Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Tree Of Life...or something like that...

There are very few places in Hamilton that really stir my soul. I rarely get that weak in the knees or gut reaction to a place. I guess the beauty of a steel city is not what I would consider...well...beautiful. There are of course its' hidden gems. From the waterfalls masked by beautiful woods to the liveliness of Gore Park to my favourite place of all time, the Mountain Brow.

I know. I know. It's so obvious. Everybody likes the brow. It's beautiful no matter what time of year, but I have a specific reason for it being my favourite place. It is because the park houses my all time favourite tree. You may not know this about me but I am a tree freak! I am just so drawn to them. I blame J.R.R Tolkien for making me believe that trees are more than just trees...but that they are alive ( I still believe this by the way). I have seen so many beautiful, ancient, wise, old trees but this one takes the cake. I can remember climbing its branches when I was little. I remember sitting in it and having deep life discussions with my friends in high school. I remember my dad taking me here and I remember making my family pose in this tree for family photos (family tree...get it?)

I feel safe in this tree and I feel like it's been there watching me while I grew up. I know that sounds crazy and I also know that that tree doesn't have thoughts...but what if it did? Would it know who I was. Would it know that it has been there for me through some bad times. Would it ask me to stop climbing it? Who knows, but these are things I like to think about. I know that that tree will still be around (hopefully) when I have children, and when my childrens' children have children. Trees are good like that. You can trust that they will never change (only for the seasons) and they will never leave. It's beautiful really.

I realize that this makes me sound like I'm massively sentimental about a tree...but I guess I kind of am. Somehow a piece of wood can create so many emotions. I love most trees but this one just speaks to me. I know it's not mine, it belongs to anybody who appreciates beauty in Hamilton, but I still call it mine, because for very short moments in my life it has been mine and I'm glad it will always be around when I need somewhere to go.

My tree on December 26th, 2011.
Me, sitting in my tree Dec 26, 2011 <3
My family tree in full bloom circa May 2010

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Laser Tag Is My Only Option? Really?!!?

Hamilton is a big city. Sometimes it is frustrating how for such a big city it has so little to offer. Not all the time. Mostly there's lots to do on any given day in Hamtown, but then I hear about something so amazing in another city that I get angry that we don't have it too!

Take for example my birthday party! There's not a lot of non-alcoholic adult party options around. I decided to make my friends go play laser tag and then go for sushi. It's going to be a lot of fun but....BUT...my friend just told me about this place in St. Catharines that would rocket laser tag out of the running!


Look at this place! AMAZING! Not only a party but you get a piece of art as well!! I'm so mad that I can't have my party there! We need more awesome places like this in Hamilton!

I guess for now I'll just have to murder everybody at laser tag!!

 I win! I win! You all LOSSSSEE!!!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Home is where the Hammer is.

You must be wondering why I compare Hamilton to all the places I've travelled?  Mostly I just think it's interesting how distinct certain places can be. London has Big Ben, Paris has the Eiffel Tower. Hamilton has my life. To me Hamilton is home, as much as I may complain about certain aspects of it and even dream about taking off and travelling the world troubadour style, I know I will always come back here. I am literally nailed to the Hammer (okay not literally, but you get the point).

There may be things I don't like, stereotypes I wish I could break but there are so many wonderful things about my city as well. Things I wish I could share with other people. I hate when I meet people in other countries and they ask where I'm from and I say, "Hamilton". They have absolutely no idea where I'm talking about until I say, "oh it's near Toronto".

Hamilton is awesome on its own. We have a lot of talent, arts, culture and nature happening here. I mean we are the waterfall capital of the world (sigh). That's got to count for something right? Unfortunately most people sneer at our steel city but I think and hope that people will start to take notice of our citizens. Hamiltonians are awesome. I don't know if there's something in the water but in the past five years we've had at least four or five bands really break onto the Canadian and world music scene. People are bound to wonder what we have here that inspires all these artists.

