24 June 2023
There is a street in downtown 서울 (Seoul) area that is very touristy and worth visiting, especially if you're looking for some Korean trinkets to remember your visit by. It's a little bit easier to navigate than 남대문시장 (Namdaemun Market), but it's also a little bit more expensive. Some of the interesting attractions for 인사동 (Insadong) are the shops that have their signs written in 한글 (Hangeul). For example, Starbucks is written "스타벅스". The photo that I took on this visit was from a little complex just off the street itself called 쌈지길 (Ssamziegil). It has a big yellow logo of "ㅆ". It has a few stairs up to the second floor, but then it has a winding ramp that takes you around to all the different artistic shops as it winds up to the fourth floor and roof. On the roof they have a poop emoji 💩 cafe where you can get poop emoji shaped pancakes and similarly themed drinks.
22 June 2023
파주 (Paju) is a suburb of 서울 (Seoul), located to the Northeast of downtown. It isn't particularly close to where we're living, but someone offered us a free bike for our child and I figured it might be worth the 5,000 won to bus there and back. Unfortunately, it had been a few days since the owner offered us the bike and by the time I arrived the bike was gone. The owner also had no idea where it went, so we were just out of luck. It was a reasonable two hour bus ride to get to 파주 (Paju) from 강남 (Gangnam) and I had a front row seat on the top of a double-decker bus. However, after the optimism and excitement had worn off, it felt like a much longer bus ride home. Before heading back empty handed, I decided to at least get some 김밥 (kimbap) 비빔밥 (bibimbap) for lunch. It was pretty tasty and very reasonably priced. I didn't really take any photos of 파주 (Paju), but it's much more spacious than 강남 (Gangnam), certainly more suburban feeling with a lot more green space.
롯데월드타워 (Lotte World Tower)
31 May 2023
When my wife and I visited Korea four years ago, we stayed in an Airbnb near the more touristy area of downtown Seoul. Because of this we never made it to see 롯데월드타워 (Lotte World Tower). However, this time our stay in Korea is a little longer and not for tourism and it's much closer to 롯데월드타워. It is the tallest building in South Korea at 555 metres and 123 floors, and during our visit, it is the 6th tallest building in the world. I'm not particularly interested in the subtle differences between tallest buildings, tallest towers, or tallest structures, but it is an impressive sight either way. While we did not go up the tower on this visit, I did manage to get some interesting video of the tower four years ago as I was leaving Seoul. I think that the video is pretty cool because of how it shows parallax when tracking the top of tower. But be warned, the video is very grainy, shaky, and otherwise pretty poor quality.
연등회 (Yeondeunghoe), The Lotus Lantern Festival
26 May 2023
Even though the main event and parade of the Lotus Lantern Festival (연등회, Yeondeunghoe) had already passed, many of the Buddhist temples still displayed lanterns in celebration of Buddha's birthday. I saw the lanterns at the 조계사 (Jogyesa) temple when I we visited four years ago, but this was my first experience seeing the lanterns at night. It was really peaceful and calming to walk the temple grounds under the lantern light, in spite of how difficult it was for our daughter who was exhausted and kept up far past her usually bedtime. I find that there is something intrinsically beautiful and fundamentally simple about the Four Nobel Truths and the Eightfold Path. I feel seen and validated understanding that the many of the personal struggles that I have had have arisen from my desire to be or have something that I'm not or don't possess. For me, while more abstract than Christianity, it provides such a simple metric for understanding the world and our place in it.
천왕산 (Cheonwang Mountain)
14 May 2023
The Airbnb that we stayed in was on the slopes of 천왕산 (Cheonwang Mountain). There was a mountain mineral spring just 100 metres up from where we were staying. It had wonderful water. We took a casual Sunday late afternoon hike up the mountain. There is a strong hiking culture in Korea and it’s very common to see people dressed for a hike and commuting around the city to go to their favourite climbs. Near the top of 천왕산 (Cheonwang Mountain) is a area designated for exercising. All over 서울 (Seoul) are public parks and recreational areas with outdoor body weight workout equipment. Something special about the top of 천왕산 (Cheonwang Mountain) was that in addition to the body weight workout equipment there were also weight machines and free weights that are usually found in an indoor gym. Again, these were free for the public to use and a number of individuals were using them while we were there. Our daughter particularly enjoyed playing with the jump rope and the hoola hoops. Her play was clearly entertaining to the other patrons and we all enjoyed some good chuckles. We were careful and respectful of the equipment. It amazes me that such a culture could be so respectful of collective good. It’s such a stark contrast to my experience in the US and Canada. When our time at the (frankly, moldy and unimpressive) Airbnb ended I was a little sad because we left behind the wonderful neighbourhood and beauty of 천왕산 (Cheonwang Mountain). This photo is a view looking north towards 서울 (Seoul) from the lookout adjacent to the workout area on the top of the mountain.
서울어린이대공원 (Seoul Children's Grand Park)
13 May 2023
We wanted to meet up with an old friend who lived on the other side of the city from where we were staying but we also wanted to be able to talk, so we met them where our daughter could be endlessly entertained. At 서울어린이대공원 or Seoul Children's Grand Park. It has a zoo, an amusement park, plenty of outdoor space, outdoor amphitheatres, and much more. I took this photo of a small patch of canola that was curated for a photo shoot for those using the park. It was actually a refreshingly familiar smell. For many years growing up the field to the west of childhood home grew canola and it was just one of the many fields in the region that grew it. So my summers were often filled with the smell. This patch of canola was very small compared to the fields grown for commercial purposes, but the vibrant yellow does make for nice photos. Also, growing up in Grande Prairie, 'Grand' always looks strange to me.
09 May 2023
It's not the Times Square in New York City, but Times Square in the 영등포 (Yeongdeungpo) region of (서울) Seoul has its name plastered all over the place. It's a big shopping complex with much to offer and lots to see. We went in pursuit of a stuffed Pikachu for our daughter. Over the many months that she's become a Pokémon fan, we told her that we would not get her a stuffed Pikachu until we went to Korea. On our first full day in the country we headed out to fulfill our promise. We looked at E-Mart, but were unsuccessful. We did however find one in 남대문 (Namdaemun) Market, but I didn't take any pictures there for the throngs of people. Because of jet lag, we arrived at Times Square much before it opened, so the area was empty and I had time to take photos.
