Oh Winter!


At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will say again that I am beyond blessed. I feel elated to say the least, and though I often had sore nights trying to fathom things, I'm forever grateful to the Lord for giving me this new life. A life full of adventure and inspiration.
 Thank you Lord! I'm so excited for 2014!

xx
Jeremiah 29:11



It has been 2 weeks since I came back from Canada and I still have a hard time waking up from the dream.
This was my first time in North America and the first time to experience winter. It was wonderful! Freezing yet surreal.

I brought about 20 rolls of film and a DSLR but only able to use about 10 rolls because these digital toys always get in the way. I'll post both film and digital pictures but will write more under the film ones. 


Upon arrival, my cousin who picked me up form the airport sized me up before leaving for the parking lot and asked me if I was being serious, wearing only a sleeveless top with cardigan under a faux leather jacket and a short skirt and thigh high socks. He said "It's -15C outside!" I told him I can handle the cold. He rummaged through my carry-on and tried to look for a much thicker piece of clothing to cover my legs but found nothing. So he said, "Okay, better embrace the cold then." And we both laughed and I was all hyper and being moronic saying things like "Let's go!!" and "I want to step on the snow already!"

The moment I opened the door and breathed my first breath outside, 
I immediately wanted to punch myself in the gut for underestimating the Canadian cold. 


For the entire month, I traveled to Edmonton, Calgary, Banff and Canmore back and forth. My cousins, Ken and Mitch (who I'm super thankful for, for letting me come over) were supposed to tour me and we were supposed to shoot a few of their pre wedding photos in Vancouver as well, but Ken wasn't able to change his car tires to winter tires and the roads to BC were not in the safest state, so we settled to shoot and roam within Alberta instead. 


Banff. 

How do I even begin to describe this Narnia of a place?
Mentioning this small mountain town in Canada is like an age-old nursery rhyme to me. I grew up hearing stories about this place and receiving packages, mostly filled with souvenir items with the word Banff and pictures of the place all over them because a close aunt of mine lives there for about 20 years now and she always talks and sends us good stuff. My grin was immeasurable when I knew I've been granted a tourist visa because I will be able to finally, finally visit this town.



The Rockies and Banff down below from the Sulphur Mountain and The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in all their winter glory.
I overheard Vanessa, my 7 year-old cousin say once "...and we're lucky to be living in Banff..."
Truth universally acknowledged.


Below is the almost-frozen Bow falls. Beside the bank, there is a trail near the woods where Kristina, my 9 year-old cousin and my aunt Grace go biking every summer when the weather's all warm and festive. I am one jealous monkey.


My days in Banff were mostly quiet. The kind where you just walk and find yourself perusing books about Banff's history and the Rockies inside local bookstores, visiting quaint shops, cafes, galleries, and museums with a warm cup of coffee in one hand, camera in the other and earphones in both ears.
My kind of day.

 Tourist around here prefer to snowboard and ski but I am one inexperienced wimp when it comes to these things and I fear I might spend a week or two in bed with casts all over or worse, I might get sent back to the Philippines in a matchbox. 

Maybe when my trip's longer and in the summer, I will be less of a coward.



About 3 blocks from where my aunt lives, situates a lovely piece of heaven– The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.
The exhibition at the time was entitled Gateway to the Rockies and it featured historical and contemporary facts and information about the life in the Canadian Rocky Mountains– from the early settlers to the adventure-seekers from around the world who made the Rockies their place of respite. It was one thing to show pictures inside the museum and a whole other level to actually be there in person.
 I favored the latter so I took very few pictures.

A certain Mary Schaffer booth caught my attention in one side of the gallery. She was this hardcore photographer in the early 1900s who traveled from the US to the Rockies to seek for peace and became one of the biggest contributor in Banff's history. I haven't finished the book I bought about her and her photographic slides featuring the Rockies and her travels to Taiwan and Japan but hopefully I will get to it soon as she has become one of my new favorite photographers after coming out of the museum. 


Perhaps my favorite part of the visit was the privilege of having to visit two 1900s heritage cabin homes outside of it. 
One belonging to the couple who founded the museum, artists and adventurers Catharine Robb Whyte and Peter Whyte and the other belonging to community leaders, Philip and Pearl Brewster Moore. Sadly, photos were prohibited so I was only able to take pictures of the exteriors. 

I found myself joining a tour group (picture of them below) for free. Guess it pays to listen to the announcement while inside :)
As if I wasn't already amazed enough inside the museum and the sight of these homes, the interiors blew even the last bit of cell left in my brain. 
They were so beautiful and dreamy and screamed entirely of 1900s Nordic style! 
The kind I dream of having someday. I felt like crying. 


