Culture & Geography

What’s this all about, then?

Culture Surf is a corner of the internet set aside to help English learners (or anyone who’s curious) to learn more about American and Anglophone culture. We discuss song lyrics, regional slang, and a lot more. The point is to put focus on the fun side of language learning, which is the culture! Other topics like Geography and Movies are constantly being added. I’m always open to suggestions and questions to help you clear up what you want to learn. Come and discover more!

At Home you can find the latest content, as well as the page descriptions and most popular posts.

On the Give Me a Shout page, you can send me a direct message or make a comment. You can even give suggestions for content you want to see! (I also talk about my editing services there)

In the Culture section, we have short stories and audios for practicing listening and learning informal English terms through Adventures of CharlesAbout Americans talks about American society and culture. In Lyrics “Explained” you can read song lyrics, listen to music, and learn about English world culture and slang through song lyrics. At the Movies looks at English world society by analyzing movies. Language Surf allows you to listen to the sounds of the world’s languages, from the most endangered to the most spoken.

For Geography, we look at the world’s English-speaking countries, their geographies, and cultures through the Actual English World. There is also a section for looking at cool places, galleries, and profiles of the world’s regions called Earth’s Face.

Existe também uma seção chamada Em Português para quem fala e deseja ler sobre alguns tópicos do site.

Lastly, Helpful Resources is a place where I share some resources like websites and videos you can use to improve (and enjoy) your English skills.

**Even if you already speak English, you can contribute by adding your own ideas, sharing about your own accent and culture, and helping others grow. Let’s build this together!

Welcome to Culture & Geography…

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World flag showing different countries flags, represent world languages and what languages sound like

What does Adzera sound like? | Language Surf

Adzera Atzera – Azera – Atsera – Acira an Oceanic language of Papua New Guinea, in the Austronesian family Hear More Languages Speakers ~ 30,000 Dialects of Adzera Central group Amari Ngarowapum  Yaros Guruf (Ngariawang) Tsumanggorun  *Sukurum and Sarasira may be dialects or separate languages Listen Teaching About Prayer and Faith – Adzera (jesusfilm.org) See More Do you … Continue reading

World flag showing different countries flags, represent world languages and what languages sound like

What does Adyghe sound like? | Language Surf

Adyghe West Circassian – Адыгабзэ – кӀахыбзэ – Adıgabzə – k’axıbzə a Circassian language of Russia (Caucasus region) and Turkey, in the Northwest Caucasian family Hear More Languages Speakers ~ 575,900 Black Sea Coast Dialects of Adyghe Shapsug (Шапсыгъабзэ) North Shapsugs (Great Shapsugs, Kuban Shapsugs, Шапсыгъэ шху) Kfar Kama (Кфар Камэм ишапсыгъэбзэ) Temirgoy Shapsugs (Pseuşko accent, … Continue reading

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What makes Vancouver unique? – 13 Cool Features 🇨🇦

Welcome to Vancouver! This is a city known for activities like hiking and surfing and being ecologically minded with its many preserved forests. It’s also notorious for being one of the topmost expensive cities in the world — like, top 3 — but Vancouver doesn’t stop attracting ex-pats and tourists alike. Come check out a quick profile about the city, then learn about some features that make this place truly special in Canada and in the world.

VANCOUVER: Quick Profile

Location within Metro Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada
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satellite map of Vancouver and surroundings
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Vancouver is the biggest city and urban area in British Columbia, located in the southwest corner. There are over 631,000 people in the city and over 2,264,000 in the urban area. This makes Vancouver the 3rd biggest urban area in Canada and its most densely populated one. It also happens to be the most expensive city to live in, as many of you may know.

In the greater Pacific Northwest region on the Burrard Peninsula, the city has coasts on the Burrard Inlet and Vancouver Harbour to the north, along with a strait of the Pacific Ocean to the west that separates it from Vancouver Island. Most of its southern limits are on the Fraser River. (By the way, Vancouver city isn’t on Vancouver Island. It’s also not that city in Washington, USA.)

Read more: about Toronto; about Montreal

The climate here is comparatively mild by Canadian standards as far as both cold and hot weather goes. They certainly get a lot less snow and a lot more rain than most large cities here. The area is surrounded by wet oceanic forests and swamps that lead up into mountains on the north shores across the harbor. Those mountains do get snow and form an important part of the city’s skyline.

Vancouver was first established as Gastown, a post outside of a mill. Later it was called Granville before major railroad connections were brought in. Its current name is for British Navy officer, George Vancouver, who had explored the region.

Read more: about Canada; other Canadian provinces and Earth’s Face places

So why is Vancouver unique, again? …

1. Because of Neighborhoods like Gastown & Chinatown

What are they?:

Vancouver is stocked with many interesting neighborhoods to hang in, and one of the most famous is Gastown. This is the area originally settled by Europeans and remains as a sort of historic core to the city. Several other areas and points of interest can be found throughout the city.

What do they have?:

There’s the rustic feel of Gastown with hip shops, eateries, and a cool art scene. Don’t forget the famous steam clock! Chinatown here is an elaborate neighborhood with beautiful Chinese-style settings like the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden or the strangely thin Sam Kee Building.

Commercial Drive, aka “The Drive” is a hood better known for its main street that fills with vendors, commerce, ethnic food options, and diverse people and attractions to get caught up in. Another option is the West 4th Ave area with more local shops and restaurants.

2. Because of Granville Island

What is it?:

Well, it’s not an island. Granville Island is a peninsula on Vancouver’s False Creek. Once an industrial center, it’s now open for tourism and one of the most popular spots in the city.

What does it have?:

Granville has an array of activities on it, including public art, restaurants, parks, and a popular public market. One of those is an old factory that’s been turned into a work of art. There’s also the waterfront to get a nice view of Downtown across the water, or to ride a ferry to the other side.

3. Because of Stanley Park

boat cruising by a lighthouse ahead of the seawall in stanley park
the Seawall Luc Tribolet

What is it?:

Stanley Park is one of the biggest urban parks in North America, as well as one of the best-rated parks in the world. It is a huge expanse of largely undisturbed forest and shoreline just at the opening of Vancouver’s inner waterways.

What does it have?:

The park is filled with things to do besides admire the natural setting. Along the shore are numerous sites like lighthouses, totem poles, beaches and pools like Second Beach, and statues like the Girl in a Wetsuit.

There’s also a “gun” or cannon that goes off every day at 9 pm, and the Seawall that functions as a trail for people to wander the park’s coastal edges. Within the park are attractions like a train and the Vancouver Aquarium. And let’s not forget the towering Lions Gate Bridge over the straits.

4. Because of the False Creek Waterfront

What is it?:

False Creek is a kind of harbor that cuts into central Vancouver. It happens to have a really pretty waterfront with lots of amazing urban scenery.

What does it have?:

Besides the already-mentioned Granville Island, other cool attractions to do here include sparking curiosity at the spectacularly designed Science World. Sports games and events are always happening at BC Place with the stadiums and arenas. There are also a number of parks that perfectly mix the urban, natural, and waterside landscapes like David Lam Park.

5. Because of Vanier Park & Sunset Beach

What are they?:

These two public spots are located right at the entrance of False Creek out to English Bay. Both are beachside parks that offer some interesting points to check out.

What do they have?:

Other than the park and beach settings, Vanier is home to cool-looking museums like the Museum of Vancouver and the Vancouver Maritime Museum. Just across the water — accessible by street bridge — is Sunset Beach Park, another one of the city’s many coastal hangouts.

6. Because of the Harbor Front

What is it?:

This is the waterfront of Vancouver’s port on the north side. It’s a popular stop for cruise liners in the area, as well as a major civic center.

