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Canada travel diary 2021

Academic Opportunity Fund Report – Farsan Ghassim, Experimental Psychology

15 September
More than three hours of completing forms due to COVID-19 restrictions imposed both by Canada and the UK. Already had to do a PCR test on Monday. And had to be careful not to fly through the USA which currently does not allow passengers from Europe even to transit! The troubles of traveling during the pandemic… But the flight went well; worked for most of it; watched a movie; slept a bit; and the jetlag doesn’t feel too bad.

16 September
Vancouver exploration and my first meeting. The jetlag helped with getting up early. Took the bus and train to downtown Vancouver. Gastown, Chinatown, lots of homeless people – very sad! Bought a SIM card – essential for the trip. Stanley Park: Okay, now I’m convinced. Headed to North Vancouver to explore life of the Iranian community and have Persian lunch. Took the ferry back downtown for a cocktail and bird’s eye view of the city from the restaurant at Harbour Centre. Took the bus to UBC for my meeting with the political psychologist Matt Wright. Great conversation about our research, the academic job market, and life more generally. Explored the UBC campus a bit more – beautiful! Headed back downtown to meet with a Persian-Canadian friend for dinner in Yaletown. Train and bus back to the Airbnb.

17 September
Classic Canadian breakfast at Tim Horton’s. Bumped into two fellow travelers from the Airbnb. Had a great conversation about travels. They invited me to stay with them when I come to Toronto, but I told them I’m already staying with friends in Tehranto. They had to Google that. Picked up the rental car: Toyota Corolla with self-driving functionality. I think I got an upgrade! Second meeting with a UBC professor: Alan Jacobs. Talked about our research and politics in Canada, Germany, and the US. Headed off to the national parks. The automatic driving functions still need to be improved… The jetlag kicked in. Arrived exhausted at the Airbnb in Hinton by Jasper National Park.

18 September
The weather in Jasper is great, contrary to predictions. So the original plan of exploring the parks first could work out. Decided to stay in Jasper rather than head off to Drumheller. Jasper Park is beautiful: Maligne Lake, Athabasca Falls, Icefields Parkway, Athabasca Glacier. Jaw-dropping beauty. Back to Hinton – but this time a hotel, not an Airbnb; good decision!

19 September
The weather in the parks is still great. Decided to stay and explore Banff. Lift up to Whistlers was closed, and didn’t make it to Mount Norquay in time either – so no bird’s eye view this time unfortunately. Bow Pass was closed too – a shame because it’s supposed to be the most beautiful view on the Icefields Parkway. But plenty of beautiful views to make up for it. Lunch at a hidden place by a lake. No wonder people love these parks. Finished the day with visits to Lake Louise (tourist trap!) and Moraine Lake (beautiful!). Drove to the hotel in Calgary.

20 September
Realised that the Paleontology Museum in Drumheller is closed on Mondays; and so is the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump site. Travel plans needed to be adjusted. Decided to only visit Drumheller and surroundings. Daytrip to the Dinosaur Provincial Park. Sunny weather, beautiful plains on the way. Only realized on arrival that the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The guidebook didn’t advertise it at all – strange! Breathtaking views when entering. Never seen a landscape like this before. Hiked a bit. Saw dinosaur skeletons at exactly the places where they were found. Very impressive. Now on to Drumheller and the so-called Dinosaur Trail. Nice, but not as awe-inspiring as the park. Checked in to the hotel. Nice Indian dinner – enough for two meals. The Liberals won a minority government again. Conservatives at the other table were not happy about it.

21 September
Planned the next meeting with a professor at McGill in Montreal. Headed to the Tyrrell Paleontology Museum. Very impressive collection of fossils – mostly from the Dinosaur Park. But not just that. More broadly a collection about life on earth. Reminded me of discussions at Univ after a presentation by Sarah Morrow. I love natural history museums, and this is one of the most impressive I’ve seen. Last stop: the hoodoos. Their photo in the guidebook is what drew me to come to Drumheller in the first place. Very nice, but the other places were even cooler. Time to go back to Vancouver. Revelstoke was the goal; but only made it to Golden because of a road closure. Saw a black bear cub crossing the road. The mother bear must be somewhere. I might be in between mother and child… Left rather quickly not to disturb and scare them.

22 September
Continuing the trip back to Vancouver. Saw a crack in the window from a small stone. The Hertz emergency hotline is a nightmare. 45 minutes and we got as far as my name and the license plate. The local car repair place was much more helpful; assured me that I could safely continue driving. Made it to the 8 pm ferry to Vancouver Island. Beautiful night sky. Love the smell of the ocean. Had a nice veggie burger and hot chocolate on deck. Checked in at a hotel in Nanaimo.

23 September
Plan for today is the Pacific Rim National Park on the Western side of the island. Beautiful day, again – I’ve been really lucky! Mountains and hills covered by endless forests, lakes and rivers crossing them – stunning! Stopped at a creek. Discussion with a Covid-19 vaccine opponent and conspiracy theorist. Road closure. Headed back to the creek and jumped into the cold and clear water. So warm that it was not even necessary to dry myself off. Back to the road. Closure still going on, but soon lifted. Headed to Radar Hill. Amazing view. Jumped into the frosty water at Long Beach. Sun still warm enough. Headed back to Nanaimo to take the last ferry back to Vancouver. Exhausted from the trip and the still lingering jetlag. Late-night check-in near the airport.

