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My 2020 In Review

To say 2020 was a different kind of year is an understatement. On one hand, I want to celebrate my accomplishments and the success of my blog this past year, but on the other hand, I want to mourn those who passed, the businesses that closed, and the livelihoods that were ruined. We all saw some very new and very terrifying things this year. We saw a once in a century pandemic, global lockdowns, silent streets, empty skies, and still oceans. We saw dolphins in canals, elephants sleeping in fields, goats trotting around streets, and monkeys jumping on empty highways. We witnessed the comet Neowise, the Great Conjunction, the evolution of Starlink and some even saw a lunar eclipse.

This past year we saw the best, and the worst, and it changed us. With nearly two million people dead in less than a year, this global pandemic made us question a lot. It made us question why pandemics happen, how we can prevent them, how we handled them in the past, and how we can move forward with them. COVID-19 was a wake-up call. Previous pandemics like SARS, MERS, and Swine Flu all showed us we had flaws, but COVID-19 blew those flaws wide open. We are fortunate that COVID-19s main threat is mass hospitalization, not mass fatalities. We are overdue for the next deadly pandemic, and this showed us that we are not at all ready.  

Because of the pandemic, my travels this year were limited. Instead, I did more local articles, did some unboxings on my YouTube channel, became a licensed drone operator, and focused more on my brand than on my travels. I also worked on building my YouTube channel. I had hoped at the end of 2020 I could launch a new website with a new logo, but it didn't work out that way. I think we can all say that about 2020: "It didn't work out that way".

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Unboxing a Prairie Goddess Gift Box

There are not many positives that have come out of 2020, but one thing that has is the urge to support local businesses. Although many people were shopping locally before the pandemic, the past few months have shown just how fragile many of these businesses are. Local businesses are what make cities flourish. They are the flavour that makes each city different than the next.

From the Prairies acknowledges this and decided to use the current crisis to showcase some of Saskatchewan's homegrown talent. They offer a wide variety of different boxes, each that showcase different products all either made in Saskatchewan or supplied by a Saskatchewan producer. The products are thoughtfully curated by Brandi to engage all five of your senses -- touch, smell, sight, sound, and taste.

The box I got from From the Prairies was their "Prairie Goddess" box. This box is full of things for the goddess in you or the goddess in your life. Although many of the items in this box are items I would not use, there are people in my life who would use them.

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Unboxing Saskatchewan-Made Baechu Kimchi

If you're reading this, you probably already know what kimchi is. However, prior to my trying it, I did not know what it was.

For those unfamiliar like me, "kimchi" is a Korean dish made of fermented vegetables. Although you can buy kimchi at any grocery store, they are often packed full of preservatives and other little nasties. The kimchi I tried was made in Saskatoon by Baechu Kimchi. It was jarred, packed, and hand-delivered right to my door.

So, now that we know what "kimchi" is, what is "baechu"? Because kimchi has been around for centuries, it has a lot of variations. However, the most common and most popular is made out of Napa cabbage, which is simply "beachu" in Korean.

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What Happened When Regina Got the Spanish Flu Vaccine?

To start with, there was no Spanish Influenza vaccine.

Or at least, not one that was of any use.

In 1918, scientists didn't have the capability to see viruses, similar to how we don't have the capability to see dark matter today. They knew something was there but it was an enigma. In fact, they thought it was a poisonous chemical, which is why they coined it a "virus", which means a "slimy liquid or poison" in Latin.

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Wilcox's Nuremberg Chronicles and Other Reliquaries

In 1935, the National Socialist German Workers' Party – better known as the Nazi Party – forbid Jewish physicians from practicing medicine. Could this be the reason why Dr. Hermann Ernst Hinderks moved to South Africa from Germany that same year? Many believe so, especially after finding Dr. Hinderks' name in Adolf Hitler's infamous "Black Book".

Although the events of 1935 are not exactly where our story of Wilcox's Nuremberg Chronicles begins, it is as good a place as any to start.

Why Dr. Hinderks had a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicles isn't known. The last owner of it, Robert Barclay, died over a century prior. It also isn't known when, or why Dr. Hinderks sold the book to Kenneth Gardner either. The transaction occurred after 1936 but before 1940. One idea was that Dr. Hinderks needed the money, and the book was his sole possession after fleeing Germany. But if that was the case, why did it take him over a year to sell it? We may never know. Nevertheless, Dr. Hinderks sold the book to Kenneth Gardner for $600 – or about $7,500 in today's money.

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Lancaster Review: A Welcome Sense of Normalcy

For a moment it seemed like how it used to be.

I was invited to The Lancaster Taphouse's new downtown location for a pre-opening last weekend. The restaurant is in the old Capitol restaurant, one of my favourite places to eat in Regina. I liked the Capitol not only for the food and atmosphere but for the décor. I especially liked the mural on the back wall of the restaurant that showed how the old Capitol theatre used to look.

I was a little worried that when The Lancaster opened, they would replace this mural, but thankfully they kept it. They also added much more too.

