Saturday, January 20, 2018

Montreal in November

Notre Dame de MontrealThe ride from Quebec to Montreal was relatively short. We left Hilton, Quebec on Saturday morning at around 11am and got to Garden Inn in Montreal at around 2pm.

Our room in Montreal.We stayed in this particular hotel in Montreal last spring during our Canadian trip with the children. I remembered the great salt water pool, which I definitely wanted to use. I forgot about their fancy made to order breakfast with daily crepe selection, which is quite unique, so it was a pleasant surprise to rediscover it the next morning.

First dinner in Montreal -- Brasserie 701.Danya researched TripAdvisor for dinner options, and we’ve decided to try Brasserie 701, which was less than a mile walk from the hotel. The GPS brought us right to the Notre-Dame de Montréal, but we could not find the restaurant at first and made a few circles around the block. Brasserie 701 ended up being in the same square as the Cathedral, so we had a nice view during our dinner.

Borg buildings at the center of Montreal.I was excited to see a risotto on the menu, but after we got seated the waiter told us that since it was only 4pm, the dinner menu was not yet available. Danya’s steak was on the lunch menu, but my risotto was not, so I was really disappointed and considered leaving. The waiter went to the kitchen to see if they can make an exception for us, and to my delight, they did. We spend a while trying to figure out the wine menu, and ended up ordering beers instead.

Streets of Montreal.Both of us got Kronenbourg 1664 brand, but Daniel ordered a wheat blanc variety, and I got the regular one. Both beers were really good, but if I were to order again, I’d go with the blanc as well. It turns out that we’ve already tried this beer in Irish bar in Keflavic. Danya says that it’s one of his favorites now, so when he went to stock up on beer before Christmas, he bought it along with some sour blueberry and Erdinger beers. The food was also really delicious.

Streets of Montreal.After we finished dinner, it was already dark and still cold in the city. We walked around the Notre-Dame a little more and then went back to the hotel. The pool was waiting! I felt a little bit sad that the children were not there to enjoy it with us, but at the same time I could fully relax without having to worry about them being safe and happy.

By Notre Dame.We chatted with a French-Canadian couple in the hot tube, which was really nice. The woman told me that my accent was more New Yorkian than Russian, which was somehow pleasant to hear. I know that I have a hard-to-place accent, which is different from Daniel’s. Still don’t know if my speaking Belorussian is the reason for that.

Light dinner at hotel restaurant.We had a light dinner at the hotel’s restaurant — buffalo mozzarella, poutine and Belgian Moon, which is what they call Blue Moon in Canada.

Poutine.Now on the subject of poutine. Apparently, it’s a Quebec specialty, but I only found out about it in Montreal while watching Antony Bourdain’s guide to French Canadian cuisine. Poutine is pretty much french fries with brown gravy and cheese curds. When we dined in Quebec, the waitress offered us to upgrade our french fries, but we politely declined. What a pity! The hotel’s poutine was pretty good, but our waitress hinted that it was far from the best. Note to self — next time we’re in French Canada, we should try this in other places.

Streets of Montreal. From our hotel window.Next day we walked back to Notre-Dame. There is an entrance fee, so we did not go inside the night before, but decided to do it during day time. Next to the entrance we’ve noticed a poster advertising a live organ concert at 2pm. The tickets were relatively inexpensive, and the whole idea was so enticing. Ever since we’ve heard the organist in Washington National Cathedral I dreamed of hearing the great instrument in its natural environment again. Danya was not as excited as me at the prospect, but he did not mind going either, since he was also really impressed in Washington.

Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel.It was still about two hours before the concert, so we went for a walk with plans to return. First we visited the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, also known as the Sailor’s Church. On the top it has a statue of the Virgin as Star of the Sea, and inside it has models of ships hanging from the ceiling. Very unusual, very distinct place. I am glad that we stopped by.

Jacques Cartier Bridge.Then we walked to the river shore, took some pictures of the Jacques Cartier Bridge, saw an empty ferris wheel and a whole bunch of closed kiosks, which in season sell different food items, accessories and souvenirs. It was chilly and windy, but we were dressed for the weather. There was quite a number of people running and fast walking on the promenade. I guess, they are used to this weather and it does not deter them from excersizing.

Organist at Notre Dame de Montreal.We came back to the cathedral with a small cushion of time before the concert. There was an option to pay extra to sit on top near the organ, and we’ve decided to do it. The administration only accepted cash, but we had no CAD. Luckily, they’ve accepted USD. Of course, they didn’t account for the exchange rate, so we ended up paying a little extra for the convenience of using another country’s money, but at least we had that option.

View from the top.The concert turned out to be a big disappointment. I never thought this possible, but the organ did sound bad. At first, I thought that we made a huge mistake of paying extra and getting to the top and sitting next to the organ player. I kept wondering if the acoustics were better at the bottom, and they probably were, but when we changed seats closer to the end of the concert and went down, I did not hear a significant difference.

Top seats by the organ.The organist was very VERY mediocre. I understand, that playing organ is not easy, but it was the Notre-Dame and not some small village church after all. Danya did not even recognize half the melodies, and he commented that the playing was sloppy and inconsistent.

Organ.And the repertoire was something horrible too. The first and the last songs, which were Zarathustra by Strauss and Toccata and Fugue in D minor by Bach respectively, were great, but majority of the rest was “contemporary music”, which included “Beauty and the Beast” song, “Somewhere over the rainbow”, “New York, New York” and the likes. Call me old fashioned, but I was looking forward to classics, and got bored with organist’s choices.

Streets of Montreal.All this being said, I am still glad that we went. It was a unique experience, and at times I even enjoyed it. More than anything, I realized that even in the acoustics of the church and with the music by greatest composers, the organ sounds only as good as the person who plays it.

Fondue dinner.Our next stop was the Creperie-Fondue place that we visited last time with kids. Since Danya’s stomach is sometimes sensitive to cheeses, we’ve decided to try beef bullion fondue this time around. First time for both of us. We ordered a ratatouille crepe to share as last time as well. The fondue was great!

Tasty broth.The best part about it was actually not the meat or the vegetables, but the broth. Danya said that we should not waste it and that it will go down superbly on such a cold day. I asked for two cups, and got them along with a ladle. Apparently we were not the first people who wanted to drink up the bullion, although the waiter said that not that many people did this. The broth was so rich, filling and spicy. Heaven! I tried to replicate it at home, but fell short. Not sure if I need marrow bones or some special spices for that… Maybe, I’ll crack this one day.

Cross the border. Going back home.We went to the hotel and up to the pool again. Spent almost two hours there. So relaxing again. We ate dinner at the hotel’s restaurant again, but ordered sangria’s instead of beer this time. They were pretty decent.

Inside New York capitol building.Next day was the long drive home. Good thing that we planned a vacation the way we did, because driving from Quebec would have been even more tiring.

Staircase inside New York capitol building.There were not a lot of cars at the border, but the patrol officer really took his time with both cars in front of us (inspecting the cars and talking to the people for 10+ minutes). We went through in probably under a minute. I guess, we look trustworthy.

Famous governor.On our way we stopped in Albany. We’ve been there a few times before, but never got a chance to go inside the capitol. I was surprised to discover a big underground mall that leads from parking to the capitol building. We’ve gotten the stamp for Danya’s NP passport and took a self-guided tour inside.

