Meeting Caroline in North Carolina

A friend I met in Toronto, Canada during my birthday trip last year just arrived in the Land of Stars and Stripes. Her name is Caroline and the way to say her name is Ca-ro-li-ne and not Ca-ro-line. She is from Brazil and it is her first time to set foot in the United States. Upon hearing her arrival, I decided to visit her since I got a 6-day off and planned road trip down Southeastern. It was a trip in meeting Caroline in North Carolina.

I got a side trip in Virginia specifically in Wytheville, Wythe county. After a quick visit in Virginia, I automatically headed to North Carolina. While I was driving, I got a little exhausted and I have decided to make a stopover in Winston-Salem for a change of scenery from just seeing mostly the roads and cars. When I got in Winston-Salem, it was decent with some skyscrapers. I took some random street pictures and I got to see the buildings. These were the photos I captured.

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Random Building

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Wells Fargo Building

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Winston Tower

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Winston-Salem Street

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Then, I searched the net and found this cool and flowery destination. It was a garden which is located still in Winston-Salem. It was Reynolda Gardens.

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Reynolda Gardens

Reynolda Gardens is botanical garden with 129 acres with 4 acres of formal gardens located off Reynolda Road which is adjacent to the Reynolda campus of Wake Forest University and the Reynolda House. The gardens are open daily with free admission. The gardens include woodlands, fields, wetlands, and a formal garden with greenhouse.

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Greenhouse Gardens

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The Greenhouse

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Inside the Greenhouse

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Venus Fly Trap

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Palm House and Growing Houses

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Reynolda Gardens was amazing. It has too many different kinds of flowers and plants which is a good place to spend the time from driving for about 2 to 3 hours from Virginia. But Winston-Salem was not my final destination. I went back to my car and have to drive to Chapel Hill. It was about an hour or so drive. I got to Chapel Hill at 1700H and met Caroline.

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Downtown Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill is a city in Durham and Orange counties and the home of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill along with UNC Health Care. Chapel Hill got its name from centuries ago. The location sits a top of a hill which was originally occupied by a small Anglican ‘chapel of ease’ known as New Hope Chapel thus, making it Chapel Hill.

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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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UNC at Chapel Hill Kenan Stadium

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Carolina Football Kenan Stadium

Chapel Hill is a pretty nice city. It was clean and multi diverse. By the looks of it when I was there, the city is pretty safe and marvelous with old architecture and buildings. It is also famous because of the presence of the biggest university in the state. Caroline got in Chapel Hill as a foreign student in University of North Carolina. She is currently studying and getting a degree in Mental Health. We’ve met in Toronto since we both stayed in the same hostel. We also have the same tour when we went to Niagara Falls. So, I was excited to meet here in the U.S. I treated her for dinner at Carolina Brewery.

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Carolina Brewery

Carolina Brewery is a beer brewery and restaurant/pub located in Chapel Hill. It has drawn international attention for its handcrafted beers, all brewed in-house. It was founded in 1995 and is the oldest brewery in Triangle area. The restaurant serves contemporary American cuisine and features a seasonal menu that changes 4 times in a year. We ordered Southwest chicken egg rolls which is chicken and pepperjack served with jalapeno ranch, and Chicken strips which is hard breaded chicken with honey mustard and ranch dips. Both were served as shareables. For the entrée, I chose fish and chips since I was craving for fish. It was beer battered cod served with garden slaw, house fried and tartar sauce.

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Carolina Brewery

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Southwest Chicken Egg Rolls and Chicken Strips

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Fish and Chips

The foods were well seasoned, sumptuous, and delicious. The server was really amazing. She was pretty, always wear a smile, warm and accommodating. She was also helpful since I was looking for a place to stay and gave an idea on where to search and what to wear. As a total verdict for my dining experience in Carolina Brewery, it was a 4/5. The ambience was good but the patio was a little congested and near to the street.

My whole trip in North Carolina was great. Meeting Caroline in North Carolina was the icing on the top. We haven’t seen each other for like 9 months and we never thought that we will meet again. All I can say is a road trip is always worth no matter how far it is as long as you know that in the destination, you got a friend to meet. Safe travels everyone! 😉

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The Lone Traveler and Caroline

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‘O Canada, O Canada’

My heart sings with glee upon disembarking the plane from Chicago to Toronto. I was so excited to see the city behind those airport walls that I can hear the national anthem of the country in my head and just would love to sing out, ‘O Canada, O Canada’.pt5baag6cAs you have noticed in my blogsite before I updated it, Canada is one of the countries I would love to visit. I never have thought that I’ll get my feet on this land.countries

Canada is a country in the northern half of North America. It has ten provinces and three territories that extend from the  Atlantic to the Pacific and into the Arctic Ocean up in the north. Making the country as the world’s second largest nation by total area. Canada is just located near the United States of America and the border that separated two great nations is the world’s longest land border. As explained to me by the tour guide, Canada is a federal parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II of England being the head of state. Canada has two official languages, English and French. The country is also one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations due to large scale immigration from many other countries. It can be visibly seen the streets of downtown Toronto how multi-ethnic Canada is.

