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Queen Street West – A charming treasure in the city of skyscrapers

9 Jan

They say there are two different types of love: compassionate love and passionate love. The first one usually grows with time and is more related to feeling secure or even attached to the other “person”, while the second type of love involves intense feelings that occur instantly – it can sometimes be referred to love at first sight. And this is how I feel about Toronto – it was love at first sight. I had no particular reason to even like it (no friends, no place to live, no nothing!) yet it just felt good to be a part of the crowd coming here to explore the city, follow their big dreams (big city big dreams) or because of the love that they feel to someone.

I have never intended to make my blog just another travel blog (and I won’t do it) but I could not resist dedicating a short post with a photo gallery about one of my favorite neighborhoods in TO. The reason I am doing this is because I keep meeting new people, who either just moved to Toronto recently or been here for a while but mostly lived in the suburbs, that most of the time tell me that they do not like the city I am completely falling in love with! So, I have decided to show all of those people that the city of Toronto has so much charm and character if you just know the right places to look for it.

Queen Street West – is a bohemian neighborhood that is often compared to New York’s or London’s SoHo districts. It is a hangout for many artists, musicians with many galleries, music stores, cafes  and vintage clothing boutiques. Anchored by the nightlife and cultural destinations this neighbourhood oozes creativity, community and fun. Even if you are not a big fan of galleries or even shopping – Queen Street West is a great spot to just to get a sneak preview of the latest fashion (or not really) trends…from a guy looking like he is stuck in the late 70s to a girl wearing Lady Gaga type of heels – everything (and more) can be found & seen there!

Trivia: Queen St W has a “Graffiti Alley”. And each summer for the past few years, a group called Style in Progress has taken over graffiti alley for a 24-hour period of legal painting.

Enjoy the pictures that I took today for the purpose of this post only!

Your (temporary) city guide,

G.

The world’s 15 best places to live – Toronto is one of them!

13 Dec

I just wanted to share this article giving a brief analysis taken from the Mercer’s 2011 quality-of-life survey with everyone. The annual Mercer’s report looks at living conditions in 221 cities worldwide and ranks them against New York as a base city in 10 categories such as socio-cultural environment, economy, politics, education and the health sector. It feels good to know that I live in one of the 15 best world’s places to live – Toronto. It’s a pity though that none of the other cities I’ve lived in before were mentioned in this list.

15. Toronto, Canada
14. Ottawa, Canada
13. Wellington, New Zealand
12. Amsterdam, Netherlands
11. Sydney, Australia
9(tie). Copenhagen, Denmark
9(tie. Bern, Switzerland
8. Geneva, Switzerland
7. Frankfurt, Germany
5(tie). Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
5(tie). Düsseldorf, Germany
4. Munich, Germany
3. Auckland, New Zealand
2. Zurich, Switzerland
1. Vienna, Austria

Seems like old Europe is taking the lead in the survey results.

Full article can be found at: http://www.omninfo.com/misc/the-worlds-15-best-places-to-live/

Yours,

G.

City of Toronto: 5 hours 35 minutes and 43 pictures….

9 Dec

Today, I’ve decided to take a break from everything I’ve been doing recently and enjoy the sunny day outside in Toronto. Taking pictures being one of my hobbies, I decided to take camera with me and shoot some good (hopefully) pictures of Toronto in winter time! I literally spent 5 hours 35 minutes doing all this of this…but I am quite pleased with results. Not only in terms of pictures. Met a bunch of great people (you know…male type of people), had a few interesting (or maybe not) conversations about weather and stuff and most importantly saw the city through the lens of my camera. Once again, regardless of cold cold day Toronto seems to be something I am falling in love way too soon for….

Enjoy the pictures!
Yours,
G.

Top 15 Unique Things about Canada: Cultural Learnings of Canada from a newcomer’s perspective

20 Nov

Every country (and city) is unique and has things that you will come across sooner or later if you’re not a local person there. From the moment I came to Toronto I’ve started making a list of things on my phone that kind of shocked me or at least gave a surprised look on my face. I guess it’s the time I share it with everyone…so far, I’ve got only 15 of those things but I am sure the list will get longer and will make it to another post or two!

