Monthly Archives: August 2013

Best Summer Ever: Newfoundland

July – Newfoundland

We flew into St. John’s (since the 14 hour ferry is more expensive…?) and stayed with my roommate from when I lived there a few years back. I always love hanging out with Jill. She’s always a lot of fun, especially when she’s drinking champagne. (Hi Jill!)

We were only in town a day when we found Allan Hawco, star of the TV show “Republic of Doyle” on the street with his signature muscle car, waiting to shoot a sequence for next season’s show. Maria didn’t miss the photo op, though she was sad that he had his shirt on.

DSC_9268Quidi Vidi in St. John’s

At Cape Spear we saw whales feeding on capelin.


We hiked the North Head Trail up Signal Hill, an old favourite of mine. Here is a the view of Ft. Amherst.

We also spent a day visiting the #2 Mine on Bell Island.

On the way back we crossed paths with some dolphins!

We left for Fogo Island after a week, which to me was to be the ultimate highlight of our whole trip. There’s something about going to Fogo Island for me that can’t fully be explained, especially when I’ve been away for so long. It’s a 4.5 hour ride from St. John’s, and that just gets you to the ferry. We had done the trip without a car, so we took the bus to Gander and had banked on the kindness of strangers to get the extra 45 minutes out the rural Gander Bay Road to the terminal. When I was a kid, you could hitchhike anywhere in Newfoundland, and it wouldn’t be long before someone picked you up.

We’d come prepared!

I wasn’t sure how long we’d have to spend on the side of the road, and was astonished to find it only took 6 minutes before we were picked up by a great guy named Randy. He told us he was only going as far as a bridge that’s about halfway there, but that was fine, we’d just find another ride the rest of the way.

When we got to the causeway at the halfway point, he decided to just take us the rest of the way to the ferry. Just for the hell of it. Just because he was an awesome guy. He wouldn’t take any money for gas, and by 2pm we were at the ferry dock. Unreal. I was worried be stuck in Gander overnight.

At the ferry we had no problem finding a ride across the island. We weren’t even on the boat yet and we met a guy who secured a ride for us with his niece and her husband- who happened to be the first cousin of my good friend from Fogo. That’s Fogo – everyone knows someone, or has a relation to them. We made it to our destination before dinner time. It made the homecoming that much more sweet.

It was not only incredible to be back home on Fogo Island, but it was sweetened by being able to bring Maria with me and share my spiritual home with her. (Corny!) We had traveled to the most north-eastern tip of Canada, and stayed in a heritage home that was only metres away from the most north-eastern tip on the whole island.

DSC_9974The Sexton house, where we stayed.

From the kitchen window at the back of the house, we watched minke whales feeding as the sun began to set. From across the road at the front of the house, we saw humpback whales breaching and leaping into the air. Fogo island has a certain kind of magic that can’t be explained. Those who make the effort to travel out there immediately understand it.

DSC_9721View from the kitchen

DSC_9955View from the window above the kitchen sink.

DSC_9934View from my favourite spot in the attic.

Town of Tilting:
DSC_9715The new Fogo Island Inn in Joe Batt’s Arm.

Eastern_TickleA view of Eastern Tickle on the north side of the island, hiking toward the small inlet called Lion’s Den.

DSC_9804Pitcher plant (think Newfoundland’s version of the Venus Flytrap.)

DSC_9921View of Lion’s Den, where my grandfather’s family once lived before they moved into the town of Fogo. If you can read the plaque you’ll see our family mentioned there.

FogoPanoramic of the town of Fogo.

The following are from the Bleak House Museum in Fogo, where many of my family’s personal items are on loan:
We had timed our trip to see my friend Craig compete in The Fogo Island Punt Race, a somewhat new annual event that features a rowboat race across the open Atlantic ocean – 11 kms there and back. The race had been scheduled for Saturday, but was hastily postponed on Friday night for fear of rough seas the next day. Turns out the next day was in fact, a great day for rowing, and that Sunday, the day of the race, turned out to be challenging for everyone. 3 teams had to be taken off the water due to rough seas.

Craig and Kevin did it though, winning the race in 1 hour and 50 minutes – a time Maria had precisely predicted the day before! The next team came in 28 minutes later.

We left Fogo with Craig and returned to St. John’s for our flight back to Toronto. I always hate to leave the island. It never fails to break my heart, a sentiment shared by most people who visit there. The only thing that makes it possible is knowing that one day I’ll be back. Every return there for me is a great recharge, a resettling of molecules overly-jostled by travel and the experience of other cultures.  One day I’d love to have a summer home there.

Toronto (Part II)

We had just about a week to say our farewells to friends and family back in Toronto. We had to pack our things in preparation for our move to Mongolia, and collect all of the things we were told might be hard to get there. I took the opportunity in Toronto to invest in some photography lights, so that upon our arrival to Ulaanbaatar I will have with me a portable photo studio. Something to keep me occupied during those long cold winters.

