Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec

These are most significant cities on the eastern side of Canada. Other than Quebec City, unfortunately, they don’t offer much in terms of tourism. Nevertheless, i had to go just so that i can say i have been to Canada. I had originally planned to skip Toronto altogether, but eventually visited Toronto Chinatown for food. This was after a tripadvisor recommended restaurant turned out to be a huge disappointment. There was simply too much fried food, which does not sit well with our taste buds. There is an abundance of Chinese restaurants in Toronto, mostly run by ex-Hong Kongers, and they cater Cantonese (can’t go too wrong) and Sze Chuan style food.

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The beef brisket Hor Fun was cheap and good.

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Stopped by a neighbourhood in the Thousand Island area on the way to Ottawa. There are little cottages on the little islands, how fun is that.

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A pier for every home.

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The Canadian parliament building in Ottawa. A free tour is available.

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View from the Peace tower of the Parliament building.

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The library of the Parliament building.

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The Rideau canal is good for strolling around.

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If you’re there at the right time, you might be able to catch the Rideau canal locks in operation.

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Montreal is under 3 hours from Ottawa (which is considered a short distance for this very vast land). View of Montreal from Mont Royal.

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Schwartz’s, famous for smoked meat. I found out about them when reading up on how the Montreal steak seasoning came about. Was greedy to try everything, so ordered the combo which includes a steak. Should have gone with the smoked meat sandwich which everyone orders (the steak was good too, but turned cold too quickly).

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The Cherry Coke is also one of their specialties and it was indeed quite nice.

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Display of smoked meat.

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A queue forms outside Schwartz’s. Be there early.

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Notre Dame, one of the few things to see in Montreal.

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The fact that Quebecans are artificially inclined is evident not just in the large number of art galleries but also in their flower deco.

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Chemin du Roy is a recommended tourist route to take on the way to Quebec City. It is lined with pretty houses, each with a unique design and colour combination. Not to be missed!

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Old Quebec is old indeed. The city walls are partly intact.

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Place Royale.

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Le Petit Champlain.

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More flower deco can be seen here.

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Le Chateau Frontenac (on the left) dominates the skyline.

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Chemin Royal on Ile d’Orleans is also lined with pretty houses. You will also find sugar shacks (where maple syrup is produced), wineries, delicatessen and restaurants.

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All 3 houses on this much photographed stretch are for sale. Maybe they’re tired of the lack of privacy from the attention they attract?

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La Boulange makes wonderful cakes and pastries, don’t miss it!

 

How to tour the Canadian Rockies

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The Rocky Mountains in Canada is particularly well known, more so than its American counterpart. Tourists flock here to see the mountains, lakes and glaciers. Glaciers are also called icefields here in Canada, and along the Icefields Parkway, you can see many many glaciers.

You don’t yourself justice if you don’t do some hiking, which is the only way you can get a feel of the grounds – to see the woods that grow on the slopes of the mountains or the meadows on top of it.

The hike up Johnston Canyon was a lot of fun. This was an easy 2.6km hike with only 120m in elevation. The main thrill factor is getting up close with two waterfalls.

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The rocks and vegetation are beautiful.

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You ‘walk on water’ through the canyon.

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The spray from the upper fall gets you wet. So fun.

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There is a cave opening that leads right next to the lower fall.

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Cascading waterfalls.

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The gushing water takes a breather around this bend.

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You will most certainly meet this furry friend along the way.

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Lake Louise is one of the main attractions in the Canadian Rockies. IMHO it looks best at midday – the water has a deeper turquoise colour.

There are two popular trails at the Lake Louise area – the Lake Agnes trail and the Plain of Six Glaciers trail. Both trails reward you with a teahouse at the finishing line. We chose the trail to Lake Agnes since it is shorter. This trail is rated moderate, with 385m of elevation over 3.4km. The estimated time for a return trip is 2.5 to 3 hours, which we found to be accurate (for our case with kids carried on the back). Walking poles are indispensable.

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Mirror lake, two thirds of the way up.

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Friendly strangers often offer to help us take photos voluntarily. Taken at the waterfall just below Lake Agnes teahouse.

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Lake Agnes. They boil the water from the lake to make the beverages in the teahouse.

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Stools shaped from logs at the teahouse.

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You will come across many lakes along the way. Lake Peyto is worth a look.

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The view from the Big Bend. As you observe the slopes, it will be obvious that the valley in which the Icefields Parkway traverses was carved out by a huge glacier long ago.

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Athabasca glacier is another major tourist attraction (i.e. busloads of tourists). For a hefty fee they take you up onto the glacier using a special bus, and you can set foot on it. We skipped that of course. The thrill factor of doing that (and burning a hole in your wallet at the same time) is no match against going on a hike.

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What i found interesting was the bluish colour of the shadows under the thick layers of snow, which is how illustrations of snow capped mountains are done, which i never thought was very close to how it actually looked. Photos don’t capture the effect well but if you look closely you get the idea.

If you’re fortunate, you may get to see some animals along the Icefields Parkway.

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Mountain goat

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Bear chewing the grass. This is my first encounter with a bear in the wild, very fascinating.

Another mission impossible trip

Itinerary

Going on a trip on 20 May. This is the longest trip i will embark on yet, both in duration and distance. It probably looks impossibly crazy or even silly to some. Country count: 4 (which is little compared to the usual 9 or 10 countries i do for each Europe trip). Duration: 39 days (previous record 35).

As usual, i try to cover all the must-sees, which would include the following:

Japan (9 days)

  • Kyoto and Nara – basically overloaded with temples and shrines. Ranks high on the must-do list.
  • Castles – Osaka (a reconstruction but since i will be in Osaka, why not), Himeji and Matsumoto
  • Hiroshima and Miyajima – UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • Tokyo – not much to see here but much to eat and shop
  • Mount Fuji – rather than making a specific stop to see Mount Fuji, i hope the weather will be clear enough for me to just catch it while on the Shinkansen

Canada (7 days)

  • Rocky mountains – mountains, lakes, waterfalls, glaciers
  • Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City – a sampling of cities that probably best represents Canada

US (18 days)

  • The usual tourist destinations (for international travellers to US) – San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, New York, Washington DC, Buffalo (Niagara Falls)
  • The not-so-usual tourist destinations – Antelope Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Watkins Glen National Park

This is the first time i will attempt to blog as i travel. Stay tuned!