15 Apr 2023
I'm not a big fan of watching sports, but a friend came to visit us and they like to watch baseball so we took them out to the game. It happened to be a historic game because not only was it a Jackie Robinson tribute so everyone was wearing the number 42, but it was also the earliest the Sky Dome had ever been opened for a major league game. There was an unusual April heat wave and the technicians were unprepared to open the dome for the first available game, but when we went for the second game the dome was open and it was a beautiful day. We got nice seats too in the season ticket holder's area. The best part was that it was in shadow the entire game. It was my third major league game and the first time I wasn't watching the San Francisco Giants play in their home stadium. It was also the first season that with the new pitch clock and I felt that it really made the game more enjoyable.
19 Feb 2023
We had the opportunity to visit the Scarborough Bluffs again. It had been a long time and even though it was the off-season we were very grateful to our friends for lending us their car. It made getting to the park much easier. It was pretty wet and muddy, but the rocky beach was dry. Because it was dry and because my daughter loves to throw rocks into water we spent most of our time throwing or skipping rocks into Lake Ontario. It was a good day. It was nice to get out of downtown and spend some time in a park that wasn't crowded.
27 Dec 2022
Because we spent so much time with family this year, we decided to spend Christmas with just the three of us. We stayed in Toronto for most of the Christmas break, but took a short trip to Kingston, Ontario to escape the city. We stayed in a hotel with a pool and enjoyed some time together. Our daughter really enjoyed playing in the pool. We also rented some ice skates and went ice skating on the public rink next to city hall. It was our daughter's first time ice skating and even though she was not very good she really enjoyed herself. We finished the skating with some hot chocolate. Even with all of that, the most memorable experience for me was visiting the docks of the boat club where the snow storm from the day before had lifted up water from the lake onto the docks where it repeatedly froze. The walk out to the frozen display was treacherous and difficult but the visual payoff was well worth it.
03 Oct 2022
I feel like southern Ontario is one of the few places in the world where when you talk about London you always need to specify whether or not you mean London, Ontario or London, England. I took a train to London, ON to give a presentation on my recent paper. The conference was a week long, but I spent only one night in London because it was a hybrid conference. I arrived on the earliest train Monday morning and left on the last train Tuesday night. It was a good conference. I was able to meet a lot of people and connect with many friends and prominent individuals in my field. Because I spent so much time networking, I didn't really see much of London. I really only saw the convention centre and the immediate region of restaurants around it. This is the only photo I took while I was in London, and it was of the delicious bowl of ramen I had for lunch on my first day. I know I saw hardly any of the city, but I don't really have plans to come back and visit soon so I wanted to remember when I did visit.
The Arboretum at Penn State, PA
31 Jul 2022
We took a trip down to Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pennsylvania for me to attend a conference on exoplanet research. I presented a poster on my paper I recently had published considering the effect of stellar flybys on the long-term stability of the solar system. We arrived a day early because my wife's parents came up from Virginia to spend some time with us. It happened to work out that State College, PA is about halfway between Toronto and DC. It was nice to spend time with them and we had a great time walking around the arboretum. There were many beautiful arrangements, flowers, plants, and water features. There was also a kids discovery area, but it was closed while we were there. If for some reason you find yourself in the middle of Pennsylvania near State College (yes, that is the real name of the town), then perhaps visit the arboretum and get some ice cream from the Penn State creamery.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
22 Jun 2022
It's been many years since I first wanted to visit the Head-Smashed-In world heritage site. I've driven through the region dozens of times, but I'd never taken the time to actually visit. I'm glad I finally did. As a white, privileged descendant of colonial settlers, most of my life has benefited from the land and resources stolen by my ancestors. It is heavy and difficult to grapple with the reality and loss that didn't destroy my way of life, but not only destroyed the way of life of so many people, but also systematically tried to eliminate them. I'm frustrated by many of the systemic inequalities that exist in society and the exhibits helped me see the life and knowledge that has been lost. Taking the time to contemplate and consider what I can do to participate in the process of reconciliation, I feel what must be a small fraction of the frustration that those affected by the loss and death must feel towards with the current systems. I hope that working to learn and understand without burdening those affected by the violence is a productive step forwards. I hope to be a better voice and defense for those seeking reconciliation.
21 Jun 2022
It was a first for me to visit Cameron Lake. Even though it was the summer solstice, there were still large sheets of ice floating on the lake and many of the amenities were still closed. We didn't have much opportunity to walk around the lake because the trails were muddy and flooded and it was our last visit of the day so we were quite exhausted. It was a nice drive up the mountain and also some good views. When the sun was out, it was reminiscent of Lake Louise, though the lake itself was not quite as vibrantly blue. However, it was a much nicer experience than Lake Louise because it was significantly less busy with many fewer tourists. It also isn't really that much farther of a drive from Calgary than Banff National Park is. So, If you're flying into Calgary to go see the Canadian Rockies, maybe drive down to Waterton National Park instead and experience the beauty with fewer people.
Glacier National Park
21 Jun 2022
If you book a ticket early enough you can take a boat ride down Waterton Lake into the USA and Glacier National Park. Because the US side was closed and we wouldn't be disembarking, we didn't need to pass through any customs or immigration. It was a nice ride, even though it was very windy. This photo I took is of the US-Canada border as we crossed it into Glacier National Park. I've been to Glacier a few times for hikes, drives, and adventures. It's an absolutely stunning and beautiful place. I highly recommended visiting if you can. Also, it was nice to be able to visit the United States without passing through all the nation-state bureaucracy. If it weren't for the clear cut line dividing the two sides you'd never be able to tell you'd passed south of the 49th parallel.
Waterton National Park
21 Jun 2022
As we were driving down from Blaikiston Falls, we came across a number of cars parked on the side of the road. For a national park, it was a sign of onlookers gawking at wildlife. Many times I won't be interested in joining them, but this time I was. There was black bear with two playful cubs and a resting brown bear. We stayed and watched the cubs play for about 15-20 minutes. However, when they started getting closer to the road, all the visitors quickly rushed back into their cars. We waited for a little longer and then made our way back down the mountain.
