A Travellerspoint blog

Canada

Romance and Quebec City

sunny 16 °C
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Well, Quebec City definitely hasn’t lost its appeal. We arrived, and much to Jacks delight, we again checked in to a castle, Fairmont Chateau Frontenac. This time, we had a family sized room, with a couch! Mick loved this place! we set up our coffee station, complete with our black plastic spoon we have used since LA (they don’t have plastic spoons in most places, they use swizzle sticks!) and set off to get milk!

Jack of course, would like to eat room service every day- I’m sure he will try that when we get home! We set out to explore, and for me, I wanted to remember the last time I was here too!

Mick said it must be a really romantic place……as I grabbed his hand to hold on to! And it is. French music, accents, that beautiful lull of their language….I love it so much. I may be biased, but to me the language is so beautiful- Mick and I even talked about taking classes when we get home. (I may have also suggested we just move here for a year!)

Dinner was great- a beautiful little restaurant just over the little park from the hotel. This place, with cobbled streets and lanes, street buskers who are actually really good, and command a huge crowd, the food and how polite everyone is (except the taxi drivers- they are crazy fast, impatient and gruff!), really evokes emotion. I have had quite a few tears so far this trip, many ‘pinch yourself’ moments, many moments of pure bliss, pleasure and amazement at just how beautiful this part of the world is. I could see myself living in Canada, and loving it- I would love to see winter here!

So, Mick and I wandered the boardwalk outside the hotel, staring at the wonders of the old town below us, and excited for what the next day was to bring.

We set off (of course after I had been up at 5,30am for the obligatory sunrise photographs) and got our hop on hop off tickets. Jack, is at the stage where he hates these bus trips, but surprisingly listens intently once we get on! From the old town, the Fort, the Plains of Abraham, the lower town, the markets and the history. There is nothing not to love here.

We did lunch in the old town down below and headed to the markets. The fresh fruit and vegetables (saw brussel sprouts being sold still on the stem- amazing!), the bread, the cheese and ice wine everywhere. I often think of the luggage I’ll be dragging back and decide not to purchase various things. (Believe me, I’ve still purchased plenty and my waist is living proof!) Did I tell you how much I love their cheese?

I was very happy to see a Harpist, who Judy and I had seen on our last visit. Still playing with such love and emotion.A beautiful instrument with a beautiful sound- I bought one of his CD’s so I can lay down and dream of Quebec City when I get home.

Thursday night we went to a great restaurant as recommended by friends in Montreal. Le Saint Amour. Not cheap, very, very nice, but somewhat scary as the waist on my dress (my one and only dressy dress I wore to the wedding) is all beaded, and I was in real fear of breathing out too much and starting an avalanche of beads flying everywhere, all over the parquetry floor……..you will be pleased to know it didn’t break…..but alas, I have now posted it back home for thinner days!

The food was divine, as usual. The matching wines were perfect and the service was impeccable. We like hearing the French and the English- and a lot of time they’d come up and start speaking French- it just have been our WTF faces that made them revert to English! One waiter, turned out to be from Melbourne! He married a girl from QC and had become fluent within 4 year- theres hope for me yet!!!

Next day, we explored some more and then Jack had seen a brochure for a scary night walking tour! we got tickets and went off for dinner. We started the tour by the lady (who was dressed as a dead lady) asking us where we were from, and our names. (Take note Miss Hearty!) when Michael said his name, she responded with “Marco, welcome to the tour!) This is a joke a friend tells us of when she met her husband, and I couldn’t even look at Mick for fear of laughing too much! I did however call him Marco for the night!

I was very sad to be leaving QC, and sad to be leaving Canada. It has been an amazing 3 and a half weeks, and to be honest, I can’t wait to come back! We ventured to the boardwalk, one last time, to see the old town below us, the lights of the hotel, and the beautiful sound of music that emanated through the chilly air.

We started the arduous task of packing our cases….this i getting harder by the day, and off to sleep.

