First stop: the shower.  After a quick pit stop, I went for a wander around the town.  Jasper is tiny so it didn’t take long.  There are lots of restaurants, hotels and tourist shops and that’s about it.  The tourist shops have mostly the same stuff as every tourist shop in Canada with a few few books on the rockies thrown in for good measure.  There are also more hippy things like stones and crystals.  The town is surrounded by mountains so the view is stunning whichever way you turn.  After a look around and some food, I had a good sleep ready for a busy day out.

I booked a tour from 9-1pm.  The coach took us to Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake with a commentary all the way.  We were in bear country and all keen to see one, but it was not to be.  Maligne Lake was still mostly frozen, but pretty and full of trout.  I most enjoyed Medicine Lake.  The mountains looked gorgeous behind the water with their reflections in the lake.  

I got off the coach when we got back and went straight to the car hire place to pick up the car I had booked to drive through the Icefields Parkway and down to Lake Louise.  It was a long drive, but totally worth it.  The scenery was incredible and I kept stopping at look outs for yet another view.  Each time I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did.  The bright blue sky, green trees and mountains were just stunning, with lots of lakes on the way as well.    The ice fields get around 7 metres of snow in the winter.  Lots of it was gone, but there were still chunks around the edges and by the waters edge that were around a metre high with the water cutting through so I could see the layers in the ice.  The climate seemed to change on the way.  It was baking when I left Jasper, but it got cooler as I got further in to the drive.  It was around 250km each way.  After passing through the Columbia Icefields, the lakes had more ice in them and the mountains were almost covered with snow.  I came at such a great time of year to see it all.  

Lake Louise, I have to say, was the only let down.  I had heard great things from a friend and it is billed as a beautiful place to visit.  It was full of tourists, men in hi vis jackets directing traffic and just generally commercial.   The beauty, silence and tranquility of my earlier hours was shattered.  I stayed at the lake for around 2 minutes if that and hastily retreated.  

Now, the route advertised bears, caribou and other wildlife.  I drove all the way there and only saw a gathering of mountain goats.  The mountain goats were pretty cool with huge curly horns, about 5 or 6 of the, up high at the sign of the road, but I was in the market for a bear.  Luckily about 10 minutes from Lake Louise on the way back, I saw a load of cars stopped.  I joined the hold up and got to see the cute little guy eating grass at the side of the road.   He was bothered by the cars at all.  On the road again, I was lucky and was first on scene to see two more.  Then two moose crossed the road with little furry antlers, looking smaller than I thought they would be, but the antlers are still growing I think, and I later saw loads of elk without horns running around.  All three bears I saw were relatively small and very soft and cuddly looking, next in my list is to see the mamma bears.  The internet tells me a man was attacked by a mamma bear right by where I am staying on Thursday night in Squamish, so hopefully I will see some, but from the safety of the car!

This morning, I still had the car for a couple of hours so I went and had breakfast at Patricia Lake and then visited Pyramid Lake.  They were gorgeous.  Everything is stunning around here.  

My train is going to be super late picking me up, I can’t go far as they don’t have a close enough time estimate or I would have just booked a tour bus somewhere.  I am just sitting in the sun with milkshake to read a bit.  Then I must make some calls and see what I need to move that was booked in Vancouver.

As a side note, there are a weird amount of crows in Jasper.

The train eventually left Jasper at 830pm instead of 2pm.  I had my dinner and managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep – I feel like I have mastered the way to train sleep.  I was lucky to have two seats again.

Some inconsiderate idiot decided to start taking photos before 6am with the shutter sound on the camera not on silent.  Eventually I went for a cup of tea expecting to find a place to read for the day.  I met a nice Vancouverite to chat to, we chatted until the train got to Vancouver at 2ish.  The journey went so quickly, it was great.  He was to be one of very few friendly locals, as I quickly discovered on arrival that these are a whole different breed to the Torontonians I am used to.


All aboard The Canadian Train: Toronto to Jasper

The Trans Canada train experience has begun.   The train was booked to leave Toronto at 10pm.  I received an email during the day saying it was going to be 2 hours late.  We ended up leaving the station at 245am.  Luckily, there were a few jovial people to chat to, and they bribed us with bottles of water, pretzels and chocolate snowmen to not be angry.

