Family of Four

Joined September 2017
  • Day30

    Parting Ways at Taoyuan Airport

    October 19, 2017 in Taiwan

    The flight to Taipei was comfortable. Thankfully, our seat mates have been settled and quiet throughout the duration of the trip. The meals have been comforting, Taiwanese cuisine is not too different from Filipino dishes. They have an affinity for sweet and salty tastes.

    When we got to Taipei, I accompanied mom and dad to their gate for their flight back to Cebu and helped them through the transfer process. We just had enough time to complete everything, and was in their gate with a bit of time to spare to say our goodbyes properly.

    And so there we were, finding ourselves again in each others' embraces, exchanging as much warmth and love to last us until our next reunion. As we waved to mom and dad goodbye I had to wear my sunglasses.

    I then rushed to exit the immigration and try to join the morning free day tour. There was a very long queue with only a few counters manned by immigration officers and progress was slow. I was very lucky that I did manage to join the tour even though I got out of immigration a little after 8am (the supposed cut off time for enlisting).

    It seemed like a private tour as there were only around 7 of us. Once more, I find myself on a rainy environment. We first went to the oldest street in Taiwan called Sanxia. There we glimpsed a Buddhist Temple filled with a lot of details from its walls, posts and through to its roofs. Plenty of devotees at the time of our visit. The red-bricked merchant houses surrounding the street felt like we were suddenly transported back in time. They still had functional water well, some still had the long-standing mailboxes from an era long gone.

    Then we proceeded to Yingge, considered to be the "Pottery Capital of Taiwan." Its cobblestone street made it a very pretty subject for photography on this rainy day. We visited about three ceramics shops, and one of them, Tai Hwa Pottery, showed us how they craft their masterpieces in the different stages of production. We also got to see their skillful artists live in action as they deftly embellished the formed potteries with elaborate designs. It was an eye opening experience that made me appreciate potteries even more. Our tour in that place finished with some trivia quiz that we learned through the different talks our guide conducted, and I managed to bag a small token of Taiwan (a delicate saucer with the country's name printed on it.)

    After that I had some snack as per recommendation of our tour guide. It was some silken tofu served with shaved ice and toffee syrup, and we were then asked to select from a selection of toppings, to which I selected sweet potato and red bean and thoroughly relished.

    When we headed back to the airport, I still had about 9 hrs to spare, so I ended up availing the day use of Novotel hotel and got to use their pool for a few laps then sweated the chlorine off in their sauna, then rested for a few hours before heading back to the airport. To my surprise, there weren't much of a line on the immigration counters and I breezed through to the air side in no time.

    I wanted to experience more of Taiwan so I opted for a dinner that allowed me to sample several dishes. In one of the stalls they offered a sweet potato porridge that had multiple toppings which I thought were all exquisite with the porridge. It made me yearn to try more of their dishes. Definitely, next time, someday.

    An hour or so more of strolling amidst the different themed lounges and I am boarding the plane back to Brisbane, satieted with food and good memories of a wonderful holiday spent with my beloved family. Before napping, I must have said a silent prayer to our Good Lord for making all of it happen, for the safe journey and for the health that allowed us to experience all of it.

    Where will life take us next time, I wonder?
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  • Day29

    Metropolis@MetroTown & Goodbye Canada

    October 18, 2017 in Canada

    We got up to another rainy day. They didn't call this city 'Raincouver' for nothing. But it made us feel very grateful that we had two out of our four days' stay here blessed with sunshine.

    I bundled myself up and made my way to 'The Mighty Oak' café once more whilst everyone began to stir so I could buy mom more scones as promised the night before. Unfortunately there weren't enough cranberry and white chocolate scones to make a total of six as per mom's request. Instead I settled for three of it and the rest were buttermilk and cheese.

    We checked out at 11am, but try as we did, we couldn't find the suite's keys. I felt myself getting stressed, and consequently getting hungry again that I had to eat a scone despite having breakfast not long ago . Luckily our host did not penalise us for such an unfortunate event, he even seemed unfazed by it, as if it is not an unusual occurrence.

