Sunday, October 31, 2010

Just One More Week.

It is just hitting me now that I am leaving in one week. Quite soon I will be stepping off the plane in London. I am getting so exited! I think that today I am going to pack.

As for my plans once I get there, they have changed once again and become somewhat fluid. After talking to some people I know who recently passed through London on their way to the Continent, I think I am going to pass on the Piccadilly Backpackers. They had some not so fond reviews of the place. I am on the hunt again for a good hostel. In fact, I might just go straight to France to meet up with my contacts in Rouen. I will decide once I land whether or not I will just carry on, or stay.

Once I get to Rouen, I am going to stay with my sisters host family. It is kind-of unclear when I will be able to stay until; they are fairly difficult to get in contact with. Whenever I have to leave, I think I will go back to Paris and spend some more time seeing the sights.

After thinking it over a bit, the night train seems like kind of a silly way to get to Italy. It is for the people on short trips who want to wake up in a different place to keep to their schedules. I have no such compunctions, so I think I will spend a day or two taking slower trains and getting off in a couple places. That way, getting there will be much more of an adventure. My first night in Verona will be on the weekend of the 20th and 21st.

It is so frustrating when you finally think you have everything worked out, and then it all changes, but I guess that is life, and no matter how it happens I will have fun doing it. Wherever I spend my first few nights, it will begin an adventure of epic proportions that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Pumpkin Named Travis

Meet Travis. Travis is new to the world, just a few hours old. He joined the cadre of the ones with faces this evening.

 After several minutes of staring at the blank canvas that is an uncarved pumpkin, I knew what I had to do. I set about prepareing my tools: a knife, some newspaper, a spoon and a large bowl.

I set up on the floor of the kitchen. Keeping my carvings secret from my curious parents, I brought the knife to bear on the virgin squash. First, a careful cut around the stem, angled to make a seat for the eventual lid.

Scooping out the seeds and the goo was next, plopping it into the bowl beside me. Soon I had bared the inside of the as of yet still hole-less gourd.

The first cut was the nose, a carful triangle right in the middle of the soon to be face. The eyes followed soon after, with angles to allow as much light as possible through. All these peices I kept, knowing I would need them soon.

Cutting out the mouth came next, making an incision around the outside while leaving the teeth intact. The remnant from the inside quickly became a tongue, shaped just so.

After drilling holes for the ears with the knife, the pieces left over from the eyes and nose took shape to be placed back in their former homes, affixed with toothpicks. The skin from the tongue became the ears, cut in half and shaped a little bit.

The last piece to be attached, the one that finally made Travis real was his stately mustache.

After a dramatic unveiling to my family, with lights dimmed and candles installed, Travis found his home for the next few days on the kitchen counter. Shining brightly out of the dark annex of the house.

You now know the story of this particular pumpkin, a pumpkin named Travis.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Rainy Hometown

I don't like working in the rain. Thankfully, neither does my boss. When it really rains we call it off for the day. The reason I say this is because today it is really raining, and today I had an unexpected day off. 

After a leisurely morning of sitting around, I headed into town to do some errands, mostly last minute things for my trip. Along the way, I stopped and took pictures at all the places I drive past everyday and think "hey I should stop and take pictures there sometime". I did this to share my hometown with you. Granted, it is not the most lovely day of the year, but then again, much of the year is like this so it is probably a good representation. 

Here are the pictures from around my house, on the way to town, and in town.

My yard with the fall colors out in full force.

My car and in the distance my drive-way --- A field not far from my house

The bridge 100m from my driveway --- Looking downstream towards my house

The road into town

The road to town --- A farmers field near town

Fields near town --- Corn is all gone

More fields

Downtown Courtenay. This is looking down 5th Street towards the bridge below.

The 5th Street bridge

Pretty colors along the river

Simm's Park

The totem at the entrance to Lewis Park

Looking out towards Comox and Goose Spit

The beach at the mouth of the river and the estuary beyond

That gives a quick taste of the Comox Valley. Not included in these are the wonderful beaches, the mountains, or the lake, but more a look at what I see every day.

Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Liquid Sunshine

Fall, winter, and spring are marked in the Comox Valley by near constant clouds, persistent drizzle and frequent rain. Some years such as this one, the change to summer and back to rain can be very abrupt. One day in mid June of this month, the sun came out, and there was no cloudy days for almost a month. The sun shone on until just about the end of September. Then the clouds rolled in. Although it has been cool, it really has not rained much. Until this weekend that is. For most of Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and the early part of Tuesday, the wet stuff came down. 

Wet back yard.

It is quite remarkable in fact, just how much water is in the sky. To think of how much weight in water is thousands of feet above our heads on a daily basis is somewhat strange.

Now, back to the topic at hand.

Since I last wrote, my plans have firmed up somewhat. Where I will stay, and how long I will stay there is pretty much worked out until after the new year. Nothing too new about the first couple weeks, London for three nights at the Piccadilly Backpackers Hostel, then to Paris for a night. Late in the day I will catch the train to Rouen to stay with some of my sisters host parents for 4 nights. After another night in Paris, that brings me to the 17th.

The night of the 17th I head to Italy. I am taking the Artesia night train to Verona, arriving in the early morning of the 18th.

In Verona, where I am staying for a month attending classes at IDEA Verona, I am going to stay with a friend in his and his brother's apartment. Jake came to Canada on an exchange in early 2009, and sat next to me in physics. Since then, our families have kept in touch, and have even visited each other. He has graciously invited me to stay at his place for the duration of my Italian classes.

From Verona I head north, way north, almost as far north as you can go without crossing into Austria in fact. Christmas I will spend with Jakes family in their house waaay up in the mountains of Alto Adige. It will be spectacular, thanks so much to all of them for the invitation.

That is all the news that is news, guess what the forecast is; more water from the sky.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

That Was NOT A Walk!

This weekend I went on a little bit of a trip to see my friends from uni last year. They are about 3 hours south of me in Victoria. After work on Friday, I headed out right away. I got on the road at about 5:00. After a quick stop for gas and a bite to eat in Nanoose, I got into Victoria just after eight.

My first stop was my friend Angie's house, but she wasn't there. I headed to campus to meet up with her and some other friends at their on campus apartment. We had a little bit of a get together that lasted till about midnight. Friday night I slept at Angie's, and in the morning headed back to campus to pick up Gwen.

We were going to go for a walk in Goldstream Park, a beautiful park at the start of the Malahat. We stopped for a bite to eat at Subway on the way there, and arrived at around 11:30. Looking at the map, it turned out that the trail we were going to take was the most difficult in the park, and was listed as a "3 hour hike".

We started out on the trail through the beautiful forest. The trail seemed as if it went up at a 45 degree angle. It was soo steep, but really beautiful.

It is kinda funny how even though I live about 5 minutes from scenery such as this, it is so rare that I actually go and enjoy it. The trail is so beautiful.

On the other side of the creek the trail was so steep you could touch the trail in front of you if you stuck out your arm!!

Pretty quick we got out of the trees. The trail turned into a series of ledges with little arrows pointing the way along the ledges. Some of the arrows were kinda funny. Eventually the trail turned into a scramble up rock faces.

Mt Finlayson is one of those mountains where the higher you get, the higher the mountain goes. But eventually, we actually got to the top. It is kinda anti-climatic, but we got a picture taken to prove we did it.

Going down was a lot faster, but way harder on the knees as it is very steep. We came down a different way once we got back into the trees, taking a route with hundreds of stairs instead of steep paths. I found a neat burned out tree to stand in (I have no idea what kind of face I am making in the tree). 

Once down I wanted to try out my cameras underwater feature. It was weird sticking my camera into the water, but it is a really cool thing to be able to do. The first is just underwater, and the next is with half the lens in the water and half out. Interesting effect.

On the way back to the car we went to see a really nice waterfall that is hidden away through a gigantic culvert.

That water was so cold it was unbelievable.

When we got back to UVic, Gwen had tons of work to do so I headed back to Angie's. On the way I stopped at the grocery store to get some food to make supper. The butter chicken currie turned out very well, and for dessert we made cookies.Even though we for got almost half the ingredients, they came out just fine. 

Sunday brought me back home in the late afternoon after a day of lazing about in Victoria. My family and I went out to the Elks Hall for a jazz show. The place was packed, and I ran into some friends from high school.