We finally boarded the train and began a odd “quick find a good seat without seeming weird” dance.  Everyone had similar goals – find two seats, secure both of them, good sized chunk of window, not facing any one else.  I am happy in my spot and have unpacked for the three days.  The staff then came and checked who was sitting where and marked the seat with my name.  There is a surprising amount of space to spread out.  The train isnt full, so I have my two seats with both foot rests up to spread out.

We all found our spots and the staff told us where everything is.  Lights out and I felt very much like I was 12 again and at a sleepover where we had been told to go to sleep.  I felt giggly and noisy, so went off to explore the train with one of the other guys I was chatting to.  There is a 24 seat pod with views outside and above, a little dining car and a lounge car.  We have seat menus and can get food to eat in lounge car or take back to our seats.  I brought a blanket and pillow with me, and bagels, cream cheese and ham so that should see me through a few meals.  The girl accross the aisle from me has a duvet with her – this is not her first sleep train experience – she looks cosy.

I will be here for 3 nights until I reach Jasper.  I will have no wifi.  

For now, I feel excited, a bit delirious, very tired and pleased that the staff man told me I can get up however late I want in the morning.  See you at midday Ray.

Time to snooze. 

Day 2 and it is morning aboard the still tardy train…

So much for sleeping until midday.  It was so cold my nose was cold, everytime I moved and touched any plastic or metal it was freezing, managed about two hours sleep.  At 7am I found the lady to ask for the air con to be adjusted.  Other people were huddled for warmth.  Bought another blanket ready for night time.  I was surprisingly comfy and, if not for the cold and the 8am tannoy about breakfast, I would have slept reasonably I think.  About that tannoy…. you said I could sleep til midday Ray…. apparently not if we are going to be tannoying whenever we feel like it.

I feel like I am on board the train version of the Titanic.  The people who paid for private cabins are in the next carriages – I heard they were still cold despite their superior lodgings.  

Anyway, I have had a wash with a baby wipe and put some clean underwear on, got a cup of tea and its warm enough to get cosy with my kindle….

….I never did get cosy with my kindle.  The day has passed surprisingly quickly with lots of chatter to my train companions.  There seems to be a really diverse selection of people on this train – I feel like all the characters would make a great whodunnit plot.  At some points, I felt that conversation has reached a point where I almost expect hidden cameras to tell me it was all a joke and this isnt real.  There is the guy who retired and a week ago decided to get rid of everything and get on a train – he makes model villages like the ones with army men, only his villages are called “Nakedville”, a really sweet mum with her son, the girl with the duvet – she is the train expert who has crossed Canada one way and is on the way home, the friendly german couple, the lovely couple from Vancouver, the well spoken English lad who is fresh off the boat and full of intelligent conversation and banter and a girl who wears a tiara and is off to meet a guy she met on Facebook who doesnt know she is coming.  

The scenery has been pretty, though fairly unchanging – various spreads of trees with lakes.  Lots of lovely reflections, especially at sunset.  Photos dont do it justice.

The food was surprisingly tasty – I had chilli with garlic bread.  We stopped three times for ten minutes, but tomorrow we get to get off for 1-3 hours at Winnipeg depending how we do overnight.  There are lots of freight trains and we have to pull over to let them pass.  We are still way behind schedule – at least 5 hours.

It is the second morning on the train.  Apparently not everyone is recognising social cues and boundaries – I am not a morning person.  Time to retreat to my seat until ready to integrate with other humans.

We must be starting to smell by now, there hasnt been much air in the past 30 hours and no washing.  Noone even attempts to do hair or makeup.   Im not even sure everyone is cleaning their teeth given the air quality during conversations.

We stopped at Winnipeg.  It was supposed to be 3 hours, then an hour and we ended up with 45 minutes which was about enough time to look at the market and buy some food.  

