this dude's long-lost cousin at the permit office) and needed a new destination.  On the back of a map, we read about some backpacking "mail trail" 75ish miles north of here.  Would it be worth it?  Would we get horribly lost?  Hem.  Haw.  And so on.  Suddenly, almost in unison, we decided to just go for it.  Within 45 minutes, we had sped back to the tent, packed up our campsite, and were on our way north.  I questioned, for a moment, whether we were being crazy.  But it worked out.  It all worked out so incredibly well.

That, dear readers, encapsulates my second annual visit to southern Utah.  Here's how the first half of the weekend went.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Swim, bike, run... victory!

Earlier this month, Mike and I completed our first triathlon.  It is hard to believe it now, but back on April 6, we were there, in South Beach, pre-dawn, walking to the transition zone to get set up while partiers were still wandering from club to club.  And there we were a few hours later, downing Gatorade, icy towels around our necks, done.

And then there we were, parked by my dad's pool, for the entire rest of the day.
Since we trained in Toronto in winter, I never got a chance to test myself in race conditions.  That is, outdoors, let alone outdoors in warm weather.  All biking, swimming, and running took place inside the YMCA.  All I can say is, thank goodness for Youtube.  This winter, we learned to do a lot of things via Youtube, including how to swim properly, how to transition in a triathlon, and how to put on a tri wetsuit.  The race weekend marked the first time I swam in a wetsuit, the first time I swam in the ocean (vs. playing around in the water), my first time riding a road bike, my first time running on loose sand.  It all could have gone so wrong.

Though I blocked a lot of it out during the event itself, there was some serious fear leading into the race.  Fear of panicking in the water, fear of crashing on the bike, fear of a flat tire.  May I never forget the feeling I had with two miles left in the bike, when it was clear I was going to finish this race.  I whooped out loud.  Oh man, oh man, oh man.

Monday, March 24, 2014

On Winter

My first Canadian winter is coming to a close.  Or, at least the flower in my office has started to bloom, despite the snow falling outside.

I can almost smell the spring.

Folks tell me that this has been an unusually cold winter.  We have had bitter temperatures and plenty of snow but, frankly, this is exactly what I expected.  Thanks to that mindset, for a while I was biking to work so long as the temperature did not go below -20C (-4F).  The biking only ended when, as a rookie at the Canadian winter, I rode my bike through heavily-salted slush and promptly encrusted my entire bike in gear- and wire-demolishing crud.  How bad was it, you ask? When I took the bike in to the repair shop the other day to get it tuned up, the mechanic's first reaction was to recommend I buy a new bike.  

In addition to reasonable expectations about the weather (which I was lacking last year after returning from the Amazon), I can credit two factors with my happiness this winter:

1. A serious winter coat.  When we first talked about moving to Canada, I told Mike that he would have to buy me a top-notch down parka. It really is happiness in a wearable sleeping bag.

A solid onesie is also important.

2. Winter sports.  If it is going to be cold out, there had better be snow.  Because with snow and the proper attire, you can have a lot of fun outdoors.  Early in the season, I was spending more time exercising outdoors than I did in the summer.  

There has been playing shinny at the outdoor rink near our house.

Dufferin Grove shinny.

And actual pond hockey near Algonquin.

"Shovel it yourself" rinks are extra fun.
By the way, this might be a good time to mention that it is too cold for a real camera, so most of these photos are from my iPhone.  In case you couldn't tell already...

Skating under the lights near City Hall.

Best followed by a hot chocolate... martini.

Cross-country skiing in Ontario and Maine:

A bit o' hiking and climbing.

And even a day of downhill skiing, for the first time since I was a teenager.  Wheee!

I wish we could have gone cross-country skiing more often this winter, and next year I hope to skate on the canals in Ottawa and maybe ski in the big mountains out west.  Other weekend trips and triathlon training got in the way this year, but it is good to have something to look forward to.

It *almost* makes me wish winter would last longer here.  Almost.   

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Beautiful Wedding in Liverpool

After our big day in London, Mike and I took the train up to Liverpool for our friend’s wedding.  And what a wedding it was.

