5 days in Toronto

In this blog I’m going to talk about what we’ve experienced and some things I’ve learned from being out here in Toronto.

We visited the Eaton centre which is a gigantic shopping mall with pretty much everything you can think of. It reminded me of New York City with the types of shops they have in there. It’s a must for shopping lovers.

A little tip for you foodies, a traditional dish out here is called Poutine which tastes so good. You can get it with all kinds of toppings. A must while your in Canada. Also try Canada Dry it’s better than 7’Up or Sprite, we’re hooked.

On one of the days we went to the Distillery District where they had the Toronto Christmas Market on, which was so cosy. If you visit around Christmas time definitely come here but don’t waste your money on a drink like we did, (we got a hot chocolate with Bailey’s that cost $9 and it was a small cup).

On route there, I noticed something, in Toronto you could be walking down a nice neighbourhood, then five minutes later you could find yourself in a rough one without even turning a corner.

On another day we went to High Park which has the big maple leaf on the grass and it was beautiful. I learned that they have black squirrels in Canada (which are adorable by the way, and seem to like to pose for my camera) as well as the one’s I’m used to seeing in England. I’ve been to some beautiful parks in England but they never have warning signs up for coyotes and poison ivy so that was a first but don’t be scared off, there’s plenty of people around, just make sure you like dogs because you’ll see a lot of them there which reminds me, (poodles seem to be the dog of choice here). I definitely recommend going to High Park if your visiting Toronto as it gets you out of the city for a bit and into nature. Across the road from a section of the park is a sea front which is also lovely to take a stroll along.

We visited Nathan Phillips Square with the big Toronto sign, and it was so Christmasy this time of year with a big Christmas tree up and all of the lights. They have an ice rink in front of the sign which was packed, but we didn’t skate on it. While we were there we tried another traditional Canadian treat called Beavers Tail, (no it’s not an actual tail of a beaver) it’s a desert which again you can get with all kinds of toppings. It’s delicious and perfect on a cold winters night.

We went to the movies out here too which was different to the UK. Behind the counter they only served salted popcorn which you could pour butter over using the dispensers. They had other flavours in packets too obviously but cheese flavour was not one I was expecting to see. The auditorium as they call it was smaller than what we’re used to and you don’t have assigned seats. It was also a lot busier than back home, all the seats were virtually gone and at the end of the movie everyone clapped, now I don’t know if that’s a thing out here or it was just because the film (CoCo) was great but I thought it was cute.

We ended our last day here with Niagara Falls. Wow. It’s the most incredible waterfall I’ve seen in my life. The falling water is mesmerising. You have to go to Niagara Falls.

Overall my impression of Toronto was great, for a city the people are very polite I say that because usually in cities you’ll find people are a bit more rude than outside because everyone’s always rushing but you could get on a bus and the driver will ask how you are in Toronto but in England sometimes they don’t even acknowledge you. Canadians also seem very grateful towards common curtesy, if you hold a door open for someone they will really thank you for it!

This has just been my experience anyone reading this might have had a different story to tell. Let me know in the comments if you do, I’d love to hear about it or if you have any questions or need tips I’d also love to help!

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Day 3: Iceland

We finished Iceland with a “free” walking tour of Reykjavík booked through City Walk. I say free with quotation marks just as they advertise it because you are actually supposed to give some money at the end. There is no set price for the tour you pay only what you think it’s worth and trust me it’s worth it.

We walked on a frozen lake afterwards which was really weird because part of it was water where geese and swans swam and the rest was ice where people walked and slid around. Our tour guide Tomas told us people ice skate and even play football on the frozen lake.

Something I seem to do in most countries I go to is visit the locals places of worship, so we went to a church which was as beautifully white on the inside as the snow on the outside.

I didn’t know Iceland was known for its hotdogs until I got here so we decided to see what all the fuss was about and went to Reykjavík’s most famous hotdog stand (thanks to Bill Clinton) and I can say that it really is nothing special the best bit about it for me was the crunchy onion but that’s about it.

