Quebec City

My final holiday recap has been a long time coming!

After our time in Acadia National Park, we drove up into Canada, to Quebec city. We didn’t have the best start, as the drive was long (several hundred miles) and we were stuck at the border for a bit, and then in traffic to cross the bridge for a few hours. Then we got lost trying to find the car park, and then once we had found it we could not find out hotel and ended up dragging our cases up and down the streets for close to two hours. We were so exhausted by the time we checked in (it was around 9pm and we had left our hotel at about 10 in the morning) we went to Starbucks for a panini and hot drink before crashing out in the hotel.

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This gorgeous hotel dominates the skyline of the old town (no, not ours, although we could see it from our hotel).

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One our first full day we got our bearings (realised then how close we actually were to the car park- about ten minutes!!) and had a lovely walk around the old town.

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It was a beautiful day so it was great to walk around.

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You could walk along a lot of the wall too.

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I got a little obsessed with David’s Tea. They have shelves of loose leaf tea in canisters which you can buy, and they make anything hot or iced to take away too.  I watched carefully- they brew the tea, pour over a cup of ice, and top up with a little cold water- if we had space in our freezer for a bag of ice I think I could replicate it at home! While we were there we tried quite a few fruity flavours and I bought a few packs to bring home.

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Quebec city was very french, in the way it was set out and of course all the people speaking french! From watching TV and films I will generalise and say that Americans seem to love the idea of Paris, but I would say that Quebec city is what they imagine Paris to be like if that makes sense. All cobbled twisty streets and little shops. And macaroons.

During the summer there are free firework shows over the river, so we made sure we were there on time. Each time is a different theme- the one we saw was set to opera music. Very dramatic, although it started raining and was absolutely pouring by the end- luckily we didn’t have to run far to get back to our hotel after but we were soaked through!

There was a big park by some battlements, and one morning I went for a run along the top- the park was great with running path marked out, and lovely views across the river.

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Later we got the ferry across the river, again for the views, and then enjoyed wandering around the shops and other parts of the old town.

As our holiday traditions go, we didn’t have lunch, and so headed for an early dinner at Le Chic Shack, a really good burger place- they did a home-made veggie burger, which you could have in a bun/ gluten free bun/ served on a salad. They also made their own soft drinks- I had a mango one and Andy had lemonade. We sat by the window and enjoyed people watching.

2014-08-03 22.08.45Then we went for a long walk through the park, and even saw some woodchucks!

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It was a great place to visit, although I think it would be magical at Christmas time with everything covered in snow and lights everywhere. Save it for another year I think!

Do you like going to places at certain times of the year? Going to the Bath Christmas markets is one of my favourite seasonal trips, but then going in the summer means lovely walks.

Acadia National Park

So after waking up to beautiful sunshine we headed out on the drive to Acadia National Park, which is on the Atlantic coast. We arrived to early to check in to our hotel, so went to the visitors centre to find out what to do.  After looking around and buying a pass (this was different to every other National Park we had been to, in that there were no entrance gates, you just bought the ticket at the centre) we headed to the Lake House.

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We were going to have lunch (what? On holiday?) but the queue was huge, so we opted to walk around the lake first. It was a 3 mile loop and was just beautiful.

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I saw a few red squirrels too, but of course they hid when I took a photo!

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Such a wonderful place for a walk.

By the time we got back the queue was gone so we opted for food. They did a hummus and veggie wrap (hooray) and proper fresh lemonade- I had blueberry lemonade (I wanted blueberry iced tea but they had run out).

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They also sold these things called “popovers”- they would have them warmed with jam and tea as a sort of afternoon tea. Well, we had to try them- they turned out to be like yorkshire puddings! A bit strange, but nice to try. After checking in to our hotel we drove back to the park to watch the sunset.

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The next day we drove to the coastal section of the park- it was always really misty by the sea. This was Thunder Hole- the sea crashes in and out and makes a loud booming sound. The path was closed off for safety reasons but of course there are always some people who feel it does not apply to them…

2014-07-30 15.57.26Then we headed inland for some hikes. We picked up a little hiking book in the shop, as at the other National Parks we were always given a free newspaper that had maps of walks, but this one didn’t. We wanted them more for the rating (one walk contained a section of vertical rock where you pulled yourself up iron rungs drilled into the cliff- no thanks!). In the end we combined a few walks as the trails met in different places.

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We were up high at this point but could see the clouds covering the sea below.

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We saw loads of blueberries growing.

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Then we walked/hiked back (we don’t go on the extreme hikes, but the terrain was steep and involved a lot of climbing over boulders and things) and walked along the sea shore for a bit.

2014-07-30 18.51.23In the evening we walked to the town (Bar Harbor) for a wander around- it was so pretty.