I got up and decided I needed to go sit downstairs at the boardwalk for 10 minutes to say my private goodbyes to QC. It sounds ridiculous, but this place was so magical the first time with Judy, and more magical with my husband and son. There is nothing I dislike about this place.

And just like that, we flew away, to a far away city……called New York!

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Posted by Jochester71 16:49 Archived in Canada Tagged food quebec_city live love french marco michael jack romance qc frontenac fairmont le_saint_amour Comments (0)

Montreal and all things French!!!

sunny 20 °C
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To say I woke up this morning after the wedding with a hangover, would be correct. I woke up in exactly the same position in bed, that I had climbed in. Even had a full face of make up and false lashes. I have to say, I thought I looked hot.....except underneath that make up were eyes, that Mick said, were 'bleeding!". We headed down for breakfast, once the waiter looked at me, he came out (without us requesting it) with two large glasses of iced water. He knew. He knew I was crying inside my head!! Breakfast, berocca and a good dose of "harden the hell up" assisted, as did seeing one of the other guests (Bianca, who will remain nameless) who looked even worse that I did. Apparently she felt worse too, as she wasn't even game to go near food for fear of having to see it twice!!! :) Yes, it was a great wedding!!! haha!

So bags packed again (ok, this is the most terrible part of traveling as we seem to completely un bag our stuff at each stop) and off to the station for our train to Montreal. Mick remarked on how nice the scenery was, I watched also for about the first 15 minutes until my eyelids chose to cover my eyes, to stop other people staring at me! I awoke, fresh as a half dead daisy, and we cruised into Montreal!

I so love this city, I just love, love, love the French influence and the fact that I get to practice my terrible French!!! It's even better when they understand. It is also paying off sending Jack to a school that teaches French. After two years of it, his favourite (and some might say, only, French word) is en colere - meaning he is mad and angry. Figures!!!

Mick is just terrified and can't understand why everyone can't just speak English!

So, we arrived and checked into our hotel, Hotel Nelligan. It is in the Old Port area and is just divine. Did I say French? oh, the buildings, and history, and crepes, and all things French is just, so romantic, as is sleeping in a room with a 9 year old! :/

I have a friend who lives here, Craig, who used to work with my dad years ago and met and married a lovely lady from here, Dianne, and her two daughters JosyAnn and Marilyn. I was excited to see them, and we were collected by Craig to head to their house for supper. Dianne is an amazing cook and she didn't disappoint! JosyAnn helped too and what ensued was an amazing supper, cheese and baguette to start, salmon tartare and fried goats cheese for entree, salmon and mashed potato with caramelised onion with veggies for main, then a flourless chocolate almond torte with pear and cream for dessert. It all went a bit pear shaped for Mick as he thought the cheese was the entree, the tartare and cheese as main- needless to say he really had to push through the rest of the meal! hehe!
It was also lovely to meet JosyAnn's boyfriend Julien and Marilyns new baby, Lilliane. I hadn't seen them since 2009 when Judy and I stayed with them so it was wonderful to share a home cooked meal and a fair few laughs! It is always funny speaking in broken english and french to the amusement of all!

A late night ensued, and we were asleep before our heads hit the pillow.

(If Mick falls asleep before Jack and I, Jack has taken to call him Dad Vader (his snoring sound!!) Dad Vader was definitely in the building!!!

I of course was up at dawn for sunrise shots, and out I ventured. I am getting to love these mornings as I get to see the world just waking up, minimal cars and people, and the morning lights. A few crazy joggers, but generally I'm rather alone. I love it. It is peaceful and I can totally soak up my surroundings. Sometimes I find a chair, and just sit, and make myself have a 'pinch myself' moment, live the moment and appreciate where I am at that particular moment in time. We are so fortunate to be living this dream, and of course making lifelong memories together. Jack too soak it up and strangely seems to love the history and stories that come out on the hop on hop off buses. He of course has discovered that Subway is indeed an universal franchise, and is as happy as a pig in shit! The coffee though, is still average at best!

We are just near the Notre Dame Basilica, which is totally beautiful at sunrise. It is a great time to see it too as during the day the place is packed! We might even go inside today. My guess is that it has been standing for so long, it may withstand me visiting without lightning hitting it!

