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New York, Day 2 - May 12th: Top of the Rock Observation Deck, Staten Island Ferry, Coney Island

The weather forecast was good, so I decided to do some outdoorsy things.

First stop was the Top of the Rock observation deck, which many people think is greater than that of the Empire State Building because it has better views of Central Park, plus you can see, you know, the Empire Sate Building. It was a lovely, clear day, so I got some great pictures. A girl working liked my accent and asked me for a joke if I knew Adele. I don't, but my mum knows her cousin.

I had a goal when I came to New York: to visit all 5 boroughs during my visit. 2 down (Manhattan and Queens), three to go (Staten Island, Brooklyn and the Bronx).

Staten Island was next on my list, so from the Top of the Rock I got the subway to Downtown and hopped on the eponymous ferry. It was pretty packed, mostly with tourists trying to get a good photo of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island as we went past. Most tourists get off the ferry and get straight on the next one back to Manhattan, but I walked along the Esplanade, had a look at the memorial for the Staten Islanders killed in 9/11 and got on the overground train which runs south to the other end of the island. A fair bit of industry along the railway line, but mostly houses. I got off at Grasmere, as a bus to Brooklyn went past every fifteen minutes or so. Not bad at all for a Sunday, but it was still packed. I got off when I saw a Subway station and got a train to Coney Island.

Coney Island is pretty tacky and run-down but fun all the same, full of locals having fun on the rides and sitting on the beach. I had a ride on the Ghost Train, which was pretty expensive but oh well. I then took a walk along the boardwalk to Brighton Beach, which is a very Russian area, most of the shops had cyrillic script on their signs. After that, it was back to Manhattan, via a bus to Prospect Park subway station.


New York, Day 1 - May 11th: Mets baseball game

Maybe the bedroom was warm, and I certainly was after carrying my suitcase and backpack up about 4 flights of stairs, but I found it hard to sleep after arriving in New York so decided to sleep-in for a while and do just one thing the next day: the Mets game at 13:10. 

The subway ride to Queens was pretty uneventful, and I was at Citi Field well ahead of 'first pitch'. Just bought a bottle of water there, the prices for food were pretty high, as I thought they would be. The stadium was practically half-empty, I expected a much larger crowd, although the weather wasn't great. As for the game, I enjoyed it, but I wish the Mets had given the Pittsburgh Pirates a bit more resistance. In the end, the home side got thrashed 11-2, rather poor. I'm seeing the Yankees on Tuesday night, hopefully it'll be a closer game with the home side eventually recording a hard-fought win!


Goodbye San Francisco, Hello New York City!

Not the best flight I've ever had. Getting to the airport was just fine, but I'm just tired of carrying 7 months worth of stuff around. I've always been a relatively light traveller. It was a chore getting through security as well, as you have to remove your shoes as well as laptops from their bags. 

Anyway, the weather further East wasn't looking great, so the flight was rerouted, which meant we were suck on the tarmac for ages while that crap was sorted out. Once we got in the air, we had a few periods of turbulence, and the entertainment sucked. I miss British Airways with the personal screens stuck in the seat in front of you. First world problem, I know :P

Things were fine in New York though, the Subway journey wasn't bad and I was in bed by 10:30. Can't wait to get exploring tomorrow :D


San Francisco, Day 4 - May 9th: Bay Cruise, Downtown Bus Loop, Golden Gate Bridge Bus Loop, Sausalito, Golden Gate Ferry

My last day in San Francisco :( It was a good one though. 

Managed to get the bus to Fisherman's Wharf in time to catch the 10am hour-long Bay Cruise. It was good, and the weather was okay, although unlike in Seattle the narration was pre-recorded and occasionally inaudible. We passed under the Golden Gate Bridge though which was quite a sight. 

I then spent some time on the hop-on/hop-off buses. I did the Downtown loop in it's entirety, which was very interesting. The tour guide was extremely informative. For example, I didn't realise that the sandwich place I'd been walking to about 30 seconds from the hostel is actually part of an extremely small Vietnamese area called 'Little Saigon'. We also passed the church that Joe DiMaggio wanted to marry Marilyn Monroe in. His request was refused, as they were both divorced. Instead, they married at City Hall and had pictures taken beside the church, instead.  

