8th Blog Anniversary and 20 Best Pictures of 2023

After skipping a year, I want to return to a good tradition that I used to look forward to: to show you my favourite pictures of the year fo...

After skipping a year, I want to return to a good tradition that I used to look forward to: to show you my favourite pictures of the year followed by short stories for each of them. But instead of pinecones or Christmas toys on a featured picture, I’m going to use the photo I took at the Capital Ukrainian Festival in Ottawa this year. This photo shows a Ukrainian cartoon girl holding flowers on a tote bag. I wanted to use this opportunity that remind everyone that the war in Ukraine is not over and innocent people continue their suffering. Just today, on December 29, 2023, the Russian Federation launched 122 missiles and 36 drones against Ukrainian targets that killed 31 and injured over 150 civilians. Brave Ukrainians continue to defend not only their own freedom from the Russian Federation but also all our collective values and beliefs that the whole democratic world has so desperately fought for. I hope you will enjoy the pictures and Slava Ukraini (Glory to Ukraine)!  

Category: People

1. Capital Ukrainian Festival, Ottawa, Ontario. 
The "Doors" art installation by Ruslan Kurt shares the pain of millions of Ukrainians who had to leave their homes in the face of the war and the terror brought about by the Russian Federation since February 24, 2022. Sadly, too many people did not survive their attempts to escape. This collection of 25 doors from all over Ukraine is very difficult to look at. It's one thing to hear about this unprovoked and cruel war through television or the internet, but witnessing a real thing —doors marked by burns, damage, and bullet holes—brings the harsh reality directly before your eyes. 

2. Little Havana, Miami, Florida. 
Located in the heart of Miami, Little Havana is a vibrant neighbourhood where the lively beats of salsa music and the aroma of delicious Cuban coffee fill the air. As you're strolling Calle Ocho (8th Street), you'll quickly discover this place's unique obsession with chickens - both live animals as well as colourful statues and depictions of these feathered friends on many walls and even McDonald's. Little Havana's bustling streets tell the tale of the Cuban diaspora, as many Cubans found a new home in Miami fleeing the Castro regime and bringing their rich culture and flavourful traditions to this lively corner of the city. 

3. Glebe Garage Sale, Ottawa, Ontario. 
People from every borough in Ottawa come to the Great Glebe Garage Sale, now the biggest event of its kind in all of Canada. Nestled in Ottawa's lively Glebe neighbourhood, renowned for its hipster community, this gathering isn't your normal garage sale. The event sprawls across streets and blocks and draws in a variety of goods, spanning from classic outfits and antiques to peculiar and eccentric garbage.

4. Georgetown, Maine.
Five Islands Lobster Company in Georgetown, Maine, turns into a cozy spot by the sea. Think freshly caught seafood, seagulls singing in the background, and ocean views making this place even more special. You don't have to, but you can choose your own live lobster that will be fully cooked in 15 minutes. This place is a simple, relaxing getaway by the coast that you won't forget. 

5. Washington, D.C.
Ben's Chili Bowl is an iconic eatery in Washington D.C. that has been a local favourite since its doors first opened in 1958. Famous for its half-smokes and hearty chilli, the restaurant has become a cultural landmark, attracting both locals and tourists alike. The vibrant and lively atmosphere at Ben's reflects the diverse crowd of the U Street neighbourhood it calls home. 

Category: Nature

6. Acadia National Park, Maine. 
The rugged coast of Acadia National Park is a very special place for me. As you leave the bustling main park road behind, the crowds gradually dissipate, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the present moment. Here, you can appreciate the majestic sight of large waves crashing against red granite rocks and the vast expanse of the boundless blue ocean. Despite its remote location, Acadia National Park has drawn visitors since the late 1800s. From affluent figures like the Rockefellers and Sargents during the Gilded Age to modern-day tour bus selfie-takers, the park caters to a diverse range of interests and preferences. 

7. Everglades National Park, Florida. 
Out of all the places to camp in Florida, we chose Everglades National Park where 200,000+ alligators and 942 crocodiles live in the wild in southern Florida. But the bitter truth is that it’s not alligators and crocodiles that you should fear. These creatures have plenty of fish and birds to feast on and don’t find us human beings particularly tasty. It’s mosquitos that you should fear. Despite being only half the size of their brothers from the north, these bastards make up for their smaller stature with an increased appetite and ability to work in large groups, a force that only powerful winds can stop. In this picture: a young crocodile was spotted while paddling in a canoe. 

8. Coral Gables, Miami, Florida. 
Coral Gables, a separate city just south of Miami, but still reachable by the metro, is famous for its opulent mansions that rival the grandeur of Vizcaya, the iconic villa turned museum. The landscape is decorated with huge Banyan trees, casting generous shade and adding a touch of natural magnificence to the neighbourhood. Coral Gables welcomes residents and visitors alike with lush greenery, splashy flora, and … a lot of colourful geckos. 

9. Saint-Gabriel Winery, Saint-Gabriel-de-Brandon, Quebec.
Are you looking for quality port wines or perhaps late-harvest white wines? You don't need to venture to Portugal or Germany; you can discover them right here in Canada, in the small town of Saint-Gabriel-de-Brandon, an hour and a half east of Montreal. This hidden gem is situated amidst the scenic Laurentide mountains, accessible via winding roads which rural Quebec is famous for. The winery is not only a destination for wine enthusiasts but also offers a vast collection of 130 antique tractors dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, making it a unique and worthwhile visit. 