What does it have?:

CRAB Park at Portside is a nice park right on the water with very scenic views of Vancouver’s many highrises (both manmade and geologically made). In addition to views of the mighty mountains opposite the city, there’s bustling Canada Place. With a cool sail-like roof, the place has a convention center, Vancouver’s World Trade Centre, and some fun attractions to go with them.

7. Because of VanDusen & Queen Elizabeth

What are they?:

These two green areas sit right next to each other in the inner part of Vancouver, further away from what we’ve been looking at so far. They are Queen Elizabeth Park and the beautiful VanDusen Botanical Garden.

What do they have?:

Both parks are noted for their exquisite naturally-made and manmade designs. Enchanted and royal gardens mix with pretty structures like the Bloedel Conservatory filled with exotic species. There’s also a prominent hill in Queen Elizabeth Park to view the city from up high.

8. Because of the area around UBC

What is that?:

The University of British Columbia itself is one of the oldest and best-ranked universities in all of Canada. Located a ways on the outskirts of town, the university lies at the heart of several natural and historical wonders.

What does it have?:

UBC has a famous Botanical Garden with open spaces, treetop activities, and mazes all near the coastal waters. There’s also the Museum of Anthropology which looks very unique, at the site of a former protective fort. Also among the many forested areas is Pacific Spirit Regional Park with its towering groves and coastal trails.

9. Because of Robson Street & Central Vancouver

What are they?:

Robson is a street that rides straight through Central Vancouver, the Downtown neighborhood. This part of town has a lot to do and see, being part of the city’s urban and entertainment core.

What do they have?:

Up and down the streets can be found major shopping centers and entertainment venues, especially around Robson Square. Around the square are major cultural centers like the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Commodore Ballroom, among other popular performance halls. There are important architectural feats like the Christ Church Cathedral with its gorgeous interior and the Harbour Centre, one of Vancouver’s most iconic towers.

10. Because of its Beaches (& Events)

What are they?:

Well, frankly these are the urban beaches of Vancouver’s long coastline. I can’t promise the water will be warm (it honestly won’t be) but there are some events and locales to enjoy next to these beaches.

What do they have?:

Besides the beaches we’ve already talked about, other ones with nice city views include Spanish Banks Beach, Jericho Beach, and English Bay Beach. Kitsilano is also a popular one with some great skyline views and a commercial area right near it.

Some of these places host a couple of Vancouver’s many festivals and events. English Bay Beach hosts a great view for the Celebration of Light with tons of fireworks, and Hastings Park near the coast hosts the fun Pacific National Exhibition.

11. Because of the North Shore Mountains

What are these?:

These are the general mountain range lying across the inlet from Vancouver. They are home to many natural sights and wonders for urbanites to immerse into the region’s pre-colonial past.

What do they have?:

Several pretty parks and natural areas can be found like Cypress Falls Park, Mount Seymour Provincial Park, and the Cove Forest, to name a few. Some places offering spectacular vistas of Vancouver would be Cypress Provincial Park and Grouse Mountain.

Deep Cove seems to be a great place for boating and water sports inside the harbor. A bit further from these other spots is Golden Ears Provincial Park with its amazing waterways, mountain views, and splashing waterfalls. Another feature is the Sea to Sky Highway which takes a scenic coastal route along the mountains and up to Squamish.

Read more: Southern British Columbia

12. Because of the Sunshine Coast

What is it?:

Following the Strait of Georgia, this is a large coastal region outside of Vancouver. It’s completely outside the reach of the city but close enough to be on this list.

What does it have?:

Sunshine Coast has a lot of coastal towns and villages like Gibsons to provide a quiet rural feel to the Vancouver region. There are also pretty beaches and islands like Bowen with a sort of secret exclusive vibe. Offering markets and fairs, there are also inland beauties like the rugged Tetrahedron Provincial Park.

13. Because of its Suburbs

What are they?:

These are the cities surrounding Vancouver, some of them among the biggest cities in all of British Columbia. They offer cultural experiences with the metro’s diverse inhabitants while preserving lots of natural spaces and parks. The main cities are Richmond, North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Surrey, and Burnaby.

What do they have?:

Richmond is home to many Chinese cultural spots like the International Buddhist Society, among other temples. With different kinds of markets, including a night market, the region was also an important wharf and industrial center, showing at places like Steveston and the Gulf of Georgia Cannery. The park around the Olympic Oval is also very pretty with some cool architecture and waterside gardens.

North Vancouver has a nice waterfront with markets at Lonsdale Quay, as well as a cool Polygon Gallery. Attractions mixing the environmental landscape with the thrill of heights include Capilano Suspension Bridge, Lynn Canyon (and suspension bridge), and the Cleveland Dam. Among Surrey’s features is Peace Arch Park on the U.S. border. All of these suburbs boast beautiful parks and green spaces, especially Coquitlam and Burnaby.

14. Because of the Culture

Vancouver is a city known for its super diverse identity. Most of the residents come from a visible minority and about as many speak languages other than English (or French for that matter) at home. The urban area has a huge East Asian and Asia-Pacific influence as can be noted throughout, though the indigenous peoples and cultures are represented in many ways too.

Pushes for technological advancements, preservation of its nature, and the struggles of dealing with an astronomical cost of living all pose constant motivations for the city to develop. I mean, logging is still the main business in Vancouver, and the city has its own style of urban design with elements of conservation and the native landscape in mind.

A bit crowded in some places and a popular tourist destination, the city is used to constant cruise ships on its waters or visitors that flock in for its many events like TED Talks or sports competitions. Vancouver is also one of Canada’s main film industry hubs and a major place for the nation’s TV and film culture.

There’s so much art, history, sports, and excitement going on, but one never feels too far from nature. Forested parks and snow-capped mountains all form a part of the nature-minded concepts of this city. Vancouver is Pacific Northwest at its heart (or just west, if you’re Canadian), and it truly is a one-of-a-kind city.

**Did you like reading about Vancouver? For those that have been there or are from there, please share more with us about your amazing city! Read more posts here on Cult-Surf, and check my email to contact or collaborate; tietewaller@gmail.com. Thanks again, and be great! Peace.

Other info:

What makes Manitoba unique?- 9 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Canadian Museum of Human Rights near the forks in Winnipeg
Canadian Museum of Human RightsKrazytea

The middle of Canada is spelled with a big “M.” Manitoba is a province of wildlands and some wild weather swings. This nice place is where residents of the world have decided to live and to visit. Scratching its recent Covid-19 troubles, this province is a fascinating one with some interesting features. Read on to see nine reasons why the Keystone Province can be considered unique. But first, some geography and stuff.

MANITOBA: Quick Geography (& Stuff)

map of Manitoba province
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Canadian Provinces and Territories map, Manitoba highlighted in red
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Canada’s most centrally-located province is found in the middle interior of the country. One of the so-called Prairie provinces, it is the only one that isn’t landlocked and the one with the most humid climate. Its coastline comes in the northeast on Hudson Bay and it borders the United States to the south.

Read more: Canada on the Map; more Earth’s Face places

Back to the climate, Manitoba is mostly continental in the south and subarctic in the north. Major habitats include scattered highland regions, especially east around the Canadian Shield. Most of Manitoba, though, has flat or open landscapes, including prairies and boreal forests that turn into taiga and tundra in the north.

There are also many wetlands like the Hudson Plains and too many lakes to mention. The biggest are Lake Manitoba, Lake Winnipegosis, and Lake Winnipeg, among the largest lakes in the world. The vast majority of Manitobans live in the south which is where the capital, Winnipeg, is located.

Otherwise, the name comes from Cree and Ojibwe languages meaning “straits of Manitou” or the Great Spirit, referring to a place on Lake Winnipeg. The name could also be influenced by Assiniboine for “lake of the prairie.”