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Unboxing TokyoTreat's Hungry, Hungry Halloween

I've talked about TokyoTreat before, but for those unfamiliar, TokyoTreat is a monthly subscription box that brings Japan's bizarre array of food to your doorstep. I purchased a box from TokyoTreat earlier this year, and it was "Spring" themed. However, due to the mail backlog from the COVID-19 pandemic, it took several months to get here. Since then, TokyoTreat has added shipment tracking, priority shipping and sends off the packages at lightning-fast speed. Although my first experience with them was a bit off-putting, follow-up experiences have been fantastic.

In honour of Halloween, TokyoTreat put together a box full of various Halloween treats. From ghosts and ghouls to pumpkins and apple-pies, their Halloween box was filled with a variety of tasty treats. Please check out my video or read below to see my thoughts on each of the different candy that came in their Halloween box:

I like Crème Brûlée and I like milk tea, but I did not really care for this drink. This is one of the few items in the box I got that I did not finish. I am a fan of other Lipton products, so I was surprised this one wasn't very good. Perhaps it would be better if it were served cold instead of room temperature, or perhaps even served warm. However, I'll never know because I poured it down the drain immediately afterward.

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Does Regina Really Have a Dead Baby Museum?

"The answer to this question will be given to the best of my ability." – How to Prevent Cancer, John Champaux, 1971.

Assistant pathologist John Champaux worked at the Regina General Hospital for over three decades. During his time there, he performed thousands of autopsies and collected hundreds of specimens. Champaux's primary job involved determining the cause of death, but he was also trying to prevent additional carnage too. While he was working, he was searching for the answer to a mysterious illness that was suddenly exploding across the country.

This illness was cancer, and he was looking for a cure.

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The Scariest Places I Have Ever Been

When you are looking to book a vacation, you probably have your go-to websites to find the best places to eat, shop or sightsee. You might even look to see if any shows or performances are going on while you are in the area. But I often look for something else. Instead of fun, exciting, and entertaining locations, I love visiting the odd, obscure, and scary places. I love "dark tourism" and if you are reading this, you probably do too. Nothing thrills me more than going to a spot of a murder, an execution, a natural disaster, or the site of a dark, arcane ritual. So, in the spirit of Halloween, I decided to put together a list of some of the scariest places I have ever been. Hopefully, as the years go by, I can add even more places to this list.

Xochimilco is a suburb on the edge of Mexico City, floating on the remains of the canals that once fed into the metropolis.

If you were to visit these canals, you will find them filled with colourful boats, cheerful mariachi bands, shopkeepers, food, liquor, and plenty of tourists. But if you go beyond the music, noise, and excitement, the waters turn black like oil. The music fades away, the laugher vanishes, and you find yourself deep within one of the most haunted spots in Mexico City. These canals have seen centuries of violence, with their waters running red with blood more than once. Yes, these are the same canals where La Llorona is said to haunt and kidnap unsuspecting children. But we aren't here for her.

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Taste-Testing Manchurian Scorpions

Have you ever been walking down the street and you spot a scorpion scamper out from behind a rock and think, "I wonder what that little critter tastes like?"

No, probably not. And that's probably for the best.

Scorpions are venous, but only while alive or immediately after death. If you're planning on eating scorpions, it is recommended to wait a few hours after they die before consuming them, especially if you plan to eat them uncooked. Once enough time passes, the venom dissolves, and the scorpions are no longer dangerous to eat – although a little prickly.

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7 Regina Cemetery Stories for Your Curriculum

For years I have been trying to find some way to bring the stories from the Regina Cemetery into the school curriculum. I've spent countless hours emailing principals and teachers around the city, trying to find some way to arrange a fieldtrip to the cemetery – or maybe even bring the stories into the classroom. In my opinion, cemeteries are not only a wealth of knowledge, history, and teaching opportunities but they also give students a sense of local identity.

I wanted to make 2020 the year of cemetery tours, but it is not going to happen – primarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic but also because of some municipal red-tape. But I think it is fair to say the way students are getting educated this year is different than past years, and that a fieldtrip to the cemetery would be a nice change.

So for all those parents out there that are now teachers, or teachers with online classes or smaller class sizes, or anybody who wants to bring local history alive, here are seven stories form the Regina Cemetery you an add to your school curriculum.

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Unboxing A Salem Souvenir Box

Salem, Massachusetts is one of the few places that need no introduction. It is world-famous for the iconic 1692-1693 witch trials and the nineteen executions.

In a perfect world, I would love to go to Salem in October, but so does everybody else. Salem is overflowing with tourists during the month of October, peaking on Halloween. The hotels, restaurants, shops, streets, and parks are overflowing with witches, warlocks, ghouls, and ghosts.

That is, except for this year.

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How Did Indian Head Get Its Name?

People, places and things often change names. Sometimes this is because of a war, like Kitchener (Berlin), Ontario or Leader (Prussia), Saskatchewan, but it can also happen during peacetime too.

When this happens, it is usually associated with a societal change. Today, it is usually to embrace multiculturalism and to dissolve racial barriers. At least, this is the reasoning behind the name change of the Edmonton Football Team (Edmonton Eskimos) and the Washington Football Team (Washington Redskins).

