The hunt for a new apartment

While on holiday in Vancouver, we got notice from our landlord that she’s selling the apartment and we were given our 60 day notice. Since getting back, I’ve contacted a real estate agent to find apartments for rent in the building we’re currently in.

I met with the agent yesterday and we looked at about five apartments (the joys of living in a relatively new condo), checking out the different views as we went up and down the building. One was a penthouse suite but it was smaller than our place and the laminate on the cupboards was hideous. It looked like leopard print. The view was great though.

One of the apartments I was keen on and it was available immediately. I talked about it with Glen in the evening and we made a plan on what to do next. Our landlord had said we could move out whenever as long as we gave 30 days’ notice, however, it was looking like we needed to move out much sooner.

In fact, we need to be in a new apartment by Thursday 24 April. (Our next payment for the current apartment is due on 28 April and we’d rather not have to pay another month’s rent and possibly lose out on apartments available now.)

So today I got in touch with our landlord and asked if we could move out before 28 April. I tried to sell it saying that if we were gone then prospective buyers could look at the apartment without having to bother us. (Real estate agents are supposed to give us 24 hours’ notice if they want to show the place.) I also told her that we’re going on holiday in May and June so we don’t have much time. Thankfully, she came back saying it was absolutely fine and we could be gone by 28 April, if it worked out.

I called the real estate agent and she laughed when I said we wanted to move in either tomorrow (Good Friday) or Saturday, really any time as quickly as we could, as long as it was before Wednesday. She said she’d see what she could go and rang off.

It was all going too smoothly of course.

A while later she rang to say that the property was no longer available. Sounds like some jiggery-pokery was going on with the realtors who were managing the property. However, our realtor said she’d send over another set of apartments for us to look at. There’s one on there, in our building, that we like so we’ve requested a viewing as soon as possible. With any luck it’ll be the one. (It’s also on a much higher floor which has its pluses and minuses.)

In other news…

Last night we went for dinner with Tim and Vaughan to a Persian restaurant called Sheherzade. The food was really good and it’s probably one of the nicer meals we’ve had in Toronto. I had a chicken dish cooked in lemon and spices, while the boys had a mix of other things. We also had Persian desserts, including a rosewater ice-cream. Mmmm…good food. Check it out.

It was also great to spend time with Tim and Vaughan, catching up on our travels. They’d just been to Orlando and done a few of the theme parks. Sounds a bit hellish but also a lot of fun.

Glen came to meet me at a travel vaccination clinic after work as I’d read and been told that we need Yellow Fever vaccinations (and proof of such) for travel to the Galapagos Islands. However, when we got there and asked about it, because we’re coming from a country that does not have Yellow Fever and we’re not going to any Yellow Fever countries, we don’t need it. I hope they’re right as I don’t want to be hassled at customs.

We also got some injections for other vaccinations. Glen didn’t look too pleased at having the injections and once they were done, I joked that I’d get him a lollipop. The doctor then offered us a couple that they have stored in a jar on top of the fridge. He said lollipops were good as they give you a sugar hit after the injections. Either way, we laughed and took one each.

I’m amazed at how thin the needle is, yet the liquid that’s pushed into the muscle hurts so much.

There are still other things I’ve got to organise before our trip, which is only three weeks away. Luckily none of it is too onerous and just requires a bit of shopping and planning. We’re planning on going on a five-day cruise when we get there but aren’t booking it until we arrive as it’s cheaper. I hope we’re able to get something. It’s a bit scary not having everything planned. I haven’t even booked the accommodation for our first night yet. Still, it might be a fun (albeit) stressful adventure to leave everything unbooked and race against the clock to find a hotel room when we arrive. I’m such Glen will just LOVE that.

‘Til Death us do part? A wedding in a cemetery

Many groans from Glen this morning, complaining about the pain in his legs. I’m glad my legs are a bit more used to skiing than his are but mine were still sore. Nevertheless, we got out of bed, had breakfast and then went walking (in –12°C temperature) east to check out the Necropolis.

