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London Calling

Over a decade ago I packed up my things at my childhood home and moved to London, U.K.  It was a sudden decision and one that my family-especially my parents- were surprised by. Up until that point I had always lived in Ottawa and never thought I’d leave. I had a happy childhood and a great group of friends, but after finishing my post-secondary education, relationships changed and I was looking for adventure.

Newly out of teacher’s college, I found opportunities were scarce in Ontario, but the U.K. was looking for new teachers. So I jumped at the opportunity, signed a contract and boarded a plane within three weeks to the city I would call home for 8 months.

Those 8 months were the most challenging and exciting of my life. I was enthralled with British culture up until heading there, mainly because of my mother and her love for British dramas and the royal family. I had fond memories of a childhood visit and at 24, I felt like I was once again a wide-eyed child, but this time could appreciate it fully. The busy city streets and vibrant red double-decker buses, the vintage-style cabs lined up at Charing Cross Station, the cobblestone streets and quirky fashion, and sights like the London Eye and the Thames, all fascinated me on my first journey through the core of the city.

The central portion of London proper had an entirely different vibe than the area that I ended up finding a flat-share in. It did not take long for the novelty and excitement to ware off and for me to get saturated in the day-to-day responsibilities. I lived with two Londoners in Hither Green- at the time, a “dodgy area,” as they say there. I taught in an even dodgier area on an estate in Abbeywood.

The novelty of being in a city I had grown up fascinated by quickly fizzled, and days swiftly passed. I enjoyed a romantic relationship with a homegrown Brit, finally became used to the food and cultural differences, and became comfortable in my role as a nursery teacher.

That’s not to say the transition wasn’t rocky. I experienced severe homesickness and talked to my parents daily for the first month, caught a terrible flu that I just couldn’t shake for well over that same month, was mugged twice-once at gun point – and hated not having my usual drip coffee to sip every morning before work.

The 8 months came and went and I was asked to stay on at the school for another year. I initially said yes, but then retracted. I realized that I had experienced all of London 20 times over and a number of the other British regions– – Cornwall was my favourite.

But with that trip to Cornwall came the starting point to the end of my relationship. My partner at the time was so immersed in his own life and family, and proved to not be very interested in mine. My father offered to fly him to Toronto for my brother’s wedding, and when he said no, I knew that the relationship would not work. The distance from my family made me appreciate them all even more, and if my boyfriend at the time couldn’t, it was time to go home, just as I had planned all along.

Eleven years later, whenever I am asked about the most interesting experience of my life, or the one that made the biggest impact, I always think back to those days in London. I was once a quiet and meek woman, nervous to go shopping at the mall on my own. That experience caused me to cross the pond solo to take on a city that is 10 times the size of Ottawa. Naturally, my next move was to Toronto.

Eurostar launches direct rail from London to Amsterdam

Over four million people travel by plane between London and Amsterdam every year, making it one of the most  — now, they have another option.

Eurostar announced they will be launching a new high-speed direct rail service in between these two major systems, to be operational by April 4. The company will take advantage of one of the busiest traffic routes in Europe, creating a direct transit corridor that stops at Rotterdam and Brussels.

“The launch of our service to the Netherlands represents an exciting advance in cross-Channel travel and heralds a new era in international high speed rail. With direct services from the UK to The Netherlands, France and Belgium, we are transforming the links between the UK and three of Europe’s top trading nations,” said Eurostar Chief Executive Nicolas Petrovic.

“Our new route marks the culmination of the extensive investment in high speed rail on both sides of the Channel. With £1 billion investment in our new state-of the art trains and enhanced connectivity on the European network passengers can now enjoy fast, seamless rail connections between the UK and mainland Europe and a transformed travel experience.”

The cross-Channel rail operator is marketing itself as the more economic and sustainable transportation option, saying a trip from London to Amsterdam will emit 80 per cent of the carbon emissions as a flight between the two tourism hubs. Other benefits include express service, free wifi and onboard entertainment, fast check in, as well as free baggage allowances for two bags/suitcases and one piece of hand luggage. All baggage is taken on board so there is no ned to line up to reclaim your property.

Tickets will go on sale starting Feb. 20, at 35 Euros each way. There will be two trains running per day at a speed of 300 kph and the trip will take approximately three hours.

Who doesn’t love the train?

Uber says “au revoir” to Quebec’s new regulations

There is a reason #Uber is trending. The popular ride-hailing company has made the news twice this week, with both issues spreading negative light on the company’s corporate operations. In a bold move, Uber announced they would cease operations in Quebec due to stricter regulations being imposed by the transportation department in that city. One such condition was the request that Uber drivers undergo 35 hours of training to match the requirements of regular taxi drivers.

Uber was operating in Quebec under a pilot project agreement that allowed the service to operate legally in the province for one year. This permit was initially set to be renewed under the new conditions. The Transportation Minister of Quebec, Laurent Lessard, agreed with these new rules and also requested that Uber carry out criminal checks on their drivers and have their cars inspected every 12 months.

In response, Uber executives felt the decision was brash and unnecessary. The director general for Uber Quebec, Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, said the company will cease operations if these changes and rules are imposed. Guillemette said Uber was not consulted about these changes. Guillemette further want on to say he wants the government to renew the operational permit and then resume negotiations on these new rules after.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said Uber’s response was “bullish” and “condescending,” and that Uber was probably concerned these restrictions will create a precedent for other cities.