Back in Fisherman's Wharf, I then got on the Golden Gate Bridge loop. I didn't bother walking across the bridge, as it was even windier than I expected, instead I got off at Sausalito in Marin County, wandered around the town for a couple of hours, saw the benches where Otis Redding was inspired to write (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay and then caught a ferry back to the city. I've decided that I like California. Well, this part of the state, anyway. I'm not sure what I'll think of Los Angeles, when I get there one day in the future. 

From the Ferry Building at Pier 1, it was time to go back to the hostel and pack for New York. With time for a Vietnamese dinner, of course.  


San Francisco, Day 3 - May 8th: California Academy of Sciences, Japanese Tea Garden, Alamo Square

The California Academy of Sciences was very interesting. The Aquarium area had a load of pretty tropical fish, as well as small sharks, a very bubbly lady gave a great talk about what recent missions to Mars have been discovering about the planet, plus the Planetarium had a show about Earthquakes, focusing on California and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, complete with special effects. An unusual exhibit featured the various interesting techniques that different animals use to find a mate.

The Japanese Tea Garden opposite the Academy was extremely pretty and quiet. It made me want to go to Japan more than ever, if that's possible. Walking out of Golden Gate Park, where these two attractions are located, I passed a bicycle rental place, where about 5 Asian people in a circle, maybe more, were cycling off on the same contraption. It looked great fun, and I couldn't help but chuckle a little to myself.

I went home via Alamo Square, which features one of San Francisco's most famous views. It didn't disappoint.

I've been thinking lately. This trip has been a lot of fun so far, but it's also taught me something about how I like to travel. Most people take city breaks over a weekend or a few days, but I don't think that's enough time for me. I think I'd need to spend a week or so in a city before I'd be able to say that I had 'seen' it. Seeing just the typical tourist sites wouldn't be enough for me, I don't think. I'd like to go to somewhere off the beaten track, discover something that only the locals know about. Pick a specific neighbourhood away from the city centre, get on a bus and go exploring.

Also, I've got these for Seattle, San Francisco and New York (link below):

They're great value for money, and I'm very glad I bought them, but seeing all the included attractions hasn't left me as much time as I would have liked for seeing other things, or simply walking around the neighbourhoods. I'd certainly buy them again, but as I said, I'd spend longer in the city than the 3-4 days I have on this trip, so I wouldn't be forced to do two museums or whatever in a day.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Goodnight x


San Francisco, Day 2 - May 7th: Chinatown, Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower, Alcatraz

After turning my alarm off multiple times, I managed to get out of the hostel with just over two hours to spare before I needed to collect my ticket for the Alcatraz tour. I had enough time to walk all the way there, so I decided to do just that, hitting a couple of cool-sounding neighbourhoods on the way. Chinatown has some nice-looking buildings, but the main highlight for me was Telegraph Hill. You know of course that San Francisco is very hilly, well Telegraph can only be accessed by vehicle along a single, winding road. As a pedestrian, it makes more sense to scale it using one of a number of sets of stairs that have been built. Along the way, you see lush gardens and houses clinging to the hillside, and get a great view of the Bay Bridge, the Port and some of the piers. At the top of the hill stands Coit Tower, which was built from the money that Lillie Hitchcock Coit left to the city upon her death in 1929. It has an entrance fee, but the views from the top are well worth it.

Then it was off to Pier 33 to get the ferry to Alcatraz. Just after I got off the boat I ran into Sam, a nice Aussie guy I shared a room with for a night in Seattle. It was good to see him of course but a huge surprise, it's a small world! An audio-tour of the prison itself was included in the price of the ferry ticket, which was very interesting. 

Another great day :D


Leaving Seattle and San Francisco, Day 1 - May 6th: Lombard Street, Fisherman's Wharf, Aquarium of the Bay, Pier 39

My last day in Seattle was a bit of a write-off, really. I felt like shit and really didn't fancy doing much, except take a little walk through the neighbourhood.