Hall of Governors.The NY capitol is big, impressive and you can see that the state has a lot of money. The staircase alone is something! I particularly liked a hall of governors, with portraits of all the governor’s of New York. Well, almost all. Spitzer’s portrait was so obviously and shamefully (for him) missing.

New York capitol building.Originally we planned to eat in Albany, but after walking to the restaurant, we changed our minds and decided to eat fast food somewhere along the way to save time. I think it was a right decision, since we got home at around 7 o’clock. There was a little bit of traffic closer to the city, but it was expected. The whole trip came up close to 1,200 miles, which is a lot of driving for a short getaway. It was still very nice and memorable.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Anniversary in Quebec City

Château Frontenac. Old Quebec.This year we had a little bit less time for our anniversary trip than we usually do, so instead of flying somewhere we decided to take a road trip on our own car. We initially thought of going to Montreal, but since we were going without kids we figured we could go a little bit further and add Quebec City to our itinerary.

Vermont capitol building at Montpelier.Plus we’ve been to Montreal only a year and half before and our last and only trip to Quebec City was way back in 2008. At first we were concerned that it’s going to be extremely cold there at the very end of November, but after looking at the map of Europe we saw that we’ve spent our vacations much further north than Quebec and it was fine. That turned out to be not a correct assumption.

Inside the capitol.Another thing of significance of this vacation was the fact that this was the first time that our actual anniversary date fell right on Thanksgiving — just like our actual wedding was. It took 11 years for this cycle to complete. And so our total vacation was 6 days long including the days that we would spend on driving there and back.

From the capitol staircase.Originally we planned to leave on the morning of November 22nd — Wednesday before Thanksgiving. On Tuesday I want to work and learned that we were going to have half a day on Wednesday. It suddenly occurred to me that probably a lot of companies would do the same. I decided to leave a little early from work and asked Alёna to finish packing our bags as soon as possible. I also talked to my mom and she agreed to take the kids a night ahead of schedule.

Entering the province of Quebec.It took me 3(!!!) hours to get home from work. It was maddening. Probably the longest commute I’ve ever had. Even though I was extremely tired I still wanted to leave that night to avoid the same terrible drive the next morning. We ended up leaving at around 10pm and it took us under an hour to pass by my office again. All the traffic was gone by then.

First dinner at hotel restaurant.We decided to start our trip with Quebec City since it was further away than Montreal to make the drive home easier. It was a good decision considering that we managed to leave earlier. Our route ran through Vermont — we wanted to make a stop at Montpelier since we really haven’t seen the capitol during the day time. So we drove for about 4 hours the first night. When we started to get tired we found the closest Hilton chain hotel and were in bed before 2am.

Window view from our hotel.We ended up stopping somewhere in Massachusetts, not far from Vermont border. We drove for about 200 miles out of our total 570 miles and about 140 miles away from Montpelier. The hotel that we picked was Hampton Inn & Suites Greenfield and it ran us around $130 for the night. Nice, clean and pleasant place to spend the night. It was a good decision to leave when we did — we haven’t spend any time in traffic during our overall drive to Quebec at all.

Our hotel in the background.In the morning we set out to finish our journey to Quebec City with a short detour to visit the capital and capitol of Vermont in Montpelier. The capitol turned out to be completely different from what I remembered it to be. I guess I was confusing it with a clock-tower on the main street because last time we drove through this town in the middle of the night. Capitol was completely dark and main street actually had some lights on.

Streets of Quebec City.We walked around inside, looked at some painting, including an official Vermont State House portrait of Howard Dean. And we added another official state capital stamp to our collection — one of the two new ones this trip — another one was for New York at the end of our trip.

Notre Dame de Quebec.Then we ate a small lunch at a restaurant right across from the capitol building and went on to finish our drive to Quebec — about 240 more miles. We got to Montpelier at around 1pm and we left it closer to 3pm. We crossed the US-Canadian border at around 4:30pm and we were in our hotel room at almost 8pm.

Notre Dame de Quebec.LONG drive. I have to say that if before drives like these were fairly easy for me to do it is no longer so. Since Arosha was born our all our trips were cut up in smaller pieces in order not to drive long distances in a single sitting. So I’m no longer used to those.

Our suite. Parliament view.Hilton turned out to be as nice as expected. They upgraded our room to a suite on one of the top floors with a grand view of parliament building from our windows. We also discovered a bottle of champagne on ice in our room and congratulatory note on our wedding anniversary. What a pleasure.

Promenade.The hotel was located only half a mile away from the downtown in the heart of the city. But by the time we got to the hotel we were so tired that we just went downstairs to a hotel restaurant for our dinner. As it sometimes happens with hotel restaurants it ended up being very very mediocre. We ordered several dishes and they were all just off. We haven’t returned to this place again and ate elsewhere. And then we went to sleep to recharge for the next day.

Promenade. On the way to Château Frontenac.The next day was our anniversary day and Thanksgiving at the same time. We didn’t make any plans ahead of time for our special dinner, so we made a little bit of research, read some guides and checked out some videos by Anthony Bourdain about French Canada. And then we set out to Old Quebec — a short walk as I mentioned above.

Château Frontenac.The day was very very cold. We had our late November vacations in much more northern cities of Europe, but I guess Gulf Stream makes a huge difference. All those cities were fairly warm and Quebec City most definitely was not. So one of the first stops we made when we arrived to Old Quebec was at Dale of Norway store and acquiring a new much warmer hat for me. Dale of Norway brought up some recent memories — those stores were all over Norway which we visited only a couple month before.

Rue du Petit Champlain.The we walked along the promenade in front of Château Frontenac — a hotel that was built at the end of 19th century and looks a lot like a huge beautiful castle. Wikipedia says that the hotel is generally recognized as the most photographed hotel in the world.

Rue du Petit Champlain.We made a short walk from there to a nearby Notre Dame de Quebec. I don’t think we’ve been inside before as it did look unfamiliar. It looked quite beautiful inside because of a huge golden structure or sculpture at the head of the cathedral. We noticed a Christmas market being constructed nearby — such a familiar sight from pretty much all of our European vacations. And then a walk back to promenade.

Christmas tree.My memories of Quebec were kind of fuzzy and I actually only remembered two things — one was Château Frontenac and another one was a street of shops and restaurants under some large hill. So as expected it was in the same part of the city, right under the mentioned above promenade. The street is called Rue du Petit Champlain. I also remember that my parents bought Alёna a pair of artsy necklaces as gift for her graduation from college I think.

Restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens.I thought it would be nice to do the same thing — this being our anniversary and her birthday being only a week ago. So after looking in couple of places we found a nice handmade pendant and a matching pair of earrings. Nice mementos of our trip. We also spotted a nice restaurant with some rabbit stews, but we already had different plans for today.

At anniversary dinner.For our anniversary dinner we picked a place called Aux Anciens Canadiens — the name that popped up in a lot of places during our “research” in the morning. It had nice ratings at TripAdvisor and came with a lot of recommendations. Time-wise, this dinner, just as all our other dinners of this trip, fell somewhere closer to lunch than dinner. But we often happen to do this when we travel.

