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A few months ago, my good friend Erik Carlson, a real estate agent in Vancouver, interviewed me about my experience living in London England, vs my life in Vancouver Canada as part of his quarterly newsletter.
It’s a pretty nifty interview if I do say so myself, so I figured I’d share it with you!
Name: Claus Gurumeta
Where I Live Now: London, England, UK
My ‘Must-Do’ List:
- London has an impressive array of museums to satisfy everyone’s interests: from art (classic, modern, contemporary), to natural history, to historical jewels, weaponry, and fashion, you’ll find a museum in London. Most impressively, most museums are free of charge!
- Explore one of London’s many markets, whether it is the weekend markets in Brick Lane, or the daily markets of Brixton or Camden, they are a must-do!
- London’s pub-culture is impressive, with a multitude of different pubs anywhere you look. Definitely try out a few, and taste the local room-temperature ales for a change!
Insider Tips: If you plan to catch a musical in the West End, pre-buy your tickets to get the seats you want! Yes, you can sometimes buy discounted tickets on the day of the show, but you’ll end up with the worst seats in the house, and still pay for it. Also, don’t be afraid to walk off the main tourist areas and try a local pub for lunch (or for beers); there are so many great options around the city that there is no reason to stick to the tourist traps. If you see a recommendation in your Lonely Planet guidebook, do yourself a favour and skip it!
My Biggest Struggle Here: Shopping for specialty groceries. It is impressive, despite being such similar cultures, how hard it is to find certain ingredients which are easily found at home!
In Vancouver I Lived In:North Vancouver
What I Miss Most About Vancouver: Sushi! Other than Japan, every other destination I’ve ever lived in / visited disappoints when it comes to matching Vancouver’s amazing sushi.
Favorite Place(s) To Wine, And To Dine, In Vancouver: I really like Italian Kitchen on Alberni St for a nice dinner, but mostly you’d find me chowing down on cheap eats and some beers at The Fountainhead Pub on Davie St. On a summer day, nothing beats the patio at the Cactus Club on English Bay.
Where would YOU live if you had the opportunity to move abroad?
Happy Canada Day 2014!
I still hold the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics as one of my favourite memories of Living in Vancouver. I still remember the excitement circulating in the city during the entire two weeks of the Olympics. Most dramatic was Canada’s winning the Gold medal on the hockey game over the USA. The excitement!
As Canada prepares to battle for gold again, four years later, at the Sochi Olympics, I am rooting for my country from the UK. Go Canada!
Last week my friend Samantha and I went on our first helicopter tour. The ride took us around Burrard Inlet, all the way along the coast of the North shore, before turning around and going all the way to UBC, and Jericho Beach., before flying over False Creek, circling the downtown core.
The experience was unbelievable, and the views of the city and the mountains on a clear summer day were outstanding! Here are some photos I took during the helicopter ride!
Helijet tours start at CDN$99 per person for the 10-minute tour, based on how many people are in your group. Standard for a couple is CDN$300 for both.
The Pacific National Exhibition fair is back in Vancouver at its usual home, in the grounds of Playland in East Vancouver.
The fair experienced some cut backs this year (the one I was most sad about wad the Pyrotechnic Spectacular nightly show, which was worth the entry price alone!). With these cutbacks, the fair is able to provide goers a 20% discount over last year’s prices, so you can now visit the fair for only CDN$16 (CDN$14 if you pre-buy online!).
The usual attractions are still intact, including the popular Superdogs, the hilarious pig races, as well as the breath-taking Peking Acrobats. The summer night concerts have a number of popular singers gracing the stage at night, and tribute bands also play at night.
You can also walk around the agricultural stages and take a look at the horses, cows, pigs and sheep (yes, that sort of stuff is interesting to city folk like myself!).
New this year is the Sportacular musical / sports show, which was very cool (especially the motorcycle tricks!), and the short but sweet 80’s Forever dance show. These shows combined don’t add up to the canceled Pyrotechnic Spectacular, but they are a great time.
The rotating exhibit this year is about Mongolia’s historic leader Genghis Khan; admission to the exhibit is CDN$3 per person. I found the exhibit to be quite interesting, showcasing a collection of artifacts and weapons that are centuries old.
If you want to go on the rides be prepared to spend extra as the rides are not included in this ticket (you can either pay for a few rides or get an all-in pass). Also, be prepared to spend quite a bit on food, as the usual suspects (wiggle chips, mini donuts, sno-cones, kettle corn, and cotton candy) can get a little pricey. Tip: Make sure to bring a water bottle to refill along the day, as even water costs CDN$4 at the park!
Check out the official website of the PNE to see what shows are playing when, so you can plan your trip to the PNE. Also, note that the park will be closed using both Mondays of the run of the PNE, to aid in the cost cutting.
The Sea to Sky Highway, which connects Vancouver to the resort town of Whistler, is one of the most scenic highways I’ve ever traveled.
The ride takes just over one hour since it was renovated for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, but there are plenty of view points that will allow drivers to stop and really take in all the scenery in.
A couple of the stops look out into the ocean and the gulf Islands, but my favourite stops include Shannon Falls, near the town of Squamish, and Brandywine Falls, which my friend Ryan and I only just discovered on our latest drive up!
Vancouver’s iconic urban Stanley Park turns 125 years. An oasis of calm bordering the downtown of the city, Stanley Park is bigger in area than New York City’s famous Central Park, and is one of Vancouver’s most popular attractions, with over eight million visitors per year!
Stanley Park is surrounded by a large portion of Vancouver’s famous Seawall. The park is also home to other popular attractions in Vancouver, including the Vancouver Aquarium; the summer outdoor theatre series Theatre Under the Stars; horse-drawn carriage tours, the Stanley Park Train (which hosts the Christmas Bright Nights and the Halloween Ghost Train), and the summer outdoor movie series Fresh Air Cinema.