It was a great weekend, and sadly, probably my last one in Vic before I leave. Thanks to Angie for letting me stay at your place!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The First Night In London

After looking around on the internet, and getting a few suggestions, I have settled on where I am going to stay upon my arrival. I had Piccadilly Backpackers Hostel ( ) suggested to me, and it fits my plans quite perfectly.

It is right near all the places I want to see and it is even on the Piccadilly Line, the Tube route that comes straight from Heathrow. Like the name suggests, it is right off Piccadilly Circus, a famous intersection near downtown London. It is 500m from Trafalgar Square, less than a kilometer from Buckingham Palace, basically just a stones throw from everywhere I want to be. Plus it sounds like a pretty cool place to spend some time in.

I think I am going to stay two nights there, then take the train to Paris, and spend another two nights there before heading to Rouen. As I mentioned a while ago, my sister spent last year there as an exchange student, but I forgot to mention she had a blog too. Here is the address for it: She writes very well, and has some pretty funny stories to share.

Thats all for now.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Twelve Hour Jaunt

Today I successfully pulled off a One Day Wonder, or, as most people would say, a trip to Vancouver. I had to go down to the Italian Consulate to drop off my passport and all the other stuff I need to get a visa to Italy. Now some of you might be thinking, "why call it a wonder?". Well the reason is, since I live not on the mainland of North America, but in fact on Vancouver Island, It is about a five hour journey to door to Downtown Vancouver. 

This morning I took the 10:30 ferry from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay, but first had to drive an hour and a half to Nanaimo, then buy my travel insurance for the trip at BCAA, then drive down to the ferry terminal. I ended up at the terminal a bit early, so after getting the ticket for leaving my car, and the ticket for the ferry, I grabbed a very tasty white cafe mocha from a little coffee bar in the terminal. 

The ride over itself was uneventful. I took some pictures though, and since I can, I think I will share them with you.

This is just leaving Departure Bay.

A few minutes more puts the ferry close to Snake Island.

Yay Canada flag!

Just a few minutes after the scheduled arrival in Horseshoe Bay, the foot passengers disembarked, many running to get in line for the 257 Downtown Express. I count myself in that number, and I got a seat. Then I promptly gave up my seat to an elderly couple.

Even with the title "Express" the bus takes almost an hour to get downtown, only stopping at Park Royal, just on the north side of the iconic Lions Gate Bridge. I soon stepped off the bus, back in the familiar city with more people on one sidewalk, then you would see in one day in Courtenay. 

Looking down towards the harbour.

I had a few hours to kill so I nipped down Georgia a ways to check out how the new roof is coming along at BC Place Stadium. They are replacing the old air supported Teflon roof for a new one supported by big prongs sticking up from the crown.

You can kinda see them there. I think they are adding more of them all the way around.

The next stop I needed to make was at the post office. Since coming down to pick up my passport and visa in a week or two really wasn't an option, I picked up a pre-paid express post envelope from the main post office in Vancouver. It has a gigantic crest of Canada on the side of it.

Kinda cool if you ask me.

Here are some pictures from the random wanderings I did after that. 

A random bus.

A cool looking alleyway.

Some freight trains, commuter trains, and a Skytrain.

The iconic Canada Place.

Inside Waterfront Station.

A clock in Waterfront Station.

The Canada Line platform in Waterfront Station.

A cool edifice.

Outside elevators.

All the random wandering out of the way, lets get down to business. Getting my visa.

The sign.

The ornate elevator hall.

The entrance to the place itself.

After a bit of a wait, I dropped all the papers off, and all went well, so hopefully I see my passport again in 10 days! 

That done, I had to catch the bus again, several blocks away. A short time later, back on the ferry I took some pictures for those unfortunate enough to have never visited my homeland. 

Horseshoe Bay.

Trees are nice with fall colors.

Looking out of the bay.

Looking back, you can see the ferry to Bowen Island.

BC Ferries. Islanders love them. Islanders Hate them.

The Promenade.

Wheelhouse close up.

Wheelhouse from afar.

Little Island with houses on it. Vancouver in the background.

Looking towards Vancouver Island

The Queen of Oak Bay passing us half way through the crossing

I just liked the look of all four rings.

Getting close to sunset.


Twelve hours and 14 minutes after I left home, I was back. A nice day.