We went along Bloor St and then turned down Parliament St, which took us past St James Cemetery. Lots of tombstones sticking out of the snow and a beige-grey church building that looks so right in that location.

We carried on down the road and turned down Winchester St with its large and beautiful houses. I’d walked this route in summer when it was much warmer and greener. Now, everything is dead and covered in snow.

The Necropolis Chapel, which looked so beautiful in summer with the green vines covering it almost completely, now looked so gothic and foreboding. It’s in the right place really.

We came to the Necropolis to check it out as a wedding venue. Yes, a bit morbid but the little chapel is nice (if you ignore the space for the coffin and the hole in the wall that takes it to the crematorium) and we considered it as an option…until the morbidity got to us and we struck it off the list.

Riverdale Park and Riverdale Farm are over the road from the cemetery and they looked like possible venues. We could have had the ceremony in the park and afternoons people could have checked out the (free) farm or the cemetery or just sit and have a picnic.

That is until we got back home and looked online. There are only about ten parks/gardens in Toronto where you can have a wedding ceremony and Riverdale Park isn’t one of them. Riverdale Farm don’t do weddings either.

High Park, another option, doesn’t allow weddings. Though they allow picnics of 25 or more with a permit. As do other places, but not weddings. And High Park is almost equivalent to our Kings Park back home. A very big green space in the urban centre, very popular with families, but weddings apparently are all too difficult.

Talk about annoying bureaucracy!

We’ve got another couple of options that I’m going to investigate next week. Time is marching on and I want it sorted!

Apartment viewing, a university party and tapas Thai-style

Time Glen woke up this morning: 5am

Time I woke up this morning: 7am

Winner! I would have slept longer but it was not to be. I lounged in bed for a bit while Glen went to the gym. I felt guilty for about ten minutes then got over it. A few more days and my body clock should be back to normal.

Then we’ll be well and truly into Toronto Pride and we’ll become sleep deprived.


We might end up going to bed at 10pm every night.

This morning we went to look at apartments in the Motion building on Bay and Dundas. Beautiful (from the outside) new apartment building with a well equipped gym (probably the best we’re going to find inside an apartment block) and all new apartments. We wanted to have a look at them but they’re tripled booked for viewing appointments and the earliest we could get is 4 July…and I’ll be viewing them alone as Glen has to work until 6.

Many people have just been renting them without seeing them…and I think that’s the way we’re heading as well. They’re reasonably priced, though water and electricity aren’t included, in a great location, better-than-average gym and should suit us well. Slightly smaller (based on the plans) than we would have liked but we think we’ll find it ok. This is for a one-bedroom apartment, move in on 1 July. There are some two-bedroom places, much bigger of course, but they’ll work out to be $500-$600 cheaper than a one-bedroom, which means a couple of trips that we’d miss out on. So, one bedroom it is. We’ll put in application tomorrow.

A real estate agent is meant to be showing us around a few others but we haven’t heard back about appointments and at this stage we’re a bit over it.

Because we couldn’t get in to see an apartment in Motion today, we went to another building which is just over the road from where we’re staying now. It’s owned by the same company as Motion and they’ve got a pretty good gym and some places available now. We went in and talked to Fatima who was only too pleased to show us the two one-bedroom and one two-bedroom places that were available. Unfortunately, they weren’t really to our liking. I did my best schmoozing though to see if she could get us an appointment at Motion. She tried but sadly the guy gave her the same response he gave us: triple booked. Damn. At least we tried.

This afternoon there was a Toronto Pride event on at the University of Toronto in Hart House Circle. Free entry before 8pm, bbq/food from 4pm to 8pm, then dance party afterwards. We decided to go and got to UoT at about 5:30pm. My god, the place is amazing. It looks like something out of Harry Potter, which is to say, the UK.