All in all Iceland has been amazing and I definitely plan to come back here in the future.

(More photos to come)!

Day 1: Iceland

We arrived in Iceland on little to no sleep due to the time of our flight which made the start of our journey a bit of a haze.

It didn’t take long to snap out of this though, when we reached Keflavik airport we were waiting for our driver near the automatic doors which opened anytime anyone went near them. This meant that the snow which was falling down was being blown at us every time the door opened by the wind that came with it.

Our journey to the hotel was an experience in itself, due to the snow the roads were a bit icy, which meant our shuttle bus swerved a little here and there but the driver was so relaxed about it, it didn’t unnerve us. After all, as he said himself they are used to these kinds of conditions.

One of my favourite things about travelling is being able to learn things you wouldn’t know unless you actually went out there and there not always things anyone else knows just because they’ve been to the same place because everyone has their very own experiences.

Here’s some things I learned on my first day in Iceland:

-Walking in the snow is like walking in water just with less resistance.

-Iceland is VERY expensive.

-You CAN budget out here if you are willing to do some walking and make your own food bought from cheap supermarkets (Bonus is the one we went to).

-If you aren’t use to the snow, what you consider layers, double it.

-Icelandic people are pleasant and polite.

-There are Subway restaurants everywhere.

We spent most of our first day relaxing and exploring our surroundings so there’s not much else I can say but tune in tomorrow for day 2!

The worst of its kind

As Zika virus continues to spread on a global scale, more is revealed about the insect responsible.
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Meet Aedus.
It is the mosquito responsible for spreading the latest outbreak, known as Zika virus. It was named by German entomologist Johann Wilhelm Meigen after the Greek word meaning ‘odius’ or ‘unpleasant,’ a fitting name given to the breed of mosquito known for its spreading of disease. They used to only be found in hot climate continents such as Africa and Asia but they are now found in all continents around the world apart from the Antarctica, due to its freezing conditions.
It has been said that the mosquito was originally a forest specimen that had over time, adapted itself to rural and suburban, human environments.

They have recently come to attention since the outbreak of Zika virus in 2015. The virus was first discovered in Africa in 1947 and has since spread on a global scale because of Aedus mosquitoes. It was thought that the increase of the species in different parts of the world was aided through the fault of human activity in the international trade of used tyres. The mosquitoes lay their eggs on objects such as these and the eggs are then able to withstand very dry conditions, without water. Aedus can also undergo a period of delayed development known as diapause during the winter time ensuring their chances of survival.

They are distinguishable from other breeds of mosquito on sight due to their black and white markings which cover their body and legs. Another difference between them and other strands of the insect is that they are only active during the day time, unlike other mosquitoes which are mainly found at night. They are thought to be most active during the morning and evening just before it starts to get dark.
This genus of mosquito does not just consist of only one kind however; there are over 700 hundred different types of Aedus that carry a variety of diseases. Two of the most well known species of this kind are Aedus Aegypti and Aeudus Albopictus. They are responsible for carrying viruses that can cause dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile fever, chikungunya, eastern equine encephalitis, Zika virus and various others which are less notable.

These types of mosquitoes can be monitored through the use of ovitraps which is a device that was originally invented to monitor the Aedus, in order to get an insight into their breeding patterns and to study their eggs. They are now also used to detect early signs of diseases, in hope of preventing further outbreaks. They also give an insight into the hotspots of the Aedus breeding locations allowing people to know where they are in danger of high infestation of the species. Since the creation of the invention there are now lethal ovitraps which are used to kill the larvae and adult mosquitoes that enter.

To prevent catching any diseases which are spread by the Aedus mosquito, people are being advised to use insect repellent containing DEET, to wear loose fitted clothing that covers the arms and legs and to sleep under a mosquito net when travelling to high risk areas.

