We attended Saturday Night LIVE!

[Moa]

What’s up folks!? We’re in NEW YORK!
We’re having a blast here so far and I can pretty safely say that we have both fallen in love with this city. There’s going to be a few blog posts about our activities here, but first of all I want to tell you about one of the coolest things I have ever done that happened this weekend… WE WERE AT SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE!!! Here’s the story of how it happened.

So on Saturday we got to fulfil a dream that both myself and Matilda have had for years – we got to sit in the audience of the Saturday Night Live dress rehearsal. To add some extra cherries on the top this week’s show was hosted by Will Ferrell (!!!) and the musical guest was no other than Chris Stapleton, one of my all time favorite singers and songwriters.

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Pictures property of NBC ©2018/Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show, Saturday Night Live (SNL for short) is an American live variety show with different comedy sketches and has been running since 1975. Some of the most successful comedians and actors in the world have been part of the SNL cast, including our host for the week Will Ferrell who used to be on the show as a regular cast member. Even if you’ve never seen the full show, you’ve probably seen some sketches here and there on Youtube!

Anyways, the past few years Matilda and I have both watched every episode of the show once it’s come out and have talked about how amazing and cool it would be to see how they put it all together live and to see some of our favorite sketches come to life for real. So when we planned a trip to New York, trying to get SNL tickets was on the top of our list of things we wanted to do!

However, getting tickets to SNL is not an easy deal. On the morning of each show you are able to get so called “standby tickets” which is basically a piece of paper saying that IF there’s extra space in the evening, you will be able to fill that space. However, even if you get a standby ticket you’re not guaranteed to get in as it all depends on how many spaces they have in the evening. If the host of the night decides to bring a lot of guests for example, there might be less space. To get these tickets, you have to be at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (the heart of the NBC studios) at 7am when they are distributed – and there’s usually a line which means you have to line up several hours in advance.

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30 Rockefeller Plaza, the NBC headquarter

So that’s exactly what we did. We set our alarms for just after midnight, packed our warmest clothes and headed into Manhattan to start a very, very cold night of waiting! When we got there at 1.30 in the morning there were about 70 people in front of us who had already waited for hours, so it was a good thing we left when we did.

The waiting wasn’t as bad as I thought though, the first few hours seemed to pass quite quickly and we were keeping relatively warm thanks to the emergency blanket I’d brought with me – that’s what they’re made for right? After a few hours a food truck came by giving everyone in line complimentary breakfast and hot beverages on behalf of SNL, which also helped. The last hour was the worst, because that’s when you were starting to really feel the cold (it was about 3 degrees) and no matter how you were sitting you’d be uncomfortable – turns out that pavement isn’t very soft. Who knew? By this point I was wearing 6 layers of clothes…

 

Fast forward until about 7.30am and SNL staff suddenly appeared and started handing out standby tickets – the wait was over!

At this point you need to decide which show you want to attend – you can choose between the dress rehearsal at 7pm or the main televised show at 11.30pm. We had heard that the chances were bigger to get into the dress rehearsal and that you get to see more sketches too as that’s when they try out what will and will not work for the TV live show, so that’s what we chose. We ended up getting number 40 and 41 in line for the dress rehearsal, which was supposedly really good! Happy and excited to have finally gotten our sought-after piece of paper, we took the subway home and fell asleep at 9am.

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The highly sought-after ticket which unfortunately they didn’t let us keep after the show

We woke up later that afternoon feeling slightly drunk on the lack of sleep, but in great moods none the less. We were (probably) going to see Saturday Night Live that evening! At that point I was still nervous something would go wrong and that they would turn us away at the door. We decided to walk towards the Williamsburg bridge where we found a pizza place and had a well-deserved breakfast/lunch/whatever you call it. Then we walked over the bridge to Manhattan and kept walking until we reached 30 Rockefeller Plaza yet again! Turns out that walking from Brooklyn to the middle of Manhattan is further than you’d think and my feet were to pay for this decision later…

The entrance for the people with standby tickets was through the NBC shop in the middle of the building, so that’s were we went. The staff lined everyone up in the order they had tickets and looking around us we could see that number 40 and 41 was in the first group of people they were going to let through security. Almost there!

