Posts Tagged With: Canada

St. John’s by land and sea

Newfoundland was the only province I hadn’t been to, so for Canada’s 150th, I figured it was time to visit the last province to join Canada.

With only a couple of days, I spent my time in St. John’s trying to see as much of the city as I could!  After getting screeched-in, exploring Quidi Vidi, visiting the two local craft breweries and wandering around enjoying the colourful “Jelly Bean” houses, I had checked a lot of ‘must-do’s’ off my list.

Two remaining were visiting Signal Hill and taking a boat ride out into the Atlantic Ocean in search of whales.

Signal Hill

Enter a caption

Signal Hill is one of the most famous landmarks in St. John’s. It’s part of the capital’s historic past, offering a beautiful view of St. John’s and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as great hiking trails along the coastline.

Signal Hill is significant as it was the site of St. John’s harbour defences from the 17th century to the Second World War as well as being the birthplace of modern communications. It was here that Guglielmo Marconi received the world’s first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901. It’s a good hike up the hill, so be sure to have proper footwear. Part way up is a visitor’s centre, which this year hosted a huge Canada 150 sign to pose with.

There was also a statue of the mascots- a Newfoundland and a Labrador dog!Newfoundland & Labrador dogs

The view from the top was great. On one side, you could look back over St. John’s harbour and from the other, straight out for miles into the Atlantic Ocean.

You could also see where it narrows into the harbour, with Fort Amherst Lighthouse standing guard at the entrance.Looking down at Fort Amherst

At the top, you could climb up Cabot Tower, which was built as a monument to John Cabot’s 1497 voyage to North America and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.   Cabot Tower    Throughout the tower, as you made your way to each level up steep, winding stairs, you could read all about the history of the tower, the history of communications, and the historic first transatlantic signal that happened right here. The view from the top of the tower was even more incredible.

I made my way back down and continued to wander around Signal Hill. As I was at the top, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, a thick fog started to roll in until you could barely see 10 feet in front of you.

I decided not to head out on all the hiking trails since the beautiful view had vanished. Instead, I made my way down to the harbour to catch a boat ride out into the Atlantic.

Iceberg QuestIt was the wrong time of year for icebergs, but I took an ocean cruise with Iceberg Quest, hoping to find some whales. We set out of St. John’s harbour in the thick fog, which didn’t seem to want to let up. Our guide told us all about what we would have been seeing if the fog wasn’t blocking our view, and we made our way out of the harbour into the Atlantic Ocean.

We couldn’t see much, but had an enjoyable cruise listening to Great Big Sea. Just as we were heading past the sea caves on our way to Cape Spear, the fog began to lift!

We passed by the famous lighthouse on Cape Spear, the most easterly point of North America.

(Another spot I missed visiting on this trip, but seeing it was still cool!)

Puffin flyingWe saw tons of puffins flying and swimming around, but sadly no whales on this trip.

By the time we were on our way back, the fog had lifted and you could see the mouth of the harbour,  Fort Amherst from the water and all the colourful houses greeted you as you entered St. John’s harbour.

While I may have checked out most of my ‘must-do’s’ in St. John’s on this short trip, I quickly added many more and realized I’d just have to come back to this beautiful province for more exploring soon!

 

 

Categories: Blog, North America, Photo, Where in the World | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Picturesque Quidi Vidi

Picturesque Quidi Vidi Harbour

Not far from downtown St. John’s is the picturesque village of Quidi Vidi. A historic fishing village located in Quidi Vidi Harbour, also known as the Gut, it’s just off Quidi Vidi Lake, where the annual St. John’s Regatta takes place.

Quidi Vidi, NewfoundlandPronunciation seems to vary, even amongst those who have lived there all their lives, but the most common is “Kiddy Viddy.”

The village of Quidi Vidi was used after World War II for the construction of the United States’ Air Force Base.  Today, it’s a great spot to go for a hike around the lake, check out artisans at the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation and walk around the harbour to Quidi Vidi Brewery. After a tour, you can sit out back by the water and catch a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean from inside the Gut.