(And, sometimes it's because things just didn't age well, like Tisdale's "Land of rape and honey".)

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Requirements to Fly a Drone in Canada

The past few years have seen a boom in drone photography, but their usefulness goes beyond just pretty pictures and Instagram likes. You can use drones to survey fields, inspect the damage on a property, examine the area below bridges and, of course, take awesome selfies. But flying a drone needs to be taken seriously. Not only are drones dangerous, but they are also considered an aircraft – and you need to be certified to operate them.

According to Transport Canada regulations, any drone between 250g (0.5lbs) to 25kg (55lbs) needs to be operated by a certified pilot and be registered with Transport Canada. This means, of course, that drones under 250g do not need to be certified or licenced.  Manufacturers have made drones around this regulation, such as the DJI Mavic Mini which is exactly 249g.

However, Transport Canada guidelines may change so I recommend you consider getting certified anyway. Unlike driving a car that takes weeks of classes and a $100 road exam, getting your drone certificate only costs $10. As well, registering your drone only costs $5.

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Smells Like Town Spirit

Article by Jessica Nuttall.

Kraft Hockeyville is an annual competition sponsored by Kraft Heinz and the NHL. The winning community receives a cash prize that goes towards upgrading their local rink, as well as an opportunity to host an NHL pre-season game. To date, no town from Saskatchewan has won this contest - despite the fact that Saskatchewan produces more NHL players per capita than any other province!

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the announcement for the finalists for the 2020 Kraft Hockeyville contest was delayed until August, with the four finalists being: Pense, Saskatchewan; Saint-Félicien, Quebec; Tyne Valley, Prince Edward Island; and Twillingate, Newfoundland and Labrador.

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An Unboxing Mystery from TokyoTreat

I love Japan. I love their creativity, their style, their art, their language, their video games, and everything about their modern society. Above all else though, I especially love their food. When I visited Japan in 2014, I tried some of the strangest food I have ever eaten, like miscellaneous deep-fried meat, raw horse, ox tongue and various types of sake, to only mention a few. I even had quite the adventure trying to find milk in Japan, which is almost an unheard-of drink in that country.

Flash-forward to 2020 and the world-wide lockdown and the restriction of travel, crowds and outdoor gatherings, make the memories of walking down the crowded streets of Tokyo seem a world away. I missed travel, food and trying new things so I decided to subscribe to a box from TokyoTreat. TokyoTreat creates themed boxes of various Japanese food and delivers it to your house.

I ordered mine in March, and it left the warehouse on March 30. It shipped on April 13. It was a May-themed box so it should have arrived in May, but this was around the time the mail system got shut down. All mail was delayed and stuck in transit. My package was MIA for months, with no tracking number from TokyoTreat and no update from Canada Post. The support at TokyoTreat were knowledgeable and updated me on the mail condition in Japan, but they weren't very helpful. But to be fair, there wasn't anything they could do. They couldn't send me my money back until the package returned to their warehouse and they couldn't give me an update on my missing package. In their defence I know they were also bombarded by thousands of people asking the same questions.

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Unexpected Misadventures to the Limestone Crevices

Northern Saskatchewan is nothing short of an enigma shrouded with mystery and surprise. One of these surprises is the Limestone Crevices, a prehistoric geological formation unlike anything else in Saskatchewan. I had never been there before, so I decided to go see them. However, every time I go to northern Saskatchewan, something bad always happens. Ever since my misadventure in Prince Albert National Park last fall, and my nearly fatal hike in Utah this past winter, I did everything I could to make this trip not only successful and safe, but punctual and non-life-threatening.

And I failed 90 minutes into it.

I have travelled to northern Saskatchewan a few times, and I always take Highway 11. Highway 2 is faster, but I am always meeting somebody in Saskatoon or veering over to the Battlefords. Highway 11 is ingrained into my muscle memory as the only way to go north. So, it is no surprise that I took Highway 11.

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It's Okay, I Missed My Grad Too

It has been ten years, but I still remember my teacher's face when I told her I wasn't going to grad. In disbelief, she triple confirmed that I was deliberately missing out on the biggest celebration in a student's career. I then triple confirmed that yes, I wasn't going. Then they called my parents. My parents confirmed it too. A month later there was another phone-call. I would be winning some awards at graduation – would I be there to receive them? No, I would not be at graduation.

In 2010 I made a decision to miss my graduation. This year, countless people are forced to miss theirs. The situation is different, but I'm here to say that it's going to be okay.

When the 2010 yearbook came out, I saw pictures of my high school friends at graduation, celebrating, cheering, and having fun. I would be lying if I said there was a void where I should be in those pictures, but there was not. I doubt many of my friends even remember I wasn't there that night. Some acquaintances even thought I moved away.

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An Unboxing Mystery from Mortise & Tenon

Mortise & Tenon, located at 2415 11th Avenue in Regina, is one of my favourite locally-owned businesses. They sell a plethora of knickknacks and trinkets, sourcing from both international and local vendors. When they opened, they wanted to be a signature trinket store like in other major cities, and they have succeeded.