    My sister's friends, Rhoda and Ivic, had been very accommodating and offered for us to leave our luggages in Rosedale on Robson hotel while we continued to roam the city as our flight is not till 2am tonight. However, it took us about an hour to get a cab to the city--understandably so as the whole of Vancouver was drenched in rain.

    When we finally got to unload our luggages, we braved the rain into the library. There, dad and I had some hot beverage, while mom and sis checked out the public library. After that, we had a Vietnamese cuisine lunch with Rhoda. We were quite amazed at their pho servings--gracious would be an understatement! We were laughing at how you could easily dunk your face in it. I can't believe Rhoda tried again to pay for us, good thing I was closer to the counter.

    Before we parted, she gave us a tip to take the Chinatown subway station to reach Metropolis at MetroTown. On our way there, we had to navigate through a downpour of rain and avoid the big puddles and splashes. Unfortunately I was the only one carrying an umbrella as I didn't have any waterproof clothing. The rest of the party had to endure the drenching.

    And so, the semi-damp family of four boarded the train, and then braved the rain once more after we alighted at MetroTown to get to Metropolis (we accidentally went to Station Square first).

    Mom and sis bought some new clothing to replace their moist inner wear. My dad bought some socks, but later on realised that his feet weren't really wet, just that the distal areas got cool because the outside of the shoe was wet.

    Once everyone got more comfortable, my sister and I dropped by a manga shop. I bought her some of the issues of the 'Devil is a Part-Timer' manga series as my birthday gift for her.

    Then we proceeded to the cinema and we watched a Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan film called the Foreigner. It was a touching film that explored themes of government conspiracies, loss and vengeance. To see Jackie Chan in such a vulnerable, raw state was an experience in itself.

    We then had dinner at Nando's chicken in the food court while we discussed the movie amongst ourselves.

    To our delight, it was rain-free on our way back to the city. This time, we noticed some of the statues and features surrounding the Stadium-Chinatown station. We saw the Terry Fox statues featuring a boy growing to manhood just outside the Stadium, and some decommissioned war tanks sitting on Betty St as commemorative features.

    Once we were back at Rosedale on Robson, Rhoda helped us book an SUV cab to get us to the airport. Ivic followed us so that she could accompany my sister on the way back to the city. She will be staying with them for three nights before returning to Calgary.

    At the airport, we saw the long queue of tour group participants also waiting for the check-in counters to open for the same airline we were bound to. Good thing they were going to be processed on a different lane.

    After checking-in we managed to have a few more minutes of just chatting and spending a bit more time with one another. It was indeed a wonderful holiday and it was a real shame that it had come to an end.

    We hugged and kissed my sister Joni several times before my mom, dad and I proceeded to the air side of the airport. I was very grateful that her friends Ivic and Rhoda will be there with her and spend some time with her after we left.

    With one last look we waved to her goodbye and until next time. Truly, what a memorable experience from Canada.
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  • Day28

    A Day in Stanley Park

    October 17, 2017 in Canada

    The sun was shining when we woke up this morning. Looking at the front balcony, we saw the red leaves of the maple tree across the road, sparkling from the heavy rainfall yesterday as the drops caught the rising sun. We all sighed with delight. This time, mom and I managed to convince dad and sis to go take a walk with us to the local café and boy oh boy did we take a lot of pictures of the surrounding autumn foliage and some with us in it.

    We had our breakfast at the Mighty Oak Café. We saw a very behaved and cultured little dog that patiently waited for its female companion, who was having a nice cuppa with a friend. Then a middle aged guy came in and complemented the Café proprietor on his upcoming olive oil exhibit, and both engaged deeply on the subject of changing times--apparently, people are now willing to pay more for the sake of quality. Well, in their affluent neighbourhood anyway, they concluded.

    While getting dressed and ready to head out, we observed a rainbow in the back balcony. It was hovering above the mountains of North Vancouver. There was a light shower there, but it looked kind and non-threatening.

    We took a cab towards Prospect Point. There we saw a panoramic view of the Lions Gate Bridge and the vastness of English Bay. The openness of the area naturally allowed wind to flow unabashedly. After we took our time taking snapshots with the vantage point and huge maple leaves (one lady presented to us a leaf bigger than my head). Then we proceeded to have a late lunch at the nearby pub with locally sourced grub.