21 Jun 2022
We made a trip down to Waterton National Park and really enjoyed the slower pace of a weekday crowd. If you have not been to Waterton it is absolutely gorgeous. Though it's probably because it is the small northernmost part of the Glacier National Park region contained mostly in the USA. We made the hike up to Blaikiston Falls and even though a forest fire had gone through the region a few years earlier, it was still a great hike with great views. The town of Waterton itself amazingly survived the fire because of the incredible work of those protecting it. The town is right on the lake and the firefighters basically kept the town underwater, but it did save it. The new visitors centre there is also pretty nice.
20 Jun 2022
I haven't been to the Calgary Zoo very much, but it was much better then the Edmonton zoo that we went to the week before. (I didn't even take any notable photos of the Edmonton zoo.) This photo was from the butterfly house, which was amazing in its own way. The gorilla house also had an adorable baby stealing much of the attention of the onlookers. Children, of course, enjoy the zoo, but the exoticism bothers me along with how sad it is to see the animals in cages. It is fascinating to see some animals in close proximity, but I feel that photos and videos are a much better way of capturing them (especially from the work of BBC Planet Earth). Maybe it's my bias as an astronomer where phenomena and wavelengths can't be captured in person anyways.
Calgary Rotary Park
19 Jun 2022
Sometimes, as a parent, you just need to get outside and let children run around. We and some friends had time to pass and a few restless kids so we took them to the playground and then to the Calgary Rotary Park. The park has a nice view of downtown Calgary. I don't know the details, but it seems that the drop was carved out by the Bow River long before the area was colonized. There were some interesting lion statues on the edge of the hill, but I found the opposing view more inspiring.
18 Jun 2022
I always enjoy going to Lake Louise. It's a very beautiful lake. However, it's a major tourist destination and it can become very crowded, even for an outdoor space. This time, we were there on a Saturday afternoon so it was extremely busy. We were still able to drive up and park ourselves, though I hear that the park may be moving to a shuttle only system. We went for a bit of a hike around the lake, which I hadn't really done before. Usually I drive up, take an iconic photo or two, and then carry on with my day (because it's so crowded). We didn't get very far around the lake because we had a couple toddlers with us, so it was slow going.
Lower Johnston Falls
18 Jun 2022
Banff National Park is a treasure and the Lower Johnston Falls is an easy hike for those who are able. It isn't far, but it has a pretty exciting view. The falls are inspiring and the cave/tunnel right at the end adds a nice touch. It was a Saturday, so it was relatively busy. We had to queue along the bridge leading to the falls as we waited our turn for the photo opportunity. I'm always impressed by the infrastructure that national parks have that enables regular people like me to be able to enjoy such spectacular sights. The path up the mountain is attached to canyon walls at some points, making it impossible to casually see otherwise.
Torrington Gopher Museum
17 Jun 2022
As we headed south from Edmonton to experience the Canadian Rockies and a couple National Parks, we decided to stop off at the Torrington Gopher Museum. The owner and manager of the museum was incredibly kind and welcoming. They also explained to us the history behind the museum and how it came to be. According to their account, decades ago as the railway was being removed from many towns in the prairies, some funds were made available for communities to establish a small tourism industry to entice travellers to stop by. Torrington struggled to come up with anything interesting about their town, but remarked at the number of gophers there were. One idea lead to another and the whole town got behind the idea of a stuffed gopher museum. They got the funds and now it stands for all to visit. It's a remarkably entertaining visit. However, these many years later the funding initiative has long disappeared, so be sure to donate generously so that they can continue to keep the lights on and provide laughs for visitors from all over the world.
15 Jun 2022
We decided to spend a some significant time in Alberta this summer. In part because I have a lot of family in Alberta, but also because summers in Alberta are very nice. It rarely too hot or too humid and there are a lot of daylight hours available, providing a lot of opportunity to appreciate the outdoors. As a comparison, Edmonton has an average of 17 daylight hours in June, while Toronto only has an average of a little over 15 hours. Anyway, we ended up at the Muttart Conservatory because we had time to explore the city and it looked interesting. We didn't actually go inside, but we wandered around the outside and had a look at its intriguing architecture. It's a very photogenic building and from what we could see through the windows, it seems like it has wonderful gardens as well.
13 Jun 2022
One of the things Alberta is known for is dinosaur fossils, especially the Albertosaurus. While we had interest in visiting the Edmonton zoo, when we learned about Jurassic Forest we knew that we wanted to go see it. It's a 40-acre park with walking trails to explore the animatronic dinosaurs strategically placed to blend naturally into the scenery of the forest. Being so familiar with the boreal forest of the region, I must say it was a little odd to see such majestic creatures in such a familiar landscape. It's a bit of a drive North of Edmonton to get to it, but it's amazing for children and surprisingly enjoyable, even for adults. It also seems specifically placed where it is because the walking trails are boardwalks built over a natural wetland which they work to preserve, so there isn't much motivation to develop the land into something else anyway.
27 Dec 2021
We spent another Christmas holiday with family in Virginia. It was good to get out of Toronto again, especially as COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing from the onslaught of the Omicron variant. It was a reasonably pleasant drive down (and back) without much snow and generally good traffic and weather. On one of the more unstructured days, we took a gentle walk through Leopold's Preserve with a little bit of on-and-off light rain. Of course one of our main goals, aside from stretching our legs, was to find a carefully hidden geocache. The subtle hint regarding orange and black rocks was completely unhelpful when all the rocks turned the same colour because of the rain. Some kindly passing people offered to help us look for what they assumed was a lost item, but rescinded their offer when we informed them that nothing was missing. We eventually found the little tin treasure hiding under a rock, but not a rock that we needed to lift. It wasn't too far from the path either. It can be frustrating looking for geocaches because you don't know what you're looking for, so it is also exciting to find them.
Prince William Forest Park
2 Sep 2021
Looking for another morning walk in the shade, we decided to try out Prince William Forest Park. We went a day or two after the remnants of hurricane Ida had passed over us (thankfully for us it was only a bit of rain and not any flooding or damage). However, there were plenty of branches strewn across the path and the creek that we hiked next to was clearly higher and siltier than it usually would be. But the mushrooms! Either because of recent rain from Ida or the uncharacteristically frequent rain that fell in the area throughout August, the mushrooms were plentiful and large. And so much variety, from vibrant orange ones to deep black ones and broad white ones to iconic brown ones. The cool morning walk turned into a mushroom scavenger hunt and a path clearing adventure. When the trail finally started going uphill we decided to turn back, but I'm confident that if we continued onwards, we would've seen so much more than mushrooms.