I want to travel. I want to see new places, meet new people. Experience new and exciting things but I also always want to come back home. Come back to Hamilton.

Arkells, a band that was born and bred with steel in their blood.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Holidays In The Hammer.

Just because it’s cold and blustery outside doesn’t mean that you should hide indoors for the whole winter. Hamilton has lots to offer to warm your hearts this holiday season. Whether you want to experience an old fashioned Christmas or you want to indulge in some modern art, Hamilton has it all!

If you like history you can harken back to days of yore by visiting Dundurn Castle for a Victorian Christmas. Decorated in the authentic way the castle may have looked for the MacNab family in 1855. Victorian Christmas runs from Saturday, November 26, 2011 to Saturday, December 31, 2011 (Closed Mondays).

For those folks who want to brave the outdoors you could visit Westfield Heritage Village every Saturday in December (except for Christmas Eve) from 5pm to 9pm for ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. It is a celebration of Christmas past and present. You can warm yourself with seasonal drinks and food while wandering around the historic village.

For the less traditional out there you can cozy up by the fire and listen to some Victorian ghost stories by candlelight. Haunted Hamilton presents An Old Man Young Christmas on December 18th at 8pm at The Parlour in the Historic Mansion at The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.

If, like the Grinch none of these holiday events make your heart grow three sizes and you are on Christmas overload The Art Gallery of Hamilton is a good way to escape the hustle and bustle of the season. With local and world art that will help take your mind off the stress that the holidays can cause. Don’t miss the Masters of French Realism on until January 15th.

So as nice as it is to slip into your flannel PJs and hibernate on the couch in the winter don’t forget that there’s always something happening in Hamilton. For more winter activities and ideas visit http://www.tourismhamilton.com/.

Gore Park during the Holidays
(Photo by Kerry Wah)

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Canucks- How nice are we really?

Canadians are known for being nice. Everywhere I go people always guess that I’m Canadian, so I guess that means I’m nice too. The thing is that I’ve never really noticed it so much in my own hometown of Hamilton (which is located in nice old Canada). People here scowl at me on the street, rarely hold doors and just seem downright miserable most of the time. It might be because we have winter for about 9 out of 12 months a year, but considering Canada is known as the friendly country I rarely see any friendliness coming from my fellow Canucks.

In my travels I have met some amazing people! I have never encountered a rude person in my travels (save one bouncer in Paris). People in the Dominican Republic were so warm and friendly, I had great conversations with many Dominicans.

When I went to France I was nervous because I had only heard bad things about the people there. I had heard they were rude and that the men were sexist and all kinds of terrible things about the French. I was so pleasantly surprised when I got there. Most people that I came in contact with were very friendly and patient. I don’t speak great French but I thought I knew enough to get by. They would be patient while I tried to work out the French or they would try to help me, or if I got it right they would congratulate me. Thankfully I had a friend with me who went to French immersion school so she knew quite a bit of French so when I really didn’t know what to say I would let her go first and then just say “La même chose” which means basically “the same thing”. I would say after going to France I became very good at frenglish, which was my own version of French mingled with English.

Frenglish really came in handy when I went to Belgium as well. I went to a party while I was there and everybody spoke French. I ended up having an entire conversation about the Twilight books with one guy. He was so patient while he was talking to me.

Ireland was beautiful and the people there are also beautiful. The Irish are amazing! They really like to have a good time and they love including outsiders. We met up with some fun Irish people as well as some really amazing Welsh people (who I am still in contact with). They took us to some great bars and showed us some sights. 

It could be because we are tourists and we are a commodity but I have encountered some really rad people in this world. I assume that my Canadian brethren are nice to outsiders as well, but I wish that they would act how they are stereotyped to their own as well. I want to find where these awesome Canadians hang out but I fear that the awesome Canadians are probably out travelling the world, giving the rest of these grumps a good name.

 Some of the amazing people I met in France!