The boys were tired so I headed out to get our bus tickets for tomorrow and to go to Fromagerie Hamel- a cheese shop I had researched before we even left on our trip (it was important to know exactly where to go!) and off I went. Well, it didn't disappoint- and of course, I got soon excited I bought enough for about 15 cheese platters......to be eaten in 2 days! Some really aged, really pungent goats cheese was my favourite, and Mick's least favourite!!! I left there and out behind it were markets. The markets here are so perfect, all the fruit and vegetables are lined up in rows, sitting there perfectly. They all look so good and it is hard to resist! Then I saw wine.....ah hello! happy Jo!!! Then there was an oyster bar....so I did what any self respecting person would do, I ordered some and sat up to the bar! They were icy cold and delicious!

I headed back to the hotel to drop my cheese and baguette, and wine, and ice wine, and maple cider, and maple port (ok i got a bit carried away!) and the boys and I headed to Schwartz's Hebrew Deli- a famous place here!

We were told by Zoe's dad (Gordon Bourgard) at the wedding to go to Schwartz's Deli for a medium meat, half or full sour pickle and cherry cola. He said we HAD to go try it, and with the cherry cola as it completed the meal. He also told us to go to Le Pied de Cochon (The Pigs Foot) Restaurant. Well, bad news was that they are closed Monday and Tuesdays so we can't go!

Well Schwartz's didn't disappoint. We could have ordered another one- but that would be silly- besides, we haven't bought new jeans yet! I am definitely keen to go back- it was amazing. So much so, that there is a permanent line out the front waiting to get in!

So, a quiet night in was the order of the day and Mick and I laid down (there aren't many chairs in hotel rooms!) to a plate of cheese and baguette for dinner, with Raspberry Cider !!! It was quite funny as I had asked the restaurant downstairs if I could have a knife and plate for some cheese. She gave me a tiny side plate, more the size of a saucer and asked if that was ok. Clearly they eat small delicate wedges of cheese, not great mounds of it like me! It was sublime. I bought two cheeses that Judy and I fell in love with in 2009, and it was nice to be able to actually ask for at least two cheeses by name! The Victor and Berthold and Buage de Bourgogne (a semi hard cheese with a line of ash through it). Yes, it was simply divine, and there will be more purchased before we head to New York for sure!

Today we did the hop on hop off bus tour- so much history...talking about buildings built in the 1600's, seems so strange when our oldest in Australia is a mere 200 years old!!! some beautiful buildings- so much beauty and their architecture is astounding. One thing I loved was the art installation of '21 swings' that when you sit and swing on them (there are 21 of them) they make classical music- so gorgeous!
i made a trip to Fairmount Bagels- famous bagel store that does not shut- its open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year!
Then we went to meet Craig and Dianne for dinner at Botegga- an Italian restaurant! yummy food and very very authentic - nothing like our Italian restaurants!
We left there and they took us up the Mount to see the raccoons! Judy and I did this last time but then there were two- tonight there were about 20 of them! Cute little things but not tame so no patting!!

Ok, I've updated the blog so now I can sleep and pack tomorrow for Quebec City!!! Bonsai!!
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Posted by Jochester71 21:28 Archived in Canada Comments (3)

Ottawa and Mr and Mrs Ryan and Zoe Withington

overcast 22 °C
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So, the hotel is right in the middle of the old part of town- and a lot of history. We were beside the river, with 8 locks to go through- and were lucky enough to see a boat head through. Amazing how quick the next lock floods to allow the boat to go through.
We did the hop on hop off bus and again these are highly recommended to show you the main sites and to hear some of the history of the town. Id photographed the Parliament building and various others at sunrise, and got some lovely pics. After the hop on hop off, the boys rested whilst I lugged our washing to a laundromat. This is the unwritten about part of travel. It is a necessity, but not the most enjoyable one!