    We were thoroughly delighted at their warm spiced apple cider. Though it was a sunny day, the breeze outside in the unguarded cliff was brisk and the beverage was quite comforting. We shared a plate of seafood spaghetti with some honey garlic chicken wings and potato fries.

    Whilst eating we weighed our options, as, with the amount of time in the day left, we are only able to pursue either a movie or the sea wall walk. In the end, we took advantage of the lovely weather and opted for the activity that will give all of us a much needed workout: we circumnavigated the scenic and renowned Stanley Park Seawall!

    As it stands, the Stanley Park Seawall is the world's longest uninterrupted waterfront path. We were very tired when we finished the walk. We transversed some foliage on the way down from Prospect Point and enjoyed more maple leaves, before finally accessing the concrete portion of the seawall, then had to complete the 3.5 km curves and junctions. We also encountered a lane of russet leaves that we took pleasure in.

    When we got to the Horse-drawn carriages stall, we tried to call a cab (no Uber available in Vancouver) but the operator was too lazy to locate in her screen our exact whereabouts. We ended up walking towards the Westin Bayshore and covered another 1 km or so. From a side street we managed to board a cab and then headed to Gas Town.

    There, mom and sis managed to purchase their Le Sport Sac bags, while I tried to figure out a photographer who kept shooting at something but I was unable to determine his subject. At this stage we were all ravenous and not long after a little walk we stumbled upon Silvestre Gusto Latino, a cosy, casual restaurant that featured Peruvian cuisine.

    We were thoroughly delighted to find familiar menu items. My sister had pork adobo, mom had pescado escabeche, I had some peanut based Peruvian sauced chicken dish, and dad had some beef. We also tried their golden Inca Cola and a sweet-sour spiced-drink which sis and I both enjoyed. We finished our pseudo-exotic experience with the Peruvian version of leché flan and alfajor--butter cookies sandwiching dulce de leche! It was a very scrumptious treat.

    Also noteworthy to mention: the young couple who tasted some gelatine sold in that shop, decided to buy, went off for a walk, and came back demanding for a refund as they did 'not like' the gelato. Of course they were asked to turn around and leave the premises); And the gentleman who attended to us was of Chinese heritage but somehow ended up living in Peru then migrated to Vancouver.

    After the sumptuous dinner we walked to a nearby liquor store and bought some Ice Wine, and then bought some bottled water on a convenience store across the road. There were some shouting drunk people on the street when we made our way to the adjacent cab stand, but we did not run into any trouble on our way back to our accommodation.

    To end this day, we popped the ice wine open and had a nice toast to each other's health and a hopeful wish for more future travels for the Family of Four.
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  • Day27

    Butchart Gardens and Victoria

    October 16, 2017 in Canada

    My sister organised a trip to Butchart Gardens and Victoria through her friend Rhoda while we were still spending time with Tita Agot in New York. She secured the trip for us to go with West Coast Tour.

    It was raining when we woke up early to ready for the day. We were praying and hoping that the weather in Victoria would be different. We had our breakfast and then called the cab to head to Robson on Rosedale hotel. There, we waited for the tour bus for quite some time and instead of being picked up at 0845am, the bus came at 0915 instead.

    Our tour guide's name was John. He was very descriptive about Vancouver and its suburbs. He even had input regarding the real estate prices, the connection of the places we were passing through to the first nation, the livelihood background of the locals, and how Victoria's weather is affected by the geography in Seattle.

    We waited to board the ferry service that will take us to Vancouver Island at Tsawwassen Port, and there my mom and sister purchased some new hat wear. My dad sacrificed his desire to buy himself a cap he liked so he could buy mom the one she fancied.

    I was thoroughly surprised by the ferry. It was huge, with two floors of storage dedicated for vehicles alone and can contain trucks and buses. But not only that, it also had 3 floors of passenger capacity teeming with retail shops, cafés and a buffet restaurant.

    My sister treated us to a relaxing lunch buffet up in the front deck of the ship ferry. There was a 180 degree view of the Salish Sea and the ship passed by Sturdies and later, Swartz Bay. It was still cloudy and rainy outside, but it was a wonder to watch the birds trying to make their way across the gray body of water attempting to catch fish despite the dreary weather.