The park also boasts three beaches and a public swimming pool, as well as plenty of gardens, open spaces, picnic spots, and trails.
Last weekend, Vancouver dressed up in rainbows to celebrate LGBT Pride once again. Vancouver’s Pride celebrated their 35th anniversary in the city, and this was by far the most incredible Pride I’ve ever been to. From the events leading up to the parade (my favourite being Picnic in the Park, the weekend prior), to the amazing 2013 parade, Vancouver Pride did not disappoint.
Here are some photos of the Pride parade itself, the Pride Marketplace and beer garden party at the end of the parade, as well as random displays of pride around Vancouver’s West End.
The 5th of August 2013 is British Columbia Day, a celebration of the province I live in. It really is simply an excuse to have a holiday (there are no special celebrations for the day). However, how about I share some photographs I’ve taken of the beautiful scenery from around my province?!
We’ve had beautiful sunsets all week long in Vancouver. One of my favourite sunset-watching spots is at English Bay, in downtown’s West End.
Yesterday I couldn’t resist the beauty of it, and ended up jumping in the water with my friend Steve. First time I swim in English Bay in YEARS… and it was amazing!
Spring is one of my favourite parts of the year, whether I am home or away. This year, Vancouver treated us to a dry, sunny and warm Spring that was very unseasonal (it has now started raining and gotten chillier, after two weeks of blissful weather).
During my breaks at work, I sometimes like going around for a walk around downtown Vancouver’s West End, and was able to get some beautiful shots of the area with cherry blossoms in full bloom!
Going on a cruise ship kind of goes against everything that I believe travel should be: too many tourists congregating inside a vessel that takes them all from one place to another, docking for half a day (if that!) in each port, allowing these tourists to barely graze the surface of the places they visit.
Too much organization, too much control, too rushed, and too much… well, relaxation, I guess?
That’s why you should be as surprised as I am that, not only did I go on a cruise last summer, but I actually enjoyed it. Like, quite a bit.
In August 2012 I had the opportunity (through my job as a travel agent) to go on a cruise to Alaska with three friends. I have always wanted to see Alaska, and cruising is probably the best way to do so. Yes, it is likely the most tourist way to do it too, but the scenery along the coastline is incredible, and very worth it.
My home for the week was the Sapphire Princess, one of Princess Cruises super ships with a capacity of nearly 2,700 passengers. We got inside staterooms, which worked out fine as we didn’t spend too much time inside.
The itinerary: Depart right from Vancouver, and make our way up the coast, stopping in the small town of Ketchikan, on to Alaska’s capital Juneau, then on to the gold-rush era town of Skagway, before cruising for two days along Alaska’s beautiful glaciers. The cruise stopped nearby the state’s biggest city: Anchorage, where, after a day hanging out around the city, we flew back home on a midnight flight.
As Mentioned, the cruise was gigantic. As it was sold out during our run, that means we were traveling with almost 2,700 others. Surprisingly however, the ship is so spacious that it never felt crammed or overwhelming.
There are multiple restaurants on board, to which one can go for dinner. The menu for the day will be the same at all restaurants, so it does give flexibility on where to eat; with open dining from 5:30pm to 10:00pm, we never had to wait long for a table. The ship also has three special restaurants in which guests can eat for an additional $20. We tried the steakhouse which was actually very good (great service, delicious meat).
The buffet restaurant is ok for breakfast or lunch, but even then it’s not very good… That might be because I’m not a big fan of mass-produced buffets though. We found ourselves usually eating lunch (or even breakfast… or midnight snacks) at the International Cafe on the main Piazza, where you could grab pre-made sandwiches and pastries on the go. We also visited the pizzeria once, which offers delicious freshly made, Italian-style pizzas.
For nightlife, the cruise has multiple bars / lounges. We usually had a couple of drinks a night, but it really wasn’t a huge party environment – then again, the average age for the cruise was probably around 60 years old! There were a few guests around our age, but not too many. The nightclub was virtually empty every night, and even the bars were quite slow, so we did find ourselves having pretty early nights.
Other entertainment included daily shows, some which were better than others. I actually liked the musical productions to be mostly alright, although my friend Ryan (who worked for years with Princess Cruises) didn’t like them at all. There was a night with a comedian which was probably the best of them all, and a night with a magician which was pretty lame. The entertainment talent was pretty good, although there were some major weak links.
The ship hosted two formal nights, in which wearing formal clothes is highly encouraged. This pays tribute to a time when cruising was glamorous, and old-school, hardcore cruisers will be decked out every night, while the rest of us will be sort-of dressed up for formal nights. Even though it is “mandatory” to dress up for formal nights, there were still quite a few people wearing very casual clothes. One of the formal nights of the cruise included a champagne waterfall, which was pretty cool.
Other facilities include the outdoor heated pools / jacuzzi tubs which were great to hang out in during downtime, a gym which I never used, and an outdoor cinema which lays a movie every night – complete with popcorn!- which is awesome… even though the cold Alaskan air at night meant we had to dress up like Eskimos even in summer!
The cruise itself is beautiful, with a distinctively Italian style, marble floors and dark oak accents. The highlight of the cruise itself (visually) is the Piazza area, in which formal nights are hosted.
Overall, as I said earlier, I did enjoy the cruise experience. Not so sure I am ready to drop my travel ways to become a cruiser, but I wouldn’t be opposed to going on another cruise (perhaps a more lively destination with a younger crowd!). Princess was great for the service / food / drinks, and the ship really is beautiful.
As for Alaska, it didn’t disappoint in any way. It is a beautiful part of the world, so pristine, it’s definitely worth checking out. I will be writing about each of the ports of call in the coming days, so stay tuned!