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We found an amazing place to eat- the Side Street Cafe. I had so much choice, it was amazing! And the best part of the menu was that they did a build your own sandwich (and offered gluten free bread) so pretty much any diet would be catered for. We shared guacamole and corn chips to start, and then I had a sandwich with hummus, tomato, spinach and avocado. The best combination!

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To top it off we found a great bakery, The Pink Pastry Shop. It was a bit chilly that evening (the mist came in to the town while we were eating) and this place did a chai latte and offered almond milk! I was very excited. Of course I was also swayed by the baked goods, so I got a pumpkin whoopie pie, and Andy had a peanut butter cupcake. The drink kept me warm on the walk back, and we had the desserts a little later.

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The next day we went to a different part of the park to see another lighthouse. Again, nice but not really what I was expecting. Then we drove along the coast for another walk to see the pink granite “cliffs”- really the part of the beach you walk on.

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The mist was really rolling in, and although we had planned a walk on this side, we headed back to the other part as we didn’t think there was much point in walking up for ages if we couldn’t see anything.

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So we walked up to the top of this hill to look down on the lake (the first one we walked around)- stunning views.

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We saw Bubble Rock, which is a huge boulder that was deposited during the ice age. It looks as if it will roll off the edge.

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Then we saw some of the sea in the sunlight! Very pretty indeed.

For dinner we walked back to the Sidestreet Cafe- I had a black bean wrap (again, delicious) and we were persuaded by the waitress to share a dessert.

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This was a Fluffernutter sundae. Basically a grilled peanut butter and fluff sandwich, topped with ice cream and chocolate sauce. It had to be tried!

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The weather was lovely that evening so we spent some more time wandering around the town and enjoying the views.

Acadia National Park was a lovely place to visit. It had a different feel to the other National Parks we had been to- it was much smaller, and being so close to a town meant it had a relaxed vibe about it. It did have plenty of hardcore day hikers, but it also had people who were there to sit on a boat all day and go out for ice cream in the evening.

Do you like trying new foods on holiday?

New England

Hey, I hope everyone is having a lovely weekend. Another part of the holiday recap here.

So, after a day in Montreal we got a bus down to the USA. We crossed the border 4 times during this trip, and going into the USA was not a good experience. Our bus was late, but then it was in the queue for the border for 2 hours before we even got off the bus to be interrogated by the officials. Anyway, I think we ended up being about 3 hours late by the time we picked up our hire car, but there was still enough time for a touristy visit.

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We could not go to Vermont without going to Ben and Jerry’s world! We did the tour (it was something like $4 each so not bad)- it was quite interesting although the factory only goes in the week, and this was a weekend, so some of it was a video instead. Then had a free sample (which was pretty big- Andy’s had an entire oreo biscuit in it!).

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On the exit of the tour they had posters for the top 10 flavours, so of course I had to have a picture by my favourite! Then we joined the queue to buy an ice cream. We shared two scoops- one hazelnut one and one peanut butter/caramel one. They were good, but we had eaten breakfast very early (7am), been on the bus for hours, and this was around 4pm, so both of us decided that we should have had a smaller size- it was a bit too sweet.

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They even have a flavour graveyard there…

Anyway, then we drove to our B&B which was just gorgeous. It was in New Hampshire (Jackson), and by the time we had driven there it was the evening. Trip Advisor to the rescue- there was a pub within walking distance (The Red Fox Bar and Grill)- they did the most amazing salad with roasted pear, nuts and goats cheese- I was sold!

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On the drive to the mountains- a lovely view across the valley but huge clouds…

The weather was more overcast the next day. We headed out to the White Mountains National Forest, but got caught in a torrential downpour (when even the wipers on the fastest speed could not clear the rain)- we did have raincoats but we would have been soaked in seconds. We went to a visitor information centre to find out about the Old Man of the Mountain (the profile of a face on the side of a cliff that collapsed in 2003- there is now a memorial there, and do not under any circumstanced make light of the situation because the locals are very cut up about it- you could get memorial t-shirts and everything…). There was a walk to view it, but it was still pouring so we headed to another section of the park for a lovely walk to a waterfall (Flume Gorge).

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We even saw a bear cave- run!

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After a couple of hours we headed back to the car, and as the rain was coming our way again headed to some outlet shops.

In the evening we went to the Red Fox again- they had a brick oven for pizzas so we shared a veggie pizza and the grilled pear salad.

The following day we had breakfast at the B&B (which was fantastic- every day they had available fresh fruit, home-made granola, little home-made pastries, juices, teas etc, and then they had a menu for their cooked items- some sort of pancakes and some sort of French toast were on offer every day. One day I had French toast with bananas and pecans and one day spiced apple pancakes. Delicious.)  Anyway, back to the trip. It was raining again (hard) so we popped to some other outlet shops- I got some bargainous Gap jeans for about £18, and some Lindt chocolates.