Quidi Vidi Brewing

Quidi Vidi Brewery offers tours and tastings. For $10, you can learn the history of the brewery and the beers and taste five of them, including their popular Iceberg beer. It’s made from the water of 20,000-year-old icebergs and bottled in a shiny blue bottle. You can then take a tour of the facility they are quickly outgrowing!

So head to Quidi Vidi, grab an Iceberg beer and enjoy a peaceful afternoon at the harbour.Enjoying an Iceberg beer at the brewery

 

 

*For those looking to try craft breweries in the city, after stopping at Quidi Vidi, head to Yellow Belly Brewing downtown St. John’s.  (The seafood chowder is delicious!)

 

Categories: North America, Where in the World | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Becoming an honourary Newfoundlander

You can’t go to Newfoundland without getting screeched in. (Well you can, but why would you give up the opportunity of becoming an honourary Newfoundlander?)

This was a chance I wasn’t going to miss and was told by a native of St. John’s (thanks Phill!) that the best place to go was Christian’s. So I signed up and sat at the bar with my Quidi Vidi 1892 beer, waiting for the ceremony to begin.

A Screech-In Ceremony has to be conducted by a native Newfoundlander. Ours entered with his paddle, wearing his Sou’wester. He did a little speech about Newfoundland and being a Newfoundlander and asked us all if we were ready to become honourary Newfoundlanders, to which we all responded with a firm “YES B’Y!”

He then asked us all our names and where we came from before handing us a piece of “Newfie Steak” (fried bologna) and continuing on with the ceremony, where we had a shot of screech (Jamaican Rum) and kissed a codfish.

Before we were handed our certificates stating that we were now officially honourary Newfoundlanders, though, we had to recite an oath. When it was my turn, he asked, “Are ye a screecher?” I proudly replied, “Deed I is me ol’ cock, and long may yer big jib draw!”fullsizeoutput_ba1

Categories: Blog, North America, Video, Where in the World | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The colourful Jelly Bean houses of St.John’s

fullsizeoutput_b1f

The brightly coloured houses known as “Jelly Bean Row” have become one of the most popular photos used in St. John’s, Newfoundland tourism, but if you come looking for a specific “row” of houses, you’ll be surprised to learn that these brightly coloured homes can be found all over the city.

fullsizeoutput_b25Ranging from vibrant to pastel shades, a rainbow of colour hits you as you wander up and down St. John’s hilly streets. Many homes and shops are enhanced with “gingerbread” trims, in an equally bright, contrasting colour.

fullsizeoutput_b21

These houses were constructed as temporary accommodation after the Great Fire of 1892, but many remained as permanent residences.

So where did this colourful tradition come from?

Some say it started with the fishermen who painted their homes bright so they could find their way home in the fog (or after having a few too many drinks at the pub). It was also cheaper to buy large amounts of one colour of paint, so they’d paint their boats and their homes the same striking colour. fullsizeoutput_afa

As fun as those stories are, the majority of the Jelly Bean houses appeared in the late 1970s as a way to inject new life into a rundown-looking city.

fullsizeoutput_bc1And they have certainly done their job. Walk along any street in St. John’s and you’ll come across a brightly coloured home (or a row of them!) Many even have Jelly Bean Row mailboxes posted out front, adding just one more splash of light to these already sunny homes!Jelly Bean Row Mailbox

Categories: Blog, North America, Photo, Where in the World | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sleeping on ice at the Hotel de Glace

Let me start by saying that I’m a beach girl.  I love the sand, the sun and the heat.  Although I grew up in small-town Canada, where as a kid, snow meant days off school, snow forts and tobogganing, I have long since outgrown my love of winter.  Even though I spend my time shivering and wearing multiple layers as soon as the temperature starts to hover around the freezing mark (and trying to stay indoors as much as possible once it goes below -10), this year, I decided that sleeping on a bed of ice sounded like a great idea!

20160304_111827

The magnificent Hotel de Glace in Quebec City, Canada.

I’ve seen photos of the Hotel de Glace in Quebec City for years and always wondered what it would actually be like to stay there.  So this year, I booked a room and set off to find out.

Of course, the day before we arrived, Quebec City had been hit with a major snowstorm and the temperature was sticking between -20 and -23 degrees celsius – perfect weather for sleeping in a room made of snow on a bed made of ice….