Clean undies loaded and off I went to get......cheese. Yes, most of the cheeses here are non pasteurised and non homogenised, which translates into the best cheese in the world. Last time Judy and I were in Canada, we ingested our fair share to keep the economy running for a year or two. I couldn't let her down- so i bought whole chunks of amazing cheese and headed back to the room armed with my haul! The worst thing about me buying cheese is that I get so excited I generally buy too much....and have to eat it, which is not assisting my growing girth!!!

Saturday was the wedding and Jack had packed his jacket (he calls it his tuxedo) and his good shirt! He looked angelic and very smart! Mick and I were just impressed that our outfits still fitted us! (It was touch and go and breathing was not a viable option for most of the evening!) The wedding itself was held in the yard of Zoe's grandparents, a huge yard, and a few of us Aussies decided when we visit, we could pitch around 20 tents in their backyard! It was beautiful- aside from Ryan saying "With this wing, I thee wed" it all went off without a hitch, and of course, the bride was radiant.

The wedding reception was at the Laurier and didn't disappoint- there was so much food, not that we needed any, but to be polite we ate it. Now, after an hour of hors deuves and then a five course meal we didn't need anymore food. So imagine how pleased I was that at 11pm they started the Poutine var....yayyyyyy! I love this stuff! For those of you not in the know, Poutine is pretty much the national food apart from maple syrup, and is chips, cheese curds and gravy. It is freaking awesome. Mick hasn't tried any yet as he isn't sure about the curds part! Yumm!
so dancing and partying until 1am and we bailed.......we were exhausted, and a little tipsy.

The Withington-Bourgard wedding was beautiful, and a tribute to both Australia and Canada- we were so happy to have been invited to share their special day, and super impressed with the whole day. Met some truly lovely people and can't wait to come back!

Up early to head to Montreal!!

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Posted by Jochester71 21:18 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

More Blachford, and travelling to Ottawa

sunny 25 °C
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Well, the third night didn't disappoint either! It was semi cloudy all day- we had a super super relaxing day......this place is awesome and I'd highly recommend it to anyone wanting to see the aurora. Given it is in the middle of nowhere (almost literally!) it is just a beautiful relaxing place. There were only 12 of us- 3 from Germany, 3 from Hong Kong, 2 from China, us three from Australia and 2 from Montreal, who were originally from Wales but have lived in Montreal for some 30 years. The husband, Peter, was a Chemistry lecturer at the University in Montreal!
We didn't see any bears but that was probably just as well, as the whole staying calm thing probably wasn't going to be our forte! We saw plenty of squirrels and we loved watching them- funny little buggers!

The aurora came up around 10pm and i photographed madly. Around midnight some cloud came over and we decided to head for bed. We'd just climbed in and then the aurora came out again. I was happy with what i had (photo wise) but Mick insisted I get up, load on all my warm layers again (big effort!) and head outside again. So, finally, around 3.30am I decided I was heading for bed.

As I had had such a late night we really just took it easy today. We were waiting for the float plane to come and collect us, and deliver some new guests, and take us to Yellowknife where we spent the night in readiness for a few more flights to Ottawa, for the wedding.

Yellowknife was a strange little town, very much like Geraldton. It is a mining town, with diamond mines near there, and there are a lot of First Nations, and a lot of unemployment and street people. I was rather dubious, and certainly wouldn't go walking around town on my own. We had dinner at a lovely little restaurant, as recommended by a local out at Blachford- a gorgeous Ethiopian restaurant. Go figure, right? But it was lovely, and a cuisine I'd definitely try again!

The next morning we were up at 3.30am to head to the airport- a lot of time is spent in airports! We flew to Calgary, where it was 1 degree, and then onto Ottawa.

Jack is getting used to the finer things in life- demanding that we have a room with a separate room for him, or, he suggested, as he is so big now (9) perhaps it would be more enjoyable for him to have his own hotel room, so he can have some space......and if he gets lonely he will pop over to our room for a cuddle......hmmmmmmm.......great idea Jack! :/

We arrived in Ottawa and headed to the Fairmont Laurier, built in 1912 at a cost of $2,000,000. Then the most expensive room was $2.00 per night! (Oh, how I wished it was 1912!) We had a great room though and the Fairmonts do not disappoint as far as architecture, beautiful baroque paintings on the ceilings and the whole hotel is just amazing, as have been the last few.