Wild meat pie.I started with a great lobster bisque soup that felt just right on this cold day and then I had a really really nice wild meat pie with a delicious sauce. Alёna had a split pea soup and then some cheesy-melty dish with a bunch of vegetables. And instead of pairing our meals with wine we went with a pair of glasses of draft beer. It was a nice place and a good dinner.

Parliament from our window.Afterwards we walked back to our hotel for some rest — we were already tired and didn’t really want to do anything for today. Later on we walked over to the executive lounge at our hotel for some light snacks, deserts and drinks. Another huge bonus of us staying at Hilton as Diamond VIPs. And that was the end of our 11th anniversary.

Montmorency Falls.The next day we woke up to a white Quebec. It started snowing during the night and the snow was still falling. Even though the snowstorm seemed heavy not much of the snow have accumulated on the streets — but all the rooftops were dressed in white.

On a trail at Montmorency Falls park.We didn’t really know what to do for the day, so we walked down and asked for some advice at a concierge desk. We got a recommendation to see the country side and visit a waterfall on the outskirts of the city. Why not, we thought. We drove out to Montmorency Falls and a large park that surrounded it. Took us no more than 30 minutes.

View from the top of the falls.We started at the foot of the falls, but everything seemed to be closed. Then we noticed a bridge running over the top with people on it. So we drove around and found the park with a bunch of what turned out to be nice trails. The views from the top were great. It was still snowing and it was making everything special. In fact the whole day was somewhat magical — like a nice fairytale. This piece of nature and the city itself.

At Montmorency Falls park.The only somewhat unpleasant thing that happened was my icy slip and fall. The ground was very icy and in most places covered by light snow, so it was not always obvious. Eventually I slipped and fell down right in sync with some other woman several meters away. Probably looked funny from the side, would’ve made a nice video. I got up and didn’t really hurt anything.

Bridge over the top of the falls.And then we happened upon an icy hill. I crouched down and took a nice speedy ride down. Only the ice quickly turned to ground towards the end which brought me to a quick stop and sent me flying with a nice flip. And again I didn’t hurt anything. Alёna wanted to try too, but she decided to just sit down and slide down. That worked a lot better than my feat.

Ice slide.She liked it so much that she decided to do it again. By then a couple of young people came by and saw her doing this. So one of the guys tells his girlfriend that they should do this. And the girls goes — no, that’s crazy! And the guy goes — they just did it! And she goes — oh, OK then, let’s do this.

Back in Quebec.So the guy sat down, she sat in his lap and they rode down. Then they stop and she picks something up from the snow — wow, somebody lost their keys! I check my pocket and holy crap! My keys! So glad that we decided to stay and watch them take a ride. That could’ve been very unpleasant and would probably ruin the day.

German market.After that we drove around a little bit — noticed that a lot of houses had tents around their driveways, so they wouldn’t have to undig their cars — never saw this kind of setup in New York. Seemed to make a lot of sense. And then we drove back to our hotel and walked over to the old city again.

Snow and a snowy beard.As it usually happens the market has opened. This happened many times to us. We see a market under construction and then while we are still around, it opens. Right at the center of it there was an open air kitchen grilling German sausages. What a smell. But we wanted to have a proper dinner, so we resisted. We bought a couple of little toys for our kids, albeit at a nearby store, not the market and now we were ready for dinner.

Snow covered Rue du Petit Champlain.We decided to go back to Rue du Petit Champlain and eat at a place that had rabbit stews. TripAdvisor had high ratings for that place, but I guess it was popular on its own — the wait time was over an hour. Nope, that doesn’t work. So we turned back to TripAdvisor and found another well rated place nearby — Bistro Sous le Fort.

Dinner at Bistro Sous le Fort.I had some deer sausage and some duck with french fries I think. When we were ordering the fries they said that they could put some gravy on top and some cheese curds. That sounded weird to us, so we declined. And only later we found out that what they were actually offering is called poutine and is actually a french Canada specialty. Doh! We actually only realized this when we were at Montreal as you will see in the next post.

Bistro Sous le Fort.And in fact this is it for Quebec City. We went back to our hotel, visited executive lounge again and off to Montreal we went the next morning. A great first part of our trip.

P.S. All the pictures for this trip have been taken with iPhone X. While it’s not D700 quality and I was slightly worried about the possibility of ruined vacation pictures my back has been really thankful. They are most definitely Web worthy.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Anniversary In Quebec

For this year Alëna and I have planned a trip that is smaller than our usual anniversary trip. Instead of flying somewhere far we decided to simply drive to Quebec Province of Canada1. Our total trip is six days long including two full days of driving.

Our first stop is Quebec City where we will spend three nights in Hilton Quebec2 and celebrate our anniversary. We’ve been to Quebec City once a long while ago, so we’re looking forward to re-exploring it again. On our way to Quebec City we will try to make a stop at Montpelier — the capital of Vermont. We’ve been there as well, but it was in the middle of the night, so we haven’t seen much.

Our second stop of the trip is Montreal. We’ll spend 2 nights in Hilton Garden Inn Montreal Centre-Ville3 — the same hotel that we stayed at with kids during our trip of 2015. Montreal we remember rather well, but it’s just a nice city.

This is the first year since our wedding when Thanksgiving falls on the same date — November 23rd. And my parents will look after our kids.

One of the concerns that we had with Quebec was the fact that it was going to be too cold. But looking at the map ALL our European vacations except for Italy, Spain and Portugal were in locations closer to the North Pole than Quebec City is. So we just need to get a little bit lucky with weather.

  1. 1 USD was worth 1.28 CAD at the time of the posting. []
  2. Hilton Quebec — C$464.10 for 3 nights for kind bed room with taxes included. []
  3. Hilton Garden Inn Montreal Centre-Ville — C$383.75 for 2 nights for 1 king bed room with taxes included. []

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls. Both sides.We arrived at Niagara Falls, Canada via Rainbow Bridge. There was a long wait line of cars for passport check, and children were getting a little stir-crazy, but as always we survived with only minor damage to our nervous systems.

Our hotel. DoubleTree Fallsview Resort and Spa.We stayed at DoubleTree Fallsview Resort and Spa. It is the same exact hotel where we stayed with Daniel and his parents last time we visited this town. We got a nice room at high floor, albeit one level below the executive one.

Us in Niagara Falls.We were pretty hungry by the time we got there, so we decided to have a light lunch at the hotel’s restaurant. The restaurant was quiet and empty, and the lunch food that we ordered was not bad, with the exclusion of Caesar Salad. I think once I started making it at home, restaurant versions with their bottled dressings got much less satisfying.

On a ship to the falls.After lunch we headed for the falls. They were a relatively short walk away from our hotel. It was cold-ish outside, but bright and sunny. To our surprise, the boat ride underneath the falls was running, and Arosha REALLY wanted to go. What do good parents do when their five year old is bubbling with need to go into the cold mist of giant waterfalls? Of course they do exactly as he asks!

Red raincoats.Since it was so early in the season, the line was very short, and we had hardly spent any time waiting for the ride. Each one of us got a red disposable raincoat, which we put on right away. In fact, we put two of those on Anюta (one was smaller, one was bigger) to make sure she’ll stay dry. We all enjoyed this little adventure. When we were near a big waterfall, the mist turned into a full fledged pouring rain, but luckily, it did not last too long.

