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East, South, West, North – 18,068km through Canada and USA (Week 2)

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The following (really long) post relates to Week 2 of mine and Adela’s road trip from Jasper in the Rocky Mountains across Canada into America and back to Vancouver covering a total of 18,068 km in just 7 weeks. 

Its tricky trying to get photos of both of you

Day 8 – 11/09/2010 – Toronto.  It was a different kettle of fish and completely daunting being back in a city after spending the last 10 months working in Jasper which only has a full time population of 5,000.  We had decided before we left Jasper that we wouldn’t use a GPS either (and when I say we, I mean me since I am a man and can navigate by the stars).  Since I did the majority of the driving it was left up to Adela to navigate us through the city to find a parking spot.  She did an outstanding job but by the time we had parked we were playing a fun game I like to call “silence”.  Basically we enjoy each others company while slowly fuming away in silence until about an hour later one of us will laugh at the other for being so grumpy.  Its a great relationship builder…
Unhitching our bikes we set off for the day along the waterfront to the city centre to catch a ferry out to Toronto Island.  I love the bike lanes in countries such as America because they actually work and don’t unexpectedly stop down the middle of the road.  NZ government and local planners take note.  We spent the better part of the sunny morning biking around Toronto Island and it was amazing that there are a small number of houses that are actually on the island.  Great views over the water as well to the CN tower and cityscape.  


The almighty CN Tower

Made our way to Old York (apparently Toronto use to be called York but didn’t want to be Old York since New York sounded cooler and more modern) where we checked out the St Lawrence Market.  Suckers for a good food market we got stuck into all the speciality foods with the highlight an extremely tasty savoury muffin.  China Towns always seem to drag Adela towards them as well, and although they usually have some great food this one was a bit of a disappointment but we still got a quota of 5 plus a day fruit and veges to take in the car.  Kensington Market was the next stop on the agenda and we wish we had a few more hours to spend checking it out.  Very hippy and alternative with the local houses reminding us both of Dunedin student flats (without the Speights cans).  Some cool shops and little cafes where Adela wanted to eat everything and buy all the little dresses.  Luckily we stuck to budget.
Kensington Market street art

Found a cute campsite in Jordan Valley not far from Niagara Falls.
KM travelled = 182 km.
Spending = $50 (petrol), $4 (car parking), $13 (ferry), $13 (food), $32 (camping) = $112 total.

Day 9 – 12/09/2010 – Niagara Falls.  Free parking was found at Marineland since we are cheapskates before biking down to the falls.  Holy Moley.  What a site.  Even the rapids before the actual falls are intense then all off a sudden the ground just disappears and the water thunders over unrelenting.  Even the spray can be felt above the falls themselves.  What is scary is that there is a barge that is perched upon some rocks a few metres up from the falls and there are a huge number of nutters that have gone over in all sorts of stupid contraptions.  Some living to tell the tale and some just disappearing for ever.  We spent the better part of an hour being full on tourists snapping away getting some shots.
American Falls on the left and Horsehoe Falls in the distance.  Maid of the Mist in the foreground setting off packed to the rafters.




We donned the blue Maid of the Mist ponchos, which seemed a bit tacky and unnecessary to begin with but boy did we need them!  We piled onto the boat, which we decided looked like a  refugee boat with the hundreds of other tourists and set off.  The Americans must be gutted that the “American Falls” are actually smaller than the “Horseshoe Falls” which belongs to the Canadians.  However, they are both incredibly impressive and the boat drives right into the mist.  The water hitting the rocks creates a crazy effect of strong winds and heavy spray that feels like you are in the middle of a storm.  Two oldies elbowed their way in front of us as we drove up to the first falls but were quickly cowering behind us after a few minutes of getting pounded by the water in the heart of Horsehoe Falls.  Well worth the money we spent and such a cool experience. 

After drying off we headed to the main tourist strip.  I was really disappointed though as it had become so commercialised with souvenir stores, wax museums, and other tacky shops.  All in all though a great day out and would love to view it from the American side as well.  We packed up our bikes and headed to Peterborough to visit another Jasper friend who Adela worked with during the summer.  After staying in Walmart the night before Adela was desperate for a shower and I needed some clean clothes as there are only so many different ways you can turn your shirts inside out and back to front so it was good to do some washing up.  Huge burgers and beers before we crashed out.
KM travelled = 322 km.
Spending = $32 (Maid of the Mist), $10 (chocolate present for staying the night), $35 (food) = $77 total.

