February 21, 2016

My favourite things about Calgary

I recently ventured to the West Coast of this beautiful, artistic and diversified country I call home. 
It was my first time visiting Alberta, which marks the farthest west I’ve ever gone past, well, Ontario. 

Calgary was amazing. 

So amazing. 

It’s one of those cities you instantly fall in love with the minute you step foot on the concrete slabs and catch a glimpse of the mountains off in the distance. It’s the best of both worlds, really. 

10 days was not near long enough to experience everything this city has to offer, but I crammed as much activity into those ten short, busy days as I could. I walked. And I walked. I was my own two-foot taxi, and my Fitbit can quantify. I stopped to get coffee at cute little coffee shops I randomly saw as I explored the little avenues, which aren’t really avenues, but rather big streets that run parallel and convene with numbered streets to give you an odd sense of satisfaction at each intersection.


Here’s a short little list (in NO particular order!) of my favourite things that I experienced in and beyond Calgary, for if you ever take a visit, hopefully you’ll be able to experience some of the best things to eat, see and do in this fantastic city. Or, maybe you’ll find something better for me to encounter next time I make my way out there.

The Kensington Wine Market — What’s fascinating about Alberta is their devoid of liquor corporations (such as the NSLC, or LCBO). This got me adventuring, and I came across this lovely place. I bought some really good wine. Not only was it in the cutest little neighbourhood, and had the greatest selection of wines, but the employees there were phenomenal. They knew almost every wine out there, if not every wine in the store (not to mention the price, where it was, and what it paired well with), were very polite and approachable, and made the entire experience fun. 

MacKay’s Ice Cream, Cochrane — It’s not located in the city, but a close friend of mine from Calgary suggested I make my way out to this neighbourhood and grab a scoop of their homemade, now-famous ice cream in a 70 year old shoppe. It was the middle of February, but HELL YES it was some damn good ice cream. Well worth the trip out of the city.
Pina Colada: 5/10
Chocolate Fudge Chunk: 8/10



Scotiabank Saddledome/Calgary Flames — It was a totally spur-of-the-moment decision to go to the game, but my sister won tickets through her work, and we ended up with the best seats, five rows from the ice. Also, the arena was shaped as a saddle (hence the name). It was cool, and I felt like my trip was complete after seeing a hockey game there. 

thePark Kitchen & Bar — Wednesday’s are half priced bottles of wine and $2 oysters. Plus they have a super delicious portobello mushroom burger that will be in my dreams until the next time I have it. 

Calgary Public Library — We all know I have a weird little obsession over city libraries. It wasn’t the new Halifax Central Library by any means, but it was still one of my favourite sights to see, and worth taking a quick visit to.

Banff National Park & Lake Louise — Ah yes, you knew this would be on here. I knew this would be on here. We all knew this would be on here, because Banff is spectacular. All of those pictures you see on the internet of this Rocky Mountain establishment doesn’t do it any justice. It’s a natural beauty you have to experience with your own two eyes. Go there. Live the ultimate-Canadian-tourist-vacation and grab a Beavertail while you’re at it. Also, take some cool pictures that will never compare to what you actually saw. I also recommend Elk & Oarsman Pub + Grill if you’re hungry.


YYC Hot Chocolate Festival — I was lucky enough to experience Calgary during the midst of their annual Hot Chocolate Fest, and fortunate to warm up from some of the best hot chocolates I’ve ever had! If you ever get there in February, participate in this. There are vendors all over the city offering some of the most delicious cocoa. It was such a treat.

deVille Luxury Coffee — Okay, okay, maybe I did save the best for last. I give this cute, sophisticated and highly impressive coffee shop a 10/10. BEST latte, and the staff was so friendly. I felt at home, and in my natural habitat with a cup of fancy coffee at hand. If you’re struggling to pick the best cup of coffee in the city, skip trying all of the other places, and just go here.
(pst, they have Nutella coffee!)


Thank you for the experience; I’ll be back again soon, Calgary. 

January 06, 2016

Embracing Sunshine

January 4th and 5th were the very worst and very best days. I shared much laughter, exchanged many hugs, cried many tears, relived old memories, spent days out in the bitter cold - but felt so much warmth at the same time, smiled a whole lot, and said so, so many goodbyes. 

The sun is shining brightly, and I wish to dedicate this post to the large dose positivity that sunshine can bring to an individual. While I felt many awkward and sad things about leaving Ontario to return home to Halifax, the sunshine gave me the power to want to dance, sing, run, smile and laugh.
Winter can be a depressing and sad time for some people - but it doesn’t have to be! I am a firm believer that listening to songs about sunshine during these dark, frigid months can help boost energy and feelings of sheer happiness. 

As mentioned above, I have shared much laughter and smiled SO many smiles over the past few days. For some reason, I have found that all of the songs I enjoy most about the sun are ridiculously up-beat and energetic. I can’t help but smile and dance my way through my entire “Sunshine” playlist. Give it a shot, I’ll bet you’ll be smiling by the end of it, too.

I also relived old memories; some good, others bad. Listening to songs related to sunshine may help you remember your past adventures involving “fun in the sun,” and, it could help create new memories. 

It’s January, and it’s been a very bitter cold month (for Canada) so far. As much time as I have spent outside in the ice and snow, I was also feeling so much warmth from the love of the people around me. If you are outside in the cold, try listening to some songs about the sun to help warm you up. It’s even better if it’s already shining!