I arrived in Toronto which is the capital of the province, Ontario at 2000H via United from Chicago thru Toronto Pearson International Airport. Upon arriving in the hostel, I slept the night away for me to check the city in broad daylight. Morning of the next day, I headed out to the streets of Toronto and was amazed of how different it is. It felt like I was not in North America anymore. Different races just collide in one place which I am not used to see. It might have been caused of me being confined in a small town of Caldwell ;). Anyway, it was a good sight that even though there are a lot of races around, they act as one and have lived together harmoniously when other countries keep on bashing about racial discrimination which I sometimes experienced in my current location. With races being set aside, the city looks really great and cool.

I, then, have visited some tourist attractions in the city. First was the St. Lawrence Market.

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St. Lawrence Market

It is a major public market in Toronto located in Front St. There are 3 buildings in the complex with each having different purposes. St. Lawrence Market South which is in the picture is open daily, hosting food stalls, restaurants and the gallery. This building used to be the city hall during 1845. St. Lawrence Market was named as the world’s best food market by National Geographic. Not only this building caught my attention but as well as other and surrounding buildings.

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Building with the flag of Canada in front of St. Lawrence Market

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Red brick building just beside St. Lawrence Market

Just few feet from St. Lawrence Market is an eye-catching building. If New York City has Flatiron Building, Toronto has one, too and they called it, Gooderham Building.

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Flatiron Building of Toronto or Gooderham Building

It is a red-brick building located in the St. Lawrence neighborhoud. It is a historic landmark of Toronto and the focal point of the city’s most iconic vistas. The Gooderham building is well known both for its narrow wedge shape and for the mural on its back wall.

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Gooderham Building street view

Few blocks from the Flatiron building of Toronto is another tourist attraction. It is the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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Hockey Hall of Fame

It is located at the corners of Front and Yonge streets in downtown Toronto and is intended and dedicated to the history of ice hockey. It is a museum as well as a hall of fame which holds exhibits about players, teams, NHL or National Hockey League records, trophies and memorabilia. This building was used to be the Bank of Montreal until in 1990s where it was changed to a hall of fame.

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Temple de la Renommée du Hockey

Opposite to the Hockey Hall of Fame is a ginormous building. It is the Dominion Public Building.

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Dominion Public Building with CN Tower at the right

The Dominion Public Building is a five-storey neoclassical structure built for the government of Canada. It was originally served as Toronto’s federal customs clearing house but it still remains a federal property  which currently houses a number of administrative and support functions for Canada Revenue Agency. The building’s north facade is curved to follow the property line along the street.

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View of the CN Tower from Dominion Public Building

Then, I walked about 10 minutes in Bay Street and I got to see these street views. It was gloomy that day. It was about to rain but it was just a drizzle.img_4960img_4961The weather finally cleared out but it was still a little dark that I have to enhance the photo when I got to my destination. But still, the picture doesn’t give justice to an amazing and grandiose building with facade incomparable. That building is the Old City Hall.

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Old City Hall

It remains as one of the city’s most prominent structures. The heritage landmark has a distinctive clock tower. The Old City Hall was designated a National Heritage Site. It is one of the largest buildings in Toronto and housed municipal government and courts. It was built of sandstone, grey stone, and brown stone from different parts of Eastern Canada.

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Old City Hall cr: Wikipedia

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View of Old City Hall from the New City Hall

On the left of the Old City Hall is the new Toronto City Hall.

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Toronto City Hall

Toronto City Hall or also called as the New City Hall is the seat of municipal government in Toronto and is one of the city’s distinctive landmarks. It is built due to shortage of space of the Old City Hall. The design was so unique with two towers in unequal height surrounding a white disk-like council chamber. Thus, the building was nicknamed “The Eye of the Government” because it resembles a large eye. Added attraction to the New City Hall is the Nathan Phillips Square with Toronto sign that changes colors with fountains which makes it the most photographed location in downtown Toronto.

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Toronto City Hall that resembles like a large eye

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Toronto sign in Nathan Phillips Square

After the New City  Hall and the Nathan Phillips Square, I went to do mall just to take a peek or do window shopping since it is just 5-min walk. Just few blocks, I got to CF Toronto Eaton Centre.