Travelling on a budget

 

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Photograph by: Mehrnaz Karimi

Travelling on a budget can be a tricky thing, but assuming you already have some money saved up for your big adventure, you may be worried that what you are taking isn’t going to be enough. However, there are surprisingly many ways of managing your money sensibly whilst travelling.

Depending on where it is that you plan on travelling, determines how much money you will need to take with you. If you were thinking about heading off to Australia, you’re looking at taking around four figures, but there are many other destinations that you can travel to on a three figure budget. If you’re looking at travelling to destinations from the United Kingdom to Europe, you can fly to your first destination from some of the smaller airports in the country at a very reasonable price, with costs varying, depending on which destination you decide to start your adventure off in. Don’t think that you will have to fly from destination to destination though, because once the first flight is over, you can travel to all of the other destinations in many other ways if flying isn’t your preferred way of travelling. Take Europe for instance, if you prefer a journey more grounded, then you can travel all over Europe on the train.

Now that we’ve tackled the transport side of things, the next concerns are accommodation, food and generally surviving off of your budget.
When it comes to accommodation, try not to be too picky, although the sound of a hostel doesn’t really sound appealing, many people find themselves pleasantly surprised, because if you’re lucky enough to get a room in a decent hostel, you may find that it is actually nicer than some hotel rooms. There are even some perks if you choose to stay in a hostel, as accommodation and food can come hand in hand. This is the case for certain parts of Australia, where some of the hostels provide jobs in cleaning and reception work in return for your stay, so you wouldn’t actually be paying anything for your keep.
This is why it is good to go travelling on a budget with an open mind and a willingness to actually do a bit of labour, even if it doesn’t sound appealing to work whilst travelling. Another perk of staying in a hostel is the fact that there are going to be tons of other explorers just like yourself that will be staying there, so you may find that if you have gone alone you may leave wherever you are with a phone book full of new friends or you may even meet people to continue your journey with.
Some hostels also include food by providing a continental breakfast, so that’s one meal out of three that will save you a bit of cash.

There are also many people who provide work for accommodation at their own properties if you decide that a hostel is not for you. If you choose to go down this route, food may also come provided just as they would in some hostels in return for work and you may find that you are provided with more than just one meal unlike a hostel depending on how much work you are willing to do.

So go with an open mind, be prepared to work, and above all, follow these tips and you may find yourself coming home after your travels with a bit of extra money in your pocket.

The beauty of learning another language

Learning another language is a difficult yet enjoyable challenge. It has its many benefits, and from my own experiences I can safely say that it can be very self rewarding.
Here are just some of the beauties of learning another language.

1. You increase your knowledge
They say we learn something new everyday, and although sometimes these lessons are not always intellectually stimulating your still expanding your knowledge because you know something now which you did not know before. Therefor, if you are learning another language then you are expanding your intelligence in that respect.

2. Opportunities to widen your community
If you are learning to converse in another language, you are broadening your chances of mixing in new circles of people. People who you may not have mixed with before due to a language barrier. Therefor you are widening your social circle.

3. For the sake of travel
Most people will learn a foreign language with the intention of one day travelling to a specific country that speaks that language. That’s not to say that you have to learn another language just to travel to a certain place, but knowing how to communicate can definitely come in handy. The natives will view you in a different way, if they see that a foreigner has taken the time to learn to communicate in their mother tongue and you’ll be able to get yourself around with more ease.

4. To boost your CV
Many employers ask for candidates who are multi lingual. Even if they do not ask for this specifically, it never hurts to have something extra on your CV, which may set you aside from other candidates.

5. It can be fun
This can be for many reasons depending on your preferred method of learning. If you are in a classroom environment then you will get to meet new people who have their own reasons for wanting to learn. No matter how you choose to learn however, whether that be in a classroom environment or just one to one with a tutor, learning expressions and phrases of other languages can be both enjoyable and humorous.

Whatever your reason may be for learning another language, delay it no longer, and take the first steps to start reaping the benefits of it today.