A Travellerspoint blog

Canada, eh?!

Leaving England, Newmarket Ontario, Toronto and Niagara Falls

sunny 24 °C
View The plan for Canada and North America on Jenpen17's travel map.

The adventure has finally begun! We stayed in a Premier Inn near Gatwick to eliminate the stress of getting there on time and so we were able to wake up at a reasonable time and get some breakfast etc. We packed up our bags and went to get the shuttle bus that would take us to the airport and we met a guy at the bus stop and got chatting to him, he was so excited when we told him we were off on a round the world trip that he gave us high fives and we talked to him throughout the whole bus journey swapping travel stories so it was a great start to the trip, already meeting new and interesting people!


We did all the usual boring airport stuff and got on the plane which was very old, it only had drop down TV’s so we had no control over what we could watch and therefore ended up watching The Lucky One (Zac Efron, was ok), Hoot (seriously rubbish, Luke Wilson what were you thinking) and Mrs Doubtfire (always a classic!) and then a couple of TV programmes like the Simpsons etc. The food wasn’t great and after 8 hours we were feeling pretty crap!

Luckily I have some family in Canada (my Mums Aunt, Uncle and cousins) so we had a place to stay for a few days and they very kindly picked us up from the airport too! We were staying with Claire, Adam and Cecilia (Claire is my Mums cousin) and they really were the most amazing hosts! We were really made to feel at home and we got a good feel of what it’s like to live in the Canadian suburbs. We arrived at around 3pm local time but to us it felt like much later so staying awake was going to be a challenge! Cecilia kept us entertained showing us Adams Star Wars memorabilia collection and we had some dinner and then took a walk through the park and into the local town to get some ice cream. We pretty much went to bed when we got back though and ended up sleeping for almost 11 hours! The next day Claire took us to a local Canadian art gallery which was really interesting, the grounds were beautiful too and the weather was lovely. Jonny drove us back and did very well in an automatic car on the wrong side of the road, stopping for all the stop signs too! Later on Claire and I took Cecilia to the Mall to get some shoes for school whilst Jonny stayed behind to drink beer and play games on the Wii with Adam! The next day the rest of my Canadian family came over to see us which was lovely and we went out to a local event in the town followed by a trip to the pub and the English Import shop where Jonny was already missing English biscuits so ended up buying some chocolate digestives! On Sunday we drove up to Hardy Lake to hike one of the trails there which was absolutely brilliant! Claire and Adam hadn’t been before so it was a bit of an adventure for all of us but the trail was really nice and the views were just breath-taking.


Monday morning we thanked Claire and Adam for an amazing weekend and had to say goodbye as we headed to Toronto! We arrived in the city late morning and dumped our bags at the hostel as we couldn’t check in yet and wandered off to find some food. We ended up finding a Canadian Pizza chain and got some cheap and unhealthy fast food (which I’m sure is just the beginning of a long trend throughout our travels!) but it tasted good! Once we had properly checked in and everything we went to the Easton Centre Mall and explored all the shops until we got tired. We found a shop called Dollarama which is pretty much the equivalent of a pound shop so we went in there and got some disgusting chicken pot noddle things for dinner (healthy again!) before crashing at the hostel. This is certainly one of the top 3 worst hostels I have ever stayed in so anyone starting to feel jealous of us will start to feel a bit better when you see this picture of our room! In fact the pictures I took don't really show just how awful it was! It is generally recommended to wear flip flops in showers in hostels anyway but this was a case of try not to touch the walls or any other part of the shower – eurgh!


On Tuesday we had booked a tour for Niagara Falls so the tour guides came and picked us up from our hostel and we jumped on the bus and got going. Our tour guide was called Alex and he was very enthusiastic and informative, he gave us a running commentary about Toronto, Niagara, and Canada in general all the way to the falls which was really interesting. We got to the falls late morning and they really were amazing. We were also really lucky to have such great weather – 24c and blue skies! Alex dropped us off right by the falls for an hour so we could take pictures and enjoy the view. I managed to take quite a few pictures but then the batteries in my camera very suddenly ran out and I didn’t have any spares on me (I won’t be making that mistake again!) but Jonny still had his camera so not all was lost! Alex then picked us up and dropped us further down the road so that we could get our Maid of the Mist tour boat that takes you right into the mist of the Niagara Falls where there is lots of spray and you get very wet so they provide you with free rain ponchos! We really enjoyed it and after that we wandered off to get some lunch. It was quite strange because on one side you have the amazing natural wonder that is the Niagara Falls but then as soon as you cross the road and head up Clifton Hill (the “fun of the falls”!) it gets seriously loud and tacky! There were amusements and all sorts of things you would expect to find in a touristy beach town. We didn’t want to get ripped off by the nearby restaurants so we decided (a healthy choice again, wait for it!) to go to Wendy’s and get some bacon cheeseburgers! It was pretty much like a McDonalds or a Burger King but I think this burger was tastier than any other fast food one I’d had! Then we headed down the road where there was a big Hershey’s store full of all the Hershey’s chocolate and Reese’s Peanut Butter stuff so popular on this side of the pond! So I went to the Hershey’s store and got some hugs and kisses! After that we headed back to the bus and the next stop was the whirlpools and after that we went to the village Niagara on the Lake which was so beautiful. All the houses looked amazing and the lake was so serene, it was a picturesque little town. After that it was back on the bus and on to the last stop of the day which was at a winery to taste some Canadian Ice Wine. To give you an idea of what it tastes like, it was described to us that on the sugar scale - table wine can be anywhere between 0-10, dessert wine between 10-20 and Ice Wine is 20+. I’ve quite got in to wine in recent months but I wasn’t too keen on the ones we tried (they didn’t even taste as sweet as dessert wine to me!) and Jonny didn’t like them either although he generally doesn’t like any kind of wine! Once we got back into the city we got some dinner (from Subway, but I got a salad, honest!) and came back to the hostel.