    Upon arriving at Vancouver Island, we were then driven off to Butchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay.

    What a sight. There was so much to see in such a small amount of time. Our tour guide only gave us an hour and a half. We tried our best, we probably spent most of the time in the Sunken Gardens, and later, in a section with an assortment of flowers. It was tough to get pictures when everywhere you look at there are tourists upon tourists fighting for that same photo angle. On another note, apart from the landscaping and the myriad of plants exhibited, there were very interesting water fountains sourced from all around the world scattered in the garden.

    We were second to the last in returning to the bus. John then took us to Victoria, the Provincial capital. It was a nice port city, but unlike Vancouver it did not have any mountains surrounding it. On the way, John introduced us to the local Chinatown and its rich history, pointing out the narrow brick-walled Fan Tan Alley, where, later on, my sister and I had a picture at. He dropped us in front of the Royal BC Museum where we were instructed to return there in an hour and a half's time.

    We had a lovely afternoon tea in La Roux Patisserie and enjoyed their bread pudding and Opera cake. On the way back, my sister and I walked past Bastion Books in Bastion square where there were plenty of rare and second hand books (the smell of the book shoppe was thick with antiquity). Then we took pictures of the British Columbia Legislature building and the Fairmont Empress hotel. They were regal looking structures both facing the harbour--commanding yet elegant all at once. The waters mirrored the gloomy skies but thankfully there was no rain at this stage.

    Afterwards John drove us through a town called Sidney, apparently it is often used as setting for North American soap operas. Unfortunately it had grown too dark when we got there and the temperature outside the bus had dropped making the windows all fogged up, so all we had to rely on were John's commentaries.

    When we got back to the very wet Vancouver, we said hello to my sister's friend Rhoda at the hotel reception desk, then we braved the rain to buy takeaway from a nearby Maccas. We were very grateful for the divine providence of our transport home when just after our orders arrive, a taxi pulls over right in front of us, then a couple alights, as if on cue.
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  • Day26

    Mom and I woke up early today and had a morning photo walk for the nearby autumn foliage surrounding our AirBnB host's neighbourhood. Finally our autumn morning walk dream came to fruition! We then checked out a Café close by called "The Wild Oak" and bought some breakfast wraps (Turkey sausage with cheddar cheese and eggs) and some almond croissants for my still sleeping sister and dad.

    We then tried to attend the nearby 11am mass at St Patrick's Church but we did not make it so instead we went to the 1230 mass downtown, in Holy Rosary Metropolitan Cathedral. They had some interesting stained glass walls, and outside the main doorway was a 'homeless Jesus' sculpture.

    We then went to Canada Place, albeit a detour to BC place when our navigation skills momentarily failed us. And there we savoured the view of the Vancouver harbour, the Stanley Park, North Vancouver and mountains beyond looking back at us. To further describe the scene, there were some clouds around and pencil strewn sun beams scattered across the verdant, tall mounds that made the interplay of shadows and lights even more interesting. The entire scene reminded us of the views omniscient in Cebu. Also there were plenty of seaplanes hovering the area, and it was interesting to watch how they navigate the Vancouver harbour while they set themselves up for flying and landing.

    My sister took us to the Vancouver Convention centre for a late lunch at DeDutch Pancakes. We got to it just a little less than an hour before they closed up for the day. They served delicious, thin pancakes, perfect for both savoury and sweet variations. We then languidly made our way across Coal Harbour towards Westin Bay shore. We took advantage of the pleasant, rain-free afternoon and the burgeoning autumn foliage by snapping plenty of photos. We saw all sorts of people enjoying the weather: there were some health enthusiasts, tourists from all over the world, and some local pedestrians.

    We then took a cab back to our accommodation, and had a walk around Cambie St, where we ended up having dinner in Soho, a Japanese and Asian cuisine restaurant. I ordered a hot pot soup that I struggled to finish as it was indeed very hot and the serving was more than ample.

    Back at Amir and Mary Anne's place, we enjoyed the Drew Barrymore, Adam Sandler movie "Blended" before turning in for the night for an early start tomorrow.
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  • Day25

    Art Gallery, Granville Is, Gastown

    October 14, 2017 in Canada

    Today we arrived on a rainy and windy Vancouver. My family and I had lunch at the airport and waited for 11am as we were too early to check-in at our accommodation.

