I’m itching to see some spring flowers

Purple Toronto tulips

Purple tulips, Toronto

If “April showers bring May flowers,” will someone tell me what April snow brings? Yes, it’s true. Toronto is in for snow this evening. See that wee snowflake coming out of the cloud in the forecast (left)? So depressing.April 22, 2015 weather

I know we can get cold weather well into springtime, but it doesn’t make it any less horrible when we do. Especially when I see images coming out of Washington DC and Victoria BC, with their beautiful cherry blossoms. For heaven’s sake, apparently the blossoms reached their peak on April 10th!

And here we are in Toronto on April 22nd about to get some snow. I’ve seen some crocuses pushing up out of the soil in the last couple of weeks, so I know spring is here…but it’s taking too long to get to the good stuff. I need some blossoms, leaves on trees, green grass and Farmers’ Markets. I want Toronto to look like this again:

I’ve even taken some of those pics above in late April of previous years. But we’re at least a couple of weeks away from any kind of lushness. So, to make myself feel a bit better, I decided to post some flora I’ve snapped pics of in my travels. I’m going to overdose on images of blooms and blossoms! Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can see some of these flowers in real life.

Here are some from my time in New Zealand:

And from travels in the U.S. and Scotland:

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Holidays in the Southern Hemisphere

Pohutakawa tree

Pohutakawa tree

Growing up, I knew a few families who went away for Christmas. Visiting relatives. Removing themselves from the frenzy that is the holiday season. It makes sense. But my family never did that. The holidays were at the house. Stockings, tree-trimming, Christmas music and baked goods. Lots of baked goods.

Then, in 2005 I moved to New Zealand to pursue graduate studies. I was lucky enough to be able to afford to go back home every year, but after the first visit back, I made a monumental (for me) decision: henceforth, I would travel home only during Canada’s summer.

That meant missing Christmas in Canada in favour of Dunedin, New Zealand. In December, the town is emptied of students, the wonderful farmers market is bursting with goodness, and I generally got my flat to myself for a week. So relaxing. I loved holidays in Dunedin.

Dunedin Octago @ Christmas

Dunedin Octago @ Christmas

And if the town’s centre (the Octagon) looked a bit weird (to me) with a giant Christmas tree surrounded by green, leafy trees and a summer marketplace, who cared. Sure I missed out on some baking and holiday meals (I admit I’m a sucker for a traditional turkey dinner), but so much the better for my waistline.

The strangest thing for me about being in the Southern Hemisphere during Christmas was the season. My rational mind knew it was December, but all the vegetation was bursting with colour. Flowers were blooming. Trees were lush. Grass was green. Weirder still, it was light late into the evening. My brain had a hard time reconciling Christmas with all those summery signals!

Vacation versus Travel

To me, travel is all about exploring. It’s new sights and sounds. New foods, new people and having to count your cash out really carefully because you don’t have a clue what the foreign currency in your wallet is worth.

Travelling often requires me to learn critical words in foreign languages. Words like “please” and “thank you” and “bathroom” and “water.” Travelling generally involves some kind of effort from me. Navigating a foreign subway system, or getting to the train station on time without resorting to the ungodly expense of a taxi. Or deciphering the oral history of a hand-woven Berber carpet told to you in French (when you’re rather far from bilingual). Better yet, keeping your sense of humour when you’ve just spent the first day of a three-day hike walking uphill, in the pouring rain, with a 30-pound pack on your back.

It’s hard work. Sometimes arduous. Always interesting. And it’s how you get the best after-the-fact stories to tell.

“Vacations,” on the other hand, I equate with beaches. Relaxation. Turning my brain off. I’ve done a couple of those, but I’m just not a sit-on-the-beach kind of gal.

Not that I don’t like beaches. ‘Course I do. The photos above prove just how much I like to wander along beaches and shorelines. I like how they look, how they smell, and how they sound. I especially like them when they’re all moody and atmospheric. But I can’t sit on a beach for a week, or even a weekend. I either get sunburned or bored.