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So why is Manitoba so special? …

1. Because of Winnipeg

The entryway into all that makes Manitoba stand out has to be in its capital and biggest city. The ground zero of what makes Winnipeg unique is at the Forks, the general meeting point of two rivers where big markets, nice parks, a riverwalk, and boating can be experienced.

polar bears swimming in the Assiniboine Park Zoo, Winnipeg
Assiniboine Park ZooEva Blue

Also around Downtown are cultural centers like the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Canadian Museum of Human Rights. That last one mixes some incredibly fun architecture with a breakdown of human rights movements from throughout history. Cruising happily down the urban rivers and parks can take visitors to FortWhyte Alive, an environmental and recreational center with all kinds of interactive outdoor activities.

Another great natural space is Assiniboine Park which covers everything from forest to a beautiful pavilion to a great zoo with tons of polar bears. Important events occur throughout the year too like Folklorama (folk festival) and the Festival du Voyageur (heritage/winter celebration).

2. Because of Churchill (& Polar Bears!)

aurora borealis northern lights over Wapusk National Park, Manitoba
Aurora borealis over WapuskAnsgar Walk

If you’ve ever watched Animal Planet and seen that Canadian town where polar bears roam the streets, Churchill was probably the place. The city occasionally gets wild polar bears waltzing through it, but there are other attractions to be found. Kayaking on the river and beluga whale outings are especially popular.

There’s the major Prince of Wales Fort to be explored and the town is near to Wapusk National Park. Wapusk is a part of the tundra where visitors can spot wildlife, especially around Polar Bear Alley. There are also wrecked boats and the amazing Northern Lights that add an awesome appeal over the white winter landscape.

Try out: Wildlife tours in Churchill

3. Because of Historic Sites

Like in other parts of Canada, Manitoba’s history is well preserved. This shows in Lower Fort Garry, an old fur trading post by the Hudson’s Bay Company that allows visitors to get a taste of frontier life.

Near to that is the Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre. Here, birdwatching and environmental immersion meet in a cool-looking center out on the marshes. Out in the town of Steinbach is a Mennonite Heritage Village dedicated to preserving and teaching about the lifestyle of these rustic settlers.

4. Because of its Random Attractions

Being in North America’s Midwest, Manitoba is bound to have some random attractions. Random doesn’t have to mean bad though, since one of these is the International Peace Garden. This wonderful garden is shared with North Dakota in the U.S. and is a really cool gesture of friendship between the two nations.

There’s also the big Centre of Canada sign which signals to the longitudinal center of the whole country. Who else can claim that? Portage La Prairie is a curious little town that boasts the World’s Biggest Coca-Cola Can, plus a neat waterpark on an island called Splash Island. Random.

5. Because of Lake Winnipeg

I don’t want to dump on the other lakes, but Lake Winnipeg seems to be the most popular. Besides all the other great stuff one can do on a massive lake (e.g. fishing, boating, you name it), there are also some popular beaches to see. Most noteworthy are Albert Beach and the famous Grand Beach which hosts a fun Sand Castle Tournament.

Castles made of sand can lead you to Hecla Island, a full-blown island in the lake with beaches and a relaxing coastal resort. There’s also Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park with its lovely coast and lighthouse to explore.

6. Because of the Icelandic Communities

Norse battle reenactment in the town of Gimli, Manitoba
Norse battle reenactment in Gimli Travel Manitoba

So Canada is home to all sorts of ethnic communities, and adding to that unique list would be the Icelandic ones. Going back to Hecla, the town is home to a big Icelandic community.

A large area around Lake Winnipeg was actually known as New Iceland to settlers. They established the largest Icelandic community outside of Iceland in Manitoba! That’s why there are several heritage festivals like Íslendingadagurinn (try that one fast) to commemorate. The town of Gimli is also a major center with a Heritage Museum, plus some beaches of its own.

Read more: What makes Iceland unique

7. Because of Whiteshell & Pinawa Dam

Whiteshell Provincial Park is one of several unique nature parks in Manitoba. With sweeping rivers and woods, the park is special for having several strangely shaped lakes, especially at West Hawk Lake. This one was created by a meteor impact and has some very interesting views around it.

Not far is the Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Centre, centered around the Pinawa Dam. Imagine that. It’s an old dam with a really distinct design that has basically turned into these eerie ruins. Still, it’s a popular place for people to hike, hang out at the parks, or cruise under its watery arches.

8. Because of Parks like Riding Mountain

Riding Mountain just sounds fun, doesn’t it? Like the Matterhorn. Well, this national park has lots of nature to take in and enjoy, including a chance to witness the park’s bison and other wildlife. Scenic views and vast wetlands are also a feature at Spruce Woods Provincial Park, but with a twist. This park is home to a series of large sand dunes to climb in the midst of wild prairies.

From the southern plains to the eastern highlands, the Canadian Shield boasts impressive parks like Atikaki and Nopiming. These places mix rocky forests with beautiful lake shores, great for watching sunsets and Auroras under the wild sky.

9. Because of its Culture

Reading above, you could see how Manitoba’s settlers have shaped the face of the province. This of course stems from its First Nations and later Métis people (mostly of mixed Indigenous and French background) that played a big role in distinguishing it as a province.

From Icelanders to Mennonites to French and British fur traders, the rustic outdoors heritage of the settlers still shines in its modern lifestyle. Nature shapes a big part of Manitoba’s identity with wildlife being a core part of many attractions. Winters are brutal but people don’t shy away from a bit of lakeshore fun on those beaches.

Conserving nature and history is a big deal here in a place where it’s hard to say that polar bears don’t matter. I mean, they’re walking right there! But really, an attention to what makes all of human- and animal-kind special joined with a boldness to design and redesign itself all make Manitoba … well, it’s just a piece of what makes Manitoba a special place.

First off, thank you for coming. If you enjoyed this, please read about other unique places on Earth’s Face. Tell us what you like about Manitoba! Feel free to contact me with personal comments or for collaboration at tietewaller@gmail.com. Stop by again, and take care out there travelers!

About Guyana – The Actual English World

I really like this guy’s channel

What can we say about the nation of Guyana? It’s a fairly small country — well, most countries look small next to Brazil. Guyana is known for its preserved nature, unspoiled rainforests, scenic mountains, and wildlife. It’s a somewhat black, somewhat East Indian, really mixed country all around with a diverse and unique face in the world. Ready to learn more about the English-speaking world? Let’s talk about Guyana.

map of Guyana regions
regions of Guyana

Geography: The Basics

Officially known as the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, the first thing to know is that Guyana’s located in South America. The nation is divided into 10 regions which are broken into smaller divisions called neighborhoods. Each neighborhood, represent! The capital city is Georgetown within the Demerara-Mahaica region.

a wooden building in Georgetown, Guyanese capital
Georgetown – by Dinesh Chandrapal

The country has a total area of about 83,000 square miles (215,000 sq km). That makes it a bit bigger than Belarus and a bit smaller than Laos. The country’s population is over 743 thousand, slightly less than Bhutan or about the same as the city of Seattle.

Guyana on the Globe

political map of the Guianas region with Guyana highlighted in light red
all the Guianas – By ArnoldPlaton

So Guyana is actually part of a larger region called the Guianas. These are a group of countries and parts of countries in northern South America along the Atlantic coast, east of the Orinoco River. It shares land borders with Brazil, Suriname, and Venezuela with which it has an ongoing border dispute.

Most of the people and major towns are on the wet coastal plains, Georgetown included. Otherwise, Guyana has mountains inland at the Guiana Highlands. Mount Roraima is the highest peak which it shares on a 3-point border with Venezuela and Brazil.

Kaieteur Falls, large waterfall in Guyana
Kaieteur Falls – By Sorenriise

The region has a bunch of those table-top mountains called tepuis, made popular in the Pixar movie, Up. The Essequibo is the longest river forming some major islands at its mouth. Also in the highlands is Kaieteur Falls, believed to be the biggest single-drop waterfall in the world!