    We took a cab to our AirBnB host's suburb and we were thoroughly excited that the streets were lined with trees bearing russet and goldenrod leaves and even more delighted that there were a couple of bright red maple trees just standing outside our home for the next few days.

    Our ensuite unit was still being cleaned when we got there but they were kind enough to let us leave our luggages so we could further explore their city. When we arrived there was a furry black cat that welcomed us and it didn't take long for my sister to drop her bags and offer some affectionate response to the warm gesture.

    My good friend from university days, Blair, suggested for us to have afternoon tea at the Vancouver Art Gallery. From our accommodation we walked towards the nearest subway station. On the way there was a drizzle here and there but we were enjoying the sights and sounds of Cambie Street. Apparently the same street goes all the way into downtown Vancouver.

    It was a packed day in the art gallery as well as in the cafe. My family and I thoroughly enjoyed our orders. Blair had to miss out on the afternoon tea, but when she was able to join us she ended up taking us to Granville Island. My family and I were touched that she turned up with a car rental so we can get to our destination comfortably. When we got to Granville Island, there were exclusive parking spots labelled car2go, and we were stunned at how easy it was to use their system. Unfortunately I was not aware that that was the last time we were going to see that car so my little bag of Australian goodies for her was left inside for the next user to find.

    Granville Island was very touristy. It was getting even more wet and cool outside and so, we had to keep indoors, otherwise, there would have been so much to see. We passed by a broom shop (yes, they had Harry Potter's Thunderbolt), and a metal art work shop (with live demonstration). Then we reached the market area. There we had some calamari and chips while looking out the harbour, and later, did some window shopping around the artisan shops. It was surreal being able to sit beside an amazing friend and relive our university days while being able to bring each other up to date on each other's lives.

    We then took the Aqua Bus to Yale town and walked our way towards Gastown. The Aqua Bus was of intimate size--it allowed about ten passengers. It reminded me of the ferry boat that crossed the Mactan channel that I used to traverse back when coming home from University.

    Then we got to the steam clock. It was an interesting contraption: a well maintained relic of that era--the cogwheel and gears were fascinating to look at as they turned and interacted with each other. Not far from the clock was a Starbucks, and it was there my sister met her friends.

    As we were all together, we then tried to locate a place to have dinner but because it was Saturday night, every place we turned to were full. Finally, we were able to eat at a Teppanyaki place. Blair and I shared a 3-course-meal for two which completely filled us. The thin beef cuts, scallops and salmon were very delicious, and everything had a touch of butter! The chefs were thoroughly dexterous and efficient.

    When we were finished, Blair had to go home first. Our time together felt very inadequate as there was still so much to talk about. I hope we will meet again soon.

    My sister's friends, Rhodalene and Aivic, were generous to us: they drove us back to our place then even shared some of their bottled water. It was a real joy to see them both and Blair thrive and pursuing their goals in Vancouver.
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  • Day24

    Last Day in Calgary

    October 13, 2017 in Canada

    We spent most of the day packing. We Ubered towards my sister's place and unloaded more items in her place while also picking up a bigger suitcase for her.

    Then we went to this amazing Pho restaurant in Calgary's Chinatown. I cannot emphasize enough how comforting it was to enjoy such a delicious, warming meal on another cold day. Their soup broth was balanced and deep flavoured, their beef BBQ was well marinated and seeping with lemon grass aroma, and their spring roll was surprisingly crispy yet moist and tender on the inside.

    Afterwards we had a stroll along the river towards Al Forno's to have one more taste of their carrot cake. We were very lucky as they only had one more slice left. We also tried their chocolate mousse and a banoffee treat. We had them all as take out and then headed back to Hotel Alma to finish packing. We watched a bit of Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack's Serendipity that we bought from Fair's Fair book shop before turning in for the night. We didn't get to finish it as we it was getting too late and we had to catch an early flight the next day. We packed the DVD just in case we can watch it in Vancouver.
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  • Day23

    Downtown, Inglewood and Riverwalk

    October 12, 2017 in Canada

    We had lunch at Sunterra Marché in Downtown Calgary. They had a sumptuous selection of salads and cold meats and even pies and sweet pastries. I enjoyed my roasted herb turkey and cranberry mixed grains salad.