Then we drove to Freeport in Maine. It was a really pretty town, with some outlet shops but also some quirky places too. After a few hours wandering around (and a Starbucks “lunch”- we don’t tend to have lunch on holiday- we each had a drink and shared a piece of pumpkin bread as we were hungry) we drove out to see the lighthouse at Rockland. You had to walk along a breakwater for about a mile, and it was really misty, so pretty spooky. We kept hearing fog horns but could not see the ships!

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It was pretty, but not like the sort of lighthouse I imagined! Walking back was strange too as we could not see the mainland because of all the mist. We still had a bit of driving after that (a couple of hours) so by the time we reached the town we were starving. We saw a Friendly’s diner and so that decision was made. They did do a veggie burger, but they also did tomato soup with a grilled cheese, and I fancied the soup so went for that with a side salad.

As we finished our meal the lights flickered and huge crashes of thunder rumbled about- we had to sprint to the car and were drenched! The storm was crazy- lightning every 10 seconds or so, and such heavy rain. The sat-nav took us straight to the hotel, and luckily we could park under cover to unload the car.

The next day we woke to glorious sunshine, and luckily those were our only really rainy days. I don’t mind a bit of rain and of course we pack raincoats, but some of that rain was so heavy we would have been soaked in seconds which is never fun. And of course the views are not quite as stunning!

Do you have lunch on holiday? We tend to have breakfast and then a snack like a cereal bar or banana, and then dinner.

Does rain stop play on your holiday, or do you carry on regardless?


Montreal parts one and two

So after our whistle-stop tour of Ottawa, we were off to Montreal. Our holiday was a bit of a complicated road trip- we got the train to Montreal, spent the afternoon and evening there, and the next day got a bus down to the US, returning to Montreal for a few days at the end of our trip.

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After dropping our bags at our hotel we went for a walk to the old town. We came across Notre Dame (they have loads of churches named this in Canada), and then later on found a street festival for Christmas in July.

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There was a live band playing Christmas music (of course)  and loads of food trucks. We hadn’t had lunch and were pretty hungry- we found a gourmet grilled cheese van so went for one each, sat on the grass in the evening sunshine. Lovely.

On our walk back we came across a Second Cup (a coffee chain) and they do a London Fog, which is a latte made with Earl Grey tea (they use full leaf tea bags) and vanilla syrup. It is so good, so I had one for dessert.

The next time we were in Montreal was our final few days. Our hotel was close to the main shopping street (like Oxford Street) but we were also near a lovely park. I say near, what I mean is a 30 minute steep uphill walk to the park!

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2014-08-05 22.17.30 2014-08-05 22.28.28It was worth it for the views of the city, and we even saw baby racoons! So cute, although some people were feeding them, which is banned, and made me a bit annoyed.

The next day we packed loads in. We got a ticket for the underground, and started off going to the Olympic park. There is loads on the park now, including a planetarium, botanical gardens and indoor zoo.We opted for a walk around the botanical park, which was lovely.

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I found this giant sunflower plant and took the picture for my Mum as she loves sunflowers.

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After walking around for a few hours we got the train out to where the Grand Prix track is, and walked around there for a bit. It was baking.

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There was a park there too so we had another walk around the park. The FINA world masters were being held there (swimming) so there were loads of people walking around with ID tags and we could hear lots of cheering coming from the pools.

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Oprah Chai latte- made with rooibos as well as black tea, and extra spices

Then we got the train back to the city centre, did a spot of shopping, bought a cold drink (lunch?) and headed back to the hotel to work out where we should go for dinner. It reminded me of London- especially where we were. Very busy shops, businesses, and nice parks. But also a lot of bars or fast food places- we had to hunt to find places to eat.

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Now I have had a bit of an obsession with Hurraw! lipbalm. I ordered some from i-herb, and then found it in Wholefoods in London. But I was running low and thought I would look out for it on holiday, as it was bound to be cheaper. We didn’t see any Wholefoods, and all the health shops that I checked didn’t stock it. In the end I was googling one night and found that it was sold in American Apparel for $4 , so when we walked past one I stocked up. They did an offer where every 3rd one was half price, and it hardly weighs anything so I bought quite a few! I would not have gone in if I had not known though. Thanks google!

One our final day we went out for breakfast (more on that in a minute), but as we were getting the bus to the airport in the afternoon we didn’t have long. We went down to the old town for more of a walk, got caught in a heavy rain shower, and then walked back through the main shops.

We ate at Resto Vego one evening, which was a veggie/ vegan cafe where you served yourself and then your plate was weighed. All the ingredients were listed (in French and English) and they also had symbols for gluten free/ dairy free and a few others. I had a lovely quinoa salad with coconut and different veggies, loads of salad bits, some ginger tofu, and some avocado. They had hot things like bean burritos, pizza, stir fries etc too but I didn’t fancy those. A great place to stop at anyway.