One guy on the train said he saw the Northern Lights the night before, so a few of us stayed up in the hope of seeing them.  Some new people had got in at Winnipeg and we had a new Irish chap in the gang – we ate all his chocolate, and a sweet girl from the station who was off to meet a boyfriend.  We stayed up until 3am and gave up.  It was around this time when I returned to my reclining bed chair in the other carriage that, unfortunately, a snorer had been allowed to board the train at the Winnipeg stop.

Day 3

Aching. Last clean clothes on.  Some more stops at random places with no facilities for ten minutes at a time.  Each time we get off, there is a sense of delirium in the air, cabin fever sends us out into the air like excitedly children.  We lost a few people from the train gang today at Edmonton.  Today has been lazy, we have been sitting around all day waiting for scenery, chatting and hoping the train would make up some time – it is around 6 hours behind schedule still.  I have given up on my plans for this evening as by the time we get there, the sky tram will be closed.  There was a guitar player on board who played each day in the lounge carriage which I enjoyed.

We arrived in Jasper 6.5 hours late.  The excitement levels were high as we saw the mountains.  We were running from side to side, different windows, up to the roof pod carriage and back down changing views and trying to see it all.  It was tiring.  The way the trees opened up to reveal the mountains was incredible.  The scenes that we had all seen in the brochures, the pictures and post cards was before us and everything thing it was cracked up to be.

It was actually really sad saying goodbye to everyone on the train.  As someone who is a big fan of personal space, not a fan of socialising in the morning and with significantly low tolerance levels, I am amazed how much I enjoyed this experience.  When people come out of Big Brother, they say they got to know people really well and friendships advance quicker because you are together 24 hours a day.  Although most of the people, I will never see again, it will always be a fun memory to look back on.  We laughed so much, really laughed.  There were times I laughed until I cried.  I enjoyed spending time with the guys from the UK – the three of us shared a pretty similar level of humour, silliness and coconut and caramel Cadburys.  I don’t think I could do this train trip again because I couldn’t beat the company. 

Tonight I will sleep full length in a bed instead of a in a ball on two seats.

Goodbye Clarke

Every week, another thing happens that brings the reality of the adventure ending closer.  I know I still have lots of fun to come, but each week I am more mindful of the endings.

Todays ending was saying goodbye to my lovely foster cat, Clarke.  It wouldnt be fair leaving him on his own when I am away, he likes the company and the cuddles.  He has gone to another foster home until he gets adopted permanently.   I will miss him lots, especially since Mavis died.   I got Mavis because I need pets in my life.  It will be sad having none to come home to for the rest of my time here.

Vegas – day 4 – Mob Museum, Fremont Street, Helldorado 

My last full day in Vegas and me and my poor burnt skin were out off toursiting, and definitely not sunbathing!  First stop, the Mob Museum.  The museum was three floors full of interesting mob and crime facts and photos, as well as some stuff on the history of Vegas.  Ended up spending three hours there.  There was a lot of cool stuff about undercover mobsters and mobsters turned informant, I left with a list of films and books for further reading.  I enjoyed reading about the murders, the whys and hows.  It seems mobs kill a lot of people with car bombs!  I also didnt realise how much power they had over, well everything…. the use of the word Mafia in The Godfather was restricted by the mob after they tried to stop the whole film being made.

After my morning in the Museum, I crossed the road to Fremont Street.  Lots of people have recommended I go there and they said its better than the strip and cheaper.  I have to say I found it a bit sleazier and cheaper in that way, lots of people begging for money, more of a stag of hen party strip I thought.  Much prefer the main strip and glad I didnt make much effort to go there.  

It was so so hot.  I got a packed bus to the strip for my last adventure.  This option had passed me by until I saw on Instagram the Redneck Magician had been there after his show.  As soon as I realised there was a Professional Bull Riding show, I knew that was my entertainment for my final night.  The show was at an entertainment village opposite the Luxor on the strip.  I saw some cowboys in the Luxor and walked with them to the event.  One of them was a bullrider.  He said he started aged 11.   The event itself was a mini festival called Helldorado.  There was a country band playing with hay bales to sit and watch, a petting zoo, a lumberjack show and pig racing.  The pig racing was hilarious – they all had little jackets on with a number and raced out of their pens to a plate of food.  