Mt Jefferson State Natural Area
28 Aug 2021
Occasionally, when we have had extended holidays we like to take a vacation from our holiday. After a couple weeks in Virginia we drove down to North Carolina to visit an old friend from the west who recently moved east for work. The Appalachian mountains are very intriguing to me having grown up close to the Canadian Rockies. They are clearly mountainous, but lack the jarring peaks of the rockies. We seized the opportunity to drive nearly to the top of Mt Jefferson before starting our hike (because we're on vacation inception and it was hot). Still, it was nice to walk for a couple kilometres in the shade and the view near the top was spectacular. It was my first time in North Carolina and also my first (and second) experience with Bojangles and their cinnamon biscuits.
Shenandoah National Park
13 Aug 2021
With the taste of one National Park, we were set on enjoying another. Much farther out of the suburbs than Great Falls, Shenandoah National Park possesses striking vistas and excellent hiking trails. With the goal to enjoy our time in nature, we did a gentle hike to Dark Hollow Falls, though we found it was gentle in length and not in elevation change. Either way, it was wonderful to be amidst the flora and fauna as we spotted a doe and a fawn ruminating just off the path. It was also a treat to be in the shade and cooler, mountainous air, even though we did not find respite from the humidity. There is certainly something to be said for the combination of heat and humidity in Virginia summers, a first for me. It was quite the experience to walk the paths and trails built during the difficult times of the Great Depression made possible through the New Deal. The drive through the rest of the park was gentle and enjoyable. You can't cover a lot of distance very quickly driving through a National Park, but I find it inspiring and rejuvenating.
Brentsville Courthouse and Jail
11 Aug 2021
Situated along one of the country lanes that criss-cross Prince William County is the Brentsville courthouse and jail. We were looking for a gentle, shady walk and knew of a public trail through the trees behind the courthouse, so we didn't stay for the tours. We wandered back by the old farmhouse for a morning stroll through the trees. We caught a few spider webs with our faces before we tried using a stick to clear the way as we went. But after a few more failed attempts to clear the path and some spiders the size of quarters, we decided we weren't willing to risk it and turned back after making it only about 200 metres into the woods. The arachnids of Virginia are much more prevalent and industrious than the ones in the city. I'm also honestly a little terrified of them. Having grown up in the north, I became comfortable knowing that if an animal was going to hurt you or possibly kill you, you were going to see it and hear it coming. The sneakiness and mysteriouness of spiders are a bit much for me sometimes. Trying to figure out if a spider is going to crawl down my neck or bite me because I unintentionally ran into its web isn't really my idea of a leisurely morning stroll.
Great Falls National Park
5 Aug 2021
COVID-19 cases had fallen significantly by the middle of the summer, though the Delta variant was on the rise. Either way, we needed to get out of the city. The day out to Bruce Peninsula had been restorative, but we needed a proper break so we flew to Virginia. Under the wing of a National Parks aficionado, local nature enthusiast, and avid geocacher, we went to Great Falls National Park just outside of the US capital and on the border between Maryland and Virginia. We had a wonderful, leisurely hike and enjoyed the view. Our amateur tour guide was also very accommodating and excellent company.
21 Jun 2021
After spending the afternoon visiting the grotto in Bruce Peninsula National Park, we drove up to the tiny town of Tobermory. We were interested in grabbing a bite to eat, but nothing we saw piqued our interest, so we went back south and headed towards Sauble Beach. With the evening rolling in, we had hoped to possibly enjoy a meal and then take the time to watch the sunset on the beach. However, when we arrived the town felt nearly abandoned. I'm sure COVID-19 has been exceptionally difficult to tourist destinations, but the heavy winds and cooler air didn't help and made the beach pretty unpleasant. We stopped to snap a few pictures of the beach, but the wind whipping sand into our faces made the situation difficult to enjoy. I've heard great things about Sauble Beach and it looked like a wonderful beach town, but with most of the restaurants looking like they were closed we decide that were weren't going to wait around for another 3 hours to watch the sunset (one of the side effects of travelling on the summer solstice).
Bruce Peninsula National Park
21 Jun 2021
Finally, after almost a year of being confined to downtown Toronto, vaccination rates were high, cases were going down, and we decided we'd rent a car and get out of the city. We both had our first doses against COVID-19, and we knew that campsites throughout the province were completely booked so we didn't even try. Even so, it felt incredible to leave the city and drive through the countryside on our way to the Bruce Peninsula. We were expecting rain, but were pleasantly surprised with an intermittently overcast afternoon as we hiked to the grotto. You'll find a wide variety of reviews about the place online, but make sure you book and pay for parking ahead of time. The walk itself was enjoyable and relatively flat, but the lake was stunningly vibrant shades of blue. It was a reasonably windy day, gusting up to 60-70 km/hr, creating inspiring sprays as the waves crashed against the grotto and rocky shore. We also passed a rattlesnake as it slithered through the bush.
22 May 2021
After 10 months of being confined to traveling on foot and avoiding public transit, we became really determined to safely explore parts of Toronto that we felt were in reach. The high case counts and prolonged lockdowns were really impacting us, mentally and physically. A couple of years ago we were excited to move to downtown Toronto. We'd no longer need to take public transit to get to school and we would be a lot closer to the exhibits and entertainment offerings that Toronto offers. COVID-19 arrived a year after we moved downtown and in order to save lives, months of lockdown and major restrictions followed. The pandemic has certainly changed our level of excitement for living in some of the densest neighbourhood in the city. There are some small and scattered public green spaces around us, but everyone needs a break from their tiny apartments so we can't fault anyone for enjoying the greenery the same time we are. Still, we started trekking farther and farther from home to visit parts of the city that we hadn't been to yet. Downtown Toronto is actually quite manageable to explore on foot, so long as you have all day and the stamina for walking. We had a nice walk around Graffiti Alley — it was our first time visiting, but it looked like it had changed a lot since the start of the pandemic.
29 Jul 2020
After quarantining for two weeks for good measure upon our return from Alberta, we took a brief day trip to Sibbald Point Provincial Park, about an hour drive north of Toronto. It was a beautiful day and it felt good to get out of the city (especially after being cooped up inside for two weeks straight). The water was nice to play in and it wasn't too hot that day, but it was still warm enough to enjoy the water. There was plenty of space to keep away from everyone else and we had a lovely picnic at the water's edge. After lunch we took a leisurely drive along the edge of Lake Simcoe before stopping for some ice cream and vegan gelato. It felt good to walk around in nature and be easily distanced from so many people.
