Sunday, February 16, 2014

2014 - Quebec City (Day 3)

Today is our second full day in Quebec City, which is also our last day before we head back home tomorrow.

This morning for breakfast we had a fruit salad, regular salad with polenta, and a mango/banana smoothie.  The breakfasts here have all been fantastic.

We decided today to do the Ice Hotel, see the Montmorency Falls, and wander Quebec if we had time.  We started with Montmorency Falls, with some troubles finding it on our GPS, we ended up at our destination and it is amazing (I think this may be better during winter than summer).

It is 275ft tall which is 98ft taller than Niagara Falls.  We were parked on the upper area of the falls, so we had to find a way down which is possible with a long long stair case.  This is a use at your risk staircase during the winter.  Some of it is really slippery.

It is worth it to see it down at the base.  The base is completely frozen and you can wander around all you like.  Due to how the falls is structure, the mist of the falls actually freezes into an ice bump.  It is hard to explain, so just look at the picture.

The hill in front of the falls is actually created from the mist of the falls as it freezes.  It is actually really cool.  You can just slide down all of these hills.  There are even some crazy people who do ice climbing in the area!  As you can see, I was enjoying climbing my mountain of an ice cube compared to the people in the back.

Very cool site.  Worth a visit in the winter if you can.  Next we went to the Ice Hotel.  The Ice Hotel is a relatively new attraction (about 15 years old), and is rebuilt every year.  I was pretty excited to see what it would be like when I compared it to the Bonhomme Ice Palace, but I was a little disappointed.  It is not that it is a boring and uninteresting site, it is just that it wasn't what I expected.  There are roughly 10 suites which are themed in the hotel, otherwise you get a generic room with no theme/decorations inside.  There is a chapel, a grand hall, an ice slide, and a bar.  All of which is pretty interesting.  I guess my disappointment was the fact that the hotel is not actually made of ice.  It is made of snow and ice.  So the building itself is not transparent (which in hindsight makes sense), but it is white and looks like a really big igloo.

Well, that's the end of this trip.  Tomorrow we drive back home!  Till next time!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

2014 - Quebec City (Day 2)

Today, we explore Quebec City!

Before I go into Quebec City I thought I would mention that Vermont (at least the places that we went to) heavily favour locally acquired product.  Not to say that this is the reason, but every meal that we had while we were there was really good.

Quebec City, we learned from our hostess, can easily be done within one day.  If you have more time, you can explore the outskirts a bit too.  I was a bit skeptical when I heard this, so I guess we will see when go exploring!

The breakfast that was included this morning consisted of what I assume is different everyday.  Today we had a crepe with apple compote, iceberg lettuce salad and some bruschetta with feta and zucchini, all of which were really good.

The lower town of Quebec City reminds me of old Montreal or Unionville Markham.  It is a nice little area with unique little shops.  The upper area reminds me of the parliament hill area of Ottawa.  Both are worth a visit, how much time you spend there depends on what you like to do and see.

The slide area of the upper area is a must not miss area for me.  I think I could go down those slides forever.  It is called Terrasse Dufferin.  For $2.50, you can use the toboggan once which will go down an ice slide that supposedly can hit speeds of up to 90km/hr!

For lunch we stopped at Aux Anciens Canadien, it is a restaurant in the upper town of Montreal.  Between 12:30pm - 5:30pm, you get the following:

- glass of wine or beer
- appetizer
- main course
- dessert

All starting from $19.95!  The cost depends on what your main course is and if you want to change your appetizer (soup) to something else.  Good value!  While there, we noticed that some couples would just split one of these meals between them.  Here's my main course (grandma's treat):

Next stop, Carnaval!  This is just my opinion, but I feel that this is a really commercialized event.  $15 allows you to get in to see the Carnaval, which is an area that isn't as large as I thought it would be.  Compared to what I experienced in Winterlude, it would probably be roughly the same size.  You will also experience many similar things (slides, tube slides, ice sculptures, snow sculptures).  There is a parade that we were able to see which was okay (I realized that I am not into parades).  There were a few interesting things there, but I don't feel that it was worth the price of entry.  This is also due to how long the lines are.  After about 1 hour, we went into see Bonhomme's Ice Palace.  The outside of the structure is cool since it looks so big, but once inside, I found it pretty lackluster.  We waited about 1.5 hours for a sled ride, the ride itself was pretty fun, but I don't feel that it was worth the wait.  Even after you pay $15 for entry, they still charge you for some things.  A sleigh ride was $10, a dog sled ride was $10.  Mind you, you get to do some other things for free if you would wait, such as a ferris wheel or ice fishing (which is weird since you are fishing for tiny fish in a man-made pond.  Oh, interestingly enough, there were a bunch of people who were wandering around with plastic canes and I was really confused by this.  This cane was hollow and you were able to purchase alcohol and fill this cane!

We had dinner at Chez Ashton, which was recommended for it's poutine.  I wasn't too impressed with it, so I may be missing something here.

