Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto is now open

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As a vegan I do not believe in capturing animals for the entertainment of humans. I think it’s wrong, and I am vehemently opposed to anyone who tries to defend zoos and aquariums. The only exceptions are sanctuaries who rescue and protect animals from neglect and abuse.

When I first heard that Toronto was working tirelessly to open an aquarium I was upset, but then told myself that once it opened its doors I would go and see for myself what all the fuss was supposed to be about.

It came as no surprise then that Ripley’s Aquarium opened at the foot of the CN Tower in downtown Toronto to much controversy two weeks ago. It’s clearly a tourist trap, and has divided opinion amongst animal rights activists and capitalists, the latter who claim that it’s vital to the health of Toronto’s economy.

The new Toronto attraction includes 5.7 million litres of water, with over 15,000 marine creatures. There is a variety of species to delight children and their parents.

The most impressive exhibit is the Dangerous Lagoon. With a slow-moving sidewalk, visitors are overwhelmed with ocean life. From sea turtles, tiger sharks and a multitude of other fish, there is a plethora of information about each species and the aquarium’s efforts to ensure that they thrive in their new habitat.

I was pleased to see that the aquarium provides educational programs, and there are plans to expand its research initiatives and day camps, as well as a sleepover program that give visitors the opportunity to sleep in the Dangerous Lagoon after a day full of activities. SCARY!

I also appreciated their attempt to dispel the myth that sharks are man-eating creatures, which continues to be a fear of most people who make the foolish choice to swim in shark-infested waters.

The price to visit the aquarium is a tad on the high side: $33.88 including tax. Luckily, I visited the state-of-the-art facility during the early morning hours, when there were little visitors, which permitted plenty of alone time with the marine life.

It’s probably the first and last time I’ll attend the exhibits, primarily because it’s hard to ignore that the tiny tanks these poor animals share are nothing close to what they should be experiencing, and that’s the natural bodies of water where they were born.

Ripley’s Aquarium
288 Bremner Blvd

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Image courtesy of BlogTO.

Where to get the best haircut in Toronto

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Every two weeks I get a haircut. For some this seems a little excessive. When I lived in Argentina my barber Federico would tell me that I cut my hair too often. I responded, “I’m paying you aren’t I?” Not quite sure why it perplexed him so much.

Maybe it’s because I have no hair, but it still makes me feel good to trim what I have. Nothing wrong with making myself feel new, is there?

In Toronto, Ho’s Place, located in the Village, is my barber shop of choice. Established by Vietnamese immigrants, the interior is a little run-down, but the barbers are friendly and skilled.

I prefer to get my haircut from Kennie, and from the looks of it he’s quite popular. I’ve had middling results with some of the other employees. Over the years, the price of a cut has gone up, but it’s still reasonable, about $18. So if you haven’t checked these guys out yet, do it, now. There are two locations close to one another, both at the corner of Church and Wellesley. That’s all!

Ho’s Place
509 Church Street

Image courtesy of BlogTO.

Image courtesy of BlogTO.

Scam City: Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is not for the faint of heart. It’s a challenging place to live, and many times during the year that I lived there, I had to shake my head at the absurdity of daily life in a city of 14 million people.

Having been raised in an organized society like Canada has spoiled me. It’s actually been a disservice because when I visit a developing country like Argentina, I’m ashamed at how little I’m able to cope with the prevalent corruption.

Argentines are so used to the mayhem that they’ve become apathetic about it. It’s generational corruption, and the mentality of most citizens is that the “rules apply to everyone but me”.

As usual, I complained many times about what I witnessed, but was always told to “relax”, and accept what I was experiencing. This logic always perplexed, and angered me.

While I lived in Buenos Aires the following happened to me:

1. My iPod was pick-pocketed while exiting the subte at Plaza de Mayo. I was super excited that afternoon because I made time to take some photographs of the Casa Rosada. Then I was robbed, and it sort of dampened my mood.

2. I was physically intimidated by a homeless man on the streets of Belgrano because I didn’t have any cash to give to him. He almost attacked me, and I had to sprint away from him to escape the situation.

3. An American acquaintance of mine was drugged, and left for dead in his own apartment after meeting a man on an online dating site. While he was in the washroom freshening up, the perpetrator slipped a horse tranquilizer into his drink, and then proceeded to rob him of all his valuables. This is very common in Buenos Aires by the way.