The bull riding show started with fireworks at 745.  Each rider was helped on to the bull in the pen and then the cowboys outside opened the gate up and the bull and rider shot out.  They had to stay on for 8 seconds to qualify for the next round.  This competition ends with someone being number 1 in the world.  The competitors were the best and the ones that were defending top place titles made it look easier.  They had to keep one hand in the air, and the judges decided if the bulls performance was enough and if not, the rider would have to do it again.  The cowboy I chatted to on the way was up third and he qualified.  After the 8 seconds, the rider had to find a way to get off and run to safety while the bull either ran out of the arena or was rounded up by the cowboy on a horse and led out on a rope.  It was a fantastic atmosphere with music and cheering and cheesy entertainment during commercial breaks.  There were candidates for Miss Teen America there wearing sashes and Miss America was also there.  There was only one bull that seemed angry and scratched the ground ready to charge, and no riders were injured. 

A fun last night!  I strolled up the strip a bit and got some food, then got a bus back to the hotel to pack ready to leave in the morning

Vegas – day 3 – Redneck Magic Show, Stratosphere Tower

My long day at the canyon and magic show earned me a lie in and another day by the pool.  I found the ladies I was chatting to the other day down there, it was nice to have easy people to chat to.  I enjoyed being around my fellow English.

I did not wear enough sun cream.  It would seem that a splash here and there of factor 6 was not enough for 6 hours of unclouded Vegas 30 degree heat.  It hurt so much.  It hurt to wear clothes or move.  My skin would not stop burning.  I have never burned my legs or arms before, craziness.

Me and me burning body had a cold show, some soothing aftersun and trotted off to the Stratosphere for a show.  This was the show I tried to see on my first night – they emailed me and said because of the mix up, they would refund my ticket and also send me a new ticket for the show.  This was a show on a much smaller scale to the other two.  A much lesser known magician with seating for around 40 people.  This was the Redneck Magic Show.  The guy was not like other magicians, a tattooed muscle model who mixes humour and magic.  The show managed to entertain and baffle me with the magic without needing the big display and huge props.  The tricks were mostly card tricks, cutting ropes, signing $100 bills and then burning them and they reappear somewhere else.  I cant even begin to figure out how this happened!  He was funny and unpolitically correct, which is right up my street.  I would love to see this show again!  There was one moment where he was swallowing a long balloon wearing a Hello Kitty tutu dancing to the the song from Deliverance.  He later pulled the balloon back out and it was somehow now a balloon animal – a shitsu! 

After the show, I went up the Stratosphere Tower.  I was searched more than I have ever been for the CN Tower.  I stayed at the top until the sun had set.  The views of the mountains behind the city were gorgeous, and it was pretty seeing the city and strip gradually light up. It was cooler and windy which was nice on my sunburn, I leaned against cold surfaces at every opportunity.

After the tower, I decided to go get a tattoo.  Unfortunately, despite the place being near the Stratosphere, it suddenly became verg dodgy where I was walking.  I got a cab, but the tattoo place was unfriendly and questioned why I hadnt made an appointment (despite inviting walk ins on their sign).  I didnt get one – it was too expensive and I cant really afford it anyway.

I cabbed back to Circus Circus and saw a trapeze act in the hotel before bed.  

Vegas – day 2 – Grand Canyon, Criss Angel

I prebooked a trip to the Grand Canyon for day 2 – with a brutal 6.35am pick up from the hotel.  Friends of mine were in Vegas at the same time as me, and one of them wanted to do the Grand Canyon trip so she booked on at the last minute.  The coach trip started with breakfast pastries and a cup of tea before starting the journey.  The coach driver provided a running commentary giving lots and lots of information along the way about Vegas and the strip.  We stopped at Hoover Dam which was originally called Boulder City.   Just before getting there, we had to stop and have the coach searched.  The “Dam Police” boarded the coach and looked in the overhead lockers and on board toilet etc and then sent us on our way.

