Rocky Road (Trip)

When I initially came to live in Canada, I wrote what I thought at the time to be a very long and potentially overly-optimistic ‘bucket list’, outlining everything I wanted to see and do in the time I have here. High on that list was visiting the Canadian Rockies, a trip I was assured repeatedly I could not return home without making.

Plans for the trip were made well in advance, with thanks to my parents, who have never been ones to miss out on an opportunity for a good holiday. It was a team effort – with my mother acting as planner, me as chauffeur and my dad as identifier of any and all trees and birds we saw on the way.

Kelowna

For most people driving from Vancouver to the Rockies, Kamloops is the obvious overnight stop on the way – it’s a little over three-hours drive and right on the Trans-Canada Highway. However, we chose instead to travel a little bit off course and spend a few days in Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley. This was for two reasons – the first being that I had been there before and knew that my parents would love it, and the second being that I googled Kamloops and was thoroughly underwhelmed by what I found.

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The view from the halfway point of Knox Mountain, Kelowna.

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I left my heart in San Francisco

img_4363Spending my formative years – aged roughly 10 to 13 – watching Charmed saw to it that visiting San Francisco was at the top end of my North American bucket list right from the beginning. Damn, that show made it look cool. As did the shed-load of J1 students who ventured there for the summer months year in and year out, while I slaved over the airwaves back home from May to September, vowing that my time would come. Until finally, living on the West Coast of Canada, with just 1,500km separating me from the Golden State City which I craved, it did.

My favourite way to travel is to have a local cart me around from place to place, and show me not only the things that tourists come to a city to see, but also what it’s like to live there. Thus, I am extremely fortunate to have a friend who lives and works in San Francisco, who could do just that. (Hey Kate!) I had roughly three and a half days to spend in the city, and although I saw so much during my time there, I only wish that I had given myself longer.

San Fran like a local

The Castro & Dolores Park
As my friend lives in The Castro, it was our base for most of the trip. The area was one of the first LGBT neighbourhoods in the US, comes complete with rainbow pedestrian crossings, and is also home to the beautiful Castro Theatre, which unfortunately, I could only appreciate from the street, as time did not permit me to see a show there. (*cries for days*)

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Dusk at Dolores Park.

Dolores Park, located between The Castro and Mission districts was the first stop on our San-Fran-like-a-local tour. The 16-acre park combines two of the best things any public space can provide – epic city views, and ample availability for creeping on other people’s dogs. Other park features include a guy dressed in teeny-tiny speedos giving out free suncream, and the Truffle Man, who will sell you edibles, should that be your idea of a good time, and comes with his own page on Yelp. For an added good time, visit the nearby Bi-Rite Creamery, and if you’re as lucky as we were, witness a colony of nudists cycling by as you awkwardly slurp your ice-cream.

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The Night Josh Tillman came to our… Local concert venue

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Father John Misty (Josh Tillman)

To be able to utterly captivate a crowd with your stage presence while barely uttering a single syllable between songs is a talent in and of itself, and it’s one that Father John Misty proved he has in abundance at the Orpheum in Vancouver on Tuesday night.

The Indie singer/song-writer/all round top lad, (real name: Josh Tillman) now twice risen from the ashes, is continuing his North American tour off the back of his second studio album ‘I Love You, Honeybear‘. The record is an easy pick as one of the best of 2015, and can be credited with making the listener feel a lot of feelings. Mostly of cynicism.

Tuesday night’s congregation consisted mostly of beards, man buns, and skinny trousers, as what I can only assume was the Commercial Drive community made their way to Downtown for the gig. You could be forgiven for not knowing whether the haze that filled the theatre was the result of a smoke machine, or just from the sheer volume of people smoking spliffs inside.

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Sleepy in Seattle

Pike Place Market, Seattle

Pike Place Market

As US cities go, there’s very little to attract the international traveler to Seattle. Bar a love for Grey’s Anatomy, this Washington city never came under my radar, until I moved to Vancouver and consulted a map. With the knowledge that it was less than a three-hour drive and a short stop at US customs away, it seemed impertinent not to visit. Thus, ignoring the pang of pain that only comes with seeing how weak the Canadian dollar is against USD, we set off for the weekend.

We were women on a budget, with roughly just 36 hours at our disposal, but it was enough to fit in as much as you need to see to get a feel of the city.

Pike Place Market
The fact that the first ever Starbucks counts as one of Seattle’s greatest attractions probably tells you all you need to know about this city. Tourists literally queue for the guts of an hour just to get a coffee there. I lack that kind of commitment, so instead I took a poorly focused picture and walked away to seek a caffeine fix elsewhere.
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Moving away is hard to do

snoopyAt some point, in unspoken agreement, it was decreed by the emigrants of the world, or at least by the emigrants of MY world, that we would pretend to outsiders that it was easy. When anyone from back home would ask what it’s like to pack up and move to the other side of the world, we would all reply something to the tune of ‘it’s great, I’m really loving it here’.

I’ll hold my hands up and be the first to admit that I am 100% guilty of sugar coating my experience in Canada so far when people ask. Sometimes ‘it’s great’ is just the easier answer to give to someone, especially when the alternative is ‘actually it’s been really tough – finding work is hard, I’m broke and homesick and the chocolate here doesn’t even taste like chocolate’.

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Easy listening for the podcast virgin

The great podcast revolution came in late 2014, when the popularity of Sarah Koenig’s Serial exploded across the world. People who had never before had any interest in radio programs suddenly became hooked on the story of the 1999 murder of high school student Hae Min Lee and her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, who’s currently serving life in prison for her death.

Save for Serial, podcasts don’t generally receive the same kind of recognition and mainstream acclaim as television series and documentaries enjoy, despite them often providing just as much entertainment. With that in mind, I’ve put together a short, and by no means definitive list of podcast series for the podcast virgin.

This American Life
This American Life is the show that started me on the road of podcast consumption several years ago. As many fans will already be aware, Serial is actually a spinoff of This American Life, as the aforementioned Sarah Koenig is one of its producers. The hour-long weekly programme is presented by Ira Glass – who’s voice is every bit as radio perfect as his name. Each episode is a work of journalistic non-fiction and based around a theme – made up of a number of acts. You’ll love this podcast because Ira’s voice will lull you into a state of relaxation, and at the end of each hour you’ll feel like you’re the smarter for listening to it.

The Moth
The Moth is a non-profit group based in New York who focus on the art of storytelling. This podcast is a recording of their storytelling events held across the States and further afield (they even recorded one in Dublin). The stories are often quite simple, and tend to vary in length, but can wrap you up to such an extent that you’ll be caught on the bus either laughing out loud or shedding a tear.

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