After another 40 minutes or so of waiting they started letting our group through security. Except for a minor freakout over that I had forgotten to take my pocketknife out of my bag (what if they won’t let me in!? Turns out I could leave it in a box to collect after the show, phew) everything went quick and smooth. The security staff kept repeating that even though we were now through security we were not guaranteed to see the show until we were actually in our seats – they could still turn us away if they had to!

After even more waiting they finally led us further into the NBC building and gave us a wristband with “Saturday Night Live” printed all over and we were told to all turn off our phones – it was getting close. We were led into an elevator and were taken through corridors decorated with pictures from the show over the years, and finally through a curtain that revealed the actual set of Saturday Night Live. We were taken to our seats and sat down and then realised – WE MADE IT! One of our main bucket list items were to come true!

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The show. Was. Incredible.
Obviously we had no doubts about this already, but it was just incredible to get to see the whirlwind that is SNL happen right in front of you and to see a comedy legend like Will Ferrell do his thing. Chris Stapleton was incredible and performed two of my personal favorite songs from his new album, Midnight Train To Memphis and Hard Livin’. But the highlight was still to get to see the SNL cast in their sketches and running back and forth to wardrobe whilst the crew moved the sets around the room in a speed that was highly impressive to witness. Halfway through the show, when they were changing over from Chris Stapleton’s performance to our favorite segment Weekend Update I realised that at that moment right there, that everything about this evening was perfect. Ahhh!!!

When the show had finished we walked down the Manhattan streets and found a Wendy’s where we stopped for a late dinner. We kept repeating “we JUST SAW SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE” to each other and felt like we were on a high! This kept being repeated for several days after, just to kind of remind ourselves of it every now and then…

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So that’s the story of how we were in the audience of Saturday Night Live! We’ve done several other very cool things during this stay in New York too which will be up in seperate blog posts eventually, but this one event deserved it’s own post. Because it’s something we have talked about wanting to do for so long, it felt so surreal when it actually happened. If you want to see the episode that we attended it’s the one which aired on January 27th, Season 43 episode 14! Below are some pictures from the show, as we couldn’t take any ourselves;

 

2018 = MADE!!!

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22 Hours in Montréal

[Matilda]

Yesterday, the time had sadly come for us to leave the cozy farm life in Kenmore and start our 22 day travel run, beginning in Montréal and ending in Calgary before our next Work Away stop in Golden. It was a bittersweet feeling as we were sad to say goodbye but also excited (and nervous) to head out. Our first, and shortest, stop was Montréal. The train ride between Ottawa and Montréal was only 2 hours which is pretty comfortable. We had booked a cheap hotel for the night which wasn’t too far from the train station.

Upon arriving, we made the poor and very regrettable decision to walk the 26 minute distance between the station and the hotel. The temperatures around Ottawa and Montréal have been very weird lately, going above 0 and raining, only to fall back down to -15 or lower. There is now a pretty decent layer of shiny ice on everything. It can even be hard to tell if you are going past a field or a lake. Why am I telling you this? Well, because of the ice being literally everywhere, I guess the city of Montréal had to prioritise where to salt and sand. Unfortunately for us, this meant most of our walk went over uneven ice and slush. Now, imagine that I was carrying a backpack + a guitar in a hard case whilst dragging a fully packed, medium sized suitcase along. Are you feeling the regret? I am feeling the regret.

That’s not the end of it, by the way. When we arrived at the hotel, we realised it had a long and narrow staircase up to the reception. No elevator. We were then shown to our room which was *drum roll* on the upper floor! Another narrow staircase! What joy.

