Saturday, August 23, 2014

Julie & Kyle's Gorgeous Mountain Wedding (or, HitchBOT, the Robotic Wedding Crasher)

Julie and Kyle had a beautiful wedding on top of a mountain on August 9th, 2014 and I was lucky enough to be in the bridal party with Lindsey and Emmanuelle. I had the opportunity to spend time with and get to know amazing girls for the week.  On the way to the wedding in Golden, British Columbia, we stopped at Nourish Bistro (Fabulous food!) and bonded over lunch. Now, I don't have too many photos to share, but here are the stories and photos I took on my phone! (apparently it takes a month for photographers to edit and send back official wedding photos)

Sunset photo from 6:8 photography

Co- Maid of Honour Fun

So, I'll admit that the few days leading up to the wedding were packed with hectic activities - but wow, was it all ever leading to an amazing event. An event that went incredibly smoothly - the food, the venue, the speeches (including their length!), the schedule, the timing of the break for Julie and Kyle to have sunset photos before dessert....just perfect.

There was a slight mishap with my sandal (thanks to all the mountain hiking type activities for the photos!), but we managed to fix it with a safety pin and some Duck tape! Julie and Kyle actually had to CLIMB the mountain in their wedding clothes to get some of the amazing photos they have. The photographers were scaling the mountain!

Although I was a bit nervous for my speech, I think it went well! Lindsay and I went up together and did our own speeches. My speech is here, if you'd like to read it. 

Best Party Ever

5:30 am makeup and hair appointments, nail appointments, planning and Shopper's Drug Mart runs lead us to one of the best parties I have ever been to. The ceremony was on top of a CLIFF. Yes, that's right. An Alberta mountain cliff at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. It was a short and lovely ceremony, followed by cocktail hour (ie: lots of coordinating people for their family photos), and a lovely dinner with speeches (venison or salmon, or a potato and roast veggies dish).  Then, chocolate ganache for dessert. 

After that, it was wine, wedding cake, and drinking time. What a fabulous party (on top of a mountain, too!)

If you'd like to see the photographers' wedding day slideshow (a few photos), click here.

HitchBOT, the Robotic Wedding Crasher

Who is HitchBOT? Check out his Twitter page!  University of McMaster researchers decided to conduct a social experiment on how Canadians treat technology, and basically left a robot on the side of a highway, with a website address and instructions that said he was to "hitchhike" across the country and make it to Victoria, BC (from the east coast). He started his journey about a week and a half before Julie and Kyle's wedding.

Neither Julie, Kyle, nor I had ever heard of HitchBOT...until he crashed the wedding! A few of Julie's friends had found him near a highway sign, picked him up, and brought him along. I was even in the gondola with him on the way down!

HitchBOT talks, can be carried on your shoulders, has a webcam, and has many souvenirs from his journey (a wedding favour tucked into his belt, for example). He hitchhiked to many different cities, and one of the groomsmen even got Air North to agree (via Twitter) to take HitchBOT to Whitehorse so he could see the Canadian North before heading back to BC! Now, he is hanging out at an art gallery in Victoria, BC.

Now, this made national news and local papers, as did a photo of Julie and Kyle and the MC dancing with HitchBOT!  Check out the Toronto Star article here and the Metro news article here.

So, I used to think that I wouldn't want a 100 or 120 person wedding. 

Julie and Kyle, your wedding was so beautiful, it made me want one, too. 

Here's to your future together!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Heritage Days 2014 with Janice --Free Fun & Fabulous Food!

As many of you know, Heritage Days is my favourite summer festival in Edmonton, Canada. It's a cultural and food festival that features samples of food from different countries around the world (hosted by their cultural associations in the city). It just so happens that I was around for it this year.

The last time I went to Heritage Days before this was 2 years ago, just a few weeks before my departure to Oxford, England. Sean, Meghan, Ryan and I had a blast that day, where I discovered Nepalese curry for the first time (blog post here!).

This year, Janice and I hit up the festival on long weekend Monday (August 4th), the day  after I returned from my hiking trip in Kananaskis with Dayna. It was a nice, hot, summer morning when we met for coffee at the Century Park Starbucks and then took the LRT and bus down to the festival grounds.  We arrived at 10:01 am, just on time to skip the lines.

Janice, who is awesome, had pre-planned a few free activities that we hit up before there were huge queues:

  • Free mini personalized Coke bottles! I got one for Rishi and Rakhi, too!
  • Free, tacky photo booth poses with a Canadian theme!
  • Free 20 minute massages from massage therapy students (Hurt SO much afterwards!)
  • Free gift from the Servus Credit Union tent (I got a reusable bag and Janice got 20 free food tickets! Unfortunately, this was after we had already each purchased 20 tickets.  This meant that Janice's friend who was volunteering at the Japanese tent got 12 free food tickets at the end of the day

Tacky Photo Booth - Canadian Style (Sapna & Janice)

Super Tacky Photo Booth - Sapna and Janice

Then, of course, we hit up the food.  The decisions were ---Dolma (vine leaves with rice) from the Hellenic tent, Lekse (a Norwegian mini pancake, not so great), elephant ears (from Croatia, for Janice), Potatoes with egg from Portugal (not so good :( Vegetarian Pad Thai (SO delicious!), and Chocolate Affogato. Now, the affogato wasn't technically on the menu. So, Janice stood in the espresso line while I stood in the gelato line at the Italian food and coffee tents. Then, much to the horror of the children standing around us (and to the delight of the Italian woman serving the gelato), we poured the espresso over the gelato. YUM! I love you, Italy! 