11 Jul 2020
While we were staying in Grande Prairie, we took an all-day road trip towards Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia to see the inspiring Kinesuo Falls. The 60 metre (197-foot) waterfall is loud and exhilarating. The drive to the top of the waterfall is always longer than expected. Even so, if you're not in the mood for hiking, you can park about 200 metres (650 feet) from the precipice and walk the flat and friendly, well-kept path. The viewing deck provides relevant geological information and let's you safely stand uncomfortably close to the roaring edge. If you're feeling up to it, a 10 minute hike can get you an even better lookout view and a more adventurous hike can get you to the river's edge below. It's certainly a beautiful sight to witness in person (and it's always less crowded than visiting Niagara Falls). Additionally, because the falls are accessible by car, visiting in the wintertime brings its own beauty and majesty (and danger).
10 Jul 2020
Growing up in the Peace Region, I didn't often have a reason to travel farther north than Grande Prairie. Sometimes I'd go north to visit family, or for a basketball tournament, or for a church function, but I didn't always go during the summer. Even so, having had the privilege of visiting San Francisco on a school band trip, I have a place in my heart for grand suspension bridges. The suspension bridge at the Dunvegan crossing of the Peace River isn't impressive compared to other bridges of its kind in the world, but it stands in stark contrast to the many standard deck bridges that are all around the Peace Region. The contrast provides a refreshing novelty to the monotonous comings and goings of life in the region. The river valleys of the Peace Region also create variety to the farmland and boreal forest of the area. The various river valleys are wide enough to build an entire town in like the town of Peace River itself, or tall enough to create a ski hill on like the year-round adventure park of Nighthawk on the Wapiti River, or simply large enough to create one of the world's highest earth-fill dams and the third largest artificial lake in North America (again on the Peace River). Additionally, the river valleys provide a richer and longer growing season, making Dunvegan an excellent stop for purchasing fresh produce.
9 Jul 2020
Located about 40 km west of Grande Prairie is the little town of Beaverlodge. You pass through it if you're on your way to Alaska and it will be clear when you enter town because you'll be greeted by a massive beaver perched on a log. Locals will tell you that when you're leaving town it looks like it's about to jump off its perch and stop you from leaving. Even so, like many small towns in North America, Beaverlodge has lagged behind in the scramble to embrace all that the modern world has to offer. The evidence can be seen in the Beaver Inn's promotional sign advertising phones and color TVs in each unit. However, like many other small towns, you can find small restaurants that use fresh produce from local farmers. In Beaverlodge, Soups is a place offering fantastic sandwiches and quality food (only on weekdays). They also offer incredible cinnamon rolls, which we highly recommend trying.
9 Jul 2020
Running down much of the centre of Grande Prairie is the city's largest park, Muskoseepi Park. It winds and follows Bear Creek as it cuts its way through the city. Toward the north end of the park, close to city centre, the reservoir, and the Grande Prairie Regional College is the main centre and hub of the park. As a child we would occasionally take school trips to the main pavilion where we would go on nature walks or sometimes visit the museum where we would learn about the local wildlife or early history of the western settlers in the area. I don't recall learning much about the lifestyle and history of the peoples who inhabited the region before the western settlers arrived in earnest in the early 1900s — which is a shame. I also remember participating in Terry Fox runs in Muskoseepi Park every September, going around the reservoir in elementary school and running much farther south in the park before looping back to complete a 5 km run while in high school.
8 Jul 2020
A hub of the oil and gas industry in northwestern Alberta and northeastern British Columbia, my hometown was always bustling with hard working people during my formative years. It's still growing and developing, but recent slows in the industry have also reduced the workaholic fever that gripped the city for many years. It's a quaint city of about 60,000 people, but it's not a suburb of some larger metropolis so it offers almost everything you need. It's a service hub for the much of the Peace Region, but if you can't find what you need in Grande Prairie then you'll probably need to travel the additional 450 km southeast to Edmonton.
The region resembles the Great Plains, but there are more rolling hills and certainly more boreal forest. The city is on a small rise that dips down in every direction, but it stands out dramatically when you approach the city from the east, north, or west. The large Wapiti River is to the south, so coming up from the river valley doesn't provide the same inspiring view of the city. However, from the other cardinal directions it is especially inspiring to crest the surrounding hills at night and gaze out over the twinkling lights of the ever sprawling city. It was nice to visit my parents and be back in my hometown, especially during the summer, but it was a shame that I was unable to visit with anyone else due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sir Winston Churchill Park
30 May 2020
After spending the first few months of the COVID-19 lockdowns in our two bedroom apartment in downtown Toronto, we started venturing outside again. There isn't really a lot of green space in Toronto when you consider how many people live nearby. So with many places temporarily closed in an effort to flatten the curve, it seemed like there were a lot more people in the park than usual. But it could also be a sharp decrease in our tolerance to a closer proximity with other people. Overall though, it was a lovely morning walk and a much needed excursion for a breath of fresh air.
23 Feb 2020
The Nelson-Atkins Museum is a gem in the Midwest. The oversized birdies on the front lawn are iconic, the collections are brilliant, the curation is wonderful, and the admission is free! My wife and I walked the exhibits with some good friends and their kids. There were some excellent children's areas and scavenger hunts at the entrance of each exhibit to keep teenagers and adults engaged and entertained. I wholeheartedly recommend taking a look if you're in the Kansas City area. Additionally, if you're in KC, you might as well try some of Joe's Burnt Ends from their classic gas station-BBQ joint location. And even if your vegan, there are plenty of good KC BBQ sauces to try that are vegan.
26 Dec 2019
We were back on the East Coast for Christmas which, like before, didn't have any snow. It certainly makes the driving easier, especially when you're unable to have winter tires. Though, it's really nice sometimes to have a Christmas where you don't need to bundle up extensively to go outside and it's so easy to just leave the house and go for a walk around the neighbourhood.