1. Sexy cops

I completely blame it on their uniform, which, in comparison, to Lithuanian one looks so much better! Decide for yourself:

Canadian Cop

Canadian Cop

Lithuanian Cops

Lithuanian Cops

VS

2. Having a bank account is rather a luxury

Banking here is expensive. They charge you for every transaction you make…some banking packages include 15-30 transactions per month but even that is different from what we have in certain European countries (UK, LT), where you can use your card as much as possible and won’t get charged!

3. No alcohol in a grocery store

That was a big disappointment to me. I used to go to a grocery store, grab my food and some alcohol on the way. Not anymore. Want alcohol? Go to a liquor(LCBO) store or a beer boutique (for beer). There a few exceptions though, I’ve seen grocery stores selling wine in Montreal, but haven’t really seen it in Toronto yet. Regardless of that, no spirits in grocery stores for sure.

4. Internet has data usage limits

So, if you’re one of those big Internet users, who download stuff every day – Canada is probably not the best destination for you…For example, one of the biggest Internet providers, Bell, gives you 125 GB a month on one of its best plans. Rogers (another big provider), on the other hand,  gives you 250 GB a month. Some claim they offer ‘unlimited internet’ but in the end they still ask you to pay if you go over the ‘hidden’ limits.

5. Streetcars stop in the middle of the street

During my first days in TO I had a hard time figuring out how to get into one of those streetcars…because they stop in the middle of the street!

People getting into a streetcar

6. Taxes are not included in the price

You go to the counter and voila…after taxes are added you shirt of 25$ has jut turned into a shirt of $28.25 (usually, 13% are added but then again it depends on the products/province etc. e.g. food is not taxed)

7. Plaid shirts for men is  a BIG thing

What Can I say? Cowboys is not a myth! Pubs are full of men wearing old type of plaid shirts…niiiiice!

8. Size 0 in clothing stores

I was more used to wearing clothes of the size 6-8 or XS-S but now I have to buy size 0…the number 0 makes me feel weird, am I really zero-sized person?! The whole clothes sizing system starts from 0 and then goes up accordingly.

9. They say ‘eh’ a lot!

No comments needed, eh! They say eh so often that I think companies making keyboards should make a special Canadian edition with an ‘eh’ button!

10. Ice hockey!

Ice hockey in Canada is like basketball in Lithuania or Football in the UK.

11.Poutine & Maple syrup

Poutine for lunch..waffles with maple syrup for breakfast! For those who have no idea what I am talking about, poutine  is a dish of French fries and fresh cheese curds covered with brown gravy sauce.

Looks gross - tastes surprisingly good!

12. People order double cheese burgers, large fries, and a diet coke.

Diet is important. “I am on diet. I will have a diet coke AND (the most important part) double cheese burger and large fries” – people are obsessed about the diet coke yet not about the diet food.

13. There is a cocktail named after salad (or most likely Dictator Julius Ceasar)

That is correct. Ceasar cocktail is pretty a big thing here, and to be honest I quite like it – although it really depends on the place. For those, who don’t know what I’m talking about (again), Ceasar is: a cocktail that typically contains vodka, Clamato ( a proprietary blend of tomato juice and clam broth), hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce and is served with ice in a large, celery salt-rimmed glass, typically garnished with a stalk of celery and wedge of lime.

Ceasar Cocktail

Ceasar Cocktail


14.They leave their cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put useless junk in the garage

That’s what garages are for…

15.You get milk in bags as well as cartons and plastic jugs.

Yes. Milk in bags. Never would have thought. And it’s not necessarily a bad idea, I guess that way it’s better for an environment… is it? I don’t find it convenient but then again what do I know?!

TO BE CONTINUED

Yours,

G.