My Welsh friends in Ireland with a statue of James Joyce

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Road Rage

I would say on an average day in Hamilton I spend around 45 minutes waiting for the bus. The HSR, or Hamilton Street Railway is pretty much the bane of my existence. I rant about it every other day. You would think that trying to figure out the public transportation in another country would be very near impossible. I have found the exact opposite to be true.

The underground in England, the Metro in Paris, even just normal buses in Scotland or Belgium. For some reason it seems almost too easy to get from point A to point B in other countries. In Edinburgh if a bus is going to be late it comes up on an electronic sign that it is delayed. If a bus in Hamilton is going to be late you just stand there like an idiot waiting. The HSR has made me late for so many things and I always give myself a good amount of time. None of the buses connect and I have been passed by on more than one occasion. My sister and I even wrote a song about how bad the HSR is while waiting for the bus one day. I would share the lyrics with you but there is too much profanity.

I get more upset at the lack of reasonable public transportation in Hamilton everyday. Last night for example. I went out with friends and ended up having to pay almost $20 to take a cab home because the buses stop running around 1a.m. while other places I have been usually have a late running bus. In Brussels there was one last bus when the bars closed and it was the same in Paris, although we never found the stop for it and ended up taking a cab. Either way it gets very frustrating. In New York the price for a cab is ridiculously cheap. I took a cab from Madison Avenue to Canal Street in China town for around $10 US. That is almost a 15 minute ride and that's with no traffic, which let's face it in New York is rare. Here it costs $3.50 just to get in a cab. It's infuriating.

I do not drive. I am realizing I will have to get my license eventually but I really just don't like driving. I am a nervous, panicky driver and the streets are probably safer with me off of them. If the public transportation was more reliable and cost less I would never complain about it. I wish Hamilton had a subway line, or a better bus schedule. The debate about LRT is ongoing and it will probably be years before we see that implemented. Until then I guess I will just continue to wait for the bus and sing my incredibly profane song about the HSR.

A very overcrowded HSR bus.

My friend Amanda reading the metro map in Paris, France. (Easier in french than one might think)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Revenge of the swans

Once upon a blustery day in Brussels, Belgium my friend and I were wandering around a museum. It was The Royal Museum for Central Africa. It wasn't open and we were sad to not have seen the inside. The outside of the museum was a beautiful, big, castle-like mansion. The grounds were vast and beautiful. It looked like a mini Versailles. We walked around out in the rain for hours just soaking in the paths, the trees, the ponds. We didn't even care that it was raining. The beauty of this place overshadowed the dingy weather.

As we were walking we came to a little man made lake. There was all kinds of wildlife hanging around. Birds, ducks and swans. There was like 30 swans. They saw us. They didn't like us. They chased us. They were honking and flapping at us to get out of their territory. We ran! Luckily they quickly ceased chase. They had seen someone else to attack. A little girl and her grandfather with a loaf of bread. The bread made them safe from harm. I filmed the swans in pursuit. Their little tails waddling away. As I stood there watching these regal birds moseying around the grounds of this palatial museum I couldn't help but think that in my home town of Hamilton the closest thing to this would be Dundurn Castle. The comparison made me sad.

In Europe every other building you pass is old and lovely and has a ton of history but in Hamilton one of the oldest buildings only dates back to 1835. Don't get me wrong Dundurn Castle is a very interesting old building, but I would hardly call it a castle. Hamilton can be a great place to live but it is not rich in history.

 Sometimes I wonder why I stay in Hamilton. Actually I wonder that a lot. I wonder how Hamilton can be so terrible and so lacking in culture. I don't miss Hamilton when I'm not here. I miss family, friends, that kind of thing but I do not miss my city. It's very hard to even think about returning to the hammer when seeing that just the outside grounds of this museum in Belgium far surpassed even the nicest museum in all of Hamilton.

The Royal Museum for Central Africa- Brussels, Belgium

Dundurn Castle- Hamilton, Ontario