The Climate

Satellite image of Guyana
Guyana from space – By NASA

Pretty easy to describe, Guyana’s climate is mostly tropical in the whole country. Of course, it is cooler in the highlands and wetter in the lowlands. It is fairly moist throughout the year with a rainier and drier season.

savanna landscape in the Guyanese interior
savanna in Guyana – by Joshua Gobin

The coast and rivers have lots of wet plains, swamps, and mangroves, while sandy hills and savanna appear inland. There’s also a large rainforest region part of the greater Amazon forest system. Guyana has one of the largest and best-preserved forest areas in the world for its size.

What’s the History?

Patamona indians on the kaieteur plateau
Patamona people – By H. I. Perkins, Esq.

Like everywhere else in the Americas, Guyana was first inhabited by a number of indigenous peoples, most notably the Arawak and Carib tribes. The first Europeans that really settled there were the Dutch in the late 1500s, and they were able to set up a few distinct colonies there.

Later in the 1700s, the British took control, as you do. They eventually united the Dutch colonies into one and called it British Guiana, since there were other Guianas. Around this time, Venezuela started to dispute a large area of Guyanese territory as its own, claiming the area as Guayana-Esequiba.

And the claim has never really been resolved. Finally, in the 1970s Guyana gained independence from the UK, even though they’ve remained a part of the Commonwealth ever since.

Read more: about Canada and the British Commonwealth

One Weird Story

There’s one strange part of Guyana’s history that needed its own separate section. Just after its independence in the ’70s, the government leased some land to this obscure American religious movement called the Peoples Temple. Over time, the group formed a cult that got real dangerous real fast.

The group went so far as to shoot down a plane, killing a U.S. Congressman in the process after he had just paid them a visit. If that weren’t enough, the next day the group performed a mass suicide or murder drinking some kind of Kool-Aid rip-off with poison in it. It’s a really random and odd story that is now tied to the history of Guyana. Alrighty then.

Okay … & Culture?

Guyanese teens in extravagant costumes celebrating carnival
Guyanese people during Carnival – posted by Rachel Lovable

Even though Guyana is in South America, it is culturally a lot closer to the Caribbean. It’s considered a part of the greater mainland Caribbean region (places like Belize, Panama, south Florida, etc.), and this shows in the music, speech, cuisine, and other lifestyle aspects of the Guyanese people.

Read more: about Belize

In particular, the culture has strong Anglo-Caribbean ties due to British colonization. This shows in English being the official language and its highly diverse population, hailing heritage from India, China, Africa, Portugal, and other parts of Europe. This also shows in its religions, where most the people are Christian, but there’s a large Hindu minority. There’s a smaller minority of Muslims and other beliefs too.

smiling indigenous Guyanese girls in traditional wear
Guyana’s First Nations – by the BBC

The nation of course gets immigration and influences from neighboring countries, especially the other Guianas. Guyana is one of the poorer nations in the region though, and it faces lots of challenges and corruption despite being a country rich in oil. They share a common history of Dutch colonization, heavy slave and indentured labor, and plantation lifestyles that other places like Suriname had. Even though it’s so diverse, Guyana’s people are centered mostly in a small area, allowing the different people groups to mix in well.

In the isolated areas, indigenous culture is more prominent, stemming from the main groups: Wai-wai, Macushi, Patamona, Lokono, Kalina, Wapishana, Pemon, Akawaio, and Warao. Beyond that, several communities were formed by escaped African slaves called Maroons, adding a unique flavor to Guyanese identity.

Even though Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America, most people speak Guyanese Creole as a first language. A common feature in most Caribbean countries, Guyana still technically has its own language. Pretty cool.

Guyanese creole / pronunciation

**What do you think about Guyana? Did you know this stuff, or have you learned something new? I hope you can share more information with us, and I hope this article taught you more about the English-speaking world. Thanks for being a reader! Take care out there.

Why is Toronto Special? – 13 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Yonge Dundas Square Midtown Toronto in winter, special place in Toronto
Yonge-Dundas Square – by Kim Kaye

Toronto is a special city not just for Canada, but for the entire world. But what makes this place so unique? Here are 13 sort of clustered reasons why, even though there are many many more. Still, anytime is a good time to appreciate the Earth’s places. Let’s start with some quick geography. Where on the planet is it?

map showing toronto's location in canada and in ontario
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TORONTO: Quick Geography

As you may know or have read in my post about Southern Ontario, Toronto is not only the capital of Ontario province but is also the biggest (as in most-populous) city in all of Canada. With over 2 million 700 thousand in the city and over 5 million 400 thousand in the urban area, it is one of the biggest cities in North America too. Its land area is about 630 square km (391 sq mi). It’s about 21 km (13 mi) at the max top to bottom and about 43 km (27 mi) across.

Like most of the big cities, it is located in the southern part of Ontario on the northwest edge of Lake Ontario. Originally known as York, Toronto comes from Iroquoian languages meaning “place where trees stand in water” and/or “plenty” or “abundance.” The Iroquoian name was popularized by the name of a passage route in the region. The city has 6 larger districts that got sucked together to form the current city:

  • Old Toronto
  • Etobicoke
  • East York
  • North York
  • York
  • Scarborough

The city has a long coastline with offshore islands that create a protected harbor. Toronto is cut by several rivers and ravines, most notably the Don River, Humber River, and Rouge River. Despite this, the city is generally flat with more hilly terrain as you go inland. Let’s take a little tour.

1. Hoods + Squares – shopping & exploring

the garden car covered in graffiti art on a street in kensington market, Toronto
Garden Car, Kensington Market – By Suwannee.payne

The most popular and most visited part of Toronto is Old Toronto. Coincidently, it is the district that I’ll be focusing the most on, but by no means is it the only important part of town. When traveling to any city, some of the best things one can do is to tour the neighborhoods and buy something to remember the place by.

winter ice rink scene at evening in the nathan phillips square, Toronto
Nathan Phillips Square – By Benson Kua

One of the most popular hoods by far is Kensington Market, an old Jewish area that turned into an overall hip place to visit. There are all sorts of local shops, street art, and diverse food options. It’s famous for being a marketplace and hotspot for the city’s diversity.

Other quirky hoods good for spending that cash are Queen Street West and Yorkville. Chinatown is also very popular, and a great place to find unique items and foods, let alone get immersed into a different culture.

street scene in chinatown toronto
Chinatown – By The Canadian Roadgeek

Toronto is full of other ethnic neighborhoods to explore too. If you like big shopping centers, places like the Toronto Eaton Centre and the Scarborough Civic Centre are right on the mark.

Another big one is Dundas Square, something like Times Square or LA Live in the heart of Old TO. And Nathan Phillips Square is the main square that turns into a big ice rink in the winter. These spots are excellent for feeling the big city vibe.

2. Bricks + Castles – history & art

winter at casa loma castle, Toronto
Casa Loma – By Casa Loma

One really unique place in Toronto is the Casa Loma. This big Gothic Revival-style castle is a really popular place to visit. It’s somewhat of an urban getaway since it’s surrounded by gardens and rests on a hill. The views of the Entertainment District from here are really pretty, and it’s a nice contrast to the main area of the city.

ruin-like structures at Guild Park and Gardens
Guild Park & Gardens – By Jeff Hitchcock

Another neat place is Guild Park and Gardens, a former artists colony set in the woods down in Scarborough. Just off Lake Ontario, there are several relics that were piled together to look like old ruins. It really gives an ancient feel to this New World city.

Speaking of Casa Loma, the bricks used to build it were brought from the Evergreen Brick Works. This is a special site that functioned as a brick factory for about a hundred years. It’s been turned into a park and is now dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability. Now that’s a cool turnaround!