The Five Best Things about Living Abroad

17 Nov

Being an adventurous person has very much contributed to my lifestyle. During the past 4 years I’ve already lived in 4 countries, namely, Lithuania, the United Kingdom, China and now Canada. By nature, an adventurous person may have a hard time being happy anywhere…even while on an amazing adventure. It’s because the horizon always beckons you to go one step further…to climb one more mountain…to explore one more culture…to learn one more language. It’s like in one of those TV commercials, where they say: “if you try it once – you won’t be able to resist”.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

Despite the demanding nature of an adventurous life while living abroad it has a lot of cool advantages. I’ve chosen to write about  5 Best things about living abroad (don’t expect to read something too serious, though!) , here we go:

1.) Always having a conversation starter

Every time you meet a new person, enter a party room or even go out for shopping you will most likely be asked: ‘so, where are you from?’ Some will put some efforts into guessing and naming a few of the countries they know. It’s always a fun experience because you have at least a few things to talk about starting from where are you from, then explaining where exactly it is ( it happens all the time to me), what brought you here and so on. The good thing about it is that you can be a Lithuanian one day and a Swedish on the other day – the more creative you are the better! (Once, I told people I was from South Africa. They bought it!)

2.) Being popular just because you’re a foreigner

They either love your accent or make fun of it but regardless of that you get all the attention!  They seem to be interested in hearing all the details about your country, people there and then again what brought you here. Most of the time it becomes a Q&A session, where people quite literally attack you with questions…but don’t you just love it? Not to mention my experience of being super popular in China just because I have a white skin and blond hair…some said I reminded them of Britney Spears, ah!

3.) Meeting amazing people

Very important part of the whole living-abroad experience is meeting new people. During my past 4 years I’ve met so many different people who had absolutely enriched my life, or in some cases, even changed it! Now, I have friends from all over the world and always have someone to talk to from different times zones (a friend for a morning conversation from Europe, a friend for an evening conversation from somewhere in Asia…). Not to mention the fact that you get a free-stay at their place if you plan to go to one of those countries! Convenient, huh?

4.) Getting a new perspective about yourself, your culture and the biases

Mark Twain once said: ‘“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” That perfectly applies to the case of living abroad. Growing up in a country where seeing a black person was equal to a miracle had given me some biases towards different people. We all  carry around biases without even realizing it. However, living abroad helps you to get rid of those biases and become, like I say,  a citizen of the Word and that is quite a packaged deal as it also enriches you with a cross-cultural mindset, which one day may be rewarded! You also find out how others view your culture and that is always interesting. Not to mention the fact that you can learn so much new about yourself while in a new environment….

5.) Having  once-in-a-life-time experience

That pretty much sums up everything I’ve written above. There is nothing like the voice(s) of experience and it works not only in terms of career. Life, in general, is a journey and every experience counts. Living abroad gives you a different type of experience every time you enter a new country that comes along with a new language and culture and you’d better appreciate those moments  of experience while you can! You never know how long you will live and how many opportunities you may have…just grab one and never look back!

For the end: “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”- Henry Miller

Yours,

G.


New Home or Do you believe in Fate?

12 Nov Liberty Village - my neighbourhood
Liberty Village - my neighbourhood

Liberty Village – my neighborhood

Believe it or not I am writing this post from my NEW home! Finally, I’ve moved from the suburb to Toronto city and I cannot tell  you how happy (or excited) I am right now. It’s been more than two months since I started my searches… I guess good things are worth waiting for!?

It all happened a week ago. After all those last-minute cancellations on the scheduled viewings, people not responding to my e-mails and rooms without windows/doors (yes, it is not always included in the rent!) – I felt completely desperate thinking I’d never be able to find a decent place in Toronto. And then, there was one of those days when I was going to the coffee house to a regular meeting, yet this time I took a streetcar which brought me to a new street. I was walking down that street and then stopped and looked around…there was a stadium close by, a few little stores, restaurants and apartments above those. The thing what I am about to say is going to sound crazy but you try to live all by yourself for a few months and then you’ll realize I am not crazy at all. So, like usually, I kind of talked to myself in my head and what I said was: ‘I’d like to live here!’. I repeated it for  a couple of times and felt like in one of those stupid (question mark) movies there people’s wishes become true…all you need is to wish for something really hard! And that is what happened to me. The next day, I decided to renew my advertisement (looking for a place type of ad) on one of those ad-based websites (see my first post) and after 5 minutes I received an e-mail offering me a place on exactly the same street where I secretly made a wish! The rest of the story you already know. I just moved in!!