After this, we were both pretty sweaty and exhausted so we relaxed in the room for a bit before heading out again. We got the metro to downtown and went looking for a nice place to eat poutine. It is apparently very important to have poutine when visiting Canada, especially if you are in the Québec province. We found a great place called Frites Alors. Moa went for a coleslaw poutine and I got the pulled pork. YUM. We both think poutine would do great in Sweden. It has all the things us Swedes enjoy the most – fries, cheese and sauce. Future business idea?

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My pulled pork poutine. In the background you can see Moa thanking the food gods for this gift (that we had to pay for).

Post poutine, we were on the lookout for a pair of gloves for Moa. She really wanted a thinner pair with the Canadian flag on them, so we went through a few souvenir shops before finally finding some that she liked.

We continued our icy adventures by foot and found some really beautiful sights. I have no idea what these buildings are called, but if you’re ever in Montréal on a winter night, you should definitely seek them out.

We spent the rest of the night in the hotel, snacking and watching Saturday Night Live clips before going to bed. Our wake up call was at 7 AM to prepare for the next stop on our trip… New York City! We are still on the train from Montréal to NYC as I’m writing this post. It’s a 10 hour train ride but that’s fine as there are some really nice views and trains in Canada and the US have been very comfortable so far. Thank you, VIA Rail and Amtrak!

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Somewhere between the states of New York and Vermont.

You always hear about the US border being intimidating and I’ve never been outside the EU before this trip, so it’s still a little nerve wracking going through border control. It was all fine though. The US border officials were strict but friendly as it was clear we weren’t up to anything sneaky. Moa and I both agreed that if music doesn’t work out, we might look into border control. After 3 years in customer service, we have learned a great deal about sniffing out BS. Working in a call centre is totally the same thing as policing a country’s border, right?

We are now pulling into Schenectady, a place I did not know existed until just now. Below is a picture of Moa enjoying her time in Schenectady.

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Over and out!

Our Travel Itinerary (so far)

[Moa]

Hi everyone, hope you’ve liked our recent updates about the so called farm life we’re currently trying! I thought I would get you all up to speed with not only what we have done, but what our plans are for the next month or so. Our time here at the farm is coming to an end which feels very bittersweet as we’ve had an amazing time. Hans has been a wonderful host and we’ve also gotten to know Harley from Australia and Nicki from Germany, two other helpers who’s been staying here with us. But every ending is the start of something new right? 

So, on Wednesday we are packing our bags and are taking the train to Montréal where we will be staying for just one night before we get on a train to… NEW YORK CITY!
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Yes, we are finally making our way over to the US and I am so, so excited – I’ve always wanted to go and over the next few weeks I’m gonna be able to tick off several things on my travel bucket list. The train from Montréal to New York takes approximately 10 hours and is supposedly one of the “Most Beautiful In North America“. 

We are staying in New York for a week, to give us as much time as possible to explore the city. So far we don’t have much planned except to try to go to a stand-up comedy show and catch some live music somewhere for a night! On Saturday we are also attempting to get tickets to one of mine and Matilda’s favorite shows – Saturday Night Live. More on that if we succeed… 

After New York we are getting a Greyhound bus to the capital of the United States of America – Washington D.C!
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We thought we’d give Trump a hand now that the government apparently has shut down… hehe. Again, Washington DC has for some reason always kind of fascinated me and I really can’t wait to explore it. Apparently all the museums there are free so we will be going to a lot of those, as they’re supposed to be very good. That is of course, if the government isn’t still shut down… C’mon guys! We’ve also applied to go on a guided tour at the Pentagon which would be AMAZING, but we won’t know for sure until a few days before as they have to do a background check – which I guess is pretty fair considering it’s the Pentagon after all. Hopefully it should be fine though, as I’d like to think we’re not too shady. 

After DC is where our journey gets a little weird. We had planned to go to Chicago to visit a good friend of mine for a long weekend, but we realised after we had booked accommodation in DC that;

  1. We have to leave DC on a Monday but are not going to be in Chicago until Thursday
  2. There’s no easy way to get from DC to Chicago
  3. It’s really far to Chicago!!! 