I love shopping there, and even highlighted them on my blog a few years ago in my "What Makes Downtown Regina So Cool" article.

Unfortunately, like many other businesses, Mortise & Tenon was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. They had to close their doors, change their business model and start doing curbside pickups. One of the best things about their store was wandering around and looking at and touching all the quirky items they found, and that was now impossible.

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Meet Your 2020 Saskatchewanderer

Leah Mertz became the tenth Saskatchewanderer in 2020, opening up a new decade in the Saskatchewander program. Much like past wanderers, she has a love for content creation, travel and a soft spot for Saskatchewan. Her journey in the program has been unique so far this year, so I sat down with her (virtually) and asked her a bit about the first half of herself and her time as the Saskatchewanderer.

First off, where are you from?

I originally grew up near Chestermere, Alberta, but probably around the time I was in middle school, I knew I wanted to leave. I went to university in Edmonton but it wasn't a good fit so I eventually moved to Vancouver and went to school there. I was there for 6 years and then moved to Montreal for 4 years. Now I'm living in Saskatoon and it's barely been a year, but it's already changed my life in many ways. I feel like I'm from all of these places in a sense; they're all a huge part of who I am. 

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Reviewing Authentic Ukrainian Christmas Chocolates

Merry Christmas in May! Now that we all live in a pandemic void where time does not matter and space is finite (because we are all indoors), I figured we could review Christmas chocolates in May.

Or, maybe it is because I just finally got around to it. Whichever you want to believe.

Last Christmas my friend, Kateryna, went back to Ukraine to see her family. When she returned, she brought me back some traditional Ukrainian chocolates. Some I had had before in my Experience Mosaic From Your Home article but several others were brand new.

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Signs of the Pandemic Times in Regina

This is a hard article for me to write. On one side, it is easy because I am going to let the pictures do most of the talking. On the other side, it is really, really difficult. It is difficult because for every "closed" sign on a door, there is a family without money, a table without food, a student without a job, a business without a profit and a future that is uncertain.

Even though the Premier of Saskatchewan has put out a 5-step plan to reopen the province, nothing is happening for at least another month. A lot of businesses, restaurants, shops and stores will never be reopened. Post-pandemic Regina will be quite different than just a few months ago.

I think it is fair to say that nobody will take for granted a festival, a concert, a sports game or any type of event ever again. Nobody will take for granted steady employment, a paycheque, a job or a future.

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Where to Stay and Hike in Arches National Park

Arches National Park in Utah is world-renowned for their stone archways, dynamic terrain and breath-taking sights. However, this park is only one of the many incredible parks in southeast Utah, belonging to the Southeast Utah Group (SEUG) of attractions. The park can be entered for $30 per vehicle or $25 per motorcycle, with access for seven days. However, if you're looking to visit other nearby parts of the state, including other national parks, it would be more economical to get the SEUG Annual Pass for $55.

If you want to visit national parks in other states, or outside of the SEUG, it would be best to get the "America the Beautiful National Park Pass" which is $80 a year, or $20 a year if you're a senior. Seniors can also get the "America the Beautiful National Park" lifetime pass for $80.

There are several options on where to stay near Arches as well, with Moab only about ten minutes outside the park. Although it has a population of around 5,500, the town has everything you need, from restaurants to gas stations to hotels to museums and even a variety of outdoor hiking trails.

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My Deadly Hike to the Delicate Arch

Utah is known for a lot of things, but it's their national parks that make it world-renowned.  The state is not only home to Arches National Park, but also Canyonlands National Park, Zion National Park, Fishlake National Park, Capitol Reef National Park and Monument Valley, to name a few. It's a rugged, diverse, beautiful and deadly state unlike any other in the country.

Although I spent plenty of time in Salt Lake City, the reason for my trip was to explore Arches National Park midway down the state. For those who have ever been, the park is a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Salt Lake City, and the highway will take you through blown out mountains, fields, small cities and old towns. If you have a full tank of gas leaving Salt Lake City, you should get to Arches without a problem. If you need gas, Provo, Spanish Fork, Price or Green River, among many other communities, all have gas stations. If you need to fill up before going back to Salt Lake, Moab is just a little south from the park and is the perfect place to rest and refuel.

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks cost $30 per vehicle or $25 per motorcycle to enter. These passes are good for seven days. If you want to visit other parks around southern Utah, it would be best to get the Southeast Utah Group (SEUG) Annual Pass for $55. This covers Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Hovenweep and Natural Bridges National Monuments. If you want to visit national parks in other states, or outside of the SEUG, it would be best to get the America the Beautiful National Park Pass which is $80 a year, or $20 a year if you're a senior. Seniors can also get the America the Beautiful National Park lifetime pass for $80.

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Journey to Ted Bundy’s Cellar

There are three things Salt Lake City is known for: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ted Bundy and skiing. Since we talked about the former already, and I'm no good at the latter, you can probably guess what this article is about.