Upon arriving in Liverpool around noon (a 9am train seemed like such a good idea in advance but, in reality, was painfully early with the time zone difference), we ate a quick lunch and took a power nap from our room overlooking the city.

I hear ya, honey.  Yawn...

Now that's better.

Part of the view from our hotel room.  We could not figure out what all of those plant pots were doing on each of the chimneys.

Then it was time to party. The groom arrived on horseback in the baraat.  I don’t think I have ever heard a crowd cheer so loud for a man successfully dismounting a (very pregnant) horse. 

Lookin' snazzy.

Live music, horses, processional ... this guy knows how to make an entrance.

The lovely bride awaits.
After the baraat came the ceremony.  The priest did his best to explain the Hindu rituals to the Western guests.  I tried to just sit back and enjoy the fire and rice throwing.  

After the ceremony, each guest came up on stage to greet the couple and toss flower petals on them.  It was my first time meeting the groom in person, and my first time greeting someone with a shower of petals.  Loved it. 

Fire was a theme of the night.  During dinner, five belly dancers put on quite the show.  Mike and I looked at each other at some point, torches whirling around in the background, and realized we made a serious tactical mistake by omitting belly dancers from our wedding last year.  It was good fun.

Finally, it was time to dance.  Normally I am not a big dancer at weddings, but I boogied down all night.  Maybe it was the bride and groom, or the dancers, or the glass observatory, or the lights and flowers and plants, but I thought it was the most beautiful wedding I’d ever attended.

London for a Day

A wonderful friend got married last weekend in the UK.  To attend the wedding, Mike and I flew out on Thursday, saw London on Friday, went to the wedding in Liverpool on Saturday, and flew home on Sunday.  Maybe it was a bit looney, but I would not have missed the wedding for the world, and two days was all the vacation time I had to use.  (I've yet to see that perk of moving to Canada...  aherm!)

We made the most of our one full day in London.  I got a little snap-happy, so be prepared for a lot of photos.

Our hotel's neighborhood charmed me. It had beautiful buildings, double-decker buses, loads of restaurants, and flowers.  Isn't the UK supposed to be cold and dreary?  If so, how come it was so much warmer there than in Toronto?  I'm not kidding when I say that the current weather report in Toronto is for "snow pellets."

No snow pellets here.

Oh, Hammersmith.
On our single day in London, naturally we slept in until 11am.  I'll say that again: 11am.  To be fair, that was 6am in Toronto, so we actually got up early.

Our first stop of the morning day was Big Ben and the House of Commons.  Mike suggested Canada's Parliament is more impressive, but, uh, wow.


After that, we meandered along the Thames and up to Trafalgar Square, where we came across the "Canada House", right next to the a blue rooster.  Logically.

By now it was time for breakfast, at 1:30pm.  We ate in what we later learned was the Covent Garden area, at an all-day breakfast joint.  Yumm.

Awaiting our breakfast!
Next it was time for the British Museum.  We had arranged to meet up with a Scottish couple that I met in Peru and then ran into in Colombia last year and who happened to be in town that day.  As if that wasn't crazy enough, while wandering the museum, we also ran into some of our law school friends who were attending the wedding that weekend!

The museum is incredible.  Somehow, however, most of my pictures are of "interesting" art of a different sort...

The embodiment of the saying "the taste of victory".  Per the notecard for this cup, "A Persian in fear.  A bearded Persian ... expresses fear to remind Athenian drinkers of their victory over the Persians.  The painted scene shows a Persian servant attending a Greek mistress."

No joke - diving on the backs of crocodiles used to be a thing. 
Not odd.  Just incredible.  
We were getting pretty wiped out after the museum, but London awaited, so we forged ahead with the rest of our day.

Prepared to wander on. 

We enjoyed the sunset from the banks of the Thames.

The "walking" of the guard at Buckingham Palace.  It wasn't the changing of the guard but it was good enough for me.
How to end a London day properly?  With dinner in a pub, of course!  There were hordes of people drinking outside the pub, which is down a dark alley.  We thought we'd never get a table.  It turns out, lots of people just like to drink from the pub out front.

I had a delicious chicken pie, and Mike had fish and chips.  We both got a pint to go along with it.  

Ceiling art at the pub.
And so concluded our own Victory over London Day.

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