Upon arriving, I almost forgot how cold I was. The Hotel de Glace is incredible. I felt like I had stepped inside the Disney movie Frozen, into a palace created by Elsa herself.  Now in its 16th year, the theme at the hotel this year was “Rivers.”  Here, dozens of artisans work to create a truly magical world of ice and snow.  Each year, the hotel opens in early January and runs until the end of March. The hotel is built in four phases throughout the month of January.

ice-hotel-de-glace-map-1024x791.jpg

Map of the Hotel de Glace, stating when each of the four phases were completed.

The Hotel de Glace has 44 rooms, 16 of which are suites, each sculpted with a different River theme: an African river with hippos; an Arctic one filled with polar bears; a whitewater raft where the rafters have been thrown overboard and more. The rest of the rooms feature a bed made of a block of ice and a bedside ice table.

The hotel also has several ice bars, where you can have a drink served in a glass made of ice.

In the centre of the hotel is an ice slide surrounded by an orchestra of sculpted penguins.

You can even get married in the chapel here, if a frozen tundra theme is what you’re going for. (Personally, once again I’d prefer a sandy beach!)

After checking in, we set out to explore, humming songs from Frozen along the way.  Before dinner, we had an orientation session. Here, we learned how to properly get into our Arctic sleeping bags and what to do to stay warm. The key lesson here was “If you sweat, you die.”  While layers during the day were a necessity, at night they would most likely leave you shivering.

During the day, the hotel is open to the public, so you can only access your room after 9pm.  This is also the time when the hot tubs and saunas open.  After freezing all day, a nice soak in the hot tub was in order before drying off in the sauna and heading to our room to try and get some sleep, all the while chanting my mantra for the evening: “You will not have to pee. You will not have to pee.” Once I finally got myself situated in my sleeping bag and blew out the candle, I was not getting up for anything.

Sleeping on a block of ice turned out to be exactly how it sounds.  While there was a mattress on top of the ice, some of the coldness still seeped through. Every time you rolled over, you’d have to re-warm the surface under you. I had the hood of my sleeping bag pulled so tight, only my eyes could be seen (and I even had them tucked inside most of the night). Sleeping like a mummy inside my sleeping bag took some getting used to, but eventually I did manage to fall asleep – at least for a little while.

I’m sure I’ve never been so excited to see daylight creep through the curtain door – I had made it through the night without freezing to death! I had slept on a bed of ice, in a hotel made of ice and actually made it through!

What an incredible experience. I had channeled my inner Elsa (although really the cold DOES bother me…a lot) and checked another item off my travel list. I usually leave a place wanting to go back, and this is one I’d love to see again. Although next time, I’ll opt for the day trip option!

Categories: Blog, North America, Photo, Video, Where in the World | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Montreal Craft Brewery Tour

Montreal is a gorgeous city.  Head down to Old Montreal and you almost feel like you’ve touched down in Europe with the old buildings and cobblestone streets. Here, street performers are abundant and the Basilica at night is a sight not to be missed.

DSC_0002

Apart from the beautiful setting, Montreal is a foodie’s playground, with just about every type of food you can imagine found within her streets. Treats from around the world, as well as local classics like Montreal smoked meat, steamies and poutine.

While the food is good, the craft beer scene here is great and constantly growing.

Here’s just a sampling of what Montreal has to offer the beer lover.

Brutopia

1219 Crescent Street, Montreal

20150801_143003

Frosty Morning brew    

The unique layout of this place, with three bars spread across three floors, Brutopia is a great spot for the craft beer lover. They brew a bunch of their standard beers directly on site, including an IPA, Honey, Brown Ale, Blonde and a fruity Raspberry Blonde (which is my fave!).  Throughout the year, they also offer selections like a Chocolate Stout, Scotch and Cream Ales like Frosty Morning, plus many more. Brutopia imports other craft and micro-brewed beer, so their stock is always changing.  Aside from the beer, the neat thing about Brutopia is they have a viewing deck overlooking the stage, where they routinely host live music, open mic and trivia nights.

