Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: park

The falling leaves drift by my window

Autumn came and went like the wind this year in Glasgow and we seem to be already in the midst of winter in mid-November. If I thought that last year’s autumn colours were gorgeous, then I must say that they pale in comparison to this year’s. Maybe it’s because the weather had been unusually mild this year and we surprisingly haven’t gotten so much rain. Maybe it’s because I finally discovered how majestic that tree looks outside my office window. Maybe…Lady Autumn decided to grace us with her presence more sophisticatedly than she did in previous years. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Kelvingrove Park is a 10-minute walk from my walk and my office but I tend to overlook its proximity and hence don’t go there often. During the summer, it is a great place to have a picnic or a barbecue, and when autumn comes and the colours change, an afternoon stroll on a rainless day is quite relaxing. I’m glad I took a walk when autumn was at its best – two weeks later the branches would have all turned bald!

Of course, my workplace, the University of Glasgow, is itself the perfect place to observe the changes in season. Every corner is full of magic and I sometimes really do think I work at Hogwarts. The Main Building, especially its tower, at the centre of the campus likes to take the spotlight and appears in many photos of the university that I’ve taken. Already an impressive structure that I have the luxury of passing by every day, it looks even more exquisite in the midst of the orange, red, and yellow leaves. Now, only about a week after I’ve taken photos, autumn is no more, and we are left preparing for the onset of the delayed rainy season…

(By the way, the title of this post is the opening line of the beautifully classic song, “Autumn Leaves”. A few months ago I stumbled upon an instrumental “cover” of this song and fell in love with it – here it is to share with everyone!)

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Somewhere that was only mine

The word “hometown” elicits complicated feelings in me because my true “hometown” is not a home. “Born in China and grew up in Canada” – that’s what I always tell people when they ask me where I’m “from”. While it is true that I still have extended family in my hometown Guangzhou, the place where I am most comfortable, the place where I feel the most sense of belonging, the one place I truly call home will always be Toronto.

Growing up in a city made me take the familiarity – or what I thought was familiarity – for granted. The same streets, the same buses, the same buildings – nothing ever seemed to change, except for me. It wasn’t until I went home after having spent three and a half years in Europe did I realize for the first time that I was so out of touch with my own home. Familiarity became the most unfamiliar part of my world.

During an 8-month period of idleness and unemployment, I decided to take full advantage of being in Toronto and to become a tourist in my own city, something I had wanted to experiment with for a while. It was then that a whole new Toronto began to unravel. Beyond the impression that Toronto has given the world as a booming metropolis and an urban centre, I ventured out of the heart of the city into its veins, to those little-known places that are so local and so authentic that perhaps only few are aware of them. I observed the city as it thrived, noticing the ever-changing colours of its ephemeral seasons and the sound of footsteps as people scurried through subway stations to and from their workplaces, day by day.

In the midst of it all, I fell in love with Toronto’s greenspace, almost to the point of obsession. I was fascinated to discover that there are parks, hiking trails, conservation areas scattered all around the city, and where were they but tucked behind the concrete highways and avenues? I really had to make an effort to find them, whether I had to drive to a secluded parking lot, take the bus and get off at a seemingly random stop, or just trust my instincts and follow a narrow path on the side of the road leading to an expanse of nature in the middle of nowhere. The sense of adventure was like looking for a treasure in your own basement – it’s got to be there, and the search is the most exciting part!

Pond in the middle of Moccasin Trail Park, Toronto, October 2014

Crothers Woods, David Balfour Park, Wilket Creek – these are just some of the places to consider if you’re looking for the perfect walk in Toronto, away from traffic and noise. And even Torontonians might not know about these places! Among the green areas that I had found, my favourite would have to be Moccasin Trail Park, right next to the Don Valley Parkway, one of the busiest and most important highways in Toronto. Most daily commuters on the DVP would probably have noticed large expanses of green areas on both sides of the highway, but few have ventured away from the main lanes and into the tree-covered parks and gardens. That was exactly what I set out to do.