Tomorrow, more Quebec City wandering and to see the Ice Hotel!

Friday, February 14, 2014

2014 - Quebec City (Day 1)

Today is the drive up to Quebec City and to visit some places between if possible.  Due to the unexpected weather, we decided against going to Burlington today.  There was a fresh dump of snow last night which was estimated to be 6 inches.  Instead of doing Burlington, we decided to just go to Haskell Library.

Haskell Library was built before a time when the countries cared about how far away from the border buildings could be built.  This library happens to be built along the border.  Yes, half of the building is in USA and half of it is in Canada.  I actually found this area pretty weird since there is no actual border.  You are free to just into Canada and walk back to USA as you please.

The drive from Vermont was actually worse than expected.  There was a lot of snow everywhere and I wasn't familiar with her car, but we made it safely to Quebec City.  The hostess was gracious with providing us with a wealth of information on where to stay, what to do, and where to eat.

We had dinner at La Fabrique, which had both smoked meat and poutine.  Both of which I thought were great, although it may have to do with the fact that I haven't had either in a fairly long time.

And in order to work off the dinner, we found a park and had some fun in the snow.

Tomorrow, Quebec City!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

2014 - Sugarbush Vermont (Day 2)

Today we go skiing/boarding!

The breakfast that was included was your usual continental breakfast (meat, eggs, toast, coffee, juice).  Nothing special.

We went to Mt. Ellen of Sugarbush today.  For $30, you get an all day lift ticket, live music, and a free appetizer (every Thursday).  The mountain is so large that there is a secondary lift to get you to the peak!  There is also a lodge in the middle as well for people who want to stay or a snack or drink.  Well worth visiting if you can.  The mountain was rated at over 2,000 feet high.  There is no night skiing/boarding here though.  So everything needs to be done during the day (9am - 4pm).

Afterwards we decided to visit the Racquet & Health club which was included with our stay at Sugarbush Inn.  Includes a hot tub, pool, sauna, tennis courts, racquet courts and even a rock wall!  Highly worth a visit if you get it included as well.

Dinner was at Hyde Away which was recommended by the receptionist.  The dinner was great.  We had the ribs and the lamb shank stew.

There is a lot of snowfall tonight, so we may need to reassess what the plan is tomorrow.  We were told that there would be a foot of snow overnight.  Originally we would head to Burlington and have a wander, but that may not be in the cards anymore.  We shall see.

Tomorrow, we head to Quebec City, which is the last stop for this trip.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

2014 - Sugarbush Vermont (Day 1)

Today we head to Sugarbush Vermont.

This morning's breakfast included a frittata, a chocolate chip loaf and some fruit.  It was pretty good.

I had decided to visit a few places today before we made it to Sugarbush since we would be going skiing/boarding tomorrow.  While having breakfast, one of the owners there was telling us about a store that we should visit called the Vermont Country Store.  It is a nice little shop to wander and look at their knick-knacks.

Before we made it to the first destination, we found a McDonald's to eat at to see what the $1 McChicken would be like.  Well, it turns out that it is our Jr. McChicken.  That was a bit disappointing.
Our first stop was a supposed 'floating bridge'.  It is supposed to be floating since it is a bridge that had collapsed.  Little did we know that the bridge and the small stream itself was actually frozen over.  It was pretty cool to walk on a frozen stream.

We went to the Ben & Jerry's next.  Ben & Jerry's primary location is located in Waterbury Vermont.  For $4, you get a roughly 20 minute tour which includes a 6 minute movie about how they came to be and their history, a walk through the factory and a sample of their daily ice cream (we got to try Ameri-cone which was really good).  We learned that Canada has only ONE factory that provides Ben & Jerry's for everyone in Canada!  There is a small cemetery for some of the flavours which were terminated due to things like lack of sales or increased production costs.

Nearby there are other shops that you can visit such as Cabot Cheese Annex, Lake Champlain Chocolates, Cold Hollow Cidar Mill, Green Mountain Coffee.  All worth a visit if you have some time (all of them include free samples and don't include a tour, you just wander around yourself).

We had dinner at Prohibition Pig based on a recommendation online and the meal was great.  The service was excellent.  Recommended if you are nearby.  Sugarbush was just a short 30 minute drive away from Waterbury.

Tomorrow, we go skiing/boarding!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2014 - Manchester Vermont (Day 1)

Today was the trip to Manchester Vermont.  The drive down from Montreal is roughly 3.5 hours. The drive down from the hotel that we stayed at had a very nice scenic drive down.

This morning for breakfast it is hanging in a basket on a hook right outside our door! How cool is that? Includes croissants, muffins, yogurt, and apples.

On the way to Manchester we stopped by at a McDonald's to see what the prices would be like and it is crazy! $5 for 20 nuggets and somehow the McChicken is only $1!!

We got slightly lost during our drive down since the GPS doesn't like the address of our lodge. We are staying at North Shire Lodge which is at the end of Main St but for some reason the GPS thinks it is 2410 Main St.