 


Day 10 – 13/09/2010 – A blissful sleep in with no real plans for the day apart from to drive to Montreal.  However as we headed along the road we decided to make an unscheduled pitstop in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, and what a neat stop it turned out to be.  Even though we only spent about 2 hours wandering around we still managed to check out Parliament Hill.  Some huge old buildings including the Peace Tower which had amazing panoramic views across the city.  The Peace Tower was built as a War Memorial and they never fail to move me.  Again we managed to find the local food stalls, this time at Byward Markets where we tucked into some tasty treats.  Finished the day stuck in freaking traffic before stopping just 30 km from Montreal at another Walmart.
KM travelled = 461 km.
Spending = $58 (petrol), $8 (car parking), $21 (food) = $87 total.
 Parliament building and the Peace Tower in the middle

Day 11 – 14/09/2010 – Rush hour!  Frick.  It took us 2 hours to travel just 30 km into Montreal city. Luckily the breakfast cafe we found quickly made up for it and put smiles back on our faces.  It is completely whack that in the middle of a huge English speaking country there lies Quebec province which incorporates everything to do with French people.  I was just keen to try my French out on everyone I met but quickly realised the very little I knew was completely useless.  However, we battled on hitting the tourist trail once more with Cathedrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde up first.  One word = Massive.  Its modelled on St Peter’s Basilica in Rome so had beautiful paintings on the roof and wooden carvings throughout.  Wandered on down past the town hall to the Bank of Montreal museum which was the first Canadian bank and actually invented currency.  

Chappelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours was next on the hit list.  The old sailors used to come in and pray for safe journeys across the ocean.  During their travels at sea they would often past the time by fashioning wooden model boats that they carved or made and these would be donated to the Chapel on their safe arrival back home.  Marche-Bon-Secours had been converted into a high-end shopping mall with little boutique shops and staff who turned their noses up at us as we wandered past in our jandals.  Definitely no chance of shopping there.  The old town roads were still the original cobble stones with heaps of street artists selling their wares.  I had to drag Adela off before she brought anything that we would then have to squeeze in to the cramped car. 



The final, and most impressive building was left to last, the Basilique Notre-Dame. Its one of, if not the most famous landmark in Montreal and well worth the donation at the end for a tour explaining the history, which included the 6,000+ pipe organ, the hidden stained glass window, the wedding chapel, Priests staircase and the largest bell in North America.

KM travelled = 94 km.
Spending = $8 (car parking), $32 (brekky), $10 (tour of Notre-Dame), $22 (camping), $10 (more food) = $82 total.


Day 12 – 15/09/2010 – We had found a campsite just outside Montreal so returned again to the city in the morning.  This time turning off the tourist trail to explore and educate our minds at the Montreal Science Centre. The main exhibits consisted of a glass area, sex exhibit and a hands-on area, obviously not all in the same place… Not quite sure what the sex part was all about but we were pretty much in hysterics the whole time.  Somehow we managed to spend about 5 hours taking it all in but it was nice not to be rushed for time.  Dinner was located in some funky French pizza cafe where again I established that I really wish I knew a second or third language. As a Kiwi I have hardly even mastered the English language, yet we would often met French-Canadians or other travellers who could speak 2/3 or more languages.  

I had heard of a surfing spot in the heart of Montreal on the St Lawrence river so decided we better go check it out.  AWESOME.  There were about a dozen surfers milling around on the shoreline patiently waiting their turn all having a good laugh.  Basically everyone takes turns to paddle straight out into the middle of the river current faces upstream and starts paddling like mad so that once you hit the perfect spot on these natural river waves you will remain stationary and can then stand up.  The ride can be endless but every minute or so a new paddler would jump in and they would just rotate out having to paddle back to shore before running along the track to the put in again.  I still wish to this day that we had stuck around for one more day so I could hire some gear and have a crack.  Hopefully we will visit again in the future!  
KM travelled = 113 km.
Spending = $50 (petrol), $24 (Science exhibits), $10 (parking), $28 (dinner) = $112 total.