That evening, Rakhi was in town, so she drove me back to her place in Calgary (as I was planning to be there all week to help Julie prep for her wedding).  We enjoyed a beautiful Vietnamese veggie rice roll  dinner together the next night, and it was a rare time that I got to spend with my sister. Thanks for hosting me for my five days in Calgary, Rakhi!

Vietnamese Veggie Rice Wraps with Thai Peanut Sauce!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Kananaskis, Alberta - A Beautiful Escape in the Canadian Rockies Amidst my Whirlwind Student Visa for Spain Trip

Once again, I am well behind on my blog - this should have been posted nearly two weeks ago! The last three weeks have been a whirlwind trip to Canada, in which I was in six cities in three weeks (and three of them twice!) on a quest to get my student visa for Barcelona. Thank you, Aeroplan, for funding the majority of my airfare.

Now, I'll skip the drama that dominated my trip (I definitely won't be planning to travel home or stay with family for the next three years), and focus on the incredible time I had visiting friends on this whirlwind holiday. 

Spanish Embassy Adventures (Toronto)

In Toronto, I stayed with Steph B. and her fiance, who hosted me in their lovely home in Whitby, Ontario. I also discovered their Bengal cat, who was sneaky, but shy and so, so, beautiful. Fifth generation from a tiger, apparently!
Cuddling with a Bengal Cat

Getting the Spanish student visa was a stressful hassle, as the embassy refused to accept my offer letter (the most simple document in my giant stack!) due to a lack of specific start and end dates for the first year of my PhD. Now, this particular requirement is:

  • a) Not listed ANYWHERE online 
  • b) Not true (as start/end dates for PhDs are flexible)
  • c) Unfair, as I had e-mailed the office specifically about this and they had said my offer letter was fine
  • d) All of the above (You guessed it!)
One thing I've learned about embassies is that they can invent their own rules and everyone has to follow them. They are in charge of who enters their country, after all.

After a few hours of struggling with them and showing them emails,  late night e-mails to the department head at the University of Barcelona linguistics department, and thankfully, a revised offer letter at 3 am, I decided to re-try the process the next day. 

Then, I breathed a sigh of relief and walked through downtown Toronto for a few hours. What a beautiful afternoon by the boardwalk and lake!

Toronto, Canada

Catching up in Edmonton

Arriving in Edmonton on the night of Wednesday, July 23rd, I had pleasure of meeting Pam and Janice for coffee a few nights later and catching up with Sheena and Sneha over dinner Tuesday night. The best part was that I even got to see Camille for an evening and had dinner at her house!  I miss you, bestie! Camille just happened to be in town for a few hours between her wedding in Cape Breton  and her flight back to her teaching job in Cambodia. It is so much fun to catch up with friends after so long! 

In a rush to escape and breathe some fresh air, I was thankful when Dayna picked me up Thursday morning for a beautiful road trip to her friend's mountain timeshare at Kananaskis Lodge, Alberta.  There, I got to snuggle with Roger and Wyatt, Dayna's two beagles, hang out with a few friends, enjoy a few hikes, eat delectable vegan cuisine and chill in the hot tub.

On our short hike the first day though, we accidentally walked a (crowded, usually safe) path near Quarry Lake that had had an unprovoked bear attack a few days before. Yikes! Remember the bear spray!

Bear Attack, Quarry Lake, Canada July 2014

Hiking Centennial Ridge

So, the Saturday morning hike was definitely the highlight of the mountain trip. We had planned to hike a medium level trail (as my official hiking boots, that I used in my trip to Peru in 2010, were in England).  It turns out that trail was closed for maintenance, and so Dayna, her husband Arlan and I decided to hike the adjacent trail. He did say, "it's pretty steep", but I thought, no problem, I've hiked mountains before.

It was SWELTERING hot and an 8 km hike UP. Straight UP. With Wyatt (the dog) attached to my waist.  You know how trails normally have switchbacks which make the steepness seem less daunting? Not many of those on this Centennial Ridge trail! My 2.5 litres of water were nearly finished by kilometer 7. THEN...

....IT STARTED TO THUNDER. HARD.  We felt droplets of water, indicating the ferocious storm to come.

We decided it was safest to skip the last kilometer (although there were a few people still headed that way). One km down it started to POUR. We rushed for the tree line, stepping as carefully as possible on slippery rocks. We were drenched, exhausted and shivering, but we made it down to the bottom of the mountain and into Arlan's truck. 

The next day we made a pit-stop in Canmore, AB, a beautiful little town that I've visited several times before (with Julie, here  and Sean, Janice and Bonnie, here). I found a cool moose Kong toy for Kiara, a sturdy backpack and a belt/waist leash (all three of which are extremely difficult to find in the UK!)

What an adventure in the mountains! Thanks to my amazing fellow Canadians!