The journey was mostly through bare desert terrain with big cacti to look at and occasional ramshackle looking buildings.  Now and then there would be a small community which seemed deserted.  Some of these had beauty salons, post offices and usually a trading post.  I loved the isolation of the ramshackle houses, I think they would have suited me well.  We had a second stop where we were all given lunch boxes with sandwiches, crisps and a cookie before reaching the canyon approximately 5 hours after departure.

I had booked the helicopter and boat trip add on.  I ummed and ahhed a lot about whether to do this as it was pricey making the entire trip around £250.  It was worth every penny.  Everyone had to be weighed and given wristbands for the helicopter and then 6 passengers boarded with the pilot.  I have never been in a helicopter before, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect.  I was next to the door and the whole side where I was sat was glass.   The helicopter flying over the ground to the canyon didn’t seem too high, until we reached the edge of the canyon and flew out.  Suddenly we were super high above the canyon, and when we titled to the side, it was exciting and a little bit scary.  Amazing.  The views were incredible and we hadn’t reached my favourite bit yet.  At the bottom of the canyon, we landed and headed for a boat.  We were all given life jackets and the boat took us out along the river.  It was quite fast and it was a great feeling just flying across the water at the bottom of the canyon with the wind blowing in my hand.  It was the same feeling off freedom as galloping across the moors, not that I have done this for some time, but it made me want to.   The boat stopped at a couple of points just floating so we could take it all in and take photos.  I loved the view from the top, but my favourite view of the whole day was the view from the riverboat.  Incredible.  We flew back up to the top and then got a shuttle to the tourist zone at the top.

The first stop on the shuttle was called The Ranch.  There were lots of Wild West style buildings, ice cream, a saloon, horse riding, a gun show and a little a magic show.  The Magic show was good fun with a guy on his own doing card and coin tricks.  First, the magician told us he had a prediction behind the curtain he pointed to.  He had six coins from different countries and asked a man to split it in to two sets of three coins.  He then asked me to choose one coin – I chose Nepal.  Then he opened the curtain and there was a map with a piece of paper saying Nepal pinned on Nepal.  There was horse riding which I quite fancied, but when I asked they said it was very ploddy.

The second shuttle stop is Eagle Point.  It is called Eagle Point because of the ways the rocks have formed to show the shape of an eagle.  The ranger pointed out there is also a sleeping dog.  It looked like the dog off The Never-ending Story to me.  It is amazing how close you can get to the edge with no fences.  There were a couple of signs that said you couldn’t go closer than 5ft, and rangers acting as border control when I sat too close.  Apparently no one has fallen over there which amazes me with the uneven surface and levels of stupidity in the world.   Eagle Point also had the Skywalk which is a glass walkway out over the canyon.  I decided not to do this as it didn’t protrude very far and the photos and views were identical to if you just stand next to it! This was a relatively quick stop as our coach drive/ tour guide said that the best views are at Point number three.  

The third and final shuttle stop is Guano Point.  This began similarly to Eagle Point in terms of high canyon edge, no fences etc, but then you could walk up onto a big rock formation with amazing views from the top.  The sun was crazy hot at 30 degrees, so after a walk around, it was nice to get back on the air conditioned coach!  Obviously, I was moaning I was too cold and had my cardi on ten minutes in to the journey back.  We went back through the Hoover Dam and had one quick stop for refuelled on the way.  Other than this, after pointing out some celebrity houses – Clint Eastwood, Goldie Hawn and many others, our driver put on a film…. one of my favourites…..  National Lampoons Vegas Vacation.  I love all things Grizzwold.

