Archive for March, 2007

Heavyweights

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Overburdend travellers at the Canadiana Hostel in Toronto.

How much weight does the average novice backpacker carry, you ask? Far too much is the simple answer. Experienced travellers know that travelling light goes a long way towards ensuring an enjoyable trip.

Modern backpacks have large capacities and and are ergonomically well designed for comfort. However, most first-time backpackers seem to feel the need to fill their packs to bursting and seem to travel with the proverbial kitchen sink.

Just today a young girl travelling alone and for the first time, arrived here on the first leg of a seven month world-tour. As well as her brand new rucksack, she had a large (extremely heavy) suitcase and a fully stuffed gym bag. She needed help carrying her bags to the second floor of the hostel. Her bag was so heavy, I felt dizzy on getting to the second floor. My hernia has not been the same since……but more about my hernia later.

What this, all to green, backpacker will have to do as she continues her round-the-world trek is jettison a lot of her baggage. I think she’ll find being so encumbered with personal possessions will be a lot of work and worry. There is one basic rule you should not forget when backpacking: “If you can’t carry it, don’t bring it!”

That’s not my bag!

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

In 1492 when Columbus set sail for India he ended up in America. Today, when you set out for India, you get to India – it’s your bags that go to America!

Travel post 9/11, a time of much heightened security and official paranoia has seen what seems to be a marked increase in lost luggage. It is apparent to us due to the number of travellers arriving at our hostel minus their bags. Thus far, they have always turned up sometimes as soon as the next day or often as long as five days later.

Miyuki-san, a young and pretty lady arrived without her bags at 2AM this morning. She was obviously exhausted after a long flight from Tokyo via San Francisco. United Airlines lost her bags en route causing her to miss her connecting flight from San Francisco to Toronto.

Although tired and in an obviously stressful situation, Miyuki-san, bless her soul, always kept a smile on her face. She’s still smiling as I write this even though she is having difficulty reaching an Airline representative. I can hear her on the phone and she’s talking to a machine. We all know how frustrating that can be.

Last night after she arrived here, all she really wanted was a hot shower and a bed. The hostel was pleased to oblige her. At the Canadiana we have taken steps to aid lost luggage victims. We now keep a supply of shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes etc., in order to provide just a little comfort for the weary traveller.

Miyuki-san can teach us a lesson in forbearance. She handled the entire situation with grace and equanimity and then, there was always that beautiful, warm smile.

Miyuki-san reunited with her bag, smiling? and travelling light.

CSI Southampton

Monday, March 26th, 2007

The CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) Television series is an extremely popular and lucrative franchise. But what’s it like in real life?

Glad you asked.

We have a young lady visiting with us right now who is a forensic investigator working with the police in Southampton, UK. Her specialty is finger print detection and identification. She’s a member of the type of team you see solving complicated cases in one hour flat on the television shows. But according to her (and her name is Cathy) it doesn’t wrap up quite as quickly or neatly as it does on TV.

A lot of criminals are caught by forensic investigators; it just takes more time than television and Hollywood have to tell the story. Cathy is on vacation right now and decided to have a look at Canada even though we are still in the cool transition phase from the bitter cold of winter to our temperate spring. We’re so glad she chose to stay at our hostel.

I’m sure we all have the impression that forensic investigation is an exciting and somewhat exotic occupation. Well, sometimes it can be just that. Cathy’s plan for the future is to work in Iraq. She’ll be doing precisely the same work in that war-torn land she does back home; only over there she will be encumbered with a helmet, body armor and probably packing a pistol – all of which adds up to a sartorial indiscretion that won’t do much for her lovely figure.

Cathy also told me some of the simple (and devilishly clever) methods criminals employ to avoid leaving their prints at a crime scene, other than the obvious wearing of gloves. Gloves on a hot summer day would attract undue attention, to say the least. Being a good citizen, I won’t let you in on the secrets to hiding your prints; however, I might consider selling the information, if the price is right.