After some searching, comparing and staring at Google Maps we found a route that seemed easy and cheap – So that is why we are going to Cleveland, Ohio, for 3 days.
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All I’ve ever heard about Cleveland are jokes and one-liners in tv-shows and movies always saying that Cleveland is the most boring place in the US… After some research I have found out that in 2010 Cleveland was deemed the “most miserable city in the US” according to a poll – so let’s see if it lives up to the hype! Worst case I’m sure they have cinemas in Cleveland and you can’t go wrong with going to the cinema. 

After Cleveland we are taking another Greyhound bus to Chicago where we are staying with my awesome friend Jared.

We met in Paris a couple of years ago when we were both travelling there and he and his friend Kevin were exchange students in London. Jared is gonna show us the best of Chicago and is so nice that he lets us stay on his sofa for 3 whole nights – we promise to not be too annoying. 

After Chicago our little US trip is coming to an end as we will make our way back to Canada for the next big adventure, which somehow seems to be even more incredibly awesome. From Chicago we will fly to Calgary, Alberta where we then will make our way to a small city in The Rocky Mountains called Golden. In Golden we are getting picked up by our next WorkAway host called Leo who will drive us to his – wait for it – BUFFALO RANCH. Yes, we are going to be living and working on the Rocky Mountain Buffalo Ranch in the middle of The Rockies surrounded by some of the most beautiful nature and scenery in the world. Banff National Park for example will only be about an hour away, which is a place I’ve always dreamed of going to. 

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Our future host Leo and his buffalos – take a look at his website leodowney.com to read more about the ranch we’re going to be working at as well as check out his music!
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Banff National Park, just an hour’s drive away
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Rocky Mountain Buffalo Ranch

I can’t describe how excited I am for this next chapter. It’s always been a dream of mine to go to The Rocky Mountains and explore the nature there. It seems like one of those truly magical places that are still left untouched and I don’t think pictures can do it justice.  To then add buffalos to this mix is just too good to be true. What’s also going to be incredibly exciting is that Leo is a musician as well, so I’m sure we are going to all get along wonderfully and create some beautiful tunes together. So that’s it!

Ottawa ➞ Montréal ➞ New York City ➞ Washington D.C ➞ Cleveland ➞ Chicago ➞ Calgary ➞ Golden

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The travel route between January 24th – February 14th

8 cities, 3 Canadian provinces, 9 US states, 2 train rides, 4 bus rides, 2 flights, 22 days. 

What do you think? Any suggestions on what we should do in all of these places? We welcome any and all and hope that you will stick with us and keep on reading this blog throughout our journey! 

Friends on the farm

[Matilda]

I love taking photos and when I finished upper secondary school I bought a Canon EOS 500D for my graduation money. In the past few years that I’ve lived in London I haven’t taken it out as much as I would’ve liked. When Moa and I decided to go to Canada I made a promise to use my camera more. I would be stupid not to! So for this blog post I thought I’d introduce you to some new friends we’ve made recently. They’re pretty awesome. In no particular order of course…

Princess

How do I begin to describe Princess? Well. Princess likes food. A lot. Princess also likes being cuddled. A lot. And Princess loves milk. A LOT. She also likes to tell you when she needs something from you. Which is all the time. It really doesn’t matter if food was just served or if there is still milk in the bowl. Princess needs you to pick up the pace and do what she wants! She has made a habit out of listening out for my alarm in the morning, as my room is the closest to the cat food. Forget about snoozing. Once that alarm goes off, she doesn’t stop until I’m out of bed and preparing breakfast! If I do try to snooze, she will stand next to my bed and just stare at me. Here you should also know that my bed is quite low which means she is at perfect eye level for me when I lay down.

