Category Archives: Travel

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The Social Games

A lot has changed since Beijing four years ago. Back then the iPhone was one year old and Twitter celebrated only it’s second birthday. Unlike previous opening ceremonies, this year most of the athletes were marching with their smartphones, capturing the moment as it happens. Even the official Olympics broadcasts sometimes showed a close up of someone’s phone held up high, allowing viewers to see through it. All this footage captured by the athletes and spectators ends up straight on the social media sites for everyone to see.

Instead of getting a distilled coverage from trusted media partners many turned to social media to get the news right from the heart of the Games. It offered sometimes different perspective on events and raw and unbiased opinions. In fact Twitter saw a staggering 150 million tweets about Olympics during the Games. There’s a terrific infographic showing just how much social media changed since Beijing in 2008.

Like millions other people, I was checking Twitter for live coverage from the events. Last Saturday I’ve been to Earls Court to see woman’s volleyball bronze medal match. Despite being at the actual event I kept checking Twitter for updates. It makes a much more interesting and immersive experience, regardless of where you are. Simply watching event might be no longer enough. If anything, social media made these Games more open, made people feel like they are a part of something big.

Thanks to social media, London 2012 games are probably the most documented and talked about Games so far. It’s interesting to think how user-generated content is affecting big sporting events like Olympic Games and what challenges the organizers would face in the future. International Olympic Committee has set a very strict rules for athletes and volunteers about use of social media but it looks like it didn’t stop people form sharing anyway. At the end of the day social media will only serve good both people and the Games alike.

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London and the Games

The Olympic Games are in full swing now in London, bringing so many people together in their passion for sport and pride for their nations. The actual Games might be happening only at select few venues, but it does not matter because literally anywhere you look you could see a mark that the Games have left. It is such a landmark event that can happen only once in a generation.

It’s worth to remember how the Games changed London and it’s people. Below are pictures I’ve taken during my lunch break at the Bankside.

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The Royal Barge

On Monday I was fortunate to see Gloriana – a Royal Barge that led the Diamond Jubilee pageant on the Thames the day before. I saw it at London Bridge, the barge passed under it towards HMS Belfast and turned back again. Although it’s a rowing boat, it does have an engine as no one was rowing it on Monday. The barge is really beautiful, I can only imagine how it was like to watch the entire Jubilee pageant on the Thames.

Below are pictures of the Barge and a few other boats that took part in the event.

More images on Flickr.

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The best place to visit in Toronto

After spending almost two weeks skiing at Lake louise. I went to Toronto for three days on 23rd of January to have something different after slow rural life. If you have a few more days somewhere else you don’t feel as sad when your holiday comes to an end.

If you go to Toronto, don’t visit major tourist attractions like CN Tower or Niagara Falls. They are all rubbish and very touristy. All what I had left after visiting CN Tower were a few dozen pictures that weren’t that much better then views from my hotel room at Sheraton and dizzy feeling after going down super-fast elevator. But I’m glad that I went, after leaving the tower I decided to look around and saw an old train depot and a few steam engines. Turned out that there was a brewery inside the depot. Awesome! It’s everyone’s dream to visit a brewery!

Steam Whistle Brewery is a relatively small independent brewery in the heart of Toronto that is conscious about environment and local communities, but most importantly makes amazing Pilsner beer! The brewery occupies about half of the round old depot. Inside there is a bar selling fresh beer. Walls are decorated with paintings and art that catch your eye. The brewery itself is behind large glass windows. You can see beer being made while you enjoy your bottle. It is quite amazing!

For just C$10 you can do a tour around the brewery that includes free beer(much more when I expected) and a souvenir. I signed up for a 13:30 tour. We had to wear headphones with transmitter hanging around my neck, our guide Shane had a mic so we would hear him. This is probably because of the noise inside the production area. One of the first things he asked is if we wanted fresh beer. Naturally everybody agreed and he brought beers right off the production line. My one was bottled just 10 minutes ago! How awesome is that!

Photos and video after the break

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Ice Carving Festival at Lake Louise

I have to admit that I didn’t expect much from the ice sculpture festival. I have seen similar events before, and after watching a documentary on TV about construction of an ice hotel I thought that there won’t be anything else to impress me. I was wrong.

I’ve never seen ice sculptures so beautiful and elaborate. The degree of detail and precision was impressive. And the whole event was set against the backdrop of historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel on one side and frozen lake and mountains on the other. It was an unforgettable experience. Fairmont even built an ice bar for guests, offering a selection of icewines among other drinks. And on the lake itself people were ice skating and playing hockey around the ice castle. It was quite an event.

The festival started on 21st of January and lasted for 3 days. The main part is the competition between professional ice carving teams from around the world, including Canada, USA, Russia, UK and others. They had to complete their work in 3 days. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the finished work because I had a flight to Toronto early next morning.

