A Travellerspoint blog

Days 114, 115 & 116 - Walks, Nights Out & Thanksgiving


It seems that I have been neglecting both my photo taking and blogging the past few days so I will attempt to catch up with both right now. I've just had my travel vaccinations for China and I'm feeling a few different side effects including being very groggy and having a sore arm so if none of the following post makes sense then blame it on the concoction of diseases that have just been injected into my arms. Without further ado I shall proceed to tell you all about the fun filled three days that I have had:

Day 114 -

I awoke today and felt an urge to get out in the sun as cabin fever was beginning to set in. I went for a long walk around downtown Ottawa, exploring some side streets that I hadn't been down before and trying to stay away from the main streets that were crowded with tourists. I eventually ended up near the Notre Dame Basilica and from there I went on a route around the back of the Royal Mint, through various parks which were lovely in their autumn colours, up to lookout point which afforded me brilliant views over Ottawa and across to Gatineau, then down by the locks which lead to the Rideau Canal.

I must have spent about four hours on my trip out and hunger set in eventually so I made my way back to the hostel for some food. The evening started out in what has become the norm; sitting on the front porch with a few beers, chatting and listening to music. After a few hours I got the need to dance and it just so happened that Katherine and Karine, two of the hostel staff were all dressed up ready to go out so I went with them to a bar called The Liquor Store. (really - it wasn't just us stood in the liquor store partying, honest) There we danced until the club shut and it was very hot but the tunes were good and everyone had a great time.

When we got back to the hostel at about 2am we all sat out on the porch again until about half four, eating, drinking and chatting before we called it a night and I headed up to bed.

Day 115 -

Today was the day after the night before and all the dancing (read: drinking) had taken it out of me so I decided to have a nice relaxing day and chill out at the hostel. I lazed about and spent most of the day reading a really funny travel blog that I found by chance on Google when i was looking for something unrelated. When evening came I was feeling good to go so it was back out to the front porch where I sat and took it easy with a couple of brewskis whilst the German crew polished off a 24 beer selection pack (German beer obviously) that they had picked up earlier in the day. I had a good chat with a Canadian Afghani who was very well travelled and who had just got back from living in Dubai for a while. Eventually I got tired and retreated up to bed where I slept like a baby. (I wonder where that phrase comes from as babies don't normally sleep very well)

Day 116 -

So today was Thanksgiving (woo!) which is a big deal in Canada. It's similar to Christmas but it's all about family rather than gifts and as the name implies it's about being thankful for what you have and for helping out people that don't have much. There are lots of homeless shelters near the hostel and they all served up a big Thanksgiving dinner for the people staying there, made possible by food and monetary donations from local residents. I was up early to make the most of the day and after breakfast, me and Charlie decided to go out for a walk to Gatineau to pick up some beverages for the evening's celebrations.

Now Charlie is pretty much blind but from chatting with him I've found out that he doesn't let it stop him from achieving great things. He's proficient in MMA (mixed martial arts) and has his own martial arts training business and he's currently studying for a law degree at Ottawa U. (see if you've got a minute to spare as Charlie's story is really inspiring to read)

We headed out to Gatineau but as it was such a nice day we actually walked around for about four hours, taking in lots of Ottawa before crossing the Alexandria Bridge to Gatineau where we also explored for a while before heading to a liquor store and picking up supplies for the evening. Booze is cheaper over the border in Quebec so we stocked up which was good but walking back to the hostel (about 4km) carrying it all was a bit of a struggle.