From 1974 to 1978 Ted Bundy kidnapped, murdered and raped young women and girls across the United States. Between 1974 and 1975, he spent much of his time killing in Idaho, Utah, and Colorado, with his base being in Salt Lake City.

Bundy moved to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah Law School, and left his girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer in Seattle, Washington. However, he was not faithful to Kloepfer (besides the raping part) and would date at least a dozen other women while in Salt Lake City.

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The Haunting of Kay's Cross

If you're looking to visit the notorious Kay's Cross in Kaysville, Utah, you might be tempted to just wander down into the hollow and see it for yourself. However, the cross is on private property and the owners aren't a fan of trespassers. Legend says that the owners will shoot you if they catch you, but they told me they would just call the police instead.

Either way, access to the cross is $20 USD, or $28 CAD, and they only take cash. It's a much cheaper option than a trespassing fine or a trip to the hospital so I recommend this approach.

However, a lot of people still take the risk and visit the cross without permission. Kay's Cross – or the remains of Kay's Cross after it was mysteriously destroyed in 1992 – has become a beacon for the paranormal, both for investigators and for practicers alike. My guide told me that Satanists often visit the cross and perform rituals. Once, he even said he encountered a dark entity while down there.

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24 Hours in Salt Lake City

I recently had 24 hours in Salt Lake City, Utah, and I really wish I had had more time. For those unfamiliar, Salt Lake City is the heart of Mormon country, and with this comes a lot of religion, history and lore. In fact, the Mormons – officially followers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – have a major impact on all things Utahan. It's nearly impossible to walk around the city and not see some connection to Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, or Brigham Young, the man who lead the Mormons eastward from Carthage, Illinois.

Although I didn't have much time to explore the city, I noticed there was an overarching Mormon theme everywhere I went. This list only touches on a few of the places of interest I visited, so if you know of any more, please let me know about them in the comments below.

Towering over Salt Lake City is the Utah State Capitol. It was constructed between 1912 and ended in 1916. If those years seem like a strange time to be building a massive structure, keep in mind that the United States didn't enter the First World War until 1917. From 1912 – 1916 they had the resources and men to build something this impressive while the rest of the world did not.

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How to Detect Night Vision Cameras in an Airbnb

I've used my fair share of Airbnbs, and I can honestly say I like them more than most hotels. I stayed in an Airbnb in Montreal, in Quebec City, in Krakow, in New Brunswick and most recently in Salt Lake City. Each experience has been wonderful, the hosts have been great, and the rooms were fantastic.

But not everybody has had such wonderful experiences. Because Airbnbs aren't regulated like most hotels, there is the occasional issue with hosts making unwanted advancements on guests, or even occasions of hosts secretly filming their guests. In response, Airbnb is making strides to make the experience for guests safer and to prosecute hosts that take advantage of them.

That being said, people are still people and things still happen in Airbnbs, as they sometimes happen in hotels too.

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Is Jack Keaton’s Closed?

It feels like February is the month where a lot of my blog's plotlines are tying themselves up. First, there was confirmation from the City of Regina that the glockenspiel I was vying for will finally begin construction, then there was a major update on the cemetery walking tours (coming soon) and now there's something going on with Jack Keaton's. As interesting as this all is, I will be excited when my travel blog can go back to being about, well, travel. I'm sure you will be too. Thankfully we have some adventures at the end of the month that will be a nice change of pace.

For those who don't recall my episode with Jack Keaton's BBQ and Bar, about a year and a half ago (October 2018) I had an online disagreement with the owner of the restaurant. I was attempting to collaborate with them, but they decided to shut down all communications and essentially "ghost" me. After months of ignored emails, I wrote a negative review on their Facebook page, stating that the management was hard to work with. The owner replied and angrily responded, after a brief exchange of words, that I should "get off my ass" and come to his restaurant.

So I did, and I did a review on it and it was not a positive one.

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Taste-Testing Regina's First Jollibee

Although Jollibee was founded in 1978 in the Philippines, it isn't well-known in the West. Appearance-wise, it is a mix between KFC and McDonald's. Their mascot – Jollibee – is a red, anthropomorphic bee, inspired by the friendliness of Mickey Mouse. They have several other mascots too, much like McDonald's, but Jollibee is the main figurehead.

The restaurant opened its first Regina location (2830 Quance Street) in December 2019 and had people camped outside prior to opening day. I can't think of a single restaurant in Regina where this has happened before. Jollibee only has approximately 1,200 (no, I didn't miss a zero there) restaurants worldwide so for it to pick Regina is a testament to our city's diversity and the booming Filipino community.

I know many new restaurants have hiccups when they first open, so I gave Jollibeea little over a month before I visited. I ended up going on a cold, blustery winter night, and I wish I had gone in the daytime to get a better picture of the outside of the building. From what I could see in the pitch blackness, the building was white and grey with white letters on it. There was also a statue of Jollibee outside, welcoming people in, similar to McDonald's and their benches with Ronald McDonald. The statue really surprised me, as it isn't something a lot of fast-food restaurants have.  

