On tuesday April 24 at 7 am Dwane picked me up at the hostel, together with Eric from QuÃ©bec and Yuni (that was her English nickname) from South-Korea. Before getting to the ferry, we picked Karen from Austria (but working as a stewardess at British Airways) and Wayne from England up as well. We took the ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. The view was amazing because the ferry had to go around some of the Gulf Islands.
On Vancouver Island Yuni and I went to Butchart Gardens, really beautiful gardens, but really commercial as well, and we had the bad luck in the beginning that we got off the ferry the same time as a couple of buses with Asian tourists. But those left before us, so we had some time to quietly look at the gardens. Then we took a a bus to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. We checked in at the hostel and enjoyed the sun around downtown and the harbour. In the evening we went to the Irish Pub in the Strathcona Hotel for a couple of beers.
On wednesday April 25 the others of the tour went whale watching (unfortunately they didn’t see any whales), and I went to the Royal British Columbia Museum. There were a lot of displays about the First Nation people (native Canadians), about the wildlife in BC, and about life in the beginning of the century, pretty much like in the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature. Then I walked down to the coast through the Beacon Hill Park. The city parks in BC are really good, the perfect place to relax in the sun. From the coast I could see the mountains in the state of Washington. Victoria seemed much more relaxed than Vancouver, but it could have been the good weather as well.
We left Victoria at 2 pm to drive north to Nanaimo. Along the way we stopped at Chemainus first, where they had large murals painted on almost every wall. We made a second stop at Bungy Zone, the only legal bungy jump bridge in North-America, where Wayne did a swing (swinging down from the bridge), but the bridge seemed to low for me to do a bungy jump. In Nanaimo we walked around the harbour and got a couple of beers at the bar underneath the hostel. So yes, we could hear the music perfectly in our room.
On thursday April 26 we drove from Nanaimo to Tofino. We stopped at the waterfalls in Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, and looked at native carvings in the rocks at Sproat Lake. In the Pacific Rim National Park we made a 2-hour walk on Long Beach, a beach completely enclosed by forest and rocks, because it is not allowed to build houses in a National Park. It was almost possible to see Asia on the other side of the ocean… NOT. Afterwards we did a short trail through the rainforest, before getting to the information center to watch (or actually falling asleep during) a documentary about seaotters. In the evening we arrived at the hostel in Tofino, probably the best hostel in Canada, but it was newly built 2 years ago, so that might explain why.
On friday April 27 I met Anna from Ireland and Caitlin from Vancouver (both were studying at the University of Victoria) at the hostel. We were all planning to go to the hot springs, but not really sure if they would be hot and if they would actually go there that day. So in the morning Anna, Caitlin and I went to a small beach south of Tofino. It was a short drive and a short walk through the forest, but the beach was really cosy with seastars on the rocks. Luckily Remote Passages did go to the hot springs that day, so we went with 5 people (Anna, Caitlin, an English couple on a RTW-trip, and I) in a Zodiac (one of these Baywatch boats). It took us two hours to get there, but mainly because we stopped to see grey whales, seals, sealions, and seaotters in their natural environment. It definitely was not my natural environment, though, I got pretty seasick. So we arrived at this remote dock in the middle of nowhere, there was only a small native village on the other side of the shore. Then it was a 30-minute boardwalk through the forest to get to the hot springs, where there was only a tiny cabin to change. But the hot springs are amazing. It is basically a natural waterfall of 45 degrees that flows into four pools in the rocks, and descend into the ocean. So from the pools there is a view on the ocean. The place was really magical, completely in the middle of nowhere, and almost completely private as well, there were only six people there in total. Understandably, we arrived a little bit late at the Zodiac. We went returned through the Clayoquot Sound, a preserved rainforest, really beautiful.
On saturday April 28 we headed back from Tofino to Vancouver. Along the way we stopped at Cathedral Grove, were the huge Douglas Fir and Western Cedar trees are, and at Coombs, where it is legal to build anything you want. We had some lunch at Qualicum Beach, before catching the ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay, and driving back to Vancouver.comments closed
WestJet brought me safely to Vancouver. These guys are the best: cheap, and a lot more fun than Air Canada, the crew is telling jokes and singing for people with a birthday.
After I checked in at the hostel and put away my stuff, I went down to the beach, and walked to English Bay. It was so relaxed, the weather was sunny and the view over the sea and the mountains is the best, now I know why so many people love Vancouver. Anyway, I got a hotdog at the beach, watched a show of a street artist, and saw the sunset.
Later on Saturday evening I went for a Saturday night drag on Robson street and to the Roxy, where the door policies were highly annoying, I’m talking 2.5 hours in line here. But there were enough people to watch in the streets, all the Saturday night going out crowds. The atmosphere in the Roxy was really good, and they had one of the best live bands.