I was my first time going to Philadelphia too. Last time, a couple years ago, when I was in the Philadelphia area, I was coming back from visiting New England. We had left Vermont that morning and were headed back to Virginia, so we didn't make any stops to see the sights. Even this visit was a little pressed for time. We met up with a friend, enjoyed some dim sum and Paris Baguette, but didn't visit any of the historical sights. We did drive in front of Independence Hall on our way back, and we tried to snap a couple drive-by photos, but the cobblestone road directly in front of the building made that practically impossible. Especially since it was well past sundown and low-light pictures usually require being very still. Even so, I did get at least one decent picture of somewhere in the city.
8 Nov 2019
I was in Edmonton again, this time for my little brother's wedding. Unfortunately, my wife was unable to come with me this time, which felt especially sad because all of my siblings and their families were there. It was a beautiful wedding. Short and simple. They make a great couple. It was snowing for all the family pictures so there was a dance between his side and her side holding jackets for each other. The best part was that even the photographress didn't want to keep us out taking pictures for too long. Even Canadians can only take so much of cold weather.
Allan Gardens Conservatory
2 Sep 2019
When my wife and I first moved to Toronto, we discovered how many places close for Labour Day—seemingly moreso than on other Canadian civic holidays. It was especially difficult that first Labour Day because we needed food and furniture for our new place. However, each year after that we've been prepared and we make sure that we enjoy Labour Day. This year we took a walk down to Allan Gardens Conservatory. It's a beautiful and quaint park (one of the oldest in Toronto), but it's free and open every day of the year. It isn't a vast place to be explored, but it's certainly an oasis in the downtown area, particularly during the winter. We walked around a few parts of it and enjoyed watching the fish and turtles simply doing what they do. There are a lot of turtles for such a small space, but they seem to enjoy standing on each other as they compete for the spaces beneath the heat lamps.
3 Jul 2019
My wife and I visited Palmyra. A small village in the fertile farmland and casual hills of upper western New York. It's never been of any great consequence, and the scenery isn't anything unique, but it's a quaint and peaceful place to visit. Just outside of town, there is a small log cabin on a farm next to some trees. However uninteresting the place may seem, about 200 years ago a young Joseph Smith, living there with his family and confused about the religious teachings of the day, decided to pray and ask God what he should do. In his own words he wrote, 'I retired to a secret place in a grove and began to call upon the Lord. While fervently engaged in supplication, my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision and saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noonday' (Wentworth Letter, 1 March 1842).
1 Jul 2019
Toronto's Casa Loma is an interactive museum. It's not as old as European castles, and it's much more of a mansion than a castle, but it gets used for more than just tourism. In a not-very-subtle way there are movie posters on display in the basement stating which rooms were used as sets. There are also a couple screens cycling through clips showcasing how the movies used the different rooms of Casa Loma. Some movies worked much harder to hide the distinct Casa Loma features, while others kept them exposed. I found the conservatory and the library to be particularly beautiful. It was also a treat to go up the turrets (or towers) and have a look at the city. As you walk through the mansion there are signs and posters describing the history of its life and creation. It has an interesting history, but it takes a sad turn during the 1920s when the city forced the owner to pay extra taxes they knew he couldn't afford so the property could be used for their gain.
17 Jun 2019
I was able to attend a second physics conference this year at Cornell University. This time closer to home in the finger lakes region of western New York. Ithaca was much more hilly and spread out than I expected. I had a great time talking with graduate students like myself. I also found the adjustment a lot easier, most likely because of the shared language and culture, but also because of the shared timezone. I definitely made sure to get some Mexican food while I was in the US because the Mexican food in Toronto just isn't that good (or the places with good Mexican food in Toronto aren't very good at getting the word out).
2 Jun 2019
I was privileged to be able to attend an international physics conference in Germany this year. It took me a little longer than I expected to adjust to being in Germany. It was my first time in continental Europe and I think I initially expected it to be similar to the UK (but don't tell the Germans I said that). Additionally, my wife is a linguist and she was unable to come with me, so I felt the language barrier much more intensely than when I've travelled with her. On top of the language barrier, there was the jet lag and a heat wave, making my first day in Heidelberg very difficult. But, aside from the difficulties that I had adjusting to my week in Germany, it was a fantastic experience. From the castle, to the food, to the good conversations at the conference, it was a privilege to be able to go.
경복궁 (Gyeongbokgung Palace)
1 May 2019
There is a deep and rich history in Korea. The culture, architecture, and way of life are all integrated together, shaped by the landscape and geography of the peninsula. My wife and I visited many of the museums and historical sites in Seoul. We enjoyed the palaces and Buddhist temples. As individuals of Christian faith, we feel that many of the foundations of Buddhism (such as suffering is caused by desire) can help us find hope and peace in the modern world. We feel that the art and architecture of the older Korea contrast the skyscrapers and rampant consumerism of today.
This is a photo from inside 경복궁 (Gyeongbokgung), the largest of the Five Grand Palaces in Seoul and the most popular. We accidentally made the mistake of visiting the palace on a holiday which we felt made the beauty of it more difficult to enjoy. Even so, my wife particularly likes Korean palace architecture over Japanese or Chinese palace architecture. The colours are not so ostentatious and the design is not so overwhelming. They use more earthy tones with rich greens, reds, and browns (compared to the intricate gold ornamentation found in other countries).
We also visited 경휘궁 (Gyeonghuigung) during our stay in Korea. Even though it's one of the smallest of the Five palaces, it still captures the same elements of design, earthy colours, and feelings of historic beauty found in the other palaces. It was also free to visit so people seemed to enjoy it more casually. Individuals and groups were there to enjoy the quiet and serenity of the palace on their lunch breaks, which made the palace feel more like a public park rather than a tourist trap. However, while the visitors were more casual, everyone was still very respectful, similar to visiting one of the many Buddhist temples that dot the Korean landscape.
25 Apr 2019
We took a KTX train from 서울 (Seoul) through 평창 (PyeongChang) to 강릉 (Gangneung), places where many of the Winter 2018 Olympic events were held. However, we didn't go there to see the empty olympic parks. Rather, we first went to Gangneung to have some 순두부찌개 (Sundubu-jjigae) or soft tofu stew. It's a wonderfully spicy soup with lots of vegetables and mushrooms, sometimes oysters, but especially soft, freshly curdled tofu. We also found a quaint shop that was selling soft tofu gelato, which we obviously tried and thoroughly enjoyed.