The train journey down to Emeryville (then a bus across San Francisco Bay to the city) was OK. More leg room than I thought, we each had a power outlet, the weather was good, there was some great views but sleeping wasn't comfortable, not that I expected it to be of course. I was in a window seat and the older guy next to me was asleep and completely blocking my way. I decide to crawl underneath his legs into the aisle, to avoid waking him up. He wakes up anyway, to see me next to him on my knees. Awkward, but he thought I'd fallen out of my seat so I played along.

I got my first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge as we were getting close to Emeryville, which was exciting, and the bus journey across the Bay Bridge was pretty cool. I got a great view of Alcatraz, and the city of course.

After we were dropped off, I walked to my hostel, put my luggage in the storage room and hit the streets, heading slowly towards Fisherman's Wharf. On the way, I found a park on a hill with a lovely view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Just below said park is Lombard Street, a section of which is unusually wide. It's so wide because cars have to drive in one long spiral down it, thanks to the strategically-planted bushes and flowers. It's quite a sight and one that draws many tourists, even the stupid ones who are so intent on getting the perfect picture that they block the traffic.

Fisherman's Wharf is a touristy place, but cool nonetheless. There's a real air of gentrification (that's the geographer in me emerging) around, a lot of the piers have been spruced up. Pier 39 in particular is full of restaurants, bars, shops and other attractions. Walking along the street between the piers, there was a black man sitting on the ground, holding a number of leaves around him, in order to look like a bush. Every so often, he'd jump out at people walking past, and scare the daylights out of them pretty much every time. I laughed until I cried. The Aquarium wasn't bad, I especially enjoyed the glass tunnels, where the fish were swimming both beside and above you. I also found Nemo and Dory from Finding Nemo!

My transport back to the hostel was one of San Francisco's famous cable cars. A great end to a wonderful day.


Seattle, Day 2 - May 3rd: EMP Museum, Space Needle, Pacific Science Center, Washington State Ferries

Another beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest. This region, consisting of Washington and Oregon, is famous for it's unpredictable weather, so I've been very lucky so far.

First stop was the EMP Museum. The letters stand for 'Experience Music Project', but it also covers Sci-Fi and Pop Culture. The exhibits change every so often, a couple are being taken away next week. Level 1 has two exhibits, containing props and memorabilia from horror films as well as science fiction films and TV shows. Even though I'm not really into either genre, there were a few things that I personally enjoyed seeing, such as a jacket worn by Mick Garris in the 'Thriller' music video, Jack Torrance's axe and a Dalek from a 1988 episode of Dr Who.

Level 2 had mostly music exhibits, on subjects like Jimi Hendrix's time in London, Nirvana and the history of guitars, while The Art of Video Games displayed consoles and screenshots of games from the 1970's to the present day. Level 3 was more interactive, where you could play instruments and sing. It's a cool place, I enjoyed it.

After a quick second visit to the Space Needle, I called in at the Pacific Science Center for a couple of hours (nice place, fantastic for kids) before I had lunch (Korean) and got the bus back downtown to Pier 52, as I fancied a little boat trip. Washington State Ferries run vessels on a number of routes serving the San Juan Islands and various towns and islands on Puget Sound. Bainbridge Island is just 35 minutes away and it only cost me about $7 return as foot passengers don't pay to get IN to Seattle, we just pay to leave.

Dinner consisted of a beef and noodle dish in a Chinese cafe, as well as a piece of strawberry and cream cake, yum!

Seattle, Day 1 - May 2nd: Aquarium, Pike Place Market, Harbour Cruise, Space Needle

My first day in Seattle was a very good one. The breakfast, served from 6-9am, wasn't much cop, but it was free so I wasn't complaining.

I discovered on the way to the waterfront that the city authorities have done something pretty clever with some of their bus routes. Imagine a single London Underground line, but with buses travelling along the tunnel instead! After they leave the tunnel, their routes fan out all over the place, but for just over a mile below Downtown, they all stop at 5 stations. Not a bad way to avoid the city's traffic.

My first stop was the city's Aquarium, located on Pier 59. I particularly enjoyed the Pacific Coral Reef tanks, as well as the sea otters and seals. There was also an area where guests could reach into the little pools and touch the creatures, the kids loved it.