AM_0155.jpg CIMG1152.jpg CIMG1168.jpg CIMG1204.jpg CIMG1236.jpg

On our last proper day in Toronto we checked out the cool views at the CN Tower and explored the “underground city” that Torontonians use to get around when the weather is really bad in the winter but we didn’t spend too long down there as the weather was really nice and warm again. For lunch we were determined not to get fast food so went into a little café but when we sat down with the menus we soon realised that it was a vegetarian/vegan place with all sorts of weird super foods that my Dad is fond of but we decided to stay and eat something there anyway as it was definitely a healthy choice! We then went back to the hostel and got to work planning the next few legs of the journey. The hostel we had wanted to book in Washington DC didn’t have the availability on the nights we wanted to stay so we had to pick a different hostel and this made us decide to be a bit more efficient and get our accommodation booked for Orlando as well. We also had to sort out our bus tickets for the journey from Toronto to New York which was a bit of a nightmare but we got there in the end! Later on we decided to head out for a little bit of food. A popular fast food dish in Canada is something called “poutine” (pronounced poo-teen!) which is chips with cheddar cheese curds and gravy! Now I’m pretty sure that chips, cheese and gravy is popular in England, more specifically northern England I believe, but the cheese part here is slightly different because it’s almost like a soft cheese like Philadelphia! Surprisingly it tasted quite nice and Jonny finished them all up!

SAM_0184.jpg SAM_0166.jpg SAM_0190.jpg SAM_0194.jpg

The next morning we had to be up very early to get to the bus terminal just before 7am for our 12 hour bus journey to New York departing at 8am. We were relieved to be leaving the hostel (we woke up to the sight of sick in the sink in the washrooms!) and had our fingers crossed for a better one in New York! We have really enjoyed our short time in Canada and hope to maybe come back one day in the future to check out much more of the country but for now we are heading to New York City!

Posted by Jenpen17 19:54 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Before the Adventure Begins...

It's the dreaded "trial pack"

There is a hell of a lot of things to plan and do before going on a big round the world trip, some of it is fun, some of it is confusing, some of it is boring, some of it is stressful and mostly it's time consuming. I left my job almost 3 weeks ago and I've been doing non stop research ever since! There are still 3 more weeks to go and there is still sooooo much to do. I suppose no matter how much planning and research you do, there's always going to be that feeling that you haven't done enough but you just have to dive in and get on with it when the time comes to leave.

Yesterday I decided it was time to do a trial pack. 3 years ago I set off to backpack the East coast of Australia so I am no stranger to the concept of backpacking - you gotta pack light and get used to living in an entirely different way to what you are used to. When I did my trial pack for Oz I really didn't have any problems, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be (I had been absolutely dreading it) and when the real packing came on the day, I was surprisingly calm and pleased with the outcome. I did make a few last minute decisions such as "I think I'll take this dress instead of that one" and "you know what, I'm just gunna leave my mini straighteners and hopefully I can borrow someone elses" which turned out to be an excellent decision as I ended up travelling with 10 girls who all had hair dryers and GHD's! And out of those girls I think my bag was the lightest - I still had quite a bit of space in mine when I left. It wasn't long before I realised I needed a couple of extra tops to keep me going and an extra pair of shorts when it was just too hot to wear my denim ones, but it was still quite light.
I knew that this time around packing wasn't going to be so easy. Although we are effectively chasing the sun around North America and getting to New Zealand for their summer, it's not always going to be as hot as it was in Oz so clothing requirements are slightly different. Also the majority of activities are going to be very different - we'll be trekking around huge cities seeing all the sights, hiking in national parks, taking day excursions, and even climbing a glacier in NZ. So I thought it would be best to take some proper walking trainers and a proper daysack and also a lightweight raincoat. Those are the 3 biggest differences of my pack this time round.