4. On several occasions I was given counterfeit money as change, and because my Spanish was so poor I couldn’t argue with the shopkeepers. They were literally stealing my money right in front of me, and I was powerless to do anything about it.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of what to look out for when you’re visiting Buenos Aires.

Now of course there are many wonderful things about Argentina, and I highly recommend you visit there when, and if you can. A lot of tourists never have a problem, but if you stay as long as I did, you’ll begin to encounter a few oddities from time to time.

The television show, Scam City, crosses the globe visiting 10 of the world’s most popular cities in an effort to expose the darker side of tourism.

Host, Conor Woodman, intentionally falls victim to alleged scammers in an effort to expose common local scams.

His visit to Buenos Aires is one of the most interesting episodes, and though he does lay it on a little thick, and some scenes do feel forced, or staged, I, and many others whom I travelled with, were victim to every scam detailed in the embedded videos.

It’s super enlightening and entertaining to watch, especially the Black Widow portion of the program. This is what happened to my American friend. My Argentine friends told me that this type of crime is not unusual in Buenos Aires.

I can’t wait to return!

Perito Moreno Glacier outside El Calafate, Argentina

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Just 78 kilometers from the Argentine town of El Calafate rests the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of 50 ice fields located in the Los Glaciares National Park. Three times the size of Manhattan, the Perito Moreno Glacier is by far the largest and most impressive of them all.

Even as remarkable is the fact that it is one of three glaciers in the region of Patagonia that is still growing. The reason for this is hotly debated amongst glaciologists, with no consensus reached as of yet.

Whilst standing before such a mighty mass of solid ice, a consistent crackle can be heard. It’s an unusual sound in what one would consider to be a sanctuary of reticent solitude. Instead, observers are witness to the sight of chunks of ice crashing into the lake below. The pressure inside the glacier is heavy enough that release is necessary for it to keep breathing.

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Perito Moreno Glacier is a popular tourist destination for most travellers, with bus loads of people coming and going everyday. It’s size and accessibility is a must-see for anyone visiting Argentina.

Here are some photographs to pique your interest.

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During my trip in PEI I stayed at Rustico Resort. On the grounds was an Osprey nest, home to a mama, a papa and a baby. I was not surprised to learn that Osprey mate for life, and lay two to four eggs in a one month period.

Like all animals, the parents are fiercely protective of their children. Whenever someone would pass the nest, the father would take flight and inspect the land from the air while the mother splattered the pavement below with her faeces. I got used to hearing people shout, “Roll up the window!”

Osprey live about 10 years, though some live longer, and the oldest reported osprey was over 30 years of age. Also, Osprey are found in every continent on Earth, with the obvious exception of Antarctica. In South America they only migrate, and do not breed.

How did you enjoy this little lesson?

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Historic Sight

Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst

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You may have thought that I had finished all of my PEI posts, but you were mistaken. Sleepy PEI is home to a lot of National Historic Sites, and it’s easy to see why. The landscape is unlike anything the world has to offer, and early settlers were attracted to its abundance of natural resources.

Port-la-Joye—Fort Amherst is one of the first Acadian settlements in present-day Prince Edward Island, as well as the first military base while under control of France, and then Britain.

From 1720 to 1770 Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst served as the seat of government and port of entry for settlers to the island while under both French and British control. As such, it played an important role as a colonial outpost in the French-British struggle for dominance in North America.

The site was designated a National Historic Site of Canada on May 27, 1958 and the property was acquired by the Government of Canada in 1959. The present interpretive centre opened in 1973.

The entire lot is accessible by foot and home to three impressive lighthouses.

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The Dunes Studio Gallery & Café

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Whenever I venture outside of Toronto I’m always surprised at how few vegetarian options there are. Such was the case during my trip to Prince Edward Island. Much of the time I was relegated to ordering a boring salad.

Charlottetown was a little more option friendly, but other than the quaint Splendid Essence Restaurant, it was still a challenge to find quality vegetarian dishes.

One of the places that I heard so much about was The Dunes Studio Gallery & Café. Dinner reservations are mandatory but lunch drop-ins, though not encouraged, are tolerated.

