Amsterdam vs Montreal


Invariably, we lead lives of almost constant comparison. Our most recent drive to work was much better/worse than yesterday's. The last episode of Game of Thrones was way gorier/hotter than last week's. Taylor's boyfriend this week is, like, totally hotter/more sensitive than last week's. 

So in the spirit of the inevitable, the focus of a number of upcoming posts here will focus on what it's like living in Montreal (and Canada in general) versus Amsterdam (and Europe in general).

Today, we're starting off on a bit of a downer note for those on the Canada side of the ledger. It has to do with rampant, almost out of control patriotism and jingoism.

Admittedly, I've arrived just before the Olympics, where the volume on national pride in most countries is turned all the way up.

But still, if national backslapping and synchronized self-congratulation were Olympic sports, Canada would take gold, silver and bronze.

TV ads running non-stop during the past two weeks say things like "The World Needs More Canada" (Air Canada), with Molson Canadian beer and Royal Bank expressing similar hubris. Barf.

A recent New York Times piece on Canada's welcoming of Syrian refugees mentions the amount of sharing on social media that volunteers are doing, as they express the sheer awesomeness of their own volunteering.

Flags Gone Wild

Driving around town these first few weeks, I've seen more flags on cars (note - this is also pre-Oympics) than I saw in six years in Holland. I don't know even know if they exist in Europe, these mobile symbols of chest-thumpery.

And well before my return to the motherland, I realized on my travels that Canadians are the only ones sewing their flags on their backpacks as they travel the world. No overt harm in this of course - but it looks like a cry for attention cloaked in national pride that seems unseemly. I doubt the flagless Italian or Kiwi backpackers are any less proud of their countries - they just don't need to shout it from the rooftops.

It's one thing to be the cool kid. It's something else entirely to say "Hey, look at me, I'm the cool kid!"

Born Again Blogger


Hello from the other siiiiide...

After 3+ years of blogging only in my mind - a period of time dominated by raising a girl and doing very little travelling - I am back online.

Except, this time, it's coming to you from Montreal and not Amsterdam.

After almost seven years in Holland's remarkable, rainy, and occasionally really annoying capital, I've moved back to my birthplace.

It's only been a week so far, and seeing things for the first time in many ways (I haven't lived here for 20 years) is exceptionally refreshing. As a wise stranger named Shunryu Suzuki says:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few” 

This is a quick hello post - posts to come in the next few days and months will include pictures, impressions, reviews, and occasional rants. Happy to read your comments and suggestions too...

A bientot!

If A Blog Falls


If a blog falls... does anybody hear it?

This is the temporary end, for now at least, of Big City Blog. It's actually quite sad to  type this, as strange as it sounds.

First off, my apologies for not posting for several months now. A perfect storm of work, holidays, a very rough and sad time with a sick dog, and the end of the Lonely Planet blogging program all added up to zero bloggage from me.

Lonely Planet decided to stop its program on Dec. 31, 2012, so there are a few dozen untethered travel bloggers out there now, along with myself. But LP were great supporters and provided an excellent platform to allow me to get some exposure globally, so no regrets there at all.

I don't know how many people have visited here over the years, or are even continuing to; Big City Blog has reached over 76,000 pageviews since 2009. And it's been quite cool to see the traffic feed over the years, with people checking in from Jakarta to Calgary to France to Australia to New York... (Must stop typing in destinations now. Travel bug activated...).

A very big and heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who followed this blog and helped keep me going. If you follow it on Facebook, you will still see updates to it periodically when I can travel more again, or when something really grabs me here in Amsterdam.