We eventually made it back and after freshening up, I went to join everyone out on the front patio where we stayed until about 8pm when Thanksgiving dinner was ready. Walking in the kitchen I was met with a visual delight of a feast which smelled even better than it looked and which tasted like heaven on a plate! (or in a bowl in my case as there were no plates left) I went out to the back porch to eat and after polishing off the main course I satisfied my appetite for sweet things with a sugar pie and ice cream, then a slice of apple pie. I managed a couple more beers after the food but I was stuffed and it wasn't going down too well so I didn't have that late a night. (I was also very aware that getting jabs the next day whilst hung-over would not be very fun)

I haven't met very many English people on my travels so when I met Claire; a girl from Newcastle, we had a good chat and it was interesting to hear about common differences noticed between the Canadians and English. I also met a girl called Bien from China and I told her about my plans to visit her country next week. She's around for a few days so I'm going to try and practice some basic Mandarin phrases on her so that I can cope when I first arrive in China.

After chatting for a while longer I called it a day at about midnight and went up to bed, ready to get stabbed in the arm tomorrow. (slight over exaggeration but I'm not a huge fan of needles for some reason so...)

Bye for now folks!

Posted by UKtoCA 16:45 Comments (0)

Day 113 - Visa Success, Byward Market & Chilling


So today was a pretty successful day, not only in terms of getting things done that needed doing but also in terms of the weather which was gloriously sunny with highs of 27c, once it had warmed up from just above freezing overnight that is. Care to read my full account of my day? Please, feel free to...

My day today started with me rising at 6.30am and getting up before heading out for the Chinese embassy. I found what looks to be a good book in the bookswap so I took it with me to read during my wait for the embassy to open. I arrived there at half past seven and sat down to wait and read my book on a step which was about three feet away from the door. About fifteen minutes later two Chinese women arrived who looked like they were mother & daughter, and the monther proceeded to pull out a little plastic fold up stool which she put right in front of the door to the embassy then sat down on. Now I don't know what the Chinese concept of a queue is but I would imagine it's the same as the English take on things i.e. you wait behind the person who was there before you. Anyway, I decided that an extra five minutes wait wouldn't kill me and the older lady sat on the stool was using the door to lean on so I didn't want her to have to move really so I didn't say anything to them.

By about half past eight I was glad that I'd came down so early, as there were already about fifty people lined up waiting to go in. Nine AM came and we all piled in, passed through metal detectors and then made our way into the waiting room. After the Chinese ladies had been seen to it was my turn and I spoke with a friendly lady on the other side of the counter. She asked me to photocopy my Canadian visa so I did so and then she checked that I'd filled in and signed everything properly and then she sent me on my way with a slip advising me to come back on the 13th to pick up my passport and visa. (woo!)

I made my way back to the hostel where I blogged and waited for it to warm up properly. When it had done I relocated outside onto the front porch and I finished planning my route of China and making a list of possible things to do/see on my way around. As it was a nice day out I had a wander down to Byward Market and had a browse around for a while. As Halloween is drawing near there were pumpkins galore on sale; green ones, yellow ones, orange ones, big ones, small ones, ones with faces painted on them and one HUGE one.

After I had exhausted my short shopping attention span I went back to the hostel, made some food and settled down to an evening on the porch with a big group of people. I've heard that Ottawa is the second busiest city in Canada at weekends (going off the amount that the population swells by from Fri-Sun) and I believe it as loads of new people had arrived at the hostel over the course of the day. I met a few new Germans, a Swiss guy, a couple of Canadians and an Italian, and we all sat around chatting until about 11pm when I called it a night and went to bed as I was tired after my early morning.


Posted by UKtoCA 09:05 Comments (0)

Days 111 & 112 - Route Planning, Museums & Brick Walls


So the past two days have been both productive and frustrating at different times but the wheels are now well and truly in motion for my Asian adventure and I'm beginning to get slightly excited as I plan on flying to Beijing a week tomorrow! I could do with getting some basic Mandarin phrases mastered over the next week but I'm still waiting for my phrasebook to arrive at the book store. (sort it out Chapters!)