Autumn was in full swing and it was the perfect time to see the exceptionally colourful foliage that Canada is known for. My walk into the woods of Moccasin Trail Park became a coveted date between my camera and me, a treasured one since it would be one of the last opportunities I had to capture Toronto through the lens before I left again. It brought me a supreme sense of serenity, especially since I was the only one there on that mid-October afternoon. Amidst the slow stroll on my way to the Rainbow Tunnel, I discovered an inconspicuous pond right in the middle of the woods, hidden from sight unless you went slightly off-road. I could still hear the sound of cars passing on the highway because as I had mentioned before, the park was right next to the DVP, but this place was like an urban oasis. The pond itself was a pristine mirror reflecting the beauty of the surrounding nature, one that I was surprised to find in the middle of the city. So calm, so eerily peaceful, so out-of-this world was the atmosphere that I marvelled at every colour and every sign of life. And at that moment, the park, the trails, the very spot where I captured the photo – they somehow became a special place within the city I thought I knew so well, somewhere that was only mine.

Perhaps I only felt this way because in my heart I knew I would leave Toronto again and wanted to cherish every unique secret that I found out about it. And I did leave, only to await coming back to the familiarity that would always welcome me. Perhaps the next time I walk the path of Moccasin Trail Park into my secret place, the leaves would have fallen, the pond would have dried up, and picture-perfect would have become a distant memory. Even though the park will still be there, I don’t expect to be ever able to duplicate the experience or reproduce the photo. And I won’t try, because one image is enough to remind me of the special feelings that only one moment could ever give me.

(I recently discovered a small camera that was released back in October from Light Co. It has the potential to be a good travel camera, combining 16 lenses into one about the size of a smartphone to keep it convenient without losing the quality. Check it out πŸ˜‰ )

Dada and the oldest Dutch city

This post is for dada!

The trip to Nijmegen (pronounced “nigh-meh-hem”) was successfully carried out. It’s been more than six months since dada’s departure from Bordeaux, embarking on his next journey in his academic endeavors in the Netherlands. Dada, otherwise known as Dr.Das, has courteously agreed to be the city guide for the day as he is now more or less “local”. How nice it is to finally have a reunion!

With more than 2000 years of history, Nijmegen claims to be the oldest city in the Netherlands, although apparently Maastricht also claims the title. Well, my concern wasn’t really to find out which is older; that is quite irrelevant. That is nothing compared to seeing an old friend πŸ˜‰

Annie and dada (along with Yi-Shiang and his family) had lunch at an all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant in the Nijmegen city centre. It was my first time having all-you-can-eat Japanese food in Europe, and apparently it was dada’s first time having Japanese food. Oh silly dada, inventing his own way of holding the chopstick every single time he attempts it. When will you learn?

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Parc Bordelais

I went to Parc Bordelais for the first time before the end of the fall season, just to see the colour of the leaves one last time before they all disappeared from the branches. It was a short afternoon visit, because the sun went down relatively early, but I certainly got some nice Bordeaux autumn photos. There won’t be many words, but hopefully a picture is worth a thousand words. Enjoy πŸ˜‰

A swan swims so leisurely in the lake.

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Black, yellow, and red – Happy birthday Belgium!

July 21st was the Belgian National Day – happy birthday, dear host country #2! I didn’t even say happy birthday to France, who celebrated a week before Belgium.

I did some very brief research on the history of the independence of Belgium. The day was July 21st, 1831, when Belgium declared independence from the Netherlands. That makes this year the 181st birthday of this small yet diverse country that may even be considered a little bizarre. Almost two years in Europe and I’ve spent close to half of my time here – wow.

(Completely unrelated side note: It seems like most of the countries that have held some significance to me at some point in my life has their nation days in July. Canada, July 1st. The USA, July 4th. France, July 14th. Belgium, July 21st. Coincidence?)

There were some events in Brussels for national day, and I decided that instead of staying in Louvain-la-Neuve, I’d head to the capital and spend some time around the city with two friends I met at the church in Brussels. We walked around a bit before deciding that there were way too many people and that we’d never squeeze through the crowd – the police wouldn’t even let us try. Since none of us are actually from Brussels and knew the city well, we wandered away from the parades and shows and crowds to do some exploring of our own.

Most of the events took place around Parc de Bruxelles, where the royal palace was situated. Here is one of the entrances, greeting us with two of the foody symbols of Belgium, beer and “French” fries. Yes, the Belgians invented the fries, not the French. There were other delicious goodness scattered throughout the park, including of course chocolate, mussels, and Brussels sprouts. I was surprised that I couldn’t find a waffle though 😦 For more pictures, click here to see them on Facebook.

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