3. Parks + Greens – nature

oaks at high park, toronto
High Park – By Chen Feng (Damn Lee)

Toronto has a ton of parks, and locals are never too far from nature. Probably the most iconic one is High Park, a huge area with lakes, trails, touring trains, and a tranquil atmosphere. The park is especially popular in the spring when tons of cherry blossoms burst into bloom.

fall foliage at the rouge national urban park, Toronto
Rouge National Urban Park – by Jeffrey Eisen

Other notable parks are Riverdale Park East and Trinity Bellwoods Park, the latter being super popular among locals. On the outskirts of town is the Rouge National Urban Park, a massive natural space to just get lost in nature.

creek and waterfall at edwards gardens in toronto's botanical garden
Edwards Gardens – by Toronto Botanical Garden

Nearby is the Toronto Zoo, one of the biggest and best zoos in the Americas. In a similar vein, there are the Edwards Gardens, a beautiful section of the city’s Botanical Gardens to explore and get immersed into TO’s floral side. Urban nature: check.

4. Arts + Museums – culture

royal ontario museum in toronto at night with full yellow moon
Royal Ontario Museum – by Lotus Raphael

So Toronto is stocked with museums and galleries. I mean, just infested with them. The cool thing about several of these is the really flashy, almost futuristic design of the buildings. Two museums in particular that fit this description are the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Not just beautifully designed, these two museums are among the biggest and most renowned in North America (ROM is actually the biggest in Canada).

pink curvy exhibit inside art gallery of ontario, toronto
Art Gallery of Ontario – by Tony Reid

One incredible museum dedicated to Islamic and Persian art is the Aga Khan Museum. The site holds a pretty building with gardens and waterways around it. Probably the most unusual is the Bata Shoe Museum. That’s right, a museum dedicated to shoes! It looks a lot more interesting than it sounds, mounting shoes anywhere from ancient Inuits to more recent basketball players.

horse graffiti art in graffiti alley, special place in Toronto
Graffiti Alley – by Dylan McLeod

One special mention goes to Graffiti Alley, a section of the city with tons of street art. This popular part of town can be observed on your own or with a guided tour, but several parts of the city boast their local artistic talent.

5. Eastside Old Town – marketplaces & architecture

crosswalk in east Old Town, Toronto with view of the Gooderham building and more modern buildings in the background
Gooderham Building – by Lotus Raphael

Old Town is Toronto’s historic core and one of the most popular neighborhoods. Of course, owing to an awesome contrast of old and new architecture like the Royal Bank Plaza and Gooderham Building, there’s more to it than that. The most famous and most traditional market is St. Lawrence Market. It’s a nice place to see the traditional side of TO while getting your grub on.

Christmas market and lighted christmas tree in the distillery district, Toronto
Christmas Market, Distillery District – by Jessica Lam

One extremely important place is the Distillery District, a neighborhood considered the biggest collection of Victorian-era brick buildings in North America. It’s full of shops and eateries amidst the historic buildings. It also happens to be an area for holiday magic. The Christmas Market and Light Festival are held here when the streets are all decorated with lights and Christmas trees. The whole thing just looks like a magical place to be.

We also can’t talk about Canada without mentioning hockey, and guess what? The Hockey Hall of Fame is on this side of town! Check out some Stanley Cups and famous jerseys for all the sports lovers.

6. Ontario Place – history & attractions

Ontario Place and the cinesphere on the harbor
Ontario Place Cinesphere – By Raysonho

A unique part of Toronto on its own is Ontario Place. It’s a big complex that houses all kinds of parks, an amphitheater, exhibits, museums, stadiums, and a marina. One could spend a good part of their day just roaming around this waterfront area.

There are also some important historic sites here like the Princes’ Gates, a majestically arched gateway, or Fort York. This place is a fort that was used by the British back in the early 1800s. It still stands there today to show just how awesome Toronto really is.

7. Pubs + Temples – miscellaneous attractions

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Toronto, special Hindu temple
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Toronto – By Ian Muttoo

I also couldn’t mention Toronto without talking about pubs. The city was very popular for its pubs and breweries, such as the Mill Street Brew Pub. The Madison Avenue Pub, or the “Maddy,” is made out of the joining of manors that morphed into a house now popular to the pub-lic.

half house in Toronto, unique place in Ontario
Half House – by Atlas Obscura

Another weird place that has turned into a kind of landmark is the Half House, an old home whose owners on one side refused to let it be demolished. Now it sits as an old relic practically cut “in half” and surrounded by more modern buildings. It’s a pretty wacky feature of the city.

One last random landmark is the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple. It’s this really big and beautifully designed Hindu temple dedicated to this specific branch of the religion located out on the edges of Etobicoke. It’s really beautiful inside and out, worth a visit no matter what your faith is.

8. Entertainment District – attractions & landmarks

neon streets at dusk in Toronto entertainment district
Entertainment District – by Elza Kurbanova

Like I said earlier, this is probably the most visited and most popular part of Toronto. It’s the site of the famous CN Tower, after all, the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere. Besides going to the top and taking in the wide views, daredevils can go a bit higher and take a walk around the edges of this lofty tower.

Home to other popular places like the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and the Rogers Centre, lots of events are held on this side of town. A great place to find entertainment (as the name promises) there are several popular theaters and event halls.

Shiny buildings in Toronto, Roy Thomson Hall in entertainment district
Roy Thomson Hall – By Benson Kua

These include places like the Four Season Centre and Roy Thomson Hall. Some even come with fancy names like the Royal Alexandra Theatre or Princess of Wales Theatre. An important movie theater is the TIFF Lightbox that hosts all kinds of movie events throughout the year, including the International Film Festival.

9. Festivals + Events

fireworks at night over entertainment district in Toronto
Party in Toronto – by Stephen H

The Toronto International Film Festival is a very special local event, by the way. Others include the Taste of Danforth Greek festival, Canada Day, Pride Week, and the Caribbean Carnival. Yeah, enjoy that sun!

caribana caribbean festival in Toronto
Caribana Festival – By Loozrboy

In the dark though is an all-night festival called Nuit Blanche dedicated to artwork and getting people to Scarborough. Another creepy event is the Ghost Walk that happens around Halloween time. People can dress up in costumes and roam around Old Town decorated like a big haunted house. If you’re into that.

10. Bluffs + Waterfronts – coasts & nature

view of downtown Toronto from a park in the Toronto Islands, Ontario
view from Toronto Islands – by Scott Webb

Since Toronto is on a huge lake, you can bet there’s a ton of waterfront to enjoy. Canada’s not particularly famous for having beaches, but Toronto does have a few decent ones. There’s even a neighborhood called The Beaches with a few to lie on.

Closer to Old Town there’s Cherry Beach and the tiny Sugar Beach. It is small but that adds to its unique getaway feel. The umbrellas splayed out on the sand make it seem like a little tropics of the north.

sunny day at Cherry Beach, small beach in Old Toronto, Canada
Cherry Beach – by Ian Kirkland

As far as actual waterfront, there is the Harbourfront area next to the Entertainment District where one can enjoy the harbor, walk around, catch a boat ride, or even ice skate in the winter. Just ahead of that are the Toronto Islands, a set of isles right off the city’s coast. The most popular is Centre Island with its own calm beaches and urban park. Some of the best views of T Dot’s skyscrapers are from these islands.

cliffs and blue waters at the Scarborough Bluffs in Toronto, Ontario
Scarborough Bluffs – by Meri Vasilevski

Next to the harbor is the Music Garden which hosts live classical performances and was designed based on one of Bach’s compositions. Getting a ways out of the busy center, Scarborough has a somewhat isolated area called the Scarborough Bluffs. These are a series of forested hills and cliffs overlooking the lake. The colors are spectacular in summer and the place even shelters a few nice beaches. Didn’t expect that one from Canada.