It’s been a real pleasure having you here Cathy and we look forward to having you back. So when you’re out there in the Middle East, keep your head down; keep your eyes and ears open; and come safely home.

Cathy enjoying a cup of Tea in the Hostel Patio

Dr. Mesmer

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

As in “Mesmerize” is returning to our hostel. We are all pretty excited about his impending return. He spent some time with us last summer and he’s a genuinely nice guy. His name is Davey and he’s a physician from New York City – a plastic surgeon, in fact. But he’s not the type of doctor who does face lifts or gives bigger t*ts to vapid twits. He specializes in correcting children’s birth defects – a far more noble use of medical talent in my opinion.

We just received an email from Davey saying he’s going to pay a visit to our fair city next month before leaving to take up a post at a universirty in Hawaii. He’s a lucky guy with an excellent posting worthy of his talents and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

The reason for the initial reference to Mesmer who was purportedly an early exponent, if not the inventor of hypnosis (such is not the case, but that’s another story) is that Dr. Davey happens to be a proficient hypnotist. He learned how to hypnotize people from an eccentric uncle when he was young and made pocket money while at university putting on shows for fellow students. He put on a show for us the last time he was here and it was side splittingly hilarious!

He’s promised us a repeat performance when he returns (sometime in April) and those who will be in the hostel at that time are in for a real treat! The date of his performance will be posted on our “Events Calendar” on our website.

We can’t wait to see you Davey! We’ll be chilling a few beers to toast your return.

Davey

You call this coffee?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

Anyone one who has travelled to Southern Africa knows that it’s a place where you can’t find decent coffee. Although places like Zimbabwe used to grow world-class coffee beans in the Vumba Hills it was all exported to gain valuable foreign currency. Today, you can’t find food in that luckless land, let alone coffee. (But that’s another story.)

We’ve got three South African guests in the hostel who are in Canada for a year on working visas. They’ve brought their own “coffee” from back home. Candice, Michael and Wesley, three young, attractive and bright South Africans turn their noses at our free, filtered coffee? in favour of an instant mixture called “Ricoffee”. I was fortunate to live in Southern Africa for almost three decades and I am? very familiar with this African ersatz. In a word, it is foul!

It is a blend of instant coffee liberally laced with chicory and? although it is arguably the best of the? “coffees” sold in SA, it turned this confirmed coffee addict in to a tea drinker during my time there.

It just goes to show you how flexible our tastebuds really are.? Quality, it seems, is? merely a matter of what we get used to. Take the Australians for instance; they literally rhapsodize over an allegedly edible? subtance called “Vegemite”. I’ve yet to meet an Australian that didn’t love it; nor have I met a non-Australian that could stomach it!

The point is, there is no accounting for taste. We eat, drink and enjoy that which we are familiar with no matter how bad it tastes to others. So the next time you see somebody from a strange culture eating something you might regard as ghastly – think of Ricoffee and Vegemite!

Cuban Connection

Monday, March 19th, 2007

With? the Canadiana Hostel? in Toronto.

Miroslav came back to the hostel today. He’s a regular here at the Canadiana and stays here every time he comes to Toronto (which is often) and usually for an extended period. You see, Miroslav divides his time between Toronto and Holguin, Cuba where he owns a pension – a guest house. While he is in Toronto the operation is run by his wife who is a Cuban? citizen.

He usually spends, at least,? a month at a time on his frequent sojourns to Cuba. It is actually quite an enviable lifestyle. He has lots of stories of his deep sea fishing adventures at ridiculously low prices because he is considered a “local” and does not pay the high prices charged to? tourists.

Miroslav is? a Canadian born in Poland and has lived in Canada for more than two decades. This time he is going? on a trip to Warsaw to finally introduce his wife to his family there. He’s really looking forward to the trip.