The reason why we came down to Manchester was for the shopping. They have a set of outlet shops including New Balance, Banana Republic, Kate Spade and more. This was much more successful than our Woodbury trip. I ended up with a pair of runners and Allison got a set of runners and a bunch of clothes.

This is a very nice little town. But all the shops close at 6pm. We had lunch at the local gourmet deli shop and they had some really good sandwiches. For dinner we went to Ye Olde Tavern. We made it for 5:50pm. When we arrived we were waiting for a car to unload their passengers, which were all old folks. We joked that we were going for dinner at happy hour. Little did we know that our joke was true. Happy hour is from 5pm - 6pm. Dinner includes homemade fritters with maple butter (very good), a side salad, an entree, and dessert. All for $16!  Very good deal and good meal.

Tomorrow we will be heading to some smaller towns on the way to Sugarbush where we will finally go and do some skiing/snowboarding.

Monday, February 10, 2014

2014 - Montreal (Day 1)

Today we finish with Ottawa and head to Montreal.

The drive is about 2.5 hours away. About half way there we stopped at an information center that provided us with a lot more information than expected and it was all free. They provided us with maps and provided us details for what we could see during Carnival in Quebec.  Very useful.

We got to our hotel (Auberge le pomerol) which is about a 10 minute walk to the east end of Old Montreal. The feel for this place is very different compared to the other times that I have been here. For a Monday afternoon, this area is really quiet. There really aren't that many people here.

We had a really late lunch at Cafe Titanic in Old Montreal which was recommended by a lady who was waiting in line with us for the slides yesterday. The place was okay. Afterwards we wandered a bit more and stopped by Les Glaceurs, a cupcake and ice cream shop. Very good cupcakes! It is right by the Notre Dame.

Wandered along Saint-Catherines and called it a night.

Tomorrow, we head to Manchester Vermont to do some shopping and some sightseeing.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

2014 - Ottawa (Day 2)

Today we go to try the included breakfast at the place that we are staying at and it does not disappoint!  There is a Nespresso machine, someone who will make you an english mcmuffin for you (sausage, ham or bacon) and you could even order multiple!  Includes breakfast cereal, muffins, croissant, bread, yogurt, cheese, hard boiled eggs and more.  They even have travel packs for you (includes a bottle of water, a granola bar, a pack of oatmeal cookies and some candies)!

Earlier I had registered us to join a free snowshoeing event at the Gatineau Park.  It was a good event.  They provide you with a free snowshoe rental (which is normally $7) and they provide a guide who will walk you through a trail and provide you with some information on what to look or there.

Along the way back, we went to the Jacque-Cartier park which is another component of Winterlude.  Oddly, this is located in Gatineau, Quebec (if you just drive across the bridge, it is there).  This place was AWESOME!  It seems like it is meant for kids, but I had a great time here.  They have several awesome slides there which are made out of snow/ice!  Some are meant for individuals and some are meant for you to slide down as a group.  There is even an area where you can ride down snowtubes.  All of this is FREE!!!

We came back and went to skate on the Rideau Canal!  The entire length of the canal is actually 7.8km long and it is a pretty cool experience.  Every 1km or so there is a pit stop where you can take a break and enjoy some of the winter treats like Beaver Tails and Hot Chocolate.  Cross that off my local bucket list!

Tomorrow, we finish up in Ottawa and head over to Montreal.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

2014 - Ottawa (Day 1)

Well, I forgot how boring the drive from Toronto to Ottawa is.  We did see a lot of trucks and even a car in the ditches along the way.  There were cranes that were pulling some of them out of the ditch.

We will be staying at The Business Inn in Ottawa.  Located about a 10 minute walk from the Parliament building, it seems more central than I thought it would be.  This place is interesting.  It includes a kitchen!  There is a stove, a fridge, microwave and more!  Also, there is a COMPUTER with a printer for you to use!  Unbelievable!

Onto the reason behind coming here, Winterlude!  Winterlude is Ottawa's winter festival that is celebrated for a few weeks in January and February.  There are a lot of sculptures and winter festivities happening in the downtown area of Ottawa.  Today, we started with CHINATOWN!  Today was the day where they were having the lion dance parade at Chinatown.  I forgot how uninteresting this is.  The only thing that came out of this was that Chinatown is about 90% Vietnamese restaurants.  Oh, and there is some pretty cool graffiti there!  We went to the Confederation Park to see the ice sculptures and they are pretty amazing.  It is crazy what people can do with just ice and tools.  We saw the Rideau Canal and there are tons of people skating on the canal.  We walked along a bit of it and it is pretty cool.

Tomorrow, we will be going to Gatineau Park for a free snowshoeing event in the morning.  We will be heading to Jacque-Cartier Park to see the events going on.  And depending on how we feel we will skate along the Rideau Canal.  Which we learned today is actually a UNESCO site!