Surfing on the St Lawrence – Signalling the next guy in for his turn
Could pull cutbacks and ride it for as long as you liked!  A surfers dream.



Day 13 – 16/09/2010 – No traffic thankfully as we headed away from Montreal via the St Lawrence river to Quebec City.  Some cute little towns that I wish we had time to explore but as always not enough time and too many k’s to do.  Straight onto our bikes around the Parc des Champs-de-Batallie (Abraham’s Battlefields Park) which was the site where the British defeated the French many moons ago.  I seem to have a fascination with old military weapons as you can see…  

The Parliament building was pretty neat as was the St Jean Church that had been converted into a library.  A great use of space for an old building that was no longer used.  Some how our noses, and the guide book, led us to the Chocolate Museum where we had to indulge in some tasty treats.  
Locked the bikes up to explore on foot and wandered down the Rue-St-Jean (very pretty french street) with little side streets tucked away and some cool houses around.  My favourite was definitely checking out the battlefields and the history there while Adela enjoyed the chocolate (surprise surprise) with Rue-St-Jean coming in a close second.
KM travelled = 271 km.
Spending = $22 (food), $8 parking, $12 (chocolate treats), $8 (clothes washing), $22 (camping) = $72 total.

Adela intent on buying some art

Day 14 – 17/09/2010 – Back to Quebec City in the morning for some more touristy delights.  Biked through the Battlefields again to the Quebec City Citadel, which is still an occupied and functioning Army base and one of only 2 in the world still active.  Walked all the way along the humongous perimeter walls into the walled Old Quebec City stopping in for lunch (starting to get sick of peanut butter sandwiches) in Place de Armes Square outside Le Chateau Frontenac.  A classic Frenchman was belting out a little bit of Andrea Bocellia who just happens to be Mum’s favourite Opera singer so I was tempted to sing along.  Alas we ran out of time but he deserved a tip for for entertaining us.
Le Chateau Frontenac is the most photographed hotel in Canada.  It was gorgeous, but we decided we have seen better.  Adela soon spotted the local artwork in a side alley and promptly fell in love with every piece there.  I restricted her to one item which she browsed over for about an hour while I lazed in the sun.  Started to get hot and bothered so wandered down the aptly named “Breakneck Stairs” to the narrowest legal streets in North America for some gelato and jumping.  Adela had been hanging out for a coffee all morning but we didn’t find them until it was early in the evening after the University area and Latin Quarter had been explored.  The Basilica Notre-Dam-de-Quebec was good and pretty inside but the Montreal one trumped all over it.
Walked our way around the rest of the wall and I found the Parc de L’Artillerie (no translation required here) with several old cannons and tonnes of photos for me!  The final stop of the evening was the Citadel where we managed to jump on the last tour of the day.  We always prefer getting a tour around areas including cities and buildings as I always think for the money you spend they are definitely worth it.  The Citadel is designed as a star shape so that you have loads of points to defend from covering all the different angles of approach.  The walls are all built into the ground with slopes leading up to them so that the enemy can’t actually pinpoint where to fire.  Very effective, all though the French still managed to lose it somehow.  


Exhausted after a heavy day of walking and sightseeing throughout the cities around Quebec and Ontario provinces.
KM travelled = 226 km.
Spending = $7 (car parking), $18 (dinner), $10 (treat), $10 (tour), $25 (painting), $55 (petrol) = $130 total.
Weekly KM travelled = 1669 km.
Spending for the week = $672.
 Atop the Citadel walls

Citadel looking back towards Le Chateau Frontenac

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North America

Top 3 Biking Adventure Destinations in the US

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Bike holidays are not only becoming more popular but are also more accessible to many. You no longer have to invest a lot of money in good bikes and other equipment to enjoy a good biking adventure. You don’t even have to do downhill biking or explore mountains to have a fun adventure; you can have as much fun in cities with their unique charms and attractions.

There are some interesting destinations to visit too, especially in the United States. We are going to look at three of the best destinations you can explore on your next holiday.