11. Mississauga – city

iconic Marilyn Monroe buildings in Mississauga, near Toronto
Marilyn Monroe Buildings – by Aaron Ledesma

Toronto’s got a lot of suburbs, but its biggest one is Mississauga. The international airport getting into TO is here, but there’s more to this city than that. Mississauga is coastal just like its larger anchor, so there are some lakeside parks with great views to explore.

Port Credit on the Credit River, Mississauga near Toronto
Port Credit on the Credit River – By Jjj84206

There’s also the Credit River and port which is like a peaceful nature getaway that takes hikers into the woods. First and foremost is Celebration Square. This place is “celebrated” as one of the best squares anywhere and is home to many events year-round.

It’s close to pretty buildings like city hall and the famed Marilyn Monroe Towers. These babies look like giant curvy blob-morphs from another planet and are some of the most striking things you’ll find in the Toronto area.

12. Suburbs – nature & attractions

roller coaster at Canada's Wonderland theme park, fun in the Toronto area
rides at Canada’s Wonderland, Vaughan – By Jeremy Thompson

Continuing that thought, the city is surrounded by ideal suburbs. Whether it’s Brampton or Oakville or Oshawa, these places really add to the appeal of Toronto overall. Filled with conservation areas like Heart Lake Park and hiking trails, most of the suburbs are a great way to explore the more natural, rural side of the urban area.

Heart Lake Conservation Area, Vaughan near Toronto, Canada
Heart Lake, Brampton – By Mykola Swarnyk

Adding to its conservation parks, Vaughan is also special for being home to Canada’s Wonderland, Canada’s largest and earliest major theme park. And of course, Burlington has the enchanted Royal Botanical Gardens with some mountainous scenery around Mt. Nemo. Visitors can get hyped at a theme park and chill out at a heart-shaped lake afterward. What could be more fun?

centerpiece at Canada's Wonderland theme park, Vaughan, Ontario
Canada’s Wonderland – By Jeremy Thompson

13. Culture (+ Closing)

We all know (by now) that Toronto is the biggest city and probably the most diverse in Canada. This city is famed for having open arms to the world’s people and allowing for so many cultures and nationalities to coexist. The city’s people don’t just reside here but are celebrated by the many festivals, events, and exhibits dedicated to them every year.

It’s a massive metropolis that has often been ahead of the pack with its culture, music, film industry, and economic might. Still, in all its growth, Toronto remembers to protect its natural environment and to promote sustainability in a lasting way. This city, like many places in Canada, doesn’t let the cold get to it. Whether it’s ice skating, snowboarding, or hockey, locals know how to make the most of the cold dark months with a face-full of lights … and some good brew.

**Okay world lovers, that’s it for Toronto! I hope you enjoyed this post and learned something about this incredible city. I also hope I showed you part of why Toronto is a special place. Are you from Toronto or ever visited there? Let us know what you would add (or take away) from this little list. I appreciate your readership, and take care of yourselves. Peace.

Why is Southern Ontario Special? 9 Cool Reasons (Besides Toronto) 🇨🇦

You read it right! We’re going to look at just the southern portion of Ontario. Welcome to the land of great lakes! (or beautiful waters) Unlike the previous Earth’s Faces in Iceland, Canada has some remarkably large subdivisions called provinces. Since this province is so big, I decided to break it up between north and south. It’s already one of the most iconic parts of Canada, but what (besides Toronto) makes southern Ontario so special? Let’s take a look … sh-hall we?

map of Ontario highlighting the southern region of the province
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Canadian Provinces and Territories, highlighting Ontario in red
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Southern Ontario: Quick Geography

The southern portion of Ontario is a very interesting part of Canada, being the region with the densest population. Several big urban areas are found here, including Toronto (Canada’s biggest city, Ontario’s provincial capital), and Ottawa, the nation’s capital.

It’s a region surrounded by the United States on three sides and is the southernmost part of the country. Most of the region is a type of lowland naturally covered in mixed-wood forests. Being a part of the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence River valley, part of its borders are traced by Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie.

The province is actually named after Lake Ontario, which in turn probably comes from Wyandot or other Iroquoian languages. It means something like “great lake” or “beautiful water,” fitting since Ontario is home to nearly 250 thousand lakes! Some other major ones are Lake Simcoe and Lake St. Clair. Further to the north, you start to hit the boreal shield. Here, the forests are colder and denser, and the terrain gets more hilly. So, what are some special features?

1. Niagara Falls – quaint cities & waterfalls

a colonial style building in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
Niagara-on-the-Lake – by Josh Appel

Let’s just forget about Toronto (for now). The next thing that might come to mind when you think of southern Ontario should be beautiful Niagara Falls. These are some of the most famous waterfalls in the world, so I don’t need to explain too much. Besides the gushing rapids themselves, the falls sit right along the actual city of Niagara Falls. This is cool because you can be in the urban area, stroll in the park, be up in a hotel, and see the falls right next door.

frozen Niagara Falls in the winter, Southern Ontario
Niagara Falls in winter – by Elvir K

Comparing to Buffalo, New York, for example, the falls are a lot closer to the city. Still, another special thing about Niagara Falls is its proximity to other unique cities. You have easy access to Buffalo, not to mention the city of Niagara Falls, New York. Inside Ontario, there are some quiet colonial towns with a laidback vibe like St. Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake. These cities deserve their own exploration with unique styles and even some of their own waterfalls. There’s also the Whirlpool Aero Car which takes you up above the valley to see the rushing waters from above. Just don’t look down for too long.

2. Thousand Islands – islands & history

The Thousand islands, a unique place in southern ontario, canada
Thousand Islands region – By Teresa Mitchell

The Thousand Islands is another very special part of Ontario. Like Niagara, this region is shared with New York state. It’s basically a series of isles and islets, numbering way more than 1,000, that straddle the mighty St. Lawrence River. There are boat tours and island hopping, views of towering bridges, and majestic castles to explore.

It’s a very cool-looking region that amazed me to learn about. Being from California and all, I had no idea about these kinds of places. If you’re coming from Lake Ontario, the historic city of Kingston sits right at the opening of the river. It seems like a great entry point to learn more about the region and take in the vibes of yet another Canadian city.

3. Ottawa – the capital

parliament hill in ottawa, canada's capital
Parliament Hill – by Shubham Sharan

You know I had to include the capital of Canada! I get the sense that not many people outside of Canada know that Ottawa is the capital. It’s not as talked about in the world media, but it’s a very unique city. Being the capital, you can expect some important government buildings and astonishing architecture; look no further than Parliament Hill, towering over the Ottawa River.

the big spider sculpture at the national gallery of canada, ottawa
National Gallery of Canada – by Pascal Bernardon

One really striking building in these parts is the Library of Parliament which is amazingly beautiful. It reminds me of when I learned about the big library in Washington, DC. I mean, I really am surprised at how pretty libraries are in some parts of the world. Okay, so you have great museums like the National Gallery of Canada with its giant spider sculpture and the Canadian Museum of Nature. Important historic buildings are here like the St. Patrick Basilica and the old Laurier House, once home to the prime ministers.

For those just looking to chill, the city is stacked with urban parks, including those along the Rideau riverside. Rideau, by the way, is that river that freezes over in winter where people can go ice skating through the city. Riding around in the snow past beautiful buildings seems like an awesome experience to me. Ottawa is also interesting for being right on the border with Quebec, the predominantly French-speaking part of Canada. There’s lots of culture and lots of fun to be had out here.

4. Interior Parks – nature

fall foliage in algonquin provincial park, southern ontario
Algonquin Provincial Park – by Dylan McLeod

Ontario has tons of provincial and national parks, and some of the prettiest ones are inland. Algonquin Provincial Park is probably the prime example. Acting as a sort of natural divider between northern and southern Ontario, it’s a heavily forested area cut by scenic lakes, rivers, and isles. It’s especially pretty in the autumn when the leaves change colors.

cliffs and lake at bon echo provincial park, ontario
Bon Echo Provincial Park – by Ariana Kaminski

Another standout park is Bon Echo. It holds similar forested hills and dramatic landscapes to Algonquin but shines alone as far as scenic parks go. Further south you have rocky waterways like the Elora Gorge, great for canoeing or splashing in the water. One more important mention is the Bruce Trail. It’s this historic trail now used mostly by hikers to witness some of the awesome Ontario scenery. It goes from Niagara Falls all the way up to our next unique spot in the Bruce Peninsula.