Inside the casino.After the ride, we walked along the waterfront, admiring the views and smelling first daffodils. For dinner we decided to go to the buffet in one of the casinos, but they were really strict and did not let us pass through the casino to the restaurant on the account of children. For me it was quite unusual after the family-friendly atmosphere in Las Vegas, but oh well.

Alёna and Arosha.We wondered around the shopping area attached to the casinos, and ended up going to the Chinese buffet. The food was very mediocre, but they had sushi, and Arosha stuffed himself up with them. There was also a pretty decent variety of vegetables (not so with meat), so I did not left the place hungry either.

Whirlpool on Niagara.We started the following day with the trip to the Niagara whirlpool. The day was nice and sunny again. There is a cable car running over the whirlpool in season, but it was not open yet. I am not sure if we would have taken a ride anyhow, since to me it seemed like a pretty scary endeavor.

Ride over whirlpool was closed for the season.When we were in Niagara Falls area last time, we visited the Butterfly Conservatory. I remember being very impressed by it, and we wanted to share this experience with the children. They’ve been to similar thing during our visit to the Museum of Natural History, but their butterfly exhibit was tiny compared to this conservatory.

Arosha hoping that a butterfly will land on his hand.Arosha and Anюta both liked the butterflies, although at some point Anna ran to us all excited holding a big butterfly in her hand. I honestly hope that she did not catch it, but picked up from the floor, but who knows.

At Butterfly Conservatory.We explained to her how we should never do such things and that she might have accidentally killed the poor insect. It made a lasting impression on her. She was not very upset, but to this day she remembers it now and again and tells us that she is sad because she killed a poor butterfly.

Алёна с бабочками.We went to the hotel after this, and had lunch at the local restaurant again. The kids were really excited at the prospect of going to the pool, so that’s exactly what we did. We spent a good chunk of time there, since there was a Jacuzzi to get warm after a cool pool.

Skylon tower.Our next objective was the Skylon tower. We walked around the observation deck for a little bit and enjoyed the falls views from high up. Originally we wanted to have dinner at their buffet, but it was only open for lunch on that particular day. There was a highly-rated revolving restaurant on the tower as well, but we decided to save the experience for the CN Tower in Toronto. Plus it was rather expensive, as one might expect from a place like that.

Conquering the fear of heights.Instead, we ended up going to a Brazilian steakhouse, and it was just so good! It was probably our best dinner of the whole vacation. It was not cheap either, but the children ate for free, so it was a very good deal for us, considering that Arosha ate more meat than I did, and Anюta was in a close lead to me.

SkyWheel.I have to say that normally Arosha is not a big fan of meat. He oftentimes refuses to eat meat that I cook at home, unless it’s in the form of meat pie or samsa or part of the soup. However, he loves shish-kebabs and good steaks in restaurants, and when we go to Brazilian places, he always surprises me with his appetite.

View of the waterfalls from the top of SkyWheel.Our last day at Niagara Falls was cloudy and grey. We started our adventures with the ride on the SkyWheel. For some reason, our children really enjoy Ferris Wheels, so we try to take a ride on one whenever the opportunity presents itself.

View from our window.After the ride we went to some arcade place. The most interesting thing there was an air hockey table. Danya and Arosha played a game, but Anюta was too small to hit the puck. To be quite honest, I get really bored with arcades after spending more than 5 minutes in such places. I think Danya feels the same, so we did not linger.

Clifton Hill.We walked around the city down the Clifton Hill street for a while. There are a lot of souvenir shops, different strange entertainment places, where the visitors are either being scared or are supposed to laugh. There are also some “museums”, most notably the Guinness World Records one, but they did not look interesting enough to spent our time and money on them.

Lunch at Niagara Brewery and dinner at Rainforest Cafe.We were not sure where to have lunch. We almost went to Friday’s, but the prices there are unjustifiably high. How weird is it, that they charge almost a third more than in our local TGIF? The Outback Steakhouse had the same issue. So we ended up going to the Niagara Brewing Company. I really enjoyed our lunch, and so did Danya. The children were not impressed with the food, but I am still glad we went there instead of some chain place.

Waterfall with a ship.After lunch, we walked by the falls again and headed to the hotel. My head was starting to ache, which unfortunately happens to me at least ones on vacation with kids. I am not sure if I just get overtired and my body protests in such a way, but this seems to be the trend. I think we went to the pools again, but I am not sure 100% if we did.

Brazilian.By dinnertime, my headache got worse, but the children were getting really hungry especially considering that they barely ate anything at lunch. We decided to head for the nearby Mexican restaurant with good reviews, but unfortunately it was closed.

View from our window.We could not find anything good close to the hotel, and ended up going to the Rainforest Cafe, which we spotted during the day. It was pretty far from the hotel, but since we did not anticipate going there beforehand, we did not take Anna’s stroller. She did not mind walking by herself, but sometimes we carried her for better speed.

Crossing the street.The food in Cafe was nothing special, but the atmosphere was perfect for the children. We were sitting next to the gorillas, and our little ones were fascinated when they were moving and talking. Arosha also went to explore other parts of the restaurant to get a closer look at elephants and waterfalls, and Anюta followed him around like a little pup.

Niagara Falls.I was feeling quite nauseous, so I just ordered hummus and water. I think I would have been better off skipping dinner altogether, but I did not know that at the moment.

Rainforest Cafe.We went to the hotel afterwards, and Danya had to carry Anюta most of the way, since I felt too sick to do it. When we got to the hotel, he and Arosha took a car and drove to the Falls to see the night illumination. They only saw the white lights, since the colored illumination comes up fairly late.

On a ship.I felt even worse, but after throwing up a few times, I took tylenol for the headache and was able to fall asleep. I felt just fine the next day, to everyone’s relief.

Skylon Tower.

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Toronto

Toronto skyline.Toronto, the capital of Ontario Province, was our third stop of a trip. Alёna has been to Toronto once before and I have visited it multiple times, but I wanted to take our kids to it for one reason in particular among others — it’s a home to the world’s third tallest tower — CN Tower. In fact it held the record of the world’s tallest tower for 34 years.

Streets of Toronto.Toronto is a very short drive away from Niagara Falls and so we had more than half a day available to us at the time when we were fully checked in into our hotel.

From the top.We stayed at DoubleTree Toronto Downtown where we ended up on a 3rd floor with pretty much no view of anything. We typically book the cheapest available room — this time it was a room with two double beds — and hope that our Diamond VIP status will raise us to a high executive floor. This was a rare time when this bet failed — double rooms only go as far as the 6th floor and the hotel was fully sold out. Oh, well.

CN Tower. I really need a shift lens.As I said earlier our main objective was a visit to CN Tower. CN Tower has a revolving restaurant at the top which is while quite expensive is worth a visit for the experience. The earliest dinner time is 4:30pm and that’s the time we made our reservation for. There was no point eating lunch, so we stuffed up on marinated olives and croutons that we bought several days earlier at a winery near Seneca Falls.

Dinner at 360 Restaurant.So as we were done with “lunch” we set out for a walk to CN Tower. The distance was a little bit more than a single mile, but our Anюta often prefers to walk on her own, so we had a good long (time-wise) walk ahead of us. To my delight though Toronto is a city where streetcar system is one option of public transportation. As last time in Lisbon I’ve taken way too many pictures of those trams.