Santa Fe

Santa Fe is one of the best destinations to consider if you want to enjoy a more relaxing biking experience. The city has everything for everyone, from the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the outdoor adventures it offers, to the galleries and restaurants just waiting to be explored in the city.

Santa Fe is also home to some remarkable roads that are perfect for bikers. On top of that, there’s the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway. It is one of the best trails in the world and a definite must-visit if you enjoy bike holidays and good adventures.

The San Juan Islands

Planning a biking trip in the summer? Then the San Juan Islands in Washington is the perfect destination to consider. You should visit the Emerald Isle, also known as the Orcas, for its long and beautiful biking trail. It has roads that go across forests and big, beautiful fields. In short, it has everything for those really enjoy an adventure.

You can also challenge yourself and conquer the trail that climbs Mount Constitution. Be sure to have your camera with you as the view from Constitution is unbelievable. Even better, the Orcas and the rest of the San Juan Islands are easily reachable; you just have to take the Washington State Ferry.

Los Angeles

For the best variety, however, it is difficult to beat Los Angeles. The city has everything for every type of traveler, including those who love bike adventures. Michael Palance, an actor, and producer who lives in the city, shared some of his favorite spots with us and we love them all!

The Lake Hollywood Park is one of the best places for seeing the Hollywood sign. You can also take your bike to Mount Lee and reach the Hollywood Sign directly. Biking in the city is just as exciting, especially with landmarks like the Griffith Observatory, the Amoeba Music and Capitol Records Building all offering unique takes.

 

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North America

Top 11 Things to Do in the Okanagan

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If you’re looking for a breath of fresh adventure, packed with sports and activities for all four seasons, the Okanagan is for you. This region, located in the southern interior of British Columbia, draws people from across the world to spend their holidays and enjoy Canada’s natural wild beauty.

The city of Kelowna is the largest between Vancouver and Calgary and lands smack dab in the middle of the Okanagan. From humble beginnings in 1879, this modern city is now a star vacation destination. There are various hotels in Kelowna that offer an array of Okanagan tour packages including: romantic packages, leisure packages, wine-tasting packages, and more to cater to the distinct demands of tourists. This place is a treasure of natural wildlife and a famous tourist destination throughout the year.

Here are the top 11 things to do in the Okanagan Region:

Lake Okanagan: Come learn why this area is often referred to as Canada’s Hawaii! With a deep centre and shallow beaches, this narrow mountain-fed freshwater lake spans over 135 kilometres. Enjoy lakefront activities in Canada’s best summer weather. The Okanagan’s high desert climate provides vacationers with beautiful blue skies and hot, dry sunshine.

Knox Mountain Park: Take a hike up the most well-known natural mountain park in the area. Knox Mountain is undoubtedly the largest natural park nearby, covering 766 acres. A breathtaking panorama of mountain ranges and the city await.

Myra Canyon Park: Hike, bike, or take a horseback ride over the famous Myra Canyon Trestles in Kettle Valley. This historical railway site is a popular tourist attraction that spans 24km (12 miles). If you’re not up to hiking alone, most Okanagan tour packages include this natural park!

Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad: If you don’t want to worry about the weather, this is a wonderful place to visit year round. This family-built attraction features 4,000 square feet of family fun and more than 45 computer-controlled trains. Also included on-location is an extensive gift shop and starter train kits.

Wine Tours: With more than 60 wineries in the Okanagan, you’re guaranteed to find a wine tour that will wet your whistle. Ask any of the knowledgable staff at the hotels in Kelowna for one of their famous wine tours and discover the joys of wine tasting. There is a plethora of options to choose from half day to full day wine tours with Okanagan Wine Country Tours.

Skaha Lake Park: If you are looking for a patch of green to relax and unwind with your family, then the Skaha Lake Park in Penticton is a great stop for a picnic and family fun. This 21 acre park has year-round recreational opportunities and a gorgeous red sand beach.

Kangaroo Creek Farm: Have a taste of the outback at the Kangaroo Creek Farm in Lake Country. Animal lovers can meet a multitude of marsupials and cuddle with a swaddled joey! With wide open spaces, this farm holds hours of entertainment and photo opportunities. Don’t forget to bring some cash to donate and support the farm!