Photos after the break

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Winter holiday at Lake Louise

Lake Louise is a wonderful little village in Canadian Rockies, located in the Banff National Park. I went there for my skiing holiday in January. It’s really small, just a few houses, 4 hotels and a local mall. But I think it’s size is the best thing what I love about Lake Louise. It’s just so peaceful and quiet, makes you forget about busy city life and connected world. I had a holiday like no other: skiing, hiking and enjoying myself in the great outdoors, forsaking the Internet. It’s wonderful when you can just forget about your emails, news and stop receiving push messages.

Lake Louise village got it’s name form the lake located just a few minutes away by car. It’s a mountain lake, fed by the glacier that’s hanging off the edge of the mountain behind it. On the shore of the lake stays the The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel. Unfortunately I didn’t stay there, but I certainly would next time. It offers absolutely breathtaking views and the service is outstanding. During my two weeks at Lake Louise I spent a few evenings at the Chateau. Ice-skating around ice castle on the frozen lake was an unforgettable experience.

I really loved the village, everybody where very friendly. When I bought a bottle of maple syrup at the village store, shopkeeper asked me if I am going to poor it on the snow. At first I thought he was joking, but turned out that you can make maple candy this way. You can read about similar candy here and here. It’s nice when people genuinely want to talk and help. Most of the restaurants were quite simple, yet very clean and friendly. The Mountain restaurant had the nicest waitress ever and the pub at Post Hotel offered delicious food by a cozy fireplace.

I had amazing time at Lake Louise and really hoping to came back again.

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A Day in Banff

Banff is a beautiful town located in the heart of the Banff national park in Alberta, Canada. It’s the closest town to Lake Louise and I wanted to have a little break from skiing, so I decided to come to Banff for a day. When I arrived in the morning there were very few people on the streets and most of the shops were closed. Only later did I realise that it was because it was excruciatingly cold. But after the sun came out, people started coming out.

After having a good look around town in the morning, we decided to head to the direction of the Fairmont. The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is perhaps one of the most famous grand railway hotels built by The Canadian Pacific Railway to serve passengers of expanding railway network. It was constructed in 1888 and later rebuild several times. It looks absolutely stunning, and with red brickwork and it’s many towers it rivals the mountains in majesty. Inside it’s as grand as it looks outside, I would love to stay there but unfortunately I was in Banff just for a day. I would recommend anyone who comes to visit Banff to stay there as it is the place to be in town.

After Fairmont we went further up to the Hot Springs and Gondola. The Gondola takes you to the top of the Sulphur mountain in just 8 minutes. It is worth going there because the views from the top are absolutely breathtaking, you can see the whole surrounding area and the town of Banff itself. There is also a walkway that takes you to the old weather station, built atop Sanson Peak. After coming back down the Gondola, only a short walk away is another famous Banff attraction, the Hot Springs. For just several dollars you can go in the 40℃ hot pool right in the middle of winter. It was quite amazing swimming in the pool overlooking the mountains when temperature outside is below zero.

The town itself is really fun, full of restaurants and bars, shops selling everything from dinosaur fossils to cowboy stuff.I bought some awesome souvenirs, including a real coyote pelt. The locals are really friendly and always happy to help.

I was really surprised to see a Louis Vuitton boutique, especially because there are no other luxury shops in Banff. All the stores are regular ones that you’d expect to see in the small town, so it really stands out. I’m still quite puzzled why it’s there but it could be for Asian tourists that visit Banff in the summer. They really like the brand. Apparently Louis Vuitton was open in Banff for 14 years now.

Below are a few photographs from Banff.

Photos after the break

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Skiing at Lake Louise in Canada

I’m not really in to sports, but skiing is an exception. I love the feeling of excitement and freedom you get when ice cold wind is brushing against your face, hurrying you to go down as fast as you can. Unfortunately last time I’ve been skiing was back in 2005, so I was really looking forward to get back on the slopes.

I’ve booked a holiday at Lake Louise in Canada from 11th of January to 23rd. At first I doubted Lake Louise because I thought I would have more fun in larger town, it’s just a small village in Canadian Rockies. But I was not disappointed. Lake Louise is an amazing skiing resort. According to Wikipedia it’s the largest one in Canada, offering almost 140 named runs and 17 square kilometres of skiable area across 3 mountain sides. It’s also by far the largest skiing resort I’ve ever been to. At first it seemed even a bit too big for me as I was trying to do everything at the same time. The terrain is very diverse, there are countless comfortable blue runs, challenging blacks and of course Powder Bowls. It never gets boring.

Every day I would ski from morning when the lifts open till late afternoon when they close. At 10 minutes to 4 I would take a gondola to the top. And to finish the day take a slow green runs down to the base, either Eagle Meadows or Deer Run. It was an amazing holiday.

Here’s a few pictures I took around the mountain. The sky always looks so beautiful and dramatic at Lake Louise, but for the first several days when I arrived it was snowing non-stop. I could not see the mountains from the village or the resort, the snow made everything look very surreal. Unfortunately it was also quite dark, so I couldn’t take very good photos.

Photos after the break