New York City

Happy, Home, Photos, Travel

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Within eight hours our trip had taken us from the rolling hills of Pennsylvania to the angular landscape of Manhattan Island. We drove into New Jersey intending to park the car and hop on a train to our hotel in Hell’s Kitchen, unfortunately our great intentions turned into minor frustrations when finding a long term parking proved more difficult that planned. Eventually we left the Civy at the Newark Airport and headed to the Island just in time for a rainy Friday night rush hour.

Walking out of Penn Station at 5 pm gave us our first stereotypical New York City experience, complete with umbrellas, taxi cabs and lots of jostling for sidewalk space. By the time we stumbled up to our hotel we were completely soaked, pretty embarrassing since the hotel we booked was gorgeous and would have been well above our means without some help from Hotwire. Our room was tiny, but the king-sized bed itself beat sleeping on the ground or our one night stay at a roadside Comfort Inn.

Our time in New York was limited (two and a half days) and with so many friendly suggestions it was pretty overwhelming trying to decide what to do and where to eat. So much so that we ended up winging it or using Yelp most of the time. Our first night out it was still raining so we went to a bar down the street called the Beer Authority, pretty tasty cocktails and the pasta dish I ordered blew me away. Our Saturday consisted of concert food and nine dollar beers, but more on that later. Sunday on the other hand became our totally touristy day.

We woke up bright and early (eleven am) and decided the best thing to cure our post concert headaches was brunch at the HK Cafe, where my eggs benedict craving was thoroughly satisfied. Unluckily for Neal, I noticed a flea market a block wide as we where leaving the cafe and obviously had to investigate. After dragging him around to a close to a dozen vendors his logic prevailed and I agreed that we should probably go see the Empire State Building since we only had 24 hours left in New York City.

On our way we passed by a huge street party celebrating Peurto Rican independence, which was apparently distracting enough for us to j-walk right in front of a few police officers. We made it to the Empire State un-arrested and headed up to the 85th floor observation deck. The view was as breathtaking as you could imagine, but the thing that surprised me was how quiet it was looking over the hustle and bustle of such a massive city.

Our next must-do was a visit to Central Park, and I have to say getting there was an adventure of its own since the New York subway system is a hot confusing mess. Every time we tried to take a train during our visit we ended up getting on the wrong line or going in the wrong direction. But then maybe it was just our inexperience with a real city’s transportation system (nope it was you New York, it really was). Anyways, the park was beautiful and enjoyably busy, not to mention massive as we walked the length of it later on looking for a restaurant. We passed by lakes, birthday parties, and hundreds of people exercising before plopping down on a rock next to some tennis courts. Some of us napped and others just people watched, either way we both enjoyed resting our feet for a while.

We ended off the evening meeting up with some Winnipeg friends and eating fantastic Thai food at a little place called Ember. I left New York the next morning knowing I would have to come back to see everything that we didn’t have time for this time around.

Polar Bear Capital of the World

Photos, Travel

Churchill, Churchill, Churchill…I had no idea how hard I would fall for you! The whole trip was absolutely magical; travelling two full days on the train, feeling like locals almost immediately, walking around town cautiously in case of wayward polar bears, getting a tour of the backroads, renting a truck and having our own off-road adventure, finally seeing a polar bear! I definitely enjoyed my time up North more than I had expected to.

The whole point of the trip was to pay a visit to one of my best friends who had moved up to Churchill last year because of a job offer. She has since fallen in love with the tiny town and has “settled down” with a great guy (whom I was sick of hearing stories about and ready to meet). He was even nice enough to let us crash in his pad for the entire week never having met us either! I like to think that we did a good job of being entertaining guests because of drunken debauchery and a belated Thanksgiving dinner.

Our first weekend was a pretty rowdy one which included a Friday night meat draw followed by bar hoping between the Tundra and the Seaport, and a Saturday night beer pong tournament which lasted until 5 am but was broken up by a toga party at the complex. Besides all of the liver damaging we did manage to fit in some sight seeing and got driven from Port Mary to the research centre in hopes of seeing our first polar bear. While we didn’t have any luck this time we did learn a lot about Churchill’s history and former connection to the military and see some interesting landmarks. The grounded plane, for example, is called Ms.Piggy since it crashed on a ridge just short of the airport because the cargo it was carrying was too heavy, none of the passengers where injured.

Our (my) disappointment in not seeing a polar bear was exacerbated by story after story of nightly bear sightings in town, there was even paw print evidence on the side of our favourite local diner one morning. We (I) started brainstorming how we could see a bear before the week was up, this included seriously considering going on a $400 buggy tour or a $500/hr helicopter tour. Thank god logic prevailed and we ended up renting a truck for 24 hours and only spending $140 (and holy crap $45 on a quarter tank of gas). But it was all worth it!

Our second stop of the day brought us to Brian Ladoon’s dogs, a track of crown land where Ladoon raises endangered eskimo dogs thanks to government intervention. The area is somewhat controversial because Ladoon has started blocking access to the area and charging tour groups a fee to enter. He seems to be getting away with this because his land is a great place to see bears because they like to coesxist with the dogs, and it seems tourists will pay any amount to see a polar bear. Similar to our last visit out there the road was blocked, but lucky for us there was a big mound of white fur lying about 200 meters inside the gate! It was hard to tell what we were looking at without the camera zoomed as far as it could go, and until the bear moved I was sure we were looking at a rock. But there it was, and there it remained until we returned 2 hours later. And thats how we saw our only polar bear twice in one day!

Satisfied, we spent the rest of the trip playing bingo, going out for dinner, enjoying open mic night and helping my bestie and her boyfriend organize a high school volleyball tournament. By the time Thursday evening rolled around we were both considering coming up for another visit, and despite tearful goodbyes I would be lying if I said wasn’t excited to get back on the train. So we left a dreary, slushy Churchill (the weather was unseasonably warm for the rest of the trip by the way), and embarked yet again on a two day train ride back to Winnipeg.

I do have to talk about the train before I close because it was just as much an adventure as the time we spent in Churchill. I’m lucky to have a relative working for Via Rail who didn’t mind us name dropping and even wrote a letter to support our cause for upgraded accommodations (Thanks Art)! This meant we rode home in the berth, or sleeper car of the train, being rocked to sleep in a very luxurious bunk bed. This exceeded expectations because we had been told that we wouldn’t be fed for two days and that we would be bored out of our minds. Not the case! We frequented the dining car, meaning I ate too many perogies, drank wine, played cards, watched movies, and read for two extremely relaxing days. I have since been recommending Churchill by train to everyone that I talk to because it is an extremely reasonable way to travel and if you have 11 days to spare you have the chance of exploring a gem in your very own backyard!

En Route to Churchill

Photos, Travel

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Me and the boyfriend are currently on our way to Churchill, Manitoba (polar bear capital of the world)! We have a 45 hour train ride ahead of us and then seven days to visit one of my best friends and explore. I’ve travelled to New Zealand, Australia, Europe and all over western Canada but I have never ventured into my northern backyard! I’ll be back in two weeks with tons of photos!