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CF Toronto Eaton Centre Entrance

It is a shopping mall and an office complex. It is owned by Cadillac Fairview that explains the letters CF. The shopping complex was designed as a multi-levelled, vaulted glass-ceiling galleria  which resembles like in Milan, Italy. The interior design is so captivating and was considered revolutionary and influenced shopping centre architecture in North America.

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CF Toronto Eaton Shopping Centre interior

img_4968I was having fun watching people just passing by and doing their daily businesses that I forgot the time. When I glanced at the time, it was already around 1600H and I haven’t had lunch yet. Then, I have decided to look for comfort food. Since Toronto is a multi-diverse city. It is impossible not to find a Filipino restaurant. I scanned the nearest Filipino restaurant with the use of free wi-fi connection in the mall. I found Lamesa Filipino Restaurant which is located somewhere in Bathurst area at Queen St West which was about 20 minutes walk from the shopping centre but it didn’t bother me. I started walking until I arrived at Lamesa Filipino Kitchen.

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Lamesa Filipino Kitchen

It is a restaurant located in downtown Toronto that serves Filipino-inspired dishes. It was too early for dinner when I got there but I was starving since I didn’t have lunch so, the hostess directed me to a table for 1 and I got the menu. The food choices were all familiar to me. I felt like I was home but I can’t say that until I get to taste the food. After much deliberation on the menu, I have decided to get lechon kawali which is a crispy pork belly served with pickled papaya and sawsawan or a dip. I got also pancit canton which is Chinese-inspired but mixed with Filipino flavors. It is an egg noodle with shitake and beech mushrooms, with snap peas and a little chili.

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Lamesa est 2012

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2 plates of Lechon Kawali, pancit canton and garlic fried rice

Check Lamesa Filipino Kitchen site by clicking here to see their menu and more. After I got my tummy filled, I went back to walking the streets and have decided to visit some of the tourist spots I haven’t seen yet. I went to the famous tower in Toronto, the CN Tower.

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CN Tower

CN Tower is a communications and observation tower in downtown Toronto. It stands almost 2,000 feet tall. Its name, ‘CN’ means Canadian National which the company that built the tower. The CN tower is the 3rd tallest tower in the world and is the signature icon of Toronto skyline and a symbol of Canada which attracts millions of international visitors yearly.20160925_000641

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LA Tour CN Tower Office and Ticket Booth

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Just few steps from CN Tower is the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.

Since I got really tired of wandering around the city, I didn’t go up the tower since it was late already for me because I still have to wake up early for my Niagara Falls Day Tour in the morning.

My entire downtown Toronto free and easy day tour ended amazing and productive. I got to see a lot of tourist attractions and I can definitely say that I heard the song, ‘O Canada’ in my head while walking the streets of the city.

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Toronto at night

Check my vlog of O Canada, O Canada by visiting my YouTube site by clicking here.

Proudly a HI Member in Toronto

I’ve been traveling a lot this year and I’ve been patronising one specific hostel that every place I visited, I stayed in the same hostel. I have never thought that one day, I will be a member of the Hostelling International community since most of my trips I’ve been staying with them. When I was in Washington, D.C and Chicago, I stayed with them and just recently, I was in Toronto and I picked them up as a place to check-in for 3 nights. Luckily, I saved almost CA$50 upon being a member so, I can say that at long last after 3 HI affiliates I’ve checked in, I am proudly a HI member.

Hostelling International is a network of hostels around the world. It offers great deals to travelers, students or even big family since they have wide selections of accommodations from private rooms to dorm bed for the night with shared facilities. In addition to that, being a HI member, members can get 10% discount on their overnight bookings. But they’re so much more than a bed they offer to members, there is also a whole range of great deals and offers through their partnerships worldwide. As a HI member, you can get discounted tickets from museums and tours, to adventure activities and national parks, while enjoying the benefits of the real hostelling experience. I have never realised that until I got to Toronto when I tried to purchase a day tour but it was expensive so, I became a member and saved almost 20% of the tour package.

HI Toronto: The Cavern

I was welcomed by Chantelle who is the front desk during my check-in since I arrived in HI at around 2100H. It was fast and it took about less than 10 mins. Upon checking-in, every guest will get a breakfast voucher for 50% discount on the first day and if you are a HI member, you will get another discount for drinks during the first night in the bar. They also provide free wi-fi connection and they will hand the password once you get your card key along with clean towel if you ask for it.

Waiting Lounge

Calendar of Events

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Reading Area near the Computers and TV

Before a guest can get to the dining area and rooms, each guest should have with them their card keys to access and open the secured door, thus, making it more safe for travelers to stay in. Safety and security are the assets of every HI hostels.

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Dining Area near the elevator

Once you get in, the elevator needs also the card key for you to get to your floor. If you don’t have any access card, you can’t even press the number on the elevator.

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Elevator Floors

I was in 4th floor, room 402 to be exact. In 4th floor, it has the laundry rooms and common washrooms which is way better for easy accessibility.