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Review of the Regina Airport Hotel

I have stayed at the Home Inn Express twice in the past – once before going fishing, and another on my way to Lethbridge. Both times it was in Medicine Hat, and both times I had excellent service. The room looked the same both times so either I had the same room, or the visitor experience is universal.

Last year I had fellow blogger Jeanine, from Jsask's Mom's Blog, contact me and ask where she should stay in Regina for Country Thunder. Since the Regina version, the Home Inn & Suites – Regina Airport, is only minutes away from the airport, I recommended they stay there.

But, I felt a little guilty recommending the hotel. I've only been to the Medicine Hat variant, not our own, and decided I had to change that. I reached out to the hotel and arranged a room after the holiday rush was over for Jessica's and I's anniversary in early January.

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My 2019 In Review

With the twilight of 2019 upon us, I thought I'd recap a year of ups, downs, achievements, failures and lots and lots of blogging. To start things off, when I entered this year, I had the goal of making "Kenton de Jong Travel" my own personal version of Tourism Regina. After Tourism Regina and I broke ties in 2018, I thought I would take the opportunity to cover more local events and festivals without worrying about stepping on their toes.  

But, going forward into 2020 I think I will dial that back a bit. It wasn't received as well as I had hoped so I'll be looking at what to do different next year. For those who missed them, some of the local events I covered this year included:

I really wanted to cover The Trial of Louis Riel and Mosaic: A Festival of Cultures too, but both of those fell through this year. My trip to Coleman, Alberta also fell through, which is too bad, but hopefully, I can go next year.

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Reviewing Authentic Dutch Christmas Candy

It would probably astound you how many people pronounce my last name wrong. If they're spelling it out, they will probably spell it wrong too. Whenever somebody looks for my name up in a computer, it usually takes several attempts. Is there a space? No space? Try searching just "Jong"? I get weekly emails and letters addressed to "Mr. Jong" all the time. Potential employers even admitted they were surprised to see me walk through the doors, as I am as far away as an Asian man as one can get.

But in a small country on the coast of Europe, my last name is as common as North America's "Smith". In fact, "de Jong" is the most popular last name in the Netherlands, and I have a lot of extended family living out there. As fate would have it, earlier this year I was even lucky enough to meet one of these relatives while she was in Regina.

As a gift, I mailed her a FLAT Bunnyhug, and she mailed me back a box of various Dutch chocolates and candy. I've always enjoyed trying sweets from other countries, so I figured I would make an article about them.  

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What to See With 24 Hours in Calgary

It's been a few years since I last visited Calgary, but all previous trips were either with the Canadian Junior Football League (go Thunder!) or for various concerts. Although this time it was for my "day job", I still made sure to give myself some extra time to see the city before I left.

I've heard a lot about Calgary since high school. One by one I saw my friends move there and start new lives. Since I had some extra time to explore the city, I was interested to see what Calgary had to offer, and what made the draw so impressive.

Although Calgary was a nice city, it wasn't the best day to explore. The windchill was around -20 Celsius, the sky was cloudy, a snow squall was forming, and the streets were empty. (And I only had my phone camera with me, ouch!) My friend Muna, who was acting as my guide, told me that the city was in a recession and that a lot of businesses were hurting financially – although you wouldn't know it by all the high-rise buildings they keep constructing. I didn't see a lot of foot traffic when we were there, but it was also an ugly day out. What I was surprised to see, however, was although it was cold and windy, there was still a lot going on. We spent a bit of time on Calgary's main pedestrian shopping street – 8th Avenue Southwest – and we saw a mini outdoor concert, an Elsa and Anna cosplay and a half dozen enclosed firepits. These little firepits were burning freshly cut wood so the whole street smelt like a campfire.

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Christmas Gifts for the Traveller in Your Life

Is there a traveller in your life? Somebody who loves exploring new places, trying new foods, driving long distances for a picture and who will yammer on and on about their travels if you let them?

For the first time in Kenton de Jong Travel history I decided to put together a list of gifts you can get the traveller in your life. Many of these gifts I own, so I can testify that they are worth investing in.

Many of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you buy the products I recommend, I may get a little financial kickback.

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Must See Things for Your Toronto Bucket List

Toronto is one of the most vibrant cities in the world and is home to a mix of cultures unlike anywhere else in Canada. It is the personification of Canada's proverbial mixing-pot. Toronto is comprised of six different districts, each its own unique neighbourhood. Much like the people who live in Toronto, the areas of Toronto are just as diverse.

With so much to do and see, many travellers are overwhelmed. If you're in town or passing through, here are some sights near Toronto that should be on your bucket list:

Toronto is proud of its arts and has one of the most progressive music scenes in the world. In fact, it's impossible to visit the city without sampling this iconic music scene. If you are a musicophile and you want to take in a live music performance or opera in Toronto, you will want to visit the Roy Thomson Hall.

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Exploring Moose Jaw's Abandoned Zoo

Before you read this article and freak out over the amount of snow you're about to see, I want to clarify that I took these pictures last March. Moose Jaw had a lot more snow than they do at the time of publishing this. I just postponed the article to prevent you from any winter PTSD during the summer months.