Us at the stop. Not a stellar picture sadly.When we arrived to CN Tower we were able to skip all the lines because of our reservation to 360 Restaurant at the top. We have been sat at one of the tables by the window and Arosha couldn’t quite grasp the concept of not sitting on the heaters by the perimeter of the restaurant and his table getting away from him. I kept telling him that they are not spinning when he clearly saw that they are moving. After a short while he finally figured out that it was the table that was moving after all.

Admiring the view and Anna vs ice-cream.Anna on the other hand has managed to fall asleep in her stroller right at the last moment and was in a pretty bad mood when we had to wake her up and sit at the table. I think only a sight of french fries eventually calmed her down.

Lower level observation deck.Meanwhile Arosha was really admiring the view — quite a change from little Arosha who probably wouldn’t care at all. He still has a pretty serious case of fear of heights, but having glass windows separating him from the abyss seems to completely alleviate all his fears.

Glass floors.The dinner was, while good, quite expensive. I was charged 75 dollars (albeit Canadian1 ones) for a piece of steak, Alёna was charged $65 for her salmon and we split a steak for kids for $40. And again, we didn’t have to pay for the ride up the tower and the experience was definitely worth it. I think Arosha will have lasting memories of the place.

Toronto trams.After the dinner we walked down to the lower floor which has a portion of it made out of glass. And there is nothing below it but a far away ground on which the base of the tower stands on. I was wondering if Arosha’s fear of heights would prevent him from getting close to that, but again, glass seemed to do the trick as he was the first one to jump onto one of the glass panels.

Toronto trams.After the walk back to the hotel we did a mandatory visit to the hotel’s pools and that was the end of our first day there.

Toronto skyline from Polson Pier.On the second day I wanted to find a place to photograph the skyline of Toronto WITH CN Tower included, but somehow the city seems to totally lack any other observation decks, but the one on CT Tower itself. So instead we set out to drive onto one of the peninsulas that extend into Lake Ontario from the city itself. And we actually managed to find one such place relatively easy.

High Park.There is a place called Jennifer Kateryna Koval’s'kyj Park which is located on one such peninsula. While the place itself was quite dirty and small it gives one a great vantage point to photograph Toronto’s skyline from. The day was very clear without a single cloud in sight which makes for a pretty uninteresting composition, but I still think that Toronto’s skyline is very distinct thanks to CN Tower … ehm, towering … over everything.

Brewhouse.Since it was morning and we were done with planned things to do we decided to turn to TripAdvisor for … yes, advice. We ended up going to High Park which seems to be a large green park right inside the city à la Central Park. Kids played on the playground, Arosha managed to climb atop of a pretty high stump of a tree by himself as he always does and so on. And then we got hungry.

Lunch at Amsterdam Brewhouse in Toronto.We looked through the list of highly rated restaurants and spotted two breweries on it. After calling both of them and asking about the parking situation we set out to Amsterdam Brewhouse which was located right on the shore of the lake. And after a nice lunch we walked along the shore boardwalk for more excellent views of the tower which was not far away. And then a stroll through a train museum, another brewery upon entering which I was just handed a free glass of beer and we were spent.

Boardwalk by the shore.By the time we got back to our hotel it was pretty late and I was sad to find out that another famous place, city hall, which we left for the last because it was one block away from our hotel closes at 4:30pm and it was quite well past that. So we figured we’ll eat our dinner and even though we can’t get inside we’ll just walk to the front of it anyhow. We ate dinner at a nearby Korean restaurant and walked over to city hall as planned.

Rail museum.There is a big square in front of it and kids enjoyed climbing all over large letters that spelled out Toronto. And then I spotted that somebody walked out of the front door of city hall. I ran towards it with Arosha hoping that we can slip inside and so we did.

Toronto City Hall.The interesting thing to do is to point somebody’s attention to a diorama on the wall and ask them to guess what is made of. I’m guessing nobody gets it right. When you get closer you realize that the whole composition is made out of nails of different sizes. It’s actually pretty impressive looking.

Diorama made out of nails.And on that note our trip and exploration of Toronto was complete. The next day a long road and Montreal awaited us.

Climbing all over Toronto.

  1. Canadian dollar was worth 79 US cents at the time of our visit. []

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Montreal

Streets of Montreal.The drive to Montreal was the longest one we did on the same day during this trip — somewhere close to 340 miles. Actually, our GPS switched to kilometers as soon as we entered Canada, so we had to drive 550 kilometers that day! Sounds even scarier, doesn’t it?

To be completely honest, I was slightly dreading the drive. Luckily for me, I did not have to be at the wheel, but I was worried about the kids getting tired and bored and really whiny. Surprisingly, the day went relatively smoothly.

One of many islands on the river of Saint Lawrence.We drove for a few hours and then made a stop at one of the little towns in the Thousand Islands area. There was a visitor center, where a very nice lady had disappointing information in terms of us being there a few days prior to the start of the season: no boat rides after 12pm (it was already 2pm), fun castles we can ride to are closed, fancy restaurants are opening in a few days. Alas, it was slightly sad to be there on the verge of the beginning of the touristy activities, but we still spent around 2 hours over there. The kids ran around the playground by the visitor center, and then we went down to the river for a little walk, had lunch in a Greek Pizzeria and even did some shopping (got jeans for Danya and earrings for me).

Streets of Montreal.Afterwards, Danya took a scenic route which zig-zagged by the banks of the Saint Lawrence River, and we made a few stops for pictures. After that we just drove and drove and drove until we finally arrived to Montreal. Arosha was often asking about the remaining distance — I think the diminishing number of kilometers helped him to cope with the long ride.

When our GPS led us to the hotel’s address, we were surprised to see that there was no hotel to be found. Apparently, the street it is located on has an East and a West side, and GPS led us to the wrong one. We soon figured out where to go, although kids were even more anxious to get out of the car due to this delay.

On the way to the center.The rooms of the hotel, Doubltree by Hilton, are located on the first 10 floors of the 20+ story building. We got a spacious corner room at the 10th floor. There was no good view from the windows though — all we could see was a tall building undergoing contraction in front of our hotel. There was also some strange rubbery odor in the room, which especially bothered Danya, but considering that it had disappeared the next day, we assumed that it was probably some cleaning solution smell. Another thing was that the pool and gym were located on the 11th floor, so during the first evening we heard some loud bangs from dropping balls upstairs. Luckily, it did not bother children, and the gym closed at 11pm. We had no similar issues the following night, so all in all, I am quite happy with the room we got.

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal.Since it was late, we decided to have dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, which turned out to be pretty good. We just ordered a soup and a few appetizers, and I was especially happy that kids ate steamed vegetables, which were delicious, even the asparagus, which none of us is a big fan of. We got lucky with a very pleasant waiter, who totally won Arosha’s heart. Arosha felt very comfortable chatting with him in Eglish, and even tried to teach him a few Russian words (privet, poka).

We had only one full day to spend in Montreal, so we did not make ambitious plans. The only thing we knew we wanted to do for sure (apart from going to the pool of course) was to visit the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. Danya and I have been there before, and I remember being very impressed by the gold and blue interior of the church.