Here are a few songs to get you started:

  1. Brighter than the Sun — Colbie Caillat
  1. Here Comes the Sun — The Beatles
  1. Pocketful of Sunshine — Natasha Beddingfield 
  1. A Thousand Suns — Hey Rosetta!
  1. Walking on Sunshine — Katrina & the Waves
  1. Sunlight — The Mowgli’s
  1. Soak Up the Sun — Sheryl Crow 
  1. Island in the Sun — Weezer
  1. Steal my Sunshine — Len
  1. Tequila Sunrise — The Eagles

Enjoy the sunshine! (Or, create your own if you don’t have any!)

December 16, 2015

Getting the customer service we deserve

I’m writing this from the Halifax airport as I’m approaching my 25th consecutive hour without sleep (I’ve had a lot of caffeine, obvi). Lots of things are on my mind this morning, but the most significant thing I’m dying to share with you is my deep, DEEP, passionate hate for airline customer service. 

I don’t want to attack Air Canada as a whole, because I’m sure there are lots of reasons and points by which they stand that proves they are a reputable and trustworthy airline to travel by. But, I AM going to attack Air Canada with regard to the flaws they have in their customer service sector and communications department. The bold, italicized quotations are direct from Air Canada employees that I recently dealt with face to face.

We don’t see what’s behind the curtain in these corporate companies. 
We engage with people who have (or are supposed to, in this case) customer service skills and we use these services based upon reviews and past experiences. And let me tell you, I have heard NOTHING but awful, awful criticism surrounding Air Canada and the disregard they have for their passengers’ opinions and satisfaction. 

"You don't have to choose Air Canada if you're unpleased."

I am travelling with Air Canada this morning from Halifax to Toronto. I arrived to the airport hours early to check in and get settled into my gate before my endeavour. I was with a group of friends, which did make the time pass by relatively quick; however, after spending hours and hours and hours awake and functioning without any sleep, it makes for a long 12am-6am. No one likes to be in the airport to begin with, let alone to be in the airport and treated like shit by an associate of the company you are trusting to safely transport you by aircraft at 350km/h at 30,000ft above the ground.  
Which reminds me… the past 3 flights I’ve had with Air Canada have been delayed at least an hour due to “mechanical issues”. Oh. Great. 

In October, I had a connecting flight from Toronto to Halifax with a stop in Fredericton to switch planes. Due to awful traffic, I made it to the airport 10 minutes after check-in closed for my flight. I still had to get my boarding pass, check my bag, and make my way through security. I explained my situation to the lady at the customer service desk, and the ONLY remark she had was “Well why didn’t you check in on your phone? If you did that, we wouldn’t have this issue now, would we?” UM EXCUSE ME? I was too stressed to deal with that issue in that moment, and I sincerely regret letting her get away with that. But it’s whatever, I guess. Oh, and then she tried to charge me $670 for the next flight to Halifax… the next evening. Long story short, I got my way onto the flight I was late checking in for. It just took a bit of inner strength and courage to speak up. 

“You’re on your own.” 

Air Canada sucks. I normally wouldn’t express my personal finances, but I have to strongly affirm that I have spent nearly $3000 THIS! YEAR! in services from Air Canada (domestic flights only). This may not seem like a lot, but for a student, it’s A WHOLE HELL OF A LOT. 

So, apparently checking a single suitcase costs money now? $28.75, exact. I got curious as to where the weird dollar amount and 3 quarters were included in the total, and as I did some further research, so to speak, it turns out that there is actually a tax charge (15%) to check your luggage. 

WHY! ON! EARTH! DOES THE GOVERNMENT NEED MY MONEY TO STORE A BAG UNDER A PLANE?!?! (This goes for all airlines that fly domestically, but still, it’s 6:30am and I’m mad). There will be room to store my bag regardless of whether or not I pay for it to be put there or not! Seriously. Fuck that. 

I fully expressed my opinion to the lady working at the service desk (I didn’t attack her, because it’s not her fault that it costs $28.75). I expected her to be understanding of the situation - that I am a student, I have already paid copious amounts of my money to Air Canada, and that there would be room for my luggage regardless of whether I paid or not. I expected her to at least try to further help me understand the entire situation, or to provide me with someone who could either explain it better, or, resolve my complaint. She didn’t. And her manner was just straight-up blasphemous all together.

“There’s nothing we can do about this issue, ma’am.”

Unless you’ve flown Air Canada or have had past experiences dealing with their incompetent, lazy, apathetic representatives, then it’s unlikely that you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Like I said, I don’t want to allege Air Canada AS A WHOLE, because I know a few people who do work for this airline and are great at what they do! But as for the 99% that suck…get it together, guys. Please. For the sake of your company. 

I have always had such amazing customer service with WestJet, and every experience, both on and off the plane, have always been exceptional. They have phenomenal customer service, and you can most definitely tell that their first priority is the passenger. A friend recently missed his flight (through WestJet), and within ten minutes a customer service representative had him booked free of charge for the next flight directly to his destination. Ha, AS IF Air Canada would ever do that. Keep it up WestJet, you’re doing it right. 

I flew Porter a few times between Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax. I had great experiences with them, too. Amazing service staff. Professional flight attendants. The pilot even shook my hand as I was getting on the plane! On a previous flight, I had a connection in Montreal between Halifax and Toronto, and I had to switch planes. The flight I was on between Halifax and Montreal was continuing to Toronto thereafter… and the flight attendant went out of her way to keep me on board so that I didn't have to wait two hours for my next flight. Oh, and FREE WINE. How can I complain about that? Good job, Porter. 

I will keep my word when I say that from here on in, I will be informing others of Air Canada’s blatant disregard for their passengers. I have 4 more flights with Air Canada (booked prior to this experience), and then that will be all. Until they get their shit together, at least. I have faith in you, Air Canada. You can do it. 

For my sake and sanity, I hope they serve decent coffee on the plane today, and I hope you all cross better paths than I.