    Then we shopped around for a bit, afterwards, off we went to Inglewood. When we alighted at Fair's Fair book shop, mom screamed when we realised that we were missing our shopping bag! Amazingly, when my sister and I went back to the bus stop where we thought it was inadvertently left, it was still at the exact spot! Definitely something to remember Calgarians about.

    Inglewood was a quaint suburb--the shops were for niché market, one featured yarns and crochet items, another dedicated itself to vintage, vinyl records. We had a taste of the award winning Inglewood Pizza known for its brick oven cooked pizza, and indeed we were satisfied with every bite when we partook it at the Bow River walk.

    The River Walk was very picturesque. The autumn foliage was at its soulful swan song, and a hint of sunset rays kindled everything into a burst of golden light. There was even a patch of plant there that reminded me of the fields where Russell Crowe's character meandered in Ridley Scott's 'The Gladiator.'

    After taking heaps of snapshots, we found ourselves back at Chinatown, then had another go at the Thai Bistro and we ordered their delicious pad Thai for takeout. Then Mom and Dad returned to Hotel Alma while my sister and I went back to her place to get the luggages we require to complete our packing for our departure on Saturday.
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  • Day22

    Healy Dr, Chinook Centre & Gyu-Kaku

    October 11, 2017 in Canada

    Today we had to try and readjust to Calgary weather. From New York's sunny 28C, here it has been 1-5C throughout the day. On the upside, it was lovely to see Sigourney Weaver's doppelganger again as she gave us the run through of the the Weather Channel's forecast.

    We ended up deciding to bring some stuff to my sister's residence in Calgary. It was quite overcast, and some drizzle here and there was also noted. We had a brisk walk from the bus stop near her place towards the house at Healy Drive.

    Then we went to a nearby mall called Chinook Centre, and there we had some A&W burgers and sweet potato fries as we had a bit of time to spare before our chosen film started.

    After we watched Kingsman: The Golden Circle, we then shopped around as Chinook Centre was full of retail shops. Apparently it is the largest shopping mall in Calgary. It was spacious with high ceiling and very comfortable to roam around in. No one would know that outside was almost freezing.

    We then called an Uber service to take us downtown. My sister wanted us to experience a cook-it-yourself Japanese barbecue, so we headed to Gyu-Kaku. We ordered a variety of meats to try, and once they arrived, the waitress informed us of how long it took to cook each of them. It was visually stimulating to see the meat turn from pink to brown, watch it sizzle and then smell the aroma of caramelising flesh. We also had a bit of sake to go down with our dinner.

    Afterwards we headed back to Hotel Alma to retire for the night filled with hopes of visiting Japan again someday.
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  • Day21

    Goodbye, New York City and USA

    October 10, 2017 in the United States

    We woke up around 9am and had some bread and provolone cheese with sausage and eggs for breakfast. Outside tita Agot's apartment complex, an autumn tree finally burgeons.

    Then we went to Chinatown once more to buy some baked siopao to bring back to Calgary and had some more ice cream. Truly it was a delicious diversion! Tita Agot also bought some garlic stir-fried kangkong leaves and some chilli crab for lunch take-out. We watched some Filipino teleserye while we had our meals.

    We struggled for a bit in trying to fit our articles inside our four suitcases and a balikbayan cargo box but with strategising and some compromises, it was accomplished.

    David, Tita Agot's friend, picked us up and took us to the airport. We bade goodbye to the ultimate host, Tita Agot, down at her car park. We also said goodbye to her gallantry and generosity. It was utter pleasure meeting some of her friends-- her family in the Big Apple. One would never survive in such a busy and somehow, despondent place without the warmth and sincerity of genuine and lasting relationships.

    Thankfully it was a smooth check-in process for us when we got to the JFK airport. One of my workmates said she and her family had to go through five security checks when they took flight from there but we only had to undergo one.

    We also said farewell to the wonderful temperature of 27C. Back in Calgary we are expecting some rain and snow, and a maximum of 4C over the next few days.
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