Princess is the cuddliest cat you’ll meet – there’s no way you’ll be able to sit on the couch without her coming in to keep you company. This is my favourite picture of Princess:

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It’s like an old beautiful painting. I hope it may one day hang in a prestigious art museum somewhere.

Crazy Cat

This kitty has a very appropriate name and there’s really no way you can ever tell what she’s thinking. Crazy Cat does not let you pet her unless it’s her choice and this happens very rarely. I did think we had a good thing going for a couple of days after we arrived here, but then she suddenly changed her mind. She’s really a one man cat who at the end of the day comes back to Hans for cuddles. Crazy Cat doesn’t meow like Princess does but she makes a lot of other noises. At one point I was almost convinced there was a small Danish child running around the house. She plays with one toy only and seems at her happiest and most talkative at play time. Crazy also has a weird habit of randomly grabbing onto you. For example, this morning as I was walking down the stairs, she was sat on one of the piedestals at the bottom and reached out to stick her claws in my hoodie. I think it was her way of saying “food now, please”.

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PJ

PJ, PJ, PJ… We’ve definitely cursed PJ a few times. With love of course! She is a very determined lady and incredibly smart. I would love to properly get to know her from horseback, but it’s a little too snowy and cold to have a good riding session at the moment. Especially considering I don’t really know the terrain here very well! PJ is the leader of the pack and knows all the tricks in the book. Every night when we go out to feed the horses, it’s a constant guessing game as to what mood she will be in and whether we’ll be able to get hold of her. Our current trick is to go out a bit later in the evening so that she’s hungrier and more keen on getting food… it has worked so far! But there are of course a few factors that could easily spoil even this seemingly bullet proof plan:

  • If it’s very cold outside.
  • If it’s snowing a lot outside.
  • If it’s very windy outside.
  • If PJ thinks we’re up to something sneaky.

This horse is beautiful though and I can tell that she’s a great companion. Whether you’re on the ground or on horseback, you’ll be having some discussions with this one, but once it pays off there’s no better feeling!

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Snowman

Snowman is the gentleman in the stable. He’s very chill and lets PJ do her thing and be the boss. He doesn’t mind. And yes, every time we go out to greet Snowman we do get the song from Frozen stuck in our heads. It’s inevitable. Unfortunately Snowman doesn’t get too excited about posing for photos so I don’t have that many. Of the two horses, he is the one who hangs back and decides that eating hay is definitely more important than checking out the human idiots calling him over from the fence. I mean, it’s not even a guarantee they’ll have treats. I did try to get some nice photos the other day. Turns it out it takes a bit of skill to photograph a white horse on a bright day in a landscape full of snow…

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Chiquita

Ooooh, Chiquita. We love Chiquita so much. Like, you have no idea. I’m not usually a dog person myself, but she has stolen my heart! She’s old and her joints are a bit stiff but she still gets SO EXCITED about going for a walk. She spends most of her time outdoors as she’s originally from the Canadian North. Upon leaving the house in the morning, we always bring her outside with us, and she always looks disappointed when we head off in the direction of the horses. Now, I don’t know what she’s thinking, but it’s probably something along the lines of “those big stupid moose are getting too much attention”.

When we finally do get around to taking her out for a walk, it’s like she’s ten years younger for a few moments. The first couple of times we took her out, we ran the first few meters and jumped around with her just because it made her so darn happy. Now it has just become the way we start every walk. She starts running before us and then looks back over her shoulder to make sure we’re still with her. She unfortunately doesn’t make it very far before she has to slow down but we can tell she loves it.

This doggo is adorable and if I could take her with me everywhere, I would!

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As you can see, we are in some pretty good company out here. Friends on four legs are the best friends! Moa will be with you very soon for another update. I don’t know what she’s planning on sharing with you, but let’s be real… it’s not going to be as adorable as this post.

Temporary farm life in Kenmore

[Moa]

Alright so, turns out that a consistent blogging is quite difficult after all – SORRY! We’re going to do our best to get you all up to speed and keep these blog posts coming a little bit more frequently.

