Parades, patriotism and parties!

I currently have no plans to defect from my dear home country of the United Kingdom, despite it’s often stereotypical rainy, grey, dull weather and many peoples beliefs that we are not always the most friendly of bunch it is still for me where I want to call home. However despite only being away so far for two and a bit weeks there are a few things I have come across that have led me to believe Canada is doing it right. Having finally had an opportunity to celebrate a foreign national holiday in its own country a large part of this post has bee inspired by that said day.

The few times Canada so far has trumped the UK:

1. The first is kind of obvious as it’s what we often seem to be lacking in the UK, highlighted recently as we bombed out of the World Cup, patriotism and pride. Canada I found out on Tuesday 1 July just turned 147 years old. Maybe it’s its historical youth but people here even in the relatively small town of Jasper love their country and their town. They hadn’t won anything, they weren’t attempting to win anything but for the whole day the town was awash with people in red and white combos, faces painted, hat wearing, flag wearing the town was covered! You looked a little odd and stood out just a bit if you weren’t wearing red and white! And everyone sang their national anthem during the flag raising ceremony.


2. Parades. To further highlight the above, after the official flag raising and speeches and serving to the crowd pieces do white and red birthday cake the town was then taken over by its annual parade, que even more red and white, giant bubble blowers, confetti, flags, sweets and balloons. Virtually every single community outlet, large company, tourist attraction (and the mayor) was in the parade from a simple truck to floats bedecked with bears (unfortunately, no that’s not conservation minded of me at all, fortunately, they weren’t real ones!).


3. And how in Canada do they finish a day like that off, they throw a bloody big firework display and have a party! Kind of obvious really. And it’s not just piddly little fireworks it’s great big whoppers that went on for forever (no exaggeration obviously). Not necessarily to everyone’s taste but it sure was good. Then everyone who hasn’t already drunk to much goes and drinks some more.


4. Weather and scenery; apparently slightly out of character for this area of the Rockys, I have so far been blessed with glorious sunshine and heat pretty continuously, long may it continue! And get to wake up everyday to snow topped mountains, raft in rivers, trail ride through forests on the stables doorstep and even visit the odd lake beach. Hang on a minute maybe I don’t want to come home!?

5. And finally, this is a little two sided, but back home I always buy 2for1 offers drawn in by a saving and then often never use it all or get fed up of it after a while. Here if something’s on
sale offer but you only want one, you just pay half of the 2for1 type sale price. Bargain! However the down side of the food shops here, my favourite food, cheese, costs a million bucks and isn’t so great or you can buy something decent from a deli and pretty much kill anything left of your bank account.


Visas: the good (the bad and the ugly) – Part1

The bane of any trip, whether long or short term is generally in the planning or the admin. Other than trying to plan a route and buy plane tickets for the cheapest price possible (my recommendation is the biggest hurdle to cross we’ve found so far is visa applications!

So starting with the good, Vietnam! If you’re planning a trip here currently the visa process is pretty dam simple, especially if you’re happy to do a bit of it online and pay a little bit more. Despite their website saying you could only apply six months in advance of your trip one email to the embassy later and we had been told we could apply whenever,


I noticed in your email that it says you can apply for a visa 6 months before traveling. I will land in Vietnam on 4 January 2015 but wanted to apply for my visa now as I will be travelling before landing in Vietnam, so won’t be able to apply for the visa in the UK 6 months before I land. Am I alright to submit my application now anyway? Or can you recommend an alternative?


You can apply for visa now.

And it was as straight forward as that, one scanned A4 form later, a bank transfer and a copy of my passport. Three days later we went into London, queued for about 15/20 minutes tops and had our first visa in the passports. Yay, so we took the rest of the afternoon to shop and drink cocktails :D. Our total cost for the visa was about £60 excluding travel expenses to collect. The only real downside of the process is the embassy is only open in the mornings and on weekdays. They also seem to have a lot of bank holidays, they close for UK and Vietnamese holidays.

Other very straightforward countries for UK citizens/passport holders; Australia, if you’re not planning on working you can do a pretty simple online form and they mail you what you need to print out, I think it was sorted in a matter of days. New Zealand, if your not planning on working it’s basically all sorted on arrival and Canada is again stamped on arrival. I was majorly concerned coming to canada for 3 and half months with no plans to work and no work visa as it is quite easy for them to assume I’ll try to work anyway, but I was asked all of about 3 questions, 1: where are you staying 2. Who are you staying with? 3. How are you getting there? I was so nervous and so over prepared just for that. I was in shock at how simple it had been as I stood waiting for my rucksack to appear.

**Please note these are only my experiences and visa requirements for individual countries change quickly and with little notice, make sure you check with your local embassy for full details**

Outside the Vietnam embassy and with my first visa!