Embracing Winter

When winter is long, you need to find a way to enjoy it.  When winter is as long and hard as this one has been, you need to find ways to embrace it. I’ve never been much into any of the winter sports — skiing, snowboarding, or skating, etc. — but I usually like winter.  I have to say that this one has been a real test to my (mostly) positive attitude about winter. For me, it is mostly the lack of daylight and not the cold — this year the cold, the ice and the snow were more than enough.

In Canada, we do a lot of things to celebrate winter, such as a number of winter festivals.  A few years ago, I even did a tour with a friend of mine to winter festivals in Ontario and Quebec.  We went to Niagara, Ottawa, Montreal and, of course, the 300th anniversary of the Winter Carnival in Quebec City.  It was really cold and snowy — but a lot of fun.

This year, I was invited to go with some students from the University of Toronto to visit the Hart House Farm and go for a walk in the woods — talking about the care of trees and winter spirituality and folk traditions.  Our first venture was to be in January but was cancelled when the bus did not arrive.  So, we rescheduled to the first weekend in March.

One of the things about walking through a forest in winter are the sounds. When we first ventured outside, we were greeted with the songs of birds — almost as if they were calling to spring. Once we were on the trail, though, the silence is amazing.  Then the wind would pick up and the dry tree branches would tremble, sound like the Hag of Winter rattling her bones.

Here are some of the pictures of this outing into the woods to embrace the beauty that is winter in Ontario.

winter hike
We begin our trek to the trails.
Pine tree
Pine tree
Tree branches
The wind blew through the dry branches
sun peaking through the branches
The sun peaking through the branches
Trees forming a gateway
A gateway
Curved tree
I loved the curve of this tree and the blue sky

 

Nightshade
A hope of life — in the form of of a nightshade

 

Walking through the trees
Walking through the trees

 

 

 

 

 

Planning for the next big adventure

Planning for a trip

For me, planning for a trip is part of the whole experience. My friends say that I am constantly in “cruise control” – either planning for a trip, going on the trip, and then sharing my experiences and starting to plan the next one!

So how do I start planning for a trip?  The first step is asking myself where – and how – do I want to travel. Is it time for me to get a brief taste, or am I ready for a deeper experience?  For me, both are very valid experiences. The “brief tastes” allows me to sample and see how a place feels to me.  And, since I do most of my travelling solo, it is important for me to have a bit of a safety net when venturing to places unknown. Some people are fearless – and some people think I am fearless – but really, I do know what my comfort level is.  So, my first taste will probably be as part of a cruise or a travel experience with someone else. Cruising allows me to know where I am going to stay, I meet lots of people, and I get a “taste” of many places.  The ones I like go on my “I’m going back there to spend more time” list. I also try to include a few days before and after to explore and to things that would be not part of being on a ship.

The next step in my planning activities are pretty much the same: I’ve decided where to go – now let’s find out more! I usually start my research looking at where I want to stay once I “arrive” at a destination.  Trip Advisor is a good source for reviews, and is usually one of the first places I check for good information on prices and neighbourhoods.  While I like hostels, I also like a little more privacy than some hostels offer.  I tend to go to ones where I can find a private room so I can find the best of both – friendly people to chat with but my own space for comfort. I also like to stay in near transit and downtown centres. It makes getting around less of a hassle. A couple of my favourite hostels that have private rooms include Hotel La Bohème in Amsterdam, the Living Lounge Hostel in Lisbon, and Hostel Mare Nostrum in Barcelona.

I love using local transit and study the transit maps before I go. A really good practice of mine is to get a copy of the transit map and really get to know the layout – especially of the area where I am staying. Being able to show – at least outwardly – that I am confident about where I am going makes me feel better. I cannot tell you how many people ask me about where to go or how to use the local transit because I do seem to know what I am doing!

Next, I create my own Trip Navigator – a travel guide with information on each place I will visit and includes notes on places I want to see, how to get there, maps, pictures, contact information – anything that I may need.  The Trip Navigator for my next adventure is ~124 pages and includes all the basics I would want “at my fingertips”, including hotel, flight, and train confirmations; a list of embassies or consulates; and extensive tourist information – places to see and things to do. Since this collection of documents can get large, I collate everything in a pdf document that I can keep on my Kobo e-reader – with other copies available on my cell phone and computer.

I also update an “oh s***” list and leave a copy with the person who house-sits for me as well as taking a copy for me. This list will have emergency information (emergency phone numbers, ticket information, hotel addresses and phone numbers, travel and health insurance information, and credit card info). It turned out to be quite useful when I lost my wallet in Barcelona.  While waiting for a train, I pulled out this list and cancelled my credit cards – all in less than 10 minutes after I knew the wallet was gone. I also make copies of my passport and credit cards – I tend to carry the copy of my passport while I am out and about exploring instead of the real one, unless it is strictly enforced that a traveller must have the original passport with them at all times.

It may look like I over-plan for a trip, but I think the planning is almost as much fun as the going. I am a librarian by training, so researching new things is important!

A to Z Challenge

So, I’ve been very lax at posting anything since I returned from my trip to Europe last summer. The winter in Canada this year has been harsh — worst one I have been through since I moved here — so I haven’t been too inspired.  I need something to help jolt me out of this and start writing and preparing for my next adventures.  So here is the plan.

Starting in April, I am going to try the A to Z Blogging Challenge. While, of course, most of my posts will be about travel, who knows what else will spark my thoughts. In May, I start another travel adventure. This time, I am taking my mother on, what I hope will be, her dream tour of England, Ireland, and Scotland (with a brief stop in France for me). And, to wrap up the travelling for this year, I will join a friend of mine for a trip to the Canadian east coast.

So the next 3 months should make up for my winter hiatus!

Here are my favourite full moon pictures taking in May while sailing in the Baltic sea.

Full Moon
Full Moon Reflection
Full Moon
Full Moon
Full Moon
Veiled Full Moon