But if anyone is planning a vacation in Cuba they might consider private? “guest houses” like the one run by Miroslav and his wife. Cuban families with? extra room will rent you space in their homes that might save you quite a bit of money. You will also be able to? take advantage of low-cost “airfare only” trips avoiding the more costly “all-inclusive packages” that severely limits internal travel keeping you stuck in one place. I’ll try to post Miroslav’s contact details on this blog.

toronto backpackers youth hostel, Canadiana Backpackers hostel toronto

This is Miroslav.? In the winter when it’s freezing cold and Toronto is covered in snow Miroslav skips town and goes to sunny Cuba for deep sea? fishing,? drinking rum and mojitos and taking in the good weather. What a life!!!!!

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St. Patrick’s Day 2007

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

At the Canadiana Hostel, Toronto Canada.

The Irish, I am told, love a wake. And I suppose that March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day) constitutes the “Mother of All Wakes”. This date is traditionally held to be the date of his death (circa 493).

I find it? interesting? that the Patron Saint of Ireland was actually born in Roman Britain. In Ireland the day is marked by church services and is a somewhat solemn occasion. In other parts of the world (such as Canada) the Irish and Irish wannabe’s use this day as an excuse for drunken revelry. We had quite a celebration here at the hostel last night. A lot of beer, wine and spirits were consumed and a fair bit spilled on our pinewood floors.

Rob, from Newcastle, organized a party and avers that it was an excellent occasion for everyone to get to know each other. All in all, it was a rather civilized evening.?

However, you always get that one person who? wants to try something they saw in an episode of? “Jack-Ass”? .? They want to? swing from the chandelliers, paint the town red, pee in the shower, or? rollerskate? naked to City Hall while singing? “If you think I’m sexy”? by Rod Stewart.? This can be a real headache,? but afterwards quite funny. It takes a day or two to see the humour, however.? ? ?

Nonetheless, it was a festive evening and we look forward to the next one. The beauty of it is that it likely won’t require a lot of work and planning on our part.? Our motto is “it feels like home ” and many of our longer term residents feel comfortable enough to organize their own parties without telling Mom and Dad – just like they would at home!

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Toronto backpackers hostel toronto

Toronto backpackers youth hostel

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Toronto backpackers Youth hostel toronto

This is what Rob wrote (our Master of Ceremonies):

“It was a fantastic night last night, as it always promised to be. Have you ever heard of a group of young, beautiful, handsome, well travelled, cultured, sophisticated, talented, physically fit, ambitious, thirsty, and poorly moneyed adults get together – on St. Patrick’s Day – with? lots of beer, and not have a good time?

And this is what Maarten who stayed with us for 6 weeks and was one of the Dutch? students? (see previous blog) said:

“Looks like I missed a great night :( St. Patricks day wasn’t the same without all you guys here in San Fran. I miss you all!”

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Update on Gentleman Ben

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

Complete with? a photo taken at the Canadiana Hostel, Toronto.?

If you’ve followed our blog, you might have seen our entry on a fine young man who’s only real foible (as far as I can tell) is he’s painfully camera shy. He’s Ben from Bath – the one near Bristol; not the one down the hall.

In our last posting about Ben, the only photo we could find was a group photo and Ben was shielding his face with a cushion. At that time I vowed (in writing) that I would get a picture of him!

Here’s a quote from his father, Stephen: “Best of luck getting a shot.”

Here’s a quote from his mom, Christina: “I don’t fancy your chances.”

Oh ye of little faith! Look below!

I spoke with Ben yesterday and told him in no uncertain terms that I would post his photo today! He didn’t believe me! You have a look too, young Ben! And never again doubt the Canadiana Blogmaster!

Say cheese…….

And this is what Ben’s Mum said:

“Well done – seems like he gave in with good grace!
Looks much the same as he did 61 days ago – but do I spy a new sweater?”

(Actually, poor Ben has no idea how we got the photo of him.)

“Pearcy” and the Double L’s (Lager Louts)

Friday, March 16th, 2007

If you’ve followed this blog you may have noticed that there have been several references to a group we affectionately refer to as the “Lager Louts”. Basically, they are a group of fun loving guys who are given to the most wretched excess in almost everything they do.