The Moose Jaw Wild Animal Park opened in 1929 as a 540-acre zoo. It contained over 200 types of animals from across Canada and the northwestern United States. For almost eighty years the zoo was in operation, educating visitors on different animals and environmental preservation. It started with bison, bears and wolves, and eventually expanded to include more exotic animals such as lions. It was difficult to get numbers, but it had an average attendance of almost a million people per year.

All this ended in 1995 when the zoo failed to gain the necessary liability insurance. On September 28, 1995, the Environment and Resource Management shut down the zoo. In 1997 the zoo's property was sold to the City of Moose Jaw for $1, with the provincial government providing a $50,000 grant to restore the area.

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How To Get Inside Chernobyl's Reactor 4

When I visited Chernobyl in 2016, very few people had ever heard of it. Fast-forward to 2019 and Chernobyl is one of the fastest-growing tourism spots in Europe, thanks to the HBO mini-series Chernobyl. It has grown so much, so fast, that in July 2019 Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky even declared it an official tourism destination.

It's been incredible to see this location get the international recognition it deserves, but with it comes the question of what to do with Reactor 4 – the unfortunate reactor that exploded and radiated the area. The reactor is imprisoned inside the "Sarcophagus" and is now covered in the New Safe Confinement structure. This means that hopefully, no radiation will escape its fiery, burning pit.

But what if somebody wanted to get inside?

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The Horrors of the RCMP Heritage Centre's Black Museum

They say dead men tell no tales, but these ones do.

The RCMP Heritage Centre's Black Museum only opens for a couple of weeks every few years, with the last time being in 2015. I loved the museum and am disappointed every year that followed when it didn't open. I heard a rumour that it was opening this year after a four-year hiatus, so I reached out to the Heritage Centre and they confirmed the rumours to be true. A few days later, I was there, camera and notepad in hand.

The Black Museum opens with Oliver, a terrifying mannequin that once toured across northern Canada for Christmas shows. Although Oliver says he'll be your guide through the displays of horror that await you, you never have to see him again. However, some people say his eyes follow you as you walk around the room, so don't be surprised if you turn around and he's staring right at you.   

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Review of Inim Bala by Alchemy Prophet

I first met Matt Lay when I partnered with Paranormal And Supernatural Team (PAST) during a paranormal investigation of Boards n Beans last summer. I've heard about Lay in prior work with PAST, but it wasn't until that night that I met him and saw some of the technological wizardry he creates.

Lay has been creating music since he was a child, with his focus being violin and electronic keyboard. Many of his musical inspirations include The Alan Parsons Project, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, Gustav Holst and Mike Oldfield. He's always had a love for music, although his life has often led him down different avenues of expression.

Lay's story starts in the 1980s when he lived in Mobile, Alabama. Lay was very open about spiritualism and didn't agree with the mantra of mainstream religion. However, he found the culture in the southern United States very restrictive with religion and spiritualism. He would move to the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia in 1989 for a fresh start. However, when he was setting up his new life, the United States fell under the "Satanic Panic". Lay found himself once again harassed by hate groups and ridiculed by local churches, many misunderstanding his ideas, teachings and lectures. This was a difficult time for anybody pagan in the United States.

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Journey to Grey Owl's Cabin - Part 2

Normally I sleep very well, but our night in Prince Albert National Park was rough. I woke up a half dozen times, each time curled up at the bottom of my tent, with both my arms on fire. I knew my arms were sore from the sixteen kilometres we canoed the day before, but the pain seemed much worse than normal. Had it been cold out, I would have assumed my muscles were cramping, but it was warm in the tent so that wouldn't make sense. I was too tired to understand why so I straightened myself and attempted to get some sleep.

I woke up to my alarm at seven in the morning. After a little tossing and turning and denial of the day ahead of me, I got up around eight when I heard Kevin getting up.

We brushed our teeth, splashed some of our drinking water on our faces and broke down camp.

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Journey to Grey Owl's Cabin - Part 1

It's been about fifteen years since I last visited Grey Owl's Cabin. I went with my elementary school's Outdoor Ed program when I was about thirteen, and the only highlight I remember was missing school when I got back because of the blisters on my feet.

It was also around fifteen years ago that I last paddled a canoe.

So, it's fair to say I wasn't prepared for the 40-kilometre canoe trip to Grey Owl's Cabin. To make sure I didn't lose my way or end up being bear-food, I asked my good friend Kevin Dunn, the former 2018 Saskatchewanderer, to come along with me.

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5 Fun and Budget-Friendly Travel Ideas

I don't know about you, but I could really use a vacation these days. After all the hustle and bustle of the summer, it seems there wasn't any time to relax. What's worse is that it seems whenever I have a chance to save up any money to get away, life throws me a curveball. For many, money and a budget is the key to making your travel dream come true... but it doesn't have to be.

