Tag Archives: north america

Canada, 2005

I spent three weeks working in downtown Toronto. Fortunately I found enough time to head out and about while I was there.

City Hall, TorontoDuring the weekday evenings I wandered around without my camera, desperately trying to find a supermarket. I passed one on the first night and it took me another couple of days to find it again. Turns out it was just around the corner from my apartment!

The main oddity (from the perspective of an Englishman) is that they have a similar attitude to alcohol as the Norwegians. You can’t buy beer or wine in the supermarkets and have to go to a state-sponsored off-licence. It took me over a week to find one of those.

Most of the clients we have are investment banks, so I spent much of my time around Bay Street. This is the financial centre of Canada and is full of tall, glinting and expensive-looking buildings. Most have subterranean shops, a sure sign that it gets very cold here in winter.

The first weekend I did the touristy thing in Toronto itself. On Saturday, feeling like some air other than that found in an air conditioned office, I went on the local ferry to the imaginatively titled Toronto Islands. They are just a short distance from downtown Toronto yet feel like hundreds of miles distant. There are a few houses there and it’s generally well maintained with paths and even a fair (closed for winter). Not exactly back to nature, but I wander around far longer than I planned to and end up getting very burned despite it only being April. (For the record, I do burn easily but — even so — it surprised me!)

I waited until Sunday evening before heading up the CN Tower. I know the sun would be low and that this would be the best chance to get some good light and my best chance of some decent pictures.

Bay Street, Toronto Financial DistrictThere are two levels, with the top one being a few dollars more. How often am I going to be in Canada? I pay for the expensive ticket. The lifts go outside the tower and have impressive views unless you’re cramped into the far side behind other inquisitive tourists as I was. (I made a mental note to get in the life last on the way down.)

The first level has a viewing platform and a few other amenities. The cafe looks like a motorway service station and I decide I’m not thirsty. A scuffed, transparent floor allows you to stand on nothing and look down to the ground, which is a disturbing distance below by this point. The wall here is adorned with CN Tower trivia, the height of this, the amount of concrete there, the quickest time that someone managed to climb the tower using the stairs.

I find the view exhausting and decide against competing.

I take a smaller lift to the top level. Stepping into it must feel similar to how top executives do when they get into their private lift to their penthouse office or the helipad. Alighting, we’re told that this is the highest observation platform in the world.

View from CN Tower, Toronto

The view from the top didn’t disappoint. By late afternoon the mist had lifted and the sun was golden and casting long shadows over the city. The Toronto islands were clearly visible; even the ferry could be seen, its wake a wide triangle covering much of the bay. I spend a good time here just scanning the area, taking in the view and trying to identify the apartment I was staying in, the office I was working in and some of the places I had visited in the previous week.

I spend the weekdays evenings wandering around downtown Toronto thumbing through books, checking out the music and DVDs.

CN Tower, TorontoFor my final weekend I decide to get out of Toronto and take the train. I like using trains abroad. You get to see so much more of a country when you get out of major cities and don’t have to keep your eyes on the road. My destination is Niagra.

The area really isn’t geared for people without a car. The train station is some way from downtown and any of the sights. The guidebook tells me all this but I assume it’s exaggerating and decide to walk instead. Unfortunately the book was right and I was wrong!

The first I see of the falls is through the legs of the bridge over to the US side. Initially I was thinking of nipping over the border, but queues are substantial and a man I speak to suggests that even for pedestrians I would be in for a ninety minute wait.

Instead I press on, deciding just to make the most of the Canadian side of the falls. I am reliably informed that these are by far the most impressive in any case. Mid-April is before most of the paid attractions open, so I am not able to take the Maid of the Mist boat trip. I suspect the trip would have been spectacular, but I am able to get a good view of the falls from the side as there are so few tourists around.

Just about the only Falls attraction open is called “Behind the Falls.” There are tunnels behind the deluge of water allowing you to see just how powerful nature can be. I feel slightly cheated by the admission fee but realise the title was literal enough and I should have figured out what it entailed…

Niagra Falls, CanadaIt takes a while to fully appreciate Niagra Falls. The volume of water is just amazing, even the spray reaches higher than most waterfalls I’ve seen previously.

Niagra town also warrants a mention. It’s Canada’s Las Vegas, with all the class and culture you might imagine given such a moniker. There are casino’s and fairground rides, dozens of chain restaurants and plastic chairs. Initially I was considering staying here for the night but I am now glad that I didn’t!

The train ride back to Toronto is delayed considerably first by US customs and then by the Canadians. As the guard said, “It’s all in the hands of the government now.” We knew we had a long wait ahead…

On the next weekend I head home. It rains heavily all day, really pounding down on the taxi I take to the airport. I think I was in Canada for the right three weeks.

Red

Che Guevaras influence shows everywhere, this time in Camag?ay, Cuba
Che Guevaras influence shows everywhere, this time in Camag?ay, Cuba

red
n.