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4th Floor Washroom

I got inside the room with the use of my keycard. I took a photo during the morning since most of my roommates were asleep. In the morning, this is the view of the room after most of them left to tour the city. It is a dorm type accommodation with 5 double decks. Good thing, I was assigned to the lower deck since I don’t like climbing the upper deck of the bed.

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Dorm typed room with 5 double decks

The room was jam packed. The guest who slept on the upper deck of the bed was friendly. He is from England and we talked about travels which is the main reason why I am staying in a hostel rather than in a hotel because thru hostels, I can meet a lot of people and talk to them about their travel experiences. I, then, proceeded to the patio to see the view.

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Patio

Too bad it was raining that time. So, I just went down and out to explore the city.

Hostelling International Toronto: The Cavern is a really good and safe hostel located in the heart of downtown Toronto. It is just 5-minute walk from Union Station and few miles away to tourist attractions in the city such as the Hockey Hall of Fame, Eaton Shopping Centre, CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, St. Lawrence Market and more. If I’ll come back in Toronto, for sure, I’ll be staying there again since I can get better rates for being a HI member and advantages of staying in a hostel.

If you want to check HI: Toronto, The Cavern, visit their site by clicking here. It is located in 76 Church St, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

IATA Code: YYZ – Toronto Pearson International Airport

International Air Transport Association (IATALocation Identifier uses a 3-letter code to identify locations of airports throughout the world.pt5baag6c

YYZ or famously known as Toronto Pearson International Airport is an airport hub serving the biggest city of Canada, Toronto. It is the largest and busiest airport in the country. It is the main hub for Air Canada and is one of eight Canadian airports with facilities for United States border preclearance. Over 75 airlines operate from Toronto Pearson to more than 180 destinations across all six of the world continents.

Toronto Pearson International Airport has two active terminals, Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. Both terminals are designed to handle all three sectors of travel from domestic, transborder to international.

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Terminal 1 Check-in Hall

Terminal 1 is the largest terminal at Pearson Airport and is among the largest buildings in the world. It has 58 gates that serve airline companies for both U.S and international flights. For international departure in Terminal 1, passport control checkpoints and immigration checks are located in Pier F.

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In boarding gates with Foreign Exchange Automated Machine

The arrival area is wide and grandiose. Upon de-planing the aircraft, it took about few minutes to get to immigration counter. Since it is not allowed to take photos in immigration counters, I will describe how it looks. The counters are divided into two. The Canadian and US passport holders are on a queue for first group of counters and the other line is for non-Canada and US passport holders. It only took about half an hour including from the queue until I got to pass the immigration officer. It was easy since I am a US permanent resident so, the officer just asked me some questions such as how long I’m staying in Canada, where I’m staying and do I have relatives who live in Canada. After that, I got my customs declaration stamped and went directly to baggage claim area.After I got my baggage, I went out to the arrival area. In Toronto  Pearson International Airport, there are a lot of modes of transportation to get to downtown Toronto.img_4950img_4948One of those is thru taxi or limousines. Taxi and limousines offer either flat rate or fixed rate. A passenger needs to ask the driver though, if he chose the latter. You can also even pre-arranged a pick-up service so when you arrived in the airport, the driver is waiting for you.img_4949Other option is thru renting a car. Within the arrival gate, rental car companies are visible. There are also local bus services, just check this site by clicking here to view and know the route and loading areas within the airport. And lastly and the most affordable ground transportation to and from the airport is through the use of UP Express or Union Pearson Express. UP Express is a direct air-rail link that speeds travelers from YYZ to downtown’s Union Station. I took the UP Express. I just followed the signs to get to Train to City.Finally, I got to this gate to Union  Station. I just needed to get to the train for me to see the city. Union Station is the heart of downtown Toronto.I was already in the UP Express station in Terminal 1 and I saw a vending machine to purchase ticket. It cost me CA$12.00.img_4954I got inside the train and waited for it to start its engine and I was en route to downtown Toronto.img_4955The ride was fast and the trip took about 25 minutes passing two stations of Weston and Bloor. Train runs between 0530H and 0100H with 15-minute interval. To know more about UP Express, visit their site for Toronto airport or UP Express itself. It is really convenient to ride the UP express train since it offers free wi-fi connection and has charging outlets in every seat. It is a great way to get around Greater Toronto Area and the airport.

As a summary, YYZ or Toronto Pearson International Airport is a well-planned and spacious major hub in the country of the north, Canada. Even though it is miles away from downtown city but it can be accessed easily. It is labeled as the busiest airport in Canada but it is big that it is not crowded. Toronto Pearson International Airport is indeed a great airport with stunning architectural design and incredibly friendly hub.