So, where are we and what have we been up to?
The past 2 weeks we have stayed at a small farm in Kenmore, a tiny town situated outside of Ottawa, Ontario, where we are helping out in exchange of accommodation and food. We arranged all this through a website called Workaway.info, which I can highly recommend to anyone who are looking to travel on a budget. As described by Workaway themselves;

Workaway.info holds a database of families, individuals or organisations in an extensive range of different countries who have registered with us and are looking for volunteer help in a huge range of different fields. From painting to planting, building to babysitting and shopping to shearing, Workaway.info aims to introduce working travellers and language learners to like minded hosts, without having to pay expensive agency fees. 

So in exchange for accommodation and food we work an approximate of 5 hours/day 5 days a a week, which is a pretty amazing deal if you think about it. The “work” is usually very rewarding and doesn’t feel as work at all because you are always learning new things. We are staying with our host Hans, a lovely German gentleman who moved to Canada about 9 years ago. Our days consist of helping him with his horses, cats, dog, wood stove and general chores around the farm which might need doing. 

We first arrived here on January 2nd after taking the train from Toronto the same morning. Hans picked us up from the train station a little later than originally planned (our train had been delayed due to “extremely cold weather”) and then took us to a local diner for some well-deserved pizza. After refuelling ourselves we kept driving to his home right on the edge of Kenmore, Ontario, which is about 40 minutes outside of Ottawa. Hans’ home is absolutely amazing and I felt at home almost instantly. We each got our own room and share the farm with Hans, the cats Princess and Crazy Cat, the dog Chiquita (the cutest and fluffiest dog we’ve ever seen), and last but not least the horses PJ (Plain Jane) and Snowman. I’ll let Matilda introduce you further to the animals in the next blog post along with the photographs she’s been taking of them – but let’s just say they all have their strong individual personalities! 

 

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Our temporary home in Kenmore, Ontario

A regular day on the farm:
We normally get up around 8.30am for some breakfast, to then get dressed and go out to the horses for the first chores of the day. The morning routine consists of bringing in wood for the house (the house is mainly kept warm using wood stoves), cleaning the stable of horse poop, giving the horses hay, fill up their water and fire up the wood stove in Hans’ workshop. We usually finish this around 10.30 and then we might take Chiquita for a little walk. During the day Hans is working from his office in Ottawa and he usually leaves while we are out in the stable. 

After the morning chores have been finished we pretty much have free reigns until the evening, as long as we keep the fires going in the stoves. Sometimes we might be given additional tasks to fix during that day, such clearing the path to the hot tub which is standing in the garden… 

Our chores start again in the evening where we once again feed the horses, clean their hooves and make sure that the fire is still going in the workshop.

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Matilda and PJ
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Our darling Chiquita on an afternoon walk in the snow

The rest of the day is usually spent quite relaxed. There are no stores or restaurants or anything at all really nearby, so we are really bound to the farm since we don’t have a car – but I don’t mind this at all. In a way, it’s very therapeutic. After feeling like I was running through the marathon that was 2017 it’s a well-needed break where I get to slow down and just be. Allowing yourself to not be productive is sometimes the best thing you can do I think. I haven’t felt like I’ve been able to do that for so long. 

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Hanging out with my new friend Princess

We’ve also spent all this extra free time on our music writing new songs and looking over our repertoire from the last few months because we have a gig coming up next weekend! That’s right, right here on the farm we’re staying we’re going to hold a small living room concert for an afternoon for some of the locals and neighbours around here. We’ll make sure to write a separate blog post about that, because I’m sure it’s going to be a special event. 