Dieu du Ciel

29 Laurier Avenue West, Montreal

 20150801_214640_LLS

Dieu du Ciel is the perfect place to end your Montreal Brewery tour as they are open seven days a week until 3am. With a beer menu that is updated constantly (They rotate up to 17 different styles on tap), visiting beer drinkers often head straight here to see what’s new. Always packed with both locals and those just visiting, Dieu du Ciel is known as a contender for top beer spot in the city.  Whether you’re looking to warm up in the winter or cool down in the summer, this is the spot. Favourites, like the creamy Aphrodisiaque and the coffee-infused Péché Morte make a stop here worth it. Add their more experimental brews and a visit here is an essential and worthy one.

20150801_213925

 Chai Ale at Dieu du Ciel

L’amère À Boire

2049 Saint Denis Street, Montreal

20150802_163143

Trying a flight or two at L’amere a boire

L’amère À Boire specializes in classic English, German and Czech ales and lagers, from Hefeweizen to Czech-style pilsner.  They also have a great selection of tapas and seasonal menus to pair with their 22 house beers, including the German-inspired Montreal Hell Lager.  The bar itself has a sleek, café vibe to it, with a loft, backyard terrace and a small patio out front for the summer if you’re looking for a quick beer (or flight) along St. Denis.

Benelux Brewpub

245 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal

20150903_135200

 A perfect summer drink- Pamplemousse 

Benelux Brewpub has two locations offering a menu of a dozen or more craft beer at each spot. They switch up the selection available, moving between old favourites and new contenders. The focus is on Belgian and American styles, with interesting one-offs like Amalgame, a sour brown with cherries aged on oak for one year, or the refreshing summer Pamplemousse. There are plenty of options ranging between blondes, ales and stouts. When hunger hits, Benelux offers the $7 Eurodog and praise is unanimous that it’s a must-try.

Les 3 Brasseurs

1356 Saint Catherine Street West, Montreal

20150903_135425

            Blanche brew at 3 Brasseurs

Started in France and now with four locations in Montreal, Les 3 Brasseurs is more than just a restaurant and pub chain. They maintain a steady menu of beer crafted on site, including a White, Blonde, IPA, Amber and Brown. In addition, they offer a monthly brew and a seasonal brew, always keeping a new beer inspiration part of their brewing routine. There’s plenty to choose from in the way of food and they specially design menu options to be paired with certain beer.

Next time you’re in Montreal, be sure to cross at least a few of these breweries off your list!DSC_0031

Categories: Blog, North America, Where in the World | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Yukon- Larger Than Life

And the rivers all run God knows where;

There’s a land where the mountains are nameless

There are lives that are erring and aimless,

There are hardships that nobody reckons;

And deaths that just hang by a hair;

There are valleys unpeopled and still;

There’s a land—oh, it beckons and beckons,

And I want to go back—and I will.                                              

~Robert William Service, Spell of the Yukon

tumblr_lqtrdqFk9s1qctrdd

It may have been gold that brought Canada’s Yukon Territory to the world’s attention during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-1898, but it’s the rich history, vast wilderness and beautiful scenery that keeps intrepid travelers heading into Canada’s North.

 

As someone who is always cold, driving through the Yukon may not seem like the best vacation for me, but after looking at photos of the beautiful landscape found in the Canadian North, I bundled up, grabbed my camera and set off on a fantastic road trip.

tumblr_lqtrlhoZMF1qctrddtumblr_lqttwsgsVY1qctrdd

From Skagway, Alaska, we took theWhite Pass & Yukon Route train to Fraser, B.C and then continued by bus into the Yukon Territory.

tumblr_lqtrwkhBxd1qctrdd

I’ve always been curious about the Canadian North, and its vastness and beauty had me captivated immediately.  Our first stop was in the small village of Carcross, Yukon, where the Klondike waterways, scenic drives and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad all converge.tumblr_lqts1bRTfi1qctrdd

Carcross was originally named Caribou Crossing, after the herds of caribou that swam the narrows between Bennett Lake and Nares Lake, but was later shortened to simply “Carcross.”