In a nutshell, yesterday was an absolute nightmare. Packing this time was even worse than I thought it was going to be. Apart from the 3 items I've mentioned above, I really can't figure out what I'm doing differently to last time - unless I'm just remembering it all wrong! The method to a trial pack is to get out absoultely everything you are planning on taking with you and laying it all out on your bed like so:

Firstly I'd like to apologise for the walls in my room! We moved into this house a few months ago and my room used to belong to two children under the age of 5! My parents decided it would be easier to re-decorate once I'd left. Right so this is everything that I would ideally like to be able to take with me and that bag on the right hand side is what it's all got to fit in to!

And this is a close up of all the items intended to fit in to that backpack! Some of this is essential, but some is just wishful thinking

So I did the first pack. It was not good. I already had to leave out one of the skirts and a couple of tops because they wouldn't even fit. The main compartment was so stuffed that there wasn't a lot of room left in the outer pockets and I hadn't even got my medical kit and all my chargers and converter plug in which are all essential items! There was also no way the walking shoes were getting in there. So I unpacked it all, sacrificed a couple more items and did it again. Not really any difference. I sent a frantic text to Jonny cursing and claiming this is 100 times harder than packing for Oz and I really don't know what else I can sacrifice! It was time to start being ruthless. I took everything out again, sacrificed my jeans and my long sleeved cardigan, took out some items from my toiletries bag and a few other bits and bobs. I packed it again. It was absolutely bursting which is not ideal seeing as it's recommended that you leave with your bag 3/4 full (which I managed for Oz, why oh why is it not possible this time?!?)

This is the result of that pack. It's too bulky and full. My dog Jessie came to see what all this commotion was in my room - she's not impressed by my efforts either. I didn't even manage to get my walking shoes in.

So now it's time to be super ruthless. By this point I'd received a text back from Jonny saying "It's not that bad is it I'm sure you'll fit it all in!" I text back saying I'm close to tears. This is so exasperating! By this point I am heavily comparing everything I'm packing to everything I packed for Oz. I know that my toiletries bag is pretty hefty (I'm a beauty therapist and I love my products but I have seriously cut down to the bare minimum that I can live with) but my make up is also in there (again, bare minimum) whereas when I went to Oz I had that same bag full of toiletries and also an extra bag with make up. So surely I must be saving some space from that this time? I get out my rolled up hoodie I wanted to take and it's pretty big and heavy but I need to take something warm. I took a grey zip up jumper thing to Oz, I wonder if that packs up smaller than this hoodie... it does. Hoodie out, grey jumper in. I go through my medical kit and take out some excess things that I can get my mum to post to me in NZ when I run out instead of lugging them all across North America and NZ with me. I take out the chargers and ipod leads etc, roll them up really tiny and fit them all into a much smaller bag. I took two travel towels to Oz, one for my body and a smaller one for my hair. I gave the bigger one to Jonny and he bought me a giant pink one which is bigger than the one I gave him. My hair is shorter and easier to manage than when I went to Oz so I decide to sacrifice the hair towel and hope I can cope (I think I'll start practising now at home not having an extra towel for my hair!) I made a few more adjustments and tried again. This time I'm a lot happier with the way everything fits in. I even manage to just about squeeze my walking shoes in. It's still fuller than I'd like, and I'm sure it's heavier than when I went to Oz, but for this trip, this is the minimum I can live with, so I'll also have to live with the weight. I did manage to fit my mini straighteners in this time, but again I think I'm probably going to change my mind and leave them behind at the last minute.

So this is the final pack. Hopefully over the next few weeks I can think about it a bit more and perhaps adjust my thinking to cope with a little bit less than this. When you do a trial pack you are supposed to pack absolutely everything, without leaving out an outfit and shoes that you might be wearing at any time - which is what I have done so perhaps when I actually leave it won't seem quite so full...

This is the reject pile. My jeans, a skirt, 3 tops, a long sleeved cardigan, a hat, a bikini (I've packed 2), a travel towel, my hoodie, and various items from my toiletries bag including some make up and nail polish (I hate not having polish on my toes but nevermind...)

So there we have it. Trial pack done. It literally took all day. Now Jonny needs to do his, I wonder if it'll be as tough for him as it was for me or if he'll simply breeze through it like I did for Oz?


Posted by Jenpen17 02:57 Archived in England Comments (0)

Welcome to my Blog!

I am going travelling around the world with Jonny and I've decided to do a blog so that anyone interested can follow our travels and be kept up to date (and so we can make you all jealous!).

I will try to keep this blog as up to date as possible but you never know what's going to happen on the road (no internet access, no time etc) so we'll see how it goes.

The journey kicks off on 6th September with the first stop being Toronto. Here is a map to show the route we have planned so far:

There is a lot there so you may need to zoom in for the details...

The real blogging will start when the trip does so watch this space!


Posted by Jenpen17 00:56 Archived in England Comments (0)

(Entries 26 - 28 of 28) « Page 1 2 3 4 5 [6]