On sunday April 22 I went with Rob, my English roommate in the hostel, to Gastown. Somehow we ended up outside of the tourist area and got stopped by a heroine junkie that tried to mug us. So we decided to get the hell out of there, and went to Canada Place, where the large cruise ships to Alaska dock. Along the way, we found the official entrance to the historical Gastown as well and checked it out. Then we had to cross through some streets with heroine junkies (there are a lot of them in Vancouver) to get to Chinatown, we surely were at our guard this time. The Chinatown in Vancouver is the largest in Canada, and mainly features a lot of Chinese grocery shops. We had a Chinese fastfood lunch in a small mall, really nice. After that, I got my bus tickets to Los Angeles at the bus terminal, from where we took the Skytrain (which was for free thanks to the bus strike) to downtown, making the walk to the hostel a bit shorter and less dangerous.
Since I had not biked in 4 months, I decided to rent a bike on monday April 23. Unfortunately it was raining, but Vancouver definitely felt like Eindhoven in that regard; there is almost nothing more typically Dutch than biking in the rain. So I biked to Stanley Park, North-America’s largest city park, on three sides enclosed by water and on one side by the city. There is a seawall that leads almost entirely around the park and is perfect to bike on. I would have biked it within the hour if it had not been for all the interesting stops along the way, since the Vancouver skyline is most beautifully seen from Stanley Park, and there is a collection of totem poles on the east side. On the north side an episode of the TV-series ‘7 Days’ was being shot. Quite interesting to see how many people and how much equipment is involved for just one shot. I was watching for about half an hour and I do not think they got more than 5 seconds on film, it was just rehearsals or “CUT”. So I continued biking on the trails within the park, which is actually a rainforest with huge trees. Because of the rain there were almost no people in the park, at least that was an advantage…
For lunch I got some sushi at this Japanese place near the hostel; Vancouver is the best city in North-America to get sushi, since there are so many Asian immigrants. After lunch I biked over the bridge to Granville Island. Bikers are definitely discriminated in North-America, I had to yield to pedestrians near English Bay, and I had to bike on the highway to get across the bridge, not particularly safe. Granville Island is mainly a collection of some artists’ shops near the river. I went to a small model trains and ships museum, I have always liked model trains in a miniature landscape. Afterwards I biked to Gastown to complete my collection of shirts with ‘Canada’ on it, and went to sleep early, since the bus to Vancouver Island was leaving at 7 am.
The last 3 weeks in Winnipeg and still so much to see and to do. I still hadn’t been to a hockey game, so on Wednesday April 4th we (Reds, Rodrigo, Eli, Charles, Pablo and I)decided to go to a Moose game in the Winnipeg Arena. The Manitoba Moose won with 3-1 from the Cyclone (Cincinnati), and it was quite interesting to see. Hockey games are really commercial, they play for 3 times 20 minutes with 15 minute breaks in between and commercials on every whistle. But it was a lot of fun to go there, and experience one of Canada’s most cultural events.
The term is definitely getting to an end, I have now finished 4 of my 5 courses and I have 10 days for two assignments and an exam of my last course, International Marketing. But I’ve also done a lot of sightseeing last weekend, that’s for sure.
Friday April 6 had the best weather so far, sunny with 12 degrees, enough to walk outside in a sweater. After my last class I took a bus downtown, checked out the Provincial Legislative Building and walked down Broadway to The Forks. There I saw that the water levels of the river were indeed pretty high, people are fearing a flood this year. Then I walked to Portage and Main and did some shopping. In the evening there was an Hawaiian Party at The Gallery. They had placed a hot tub outside (downtown Winnipeg), so Sylvain and I enjoyed the water of 45 degrees, while people on the street were walking by, quite a lot of fun. And the party was a lot better when we got back inside, completely relaxed.
On Saturday April 7 Karen (who studied in Eindhoven in 1999) picked me up and we went to see Winnipeg and area. First we drove to Fort Whyte, a nature reservation area just outside the city, with a lot of geese and a herd of buffalos/bisons, Manitoba’s provincial animal. Then we drove north and passed by Lower Fort Garry, the first fort of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the area. Unfortunately it was closed. Further north we drove through an area with summer cottages, next to Lake Winnipeg, which was completely covered with ice. Karen said the area is really nice and relaxed in the summer, but even now it gave a good impression of Winnipeg summer culture. The most north we got was Gimli, a fisherman’s town at the lake. A lot of people from Iceland immigrated here, so there were icelandic signs in the shop and a lot of icelandic art in the Gimli Art Gallery. We had a drink with some icelandic cake in the (really) local diner, before we headed back. On the way back we crossed the dam at the end of the Red River Floodway and made a stop at the World’s Largest Catfish in Selkirk. Back in Winnipeg the Ralph Lauren factory outlet was already closed, I do have to go there another time. So we went back to have supper at residence, where I showed Karen around (can you believe that, having studied in Winnipeg for more than 5 years and hadn’t even been to residence).
In the evening of Sunday April 8, there was a Farewell Dinner at Buccanino’s, a new italian restaurant on Osborne. Nicole had organized it really well, the food was good and there were some presents that were given away. Almost everybody was there and making a lot of photos, since it was probably the last time that everybody was going to be together.