The weather: Snow, snow, so much snow!!! And it just keeps coming… like Matilda mentioned in her previous post the weather was one of the things we worried about before going – how could was it actually going to be? What does minus 25 feel like? Will we freeze to death? We’ve now found answers to these questions and no, it’s actually not as bad as we thought it would be. Being a person who’s constantly cold (queue the “but you’re from Sweeeeden, how can you be coooold?” comments) I was seriously scared that I was underestimating the weather in Canada before I went. But I’m fine! Like really! Okay, so there were a few days last week where there was a storm and the wind chill got to -40 degrees and it actually hurt to be outside – but besides that it’s completely manageable. As us Swedes say: There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing. I’ve found this to be very true – as long as I’m wearing my thermal underwear I’m staying relatively warm! 

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A look at our daily view – the snow-covered garden!

So that’s the update for the day – now you know what we’ve been up to. Sorry again for the lack of updates but then again, I think that was well-needed to. Now that I’ve been here for some time I’ve found my place more, which I think is important to do before you share it with others like this. Keep checking in here for another update soon where Matilda will share some of the beautiful photography she’s been taking of the surroundings and animals here.

Also, if you have any questions at all or if there’s something specific you want us to write about – please feel free to ask them whether it’s here, on Twitter, Facebook or by email. 🙂

Peace out! 

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We love this dog so much we might just keep her…

Toronto

[Matilda]

In the weeks leading up to our flight we were closely monitoring temperatures in Toronto, just so we’d have a rough idea of whether we’d freeze to death upon leaving the airport or not. After being warned about the -16 C weather, we anxiously left the airport, half expecting to die on the spot. Thankfully, we both had proper winter clothing on which meant the cold was absolutely fine. It’s easy to build these things up in your head but all you need to manage it is a few good layers.

We got a taxi to our Airbnb in Roncesvalles, which is a wonderful village west of downtown Toronto. Our home for the next 5 days was a garage turned guest house and we were pleasantly surprised by how warm it was. This garage was better insulated than any of the London flats we lived in. Take note, England! Our host was incredibly nice, allowing us to use the bathroom in the main house anytime, and giving us great advice on where to go for meals in the local area.

The next day we decided to explore Toronto by foot. According to Google Maps, it would take us about an hour and fifteen minutes to get downtown. We accepted this challenge. After all, we are quite used to the Londoner way of walking places. Of course, things are generally within more of a walking distance in London, but I’ve always found that you get to know a city better as a pedestrian rather than riding the subway all day. So we started off by heading south towards Lake Ontario. We stopped by Tim Hortons for breakfast, which we had heard was kind of like the Costa of Canada. It was cheap and good for money-saving, but later in the week we did discover that you quickly tire of the drinks (you get what you pay for essentially).

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We were accompanied by a light snowfall as we walked along the shore. Every now and then, we’d stop to take in the view and try to realise that we were actually on the North American continent. I still don’t think we’ve fully grasped it! It was a beautiful and quiet walk which eventually lead us to the city core. A few observations were made during this time:

  • Toronto is very easy to navigate. Because of how young the country is (Canada only turned 150 last year!) it seems there has been more planning involved in how cities are built, in comparison to our old European towns. The streets are straight so we just set out in the general direction of our destination and found that we ended up right where we wanted to. 
  • THERE ARE NO PEOPLE ANYWHERE. Okay, that is a slight exaggeration. But coming from a cramped London and being used to the struggles of just walking down a high street, this was amazing. The streets are wide and so are the sidewalks, but even if they weren’t you’d still be able to easily make your way down any street. Of course, someone who spent their whole life in Toronto might disagree. It’s all about perspective after all. But this was a pleasant surprise for us – even downtown you’d never feel cramped unless you got near one of the main tourist attractions. (On our last day we also realized they had these underground shopping walkways called ’PATH’. This could also be why we didn’t see many people in the streets…) 
  • The city is divided into districts and they very much follow the description. We were looking for some shopping, as I stupidly lost my brand new and very warm beanie before we even left Copenhagen (Christmas present – super sad). We soon realized that you can’t just walk around hoping to run into relevant retail. Sure, there are some individual stores here and there, but if you are in the Financial District you’re gonna see banks. If you’re in the Entertainment District, you’ll find a bunch of arenas. We eventually found the Eaton Centre which is massive  and located just above the Entertainment District.