The party/bbq was held inside the courtyard so you were sitting looking up at this impressive architecture. We grabbed some food and found a few spare seats at a table with some older gay guys. We did the polite thing and introduced ourselves, our accents helping to break the ice. They were only too happy to give us a bunch of tips and destinations to explore while in Toronto. We took them down in our phones and will go through them all.

There’s one which is a subscription service for theatre shows where you can access house seats that haven’t been claimed or sold and just take them for free because of your membership. The guy who told Glen about it goes to three shows a week. The subscription costs $80 a year, which even if you only go a couple of times a year, works out to be worth it. So glad to have heard about that one. There is also a free walking tour of back alleys and graffiti, as well as a wotif/ type website which will be handy.

Gradually the guys we were talking to disappeared and we left about half an hour later. I was just so amazed to be sitting in this unique location for gay pride. The buildings were stunning, inside and out. Plus, once again, it’s been a beautiful day so it was a wonderful way to spend a late afternoon.

We wandered around Queen’s Park, stopping to take photos of a squirrel, then headed back towards our accommodation. Along the way we passed the Jesuit school and there’s a bench outside it’s doors with a sculpture of a man lying on the bench. It’s called Jesus the Homeless and it is a bit startling. You half expect it to move or sit up.

We went for dinner at a Thai restaurant called Sabai Sabai. It had been recommended to me but from the outside it looked pretty crappy. However, tonight it was bustling and when you go in the decor is all very trendy. It’s Thai but done tapas-style so we ordered about five things. It’s actually been the best meal we’ve had since coming to Toronto. Will definitely go there again.

In other news, I’ve booked flights to go to London to see my sister in July, before she heads back to Australia. Can’t wait to see her as we haven’t seen each other since November. Glen and I also booked tickets to Chicago and New York in September when a friend comes to visit us. The best part was that we were able to use our frequent flyer points to pay for it all (minus the $60 each in taxes).

After such a long lead time to get to Canada, and then the initial few days of procedural stuff, the excitement of actually being here is coming through so much more. I think I’m going to love it here.

Chinatown, Little Italy and house hunting

We still haven’t got a handle on the sleep thing. We managed to sleep through most of the night but woke at 5am and couldn’t get back to sleep. So we lounged around at home for a bit, had some home-cooked porridge, went to the gym, then ate some eggs. Almost feels like home and a bit like our old routine. Can’t wait until we get a place of our own and can get back into the swing of things. A Thermomix will help too.

Glen needed to go to the hospital to hand in some more pieces of paper, which was good as it meant he got to introduce himself to a couple of the admin ladies who look after the fellows. We also got to see Joy, who is a current fellow from Perth, and she gave us some tips on restaurants and travel and making sure we don’t skimp on buying a really, really good winter coat. It’s a bit hard to imagine when today has been another stunning summer’s day. I’m not usually one to gush over beauteous weather but the past couple of days have been something else. (Sacrilege, I know, when I come from Perth.)

Glen enjoying his first Canadian yum cha.
Glen enjoying his first Canadian yum cha.

Following one of Joy’s suggestions, we headed into Chinatown (we found it this time and realised that we were really close the other day. If we’d just continued down a street instead of turning left, we would have hit it). It was only 10:30 but we were already hungry so we went looking for yum cha. Joy’s recommendation wasn’t open yet so we went to Rosewood, which has yum cha starting from 9am (if you can believe it). It was pretty busy and filled mostly with Chinese people (a good sign). We ordered from a list (no trolleys here) and the food came. We ordered about seven dishes and the bill came to less than $25. Talk about cheap yum cha. Glen says we can go there again.

After eating we waddled further into Chinatown and then took a turn into Little Italy (still can’t say it properly). Both Chinatown and Little Italy were so different from the built-up Downtown area only a few streets away. The tallest buildings were only three or four storeys high so it all felt a lot more open. We liked Little Italy’s feel but consider it a bit too far from where we want to be so living there isn’t an option. However, there is a streetcar (not tram, as we learnt) that goes down the middle of it so we’ll be regular visitors.