Inside the Notre-Dame.The Basilica was a walking distance from our hotel (a little over a mile I think), so we just strolled there at Arosha’s pace. The day was rather cold, but still nice and sunny. We spent probably about 30-40 minutes inside the church. The children especially liked the lit candles. Arosha even insisted on lighting a candle in the memory of his great-great-grandfather Aaron (even though he was a bit confused and thought that Aaron was the one to fight in the World War II, while it was his great-grandfather Leonid/Levy). Daniel pointed out the fact that neither one these grandfathers belonged to the Christian church, but I don’t think it really matters. To be honest, I am not even sure that we lighted the right candle, but I strongly believe that in cases like that intent is much more important than following established traditions.

In front of the Science Museum.We also told Arosha a short and most probably imprecise version of the life of Jesus, and again he was quite fascinated by the story. I wish I knew the Bible better, but my knowledge is very limited.

Afterwards, we just walked around the city a for a little while. We were considering going to the Science Museum, but decided against it in favor of exploring Montreal a little bit more. Danya suggested to take a horse carriage ride, and the children were very excited about the idea, as was I to be honest. As my smart husband had pointed out to me, we finally got a reason (kids) to take one of those rides.

Carriage ride.We were a little short on cash, but the coach driver gave us a discount for a shorter ride. She drove us in a pink carriage for about 20 minutes, which was plenty to have all the fun it could be. I am glad we did it, and next time we visit Venice, we should have a reason to take a gondola ride as well.

After our first ever carriage ride.By the time we were finished, everyone was pretty hungry. We walked down the Saint-Paul Street, which had a great variety of restaurants. Danya used TripAdvisor to see their ratings, which is now always one of the factors when we’re weighting options for our dining choice. We ended up going to a well-rated French place and it really felt like we traveled outside of North America. We ordered a vegetable soup, fondue and crepes with ratatouille. Everything was very good.

After our very French crepe and fondue lunch.After lunch we went back to the church to take some more pictures, and then leisurely went to the hotel. We stopped at a little jewelry boutique and got me a modern-looking set of necklace and earrings and a pretty ring.

The children were very excited at the prospect of going to the pool, so as soon as we got back we changed into our bathing suits and headed up to have some water fun. I have to say that this place had the best pool of all the hotels we’ve been to on this trip — the pool itself was big with very warm salt water, the Jacuzzi was spacious, the restrooms and water fountain were close. There was even a sauna, but we did not use it. We ended up spending almost two hours there.

Lunch. Fondue!We were so wiped out by the end of the day, that we decided to have dinner out our local restaurant again. We got the same friendly waiter as the night before to everyone’s delight. The waiter asked if Arosha wanted to teach him any new words in Russian, and Arosha, after a 30 second deliberation, chose the word “spasibo”.

To sum up, even though we stayed in Montreal just one full day, it gave our vacation a pinch of extra flavor. French Canada for me feels very different from its British counterpart, and it’s exciting to submerge into less familiar waters ever so often.

Square in front of the basilica.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Finger Lakes

Taughannock Falls.We are back and we can declare that our Canadian road trip was a success. We ended up driving for a total of 1,416 miles throughout these 11 days with Toronto to Montreal drive of 340 miles being the longest single stretch.

That’s how we ended up spending two nights and a full day in Finger Lakes region of New York state — we wanted to break up the longest stretches of the road as much as possible to make it easier on the kids. Kids, which I must say, handled the road just fine. They didn’t do a lot of sleeping, although Anna did more of that than Arosha, but they were perfectly content with looking at the surrounding areas and holding conversations with us and between themselves.

Our hotel.We made it our policy long ago to avoid any devices in the car, so as such kids don’t even ask for them. By looking at the world around them they come up with a lot of different topics to discuss. For example we talked about the names of Finger Lakes, then we talked about their depth, their length, differences between seas, oceans and lakes, moved over to Great Lakes and eventually even have gotten as far as Lake Baikal.

We picked Finger Lakes as stop point because there really is not much else interesting in between Brooklyn and Niagara Falls — our first major destination. Another reason was that after having lived in New York for over 20 years I have had yet to visit those lakes and famous town of Ithaca. And we picked Seneca Falls to stay at simply based on hotel pricing, even though there was a large selection of Hilton chains in the region.

Winery.We drove out at about 3 o’clock on Thursday right after Arosha’s school ended. Kids ate a quick lunch, we packed the last of our things — well, mostly Alёna did — and were on our way. Arosha and Anюta were very excited. Anna kept exclaiming from time to time that she really wants to go on a vacation and Arosha was counting the days and really barely could wait. He, as the rest of us, was very worried about one of us getting sick which would cause us to cancel our trip.

In order to reach Seneca Falls we had to cover a little bit over 300 miles which makes it more than 5 hours of driving. Luckily because we left early we beat any major traffic around NYC which helped us get to our hotel earlier than I expected. Along the way we made a stop for dinner and Anna took a little nap. Arosha stayed awake the whole time and only fell asleep when we were 10-15 minutes away from our hotel.

Wine tasting.The next day kids woke up very early — too much excitement about going to the buffet for breakfast. I think Arosha doesn’t really like the food as much as he loves the processing of picking stuff out on his own. After breakfast they wanted to go swimming at the pool, but we wanted to do some exploring of the area first and convinced them to leave the pool for the second part of the day.

We didn’t really have much of a plan, except for the fact that we were on the top of the lake and Ithaca was at the bottom. So we figured we’ll just drive down to Ithaca by taking a scenic road along the shore of Cayuga Lake and figure out what we want to do on the way. The only sad thing was that the day turned to be quite gloomy and it was raining from time to time. But everything worked out in the end as it would just stop raining when we wanted to take a walk.

Taughannock Falls.On the way to the lake we stopped by a historical women’s rights site, looked at the museum and got a couple of stamps in our National Park passports. I think this time around Arosha has gotten noticeably older. He was much more excited by the “right” things to be excited about at each location. He was asking about the Finger Lakes, the Great Lakes and kept explaining to Anюta what our next stop was suppose to be when she would get confused.

Our first activity on the way down to Ithaca turned out to be wine tasting to our surprise. We kept driving and we were passing one winery after another. Eventually the signs convinced us that we should stop. It so happened that we stopped at Varick Winery & Vineyard — just a complete random choice on our part.

Hike on a trail at Taughannock Falls State Park.The kids spotted a box of gummy bears which we agreed to buy them and they also discovered a couple of rocking chairs on the porch of the winery. So while Alёna and I went through a bunch of wines which were served with various snacks that matches the wines kids entertained themselves by climbing and rocking on those chairs.

We ended up buying a bottle of white wine, a jar of garlic olives, a jar of soft cheese and were given a bag of croutons as a bonus. The kids also ended up running around the big green lawn in front of the winery thus expanding some of their extra energy.

Ithaca.And even though it was raining slightly the winery was located in a beautiful place on a shore of Cayuga Lake, the wine tasting went well, the day was shaping out quite nicely. We were all in a great mood.

The next thing we spotted on the way down was a sign pointing to falls overlook of some kind. So naturally we took that road and in a couple of minutes were parked inside Taughannock Falls State Park as it turned out. And a short walk from the parking lot there indeed was an overlook of a quite impressive waterfall. Because of the gray sky that I mentioned before the photographs didn’t come out well, but there was a nice trail running around the edge of the canyon that we took.

Little swimmers.Kids played with all kinds of sticks and cones and the whole setting was very serene — except for the loud kids of course. And the weather was kind enough to us to stop raining for the duration of our walk.