Pike Place Market was wonderful. At street level there are many stalls, selling seafood, meat, fruit, vegetables, health foods and non-food items such as jewellery, cuddly toys and clothes. On the floors below, there are a number of speciality shops, selling things such as second-hand books, magic supplies, Mexican-made art and ornaments, Egyptian-made ornaments and clothes, pottery, candy and leather goods. I just wandered around for a couple of hours, and got a Chinese pork bun and Japanese Chicken Teriyaki skewer.

I then walked over to Pier 55 and got on the hour-long Argosy Cruise around Elliott Bay/Puget Sound. The tour guide was very informative, the weather was great, and the water was calm, so it was a very enjoyable trip. Last stop of the day was the Space Needle, opened in 1962 for the World's Fair which was held in Seattle. The views were amazing, although it had clouded over a fair bit and had become pretty windy.

Great day, can't wait to see more of the city tomorrow!


Leaving Canada :(

My last night in Whistler was unremarkable but nice. Me and Bart had a couple of drinks and watched 'Hoodwinked', which wasn't bad at all. Poppy (who lived with us until January) came round with some friends for a while, and a colleague and her girlfriend spent an hour or so with us. I was sad to say goodbye to everyone, but excited to start the slow journey home. 

The journey down to Vancouver was fine. South of Squamish, the highway follows the coast, which looked pretty nice as the sun was setting. The next day, I went to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, which was great. I didn't get at all nervous about being so high up so that was good. Here's a link below:

Yesterday (30th), I got on the SkyTrain out of Downtown to visit Bart's brother, Lewis, who lives near Commercial Drive, a very long street full of different ethnic restaurants and grocery shops. We went to a bar for a drink and to watch the end of the Real Madrid v Dortmund game, and then had lunch in a Japanese restaurant. It was a fun afternoon. Then, I got on the #20 bus back to the city centre, just because I wanted to see what the Downtown Eastside (otherwise known as Cracktown) is like. Even at 5 o'clock in the evening, it looked like an absolute shit hole, so I dread to think what it's like at night. Vancouver is full of hobos and junkies, apparently it's the mild climate that attracts them. 

Today, I checked out of the hostel and got on the SkyTrain to the depressing-as-anything rail/coach station just outside Downtown. Hung around there for a couple of hours and then got on my coach to the United States. The border crossing was fine and they let me into the country, yay! Seattle's natural setting is kind of like Vancouver's with various inlets and bays, the sun sparkling on the water as we came into the city was a lovely sight. The Greyhound terminal was even worse than Vancouver's, but apparently it is going to be knocked down soon, thank goodness for that! My hostel isn't exactly in the nicest area, but that doesn't matter really as I'll only be here for four nights. Tomorrow, I'm staring to explore the city, can't wait! :D


Last Few Weeks of Work

Genuinely thought I was in with a shot with a colleague a couple of months back. He, like everyone else, knows I'm gay and said 'Hello gorgeous' to me a couple of times when we passed each other at work. He's not exactly ugly, although he's only 19. I asked him if there was anyone special in his life and he said 'Yeah, I've got a girlfriend'. I was slightly gutted, for half an hour or so :P

Bart's brother came up from Vancouver for a visit a few weeks ago. He's 33 I believe, so 3 years older. He's been in Canada a lot longer than he envisaged, as he knocked up a Canadian girl five or so years back. They don't get along well at all, but their daughter spends 3 or 4 days a week with him which is good. I'm meeting up with him in Vancouver when I stay there next week so looking forward to that. Bart himself is fine, although the shingles gives him some grief occasionally. He shaved off his moustache and beard a few days ago for summer, which is the first time I've ever seen him clean shaven, apart from his passport photo. He got a patch of his head shaved completely as well so he's got a comb over with his remaining hair going. He hasn't had the best winter season work-wise, which is a shame. He had a great time in 2011-12 but this year he got fed up with the petty office politics and incompetent supervisors. He's going back to Queensland in July, his twin brother has two daughters Bart hasn't seen for a couple of years. 