Right, I'll get on with explaining what I've done over the past couple of days so see below for a riveting account of my recent adventures (said with just a slight smattering of sarcasm):

Day 111 -

I awoke with a jolt after six hours of less than blissful sleep in the sweltering furnace which the doom room had became overnight. (living up to its name of the Africa dorm) A nice thoughtful person had came in and closed all of the windows which had the positive effect of keeping crackheads/bats/racoons etc out of the room but also had the negative effect of stopping the airflow in the room being refreshed by an injection of nice clean, cool air. Now if you haven't stayed in a room with ten blokes in before let me tell you, the smell in the morning isn't too fresh even with the windows open or aircon on. Imagine the smell of a hamster's cage which hasn't been cleaned for two weeks and in which said hamster has sadly passed away a few days previously. Got that image in your head? Right, now imagine it's been in a hot room with the windows closed for those two weeks and it stands to reason that the smell would be multiplied exponentially. Well it sounds pretty extreme but that's what the dorm room smelt like this morning. (everyone in the room was still alive though. I think so anyway)

I didn't want to spend another minute in the room so although I was still very tired I dragged myself out of bed and got up. Over the course of the morning/afternoon I managed to change my mind about the route that I wish to go on through China again and I've decided (for definite this time) to fly from Ottawa to Beijing on 15th October (visa depending) and travel across the North of China whilst it's not too cold. Over the course of a couple of months I will make my way down to the South-West corner of China where I will procure my visa for Vietnam before going on to travel around SEA. (for which no plans have been made yet) I rang my Sister on Skype and we had a good long chat and discussed places to go to in China and things to see etc. I'm pretty much going to be travelling the same route that my Sister and her boyfriend went down a couple of years ago (bar a few detours to other places that I think will interest me) so it'll be good to see what my take is on the country compared to that of my Sister and I'm sure it'll be interesting to see what's changed in the past couple of years. (if anything)

After our chat I got some tea (some people that I've spoken with have said that calling your evening meal tea is pretty strange. Some of them call it supper though so that's just pot calling the kettle if you ask me) and chilled for a while, then polished off the rest of my pirate juice whilst sat on the porch chatting to a couple of Czechs, a few Germans & a handful of French people. We chatted until about midnight when the lack of sleep caught up with me and I retired to bed once more, this time opening the windows before I went to sleep. (being bitten by a rabid bat/squirrel/racoon is preferable to waking up being suffocated by stench again)

Day 112 -

Today I awoke with a plan which was to go to the Chinese Embassy and get my visa sorted, then go to a travel agents to get a prepaid visa card filled with the cash from my Canadian bank account. The embassy was only a fifteen minute walk away and on the way I found $10, the sun was shining down on me and I felt like the day would go off perfectly. This wasn't the case however as on arrival at the embassy I entered the waiting room to be met with a sea of people that I'd estimate numbered a couple of hundred easily, all waiting to be processed by one counter clerk. I didn't feel like queueing up for hours so I left and planned to go back the next day a couple of hours before it opens so that I could at least wait outside in the fresh air and be first in line.

I made my way across town to a travel agents which was listed online as selling prepaid Cash Passport cards however that idea was also a flop as they had never heard of the cards. After two failed attempts at being productive I returned to the hostel and relaxed for a couple of hours before having a short nap to recharge my batteries for the walk to the Museum of Civilization's free Thursday evening opening. The walk there was nice, crossing over the Alexandria bridge into Gattineau and being awarded views of Parliament across the river surrounded by trees all displaying their fall colours. The museum itself was an interesting structure in that it has no corners in its design, the reason for this being that the first nations people believe that evil spirits hide in corners and it would bring bad luck to the building.

I spent a good couple of hours exploring the museum and the exhibits were really well presented, with a mock up town housing part of the Canadian exhibition and a fake forest housing the first nations exhibition. I learnt about how Canada has progressed as a country right through from the 1600s to present day, how the first nations people lived, the various wars that have happened over the years and there was a special exhibtion on Japan which was pretty interesting. Once I'd made a tour of the museum I started to feel hunger pangs creeping in so I made my way back across the river and returned to the hostel via Mr Mozerella where I picked up some pizza as I'm growing tired of eating pasta every night. (I can't wait to sample China's culinary delights!)