“Bye-bye, I don’t care,” were the words spoken by Coderre, who said the extra training should not be a burden for a company of that size company.

The Ministry of Transport remains firm on their decision and noted they are not in negotiation mode. With that being said, Uber decided to officially leave Quebec on Oct 14.

Uber executives have also been busy this week after government officials in London, UK, decided not to renew their operational license in that city, saying they will not be providing private-hire operational licenses. Prior to this decision, Uber was only issued a four-month temporary license.

In some ways this was a test pilot for the City of London and in the end they were not pleased with Uber’s performance. The explanation by London Transport was that Uber held a “lack of corporate responsibility” and would fail to report minor to serious offences. Uber has since issued a public apology to the City of London. Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi apologized to the world for all the company’s mistakes, saying “it’s worth examining how we got here, and the truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation.”

Last year in Austin, Texas, Uber suspended operations after city council passed regulations to have drivers submit to background checks and fingerprinting. Earlier this year they returned to Austin after the governor in Texas signed a law to overpower the city’s rules

Uber has already been banned in a few countries and cities, including Italy, Denmark, Taiwan, cities in Auatralia, India and now London.

Back in the spring of 2016, Uber threatened to suspend operations in Toronto if city council passed rules to impose high-fees on drivers. The rule was not passed and Uber still continues to operate in Toronto.

The true meaning of One Love Manchester

The day after a terrorist attack claimed the lives of seven people on London Bridge and in Borough Market, 60,000 people crammed into Manchester’s Old Trafford cricket ground for Ariana Grande’s One Love Manchester concert. The message: we will not be afraid and we will not be deterred.

The concert was a response to a separate incident that took place two weeks ago at Ariana Grande’s Manchester concert. After the concert was over, a suicide bomber ended up killing 22 people and injuring many more. The victims were a mixture of parents, children, and teens. For many artists, this was the ultimate tragedy. And for Grande, it was heartbreaking.

The youngest victim was eight years old.

Sunday’s benefit concert, titled One Love Manchester, was incredibly powerful. People of all ages pushed their fear aside and came together to embrace this idea of love, tolerance, and acceptance. With 60,000 people in the audience, the silence was deafening. And when they all sang in unison — even the artists on stage started to cry.

British singer and frontman for band Mumford & Sons, Marcus Mumford, kicked off the concert with a moment of silence before singing a touching rendition of his song “Timshel”. Other musicians included Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Pharrell Williams, Robbie Williams, Coldplay, and Black Eyed Peas, among many others.

Of course, Ariana Grande sang some fan-favourites, as well as duets with some of the performers. One of the most touching moments was when the Parrs Wood High School Choir sang Grande’s My Everything. The choir posted their rendition of the song to Youtube after the bombing, and was invited to perform it on stage during the benefit concert. Grande came out to sing with the 12-year-old soloist, holding her hand as she was overwhelmed with emotion.

Grande ended with an emotional “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.

The benefit concert raised over 2.6 million euros for the victims of the Manchester bombing, with part of those funds also going towards an emergency fund set up by the city of Manchester and the British Red Cross. But, more importantly, it proved to the world the U.K. is not “reeling” from these terrorist attacks, as some in the media have claimed.

When tragedy hit, the people of Manchester and London didn’t blame a religion. They didn’t react in hate. They didn’t close their borders or put up a wall. What did they do?

They opened their hearts. They opened their minds. And they sang.

 

We can’t have high-speed rails without a relief line

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Friday the provincial government will invest $15 million in a high-speed rail line that will eventually connect Toronto to Windsor, cutting down travel time from four hours to two hours.

“Building high speed rail along the Toronto-Windsor corridor isn’t just a game changer for Southwestern Ontario — it’s going to deliver benefits all along the line,” Wynne said in a statement. “Whether it means accepting a job that previously seemed too far away, visiting family more often, or having ready access to the innovators who can take your business growth to the next level — high speed rail will make a real difference in people’s lives and drive economic growth and jobs.”

The project, estimated to cost about $19 billion in total (if the trains run 250 km/hr), will travel through Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, and Catham, with a connection to the Toronto Pearson Airport. The $15 million investment is for a comprehensive environmental assessment.

Provided by MTO

 

The 2017 budget included a small mention of funding being provided to RER, but the $19 billion price tag is a bit of a surprise, especially considering the lack of support for municipal projects that should be built prior to this high-speed rail line.

While connecting Southern Ontario to Central Ontario has its advantages, it’s only going to cause increased overcrowding on Toronto’s transit system. Presumably, the people working and visiting in Toronto’s downtown core won’t all be heading to locations around Union Station or Pearson Airport, meaning they will have to use the TTC to get around. Considering Line 1 will be at capacity by 2031 — the same time the high-speed rail is supposed to be completed — it would be wise for the province to invest more funds in the downtown relief line before promising funds for high-speed rail.

Without a relief line, commuters in Toronto will suffer from these connecting high-speed lines. Connecting the cities in this corridor would absolutely benefit businesses and commuters throughout Ontario— but if those commuters get stuck as soon as they get in Toronto, what’s the point?

The province hopes to have high-speed trains up and running from London to Toronto by 2025, and from London to Windsor by 2031. The provincial government will be looking at alternative financing options as well as public-private partnerships to fund the rest of the rail line.

What do you think about this investment? Let us know in the comments below!