We caught a streetcar to get back to near our accommodation. A really pleasant ride and all for the cost of a token (about $3). Might take the streetcar more often.

I thought that while we were in Little Italy we might see a proper espresso coffee bar as “real” coffee has been very hard to find. Alas, we didn’t see one (not that I really care as I don’t drink coffee but Glen – and dad, when he comes – does and it’d be nice if there was somewhere he could go for the good stuff), however, not two streets away from our accommodation is a tiny, hole-in-the-wall espresso bar called Rise Espresso. We quickly poked our head in and saw they had an espresso machine. Hallelujah!

We didn’t buy a coffee straight away but on our way back out again to look at apartments for rent, we went in. The guy made Glen a latte and we said how hard it was to find espresso-style coffee in the city. He said they were the only one in this part of the city (and I got the impression that meant most of the area). He gave us a loyalty card and we said we’d be back. I don’t think he expected it to be two hours later but we did on our way home from viewings. Glen joked that he’d be late for work each day because he’d have to trek so far to get his coffee.

Looking for an apartment. There's one!
Me looking for an apartment. There’s one!

We looked at two properties this afternoon. One I found and the other Glen found. They were both in good locations and had plusses and minuses. Unfortunately, for me, the minuses (shape of the bedroom, colours of the walls, lack of proper curtains to blot out the sun, not a fully equipped gym, size of the rooms) outweighed the positives (location, view, good sized and equipped kitchen) so I doubt we’ll put in for either of them.

One of the apartments was near Victoria University and that whole area, which is near Queens Park as well, is stunning and green. The architecture is wonderful as well. Wouldn’t mind walking through there again.

We’ve got a bunch of other apartments to look at (hopefully soon) and a new place we want to see next week. The hunt continues.

Toronto School of Theology, Victoria University, near Queen's Park.
Toronto School of Theology, Victoria University, near Queen’s Park.

The final countdown

Not long to go now. We had a farewell party on Saturday at The Windsor with a whole bunch of people. It was touching to see so many come to say goodbye (or, as one friend put it, “to make sure you were leaving.”) though unfortunately we didn’t get to talk to everyone as much as we would have liked. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves  and found someone to chat with and while away the afternoon. By the end of the day, Glen and I had spoken ourselves hoarse filling people in on the details.

While it’s sad saying goodbye, it hardly feels like a goodbye. Two years goes by awfully fast and we’ll be back before people can blink. (I’m sure I’ll notice it more when we get there and don’t know anybody.) What will feel strange is seeing how much the kids have grown. Some will be mini-adults. Others, who were only born this year, will be two…and walking and talking. That will be the weirdest thing coming back. All these extra people. 

The goodbyes are continuing this week. Every night has been booked to see one person or another. We’re managing to fit in a couple of last minute lunches and coffees during the day too. We’re definitely not taking it easy in our final days in Perth.

We’ve also got to complete a few more procedural things with banks, insurance, house rental, car and odds and ends. They’re getting ticked off so it feels like progress but if they aren’t done by the end of Friday, then it won’t be the end of the world. Luckily everything is so connected these days.

Three more days…

Look what my family and friends bought me

For my 30th birthday, I asked for money so I could buy a new camera for our trip. Thanks to the generosity of my family and friends, I was able to purchase two cameras yesterday: a Canon EOS 7D and a GoPro Hero3.


Aren’t they pretty?

The Canon is an upgrade from my EOS450D, which Paul has bought, and the GoPro is for video (but really with the main purpose of using it to film Beluga Whales when I go snorkelling with them next July/August).

