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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

5 Great Reasons To Visit Miss Liberty

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Visiting the Statue of Liberty is easily one of the most popular activities among the 60 million or so travelers who make their way to New York City annually. In fact, 4.5 million tourists per year make their way through Upper New York Harbor to this iconic, towering statue that stands on Liberty Island. That’s more than most other tourist stops in NYC and in the whole USA.

But why is seeing the Statue of Liberty up close and personal so popular? And what are five good reasons why you should pay Miss Liberty a visit? Well, I’m glad you asked.

1. The Ferry Ride

When you go on the Liberty Cruise to Liberty Island, you will find that the incredible views you catch of the NYC skyline and the gentle breeze off the bay on the way over are an experience in their own right. Just hop on the ferry for free at Battery Park at the tail end of Manhattan, and you’ll be over to Miss Liberty in a matter of minutes: but they are truly scenic minutes that you’ll remember for years to come.

2. It’s a Great Deal

Yes, you heard that right. You can take a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty 100% for free. And you can often set up your tickets at the same time you buy NYC bus tour tickets online. The bus can drop you off at Battery Park, and the boat can take it from there. You will have to pay a small fee to get inside the statue, and a little more, plus a months-ahead reservation to get a view from the crown. That can all be done with foresight and a modest expense, but just going to see the statue is free (and the rest is a great deal.)

3. A History Lesson

For history buffs, and for everyone else with an ounce of inquisitiveness about the history and the significance of a 151 foot tall piece of copper standing on an equally tall pedestal, learning about the Statue of Liberty’s history is worthwhile. On Liberty Island, you can go on an audio or personally guided tour of all things related to the origin and history of this iconic symbol of New York City and of American Liberty.

4. The Rest of the Island

Besides the statue herself, Liberty Island also offers a sculpture garden, the Statue of Liberty Museum Store, the Crown Cafe (not actually located in the crown), and an impressive view of old glory at Flagpole Plaza. The photo-ops abound, and there is enough to keep you occupied for hours on this island of freedom.

5. The Island Next Door

It’s easy to get over from Liberty Island to Ellis Island, which in very, very close by. You ride there directly and on the same ferry, still for free. The immigration museum on Ellis Island tells the story of how many decades of immigrants flooded into the US through the Ellis Island immigration station. Sometimes that history is a cause for pride, other times there was discrimination; but anyone interested in how we became this “melting pot” should take the time to visit Ellis, along with Miss Liberty.

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North America

Planning That Trip to Los Angeles

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Visiting Los Angeles for the first time can be both thrilling and utterly overwhelming.  The sheer size of the metropolitan area makes it hard to grasp, even if you are from a big city yourself.  This can make it hard to decide where to go and what to do.  For the best enjoyment of your trip, some forward planning is key and here are some tips to help you.

Travelling there

LAX is the most famous airport in the city but this also means it is the busiest – and it is certainly busy.  Traffic is a nightmare and it is quite a distance from the majority of the main destinations in the city and surrounding areas.  There are alternatives, you can fly into Burbank Bob Hope Airport, for example.  Smaller, it still accommodates most major airline and rental car companies.  You can also hop on the Metrolink across the street to get around the city.  It is closer to everything from Hollywood to downtown LA and even the L.A. Zoo than LAX.

Getting around the city

Hiring a car is a popular way to get around when you are in Los Angeles, as long as you are prepared for the sheer number of people on the roads.  Think hard about the type of vehicle that you want – you might need a sedan or SUV if there are a few of your or a lot of gear.

Also look at the type of rental agreement on offer – does it have a penalty for being late to pick up or drop off?  Are there restrictions about who can drive? Don’t forget to consider the insurance in the package as well. The risk for crime, theft and uninsured motorists will vary by zip code so if you find yourself driving through or spending time in a riskier neighborhood, consider this when looking at insurance options.

Where to stay

Again, there are hundreds or possibly thousands of options about where to stay in Los Angeles.  Do some research before you book anything – look at the reviews for the place and also read about the neighborhood the hotel is in.  Consider how easy it is to get to public transport if you aren’t hiring a car.  Or what kind of drive time will you face from the hotel to the spots you want to visit?  If it takes you half the day to reach the sites, then choosing a cheaper hotel out of the city will have backfired on you.

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North America

5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Trip to Niagara Falls

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Known as the Honeymoon Capital of the World, Niagara Falls is one of the most breathtaking destinations in North America. Nowadays, there’s so much more to see and do in and around Niagara Falls then just the Falls themselves. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of your trip, so you can come home without regrets.

1) Visit the Falls on Both Sides of the Border

Niagara Falls is located on the border between the U.S. and Canada. The famous view of the Falls that can be seen in stock photos and on postcards is to be had on the Canadian side of Falls, but there’s a lot to be said for the American side, too. While the Falls are surrounded by a bustling community on the Canadian side, complete with grand hotels, botanic gardens, and midway attractions, the American side of the Falls is a state-protected park – the oldest in the country. Here, you can enjoy wooded hiking trails on Goat Island, as well as cliff-side paths that bring visitors within an arm’s length of the Falls.

2) Pack Rain Gear

This may go without saying, but you’re going to get wet when you visit the Falls. Whether you choose to a boat tour on the Maid of the Mist (in the U.S.) or the Hornblower Niagara Cruise (in Canada), or a walk through the Cave of the Winds or Journey Behind the Falls, you’re going to be well within splashing distance of the raging water. Bring rain ponchos, a waterproof bag for your electronics, and dry shoes and socks so you can change after your tour.

3) Research Accommodation in Advance

There are Niagara Falls hotels for every budget, especially on the Canadian side of the Falls, but it’s worth doing some research ahead of time to make sure you’re getting the most out of your accommodation. If, for example, you were hoping to camp in Niagara Falls State Park to save on accommodation, you may be disappointed to learn that there’s no camping at Niagara Falls State Park – you’ll have to drive about 25 minutes away to Four Mile Creek State Park for that. But, if you’re interested in hotel accommodation in Niagara Falls, Canada, it’s worth booking directly with a Fallside hotel to get the best views, and access to nearby downtown amenities like the Fallsview Indoor Water Park.

4) Don’t Miss Downtown

There are lots of great attractions in downtown Niagara Falls that you won’t want to miss during your visit. Whether you’re in the U.S. or Canada, you’ll find quirky bars and restaurants and, especially on the Canadian side, lots of kitschy fun. Hit up the Clifton Hills district where you can enjoy the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks, the Great Canadian Midway, year-round haunted houses, and no less than three mini-golf courses.

5) See the Countryside

The area around Niagara Falls is home to quaint Canadian small towns, historic sites, and hidden-gem vineyards. Take a few extra days to explore the surrounding countryside. Go to Old Fort Niagara on the American side of the border, or Fort George on the Canadian side, where you can learn about the roles both nations played in the War of 1812, see artillery and musket demonstrations, and learn more about the conditions under which soldiers lived and fought here. Don’t miss Niagara-on-the-Lake, a romantic lakeside town full of bed-and-breakfasts and home to some stunning lakeside views. If you like wine, you’ll find tiny vineyards dotted all over the countryside on both sides of the border. You’ll find that vineyards here are more welcoming, and less pretentious, than those in some more famous wine regions.

With all the attractions in and around Niagara Falls, you might find you need more than one trip to take it all in. Whether you’re interested in cheesy good times, touring North America’s most famous falls, or exploring sleepy towns and vineyards in the surrounding countryside, there’s something for you in the Niagara Falls area. Make your trip to Niagara Falls a good time for the whole family – or a romantic weekend getaway, whichever you prefer.

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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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