We said our goodbyes for another few years, and left for BC to see my family one more time.


So begins the next part of our lives – a two (or more) year stint in Mongolia where we will work as teachers. Other than work, I’ll be busy padding my photography portfolio, working on a novel I’ve outlined over the summer, and might even DJ a bit on the side (brought my mixer with me just in case!) I have a feeling our lives there will provide ample material for creative pursuits.

After 5 months of being on the road, constantly moving from place to place and living out of bags and suitcases, we’re both ready to do nothing for at least the next year. Nothing seems more exciting to both of us right now than the idea of getting to our new apartment, unpacking, and starting this next chapter.


Posted by on August 7, 2013 in Life Abroad, Oh Canada


Best Summer Ever: The 5 week honeymoon – Atlantic Canada

New Brunswick

We left for Moncton in mid-June and connected with Philip, a great friend we had met in Korea who had returned home a year before us. He lives in an amazing heritage home with no one around for kilometres, so we did what should be done naturally in a place such as that. We partied.

After a few days we hit the road with Philip and went to the seaside town of Shediac, where I had spent many of my summers growing up…

…as well as the Hopewell Rocks…


…and Andy’s Dummies…

In Saint John we had a night of Roller Derby and an impromptu DJ set in some pub.


We didn’t spend much time there, so we just saw a few sights and gorged on seasonal seafood, artisan cheese, and Cow’s ice cream. SO GOOD. PEI is a great place to get fat.

Nova Scotia

I have a couple of friends who are also global wayfarers, who had happened to be residing in Halifax. Maria and I had been floating Halifax as a possible place where we might like to settle upon our permanent return to Canada, but neither of us had ever been there. (We’d just heard from everyone about how awesome it is.) Toronto does nothing for us, Vancouver is too expensive, both of us like the coast, and Newfoundland doesn’t have everything we’re looking for. So we spent a couple of weeks in Halifax getting a feel for the city, and having a look around the coastal vicinity.

LewisThe Maud Lewis house in the Nova Scotia Art Gallery


Next: Newfoundland

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Posted by on August 6, 2013 in Life Abroad


Best Summer Ever

April – Thailand / Vancouver Island

I started April in Thailand – finishing up a CELTA (ESL teaching certification) course I was taking to broaden my teaching skills. During my stay there I made some great friends both in the CELTA program and at the Anusarn Cabaret in Chiang Mai.

Maria and I had seen the cabaret show there the year before, and I had always wanted to go back to do a photo shoot. I contacted the manager, a great guy who graciously allowed me to be a fly on the wall during the course of their nightly preparation and performance.

The level of practice and skill that goes into their performances is awesome. They do a ten show rotation for the sake of anyone who might want to go to the show more than once on their visit to Chiang Mai. If you’re ever there, you must see their show (and tip them after because it’s free!)


See the full collection here.

I departed for Canada shortly after, having not been home for over 3 years. My family lives on Vancouver Island, so I stopped in there for a few weeks to re-adjust to Canadian society. I had heard many stories about ex-pats who undergo reverse culture shock after being away for some time, so relaxing at my mother’s ocean-view condo was a nice way to adapt. Surprisingly jet lag wasn’t much of an issue (I had nothing to do anyway) and the hardest part of readjusting was getting used to how LARGE everything was. Roads, box store complexes, and people. My brother and I spent a lot of time hiking and taking road trips.


May – GTA (Greater Toronto Area)

Returned to Toronto to prepare for our wedding. Met Maria’s parents (followed by a somewhat harrowing KGB-style interrogation upon sitting down with her father,) which was sealed with alcohol and the donning of formal attire.

Two things I learned about weddings; no matter how you want to do it, there will be many people who want you to do things a different way. And no matter what you budget, it’s going to cost twice as much. The minute you say “wedding”, people are generally out to gouge you. They know you’ve got the budget, and they know you want it to be the biggest day ever. Largely due to the kindness of well-connected friends, we were able to keep things somewhat simple and affordable in the end, and none of the preparations got too out of hand. You can read more about the details at Maria’s blog here.

June – GTA / Atlantic Canada

Why have a wedding on one day when you can have it on two? Since we were busy preparing, we didn’t have a lot of time to see friends in May, and we had planned to be out of the GTA by mid-June. While the formal ceremony took place on May 31, we thought it best to have the party on the following day so that we had time to enjoy both events without having to rush around too much and miss the moment. It was still rushed, of course, but it was more enjoyable in the end.

The wedding party at The Great Hall was the best, most bittersweet night of my life. Our friends helped out with the venue, the photography, and the catering. The hardest part was wanting to talk to so many people all night, and having such little time to do it. Sadly, I only got to see a lot of the friends for that night only, and I knew I wouldn’t get to see them again for a few more years. It’s hard to see a night like that end.


Special thanks to David Shuken and Ivona Stefanski for taking the photos that night!

Next: The 5 week honeymoon – Atlantic Canada

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Posted by on August 6, 2013 in Life Abroad, Oh Canada