I had intended to buy them in Canada because I thought they’d be cheaper. I investigated a bit and it did look like they would be cheaper but then when you added the tax (tax isn’t included in the marked price which is pretty deceptive) it came out to be either the same price or more expensive than if I bought them in Australia. So I bought them here and will collect the GST refund in Sydney (must not forget…must not forget).

I’ve started playing around with the GoPro and am pretty impressed with the iPhone App which allows you to wirelessly connect to the camera and get a preview. The camera doesn’t have a viewfinder so it can be tricky to establish the shot. I tried driving with it but it slid off the dashboard within about 10 seconds, so I’ve given up on that for now. It’s a pretty nifty little camera and am looking forward to playing with it more. Last night while at dinner I filmed Glen trying to open a bottle of Coke. It’s enthralling stuff.

Thank you to everyone who contributed. You have made me very happy. New tech-toys are the best.

My last day at work

Farewell biscuits
Goodbyes are best said with biscuits.

Friday was my last day at work for two years. It came at the end of a week of handover, which went well. Having had a full week to go through as much of the job as possible, I left feeling happy that there wasn’t much else I could do.

Outlining what is required day to day and month to month, I realised how much there is to know about and was proud that I’d created a challenging yet very rewarding job. It’s a bit of struggle to explain it all but without a week to do so, I don’t know how Kate (my replacement) would have gone.

The goodbyes started on Monday and continued on until the very end. They’re always hard. I find goodbyes such a strange thing when we now have Facebook and email and a variety of other communication methods. You don’t really feel like you’re ever disconnected. Of course, it’s not the same as seeing people every day but it makes the separation that little bit easier.

Gift Letter
The letter that came with my farewell gift. Brilliant! Thanks, Nikki.

Then Friday there was an afternoon tea with a few short speeches and a gift (Canadian dollars – perfection). Then drinks after work and dinner and now I’m a free agent. Very grateful for having the time off (15 months of that with pay – yippee).

There’s one last thing keeping me plugged into work but that will go soon and then my mind will slip out of work mode and into holiday preparation. I’m looking forward to waking up on Tuesday (Monday is a public holiday) and not having to go to work. I think that’s when it will really sink in that there are big changes ahead.

Three weeks to go

Where did the past four weeks go since my last post? It hardly seems possible that a whole month has gone by. It’s been a busy four weeks though so maybe that’s why time has flown.

Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Work permits came through two weeks ago. We awoke to an email from Immigration with two very dull pdfs attached saying we had the pre-approval or whatever it is. We’ll get the actual permits when we enter the country. This was a big weight off Glen’s mind. So that’s done. YAY!

We’ve moved out of our house and into dad’s place. Christine and Walter (Glen’s mum and stepdad) did an amazing job helping us to move everything out and into my grandmother’s. It was a tiring Saturday but such a relief to have it mostly all out of there. The couch went on a bit of a journey, going from Maylands to Willetton to Maylands to Chidlow. But at least it’s going to be used now and not sitting collecting dust.

This weekend was the big final clean and the house is looking pretty damn good. Nicole came and did the bathrooms. She did an amazing job. She also cleaned other parts of the house and without her we’d still be there (or have left it in not as good a state as it could have been). The place looks so good that it’s a shame to leave. The house went up for rent on Thursday and there’s a home open tomorrow. Fingers crossed it goes quickly and we’ve got someone in there before we leave.

We gave Smudge to her new foster mum the day we moved out. I dropped her off while Glen stayed at home. I didn’t get emotional about it as I just needed to get it done. When we got there, she climbed out of her cat carrier and hid under the bed. She lived under there for a week but has now graduated to the family area (with plenty of places to hide). She is eating though, which is good, and with time she’ll adapt. We dropped in to see her tonight and she’s quite sooky and skulky but she’ll get there. Whenever I’ve been back to our house, I carefully open the door to make sure Smudge doesn’t run out…but of course she isn’t there. That’s not such a pleasant feeling. And it’s weird not hearing her bells chiming either. But she’ll be better off here rather than taking that 30 hour plus journey.