24 September
Flight to Toronto. From the airport straight to a small party with my Persian family friends. Discussions about politics with an impressive 11-year-old boy. Always nice to see how Iranians abroad still maintain their habits and culture at these gatherings.

25 September
Drove to Toronto with my friends. Nice views of the skyline. Weather shifted. Drove back to Tehranto. Picked up Persian sandwiches on the way. Ended up spending most of the day in the car. Man, this is a big city, and the traffic is a mess. Another party in the evening – this time only five of us, all around my age. Really enjoyed speaking to these young Iranians who recently immigrated to Canada. Had some drinks, a nice dinner, and played fun games.

26 September
The road trip continues. Picked up the next rental car at Toronto airport. This time a red Hyundai Elantra – really nice too, and quite fuel-efficient. Fortunately has cruise control as well. Really pleasant to drive on Canadian highways. Much more relaxed than the highways in Germany. But hey, they could increase the speed limits a little bit – at least for my kind of trip! First stop: Montréal for another meeting in the morning. Parked the car after barely understanding a Québecois who explained the parking rules to me. Felt like my French from France was useless here. Had a burrito and crashed.

27 September
Meeting with Catherine Lu. Great discussion about growing up as an immigrant in a Western society. Also talked a lot about cosmopolitan political theory, my survey experiments, and the academic job market. Then left for Québec City. The weather was horrible, so I decided to move on to Gaspésie straight away. Québec City said goodbye with a double rainbow. Gaspésie greeted me with sunshine. Beautiful views of the coast. Got a nice little motel room right by the sea.

28 September
Trip to Percé. Drove through the Gaspésie National Park. Beautiful landscapes. Trees in all colors. Nice little waterfall. Bumped into former barracks at around sunset. Slightly creepy to pass these pitch-black underground rooms where ammunition was stored. The contrast between our time of peace and that time of war was drastic. Arrived in Percé and got a hotel with a view at the Rocher Percé. Started watching a movie. Stopped half-way through. Too tired.

29 September
Went to check out the Rocher Percé – a strangely formed rock island off the coast. Decided not to take a boat around it. Weather was not sunny, so it would not have been that pleasant. Plus, Percé was too touristy for my taste. Headed off toward the Bay of Fundy. Checked in at a motel by the Flower Pot Rocks.

30 September
Drove through the Fundy Park to do a whale-watching tour. A few stops on the way for the beautiful views. But then ended up missing the last whale-watching tour of the day by 8 minutes. Got the advice to take the ferry to the Deer Island as it crosses the same waters where the whale watching tours go. Drove to the ferry. Great experience. Didn’t see any whales on the way to Deer Island. But really enjoyed the trip. Drove across the island. Had lunch on a beach. Experienced the extreme tides – greatest in the world – first-hand. Drove back to the ferry. Didn’t see any whales on the trip back either, but very much enjoyed the trip anyway. Continued to Nova Scotia.

1 October
Today’s plan: Cabot Trail. Drove from Antigonish to Cape Breton. Went along the Cabot Trail and a bit off-the-beaten track to the Northern tip of the cape. Breath-taking views. Lunch on some rocks on the coast. Whale-watching again, but no luck. Sunny most of the day, but some rain in between. Chat with a Canadian couple by sunset. What a treat the Cabot Trail was. But told them that Jasper and Banff are even more impressive. They’ve never been. I’m seeing more of the country than most Canadians have.

2 October
All-day drive to Québec City. Started with a classic Tim Horton’s breakfast again. Love that place. Checked out lots of new music on the way. My data limit is approaching… Checked into a hotel in Lévis. Made sure the internet connection was fast enough for my virtual presentation at the APSA conference tomorrow. Headed to Québec City to see the city by night. Really liked it. Lots happening. A European vibe. Had a classic Poutine at a nice restaurant. Back to the hotel.

3 October
Presentation at APSA about my paper on six-point scales, including evidence from Canada. Got good feedback; still lots to do, though. Back to Québec City to explore the city by day. Lots of beautiful old buildings. Took a boat to check out the skyline from the St. Laurent. Beautiful sunny day again. Good that I decided to postpone my Québec City tour to today. I’ve been blessed with beautiful early-fall weather on this trip. Got gifts for my friends: a cider from Québec and a decorative plate with a Québec flag. Continued to the last stop: Ottawa. Checked into a nice guesthouse around midnight. Super-friendly bilingual host.

4 October
Covid-19 test for my trip to the US tomorrow. These guys at Shoppers Drug Market really need to work on their procedures. Had to wait for an hour because only two guys were doing the tests, analyses, and paperwork. Breakfast at the guesthouse. Then off to downtown Ottawa. Great place for a final stop of the road trip. Parliament Hill is impressive. A vigil for the recently discovered mass graves of indigenous children. Strolled around Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal, and the ByWard market – on a beautiful sunny day again. Continuing to Toronto. Nice last night over Persian dinner.

5 October
Flight to Miami to visit a friend for a few days of relaxation after an eventful and intensive road trip. Packed the bags properly again – quite a challenge to fit everything back into two pieces of hand luggage. Hoped that my documents were all okay because at this time the US did not allow even fully vaccinated Europeans to enter unless they had been outside of the European Union for at least two weeks. All good! Ready to enter the US. What a road trip this was. Canada is amazing. Univ, my college and home in Oxford, thanks a lot for your support!

Find out more about the range of travel grants and scholarships available to assist Univ students on our Travel Grants page or read further travel reports.

Published: 8 December 2021

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