Many people think that you need wads of cash to travel, but that isn't true. You don't have to save up tens of thousands of dollars to go on a vacation. Chances are you can make by with a couple hundred. I've talked about a few different ways to save money while travelling on this blog before, but here are a few other options you can consider:

Don't make the mistake of thinking that the trips you hear about are the only ones worth going on. Thinking outside the box is one of the best things you can do if you're serious about saving as much money as possible. You can start by looking at alternative destinations that aren't as expensive as others, although equally as enjoyable. For example, Ukraine is often cheaper than England, and Greece is often cheaper than Italy.

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Weyburn's Soo Line Historical Museum

Weyburn's Soo Line Historical Museum is a surprising gem of The Opportunity City. Inside the shell of a former factory, the museum embraces the city's colourful past -- both the things they are known for and the things they try to forget.

Like many Saskatchewan museums, the Soo Line Historical Museum showcases early snapshots of prairie history. I expected this going in, but what I didn't expect was a section about early Indigenous people. My reaction might seem unwarrented, but I couldn't think of another museum in Saskatchewan (besides the Royal Saskatchewan Museum) that has a section about Indigenous people. Not only was this exhibit a surprise, but it had a piece of history that I have never heard about before!

This piece of history referenced the Cree "Grandfather Rocks" – basketball-size stones with faces carved into them. These "Grandfather Rocks" were used by Cree medicine men to help carry spirits from this world to the next. Several of these stones were on display in the museum.

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Celebrating Summer with Regina's Summer Bash

If you've been driving around Regina any time the past few months, you've probably seen the signs for Summer Bash. At only three years old, this annual festival seems to be the talk of the town and has taken the southern community of Regina by storm.

This past summer, Summer Bash has rolled out five free movies, from July 4 – August 22, as well as a Summer Market on August 11 and their main festival this upcoming August 25.

Their main festival at the end of the summer is Harbour Landings answer to the Cathedral Village Arts Festival in May, which marks the beginning of summer. Because of the huge success of CVAF and its legacy in the city, Summer Bash is using them as a model to promote local businesses, vendors, musicians and artists.

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selfless in the Age of Social Media

Do you ever feel lonely? Or worthless? Or like you're not good enough?

There's a chance you're not alone.

More and more people feel this way each year, yet our network of people is becoming ever larger. We have a plethora of ways to share our opinions and thoughts, but it seems the more we share, the hollower we become. It's as if the more we put out there, the less we have to ourselves.

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Day Trip to the Cochin Lighthouse

I haven't gone on a major trip since my journey to Riding Mountain National Park last autumn, so I booked off a week to travel out west. However, things didn't work out as I had planned, and my vacation turned more-or-less into a staycation.

Thankfully, it wasn't all for naught. I managed to get away one day, and I did a couple of little day trips throughout the week too. The day I got away I wanted to go as far north as possible, and I chose the Cochin Lighthouse.

The Cochin Lighthouse is just north of the Battlefords and it is the only lighthouse in the landlocked province of Saskatchewan. It sits on the top of Pirot Hill in the village of Cochin and shines a light out onto the nearby Jackfish Lake – or as locals call it, the "Cochin Ocean".

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Visiting The Grave Of Canada's Largest Mass Hanging

I've wanted to visit the Battlefords in Saskatchewan for a few years now. As somebody who loves history, just to visit a city that once housed the capital of the North-West Territories is reason enough. I'm sure I've passed through the city when I was younger, but I've never had the chance to explore it as an adult.

My interest in both cities grew when I was doing research for my 2017 article, "6 Saskatchewan Cemeteries to Visit This October". One individual I interviewed for the article was Don Light of the North-West Historical Society. Light was tasked with the sensitive job of moving about eighty graves within The Battleford Cemetery. Relocating graves is always the last option when it comes to a cemetery, but in this case, they had no choice. The Battleford Cemetery sits on the edge the North Saskatchewan River, and the banks of the cemetery were slowly eroding. Had the graves been left undisturbed, headstones, monuments and caskets would start falling into the roaring river below.

Light and I had an excellent chat that day and he told me many fascinating stories about what they found when they were moving the graves. Some of the graves he had to move were Metis graves, all while under the supervision of police and Indigenous professionals. Many of these caskets had rotted and were open, and they found a plethora of Roman Catholic crosses and First Nation beadwork, a sign of traditional Metis culture.

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When A Swastika Isn't A Swastika

You probably clicked on this article because of the swastika. Many people feel strongly about it and believe that it is offensive to show any swastika, at any time, absolutely ever.

But the thing is, what if it isn't a swastika? What if it's a sauwastika?

"It doesn't matter!", some would say. A swastika is a swastika is a swastika. Well, not exactly. To start, the swastika, and its inverted counterpart sauwastika, have been used for millenniums by civilisations around the world. They have been used by the Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Vikings, First Nations, Egyptians, Celts, Mayans, Greeks, Africans, and everybody in between. Some refer to it as a symbol of good fortune, while others say it is the symbol for the top of the earth, the centre of the universe or the passaging of time. The Buddhists recognise the swastika as the symbol of Buddha's footsteps. Where his teaching goes, so does good fortune and the swastika.

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