Mosaic Books: Bookworms, look no further! Mosaic Books is the Okanagan’s largest independent bookstore. Located in the heart of downtown Kelowna, this vibrant bookstore has friendly, knowledgeable staff. Filled with books, cards, journals, games, gifts, and more- this shop is a worthwhile stop!

Davisons Country Village: Located in the picturesque town of Vernon, this orchard village is a hidden gem in the Okanagan. There is something for everyone at the farm. Meet friendly farm animals, take a tractor tour, and eat fresh at the Deep Dish Café. Give yourself an afternoon because there is much more to explore!

Waterfront Park:  Craving the beach, play, and food? This park is a tourist attraction all throughout the year. Sandy beaches, a broad boardwalk, skating/rollerblading rink, food trucks, and more! Not too far from your Kelowna hotel, this park is a great for kids to play while the parents unwind after a long day of sightseeing.

Big White Ski Resort: It’s not Canada without snow! Big White Ski Resort is a must-go place for all snow sport lovers. Experience world-famous champagne powder snow across 118 ski runs, shop the village, and relax in the day spa! They have various packages for amateurs as well as experts to explore. If you’re visiting during the summer, they also have extensive bike and hike trails.

See why Kelowna is the best vacation destination, no matter what time of year you visit. The BEST WESTERN PLUS Kelowna Hotel & Suites has been offering guests a convenient launching pad to all there is to enjoy in the Okanagan. Best Western Kelowna’s amenities and extras include fibre optic internet, a mineral pool, hot tubs, free hot breakfast buffet, fitness centre, spa, a restaurant and pub and more. With dozens of eco-tourism awards and a LEED Silver environmental wing as well as a sprawling, grassy courtyard surrounding its 176 rooms, this Best Western Plus has become one of the most popular ‘green’ and pet-friendly Kelowna hotels.

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North America

Hiking Adventures in Bryce Canyon National Park

Hiking Adventures in Bryce Canyon National Park

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The Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah is one of the best places to visit if you’re looking for adventure and challenging hikes. The place is filled with gorgeous trails, amazing landscapes, and some of the most challenging hikes in the world. To make it even better, the national park is also home to an amazing sunrise and sunset.

There are several hiking trails you can try if you are up for an adventure. There is a hiking trail for everyone too, regardless of your experience level and the kind of challenge you want to face. Here are the best ones to consider.

The Rim Trail

The Rim Trail at Bryce Canyon National Park is perhaps the easiest hiking trail to try. This hiking trail is perfect for those who simply want to enjoy a nice walk while absorbing the majestic scenery of the national park. You can start the trail from several points since the route forms a loop that takes you all around Bryce Canyon.

If you’re staying in the Bryce Canyon Lodge, Sunrise Point is a good place to start. As the name suggests, this is the perfect starting point for early risers who want to enjoy sunrise in Bryce Canyon. Make sure you have your camera ready for a spectacular photo opportunity.

From this point, you can see the Bryce Amphitheatre clearly. Make your way to the Boat Mesa and you will walk past places such as the Mormon Temple and Queens Garden. With just 200 feet of elevation to deal with, this is an easy hike that you will certainly enjoy.

Navajo Loop Trail

On the other end of the scale, we have a fairly challenging hiking trail to conquer. The trail starts from Sunset Point, just south of the Bryce Canyon Lodge. Again, this is the place to be if you want to enjoy a nice view of the sunset in this area.

This trail involves visiting the Silent City, a gorgeous combination of limestone and urban sprawl. You will also be walking past Wall Street, Bryce Canyon’s signature attraction. The narrow walls are just too good to miss.

From this route, you can choose to return to Sunset Point or explore other short hikes, including the Queens Garden route and the Peekaboo Loop Trail. Both of these routes are equally challenging, but very enjoyable to try.

Mossy Cave Trail

The Mossy Cave Trail offers something entirely different. You can see the spires of the park up close without having to go down the amphitheater when you choose to walk this hiking trail. That said, the trail starts 4 miles past the park’s entrance. Nevertheless, it is an interesting hiking trail to try, especially if you visit Bryce Canyon often and want to enjoy something entirely different on your next trip.

These hiking trails are all worth trying. They offer adventures like no other and will help ensure you enjoy your trip to the Bryce Canyon National Park.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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