These are guys (and a couple of girls)? who met right here at the Canadiana and were with us for a couple of? months. I can’t even begin to tell you about some of their antics because a lot? of them are not to be believed and we don’t want an “X” Rated blog.

They left us several months ago but we still hear from them on a fairly regular basis. They trickled out west in one’s and two’s and are currently spread out from Calgary to B.C. Only Mitch (a charter member of the LL’s) has moved on and is now either in Fiji or Oz.

We’ve just heard from Chris or “Pearcy” as he is known. He’s teamed up with Matt in BC after Matt returned from his trip? with Mitch causing trouble in? the American Southwest. (If you don’t think I’m being serious, I have video evidence of these miscreants in action). I’m going to try to link it to this blog. Matt and Pearcy are currently in a rat “infected” (sic) hostel in Tofino B.C.?

Pearcy went out west to meet a lovely lady whom he also met here at the Canadiana. They got along really well (at first) and I suspect? their parting is due to the fact that she is far too temperate a personality for any of the? Double L’s. ?

While he was here in Toronto with us, we had Pearcy conduct some of of our hostel events where guests can get to know each other. He was a natural choice? to lead our “Pub Crawls” and added his own touches to the event. He and Jono got dressed up in drag and made two of the ugliest ladies we’ve ever had in the hostel! Right now he and Matt are in the surfing town of Tofino on Vancouver Island waiting for “Madders” (Madeline) to arrive? from Germany and fellow LL, Simon to arrive from Calgary. Tofino will never be the same!

I expect to see them back here in Toronto before too long. I doubt we’ll be? lucky enough to avoid them. Chris reminds me a lot of Rod Stewart. He’s not the prettiest lad you’ve ever seen; but, the ladies seem to? flock to? him. He’s living proof that girls may love Koala Bears; but they go out with the Dingos!

Pearcy has a running account of his misadventures on “MySpace” and I’m going to try to get his permission to link it to our blog. Then, you can see for yourself! So if you read this Pearcy, what about it?

Toronto Backpackers Hostel, Canadiana Backpackers youth hostel toronto

This is Laura and Chris. They met in the hostel during Christmas.? Laura was heading to Vancouver, so Chris, being the romantic he is, gave up his job,? temporarily said goodbye to his friends? in Toronto? and followed his heart to Vancouver.?

? With Chris life? is a full-time party. For example this outlandish gesture:

Toronto Backpackers Hostel, Canadiana Backpackers Youth Hostel Toronto? ?

? A fun night was had by all.? (Pearcy in “Drag” with Madders, on left and Genesis on right.)

Dutch Exodus

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Most of our long-term Dutch guests are leaving today. They have been with us for a few months and we’re really going to miss them. They are radiology technicians and have been in Toronto on an exchange program.

There are eight of them in the group four males? and four females. The women are all? rather attractive (actually, they are gorgeous!) and according to? a lot? of the ladies in the hostel the men aren’t too bad either (although, as a male,? I’m afraid I don’t see it!).? They are also a? rather homogenous group and tended to do everything together and generally stick to themselves; nonetheless, virtually everything they did, they did well – very well!? ?

Quiz night, for instance, was invariably won by? a member? of the Dutch group. They went ten-pin bowling and? were? far and away the best bowlers. They were also game to try new things and as a result figure prominently in our blog. (See; “Mush or Hike” on dog sledding).

All in all,? our Dutch? guests were a pleasure? to host.? They were simply wonderful guests; intelligent, mature, capable, responsible? and game to try so many different things.? We hope they enjoyed their stay at the hostel as much as we liked having them here. We wish them all the best in their future endeavours.

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Toronto Backpackes youth hostel, Canadiana Backpackers Inn, Toronto

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Starting from the left is Lian, in the middle is Rein, and on the right is Anja.

On the? left is Danielle and on the right is Sanne.

Anja? after a day of dog-sledding.

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