    1. The hue of the long-wave end of the visible spectrum, evoked in the human observer by radiant energy with wavelengths of approximately 630 to 750 nanometers; any of a group of colors that may vary in lightness and saturation and whose hue resembles that of blood; one of the additive or light primaries; one of the psychological primary hues.
    2. A pigment or dye having a red hue.
    3. Something that has a red hue.
    1. often Red A Communist
    2. A revolutionary activist

(From dictionary.com.)

I score points for it being in a Communist country (2a) and containing a poster of Che Guevara (2b) if not for the quality of the picture itself.

I like the way the old, colonial building is colourful and well maintained while the Communist-era building looks drab but has the heroic poster adorning it.

Cuba, 2004

The way I saw it, Cuba had to be visited before Castro dies. And then, two days before I fly, I see headlines in the Evening Standard: Castro has fallen and has been hospitalised. Did I get the timing wrong?

No it turns out. He’s still alive and well, locals still talk about him with a hushed reverence normally reserved for religious leaders. The other bonus of arriving in late October is that the flood of winter tourists has yet to start and it’s still in the high twenties.

Overall it’s very varied. We covered quite a distance, everything from the grandeur and squalor of Havana, to the colonial delights of Trinidad to sleeping outside a hacienda half way up a mountain in the South East and the limestone pillars in the West. Exhausting but worth it.

Havana is one of those cities with shady squares and twisty back-street that you can happily aimlessly wander around for hours. Those 50s American cars you see in the pictures really are there, although once inside you realise that the romantic imagery doesn’t quite match up to the practicalities (they’re noisy and uncomfortable).

The smaller towns were more aesthetically consistent and the locals more friendly. It was difficult going for a drink without finding yourself being dragged onto the dance floor. They just don’t believe you when you say you can’t Salsa…

In the mountains we saw Fidel and Che Guevara’s hide-away and a spike shoved up a pigs bum for our spit-roasted dinner. In Viñales we saw limestone columns, red-clay soil and tobacco growing in the fields.

Click the small pictures below for a full size version. All the full size pictures are optimised for a 1024×768 display and are in 24-bit colour. All images are copyright and my permission is required for any use.

All pictures here have been taken on my EOS300D with the 18-55mm lens. Many of the outdoor pictures were taken using a polarising filter. If anyone currently in Cuba finds my skylight filter can then please return it!

If the pictures have piqued your interest, there are a few resources that you might want to have a look out for:

  • Switching allegiances this time, I bought the Rough Guide to Cuba. While having less pictures, the text was significantly more detailed.
  • I only found the Cuba Portal on my return but it has lots of information on places that I visted.

Miscellaneous Pictures, 2003

Like most people I take the majority of my pictures while on holiday. But that’s not the only time. Here you’ll find some odds and ends, places I’ve been where I was only there for a short time or where there are only a few reasonable ones!

The first batch are from my month-long stint at my companies Malta office (actually at the tail-end of 2002). There would have been more pictures, but it rained for much of the time I was there! Not encouraging weather for sight-seeing!

Next are pictures from closer to home. One from a friends wedding in sleepy Southwold, the next few from my “flight” on the London Eye, then a couple from Norfolk and the last two of the UK are in the Peak District. The last few are from my time in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Click the small pictures below for a full size version.

The bay near St JuliansLooking over Valetta View of Malta from MdinaThis tower is visible almost anywhere on the whole isla
Beach huts in Southwold, SuffolkLondon Eye pod View of Charing Cross from the London EyeView from the London Eye
View from the London EyeView of the London Eye Near Burnham Deepdale, NorfolkSeals on the Norfolk coast
The Peak District near EdaleThe Peak District near Edale Charlotte at duskCharlotee from just out of the centre
Charlotte sky-scrapersCharlotte sky-scrapers A park in uptown CharlotteClassy Christmas Decorations

The last few pictures (the colour ones of Charlotte) are taken on my D300. All the others here have been taken on my EOS300 using Fuji Sensia II ISO100 film.

Miscellaneous Pictures, 2000

Until now, all the pictures I’ve put here have been based on a theme: the country I was in when I took them. I do take pictures at other times though, and there are often not enough of them to justify a complete page to themselves.

That’s what you’ll find on this page.

There are basically four groups. Firstly there are a few snaps from a quick trip around Durham, in the North-East of England. Then I was briefly in and around Montreal, Canada in May 2000. There are also a couple of pictures taken around Wimbledon during the summer. All these are taken on the Canon Sureshot. At the end you’ll find the highlights of the first roll of film through my EOS (Jessops ISO200). They’re all in and around London.

Click the small pictures below for a full size version.

Durham CathedralDurham's market square A couple of hours south of MontrealA view over Montreal
A square in MontrealNear Wimbledon Common Tower bridgeSt Pauls cathedral
Just outside St PaulsOutside my bedroom window