The coach driver said we could get off at any stop, so we got off at the Luxor a Hotel at around 645pm where I knew one of the shows I wanted to see was playing.  Twenty minutes later, I was in my seat for the Criss Angel, Believe show, just in time for the show to start.  This is one I hadn’t heard of, but the reviews were fantastic and when I mentioned him, people said I should definitely go.  The show was exciting, it was filled with all the bits that Copperfield missed – pyrotechnics, live music, mini skits in between, slutty dancers and breakdancing ghouls.  It was big, loud, glitzy and I was on the edge of my seat.  He tuned hankies in to doves, so many doves, flying around!  He sawed a woman in half (no idea how this happened as he had audience members come and check both ends of her were real before he saws and then pulled the pieces apart), switched places with assistants, disappeared, swallowed razor blades and string and then when he pulled the string back out, it had tied all the blades together.  There was a big screen with creepy images and rock music from the guitar players.  He levitated.  Now, i have no idea how this happened.  I have read online the secret of some of the basic levitation tricks, but he levitated, then went in to a box and floated around in there with the lid closed and then floated back out and around the stage.  My only criticism of this show is that towards the end, he did a whole segment on childhood cancer and had faces and dates of children he had met and who had died.  He said his own son had cancer.  I completely get the wordiness of the cause, but it did kind of dampen my excitement taking a very serious and sad turn.  The show ended by saying about donation boxes, which was a great idea, but the bit in the middle did take some of my buzz.

I was exhausted by the this point.  I got an Uber back to the hotel and had a burger and a quick drink in the bar before crashing in bed.

Vegas day 1 – Pool, Copperfield, Fountains

On the plane…
With my more recent travels being road trips within Canada, it was about time I boarded a plane for my first plane trip of the year and am on the way to VEGAS! I am excited about this one, but also for some reason feel a little nervous. Its a busy bustling place to be in on my own, although as I write this, I think back to New York – if I can still enjoy the touristing when I am in a city full of unhelpful New Yorkers, I am sure this will be fine. I have a ticket to one of the three magic shows I want to see for tonight, and a super early wake up for a trip to the Grand Canyon tomorrow. I am hoping I will be able to get the tickets for the other two shows once I arrive.  
I am very much looking forward to some time to relax and some sun. I see now why Canadians are so keen to have a sun holiday in the winter. Whilst the snow is pretty and fun, the winter is long. It feels like every day the sun shines is a cruel taste of the summer that is yet to arrive. Despite this longing for some sun, I remember the humidity and each day of sun also reminds me I am one step closer to a sweaty summer of heat warnings! Thank goodness I swim in the lake, unlike many locals!
Anyway. Vegas. I have very little concept of what time it will be in an country at any time and what the money will be worth as three time zones to manage for communication purposes and three currencies to consider when assessing value is all too much!
Day 1…
Made it to the hotel, Circus Circus, and checked in. I was a bit nervous about the hotel as it was one of the more reasonably priced ones and I didn’t want it to be awful. I had a choice whether to stay in the main building or an outbuilding – The Manor. I went for The Manor as it is closer to the pool. The building made me worried, the entrance and the hallway are a little run down. Luckily, I opened the door to my room and breathed a sigh of relief – clean, nice, a safe, good size, air con, wardrobes with lights inside that come on when you open the door. Quick change and I was down by the pool in the sunshine. I spent a couple of hours in the sun, found some nice ladies to chat to. Just lying in the sun made me feel more relaxed than I have in a long time. It actually made me a bit homesick for pool/ sun holidays to Europe. The beach by me is great in the sun, but its a different kind of relaxing for me lying on a lounger by a pool. It was a little less relaxing when I purchased a Malibu and Coke for $18 (I think that’s about £15).  