5. Tobermory & Bruce Peninsula – nature & adventure

green rocky shores and blue water at tobermory in the bruce peninsula, ontario
Tobermory, Bruce Peninsula – by Zen zeee

Again, from California guys, I’m sorry. When I first saw footage of Tobermory, I could not believe this place was in Canada. It is a region right along the edge of the larger Bruce Peninsula within the midsection of Lake Huron. The main striking feature here is the blueness of the water cut into by all kinds of rocks, grottoes, and cliffs.

The land is forested and honestly looks like somewhere out of the Caribbean during the summer. It’s a really pretty mixture of acrylic greens and blues, all set aside the massive lake backdrop. Travelers can explore caves, dive in natural pools, and even witness some funky-shaped rocks like the famous Flowerpot. And it’s not just Tobermory at the tip. The entire peninsula is full of pretty and interesting sites. Natural surprises speak loud out here.

6. The Great Lakes – lake shores

marshes and boardwalk in point pelee national park, southern ontario
Point Pelee National Park – By Tango7174

I know, Tobermory is on Lake Huron. I had to give it its own little section. Still, there is so much to see in the other Great Lakes. Sticking with Lake Huron, there’s an area called the Georgian Bay Islands, a series of islands and forests great for exploring nature. Right on the south of Huron is the city of Sarnia. Besides being another city to explore, there are also some nice beaches there to enjoy (at the right time of year, of course).

sunset on lake ontario with new growth trees coming from the water, sandbanks national park, canada
Sandbanks Provincial Park – By Jasonpettit

Lake Erie has a couple of (literal) points of interest like Long Point and Point Pelee. These places hold sandbanks and boardwalks where you can walk across the marshes and observe wildlife. Pelee National Park is actually the southernmost point in Canada, holding a few islands out in Lake Erie. Lake Ontario obviously has lots of cool towns and cities to stop at. A bonus place I want to mention is Sandbanks Provincial Park, a section of the lake dotted by hills of sand and pretty blue waters, plus some tranquil beaches. And speaking of Lake Ontario …

7. Hamilton – city & nature

albion falls in the city of hamilton, ontario
Albion Falls, Hamilton – by Joe deSousa

Southern Ontario has lots of neat cities, but Hamilton stands out in the crowd. Not just the name of a famous play, it’s also one of the larger cities outside the immediate Toronto area with its own special identity. With the enchanting Royal Botanical Gardens and castles like the Dundurn, you don’t need much to appreciate this place. As if those kinds of features weren’t enough, Hamilton has a number of urban waterfalls to boot. Two prominent ones are Tews Falls and Albion Falls, but the city is loaded with natural spaces and parkland. But it’s not the only city worth a mention.

8. Explore Other Cities – more cities & culture

the ambassador bridge and view of windsor, ontario
Ambassador Bridge & Windsor – by N Bandaru

Given that southern Ontario is the most densely populated part of the country, you have to imagine there are some other cities worth their own shout-outs. This part of Canada is home to several of the nation’s very top universities. Take Toronto, Western, McMaster, and Waterloo, to name a couple. Education: check.

Windsor is a cool city kinda known for being a great place to view downtown Detroit. They also have a flashy yet homegrown art scene like the Chimczuck Museum, Art Gallery of Windsor, and the Sculpture Park. Some of these are on a parkway along the Detroit River, right next to the international Ambassador Bridge. And that’s not to mention the city’s extensive street art.

Stratford is famous for its local festival dedicated to theater. It has been one of the biggest Shakespeare festivals in the world. Fittingly, the town is home to the Shakespeare Gardens. Little Dresden is home to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This place is an important historic site for Canadians and Americans, being a station for former slave, Josiah Henson. After escaping from Maryland, he settled near this town where he wrote about the Underground Railroad and supported abolition. That’s worth celebrating!

Of course, you can’t talk about celebrations without mention of the Oktoberfest in Kitchener-Waterloo. These two cities come together to form one of the biggest Oktoberfests outside of Germany, adding on to their province’s pride.

9. Culture (And Closing)

My my. Southern Ontario is definitely one of the most important parts of Canada. It’s the region where Canada was essentially born and remains at the center of Canadian industry, entertainment, and economy to this day. It’s a place where American and Canadian identities meet since they’re so close together. In the cities, diversity runs wild and influences from around the globe morph together in this one section of the map.

Canada’s history is embedded into this part of Ontario and is, in many ways, the cradle of the nation’s English-Canadian identity. After all, many of the other provinces were populated by people who were leaving Ontario. This region is home to many of the Canadians that the world knows by way of entertainment, and is the political center of the nation as well. Borrowing bits and pieces from all over, southern Ontario is a unique place all by itself.

You can find more posts about the world’s special places in the Earth’s Face section.

**I hope you all enjoyed learning about this special place in Canada. I know some of my readers are from Canada, so please share what you know about southern Ontario. Are you from there? Let me know if there’s anything you would change or add in this post. And, as always, keep that adventurous learning spirit! Peace to you.

What Makes Iceland Unique? Part 1- Capital Region, Southern Peninsula

Intro

If you’re anything like me, you know you love to travel, discover new cultures, and learn about the beauty in this wonderful planet we live on. Today I want to introduce (or reintroduce?) you to a beautiful, remarkable little Nordic country called Iceland. And it’s very apropos that we start with a look at the uniqueness of these two places: the Capital Region and the Southern Peninsula. You’ll be able to find more posts like this about many parts of the world in Earth’s Face.

I want to be real with you all: I haven’t been to these places or a majority of the places I’m going to write about in this series. It’s not a list of recommendations for your travels, since I can’t recommend a place I haven’t been to. This is part of a personal project of mine where I research the world’s state divisions out of pure pleasure, looking on maps, watching videos, and reading articles. I want to share what I’ve learned with you, and I encourage you to discover more for yourself. This is not a travel list. I am only sharing what to me seems to make these places unique in the world, to encourage you (and myself) to visit, or at least appreciate them.

What makes these two places so special, after all? Let me make my case…

Höfuðborgarsvæðið or the Capital Region highlighted red on a map of Iceland
Capital Region – By Karte: NordNordWest

Höfuðborgarsvæðið

Capital region: Quick Geography

So if you’re not Icelandic and you know anything about Iceland, you know it has some difficult place names to pronounce. I mean, just try and read that subheading. Ho-fud-bor-ga… and then just give up. If I could transliterate it to English it might be “Hofudburgersvedid,” but that’s not much easier. In simpler terms, this is the Capital Region, and it has a lot that makes it unique.

Hallgrímskirkja church building in the Capital Region, Reykjavik, discussing what makes Iceland unique
famous Hallgrímskirkja – by Yves Alarie

Just to catch up on some basic geography, this (you probably can tell by the name) is where the national capital, Reykjavík, is located, which is also the region’s capital. In southwest Iceland, it has a coastline with hills and mountains in the interior. It’s in sort of a mixed Alpine and Tundra zone, though these features run the same for pretty much all of Iceland. Okay, so what makes it stand out?

Features & Places

One thing right off the bat is that this region is home to the biggest, most populous city in Iceland. Most Icelanders live in or around the capital, which is of great importance. That’s because most of the major cultural, economic, and tourism stems out from this region specifically. There’s no better place to get an introduction to this awesome country and its people than to start in the Capital Region.