A little north of 강릉 (Gangneung), still along the coast, is the relatively small holiday city of Sokcho. Since we were there in the spring, on a particularly cool and wet-threatening day, there were very few other tourists. It made it much easier to find a great, well-priced AirBnB with an 8th floor, East Sea view. It was clear from the beach infrastructure that it becomes a very busy place in the summer. With the ocean on one side of the city and the mountains on the other, it is a popular vacation spot for Koreans. Beyond the beach and boating activities, there is a lot of hiking and adventuring that can be done, making it an ideal place to spend a week in good weather. Even so, it was not our lot for good weather, as we could hardly see the mountains to the west for the overcast and threat of rain. After enjoying the beach and city for a day we took the bus back to Seoul.
15 Apr 2019
The cherry blossoms on 여의도 (Yeouido), an island in the Han River in Seoul, South Korea, are the most beautiful blossoms I've ever seen. The years that my wife spent in Korea were integral to the person that she has become, so it has been a goal for both my wife and I to visit Korea together. Our first few days together in Seoul were beautiful and warm. We were fortunate enough to arrive before the end of the cherry blossom season and we enjoyed slow strolls through the parks with contemplative pauses under the trees. My wife has patiently been preparing me to visit Korea — cooking their food for me, schooling me on their history, showing me their culture, and even teaching me how to read and pronounce 한글 (Hangeul).
I really enjoyed my first week in Korea, in part because spring was already in full swing, but also because of the experience of being somewhere so new and so different. Additionally, there have been a few times already were I've been astonished by good design that just makes life better (such as escalators which only operate when people need to use them in order to reduce energy consumption). But seriously, take a moment to think about something that you use every day that frustrates you (should you push or pull the door, or are you trying to insert the USB upside-down again, etc.) Good design goes a long way and when Korea transformed from poverty to modernity within a couple generations, they took the opportunity to apply good design to modern infrastructure, with both hindsight and foresight.
28 Dec 2018
Over Christmas my wife and I travelled to visit my parents and family members in the Great White North. It was nice to have a truly snow-covered Christmas like the ones of my youth. We also enjoyed spending time with my family, catching up, and reminiscing. There were a lot of friends and family to see and catch up with, unfortunately I wasn't able to see them all, but it was nice to talk with many of them. I find it interesting that it seems now matter how I change, or how other people and places change, somehow the familiar landscape stirs something inside me and tells me I'm home.
1 Sep 2018
Before the start of the school year my wife and I drove out to enjoy Quèbec. We were excited to be able see the European style architecture for the price of a domestic holiday. It is a beautiful province, so much more lush and green than my dry home province of Alberta. It was both exciting and terrifying to have the opportunity to practice my still very basic French. I panicked the first time I was ordering food and quickly said, 'Bonjour, ... je ne pas Français,' which I admit, didn't give me any more opportunities to practice my French in that conversation. It was incredible to walk around Quèbec City and take in the sights, sounds, and smells. We found a couple pastry shops and tried the various pain au chocolat and brioche à la cannelle. And of course our trip wouldn't have been complete without a taste of the local poutine so we had some for lunch along with some tasty queue de castor. We also took a lovely drive up the St. Lawrence to Tadoussac, a day trip we greatly enjoyed. As well, we drove around the entire Île d'Orléans enjoying the picturesque French countryside before watching the sunset behind Quèbec City from across the St. Lawrence.
23 Jun 2018
We were hoping to go somewhere more exotic than the other side of Toronto for our second anniversary, but we hadn't been to see the Scarborough Bluffs yet, so we hopped on the TTC and had a look. It was a lovely day to be outside — overcast, breezy, and threatening to rain. We took our time wandering around the winding paths through the park and stopped for an extended period to enjoy the view and watch the Canada Geese feeding in the shallows. It was a great day for a picnic, apart from the damp picnic tables.
7 Jun 2018
Unfortunately, I was not able to bring my wife with me when I went to Antigonish, Nova Scotia for a physics conference. The bus ride to Antigonish was longer than my flight to Halifax, but I enjoyed the beautiful rolling hills of Nova Scotia. Antigonish itself is a quaint little town with some stunning architecture. I didn't find it overly pedestrian friendly, but the size made it decently walk-able. The people there were kind, welcoming, and great to talk with.
High Park Cherry Blossoms
5 May 2018
On our way to High Park we stopped by the Sweet Trolley Bakery and purchased some cinnamon rolls and a canoli. We decided that we're on a quest to find the best cinnamon roll in Toronto, understandably an ambitious task, but an important one for lovers of cinnamon. We were perhaps a couple days too early to see the height of the blossoms, but it was one of the first warm days of the season so we were glad to get out and enjoy the park.
30 Mar 2018
If you live in Toronto, when is the best time of year to go visit Niagara Falls? For my wife and I, the best time is during the off season. We love travelling together, but we don't often like dealing with tourists. But, you might say, if you travel somewhere to visit that makes you a tourist as well. True, we won't argue you with you there. However, we will take the occasional selfie together and snap a few photos of some of the interesting or iconic landmarks, but if those pictures come at the cost of other people's personal space or if it seems like we are an inconvenience to other people, then we will avoid being inconvenient. The places that we love to visit are real places, not some theme park designed to entertain us. We respect people and property, trying to do our part to ensure that the beauty we get to experience will continue to exist for another thousand years or more. Places change, but our collective histories are a part of what make us who we are. When we travel we get to experience something new, and if we allow it, we can become something better and new as well. Also, if you're going to Niagara Falls, say hello to Nikola Tesla for me.
Maple Syrup Festival
17 Mar 2018
Growing up in Canada I was often told about the maple syrup festivals in Upper and Lower Canada, but growing up in northwestern Canada meant that the climate was too cold and harsh to support most hardwood trees, including maple. Because of this, I had never been to a maple syrup festival before. I always wanted to take my popsicle stick and roll up the maple syrup straight off of the snow. The place we went to didn't allow us to roll up the maple syrup ourselves, but we certainly had some made for us. We toured around the grounds and learned all about how maple syrup is made, which they were keen on telling us at every location. Who would've thought that boiled down tree sap would taste so good?