After I had eaten, a group of us sat around playing card games as it was the birthday of a German guy at the hostel so there was food and balloons aplenty. A couple of beers later and I decided to call it a day as I had set an alarm for 6.30am the next day to ensure my place at the front of the queue for my visa. Sleep ensued not long after 10.30pm however it wasn't helped by a guy lay in bed talking very loudly on his phone, seemingly unaware of (or uninterested in) the fact that people were trying to sleep around him. Ah well, the majority of the people in the room I'm staying in are pretty considerate of others so I'm not about to let my view of people be skewed by one inconsiderate person.

Bye for now!

Posted by UKtoCA 08:29 Comments (0)

Day 109 & 110 - Non Starters, Pirate Juice & A Sleepy Day

Hey Everyone!

So the past couple of days have been pretty uneventful really but I've met some great people and got a couple of things done that needed doing so it's all good. If you want a more detailed explanation then see below but if not then close this page and get back to doing something productive. (Facebook doesn't count as something productive however and if you'd rather read status updates on there than read my blog post in its entirety then shame on you) Ahem, so for a complete hit-by-hit rundown on the past couple of days, keep reading...

Day 109 -

Today I awoke feeling distinctly optimistic, hoping to take my Chinese visa forms in to be processed, sort out my travel vaccinations & buy phrasebooks for China and SEA. Unfortunately the Chinese embassy was closed and would be so for the next three days, the travel clinics I spoke with wouldn't give me prices for vaccinations without first paying them a consultation fee of $40-$75 (no thanks) and Chapters; the only big book store in Ottawa didn't have the Lonely Planet Mandarin phrasebook in stock. They had a couple of others but after standing there debating them both for an hour and a half I came to the conclusion that each had distinct weaknesses and I would have had to buy both of them to be confident of being able to understand the language properly, whereas the LP one for SEA was well thought out and so it follows that the Mandarin probably will be too.

I decided to call it a day and returned to the hostel where I heard that we were having poker night round two, so I made a trip to the liquor store where I stocked up on pirate juice (aka rum - spiced of course) to mix with the bargain priced case of root beer that I had bought the previous day. Now root beer and spiced rum is a deadly combo (in taste terms - if it was deadly in health terms I could hardly be sitting here writing this now could I?) which is a good thing, however my plan to make it last me three nights (and therefore work out cheaper than buying beer) didn't really work. In the end, rather than play poker a big group of us just sat around chatting and listening to music from our respective home countries until the early hours of the morning. A couple of the guys had to be up early the next day so we all called it a day at about 3.30am and I went up to bed suitably mellow. (read: stumbling up the stairs - I did however find a jacket and camera which I left on a chair in the office with a scribbled note on top. My drunken handwriting isn't all that comprehendible so they'll probably think a crazy person wrote it but ah well, good deed done for the day!)

Day 110 -

Wow. Now I know how pirates must have felt after a heavy night of singing "Ho-ho-ho and a bottle of rum" and getting merry on the top deck. (although I imagine being hungover on the high seas would be noticeably worse than on solid ground) I didn't sleep very well and when I finally decided to get up at about 10am I felt like I was at sea and had a throbbing head. After getting some breakfast I decided that I hadn't had enough sleep over the past few days so I retired back to my pit for a couple more hours in dreamland. I awoke at 3pm, slightly later than I had intended to rise but who's counting? I felt pretty much normal (sleep is a great healer of sore heads) so I got my laptop out and chilled in the living room for the rest of the day, watching season one of Modern Family (which is very funny!) and I actually managed to have a more productive day than yesterday, in that I booked an appointment to get stabbed in the arm a few times. (i.e. get my vaccinations)

When it came to evening time I rustled up an exquisite meal for one (read: pasta and garlic/herb sauce) and kicked back in front of the TV. I got chatting to a guy from Paris who is a PhD student studying computer science. After having a good chat and watching some trashy TV for a while I decided to call it a day and I relocated back upstairs where I went to sleep hoping for 8 uninterrupted hours of blissful shuteye. (which is doubtful when staying in a room with nine other people, the majority of whom snore)

Right, well it's time to be a pirate again and finish off the smidgen of rum that I have left so I hope you all enjoyed reading that literary masterpiece and I hope you're all well.