Carmen finished work about a week ago, and I finished on Monday. She won the 'Golden Mattress' at the Lift-Ops End of Season party, which is the award for shagging the most fellow Lifties. It was as good as hers long ago :P She's had a good time in Whistler, but I think she's pretty glad to have finished work for a couple of weeks, as am I of course. My job always sucked, but the colleagues made it enjoyable.

Kat left us a couple of weeks ago, she's gone to Banff with her partner-in-crime Chloe. I'm sure she'll love it, I went to Banff Town/National Park with the family in Summer 2008 and it was beautiful. 

Talking of my family, they were in Whistler for 10 days earlier this month. They spent a few nights in Vancouver first, where they watched an ice hockey game, among other things. Although never go up to a Canadian and talk about 'ice hockey', it's just hockey to them, not to mention the national sport! I went skiing with them when I had a couple of days off work, and they had a good time here which is good.

My best friend at work, a girl called Constanza (Coni for short), has been giving a weekly informal class in her native language, Spanish. It was fun, and I've promised that I'll go to Chile one day and visit her. 

Our staff party was on Thursday night. I borrowed Bart's suit as I didn't bring one of my own out here. We had a whole bar to ourselves, and we had dinner and a couple of drinks each included. Then, we were each given a load of casino chips and gambled at the various game tables that had been set up, after which there was a 'silent auction' where we could bid on various items of  ski/snowboard related gear, such as helmets, scarves, hats, goggles, gloves etc. Because it was fake money, and I had no interest in bidding for stuff that I already have, I was, shall we say, less than careful. I lost everything. Twice.

Since I finished work, I spent a few days walking the 'Valley Trail' through the forest around town and various lakes. Here's a link, see the second map. Got a load of pics as well.  http://www.whistler.com/resources/pdf/maps/Hiking_Biking_Map_Web3.pdf
I've been getting organised too, packing, cancelling my phone and internet, printing my various coach, train, plane, sightseeing etc tickets. I'm home on May 16th, exciting times! :D

See you lot soon, take care xxx


I know I haven't posted in a while, so here goes...

For a couple of weeks, there were only 3 of us in our flat, as Poppy moved out. Not that she didn't like us or anything, but she was spending most of her time with some friends from work, and someone moved out of their place. Carmen loved Poppy, but liked having the room to herself for a while as she could bring guys back without it being awkward :P

A new girl moved in about 3 weeks ago. Her name is Kat, she's an Aussie and a lovely girl. She's a right laugh as well. A couple of her friends come round quite a lot and they're great too. She wasn't best pleased when Carmen came home with a guy and had loud, drunk sex with him on the bunk below but that was only awkward for a couple of days and things are fine now. 

Bart has shingles. He found some spots on his back just below a shoulder and went to the doctors about a month ago, who gave him tablets. With shingles, the spots are really itchy and attach themselves to a certain nerve ending, so no cream is going to get rid of them. Poor guy. He's heading back to the doctors today or tomorrow as he finally has money to pay for it. Until now, he's been busy paying off his credit card and getting Carmen's car out of the impound. 

My job hasn't been too bad. It's still crap, of course, but it's been pretty quiet lately. I have to say, I'm looking forward to getting out of here and coming home, via the U.S of course. Talking of that, I've booked all my transport and most of my accommodation. I just need to decide which hostel to stay in when I'm in New York. I'm bussing it to Vancouver and then to Seattle a couple of days later, getting a train to a town in California and then bussing it across to San Francisco, and flying to New York. Yay :D

Hope you're all well xx


Christmas and early January

Sorry I haven't posted in a while... quite a lot has happened.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day weren't exactly great. I was working at 7am both days, which means waking up at about 5.30 in order to be at the Whistler Village Gondola at 6.30. I got up at 4.50am on Christmas Day in order to Skype home, as Christmas in my family has been at my house every year since the late 90s. It was good to see my Nan and Uncle, as well as my parents and sister of course, plus Cody phoned me when I was on my way home. I was tired when I got back, so crashed out until midnight, sat on YouTube until about 1am and then went back to bed.