For our final day we had our evening meal at Lola Rosa, which was another veggie cafe and amazing. Usually there are only one or two veggie options on the menu, so I just go with that, but I was spoilt for choice which makes a nice change. Andy had a bean chilli which he loved, and I had a quesadilla with avocado (you could choose avocado, ratatouille or spicy sweet potatoes as the topping)- it was all cooked fresh too, and came with a salad.

Usually for breakfast we would get something from a cafe, like a muffin or scone, but on our final day we fancied a proper big breakfast. We had found somewhere online, but could not find it, but then came across the amazing Eggspectation. Oh my word if you like american breakfasts then this is the place to visit.

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I never used to like French toast (too eggy) but we had some lovely breakfasts at a B&B and I found the French toast more filling than pancakes. This was brioche French toast with maple syrup (had to be done- we were in Canada where I think you have to have some every day), a mountain of fresh fruit, and something creamy in the pot (not sure what that was). Amazing. And kept me going for hours- the next thing I had was a hummus and veggie pot thing at the airport at around 6pm!

Montreal was a great city to visit. One of the friendliest I have ever been to. After arriving the first time we were stood looking at a map trying to work out which tube line to get to our hotel, and two people stopped to offer help (and not taxi drivers trying to pick us up, but locals on their way to work). One our second arrival there we came out of the underground station but needed to head north- again we were only standing still for half a minute looking at street signs and someone asked if we needed help (and pointed us in the right direction). Everyone in the shops was so friendly, welcoming us to Montreal/ Canada, seeing if we needed anything else. Genuinely the most friendly people. It was a big city, so we did need the underground to get around some days, but a lot of it could be walked. I do think finding places to eat takes some research, as most of the places we walked past were very touristy burger bars – not places we would choose to go to (like Leicester Square or something)- but plenty of choice once you knew where to look.

How do you go about finding places to eat on holiday? Trip Advisor has been our friend!

Awesome Ottawa

Hey peeps, I hope everyone has been well. For the last two weeks I have been away on holiday- we got home Friday morning, and then I was at a hen weekend (not sure it is the best cure for jet-lag) but now I am home properly so get ready for some long recap posts!

First up was Ottawa, the capital of Canada.

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We had an afternoon flight to Montreal and then got the bus to Ottawa the same day, and so had a full day the next day sightseeing. The city was really walkable- everything was so central. The houses of parliament were right by our hotel, and they did free tours (you had to get a timed ticket though so best to get one early).

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While we were waiting for our tour time we walked on a little tour (from our guidebook) and at one point could hear a band. Then this came into view! They were accompanied by a couple of police cars, so the roads were just sectioned off as they marched past, then immediately reopened!

The tour was really interesting- I don’t know much at all about Canadian politics (other than they have the “Queen of Canada” as their head of state- I did find it funny to hear her being called that) so the tour guide went into a bit of detail about the two sections of parliament (they are more sensible and have non elected but non inherited positions instead of our House of Lords). The guide also talked about the building- the clock tower was modelled on Big Ben, and there was the mot amazing library- we were not allowed to take photos but it was so ornate with floor to ceiling beautifully carved shelves- apparently like something from Harry Potter.

After that finished we walked around the city some more- there were lots of lovely shops to browse, as well as plenty of memorials – there was one for jazz musician Oscar Peterson (there is a picture here as I didn’t take one)- it was him sat on a bench by a grand piano (with space on the bench for picture posing) and music was being played too which was lovely.

2014-07-24 15.47.35This was the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument which I thought was just stunning and thought-provoking.

We also walked through a park and by a canal and saw loads of black squirrels- I had never seen them (or even heard of them) before. Then we had a little rest in the hotel before heading out for the evening (when we arrived the night before we were lucky to receive an upgrade to our room- probably as it as late so not many rooms left I imagine- and one of the services was a turn-down service; this one was super posh and when we got back they had even put on some jazz music for us- so fancy!), as every night during the summer there is a special light and sound show on the Houses of Parliament, called Mosaika (again, images here as Andy took some with his camera but I didn’t try with my phone). The show is free, you just turn up and sit on the grass and enjoy. Amazing.

For food we ended up in the same diner twice- Zak’s diner made amazing pancakes and French toast for breakfast, and then I had a lovely goats cheese, spinach and strawberry salad for dinner.

Last summer we went to Victoria on Vancouver Island and Ottawa reminded me of that- some of the architecture is very British, and it was nice and compact. The gorgeous weather helped too! There are loads of museums there too, and had the weather been bad we probably would have visited them, but seeing as it was such wonderful weather we made the most of sightseeing outdoors.

It was a great start to the holiday anyway. Have you ever been to Ottawa?