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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!

If you’re interested in looking at real estate in Vancouver, you can follow Erik on twitter at @ErikLists or visit his page at vancouverdowntownproperty.com.

Name: Claus Gurumeta

Where I Live Now: London, England, UK

What Took Me Here: Mostly adventure; a yearn for change! (But I do work.)

My ‘Must-Do’ List: 
  1. 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!
  2. 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!
  3. 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!

What Surprised Me: Being a foodie, I’m pleasantly surprised to find out cuisine in London is not as bad / unimaginative / tasteless as its reputation holds. There are plenty of amazing ethnic restaurants all over the city, and even pub meals (especially Sunday roasts!) are quite satisfying. Another pleasant surprise is finding out that many things are cheaper than Vancouver, including groceries and clothes, so shop away.

In Vancouver I Lived In: North Vancouver

If Money Were No Object, I Would Live in _____ In Vancouver: I really like the West End in downtown Vancouver. The area is close to everything, but still feels secluded and peaceful at night, and you have Stanley Park for bike rides or runs at your door step.

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.

If I Could Live Anywhere In The World, It Would Be: I’m liking London at the moment, great city with lots to do and explore…think I’ll be happy here for a while!

 *****

Where would YOU live if you had the opportunity to move abroad?

Happy Canada Day 2014!

White Rock Pier, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Canada Flag Flying Proudly in White Rock, Vancouver, BC, Canada (March 2013)

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!

Me back in the Vancouver 2010 Winter olympics, outside of Canada House.

Me back in the Vancouver 2010 Winter olympics, outside of Canada House.

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.

Me and my Friend Samantha, by our Helicopter

Me and my Friend Samantha, by our Helicopter

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!

My Ride... Yea!

My Ride… Yea!

The Coastline

The Coastline

Jericho Beach

Jericho Beach

Stanley Park and Downtown, with North Shore in Background

Stanley Park and Downtown, with North Shore in Background

Vancouver's False Creek

Vancouver’s False Creek

The Very Scenic False Creek

The Very Scenic False Creek

Downtown Vancouver View

Downtown Vancouver View

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.

Welcome to the PNE!

Welcome to the PNE!

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!).

PNE Superdogs Show

PNE Superdogs Show

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!

Ryan and Me at the PNE

Ryan and Me at the PNE

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!

 

One of Vancouver’s coolest summer theatre experiences is the annual Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS), which is held at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park every summer. Two different musicals are played on alternating nights for a period of a month and a half (totalling about 22 of each musical).

I only discovered TUTS last year, when I went with my friend Ryan to see Titanic: The Musical. This year I got the opportunity to see both of the shows, and really enjoyed both of them.

Theatre Under the Stars 2013 Programme

Theatre Under the Stars 2013 Programme

The first show is “Legally Blonde: The Musical.” This show is based on the movie (and novel) by the same name, and follows pretty much the exact storyline, with a few tweaks to the story. The musical is very clever, with little unsung dialogue, meaning that most of the story is portrayed through the songs. The set and costumes are very pink, the songs have a lot of “Oh My God” in them, and the choreography is overly campy, but the musical is fun and left me with a big smile on my face.

The second show, is the 1960′s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” I actually got to see this show twice and really liked it. Set in a corporate environment in the 60′s, the storyline of the musical is surprisingly still relevant to today’s society (anyone who works or has worked for a big corporation can relate to it!). The set for this musical is a bit more simple than Legally Blonde, but still very cool, and it suits the story. The choreography is great, and the script contains quite a few really funny moments. The final song “Brotherhood of Man” is outstanding in both vocals and choreography, and really gets the crowd going.

There are still two shows of Legally Blonde left, and one more chance to catch How to Succeed, so get on it before the season is over! You can buy your tickets at the theatre entrance, or by visiting tuts.ca

Tip: The gorgeous Vancouver summer we’ve had seems to have ended with the first rains; ask for a poncho at the ticket office or bring your own; remember the theatre experience is outside, so seating is completely uncovered!

Stanley Park 125th Birthday

Stanley Park’s 125th Birthday

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.

Dykes on Bikes Kick off the Parade!

Dykes on Bikes Kick off the Parade!

Love in All its Shades

Love in All its Shades

Pink Feathers

Pink Feathers

Rainbow Flags Aplenty

Rainbow Flags Aplenty

Colourful Flower Costumes

Colourful Flower Costumes

We Stand With Russia

We Stand With Russia

One of the Many Colourful Floats

One of the Many Colourful Floats

Another HUGE Rainbow Flag

HUGE Rainbow Flag

The Pride "Marketplace" and Beer Garden Party

The Pride “Marketplace” and Beer Garden Party

Flags at English Bay

Flags at English Bay

The Iconic 'AMAZE-ing Laughter' Statues Dressed up in Drag for Pride

The Iconic ‘AMAZE-ing Laughter’ Statues Dressed up in Drag for Pride

West End Building Dressed Up for Pride 2013

West End Building Dressed Up for Pride 2013

Davie Street, Vancouver

Davie Street, Vancouver

Davie Village Rainbow Crosswalk

Davie Village Rainbow Crosswalk

Davie Village Rainbow Crosswalk

Davie Village Rainbow Crosswalk

 

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?!

VICTORIA

 

VANCOUVER

 

TOFINO

 

WHISTLER

 

OKANAGAN

Sunset at English Bay

Sunset at English Bay – 19th of July 2013

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!

Bidding Vancouver farewell for the rest of the month, as I make my way to Playa del Carmen, Mexico!

20130424-084930.jpg
Happy travels!!

Happy Earth Day!

To celebrate, here are a couple of photos of the giant Earth globe floating inside the foyer at the main entrance to the Vancouver Convention Centre. If you haven’t seen it already, go check it out!

Sapphire Princess at Canada Place Cruise Port

Sapphire Princess at Canada Place Cruise Port

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.

Me, Ryan, Chantelle and James on the Sapphire Princess

Me, Ryan, Chantelle and James on the Cruise Deck

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.

THE CRUISE
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.

Dinner at One of the Restaurants

Dinner at One of the Restaurants

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.

Having Fruity Cocktails at the Bar

Having Fruity Cocktails at the Bar

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.

Champagne Waterfall

Champagne Waterfall

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!

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