Glen has started getting emails from the hospital about orientation day and requests for holidays in the first half of the fellowship year. Where to go? What to do? So many options. That’s going to be fun deciding when to take off. As he can take four weeks off, perhaps we should do a week in each season. As long as we get to see polar bears and beluga whales.

We’re also looking at places to stay in Toronto. My initial attempts at finding a temporary home for the first month didn’t succeed as I’d hoped but I’m looking on airbnb and there seem to be some great options (location and price). We’ve also been sent information on a place that’s spitting distance from the hospital and seems to have everything we’ll need. Waiting for more photos. It’s available at the end of June which would be perfect for us.

I have one week left at work and Glen has two. Luckily I’m able to have a week of handover with my replacement so really, I’m all done. It’s going to feel very surreal not having to go to work after 31 May (in Perth anyway). Or maybe it won’t be. Maybe it will be a quick transition and I’ll be too busy focussing on other things to worry or care.

After work is finished, there should really be very little left to organise. Pack bags and say farewells. After more than a year of knowing we were leaving, I can’t believe it’s finally so close.

Box-packing has commenced

Time is rapidly disappearing. In October I stuck print-outs of each month to June onto our bedroom cupboards and began crossing off the days. It was meant to aid in planning when things had to be done and to see how much time we had left to do them. Instead, it’s acted more like a countdown and has shown how quickly time passes. We’re halfway through March, which means it’s nearly April. Not long until 15 June.

Work permits haven’t come through, though considering they were submitted in January and it’s only mid-March, we should perhaps be a bit more forgiving that they haven’t been done. Glen’s submitted extra bits of paper to prove he’s a real doctor and I had to send in a police clearance to prove I’m not a major underworld figure. We’re awaiting further instructions.

I’ve met with a real estate agent to discuss what needs to be done to rent this place out. The house needs a good clean – the agent said as much – but it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a tenant, considering the rental market in Perth at the moment.

Smudge has been having a wonderful time playing in the boxes.
Smudge has been having a wonderful time playing in the boxes.

In preparation for opening the house to rent, we’ve started packing boxes. My bookshelves are empty, the cat’s room (yes, she has her own room) has been cleared of folders and boxes, and Glen’s study is looking sparser. The boxes have been shipped off to my grandmother’s. We’re aiming to take as little with us as possible so it’s an odd feeling to pack away all our stuff and not see it for two years. If it all disappeared or was lost in a blaze, how long before we forget about it entirely?

There’s still plenty more to go though the majority of it is stuff we need from day-to-day. Gradually we’ll whittle down until we’re left with, well, nothing.

My two years’ leave from work was approved and my job is now advertised. It’s a very strange feeling to think about leaving a place I’ve worked at most of my adult life. Even stranger to consider what I’ll do for the next two years. The answer to that is, of course, whatever I want. There are now 51 work days until I finish at the end of May and still plenty to get done.

I turned 30 last month and had a number of celebrations with friends and fam

Newfoundland Trip #10 -  L'Anse aux Meadows.
L’Anse aux Meadows: part of the Viking Trail (Photo credit: dibytes)

ily, which were all lovely and definitely something I’ll miss when we’re away. It’s strange to think that when/if we come back in two years I’ll be 32. It feels like going into stasis.

Many people contributed to my “new camera” fund, which I’m very grateful for. Looking at prices, the cameras are slightly cheaper in Canada so I’ll wait until we get there to buy one. Then there’s one less thing to cart around. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

My cousin and aunt gave Glen and I a Canada Parks pass, which lasts for one year. A great present, it provides free entry to national parks and various cultural heritage sites. Looking at the website, there are a few national parks close to Toronto that I want to check out. A lot of them say, “Black Bear Country,” so that’s fun. And I’m really looking forward to checking out the Viking Trail in Newfoundland but looks like I’ll have to overcome my fear of camping.