The most notable thing to happen at work lately has been a pervy man, who had taken to staring at men's penises in the toilets and then making comments. Not me, I promise. One of my colleagues recognised him and got him thrown out, and his lift pass was revoked.

New Year's Eve was pretty good. I went to Merlins, a local bar, with my housemate Carmen and two of her friends from home (but living in Vancouver) who were staying the night. We got in just after 6 which was just as well, as a queue to get in formed before 7. I ran into one of my best friends from work, a Chilean girl, and some of her fellow countrywomen. I didn't really fancy sticking around after midnight, so went home. Poppy got back soon after and was promptly sick, Bart got back about an hour later and was sick the next day.

I won another quiz/free meal about a week ago. The title was '2012 - The Year in Review'. The questions included the year's highest-grossing film (The Avengers), biggest-selling book (50 Shades of Grey), most-viewed YouTube video (Gangam Style), the number of goals scored at Euro 2012, and number of medals awarded at the London Olympics. The bonus question (not multiple choice) was the most googled person of the year. The answer: Ohmigod it's Whitney! :D


Drunk Drama!

Sunday was an, erm, eventful night.

So, let me give you a little info on what my housing here is like. There are three staff housing locations for Whistler Blackcomb employees. I live in Glacier (there is also Brio and Westside) which has 7 buildings, 2 of which are staff housing for other companies. There must be at least 1000 of us in total. I live on the bottom floor of Building 5, in a 2 bedroom 4-person unit, so I'm paying the lowest rent possible which means more money for drinking/Vegas etc. :D

After work on Sunday, some colleagues were meeting in Building 2's common room/lounge (every building has one) for a drinking session, so I joined them. Let's just say that a lot of vodka was drunk by me. Some of us then walked down staff hill (or Village Run, as it is called on the ski trail map) and through the village to a colleague's housing complex, which has a communal hot tub. Spent an hour or so in there before someone told us to leave, which we did, but not before someone broke the shower door off it's hinges in the changing room.

I shared a taxi back with two colleagues and a random Geordie guy and half an hour or so later, my housemate Carmen returned in a drunk and emotional state. She and Bart (both lift operators) had gone for drinks with colleagues and she had driven her car down to the village. After getting trashed, Bart ended up driving them home drunk, leaving the road, hitting a sign and getting the car stuck in a ditch. At some point, the cops turned up, the car was impounded for 30 days, Bart had his license confiscated for 90 days and missed getting charged with DUI by the skin of his teeth. He's taken responsibility for paying the resulting fines, which will total about 2-3 grand. Not his finest hour, but there we go.

Other than that, not much has been going on really. I won another free meal at 18 Below (and a mention on WB House's Facebook page), a five minute walk from my building, where staff dinners are served between 5.30 and 6.30 every night. It was a geography-related trivia quiz, about places beginning with the letter 'H'. Some questions I have remembered:

Name the only US state which begins with the letter 'H'.

Which US state is Cape Hatteras in? Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia?

Which country does Honduras not border? Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize or Nicaragua?

Hokkaido is the southernmost Japanese island. True or False?

Where are the Hebrides? Off the west coast of Scotland, off the south coast of Ireland, off the south coast of Greenland or off the north coast of France?

Give them a try.... :D



I finally got to ski yesterday, for the first time in seven years no less. I took an extra couple of days to break my ski boots in, those things are bitches (not just my ones, but in general). A girl I know who is training to be a ski instructor here took me out to get me used to it all again. She thought I did very well, much better than she thought I would on account of how nervous I was. I enjoyed a lot too, although my calves and feet hurt like hell afterwards. We had lunch at the Roundhouse, it felt strange for me to be there as a guest instead of an employee.

Talking of the Roundhouse, I've only made myself look a fool a couple of times so far. :D First of all, I was putting a tray onto a rack in one of the dining rooms, and gave a paper coffee cup with lid a little shake to see if there was still anything in it. Cold hot chocolate spilled out and just missed this guy walking past. And another day, I was handing out trays to people entering the main food court, and I got so used to people saying thank you to me I automatically said 'you're welcome' a few times to people who hadn't thanked me. Oops!