Only 5 full days left… and still a research report, a book review and an exam to do…
The last couple of days I spent mainly studying and working. But on Thursday April 12 I went shopping in the afternoon, first to a Ralph Lauren factory outlet (which was closing down, need I say more), then to Polo Park to get a haircut and finally downtown, to get some more clothing (I do need a raincoat in BC) and souvenirs. After that I went to Sylvain’s apartment, where we talked for quite some time and went to eat in Eaton Place with Philip and Cristine.
On Sunday April 15 I went to have Easter dinner with Karen and her family (including aunt with kids and grandparents). The dinner was really good and a lot of fun, I even got a couple of travel tips for in BC!
I spent the last 5 days in Winnipeg mainly studying for International Marketing, and preparing to leave (laundry, packing etc.).
On thursday April 19, I went to the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, some of the Winnipeg highlights I still had to go and see. It was pretty nice, I could easily spend a few hours just walking around and getting into Manitoba’s history.
On saturday April 21 I wrote my last exam (don’t ask more), and Karen brought me to the airport, from where WestJet toke me out of Winnipeg.
I guess this will be the least interesting part of the story, since I mainly have to study the rest of March, since these are the last 4 weeks of the term and all the assigments are due in this period.
On Friday March 9th there was a party in 8trax, downtown, where one section of the Communications course had sold tickets for. Almost every exchange student was there, so it was a lot of fun.
On Saturday March 10th there was a basketball game between the University of Manitoba and the Brandon University team in Brandon. Brandon is the second largest city in Manitoba with about 40,000 people and is located 2 hours West of Winnipeg. That means 2 hours on a straight highway with snowy fields on both sides of the road as far as you can look, it’s almost unbelievable how flat Manitoba is. Anyway, I went there in a bus with about 40 Canadians. Don’t forget the alcohol was the most important advice for this trip, since most of us were already pissed when we got to Brandon. Unfortunately the U of M team lost the game, but it was still a very funny trip. We went to Wise Guys afterwards, but after half an hour the fire alarm went off and everybody had to get out; that really destroyed the atmosphere.
March was pretty much devoted to studying and my Internet Addiction. I did go to the St. Vital mall on Friday March 16th. It was the first time I noticed that all the malls in Canada have exactly the same stores. I saw these really cool Caterpillar sandals (too f**king expensive, $136) at exactly the same place in the store as the store in Calgary. I also noticed a drive-thru ATM for the first time.
On Wednesday March 21st we had a group presentation for our Communications class. It was in the Club Regent casino, Winnipeg’s largest casino. They had this aquarium with a tunnel through it, a 3 story waterfall and a pirate ship with a talking skeleton. Oh well, I heard it’s even more extreme in Las Vegas. But above all, there were all these slotmachines and gambling tables with old people spending their time and their kids’ inheritance. Our presentation went really good, and the whole thing was pretty well organised, we got dinner and even $5 to gamble, which I, of course, lost in 5 seconds at the Black Jack table.
On Monday March 26th we had another presentation, for Consumer Behaviour. This one went really good as well, we had made a really funny video of different exchange students explaining their culture (for example a Russian with vodka, a Mexican with tequila and a Dutch guy with a joint).
So what else happened in March? Well, on Thursday the 29th there was a BBQ with everybody from 2nd Speechly (my floor). Somehow people in northern countries still seem to like BBQ-ing at low temperatures. So far I’ve BBQ’d in temperatures under 5 degrees in Russia, Finland and Canada now. At least the food is good (hey, maybe that’s the reason…).
Janine (one of the Winnipeg exchange students in Eindhoven) had invited us a couple of times to come over to her parents’ house for dinner and something typical Canadian. So we finally took her up on that on Friday the 30th. Janine’s entire nuclear (it’s not as dangerous as it sounds, just look up the word) family was there, together with Scott’s (Janine’s brother) girlfriend, Mart and I. First we had a great dinner and then we curling, somewhere north of the city. Curling is this typical Canadian sport, somewhere in between bowling and jeu de boule, and it’s a lot harder than it looks on TV, most of my rocks either went too fast or too slow. Basically, the goal is to get as many of your teams’ rocks as close to the center of the house as possible, but I’m not going to explain all the rules here. It was a lot of fun for sure.
Less fun was the fact that my notebook died Friday morning, I don’t know what happened, but it suddenly died and I couldn’t get it back on. Still in the process of getting warranty and service over here…
Just when I thought the snow was melting and the weather was going to be better, it snowed 20 cm on Saturday the 31st. But this snow didn’t last long and melted completely within 4 days, the weather is getting better.
I’m not exactly sure how I ended March. I do know that there was a social on Saturday the 31st and that I had some vodka-orange juice and tequila before the social, and some more vodka at the social. But my memories are a bit blurry, too pissed, I guess. ‘nough said.