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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