Eventually we made it to Ithaca. We stopped over for lunch at some Korean-Japanese place recommended by our trusty TripAdvisor. Arosha loves sushi and Anna liked the noodle soup that she got so kids ate quite a bit — our constant problem to deal with — they’ve gotten quite picky lately.

Pool.We walked around some central square, acquired some nice crystal necklace-earring set for Alёna and drove over to Cornell University campus. It was raining at that point, so we just drove around it, but decided not to stop and just go all the way back to the hotel instead for the long awaited pool time.

And that was our stop at Seneca Falls. A day well spent.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Niagara, Toronto, Montreal Road Trip

Canada 2016 road trip map.For this spring we decided to forgo the trip to a warm sandy beach in favor of a road trip in our own car to a cold Canada. Our kids haven’t been to Niagara Falls yet and I wanted them to see it. Another big factor is a matter of having to purchase four plane tickets which comes out to quite a bit of money for a type of vacation I enjoy the least — laying on the beach, doing nothing.

The total round trip ends up being 1,200 miles. One other option that we have considered was going to Great Smoky Mountains again, but it’s quite a bit farther away and we all have been there. I wanted our kids to explore something new and it’s always interesting to see those new to them things through their eyes.

We tried to beak the trip up into many parts so we wouldn’t have to drive for very long periods of time in a day. Our first stop of the trip is the Finger Lakes region of New York state. We’re going to spend 2 nights1 in a hotel in Seneca Falls and try to do a hike or two along one of the lakes. The drive there is 271 miles long and we hope to do it on the first eve of our vacation.

Our second stop is going to be Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. We plan to get there on Saturday, April 23rd. We are going to stay there for 3 nights2 at a resort that we’ve been to before. There is a lot to do and see at Niagara Falls — the falls themselves (although Maid of the Mist is not running yet for the season), butterfly observatory and horseshoe bend among other things.

Our next stop is Toronto, which is really close to Niagara. We’re going to spend 2 nights3 here. The main thing that we want to see is CN Tower and have a dinner at a spinning restaurant at the top. Hopefully nobody will get dizzy this time around, unlike it was in Berlin.

The drive from Toronto to Montreal is going to be the longest — 336 miles. We might stop at The Thousand Islands region for a break. Montreal itself has a lot of old cathedrals to explore and had a nice World Fair site if I remember correctly. We’ll spend 2 nights4 here.

And one our way back home we’ll spend 1 night5 in Albany, the capital of New York State. And even though we have driven through Albany before I have never seen the capitol building of the state that I’ve lived in for the past 20+ years.

On the final note on all of the hotels — they all have pools — an important thing to have when traveling with kids as we have established. Also the Canadian Dollar at the time of the writing was worth only 73¢ of US currency. Hooray for strong US dollar — it makes it cheaper to travel beyond the border. Should be a fun exploration road trip with kids. I only hope Canada has proper diesel for our car.

  1. Hampton Inn Seneca Falls — 2 nights for $258 with taxes. []
  2. DoubleTree Fallsview Resort — C$450 for 3 nights with all the taxes. []
  3. DoubleTree Toronto Downtown — C$504 for 2 nights with all the taxes. []
  4. Hilton Garden Inn Montreal Centre-Ville — C$427 for 2 nights with all taxes. []
  5. Hilton Albany — $172 for the night with taxes. []

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Ottawa and 1000 Islands

Flowers along the road.С утра-пораньше в воскресенье мы отправились в Оттаву — столицу Канады. Alena on the bank of Ottawa River.По обочинам дороги лес чередовался с обработанными полями, засеянными, кажется, кукурузой, а также полянками, заросшими весёленькими жёлтенькими и фиолетовыми цветочками. По настоянию Даниного папы мы даже остановилиись возле одной такой полянки, и сделали там парочку фотографий. Эх, жалко, что нельзя было где-нибудь запарковаться, да пойти в лес погулять. Вообще по пути мы развспоминались о грибах, разных их видах и способах приготовления. Аж слюнки потекли…

В Оттаве мы оформились в Hampton Inn, который оказался намного приятнее отеля в Монреале: комната больше и новее, бесплатная парковка, завтрак, тишина и покой вокруг.

Museum of Civilization in Ottawa.Отдохнув буквально 15 минут мы поехали смотреть город. Сначала мы запарковались на французской стороне, где пришлось обратиться за помощью к проходящим мимо людям — инструкции на митере (счётчике на стоянке) были по-французски…

View of Canadian parliament from across the Ottawa River.Там мы прогулялись возле Канадского музея цивилизации и спустились к реке Оттава, откуда открылся очень красивый вид. Мне особенно приглянулись цветущие возле берега кусты шиповника, которые источали такой тонкий летний аромат.

Canadian parliament in Ottawa.Потом мы поехали уже на британскую сторону и пошли смотреть на одну из главных достопримечательностей города — здание канадского парламента. Выглядит эта постройка (вернее постройки) весьма и весьма достойно. Больше всего мне понравилось здание библиотеки.

Alena with the famous two of The Famous Five.В окружающем здания парламента районе мы увидели много памятников — одни из них, The Famous Five, был посвящен движению женщин за избирательные права. Возле него крутились туристы, и многие женщины, включая нас с Даниной мамой, хотели сфотографироваться на фоне знаменитой пятёрки.

Library of Parliament in Ottawa, Canada.Кстати, туристов в Оттаве было значительно меньше, чем в Квебеке. После нашей субботней поездки, улицы канадской столицы показались пустыми. Еще мне показалось, что день в Оттаве был более жаркий, и мы намного быстрее устали от нашей прогулки под палящими солнечными лучами.

После прогулки по парламентскому холму мы поехали посмотреть на местный рынок, расположенный тоже в центре города. Многие торговцы уже сворачивали свой товар и готовились к окончанию рабочего дня, но некоторые лотки были открыты. Если честно, рынок не произвёл на меня большого впечатления — продавали целую кучу барахла, и довольно дорогие фрукты и овощи. Но ради интереса прогуляться стоило.

Byward Market in the center of Ottawa. And a pair of staring Canadians.Район вокруг рынка был заполнен многочисленными ресторанами, ресторанчиками и барами. Наш выбор пал на мексиканский ресторанчик Mexicali Rosa’s. Мы сидели за столиком на улице, попивали холодную воду и коктейли, а потом насытили голод очень вкусными фахитами. А вечером Данин папа вытянул нас в бассейн. Ну грех было не сходить — дверь в бассейн была прямо рядом с дверью нашего номера. )

Stamps and cancellation collected in Canada.На следующий день мы отправились домой. Мы заехали на почту за печатями, и случайно увидели кусочек торжественной смены караула возле зданий парламента. Нарядно одетые в красно-черные формы и высокие меховые шапки солдаты выглядели, на мой взгляд, довольно экзотично.

По дороге домой нам хотелось заехать на тысячу островов на реке Святого Лаврентия, что мы, собственно говоря, и сделали. Там мы взяли небольшую часовую экскурсию по реке, и посмотрели на некоторые островки. На самом деле островов там почти 1,800, и раскиданны они по территории равной примерно 100 квадратным киллометрам.

