Christmas in Canada

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Well hello again you fabulous readers! It’s been quite a while since my last post so there’s a lot to fill you all in on.

Let’s start with Christmas Day.

Christmas Day in Calgary!

Now admittedly, I and most of us lonely international students that didn’t fly home for Christmas, were rather sceptical about how we’d be able to have a smashingly festive day, but we did!

With a bunch of Australians staying in our flat for the holiday, Christmas morning was an absolute delight. We had the classic cheesy Christmas tunes blasting out, everyone quickly skyped their families and then we dug into a spectacular breakfast and didn’t stop eating for the rest of the day.

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Christmas dinner was a very special affair. Much like our Thanksgiving dinner, we collected a whole bunch of tables and chairs and somehow squished 15 people into our little flat (with two Christmas trees might I add). Everyone brought food and was dressed as Christmassy as possible.

The Canadian weather couldn’t have been better. It had snowed non-stop for two days previously but Christmas day was beautifully sunny (and -20).

img_7454For many of us, it was our first white Christmas so we decided to prance around in the snow for a solid ten minutes until we started to freeze and had to run back inside to drink more Baileys.

The rest of the day was spent playing games, eating food, watching movies and eating more food. Couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day with such perfect company. Overall, definitely one of my favourite Christmas Days yet.

Next, my travels!! This trip lasted 10 days and we tried to see as much of the east of Canada as possible. First stop, Toronto!

TORONTO

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Having been before many years ago, I was excited to see how much of it I’d remember- turns out I didn’t remember a thing. I felt just as touristy and lost as my travelling companions as we walked through the vast streets of Toronto. A truly great city that I could happily live in, but I must say there wasn’t a lot of culture to explore. The CN Tower was definitely the highlight so if you’re ever passing by I would definitely recommend it. But here are a few things I wish I knew beforehand.

Tips if you ever go to the CN Tower.

  • Get there super early. The first time we went they told us it would be a four hour wait…no thanks.
  • If you’re scared of heights, avoid the glass floor section, I still feel queasy just thinking about it.
  • If you want a drink at the top of the CN Tower, prepare to empty out your bank account.
  • Bring an awesome camera because the views are worth treasuring. 

MONTREAL

img_8279-1 Wow, were we still in Canada? Montreal felt like a whole new world! The snow was significantly thicker than Toronto, everywhere was within walking distance and, oh yeah, obviously everyone spoke French!

There were still very Canadian elements, (such as poutine still being everywhere and maple syrup being served as a side for a spinach and cheese pancake- are they insane?) but overall it did not feel like the spacious Calgary and Toronto we had just left behind.

We spent New Years Eve in Montreal and it was an absolute blast. We made a few friends in our hostel and then headed out to the big outdoor New Years Eve party for the countdown and fireworks. Around 80,000 people danced in the snow at -20, it was a pretty perfect way to start the year.

Tips for Montreal

  • Go to Schwartz! We were trying to find a bar but ended up here…classic me always finding food. They had the best smoked meat sandwich I’ve ever had in my life.
  • Walking up Mount Royal was easy, coming down was tricky- watch out for the ice! We had a few nice wipe-outs.
  • Make sure you’re on the right side of town when the train comes by- we were stuck for literally 20 minutes waiting for the longest train in history to go past.

QUEBEC CITY

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Everyone told us “oh you’ll love Quebec City, it’s just like a little city in Europe”. I must say they were right. Old Quebec had lovely little streets (I wish I could say they were cobbled but I have no idea as they were covered in snow) and the streets and shops were all so Christmassy and cute. With loads of cafes and chocolate shops dotted around it was also a treat to go to a new place for breakfast every day. We spent our time here walking around the city and exploring some culture, finally! Founded in 1608, Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in North America which is quite a contrast considering that Canada is only 150 years old this year!

Tips for Quebec City

  • Wear appropriate shoes! The whole city is covered in a crazy amount of snow that turns into obstacles of slush. Although very amusing when trying to cross the road, our shoes will never be the same again.
  • Don’t order a large poutine. Or even a medium for that matter. Even for me, it was quite a marathon trying to finish it.
  • If you see a large area of snow without footprints, don’t think it’s a park and decide to walk through it. We ended up getting stuck in snow up to our waists!

So there you have it! My fabulous Christmas and New Years that I will never forget.

Also, if you want to see my video of last semester here is a link. Was tricky fitting 4 months into 4 minutes but I just about managed it!

Hope everyone back home had an awesome Christmas and New Years too! Let’s make 2017 another smashing year!

Till next time,

Sonia xx

Have yourself a Feliz Navidad

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The run-up to Christmas has been somewhat different this year. Needless to say there are no mince pies in sight, no Costa Coffee Christmas drinks to fuss over and no Cadbury chocolate advent calendars on sale. Christmas in Spain is, in general, quite different to in the UK as the festivities start a lot later, and the sun is still shining relentlessly…

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My first semester: an interim report

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Wouldn’t you think that four months in a city is enough time to explore it and do all the things you want to do? Well, it is not.

16 weeks in Paris and there are still so many places I haven’t been to despite wanting to go, museums that I have not yet visited and bars I haven’t tried yet.Luckily there are another four months in Paris waiting for me when I return in January. Continue reading

Katie Flies Home for Christmas

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I have never appreciated that song about driving home for Christmas as much as I did on that flight home. It would have been a massive understatement to say that I was “excited” for my own bed, a good roast dinner, and maybe a hug from Mum.

It had been an emotional month, what with exams and my 21st birthday as well as a spotting of lasts with some of the closest friends I had been closest with on this trip. The so-called “squad” was losing half of its members after Christmas, which meant a few long hugs goodbye and watery eyes. Most of the leavers were Australian, which has been a big push for me to organise a trip there in the coming years. You could say I may have caught the travel bug, with the thought of settling down into an office job sounding more and more distant. Continue reading

Festive Farewells and Rainy Reflections

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“I walk across campus, my freshly washed hair turning to literal icicles, fingertips close to frostbite, hands lizard-like from the dry air.”

These days in Canada have a habit of running away from me, and it is only as I sit down and recollect happenings from since I last wrote that I discover that an entire month has crept past. I boldly claimed in my previous post that the semester had been an emotional roller coaster yet this month may have topped it.

It has been abundant with trips to the mountains for snowboarding and sightseeing, final exams, departures of dear friends, a Christmas excursion to Vancouver, and a week of reflection and board games in rainy old Albion. Continue reading

Christmas and New Years in Japan

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Of all the Durham students who came to study in Tokyo, not one of us went home for Christmas. Not just because it’s really really far, but also because we all love Japan and want to experience as much of it as possible while we can.

The only thing that we all thought might be a downside to this choice was spending Christmas away from our families in the UK. There are a lot of things to potentially miss about Christmas Day, and Japanese Christmas is pretty much completely different. But it turned out fine! So I’m going to tell you a bit about how some of us spent Christmas, and after that New Year, in Tokyo. Continue reading

Joyeux Noël

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This is officially the end of the first semester, and it is really hard to believe that the first half of my year abroad has passed. Uni in France ends almost 10 days later than Durham, so I didn’t have the usual time in Budapest to spend with my friends. On the other hand, I did get an insight into Christmas in Aix, which was probably the first time that the city abandoned its holiday character.

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Christmas lights

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