Starting Work

It's been pretty great over here the last two weeks or so. My flat is full now, Carmen from eastern British Columbia has moved in, she seems very nice. We've now got the internet, so no trekking down to Starbucks and the library to use the Wifi! Blackcomb mountain opened today so Whistler Blackcomb is fully operational and as a result the hill we walk to and from village on is now part of a ski run. Our staff meals in the evening are just across the ski run at Base II in a building in the car park. A gondola from the village passes through on it's way up Blackcomb so I'm rarely going to have to walk up/down that bitch of a hill again! :D

I've had four days of work since Whistler mountain opened, but only have to work a maximum of two days at a time at the moment. Everyone seems nice, and I've been out with a few people on nights out.

Hopefully heading up the mountain tomorrow, after I've bought a helmet :)



Last Thursday and Saturday were training days, so I met my future colleagues then. Seems a nice group of people, and one of them went to secondary school in Baldock with a girl I went to primary school in Enfield with. Small world! My training sessions consist of people working Front of House (Bussers, Cashiers, Food Servers, etc) at my restaurant, while Back of House staff are being trained separately. 

On Saturday, me and Bart hit the clubs in Whistler Village for a night out. As a returning staff member this season, he knows a lot of people around here and one person we ran into, a nightclub promoter, got us in free and bought us each a drink as well. Not complaining!

We got the internet in our flat today, finally! No more traipsing down a steep hill (which is a bitch to get up again) to the village to use wifi at Starbucks or the library. And when staff dinners start ($7 for soup, salad, a main course, dessert and unlimited 'pop'), I won't have to head down to the supermarkets either!

My final day of training is Friday (when I see my restaurant for the first time), and my first day of work is Saturday, when the mountain opens to visitors. Exciting! Might have a swim at the sports centre tomorrow.


5th/6th November - Settling in

The last two days have been unexciting but good at the same time. I've just been settling in really. We're still yet to get the internet in our unit, so I've been using the Wifi at one of Whistler's three (!) branches of Starbucks. Dinner on Monday night was great, $4.95 for 'Beef Dip Au Jus' and I got a decent pair of skis and poles for a combined $25 on the 6th. Absolute steal! Especially when you consider that the girl I went around with to get our SIN numbers/bank accounts etc in Vancouver paid $600 for her skis alone. Thank goodness for the 'Lost and Found' charity sale, and for Poppy who told me about it in the first place! :D

Watched the NBC coverage of the US election last night when we got back from the sale. It seems that the main 3 US networks (NBC, CBS, ABC) have a corresponding channel in Canada that shows their programmes at the exact time they're broadcast in the States. Obama's victory was already being called by about 7pm Pacific Time, which was before states in two if not three time-zones had finished voting.


3rd/4th November - Off to Whistler!

I found out a couple of days beforehand that I was on the 8am coach to Whistler (as opposed to the one at 12:30) on Saturday 3rd, so made sure I got a decent sleep the night before. When we got down to the coach, it soon became clear that our luggage (as most people had either brought skis with them from home, or taken the advice given to us at the daily orientations, which was to buy skis/boards/boots in Vancouver instead of Whistler) was not going to fit into the luggage hold at the base. As a result, once we took our seats, our driver and a few hostel employees proceeded to load the remaining baggage (mainly long bags containing skis or snowboards) onto the coach, placing them along the aisle. Imagine you're sitting in a coach. The remaining luggage was stacked to head height, along the entire length of the vehicle. If you needed the loo on the way to Whistler, sorry, you were out of luck.

The journey took us around the coast and then up into the mountains. The weather, like every day since I'd landed in Canada, was crap, but it gave the coast, islands and sea a real dramatic beauty. Once at staff housing, I was given my building number and room key, and went off to meet my roomates. The only one who had already moved in was Bart, a 30 year old guy from Queensland who had worked in Whistler the previous season as well. Seems very nice, we spent the rest of the day in front of the TV, watching Moulin Rouge, Bee Movie, Napoleon Dynamite (the film), Sliding Doors, Seinfeld, That 70's Show and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Yesterday, I paid a visit to town with Nick, the Kiwi who was one of my roommates at the hostel in Vancouver. He only had the one roommate in his flat as well, a girl who spent her time reading in her room.  It only took us a few minutes to walk there, down a hill that will become part of a ski run when the mountain opens for visitors on the 22nd. After that, we'll be getting the free staff housing buses to town and back. The pedestrianised area is like a maze, but the architecture is lovely and there are some fantastic shops among the usual ski, snowboard and winter clothes ones.

