Tag Archives: Europe

World Cup ’22: In Honour of Canada vs. Belgium

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For the first time in 36 years, Canada will finally play a match at the World Cup when they face off against Belgium today in Qatar.

It’s obviously an exciting moment for me, and many Canadians across the country. My family was able to attend several matches during the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, and the energy surrounding this team is just intoxicating.

Now, although we finished as the top seed in qualifying ahead of the USA and Mexico, I’m not oblivious to the fact that we have a massive challenge ahead of us in Belgium, Croatia, and Morocco in Group F. In all honesty, win or lose, I’m just happy that Canada gets to be apart of it all this time around.

In honour of Canada’s World Cup journey, and specifically their opening match against Belgium, I thought I would share a few photos from my travels to Brussels and Ghent back in April of this year.

Enjoy, and ALLEZ LES ROUGES! 🇨🇦

The Grand Palace, Brussels. One the most impressive squares I’ve ever been to.
Jardin du Mont des Arts, Brussels
Picturesque storefront in Brussels
You can’t go to Belgium and NOT get waffles
Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, Brussels
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The famous Manneken Pis, Brussels
Halle Gate, reminant of the second city walls of Brussels
Outside the European Parliament, Brussels
European Parliament Hemicycle
Parc du Cinquantenaire, Brussels
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Inside the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History, Brussels
The Atomium, Brussels
Bicycles stacked up outside Ghent Train Station
Scenic view of the river running through the heart of the city of Ghent
Gravensteen Castle, Ghent
Another angle of the river running through Ghent. I must have sat looking at this view for over an hour.

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How Many Countries Border Canada?

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Canada is a massive country. At 9.985 million km² (3.855 million mi²) it is second in size only to Russia. It has the largest coastline of any nation in the world at 243,042 km (151,019 mi), and touches three oceans: the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Arctic. To travel from one side of the country to the other would take an astounding 61 hours of straight driving.

And yet for all its size, Canada is only bordered by one other nation: the United States of America. At least, that’s most people would tell you. Upon further investigation, you’ll actually find that Canada shares a border with two other countries: The Kingdom of Denmark, and France.

1.) Canada – France Maritime Border

Located just 25 kilometers (16 mi) off the coast of the Canadian Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the island of St. Pierre and Miquelon is the last remaining piece of a once large French colonial presence in North America. It covers an area of just 242 square kilometres (93 sq mi), and has a population of just over 6,000 people. The island also operates in its own time zone, (UTC-3) 30 minutes ahead of its Canadian counterpart. (UTC-3).

Despite St. Pierre and Miquelon’s close proximity to Canada, this overseas territory retains complete French sovereignty. Residents have French citizenship, cars have European license plates, and all business is conducted in the Euro. To get to St. Pierre and Miquelon, there is a ferry that runs regularly to and from Fortune, Newfoundland, with the crossing taking about 90 minutes.

St. Pierre and Miquelon (Source)
The city streets offer a taste of France (Source)

According to Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism, St. Pierre and Miquelon has managed to surprisingly stay culturally unique from its North American neighbors, and retains a striking similarity and dedication to the French Mainland. As Newfoundland Tourism says, St. Pierre isn’t like France, it is France.

It may seem obvious, but you’ll need a passport to visit the island, and will need to clear customs just like any other international border. Although throughout history there have been a number of maritime border disputes between France and Canada over this overseas territory, mainly due to fishing rights, in 1992 an international arbitration committee finally settled on the official maritime boundary which is seen today.

Aerial view of St. Pierre and Miquelon (Source)
Canada – France Customs Office in Fortune, Newfoundland (Source)

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2.) Canada – Demark Maritime Border

Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark share the longest maritime border in the world at 2,646 kilometres, (1,644 mi) thanks to the Danish territory of Greenland. As with St. Pierre and Miquelon, there has been a history of countering border disputes between the exact location of each nation’s boundary. In 1972, these disputes were finally settled in a bilateral agreement; that is however, except for one small island located in the Nares Strait, just south of the Arctic Ocean. This place is known as Hans Island.

Canada – Denmark Maritime Boundary Agreement (Source)

Hans Island is essentially a large rock in the middle of nowhere. It measures just 1.3 square kilometres (0.5 sq mi), and sits exactly in the middle of the 35 km stretch between Canada and Greenland, with the maritime border running right down the middle of the island. It is absurdly far from the nearest populated areas, with the closest being Alert, Canada (198 km, pop. 62) and Siorapaluk, Greenland (349 km, pop. 68).

The Indigenous Inuit populations of Canada and Greenland have been using Hans Island as part of their traditional hunting grounds for centuries, long before Europeans even made their first presence known in North America, but other than that, the island doesn’t really provide any significant economic, strategic, or historical value to either Canada or Denmark.