When I thought on the plane about a weird nervous feeling…. I was right, this is where some mishaps began. The hair dryer in my room wouldn’t work, and after waiting 30 mins and a new one not arriving, I was going to be late for the show I had booked. I also looked at my receipt for the room and realised that I had been charged more than my booking.com rate. Luckily, the manager in reception was really helpful and refunded me the extra as somehow it had charged me based on four people being in the room. He also had a hairdryer in the room for when I got back. Running late, I got a cab to the Stratosphere for my 6pm show. At the ticket pick up desk, I was told it wasn’t on until Thursday. They gave me a free ticket to ride to the top of the Stratosphere – I may do this after dark one evening. Determined not to waste the evening, I enquirer about the other shows I want to see and was told that one wasn’t on that night and the other was sold out. Not to be defeated, I found the monorail. It is like a street car in the sky. You can see the tracks at the side so all you see is a shear drop all around! I got off at the MGM to see if I could get a ticket to the Copperfield show. Turns out, not sold out! Got a cheeky upgrade as the show was about to start and I just needed the one seat.
David Copperfield was exactly as in the pictures, a big mop of dark hair that cannot be natural. The theatre was not too big, there were no bad seats in there. I had a much more reasonably priced Malibu and found my seat. The people beside me were lovely and we chatted waiting for the show to start – they were from Oklahoma and I loved the accents. Each table had a smart wooden box on it for mobile phones to go in to stop people recording or taking photos. The Magic was really good, lots of it blew my mind – I was desperately looking to spot mirrors or ledges or anything to give a clue as to the secret behind the tricks. I love the classics like the pulling a bird out of a box or bucket. He had a duck and did not disappoint with this one. There was one where he lay in box with his head sticking out and what must have been fake feet, or was the head fake as well? Who knows? But the box then shrank so it was as if he was only a foot tall in the same box. I have no idea how it happened, it was so good. There was a story tying the tricks together – if I’m honest, the story was a bit naff and I would have just preferred a string of tricks or some banter in between. We all know that he does two shows a day, pretty much every day, so when he says this is the first time I am opening a letter from my father, it seemed disingenuous. At the start we all had to send an email with our hometown in the message and our locations all appeared on a map. He then sent us all an email, told us to check it appeared and not to read it, then phones back in the box. At the end of the show, we were told we could read the emails. The email had a prediction on of a number of things that happened – I am baffled. I have no idea how this happened, unless every volunteer was a set up? But then how can everybody throw frisbee that precisely to get the right volunteers?! Despite being impressed with some of the tricks, I am not sure if this is one I would see again.  It was good, but I don’t feel satistifed, I think it’s the rubbish linking story that took the shine off.  Luckily there will be more to see and compare.

After getting lost in the MGM, I found my way out on to the strip. It was really nice walking around seeing the big hotels and lights. Not too hot. Not too busy. I just strolled in the evening, not making eye contact with the less savoury looking characters, and taking it all in.    I got supplies so I have breakfast for while I am here.  I randomly came across a Zoltor machine like on the film Big.  I was delighted that I could actually put a dollar in and it came to life.  Not only did the machine verbally tell me that I should laugh often, it gave me a pretty fair assessment of me in my fortune card.  As one who doesn’t believe in any of that stuff, it was weird how accurately this one fitted.

I got to the the Bellagio and waited a couple of minutes for the fountain show before getting a cab back to the hotel.  Back before ten after all that ready to get some sleep for a busy day.

Becoming a Tourist

I am officially a tourist.  My two working holiday visa expired today. My friend kindly took us to Niagara Falls and treated us to a hotel last night for my birthday.   The started smoothly with her locking the keys in the car and having to call the breakdown people!

To end the visa, I had to be out of the country today.  This meant we had to leave Canada and then reenter with me coming back in as a tourist.  We left Canada – at this point, I could be left in no mans land if both countries decided not to accept me.  At the US border, I explained the situation and we were given a piece of paper saying we were being refused entry to the US due to the reason for visit being to “flagpole”.  We had to take this back to the Canadian border where the guy at the booth said we were fine to go back in.  I was not getting a passport stamp as I did not get a stamp for US.  I said that I wanted one as I was worried when I go to Vegas on Tuesday, airport border people would think I had outstayed my visa with no evidence to say that I had left.  The guy said we were fine to go back in and it shouldnt be a problem.  He said I was not being referred to the office, but could go if I wanted a stamp.  I did.  This was all very nerve wracking – I got all nervous unsure if I could take my seatbelt off to lean over and speak to the man in the booth, we declared two cans of cider in the car which he seemed to find amusing.  

When we went to the office for the stamp, I again explained I was ending my working holiday visa and wanted to come back in to the country as a tourist.  The man wanted to see evidence of my flight out of the country.  I had a whole folder full of paper with all my other details of travel, proof that I could support myself etc, but they just wanted to know I was leaving and see the flight booking.  At this point, it is entirely at their discretion how long they will let you come back for (up to 6 months).  He stamped my passport to exit the country by the end of July.

I was not charged any money other than $4 to cross the border to come back in to Canada.  The whole process took around an hour.