This historic town is perhaps the most photographed town in the Yukon. tumblr_lqts5gy3Ft1qctrdd

Buildings dating back as far as 1898 can still be found in use here, like Mathew’s General Store, where you can find everything from moccasins and furs to ice cream and postcards.

Just outside of town lie the barren sand dunes of the world’s smallest desert, the Carcross Desert.tumblr_lqts8u91MN1qctrdd

Continuing north along the South Klondike Highway, are the turquoise-green waters of Emerald Lake.  The striking rare green colour of this water is created from the sunlight reflecting off of the Mari, a white calcium carbonate that settles on the bottom of the lake.  Beyond Emerald Lake stands the Gray Ridge Mountain at an elevation of 6085 ft, making this stop a gorgeous photo opportunity.tumblr_lqtsfz7gyU1qctrdd

In between each settlement, you find yourself with miles and miles of nature and open road. There’s definitely no rush hour or traffic congestion on the Yukon’s highways!

It’s not until you reach Whitehorse, the territory’s capital, that you actually find yourself around other vehicles and meeting pedestrians on the street. Whitehorse was originally named by the gold miners who thought the rapids at Miles Canyon looked like the manes of white horses running by. The city began as an encampment in the late 1890s as a logical layover for the gold rushers heading north along the Chilkoot Trail to Dawson.  The city’s next big population boom came during World War II, as soldiers entered the region to build the Alaska-Canada -“Alcan” Highway.

tumblr_lqtsloFrj31qctrdd

Today, Whitehorse has around 26, 000 people and is the Yukon’s centre for communication, transportation and commerce, and is the home of the territorial government. It’s also here that you will find Walmart, McDonald’s and a truly Canadian landmark; Tim Hortons!

tumblr_lqtso70glw1qctrdd

Continuing along the Alcan Highway, we came to the village of Haines Junction.  Known to Yukoners as “the Junction,” Haines Junction sits at the corner of Haines Road and the Alaska Highway, nestled at the edge of Kluane National Park and Reserve of Canada.  Kluane National Park is part of the largest internationally protected area in the world, made up of four interconnected wilderness parks in Alaska, B.C. and the Yukon, covering 21, 980 sq km of protected wilderness. The park, which hosts the Northcoast Mountain range, ice fields, valleys and lots of plant and animal life, has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

tumblr_lqtsuklWx71qctrdd

Kluane National Park sprawls along the side of the Alcan for miles and miles as we continued our drive through the Yukon’s rugged beauty. Not too far from Haines Junction is Sheep Mountain, located on the shores of Kluane Lake. This area is home to several backpacking adventures and day hikes around the park as well as almost guaranteed sightings of the Dall sheep that call the mountain home. Back on the road, we came across our first Grizzly bear of the trip – such an amazing sight!

tumblr_lqtsxjq8m81qctrdd

After another day on the road, we arrived in Beaver Creek, Yukon, the most western settlement in Canada near the Alaskan border. Depending on who you ask and the time of year, the population here is between 99 and 140 people; a pretty small community, but we were warned that they know how to party!tumblr_lqtt4oqHev1qctrdd

The Beaver Creek Westmark Inn is a cozy, single-bed, no – tv – or- phonekind of lodge reminiscent of childhood days spent at camp.  The Inn’s best known for its dinner theatre, “The Beaver Creek Rendezvous,” which is performed nightly during the summer in the dining hall.

tumblr_lqttdaCpI41qctrdd

While waiting for your dinner of “Beaver Stew” you can make yourself a s’more over the indoor fire pit or enjoy a pint of Yukon beer, whose slogan is “Beer worth Freezin’ For!” (And it is pretty tasty!) After dinner, the Rendezvous begins as guests are entertained by hilarious songs about the Canadian North and the Klondike Gold Rush days. Somehow I ended up being part of the show! (I need to stop smiling at strangers!)

tumblr_lqtthgXuWA1qctrdd

As another day broke, we headed out into the crisp Yukon air to continue our drive to the Alaska border.  The signs here all say “Yukon – Larger than Life” and after spending a few days driving through this vast, ruggedly beautiful landscape, it’s definitely been a larger than life experience!

Categories: Blog, North America, Where in the World | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.