The Dunes is a trifecta of an establishment that offers a gallery of fine Canadian craftwork from over 50 artisans, including: woodworking, jewelry, textiles, stained and blown glass, candles, baskets, preserves, soaps, books, the list goes on.

There is also a pottery studio, and of course the restaurant, whose balcony overlooks a stunning sculpture garden that patrons are welcome to walk through whenever they want.

Despite a satisfying meal, I was still disappointed that there was only one vegetarian option provided on the menu from the entrée section, which turned out to be a filling and delicious black bean taco. The soup of the day was a broccoli almond combination that I ordered for my starter, so at least I knew they are thinking about expanding their vegetarian choices.

But I will say that it annoys me how much meat people eat, and how thoughtlessly they go about doing so. Especially so-called “foodies” who don’t seem to care about the ethical implications of the meals they not only demand, but consume with such a vigorous appetite.

With all the information at our disposal, and all the delicious vegetarian recipes available to make, it’s a wonder that PEI doesn’t adopt a more diverse selection when building their menus.

I’m not so sure if I will ever understand the foodie movement. As an Italian food is a cultural tradition, where in Canada foodies turn everything into a trend. I simply don’t get the appeal, and my confusion is steeped in my own upbringing. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, just that it’s my observation.

I really wish that people would consume less meat. There is so many reasons to do so, including saving our planet, and of course, animal welfare.

Anyway, this post is all over the place thematically. Regardless of the limited vegetarian options in PEI (I mean how much lobster can a person eat?) I was happy with the food at The Dunes, and definitely recommend that if you’re in PEI that you go and eat there.

Go for the food, stay for the white wine sangria!

The Dunes Studio Gallery & Café
RR#9 Brackley Beach, PEI

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Can you see the edible flower?

White wine sangria -- divine!

White wine sangria — divine!

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I was joined by two wonderful people for lunch. You’ll never know who they are!

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I couldn’t care less about the royal family. Hopefully after Queen Elizabeth II passes, Canada will form a republic and abolish the monarchy forever.

Saying that, it’s hard to ignore their presence in Prince Edward Island. Prince William and his wife, Kate were guests at the Queen Anne Revival Hotel in the town Dalvay-by-the-Sea during their 2011 visit.

William took part in training exercises with the Canadian Forces, and later the royal couple competed against each other in a dragon boat race on Dalvay Lake. Tough work!

For those of you unfamiliar, Dalvay-by-the-Sea is a National Historic Site of Canada located at the eastern end of Prince Edward Island National Park. The hotel, originally constructed as a home for an American industrialist, is a popular attraction for visitors to PEI.

Of course for me, my visit was not influenced by royalty, but the history of the area.

In 1895, a wealthy American industrialist, Alexander Macdonald (who was born in Scotland), was on vacation in PEI when he came across the area. He and his wife instantly fell in love with the place, and Macdonald purchased 120 acres of land, and commissioned a house to be built. The house was completed in 1896. Macdonald named it Dalvay-by-the-Sea after his boyhood home in Scotland.

The family enjoyed the house for over 10 years but Macdonald’s health rapidly deteriorated, and he died. He left the estate to his grandchildren but they were too young at the time to care for it, so their father took over responsibilities. He was not a good businessman and eventually the family had to sell the house.

Eventually the government of Canada took over the property and turned the house into a 26 guest room hotel.

And there you have it. If you’re not sick of my PEI posts yet, you will be. I have more to come. I hope that I can complete them before I die.

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Grand Falls

Grand Falls, New Brunswick

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I’m back in Toronto after a lengthy trip marred by traffic congestion from Quebec City. It tested my patience unlike anything I have ever known! 12 hours later I’m alive, and thankful for it!

But next time, I’ll take the plane. Or the train.

I’m going to have to go back and fix my Quebec post from yesterday; the quality of the photographs is sub par at best, and I noticed that they’re quite blurry. I’m sure you don’t care, but I have to do it for my own sanity. I started using Picasa, and perhaps I should rethink this.

The two photographs in this post were taken in Grand Falls, New Brunswick. The waterfall drops over 23 metres to the St. John River below. Maybe it’s not as impressive as Niagara Falls, or Iguazu Falls, but I liked it.

Okay, so thanks for reading, and tolerating my obsessive blog posts. I reasoned with myself that if I didn’t post them the day of each activity, I never would. Plus it gave me something to do during my “alone” time.

Chau.

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