A Journey North

- One week after landing in Canada.

The journey Canada-wards started over 18 months ago on a gloomy new years day, and has had some bumps and diversions along the way. We, my brand new fiancé and I, were sat in her parent’s living room looking at possible new homes to buy. Should it be Chester or Tarporley or maybe closer to Manchester or perhaps not even in comfy little Cheshire at all? Could looking further south be the answer?

The question of where we should live had wrapped us in a cloud of confusion for months. Every time we thought the storm was clearing, every lightening of the skies, a new set of pros and cons would swoop down and the tumult would rise up again. Then, seemingly out of nowhere an answer broke through, clear and fully formed. We’ll move to Canada. All previous pros and cons arguments were abandoned. This was a shot into the unknown, something new and we both revelled in the possibilities. We’d talked about moving abroad for years, but any plans had always found themselves straddling the back burner, exchanged for more practical ideas. For example we’d planned to move to France for some years, but only made it as far as Oxford for just such practical reasons. I think we were both tired of these half measures, and Canada felt like a very real and exciting solution.

So began the long slog North. Not quite the daring and glorious quests of early pioneers, more a slow and excruciating crawl through a quagmire of admin and visa applications. Progress was also slowed by our plans to get married before we left. Now don’t get me wrong the wedding was fantastic and beautiful in every way but, my sole piece of advice would be just do one. Emigrate or marry, one is enough for one year. By the time we reached Toronto we were so burnt out that we slept for about 2 days straight. This however, in the style of all the advice I give, is not advice that I would take were I to do it again. 2016 may seem like a year raging out of control on a global scale, but so far for me it’s be a hell of a good year.

 

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On the way to Toronto we made a couple of stops. The first, a little out of the way, was a week in Tuscany, and in Tuscany I found my spiritual home.

 

Old school vineyard - 11th Century Castillo

Old school vineyard - 11th Century Castillo

 

This was the cultural leg of our journey. We saw the old and the new of the region in the ancient architecture and sculptures of the masters and the ultra modern James Bond bad guy lair style winery. It’s an exciting and brave design, built downwards into the hill below the vineyard. The scale and the detail was overwhelming. The whole feel is an utter contrast to the archaic rustic authenticity of the vineyards, wineries and architectural masterpieces we visited.  But it was built with the same intention. It was built by those who saw beyond there own time, those who funded and created something for the generations to come. This winery was not financially viable, they lost money in its construction, a lot of money, but the owners are proud of what they accomplished. They built something beautiful and awe inspiring, with serious foresight, purely for the sake of doing so. They built an outlandish piece of art and then made booze in it. 

 

1 of 5 cavernous cellars 

1 of 5 cavernous cellars 

The giant staircase that burrowed down into the hillside

The giant staircase that burrowed down into the hillside

 

The other major point of interest on our Italian tour was Florence, which was as typically beautiful as you might expect. That might sound dismissive, and that was not my intention. The city is set out like a rabbit warren combined seamlessly with best produce of the renaissance. The tight streets twist and wind around the ancient façades until pow, you come face to face with a Donatello, or a Michelangelo, or you find you self stumbling into the center of a magnificent and opulent piazza. It’s a city completely in tune with its history, but not defined by it. It has a vibrant, modern feel as you walk through its museum of alleyways, nothing of the aging tourist attraction I was expecting. Two things of note really caught my eye whilst traversing the city. The first is obvious, Il Doumo is a staggering feat of architecture. Pictures could never do Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore justice, it’s scale and complexity overloads the senses.

 

 

The second is David’s arse. Slightly odd one, but it was only when were looking at the most famous statue in the world in the living marble that it occurred to me that you only ever see him from one angle. The was something that felt weirdly salacious about the different vantage point, like it was only you and the people in the room who had ever seen him like that.

 

 

That’s enough of Italy. Next stop was Florida for the juvenile portion of our travels. Not a huge chunk of culture to take in here. Wrong Naples and wrong Venice for that, but the good food and good weather was enough to drown out the thirst for something of substance for a few days at least. Plus I got to drive a Mustang around which was pretty sweet.

 

 

Then after about as much Disney as one man can handle we headed to our final destination, and after we recovered from the most hectic few months of our lives, we struck out into the city.

This is a very cool place.