We headed out to Zoe's parents house (the bride) to have a BBQ. Here the BBq's have ribs...and they are to die for!!! We met a fair few of the other Aussies and a few locals. Everyone is so friendly, and we enjoyed hearing about everyones travels to get there. Some had come direct, some via Vegas (they were the hungover ones!), and we discovered that some were going to the Billy Joel concert at Madison Square Gardens in New York with us!

We headed home, exceptional tired and off for a good nights sleep, before sunrise, when I would be out and about again!

Here are some snaps!!

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Posted by Jochester71 21:14 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and angels....

Bucket List ticked but want to see it in winter.....

overcast 4 °C
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Well, Sunday (today its Tuesday) we got up super early (5am) drove from Lake Louise to Calgary, dropped off the hire car- goodbye Jeep! and flew to Edmonton, then Yellowknife. We then jumped onboard a float plane and took off to a spot in the middle of nowhere, Blachford Lodge. So we are up in the North West Territories of Canada, far north, in very flat country. We are a mere 200kms from the treeline (the line across the land where the trees stop growing - i.e. the Arctic Circle).
Cold? Bloody freezing, but for them its not yet winter.
The first night was cloudy and overcast, and we saw no aurora. To say i was disappointed would be a bit of an under statement. I've only got three nights here to hopefully capture one of natures most amazing experiences, and, well, no one can control the weather. We slept well though as we were all so shattered.
So Blachford Lodge is built on the edge of Blachford Lake, which is approx 100 kms from Yellowknife. The closest lodge, or people, are 75kms away. The land here is relatively flat and arid, but the ground is covered in rock- pink granite, and moss is everywhere. Although it is considered arid land, it is extremely green and lush. Walking through the trails it is soft and spongy underfoot- like a great comfy mattress! haha
We went hiking yesterday morning and Jack had a competition with another guy here, as to who could see the most squirrels during the day! We saw 8!
The Lodge is an eco friendly lodge, solar panels, water pumped direct from the lake, and able to be drunk out of any tap in the place. True wilderness, with the added bonus of wifi!

Yesterday, the clouds were plenty, and at the end of our hike (around 11.45am) we thought it started to rain......until we realised it was snow!! Yes, it is that cold here! So, Amy, the manager got very very excited! It wasn't enough to leave snow on the ground, but was awesome all the same.

Last night, around 6pm the clouds disappeared. Clear skies abounded and to say i was excited would be an under statement. Time took forever, I'd set up the camera, got out the hand warmers (a tip from a professional photographer, to wrap them around your lenses to stop them getting too cold!) and I was primed, as were the other 11 people here! (there are 14 guests here in total and around 12 staff, 10 of whom are volunteers, and 3 of whom are Australian!)....
9.30pm, the skies were getting darker and then BOOM! It starts to look like a light is shining on a cloud, it then gets brighter, and then the sky started dancing. Amazing to see, and it moves quite quickly across the sky, at times fading in and out, at times dancing across the sky like ribbons, always spectacular, and different. Cameras were going crazy, self timers beeped, and I discovered a true loathing for non photographers and their bloody torches! I'd be half way through a long exposure and someone would turn on a "brighter than the freakin sun" torch and blow my pic. I managed to calm myself as the sky continued to dance. We stayed up until around 12.30pm to watch. I stopped taking pics around 11pm as I really just wanted to watch and marvel like the others.
So this morning I woke up to an amazing sunrise, but clouds........so here is hoping they clear for tonight. But even if they don't, the show we got to see last night has truly made my heart sing, and my eyes cry.
Enjoy.....(again, totally unedited pics at this point)
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Posted by Jochester71 07:50 Archived in Canada Tagged wilderness amazing aurora northern_lights angels yellowknife aurora_borealis nwt north_west_territories blachford_lodge Comments (0)

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