Was it fate that brought me here? Or was it something else? Coincidence? Maybe.  I used to be very skeptical when people talked about fate; if you read ‘About Me’ tab on my blog, you’d actually see what I think about fate: ‘Don’t sit back and let Fate take control of you. You get up and make Fate work for You.‘ Is it right to say that it was one of those situations when I made Fate to work for Me?  If you counted hours spent on browsing through the ads – then yes, if you, on the other hand, looked for the actual physical efforts – maybe not.  That makes me wonder…Do you believe in Fate? Or do you think that it is all in your hands to make certain things happen?

I’d better go and start unpacking my stuff…and then maybe go out for a drink or two… to finally explore what Toronto’s nightlife has got to offer! If you’re lucky, you will be reading stories from that, too!

Yours,

(Not Homeless) G.

Spiritual Men of Toronto

30 Oct

On my regular train trip to Toronto I either blog or read one of those FREE newspapers, which you can pick up at one of the boxes next to the train station. I could probably read a book written by some smart person and make myself even more educated that way but who needs that when you can find so many interesting things on those FREE (emphasis put on the word ‘free’ to explain myself for ‘reading’ it in the first place) newspapers.

Coming to the point or, to be more precise, to the topic of my post…The part which I enjoy the most on those FREE newspapers is the section called ‘classified’. There are two reasons for that: 1) it has rental ads (yes, I am still looking for a place to live in Toronto) 2) it has VERY interesting ads.

Speaking of interesting ads, there are a lot of SPIRITUAL men (and women maybe?) claiming to be able to sort all kind of problems you may have. They can help you with finding the right property, fixing your immigration problems (!), marriage problems/love, health, enemy problems, children problems, court/business problems and literally ALL kind of problems…They have very interesting names, and place of origin, too. Most popular names: Saba, Sheikh-Lamin, Shivananda Babaji, Kumar (experiencing with pronunciation of these names is not recommended or rather dangerous). Some of them claim to be from Amazonia, India, Africa; the ones who want to reach a more universal audience call themselves ‘International/World renowned’ spiritual men/astrologists.

Looking at those ads made me think. Can we actually give our problems away to some ‘Shamananah’ and expect him to solve it all for us? Is it actually possible that some spiritual man could bring your love back (that’s what they state) or get you a job? My personal answer is no, however seeing the amount of such ads placed in the newspaper made me realize that there must be someone (certainly more than one person) who does believe in all that kind of stuff, otherwise I don’t think those people would be able to pay for their ads, would they?

I wish life was that easy; you pay someone & all of your problems are gone! Just like that! Maybe it does work that way…? Any experiences? Stories? Anyone?

P.S. Sorry for the poor quality of the pictures, I blame it on my phone (certainly not my skills)!

G.

How to sell yourself?

19 Oct

As you may have already noticed from my previous post (Looking for accommodation in Toronto), room hunting is a tough experience here. It’s like a jungle! Or, as I put it once, it’s like a bookshop where you’re either a best seller or you’re out of the shelves!

People don’t even bother taking pictures of the place being offered, writing an explicit description or describing themselves anymore…they know that if you’re not going to take it – someone else will! Places get rented out in a day or two, good places get rented out literally in an hour or two (true story) and that’s how things work here.

On the other hand, there are those picky renters, who were described in my previous post, who do have specific needs (or should I say requirements) and it’s either you fall into their category or not. They’re straightforward with their requirements though, so at least that’s not a problem.

Yet, there is one thing what unites them all. They ALL want to know about YOU (i.e. me). In fact, they not only ask you to provide information about yourself but they also hold the right of judging you according to their own personal ‘standards‘ in order to see whether you deserve a reply or not.

It’s like a blind dating except for the fact that there is only one blind person involved. What does it take to be a best seller when it comes to a room hunting? I guess if I had the answer I would not be writing this post. Apparently, being easygoing, friendly, social AND tidy is not enough these days. Having a few decent hobbies, such as photography, movies, traveling or even cooking (which I used to think would look like a bonus point for most of the people) is not enough either.

It makes me wonder; do we actually need to fake our lives/career choices or even hobbies and make them look less normal but more special? Let’s say, if I worked as a personal masseuse and one of my hobbies was ‘practicing massage skills on my friends’ – would I get more replies than I do get now?

I will leave you with these thoughts for now…

Yours,

G.