Aerial view of Hans Island (Source)
Competing flag raising ceremonies on Hans Island (Source)

And yet both nations have made significant efforts to claim sovereignty over Hans Island. Don’t get ahead of yourself though, this conflict is quite possibly the most peaceful international dispute of all time. In the 1980s the Canadian military visited the island, raised a Canadian flag, and left behind a bottle of Canadian Whisky with a note that said, “Welcome to Canada”. The Danish responded by visiting the island themselves, raised their own national flag and left behind a bottle of Danish Schnapps with a note that said, “Welcome to the Danish Island”.

Since then, both countries have traded bottles of liquor on occasional visits to the disputed territory, thus earning the conflict the fitting nickname of the Whisky Wars. Recently, there have been efforts to resolve the border dispute once and for all, although nothing has been formally agreed on as of writing this post. One such suggestion is to make Hans Island a condominium, or a shared piece of land between the two nations. One island, flying under two different flags.


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How to Travel Europe Without Leaving Canada

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In Canada, specifically in the southern portion of the province of Ontario, we’re not exactly in the running for the “most creative city names” award. It seems like almost every place is named after somewhere else, and this has led to some interesting conversations whenever I’ve gotten back from travelling somewhere abroad.

When I was in elementary school, my family went on a trip to London, England and Paris, France. I was in grade 2, and was about to turn 7 years old. My dad had scrounged together enough frequent flyer miles from travelling for work to take the family on vacation. It would be my first trip to Europe, and as far as I’m aware, I was the only kid in my class who had travelled overseas. So when I got back from the trip and was talking to my classmates about where I went, there was some initial confusion.

See, there are two Ontario towns not too far from each other that are named London, and Paris. So to everyone else it wasn’t exactly an impressive feat heading for a short drive down the highway. It took a while but eventually I managed to convince them that I had been to the Real London and Paris out there way across the Atlantic Ocean. There have been a few examples of this throughout my life, and every time I can’t help but wish those early settlers had come up with some original names, or better yet just used the Indigenous names that had already been given to those areas.

However, this lack of creativity means that you are able to travel to a multitude of “European” cities over a small part of just one day. In a mere 4 hours, and 300 km you can visit Paris, Vienna, Copenhagen, London, Dublin, Brussels and Lisbon! All without buying a single plane ticket; talk about bang for your buck.

Check it out on the map below:

This road trip is definitely on my radar come 2021, and I’ll be sure to document my “European” adventure when the time comes. While these are mostly small towns surrounded by nothing but boring roads and farmland, doing it for the sake of doing it is really all the convincing I need.


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Music for a World Traveller – Sounds Like Van Spirit

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Earlier this year I discovered the #vanlife craze, and with it some exceptional world music. Let me explain:

I first stumbled onto the lifestyle while coming across a YouTube channel called Kombi Life. What started as a vague interest in the idea of someone buying an old Volkswagen bus and driving it along the length of the Pan-American highway, turned into an all out binge fest of anything related to living in a van and travelling wherever the roads could take you.

For weeks I obsessed over it. I spent hours clicking every recommended video I saw in my feed until I fell deep into the YouTube rabbit hole. You know what I’m talking about? It’s that place you can only get to when you aren’t trying to get there, much like the world of Narnia. A place of either horrors or wonderful surprises. Well this time I ended up in the proverbial magical wardrobe that took me not to a world of lions and witches, but to a world of new and exciting music.

It was well past midnight, and far beyond the point of no return, when I clicked on this recommended video:

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What I discovered was the story of a German audio engineer named Marten Berger who bought an old ice cream truck, turned it into a music studio on wheels, and drove it the length of Europe for 2 years searching for the continent’s most talented street musicians.

The culmination of his travels and work was a unique and diverse album entitled: “Sounds Like Van Spirit – A Collection of Europe’s Pavement Melodies“. 31 musicians from 25 countries totaling 34 songs makes for an incredible array of sounds from numerous genres originating all across Europe. Listening to this work of art instantly takes you on a journey through the power of music. It’s like travelling without ever having to walk out the front door. It’s raw, its real, and most importantly it sounds great.

Here’s a sampling:

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Half of the album’s profit is donated to charity, and if you’re an old soul like me you’ll be happy to know it comes pressed on vinyl as well. I implore you to let the music and the story behind it do the talking instead of just taking my word for it. I want to make it clear that this is NOT sponsored; I’m just an incredibly satisfied customer who wants everyone to share in the joy of this album that I do.

To learn more, or to purchase the album for yourself visit: https://soundslikevanspirit.eu/


Thank you so much for reading, and if you’ve made it this far please consider liking the post, sharing it with your friends, and hitting the follow button so you don’t miss any of my upcoming material! And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

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