My last memory of Canada is strolling along a charming neighborhood in the residential suburbs of Toronto with my blogger friend Mariellen. I had spent the morning at CN Tower, playing Titanic over the edge of the city, and caught a free lunchtime concert outside the subway. On my flight home, I pledged to come back and experience more of the city’s awesomeness, a lot of which is indeed free!
Just over a week ago, I was a starry-eyed travel blogger on my way to my first TBEX, “the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, and new media content creators”. When they said largest, I didn’t realize I’ll be one among 1,000+ travel bloggers, albiet the only one travelling from India! Among them were renowned bloggers, some of who have inspired my own journey. Then there were those who have recently found their blogging legs, like myself. And the newbies. It was a mix, that over the course of the weekend, gave me a whole new perspective on travel blogging.
I can feel the breeze caressing my face and blowing through my hair as I lean my body back, 1168 feet above Toronto! My mind says I should trust my harness and let go off the rope I’m clutching, but my heart maybe thinking otherwise in its rapid beats. Let go off those hands, our walker calls out. And slowly, I do. Only the front part of my feet are in contact with solid ground now, the rest of me floats in the air. I close my eyes for just a second, and feel like I’m flying far far above the earth.
The clouds engulf the white coat of the Rocky mountains, as though protecting them from the incessant rain. With only my umbrella to protect me and my boots miserably wet, I walk, somewhat reluctantly, to the bus that would take us to Spirit Island. My original plan was to hole up in a cosy cafe with a hot cup of tea, as befits a rainy day anywhere. But then came news that for the first time in a decade or so, the snow has been cleared off Maligne Lake in the month of May itself. And we’d be the first people to make it there this year. How could I resist?
On the second stop of my cross-Canada trip, I found myself in the vast wilderness of Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. I swam in the frigid Fraser River, walked on the ancient Athabasca glacier, took a cruise to Spirit Island on Maligne Lake, and spent many an hour reading Murakami in the backdrop of the snow-clad Rocky mountains. On a misty morning in Jasper, the title of the book I’ll pen someday, occurred to me. So I have to share with you, just what made me fall in love with Jasper. *** 1. In the lap of the Rockies, a quaint little town Lakes and forests in its midst, snow on its crown. Everyone knows everyone else, it’s true But you’ll never have to walk too far for solitude. The elk graze by the road, the moose stay close You’ll hold your breath as the black bears pose. Upon the lakes, the clouds descend As though they are greetings the heavens send… That on Maligne Lake when you take a cruise Spirit Island shall become …
While looking for unusual things to do in Vancouver, I asked you on my Facebook page which place I should check out. You voted for ‘the neighborhood where the wilderness meets the sea’. So I headed to Tsawwassen (pronounced Tawasen, means “facing the sea”) in southwest Vancouver, best known for its ferry terminal, and became convinced that it is indeed one of Vancouver’s best kept secrets.
It’s been a little over three days since I arrived on the shores of Vancouver, wide-eyed to experience what the “west” is really like. Between battling jet lag, getting to know my fellow travel bloggers, and soaking in the sheer beauty of the maple leaf country, I’ve validated notions that I’ve subconsciously held of North America, and in a way, gotten to know my “travelling self” better. On this cloudy morning, as I pen my first impressions of Canada, the rain drops are gently dripping on my window and the pine trees are swaying in the wind, perfectly encapsulating the start of my love affair with the great white north. 1. The Canadians live up to their reputation of being incredibly friendly. From the lady who whipped out her iPhone to help me figure directions on a chilly night, to the security guard who walked me to the right exit, to the bus driver who let me go ticketless when I didn’t have enough small change, to the couple who helped me decode the way to …
By the time you read this, I’ll be whizzing above the oceans on my Air Canada / Lufthansa flight. If Canadian Tourism Commission’s plan for us is anything to go by, it’s going to be one epic travel + blogging adventure! Unlike most other press trips I’ve been on, I love the amount of free and easy time we have on this trip to explore Canada on our own. As always, I’ve made no firm plans, and will be seeking suggestions from the locals I meet. A big thank you to those of you who’ve been kind enough to recommend hangouts and eateries, or offered to show me around!
In an effort to keep costs low, I always prefer to apply for international visas myself, torturous as that can sometimes be. After three painful Schengen visa applications, applying for a visa to Canada, even with my Indian passport, was almost a breeze! The visa requirements for Indians applying for a Canadian tourist visa are simple, and the process, facilitated by VFS in most of India, is efficient. I scored a multiple entry 7-year visa for Canada, and here are my tips to get you entry into the maple leaf country:
You heard that right. I’m one of 28 international bloggers to be invited by the Canadian Tourism Commission this May, for what sounds like an incredible trip to explore the maple leaf country. I’m going to be the only travel blogger from India, so that’s a little overwhelming! This 15-day trip will start in Vancouver, often ranked among the best cities to live in. From there, we’ll board the VIA Rail to the mountain town of Jasper, and to Winnipeg in the Canadian Prairies. The trip will end in Toronto, where we’ll be part of TBEX, the greatest international travel blogging conference. Seeing another one of my travel bucket list items turn to reality is unbelievably exciting!