Boldt Castle on Heart Island. Part of 1000 Islands on St. Lawrence River.Самым известным островом является Heart Island, на котором Джордж Болдт когда-то строил замок в подарок своей жене. К сожалению, супруга мистера Болдта умерла в 1904 году (через 4 года после начала работ), и строительство замка не было завершено. В 1977 году остров был выкуплен Thousand Islands Bridge Authority за $1 на условиях, что все доходы, полученные за показ замка будут направленны на восстановление. С тех пор на замок было потраченно около $15 миллионов, и работы до сих пор продолжаются.

One of the smaller islands.Некоторые островки, в отличие от Hear Island, были совсем крохотными и непригодными для постройки более-менее вместительного дома. Но вообще на очень многих были построенны если не дома, то хотя бы беседки. Думаю, очень приятно осознавать, что ты владеешь не чем-нибудь, а целым островом!
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

French Canada: Québec

Old Quebec on shores of Saint Lawrence River.Субботу мы посвятили поездке в город Квебек — столицу одноименной провинции. 200 с хвостиком км пути от Монреаля пролетели незаметно. На подьездах к городу мы получили возможность полюбоваться изгибами реки святого Лаврентия по одну сторону дороги, и небольшими уютными домиками по другую. Было забавно видеть развешанное для просушки бельё практически возле каждого домика — вспомнились Беларусь и детство.

Quebec is crawling with tourists.Поближе к излюбленному туристами старому городу мы застряли в стоячей пробке. Но вскоре нам повезло — удалось запарковаться на одной из платных стоянок, причём дешево (всего $8 долларов на любой срок в пределах 12 часов). Старый город оказался немного иным чем я представляла. Наверное, моё подсознание подсовывало мне виды Троицкого Предместья (сохранившаяся часть старого Минска). Небольшие площади и дорожки буквально кишели людьми. Вообще надо заметить, что Квебек отпраздновал своё 400-летие буквально за Continue Reading
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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

French Canada: Montréal

Streets of Montreal.This was my first visit to French Canada, and the second visit to the country itself. We grouped with Danya’s parents just as the last time — and this made the trip even more interesting. Danya’s dad used to work as a tour guide, so he knows a lot about the history of Canada as well as tourist attraction spots.

We left Brooklyn at around 14:30 on Thursday, picked up Danya’s mom from work, and headed towards Montréal. The traffic was brutal, just as expected, so it took us 3-4 hours to drive through Manhattan.

State Capitol Building in Hartford, CT.On our way we stopped two times for sightseeing — in Hartford, the capital of Connecticut, and in Montpelier, the capital of Vermont. Harford’s capitol building is just gorgeous. It’s made of marble and granite, and has some noticeable features of Gothic design. I must say that it’s one of the most impressive Continue Reading
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Sunday, June 22, 2008

French Canada Trip

We just booked another trip. This time we’re going to Canada1 for July 4th weekend. We plan to spend 4 nights there.

The plan is very simple. We take off on July 3rd, as early as possible and head straight to Montreal through Vermont. Even though it will be late we want to stop in Montpelier and check out the capital building. We expect to arrive to Montreal somewhere in the middle of the night. We’re going to spend 3 nights there2. Continue Reading

  1. Large map can be viewed on Google Maps. []
  2. Doubletree by Hilton Montreal, $429 CAD for 3 nights + parking. []
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Thursday, October 5, 2006

And Back to Canada (Belated Remarks)

Canadian FlagsTime flies so fast! I wanted to write a couple of words about our trip to Canada, even though it seems like a long time ago.

Winter at NiagaraWhen I saw the Niagara Falls for the first time back in 2002, I had a mixed feelings about them. They are undoubtedly beautiful, but somehow I was expecting more. I think that the hype about these falls affects the first impression; and urbanized area around slightly shifts the focus of attention from the graces of nature to the creative powers of mankind.

Horse Shoe FallsWhen I saw the Falls for the second time and tried to really appreciate them for what they are, I was more impressed. The Niagara Falls are indeed a grand place, filled with energy and charm. I only wish it was possible to have a private session with them – away from all the tourists and buildings, and cars…

CN Tower, TorontoIn Toronto the main point of attraction was the CN Tower – the “world’s tallest freestanding structure on land” (553.33 meters high). According to wikipedia, it is 13 meters taller then Moscow’s Ostankino Tower and almost twice as tall as the Eiffel Tower. The CN Tower was topped off on April 2, 1975 after 40 months of construction and was opened to the public on June 26, 1976. The sky was ominous during our trip there! twisted

360 Restaurant in CN TowerWe had a dinner at the 360 restaurant, located in the tower. All of us had to buy main entries for the dinner (the food was good, by the way).  I guess that’s reasonable, because there are a lot of people, who want to enjoy the view from this revolving restaurant, and making everybody buy something expensive somewhat limits the number of guests. The view was amazing. We took some pictures, but they can’t really reflect the feeling of being up there…

Golden Building in TorontoIn general I liked Toronto – it seemed clean and friendly. There is a very beautiful skyscraper in downtown; it stands out because of its golden color.

Toronto City HallToronto’s City Hall is also very memorable. It was designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell and opened in 1965. The saucer-like council chamber is located between 2 curved towers of different height, which look like 2 protective hands.

City Hall: NailsInside one of the City Hall buildings is a very interesting panel, made from nails of various thickness, length and color. 
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Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Colorful Insects

ButterflyThe main reason I wanted to go to Canada was so that Alena could see all the great things that I’ve seen. So we were making stops at locations which I’ve visited before many times.

This time around we decided to stop by the botanical garden. I’ve seen signs pointing to it many times, but never actually went there. The garden itself seems to be rather large, and we were short on time, so we visited only one part of it: Butterfly Conservatory.

Butterfly Refuses to Fly AwayI armed myself with my new macro lens and went hunting. The first butterfly that we came upon was actually flying outside of conservatory, and the pictures of it came out the best. The conservatory itself was filled with all kinds of beautiful and exotic butterflies. They would even land on people and would refuse to fly away.

BeeBut I guess because the lighting condition weren’t great and I’m only an amateur majority of the pictures came out fuzzy. It still was a very fun experience nevertheless.

BumblebeeThen on our way back I stumbled upon a nice bumblebee flying around the flowers. He didn’t really want to strike a pose for me, but I think I still got a nice shot. Looks like he was flying around and collecting nectar from flowers.

My dad took a lot of butterfly pictures as well on his camera. Looks like he and my mom were having fun too. Also we got yet another magnet for our refrigerator. Alena refuses to leave without those from anywhere now. ) We brought 3 new ones from Canada.
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Saturday, September 2, 2006

Rainy Rainy Canada

Niagara Falls Through The Window of Our HotelThe rain hasn’t stopped for a minute today. And it’s not raining lightly either. But we’re trying not to let that get in the way of us enjoying our trip.

Our drive here was good. We lucked out and got here ahead of rain. The hotel is really nice. We ended up on the 16th floor of it. Even though the sky is dark and grey we can still see the falls from our windows.

We spent quite a bit of our time in a local casino. It’s new, and it wasn’t here before. A lot of new hotels came up in the past 4 years that I haven’t been here.

Later in the evening we went out to the pools / jacuzzis. The one inside was packed with people. The one outside was empty for obvious reasons. However that didn’t stop us, and actually it was pretty great. Warm bubbling water around us and cold rainy sky on top of us.

So no matter the rain I would still make this trip. I’m having a great time, and so is everyone else.
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