When we arrived in Kyoto, we had a few hours before check-in. We decided then to go to a nearby shogun palace.
This palace was used to be where Japanese samurai lived and reported to. Inside were beautiful golden paintings on the walls, hand drawn centuries before. Photography of them are prohibited so not to damage the artwork, but I took many pictures of the grounds and the courtyard.
In one such room, we witnessed wax statues of a famous samurai meeting. The topic of this meeting was the dissolution of the samurai dynasty during the 1880s. At this time, Western ships were common around Asia, and trade was no longer a rare occurrence but a way of life. And with trade came new weaponry, and no longer where the centuries old armor and swords of the samurai efficient in battle. To prevent from falling any further behind in technology, and for the sake of their country, the samurai decided then to give up their old ways and adopt a new, modern approach. To end it, the samurai sold this palace to the government where it was converted into an office, thus ending the samurai forever.
The temple was a bit disorienting, as it was also built as a fortress (with deliberately creaking floors so to hear intruders) and a couple members of the group were misplaced. As a result, we had to cancel our afternoon tour of the golden pavilion temple.
With this sudden free extra time on our hands, we broke into smaller groups and one group went shopping, while the other went for an authentic tea ceremony. Although I didn't buy much, it was still interesting to walk past the wooden stores in old town Kyoto.
An hour later we switched and my group got to try the tea ceremony. However, being a white, Western male, my abilities to follow the directions were cumbersome and I made several mistakes (such as how to whisk the tea, how to turn the cup before and after drinking it, how to wipe it when done, etc.). Although the ceremony was very unique and peaceful, it wasn't very exciting and I would have much rather spent that time exploring Kyoto some more.
We then wandered the streets of Kyoto into an area with many red lantern. Our guide told us this was the area where we might see a geisha. My knowledge of geisha is very limited but I believe they are a form of upper class escort, but much more sophisticated. We wandered the streets and saw some buildings where there were geisha-in-training, and lodges where they lived. But sadly, we saw no geisha.
We took the train back to the hotel and washed up, although it was to no avail because the humidity stuck to you the moment you walked outside. We went out for supper, and I caved and had a hamburger. This is the first hamburger I had had since arriving in Japan almost a week ago, and it was delicious. I went out for supper with a group of people and we spent several hours at the restaurant until our tour guide came and got us. We needed her help explaining to the server that we wanted to split the bill, and her sudden appearance makes me wonder if somebody didn't text her and ask her for help.
Kyoto is the only stop on our tour where we can do laundry, but while sorting it after supper I closed my eyes and fell asleep. I plan to do it tomorrow night because tomorrow is our first, and very well needed, "free day". And I'm running low on clothes, with more than a week ahead of me.
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
Nestled between the impressive Mount Royal and the majestic St. Lawrence River is Montreal, a city known for its festivals, abstract art, history and mosaic of countless cultures. Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, with a population floating around four million people. While the city is a dynamic mix of Canada's two primary cultures – French and English – there are areas of the city that are culturally specific, such as Little Italy, Greektown and Chinatown. Known for its artistic and liberal mindedness, Montreal also boasts the largest community of homosexuals in North America in their very own "Gay Village".
Being nearly 375 years old, Montreal was pivotal to the creation of New France and Canada and at a time held control over every waterway from the St. Lawrence down to the Gulf of Mexico. Having such incredible influence over the western part of the New World, Montreal hosted the "Great Peace of Montreal" in 1701, which started sixteen years of peace between the French and over 40 different First Nation tribes in North America.
Since its early days, Montreal has been one of the most influential cities in Canada. Montreal housed "internment camps" during World War I, became an ideal location for Americans looking for alcohol during Prohibition, and was the official residence of the Luxembourg royal family during World War II. Montreal held host to the incredible Expo 67, showcasing some of the most incredible architecture of that decade. The seventies saw serious political reformation in Montreal, with many Americans arriving, fleeing the Vietnam Draft. The late seventies paralyzed the city as a terrorist organization, the Front de libération du Québec, detonated explosives throughout the city and kidnapped and killed political figures. These actions forced the Prime Minster to enact the "War Measures Act" and deploy the military into the city to apprehend the terrorists. The eighties and nineties saw two referendums in the province of Quebec to separate from Canada, with Montreal playing a major role in both decisions. The last referendum in 1995 ended with 51% percent of Quebecers wanting to remain part of Canada and 49% wanting to separate.
When I was younger, I really loved winter. I loved sledding, snowball fights and building snowmen. One of my favourite pastimes was visiting a little outdoor ice rink a few blocks from my house. Every winter my friends and I would climb over the walls of the rink and goof around on the ice. When we weren't falling over our feet, we'd play hockey with whatever snow chunks we could find. As these events became more frequent, we often talked about playing real hockey on the rink. Eventually, we would end up playing hockey, but we'd settle for the street in front of our houses instead.
Beyond childhood, the only other time I went skating was in high school. Everybody else's ice skating skills had improved with age, but mine were still that of a fourth grader. I remember standing in the rink, struggling to shoot while holding my balance, only to have a classmate swoop in and steal my puck! Ever since then, I've stuck to floor hockey.
As I got older, my love for winter dwindled. Now I find it cold, icy, dark and sometimes miserable. My blog usually slows down in the winter for this very reason. I've been trying to get out and enjoy our longest season of the year, but it's hard. Most days I just want to stay inside.
Among the tombstones of the Regina Cemetery are little blue and white flags. In 1993 the Regina Ethnic Pioneers Cemetery Walking Tour put together their first tour, which focused on the city's founding fathers. In 1999 they then put together the second tour, which focused on the diversity of immigrants that live within the city. The blue flags mark the path of the first tour and the white flags mark those of the second.
The walking tours are self-guided, and can be purchased at the Riverside Memorial Park Cemetery for $2. Together, they offer over eighty different locations to visit.
For this project I teamed up with Patti Haus from I Heart Regina. She's another local blogger that has just broken into the scene and blogs about food, drinks and things to see around the Queen City. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. She provided many of the pictures for this article.