Many of you probably know the concept of home-exchanges through the movie ‘The Holiday’, where Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz decide to swap places: a little cottage in England for a mansion in the USA. This movie happens to be my favourite feel-good movie of all time, and it’s the way my mum and I have been traveling for many years. I love to explore the world by exchanging homes, because you get to ‘live’ somewhere and feel less like a tourist, save a lot of money and often get really great insider tips as a nice bonus! Among many places, we have stayed in a massive house in San Francisco of a former Harvard University law student, a gay couple’s flat in New York, and a large farm in England. Now, we are in Brazil for the next 2.5 weeks living in a house with a swimming pool at a peninsula’s coastline.
I always knew that one day or another, I would move to Canada. When I was as young as 4 years of age- or I should better say as far as my memory goes back – I remember telling everyone over and over again that I would one day live in this country. Six months ago, at the age of 22, I finally went and did it: I made the move to Montréal together with my boyfriend. My time here has been a wonderful experience and absolutely met my expectations (see, the 10 things I will miss most about living in Montreal). However, I have also missed Europe and started to appreciate certain things about it more. In this blog, I will name a few of these things. Also, in this blog post I am holding my first giveaway contest! More info about this at the bottom of the page.
In less than a month, I will be returning to my home country, the Netherlands. Therefore, this is a recap of the 10 things I will miss the most about living in Montréal.
10) My favourite hotspot: the anti-café. This is a place where you pay per minute, rather than per drink. What this means is that you pay 3 dollars for the first hour you are there, and 2 dollars for the following hours (with a maximum of 9$). Basically, during your time at this cafe you can consume as many cups of tea and coffee as you would like, in addition to unlimited cookies and snacks. If you know me, you know that I drink a crazy amount of tea every day and that I hope to have a huge tea corner in my future dream house. Therefore, this place completely suits me.
My boyfriend and I visited Boston a while back, and of course, being in Boston one cannot miss out on visiting America’s first institution of higher education: Harvard University, where we took a 2-hour walking tour around the prestigious campus. Visiting Harvard really interested me, as I was very aware of the fact that Harvard is ranked as the best university in the world and has been the home of many of history’s important individuals, from US presidents to the founder of Facebook. To go back to university, specifically the idea of studying among the intellectual elite of the world, is something I very much desire. Unfortunately, for many of us, Harvard is but a dream.
A few months ago, I moved to Canada to do an internship for an organisation called Big Brothers Big Sisters. Many people have asked me what BBBS is about, and my answer usually was `We provide children with a positive role-model. ` However, I wasn`t fully aware of either the meaning or importance of this at the time nor of the actual role of a mentor. What does `being a Big Brother or Sister` entail? How do they make a difference? Over time, I have learned a lot about the positive effects our volunteers have on the children in our programmes. Mentoring has not only helped children, but has helped their parents as well. Additionally, many volunteers feel that they have benefitted from the experience themselves too. Let me tell you more about the insights I have gained from my time at BBBS.
Today was quite possibly the most beautiful day of my life in terms of natural scenery. My boyfriend and I visited the Montmorency Falls just outside of Old Quebec City to get a taste of the Indian Summer. Not all the trees had turned red yet, however, it was the perfect time to see the transition in colours between the seasons. The forest was filled with different shades of green, yellow, orange and red. This blog is full of pictures, my favorite one being the one above… as green fades into yellow fades into red.
My brother is visiting me in Montréal for ten days. He had told me beforehand that I shouldn’t plan any activities on the Friday, as he had a surprise in mind. Turns out, he had arranged that we could go bungee jumping and zip lining! This was his birthday present to me, as it has sort of become a tradition for us to do something for our birthdays that we can tick off of our bucket list. In the past we’ve been skydiving, go-karting and water-skiing, but this has been by far the scariest activity yet!
The first morning waking up in Canada, we were told by our park guards that there were seven ‘active’ bears on site. This meant that we had to be extra careful with hiding all of our food in a bear proof manner. Storing your food ‘bear proof’ is done by placing all of your food in a cool box, covering the cool box with a jacket and storing the cool box with the jacket in a car. This is necessary because bears are clever enough to recognize a cool box and break into the car to get to the food. Surprisingly, we were also told to hide all of our cosmetics such as shampoo, because the bears are attracted to the smells. Cheyen heard about this right after he had put on his perfume and feared he would be the first to be caught by a bear…
“This was indeed an extraordinary and bizarre day!”, I wrote in my diary on the 8th of August. Diane, a half-native Canadian woman we befriended four years ago, had taken us to our first ever Pow Wow. A Pow Wow is a ceremony of North America’s Native people to repeat the traditional rituals of their ancestors, and is a festivity to celebrate their liberty to do so. The fact that this ceremony was taking place was not indicated in any of the touristic booklets, and without Diane we would never have had the opportunity to experience this unique and incredibly interesting happening.
During a spontaneous last-minute holiday to Nice, France, my boyfriend and I came across an advertisement of ‘Marine-land’, which pictured the image of a giant Orca. Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamt about seeing real-life ‘Killer Whales’. From watching the movie Free Willy for the first time, I was sold: I considered these predators to be the most beautiful creatures on earth.
I did then, as I do now. And so it was that when we drove past the poster, I quickly turned to my boyfriend: “Did you see that?!”.
We couldn’t believe that there might be actual orcas in water parks in Europe. I am extremely sea-sick, so if this turned out to be true, it would put an end to all the failed attempts of spotting them in America or Canada, during which I would just see the inside of a plastic bag…
Thus, when we got back to our holiday home, we checked it out immediately and indeed, orca-shows were held just 20 minutes away from our place! And even better, there was a deal on sale, 2 parks for the price of one: Marine-land and Aquasplash.