When I am not wandering in the wild animal-labeled streets of Banff Avenue or being such a crybaby, I did baby-sitting stuff to my seven and nine year-old cousins while my aunt worked. Either I send or pick them up at school or send them to their play dates. There was one night where I went to their school and a Juno award winning artist, Norman Foote had a concert with them. I sat together with the parents in the school gym and immensely enjoyed the cuteness of it all. They also composed a 2 -minute song about Banff. The lyrics spoke of the small, simple mountain town life and I aww-ed about a hundred times in my head and was smiling ear to ear because it was just so adorable and so true. 


Highway on the way to Lake Louise
a.k.a the place where I dropped my phone in the snow-covered road and where my cousin had to drive about 2 km backwards while I keep track of the trees where I last remembered I had my phone. Also, the place where I walked on the side of the highway in freezing weather and some cars passed almost beside me. They probably thought I needed a lift. Fun times.



Lake Louise
I have been looking forward to visiting this place expecting I will be able to see serene, turquoise blue waters nestled between snow-capped mountains. I have seen tons of pictures of this place in the interwebs and from the postcards and calendars I received from my aunt when I was young so my expectations were a little out there. Of course I came in November so I arrived seeing it in the state in the first picture below– frozen and dark. 
I'm still glad I came because it still looked hauntingly beautiful in pictures.
 I was a little saddened though that I never got to step near Moraine Lake. They close the roads during winter.



Bus rides to Calgary from Banff

I arrived in Banff by car and left by bus. 
On the day I was supposed to ride the bus on my first visit, there was a massive snow storm. The highway from Vancouver was closed as the roads were in ankle-deep snow. So they say. 
My aunt's place is around 3 or 4 blocks away from the bus station and my uncle was in Fort Mcmurray and my aunt wasn't allowed to drive so we walked instead despite the crazy snow storm because we were still feeling all optimistic.We trudged the snow-covered pathways looking like a cross between a ninja and an astronaut. My aunt dragged my luggage bag in the snow and I carried laboriously my laptop bag and camera bag. It was around -27C with -30C something windchill and we couldn't see anything because everything was white. The headlights of cars were on even though it was still 9 am.

We arrived with the news that the bus was cancelled. Of course
We exchanged looks and I told you sos but we laughed and made funny jokes about it at home and told the story to all our relatives over the phone. 

On the day of my second bus ride from Banff to Calgary, there was a snow storm. Again. So, I was scheduled to ride again the next day.
 Guess, the snow loved me too much.

xx

 Story on my second bus ride: So I hopped on the bus and walked my way through the back looking for an unoccupied seat beside the window because I always must seat near/beside the window (mild case of claustrophobia). I checked while in the middle of the bus and saw there were only 3 more rows left and all the window seats were taken. So I went all the way back to the front to check if someone who seated near a window miraculously disappeared. Not my day, I guess, so I went all the way back again and walked to check where in the 3 empty aisle seats I will be sitting. My eyes darted to this cute Canadian guy (he's white so I assumed) in Vans sneakers and black hoodie and semi-skinny jeans. The snowboarder/ skateboarder type. As I was walking near him, I saw his eyes shifted quickly from the window to me and he lifted his winter jacket to make room for me to sit. We locked eyes for a nanosecond and I think I heard my heart stop. When I came back to my senses about 10 seconds later, I was panicking. In my head. So I grabbed the nearest empty seat next to his row, opposite side. I can see from my peripheral vision how he slowly placed back his winter jacket and back to looking out the window again. Looking a bit dismayed. Or so I thought. I slowly sat, making a "dang it" face as I settled. 
I ended up seated next to a 50 year-old man who smelled weird.



When the bus got off Canmore, I tried to take a picture of the cute guy as I can see a side of his face in the middle of the bus seats. As I was trying to focus and about to press the shutter, out of all my luck at perfect timing, he looked to his side, facing me. I wanted to face-palm myself.
He caught me and I was panicking again so I moved my camera in all directions, faked pointing at someone's head just so he wouldn't catch me red-handed. He went back to looking out the window after that.
This time, I face-palmed myself.


Canmore

You will pass by this town when going to and out of Banff. I was only able to walk around one day when my Aunt Grace went to have her passport renewed. Pretty place!


Calgary

 I didn't spend that much time in Calgary as I expected. I only spent around a total of maybe 5 days there and most of the time I am either in CrossIron Mills (Black Friday Sale!) or inside my Aunt Grace's house (same aunt that was in Banff). I only ever went to go in the city's downtown for half a day. Hopefully, there will be a next time.