Take care,
Au revoir

Posted by UKtoCA 15:30 Comments (0)

Days 107 & 108 - Goodbyes, Trains & A Serious Lack of Sleep


So the past couple of days have been spent on the move and I have finally reached Ottawa which will be my base for the next couple of weeks. I have now had enough sleep to enable me to attempt to write a (slightly) comprehensible blog entry, so let’s see how it goes...

I awoke on Saturday morning to be greeted with proper English weather i.e. lots and lots of rain. After I had got up, packed and had some breakfast, the time had come for me to say goodbye to Dave, Shelly and all of the animals. The animals didn't seem all that bothered really but Dave & Shelly were and I promised to keep in touch by email and let them know how I get on with my future travels. Once we had said goodbye Shelly drove me to Truro train station, stopping at the store on the way for me to stock up on food for the journey. (pringles and sweets mainly but I did get some 'proper' food too) I picked up my train ticket with no problems and checked my pack in then sat down and waited for the train to arrive.

When it had pulled into the station I boarded and managed to get a couple of seats next to each other. On my last long train journey I had seen people lay across two seats sleeping so I thought it would be a good idea for me to try after my previous sleepless journey. I settled in for the trip and spent the next ten hours eating, reading my SEA guidebook, looking out of the window, listening to music and watching movies. (Hall Pass is wickedly funny and Avatar is always amazing no matter how many times I've seen it before) It then reached midnight and I wasn't all that tired yet so I chilled for a while longer before deciding to try and get some shuteye.

Now it had occurred to me earlier that whilst people shorter than me may be able to curl up lay across two seats and sleep quite easily, when you're 6'2.5" (that half an inch is important) it becomes decidedly more difficult. (read: only possible if you're a professional contortionist) After a couple of painful hours of moving around trying to get in a comfortable position to sleep, I actually managed to fall asleep! However, my joy was short lived as I awoke an hour later at about 4am with my neck and back feeling like they'd been jumped on by an elephant. After a couple more hours of trying unsuccessfully to sleep sitting up in my seat I decided to forget about the whole idea and opened my window blind to watch the world go by some more. (which is a bit difficult when it's pitch black)

Hours later at 9am (with an extra hour added on due to the time difference - great) the train pulled in to a very misty Montreal and I decamped and went to wait in line for my next train which was to take me to Ottawa. After waiting for an hour the train pulled up and I spent an uneventful couple of hours sat down trying not to nod off, as the train I was on went all the way to Toronto and if I was to miss my stop it would be an expensive mistake. When we arrived in Ottawa I collected my bag and got a bus into town and found myself back in familiar surroundings. I dropped my bags off and went to the store to get food for the week and some beers, then I returned to the hostel and relaxed for a while. I had a few beers and rang my Grandma for a chat, then I went up for a nap as by now I was awfully tired.

A couple of hours later I awoke and went downstairs where I met a great group of people including a German couple, a guy who works on cruise ships and a couple of fire-fighters from Edmonton who are cycling the Trans-Canada trail. We sat around chatting for a while and then decided to play poker as the weather was wet outside and the bars were closing early with it being a Sunday. After playing for a couple of hours I decided to call it a day as the lack of sleep had finally caught up with me and after having a bowl of cereal I went to sleep hoping for about 8-9 hours of blissful uninterrupted sleep.

Will it happen? Check back tomorrow to find out. (and obviously to read more super boring awesome extracts from my day)

Bye for now!

Posted by UKtoCA 09:16 Comments (0)

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