I got back to find one of the two girls had moved in. Again, she seems lovely, her name is Poppy and she lives in a village between Scunthorpe and Grimsby. The three of us then proceeded to get drunk on wine, spirits and mixers. Cooking pasta out of a Kraft packet has never been so much fun!


1st/2nd November - Stanley Park

I visited Stanley Park both yesterday and today. Yesterday, I walked around part of it in the drizzle/rain/heavy rain/sunshine (Vancouver weather is so changeable, it reminds me of home). The path I followed along the water's edge faced back towards downtown at first, then curved around the headland to face North/West Vancouver and Grouse Mountain. You could barely see Grouse yesterday because of the fog. I had a few drinks last night in the hostel bar with a couple of my roommates. 

Today, after Skyping the parents, I hired a bike because I wanted to see more of the park. I was slightly apprehensive because I hadn't been on a bike for 10 years or so, but once I got going it was fine. I followed the circuit next to the water's edge that goes around the circumference of the park, took me 1 hour 15 minutes. Twas a lot of fun, and the views were great. Stanley really is a beautiful park :D


30th/31st October - First two days in Vancouver

I barely slept during my first night in Canada. Must have been the time difference combined with the fact that my mind just would not switch off. Didn't feel too bad the next day though, which was good because I had jobs to do while in the city.

First, it was off to the Sinclair Center to get my Social Insurance Number (SIN for short). I think it's the Canadian equivalent to the National Insurance number in the UK. Then to the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to get an account and then Rogers to get my SIM/phone. Took much less time than I thought it would, so that was good. Even managed to fit in lunch at Tim Hortons.

Yesterday was a bit of a write-off. Chatted to the parents on Skype which was good and had a $4.95 burger and fries for lunch, but the weather was the same as it was the day before and the day before that: shit! Had a walk around the streets at about 5 ish, just to get some air.I still don't like Vancouver much. But that's not a problem, because I leave for Whistler on Saturday :D


29th October - Leaving England :(

Firstly, the flight. I've had better. I know that personal space is not usually abundant on an aircraft, but the guy next to me wasn't exactly slim and the inconsiderate person in front waited all of 10 minutes into the flight before lowering their seat more or less into my lap. Still, swings and roundabouts, at least the screen built into the seat in front of me was closer.

The entertainment was pretty disappointing. I went on the BA website a few days before the flight and looked into the music choices I could expect on-board. Kind of a shame that pretty much all of the albums that I was looking forward to listening to were absent. I ended up watching an episode each of Parks and Recreation (OK) and Veep (Good), as well as a 3-episode compilation of The Big Bang Theory (Very Good). Read a bit of my eReader as well. I would call it a Kindle but apparently that name only applies to the ones produced by Amazon.

Getting into Canada was easy. All they wanted to see was my Letter of Introduction, which I received in February when my visa application was accepted. Shame I'd used a tree's worth of paper printing all sorts of  stuff because they 'might' have needed to see it. The Skytrain from the airport to the City Centre was great, and then it was down Granville Street to my hostel. I remember thinking Granville Street was a dive back in 2008 when I was in Canada with my family. It hasn't changed. Drunks, Panhandlers, the homeless sleeping in doorways/on the pavement, all making a racket until the early hours. I got to the hostel at about 10pm and that night my entire room (along with half the building) were awoken to the drunken shouts of a trampy woman on the street, yelling at my passing fellow hostel-dwellers to fuck off home to Australia/Ireland/everywhere else. 

Talking of nationalities, The Working Holiday Club (the company I am going to Whistler with) is an Australian company, so the vast majority of people in the hostel are Aussies or Kiwis. Having said that, the guy sleeping on the bunk above mine is a Brummy, and I've met guys from Plymouth and Northallerton as well.