Sunday, September 23, 2012

Halifax living

Finally, we have reached our destination: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, where we will be studying for the next semester. Well, actually we got here almost three weeks ago.. ahem. But I didn't want to skip posting about all the cool cities we saw along the way so it had to wait!  It actually feels like we've been here a lifetime already with all the great friends we've made and favourite places we've found, it's been a really easy and fun place to settle into.
Halifax is a small but lovely university city on the far east coast, where we are studying at Dalhousie University. It's a little harbour city, and is really quite beautiful-a lovely marina, some gorgeous parks, and about a million awesome little pubs. But, actually. It has the most pubs per person in Canada! I really love it here.
The best thing about it is the people. As an Australian, we are generally known for being pretty friendly- but nothing compared to the locals here! They will go so far out of their way to help you, and genuinely just love striking up random conversations and being generally lovely.
We're living in residence-like accommodation at the YMCA- you know, 'its fun to stay at the..'! It's pretty basic, but with a bit of love my room is looking a bit more cozy, and I've learnt to love it here. The location is ideal too, right in downtown, yet only about 10 minutes from uni. It's also a great little community- we've had (almost a little too much) fun going out and exploring the city and night life with our new friends here.
In our first week we had fun playing tourists and exploring Halifax. This was the 'harbour hopper', a tour on an old military vehicle which is a huge land-and-sea faring boat/truck thing! The first half of the tour took us around the city, then we drove straight into the harbour and turned into a boat! It was actually awesome, such a fun day and it was great to learn a bit about the history and people of the city we'll be living in for a while!
The farmer's market- amazing fresh produce, handmade crafts and food stalls- definitely a favourite on Saturday mornings!
Cow's famous ice-cream shop! Known as the best in Canada- and it is pretty damn good!
 We also managed to go to the 'Summer Sonic' festival here, which was a wonderful event right next to our place, and saw the amazing Ben Harper! <3
 Living surrounded by water is pretty wonderful
 We even managed to get out to a beach- Rainbow Haven, about 40 mins from Halifax. Who knew Canada had beaches?! AND it was lovely. And pretty hot! Super impressed.
 Sadly, the beautiful sunny weather we had for our first few weeks has slowly transformed into the wet, foggy, colder climate we were expecting.. And will probably need to get used to!

Dalhousie itself is such a great university, it's old and gorgeous with cute cobbled stones and a little clock tower, and has such a good, friendly vibe. Everyone is really proud and involved (particularly in comparison to what I'm used to in Canberra), which is so fun to be a part of. The classes aren't too different so far to what I'm used to, being based on a lot of small assignments and participation in group discussions, but we do seem to have gotten straight into a lot of readings and papers due very quickly- which has thrown me off somewhat, but it'll be fine, I'm sure! It's just tough to concentrate on study when I want to explore everything and am so excited about being in a new country and city! But I guess it'll settle down a bit soon as I get more into the swing of it. We've been somewhat distracted by birthdays too- as it was mine last week and is Tim's yesterday- so of course we have/had to celebrate properly!
My birthday was really great- I had such a fun day. First I was spoilt by breakfast and cute presents in bed (with vegemite fingers spelling out Happy B-day.. aw ha) from my lovely boyfriend and flowers sent from my amazing friends all the way from the other side of the world, then to a wonderful lunch with Tim in downtown in the gorgeous sunshine. At night we went to an international student pot luck dinner where I was serenaded Happy Birthday in every different language, with a cake and candles and everything- it was pretty special! After of course was the obligatory night out- complete with many pitchers of the local beer and karaoke. Couldn't get much better really!

Yesterday was also pretty great- waking Tim with breakfast, presents and cuddles for his birthday then exploring some of our favourite places in the city (the weekly harbour side farmer's market, cow's amazing ice-cream shop, the marina, a favourite cafe, the halifax folklore shop where Tim got his fix of guitars and a local liquor store for some pear ciders), and then it was time to sample beers at a local micro brewery and hop a few of the other awesome pubs around, since there are lots to choose from!
Happy Birthday, silly lovely! x

Monday, September 17, 2012

Big cities, bright lights

The last two stops before we made it to our final (and current) destination in Canada, involved two of the world's most famous cosmopolitans; Paris and NYC, baby!

Paris was a place we had both been before, and as such we spent less time touristing- more time wandering and exploring some different areas. Then again, course there are some touristy-things that are always nice to see again.

 Obligatory wine and cheese picnic in the gardens of the Eiffel Tower on our first night
 We spent some time wandering our Montmarte, stopping for creme brûlée in the cafe made famous in one of my favourite movies- Amelie.
 For some unknown reason their were burst pipes all over the city as we walked around!
 I also required multiple macaron breaks- we were in Paris after all!
 We had a lovely time, but to be honest we were both a bit exhausted and sick of moving around every couple of days, so I wasn't as enchanted with the famous city this time round. Add to that the fact that it was incredibly dusty and hot, and we managed to get lost in rather unfavourable neighbourhoods a number of times- it could have been better. That being said, we did have some lovely wine and cheese picnics, good food and fun exploring the cute area near the Bastille and some ambling streets of Montmarte.

Our next destination is one of those places I have always wanted to go and had rather high expectations for- New York City! We were meeting up with my parents for one last little adventure with them before we split for the next four months whilst we study in Canada. We actually met them at the airport in Frankfurt where we happened to both be transiting through- us from Paris and them from Stockholm!

As I said, I had very high expectations for the big apple. It. didn't. disappoint!! There is certainly a reason why I've never heard anyone have anything but love for this place- it is exciting, pulsating, beautiful and messy- and absolutely wonderful!!
 By all accounts we didn't have enough time, with only two full days to explore, however- we did a damn good job anyway!! We managed to see so much of the city, while still of course leaving many things to explore more fully next time. We took a hop-on-hop-off bus, which was the first time I have done that- but in a city so full of exciting things, and with so little time, it was a fabulous way to see it. We went saw times square and wandered downtown, had a cruise around the harbour to see the statue of liberty and the skyline from the Brooklyn side, went up the Rockerfeller (and glimpsed Michelle Obama going into it!!), went to Broadway, explored Chelsea markets, Greenwich Village and the west village, stopping for a cupcake at Magnolia bakery, touched on central park and had some amazing food. At night we even made it over to Brooklyn- going over the amazing bridge and seeing the sparkling skyline at night.
 Chicago on Broadway!
 Chelsea markets- a fabulous place for food and fresh produce
lobster rolls at the markets!

It was such a wonderful way to say goodbye to my parents for a little while- we had such a fun time.
New York- I'll be back. <3