Time to enjoy our mini break… by this point it was pouring with rain.  We checked in to the hotel.  Realised I had forgotten my rain coat and headed out.  We got some Beavertail, well I had Beavertail, Erin had Tims, and looked in some shops before walking along the Falls.  Then up the hill and in the Skylon Tower for a drink at the top – disappointingly the only hot drinks were coffee based, so I had hot water and lemon.  It was nice to see the view anyway and have a sit down to dry off a bit.

We looked around the shops in the casino mall and then walked back to go to the Haunted House which was fun.  Kelseys for dinner was delicious and a man with a guitar sang Sweet Caroline.  My food was good.  

When we got back to the hotel, we curled up to warm up.  I was so cold and all my clothes were wet, so I put my beanie on.  I must have drifted off within 10 minutes.  I woke up sooo hot as we had the heat on.  I had the best nights sleep though.  I was out so quickly and was so cosy.

We accidentally slept through breakfast, so we went to IHOP and had one last drive around the falls before heading back to Toronto.  Of course, it was sunny today! 

Week two with Dad in Canada 

After our trip to Quebec and Montreal, the pace did not really slow down.  I worked the next day while Dad pottered around the beaches and we went downtown for some touristing in the evening.

We went to see the CN Tower just as it was getting dark and stayed up there until the city was all lit up.  I hadnt seen it at night, so it was nice to see another different view.  Dad said he wanted to have a steak at some point on his trip, so we went to The Keg.  The meal was spectacular. We had steaks and creme brulee for dessert. 

Tuesday came, along with more clouds, so our indoor plan was implemented and we went to the Science Centre.  It was interesting, there was lots to see and do, though too much information.  We ended up staying until it closed.  We were amused by how they managed to put a Canadian spin on many things that we were sure werent really invented by Canadians! Lightbulbs, the telephone… I must google.

On Tuesday night we went to the pub quiz down the road with friends.  We didnt win – but 5th out of 11 teams is not shabby.

Wednesday was a quiet day around the beaches and the ravine, and I had work in the evening, so I sent Dad downtown to explore.   

We hired a car on Thursday and went off on an adventure to the St Jacobs cattle auction and Farmers Market.  The auction was fun to see and the market was great in the sunshine.  There were lots of market stalls indoors and out with such a random selection of stuff for sale.  The whole place was run by mennonites who I think are similar to the Amish.  They were wearing bonnets and the men had on hats and braces like on the TV.  There was a lot of interesting stuff they made like ragdolls wearing dungarees and quilts, bonnets and all sorts of other stuff.  We could have stayed all day, but we planned to go to Niagara Falls, so we tore ourselves away to go and admire the view, and the journey behind the falls.  We were just walking back to the car when the rain started.

Toronto Islands had to be on the agenda and, luckily, we had a sunny day on Friday to visit before the baseball game.  We were very proud of ourselves as, having eaten lots of sweet treats, we cut down by shaing and shared a muffin, then shared a beavertail later shared a burger and fries at the baseball.  Probably still too much junk!

The last full day arrived.  Packing, beaches, drinks on the patio of a pub on the beach until dinner and some drinks with friends. 

Last day, we were up surprisingly early to do some last shopping at the Eaton Centre.  I got a few summery tops and we were delighted to get chocolate samples.  Dad managed to get two.  We had a last stroll on the boardwalk.  The waves were big and people were out surfing on stand up paddle boards in wetsuits.  There were lots of people taking photos and the beach was getting washed away.  Apparently the lake has never been this high.  The chairs we were sitting in on Saturday were surrounded by water.

My friend lent us his car so I could take Dad to the airport.  

It was such a fun two weeks.  I am so lucky that I get on so well with my Dad and we enjoy the same things and have the same stupid sense of humour.  I have so many funny stories and memories of this trip – the lesbians on the ferry that Dad asked me if I thought they were boyfriend and girlfriend or mother and son, not realising my earring fell off and landed in the bag of nuts until Dad nearly broke a filling, defending English weather, introducing good friends to him, lots of creme brulees, him singing “on the boardwalk”, bagels – so many bagels, street cars, free chocolate, chocolate shots