Bus rides from Calgary to Edmonton

The rides took about 3 hours. 

On my second Greyhound bus ride to Edmonton: 
Driver: Good Morning everyone! Hows it going ? (I checked my watch. It was 1:30 pm)
Welcome to the Greyhound and in about 30 hours we will be on our way to Las Vegas and gamble all night!
Some passengers: Yay!
Another passenger: Sweet!
Driver: Yeah? Ah sadly this bus is going to Edmonton.
Passenger behind me: Aw Man!
Me: stifling a laughter.


Edmonton

I spent most of my trip in Edmonton. My first week, I spent mostly at my cousin's place and in West Edmonton Mall because I was still trying to get used to the cold and those were the places I knew I could spend longer than an hour.
One time I got bored and told my cousin to drop me off the nearest mall where they worked and luckily it was situated almost close to Edmonton's downtown. He pointed me the bus stop and told me directions how to go about and to meet me in Mcdonald's around 11 pm. I wasn't paying much attention as I was all giddy and excited to be finally wandering the city streets. We parted ways and I headed to Kingsway mall to check out their stuff. After I got tired and noticed I still had plenty of hours to spare, I ushered my way to the bus stop to Downtown. It was around 5:30 pm then. After I got off the stop, I noticed something odd. Shops were starting to close. I checked my phone and puzzled to know that it was only 6:00 pm. I knew later that most shops in the area I dropped off, closes at 6:00 pm. 

So I tried one by one to check what shops were still open and was in vain. I wandered far enough that I didn't know the area anymore and that I didn't know where the bus stop back to Kingsway was located.  The cold was starting to make it's way out of my winter jacket, pass the 3 layers of tank tops, sweatshirts and a woollen sweater and into my skin. When I was watching the Disney movie, Frozen and saw a scene where Ana was all "cold, cold, cold" I immediately pointed to my friend, and told her "I said the exact words and in the exact way!".
So going back, I was walking and cursing and exhaling smoky breaths yet I still can't find the bus stop. The place was starting to get deserted and people were turning off some of the shop lights. I was feeling all adventurous and followed my own instincts that I've completely forgotten the simplest thing– to ask for directions. So I found and approached a nice lady before she crossed the street and pointed me to the bus stop. And that bus stop was just right across where I was standing.

 I think I face-palmed myself a ton of times during this trip.



When in Edmonton, I got to experience a bit of the everyday, normal Canadian life during winter. Tons of driving, a couple of visits to Tim Horton's and Starbucks, walking in and around downtown to visit local shops and to check for winter sales.


One lovely cold morning, my cousins dropped me off in Old Strathcona in Whyte Avenue and 124th Street thereafter. Two must visit indie places in Edmonton. So they say.
Suffice it to say, they were right. My favorite would have to be Old Strathcona. If you know me, that wouldn't come as a surprise.
The street is full of local clothing shops, book stores, zakka shops, record stores that sell mostly vinyls and pubs. It is also lined with arching trees, old hotels and old buildings, some with graffiti. If you turn around the corner of Strathcona hotel and walk a bit further, you will be able to visit their farmer's market. I could imagine how it would look in the summer with all the flowers and produce loitering beautifully outside .


An ad above for the Harry Potter Exhibition that I went to before heading to the Airport. The exhibition was lovely and brought so many Harry Potter-related memories. On the day of the opening, James and Oliver Phelps, the actors that played Fred and George Weasley in the series were there but sadly, I went to the All is Bright Winter Fest that same day. Pictures weren't allowed inside the hall so I just bought souvenirs for posterity. I got myself the legit looking Marauder's map and a Ron Weasley wand because Ron's my favorite character (it mostly got to do with Rupert Grint).


Roadtrip photos from my trips to Calgary and Banff by car


From when we stopped on the side of the highway to take photos because the snow-covered trees were so pretty!


I'm having a hard time putting my all feelings into words, so I'll let my playlist speak for me. This was my playlist when I was riding the bus, strolling Banff Ave, in the plane or basically just sitting, thinking and taking everything in.
My heart is overflowing with joy and gratefulness and I cannot wait for new adventures this 2014. God is so good!


edit: I just had a few negatives processed and I'm adding a few pictures which include, to my surprise, a photo of the guy I was talking about in my bus story above ( I actually did take one. Oh gosh, I don't even remember! ) and a photo I took of this charming local indie artist playing his heart out in Edmonton airport. I handed a few dollars I have left and took his homemade cd rather awkwardly while he was singing. I'm not socially awkward but when it comes to talking to guys, I could be considered as one.

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