A building with interesting architecture in Reykjavik, discussing what makes Iceland unique
Cool architecture – by Michael Held
a street in Reykjavik painted with rainbow colors on the pavement and with small shops and apartments, discussing what makes Iceland unique
street in Reykjavík – by Square Lab

There’s so much art here. Besides the urban art, you also get a surprising amount of museums. This includes even the Phallological Museum, a quirky (or kinky) museum full of phallic imagery. Who’d have known? There’s also tons of unique architecture, like the cultural Nordic House, the Perlan, and a rad Voyager Ship sculpture/statue right on the coast. And I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of the almighty Hallgrímskirkja, the tall iconic church building. I had to look up the spelling on that one.

Capital Region is also a primary shoot-off point for lots of outdoor excursions in the area. Besides the famous whale watching, there’s this vast sweeping landscape of mountains, lava fields, volcanoes, and gorgeous rock formations right outside of the cities. This contrast makes the region really unique within Iceland itself. Some very interesting natural places to check out would be Heiðmörk, Reykjanesfólkvangur, and Krýsuvík, to name a few. That last one is actually in another part of the region which is broken into two separate sections, also unique in Iceland. This goes all the way to the southern coast where there are these long sharp cliffs staring out over the North Atlantic. If I can say anything else, the Northern Lights are a stunning backdrop to the city and mountains beyond.

Krýsuvíkurbjarg cliffs over the ocean in Capital Region, discussing what makes Iceland unique
Cliffs at Krýsuvíkurbjarg – By Wojciech Strzelecki “Wojtrix”
Suðurnes or Southern Peninsula region highlighted red on a map
Suðurnes – By A Red Cherry

Suðurnes

Southern Peninsula: Quick Geography

This is easy. The Southern Peninsula is just below the Capital Region in the far southwest corner of Iceland. It sits on a peninsula (surprise!) and right on a continental divide between the North American and European plates. Its capital is called Keflavík, part of a larger municipality called Reykjanesbær. I know, the names! But you’re here so you love it.

a sweeping landscape with clouds, snowy rock fields and grassy plains, discussing what makes Iceland unique
open landscape – by Chris Liverani

Features & Places

A big chunk of Iceland is actually in this geothermal, volcanic hot spot zone. That explains all the spewing bubbling landscape stuff. The Southern Peninsula is no different, and there are lots of awesome geological features like the famous Blue Lagoon hot springs. Those are a stunning set of steamy blue pools ahead of an icy, rugged backdrop. There’s Trölladyngja, a type of volcanic system with alluring colors and rocks. Besides this, there many signs of the Viking past, such as the ruins in Selatangar.

the Blue Lagoon in Southern Peninsula, steaming blue hot springs in a snowy setting, showing what makes Iceland unique
Blue Lagoon – by Jeff Sheldon

Several artifacts are well-preserved in the Viking Museum, set just outside of Reykjanesbær. There’s even an Icelandic Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum there if you want to see that. Lastly, I want to mention the town of Grindavík. This place is a stunning coastal town with awesome natural features just outside of it. Throughout Iceland are unique cottages and lodging you won’t find outside of the Nordic world. The remoteness and quaintness of them mixed with the inspiring backgrounds all add to what makes these regions special.

Culture (AKA Last Thoughts)

These two regions are the perfect introduction to Iceland. They have an impressive amount of culture, art, and natural features. Being the prime places of settlement and tourism in the country, it’s easy to find tours or things to see. This is where you want to go to get a taste of mainstream (or not so much) culture and identity in Iceland. Most of the country’s famous and influential persons come from these two regions, and most immigrants come to them. This makes for a more international and diverse experience as well. These were also significant locations for early Nordic settlement and a base camp for the Vikings that would go on to reach North America well before Columbus. The rich mixture of historic and current Nordic culture is part of what makes the Capital Region and the Southern Peninsula unique.

a brightly colored landscape of fields and rock formations and a cloudy blue sky above
colorful Arctic landscape

**I want to personally thank you for reading! I love that you love learning and exploring. Please share any experiences you have in these regions of Iceland or if there is anything you would add to this brief list. And one last thing: Go out and explore your world! It’s a beautiful place.

Learn on YouTube

Here is a list of 20 YouTube channels that you can use to help you in your language learning process. Some of these are for beginners, intermediate, Portuguese-speaking learners. Check these channels, and comment below if you know anymore great English channels!

Channels for Learning English on YouTube

Channel Robin MacPherson: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheLifeOfRob

  • Explains mostly how to learn languages from a polyglot viewpoint. His videos are very laidback and relaxing to watch.

Tim Explica: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGxIAAnrhkCy6H2DRz-t6Qw

  • An American who loves to visit Brazil and teach Brazilians about English and American culture, and vice-versa. He also has a Spanish-centered channel somewhere.

Cambly (Brasil): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFmw9hQKH5l2lNwyfvaDIXg

  • Has weekly live and recorded English lessons geared toward Brazilian learners. They have a regular channel for general English students, and they probably have a channel for other specific languages.

Speak English with Vanessa: https://www.youtube.com/user/theteachervanessa

  • A great teacher with an easy accent and interesting interactive lessons.

Go Natural English: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9Pbt3q-ihROg1lmmmQdU2w

  • A channel for learning natural English expression.

The English Coach: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-g0gSStENkYPXFRsKrlvyA

  • Another good channel to practice your English skills.

Learn English with TV Shows: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKgpamMlm872zkGDcBJHYDg

  • Practice English watching popular TV shows, series, interviews and even movies. Now they have music and books as well!

mmmEnglish: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrRiVfHqBIIvSgKmgnSY66g

  • A super encouraging and helpful channel from an Australian point of view. The teacher is very nice and speaks in an easy manner.

Learn English with Papa Teach Me: https://www.youtube.com/user/papateachme

  • A funny and entertaining channel about English from a cool British guy. He often gets people from his life involved or does little cartoons as well.

SmallAdvantages: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCskEPRzGlsYHs_a5SJyCXag

  • A highly informative channel about English from an American that loves Brazil, partially in Portuguese. He loves teaching curiosities about the language.

Rachel’s English: https://www.youtube.com/user/rachelsenglish

  • An awesome teacher who focuses on better pronunciation and achieving fluency.

Accent’s Way English with Hadar: https://www.youtube.com/user/accentsway

  • Another great teacher for accents and a great inspiration since she is not a native speaker but has a nearly perfect American accent.

Canguro English: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCr2TgqpOrU3kUTkVy5XoLow

  • An insightful, funny and thoughtful channel from a cool British guy who really cares about you getting better with English. No false promises or gimmicks here.

Learn English with Bob the Canadian: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZJJTxA36ZPNTJ1WFIByaeA

  • A quirky Canadian guy that teaches English by presenting real situations rather than telling about it.

Easy Languages: https://www.youtube.com/user/magauchsein

  • A great tool for reading custom-made subtitles and watching native speakers in action on the streets.

Simple English Videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/vickihollettvideo

  • These are short and silly videos to aid in English understanding.

Lost in the Pond: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqabPJa-N6ORAlO5yMBtWXg

  • An Englishman now living in the U.S. with his American wife. He compares lots of accent and regional differences.

Steve Kaufmann: https://www.youtube.com/user/lingosteve

  • A channel about learning languages from one of the most renowned language learning experts.

Luca Lampariello: https://www.youtube.com/user/poliglotta80

  • An Italian guy with a great English accent who loves to teach about learning languages proficiently and becoming a polyglot.

Speak English with Tiffani: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGLGVRO_9qDc8VDGGMTcUiQ

  • Lastly we have this wonderful channel. Tiffani is a super enthusiastic and optimistic teacher. She has lots of experience teaching and always has a smile (and a couple of excited shouts) in her lessons. She gives great tips for learning languages, helpful ideas for you to think in English, and often finishes her lessons with a personal life story.