10. Brewster Beach, Massachusetts. 
During low tide, Brewster Beach, situated in lower Cape Cod, transforms into what looks like an expansive tundra that you can explore for hours. The vast stretch of sand and tidal flats creates an enchanting landscape, allowing beachgoers to stroll and discover the coastal beauty unique to this area. Diverse ecosystems, salt marshes, and thriving wildlife provide a glimpse into the region's ecological richness. Frequented predominantly by middle to upper-class Bostonians, this and other places appeal to those seeking a tranquil retreat amidst the natural splendour and cultural charm of lower Cape Cod. 

Category: Architecture

11. Montreal, Quebec. 
Square Saint-Louis in Montreal is a charming urban oasis adorned with a leafy canopy, providing a peaceful escape from the city's hustle. The square is surrounded by old stone buildings, each dressed with colourful gables, showcasing some of the finest examples of Montreal's architectural heritage. What could make the experience even more enjoyable than pairing it with a cup of morning coffee and a freshly baked croissant from the nearby Mamie Clafoutis bakery? 

12. Toronto Islands, Toronto, Ontario. 
The Toronto Islands offer breathtaking views of the city skyline and the sparkling waters of Lake Ontario, creating a picturesque escape from the urban bustle. However, the beauty of this oasis is marked by its fragility, as the islands face the constant threat of flooding. The delicate balance between the stunning landscapes and the vulnerability to rising water levels highlights the need for sustainable conservation efforts to preserve the natural charm of the Toronto Islands. 

13. Sherbrooke, Quebec. 
It was quite remarkable to discover massive waterfalls right in the heart of Sherbrooke, Quebec. The waterfall, known as the Sherbrooke Falls or Cascade de la Gorge, is a natural attraction situated along the Magog River and offers a stunning display of cascading water. The falls are notable for their size and beauty, creating a picturesque scene within an urban environment. As someone visiting for the day, I enjoyed the sight and sound of the rushing water which provided a refreshing and serene experience amidst the cityscape. However, I can only imagine what it must be like for those who live nearby, with some windows directly facing the waterfalls. 

14. New York, New York. 
The Rockefeller Center in New York, an art-deco gem, features captivating indoor wall paintings that adorn its iconic interiors. "American Progress" is a mural painted by the Spanish artist José María Sert. It’s a monumental and allegorical work that captures the spirit of American progress and its global influence during the early 20th century. It also serves as a historical artifact, offering viewers insights into the values and aspirations of that era. 

15. Logan Circle, Washington, D.C. 
Logan Circle in Washington, D.C., is garnished with a mix of historic and modern buildings, ranging from Victorian-style townhouses to contemporary structures. In the spring, the area becomes particularly enchanting as cherry trees blossom, adding vibrant pink and white colours to the architectural beauty. 

Category: Trains

16. Ottawa, Ontario. 
VIA Rail Canada is upgrading its fleet of trains, for the first time in a very long time, with Siemens Mobility-built "Charger" locomotives and the "Amtrak Midwest" passenger coaches. This is big news not only for train enthusiasts such as myself but also for those who frequently use trains in Canada for transportation. The planned upgrades promise to make train travel in Canada a more enjoyable and eco-friendly experience. 

17. Harlem, New York, New York. 
In Harlem, New York, elevated train lines traverse the landscape, metaphorically reflecting a historical tendency in American urban planning to avoid confronting poverty and hardship. The decision to elevate trains on bridges and viaducts symbolizes a physical and symbolic separation from impoverished neighbourhoods, highlighting a historical pattern of infrastructure development that often avoided direct engagement with socio-economic challenges. If we don't see it, it doesn't exist. 

18. Boston, Massachusets. 
The Boston Metro, also known as the "T," holds the distinction of being the oldest subway system in the United States, beating its closest rival, New York by more than seven years. It began operations on September 1, 1897, with a 1.5-mile stretch of track running from Park Street to Sullivan Square and addressed a particularly painful issue of street traffic congestion in the growing metropolis. With its rich history, a mix of vintage and contemporary cars, and the diverse architectural styles of its stations, the Boston Metro system holds a special place in the hearts of Bostonians, who view it as more than just a transportation system but an essential aspect of their city's identity. In this picture, a Red Line train arrives from Harvard to the Charles MGH station. 

19. Montreal, Quebec. 
The Réseau Express Métropolitain (REM) is a major automated rapid transit network in Montreal, Quebec. The REM project aims to connect various areas of the Greater Montreal region through an integrated and efficient transportation system. Its first section, linking Montreal downtown and Brossard, officially opened in July 2023, marking a significant milestone in enhancing public transportation accessibility and connectivity in the metropolitan area. Even if trains aren't your interest, the views of the city skyline from the elevated viaducts between L'Île des Sœurs and Bonaventure are among Montreal's most impressive. 

20. Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario. 
The Scarborough Rapid Transit (SRT) system, which served Toronto's eastern suburb, was finally closed in late 2023. Its iconic trains, recognized for their unique design, are being given a second life in Detroit, albeit mostly repurposed for parts. This marks the end of an era for the Scarborough RT, as its distinctive rolling stock finds new life beyond its original transit context. 

Blog Anniversary Pictures:

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