So while we were walking around looking for a new beanie, we ended up passing the Rogers Centre which is the home of the Toronto Blue Jays. That day it was however very clear that baseball was not on the agenda. Having worked in the ticketing industry for some time, we soon realised that all the kids and parents walking by could only mean one thing… Disney On Ice! Without going into too much detail, we have both been slightly traumatized from selling tickets for this event in the UK, so we ran past the venue and didn’t look back! (We’re sure it’s a lovely event.)

As we then made our way up through the Financial District, Moa loudly exclaimed that she knew where she was because she ”recognised it from Suits”. I remain doubtful of this.

After walking back to Roncesvalles, we were very tired. I think it’s safe to say this was 50% jet lag and 50% exhaustion from walking literally all day. We had a late lunch at Chipotle on the way back and they’ve still not charged my card so YAY free food!

 

The next day we were up bright and early to make our way back into the city for a visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. It was pretty crowded as we were there on a Saturday, and on New Year’s weekend at that. But it was a fun experience and very educational. Our favourite part was definitely the moving tunnel walkway where you had tropical fish, sharks and turtles swimming all around you.

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Halfway through, we purchased some drinks in the café and it’s very weird how they don’t add the sales tax on stuff until you get to the cashier. Note to whoever is responsible for this: PLEASE STOP. (This is a general thing in Canada by the way – on pretty much all purchases we’ve made so far.)

After the Aquarium, we made plans to go see a movie in the evening. And by this, I mean absolutely no later than 19:30 in the interest of staying awake. Damn you, jet lag! We got tickets for Downsizing at the Scotiabank Theatre and made our way to a pub called Belfast Love for dinner beforehand. We walked in just in time to catch the end of an ice hockey game between Sweden and Switzerland. Meant to be! And I barely stayed awake for the movie afterwards…

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For New Years we had planned to visit the CN Tower early in the afternoon as the weather was supposed to be cold but clear. We weren’t disappointed! The sun was out and we got a great view of the city and the lake. Moa loved the glass floor area, where you can see the ground hundreds of metres below… I wasn’t so thrilled. The survival instinct in me kicked in and I stayed clear of the death floor. Don’t worry though, it’s perfectly safe. Or so they say.

After our excursion into the sky, we walked past the Air Canada Centre and found a couple of familiar Swedish faces…

 

Some more walking ensued as we checked out Old Town before heading back to rest up before the big Eve. Believe me, when your body still thinks you are running 6 hours ahead, you need a rest before attempting to stay awake past midnight. We didn’t have any plans for the night, other than watching the fireworks display at Nathan Phillips Square. Around 20:00 we walked out onto Roncesvalles Avenue and found a gastro pub a few doors down that served a very tasty buffet at a decent price. A few hours later we got on the street car towards downtown for fireworks! I didn’t realise that public transport was now free for the night and paid $3.25 for no reason. Oh well.

We arrived just in time for the firework display with only a couple of minutes to spare. This was the most people we ever saw in one place in Toronto during our stay there. The fireworks were very cool and also signalled the end of Canada’s year long 150th anniversary celebrations.

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New Year’s Day was our last day and we decided to explore High Park which was just down the road from our Airbnb. It’s a really beautiful park AND they have a zoo! The animal displays are located along one of the roads in the park and it’s completely free to go past them. They had llamas, bison, highland cattle, yaks, sheep, reindeer and wallabies. Unfortunately we did not get to see any wallabies in the snow – that would have been cool! We did get to walk on the ice in Grenadier Pond for a bit, surrounded by people skating and playing ice hockey.

 

To round off our walk, we had lunch at the Grenadier Restaurant inside the park. The food there was great – especially their home fries. Try them if you get the chance! All in all, I absolutely loved Toronto and look forward to going back there soon.

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