22 Dec 2017
As a Canadian I had never heard of the two battles of Manassas before. But when my wife and I went down to Virginia for Christmas and needed a break from all the festivities, we took a drive to the Manassas Battlefield. There was an old stone house, and a barricade fence, as well as some cannons. The lighting was good and made for some well lit pictures so we made an afternoon of it. I believe history is important. It is important to remember and reflect upon the lives and events of those who came before us. Real people living real lives. I try to picture what their family life would've been like and what day to day tasks they would need to do to make a living. The stories of history are summed up by the events of ordinary people, but ordinary people also have boring, uneventful days just like I do.
9 Nov 2017
I was really excited to visit Ottawa. It felt like the Canada that other people always talked about: with every sign written in both French and English; with the royal guard standing at attention; and with people from every culture around the world gathered to make and share a life together. Of course, it might all seem like bliss in Ottawa, but the rest of the country is always saying otherwise.
21 Aug 2017
So Boonville, Missouri is usually not that exciting of a place, but on 21 August 2017 there was a total solar eclipse and the path of totality passed almost directly over Boonville. My wife and I were moving from Utah to Toronto at the time, but decided to take a couple extra days and pass through Missouri so that we could witness the solar eclipse. This is one of the best pictures that we took (it was our first attempt at eclipse photography) and even though there are hundreds of better photographs out there, this one is ours. We had just over two minutes of totality, making it well worth the traffic and extra days on the road. Afterwards, while the sun was still mostly eclipsed, the shadows were sharp and eerie making the world appear as if it were a set with stage lighting. If you have the opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse, I promise it is well worth the experience.
Yellowstone National Park
1 Jul 2017
Since we had decided to purchase a season pass to the USA National Parks we had to make it worth the great value, so we went to visit yet another National Park, except this time we went to the National Park. It was great to see Old Faithful, the Painted Pools, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. A little advice that we would give to future visitors of America's most famous National Park is to (unlike us) avoid going on the Fourth of July, Independence Day weekend. Traffic was a nightmare.
Zion National Park
24 Jun 2017
On our way back from Bryce Canyon we decided to loop around south and pass through Zion National Park. We drove through the southern, main portion of the park. However, when we encountered bumper to bumper traffic and absolutely nowhere to park we decided to just pass on through and go to the less popular Kolob Canyon in the northwestern corner of the park. Zion National Park is a gorgeous place with absolutely stunning vistas. It's well worth the visit, but try to go on a weekday.
Bryce Canyon National Park
23 Jun 2017
Bryce Canyon National Park is our favourite National Park in the American West desert region. The way the wind and water have eroded the landscape makes for breath-taking scenes and beautiful rock formations. It is truly a gem in the uninviting desertscape that makes up most of the surrounding states. The hiking is also really approachable for all skill levels and staminas.
4 Jun 2017
Monument Valley must be the most iconic 'Western' setting in cinema. It is stunning. It is a little ways off the beaten path of the interstates, but if you have time, and you're interested in also visiting Arches National Park and Lake Powell, then this place is conveniently located on the Utah-Arizona boarder. We went out of our way to see it because the scenery through the backroads is much more exciting than the I-15.
29 Dec 2016
We felt that a trip to New England wouldn't be complete without visiting a quaint little lighthouse on the Atlantic coast, and where better to see one than the USA's most eastern state. We drove through all the New England states: from Conneticut, to Rhode Island, to Massechussetts, to Maine, to New Hampshire, and finally to Vermont. To complete our Mayflower visits, we went to Plymouth and were completely unimpressed with Plymouth Rock. We had some Boston beans, and had to shorten our trip through Vermont due to a classic New England lake effect snow storm.
23 Dec 2016
Taxation without representation. For the first Christmas my wife and I shared together we wanted to spend it with her family so we drove across the country. Over the break, taking time to visit the US capital (even in part) was absolutely worth the experience. Not only because of the many wonderful and extensive (and free) museums, but also because of the experience of being there. The mall is so much bigger than Hollywood makes it seem. (Also, I had no idea what 'the mall' was until we arrived. Everyone in the car kept telling me that we were going to see 'the mall.' For anyone else who doesn't know, the mall is the famous part of D.C. where many of the Smithsonian museums are with the Lincoln Memorial at one end, the Capitol building at the other, and the Washington Monument somewhere close to the middle.) Also, I had no idea how many people lived in the D.C. area and how bad the traffic is there. Of all the places I've driven in North America, D.C. traffic is by far the worst.
24 Nov 2016
For our first US Thanksgiving together we would have loved to have been able to travel to somewhere distant that we had never been to before. But since we are poor university students, we had to simply settle on somewhere we'd never been. Since my wife had never been to Oregon, we decided to go there, and since we live south of Oregon, we went to Crater Lake. There was practically no snow on the ground when we left our motel, but by the time we got to the top of the mountain there was easily 4-6 feet of snow.
13 Aug 2016
Dartmoor is easily one of our favourite places that we visited together. The beauty of the landscape is picturesque and iconic. It captures the essence of England that many Anglophiles imagine. It is both quaint and grand, both large and small, both rocky and smooth, both wild and domestic. There are plenty of sheep to see and a few herds of wild ponies to keep your distance with. The dusk and dawn provide beauty and mystery to the hedges and country lanes that wind and tangle through the rolling terrain.
24 Jul 2016
A few years before I met my wife I spent four months living in South Gloucestershire. Right on the edge of the Cotswolds, the gently rolling hills are home to some of the quintessential English countryside. It was wonderful to go back and visit, to drive the winding roads, and see its beauty again. We also paid a visit to the William Tyndale monument which looks over the farmland below.
12 Jul 2016
Cambridge is an interesting place. I spent two months living in King's College, not far from where I took this photo of King's College Chapel. It was a unique experience to participate in the Pembroke-King's Programme and live in college. I was able to take classes from Cambridge professors on Mathematics and International Relations, but I was also able to participate in original research in gravitational waves with a Cambridge professor. Of course, since I was at such a prestigious school there were high table events with fancy dress, high manners, and all the cutlery. Some of the students quickly seized those nights for the constant supply of free alcohol, but most students were more dignified. It was a fantastic opportunity to connect with people I would've otherwise never met and expand in my understanding of who I am and why I believe in the things I do.
Even so, beyond the experience that I had taking classes and participating in student life at the University of Cambridge, I simply appreciated just living in the UK. Taking the opportunities to live 'abroad' and experience the daily life of other people expands our mental horizons and helps us see the humanity in everyone as well as ourselves. In spite of the many differences that seem to set us from them, we can discover that we are all in fact, very similar.