MonthJuly 2012

Quebec City

The drive to Quebec City was somewhat action packed.  We were in the merge lane for a freeway that we weren’t supposed to take and so we need to turn around.  I don’t think my uncle was thinking clearly at that instant because as his car was still in the merge lane (we were following behind him) when he tried to do a U turn.  He U turned from the merge lane onto the oncoming lane (in his unclear thought at the time, he did not see that the lane going the other direction was across the grass that separated the two direction lanes).

At the time, there were no cars, so it looked like it could have been the right way to go.  Then a car came down the slope (he didn’t see this car earlier because he was looking up the slope and the car hadn’t reached the crest yet) at highway speeds and now the two cars were facing each other.  That’s when my uncle realized what he had done.  When the other car saw, the driver quickly slowed down while my uncle U turned back the right way as fast as he could.  He was so freaked out.  While all this was happening, our car stopped on the shoulder to wait for him.  After my uncle did the U turn he stopped in the shoulder lane right behind us.

He took a little breather for a moment and then off we went.  As we merged back into the highway, my uncle I guess was still not fully relaxed because as he was merging back, he failed to gauge the distance properly between his car and the 18-wheeler barreling down the highway behind him.  Close call number two.  The truck braked enough and my uncle accelerated fast enough.  Nothing happened in the end luckily.  Just a big scare.  We all arrived in Quebec City in one piece.

Dufferin Terrace

Probably one of the major tourist hot spots in Quebec City.  It is a really nice place.  It’s basically a boardwalk along the St. Lawrence river near the massive Château Frontenac Hotel.

Citadelle of Quebec

At the end of the terrace, one can look up and see cannons in a fortification.  A staircase nearby (known as the Governor’s Walk) takes people up the hill to the fortification.  It’s a long walk.  It probably takes about 15-20 minutes just to walk from the base of the hill to the Citadelle.  Alternatively, people can drive up there if they would rather not do the exercise. In the Citadelle, there are a lot of narrow walkways with high walls that snake around everywhere (probably a defensive tactic).

 
 

There’s even a guard outside.

In the main courtyard of the Citadelle, there was a military ceremony happening so we couldn’t roam around.

From up there, we got a really good view of the terrace and the chateau.

And because of the military ceremony, there was a parachuting performance!

Old Town District

The old town district has a European feel with its streets on cobblestone and traditional looking architecture.  There are small windows with a balcony filled with flowers.  The walls of each building are of brick or stone and there are lots of restaurants with patio style seating.

 
 

After a good walk through the old town, we sat down for a cold one…  The owner was a nice fellow.  He is Quebecois but is able to speak Mandarin as he had lived in China for three years.  Seeing us Chinese tourists, he had to show off what he knew.  He could read, write, and speak well.  He even jokingly shamed my cousin who couldn’t read and write Chinese.  The guy didn’t just know a couple of phrases, this guy was fluent (can probably speak Mandarin better than I can).  The restaurant even has staff that know German, Spanish, Portugese, Russian, one of the Middle Eastern languages (I don’t know how to recognize which one) and of course English.

After this break, we concluded our tour of Quebec City and drove back to Montreal.  The next day, we would continue touring Montreal.

Random Wandering around Montreal

After coming back from Mount-Tremblant, we decided to do a night time stroll around Montreal.  One of my uncles had originally suggested to check out Montreal’s night life, which we were all open to.  Then my uncle started saying he would take us all to a strip club.  Good joke.  But nope, he wasn’t joking.  Then his son (my younger cousin) start going on about how terrible it was for my uncle to take us all to such a place and something about setting a good role model for the kids.  While my cousin was completely serious as he was saying all that stuff, to everyone else, it sounded like a big joke.  His obnoxious tone to his dad while talking and his dad’s kind of eye-roll reaction was quite funny to everyone listening.  In the end, we didn’t go check out Montreal’s night life.  Instead, we went to see Chinatown and the Jazz Festival.

Chinatown

My impression of a “Chinatown” in any western place has always seemed to me that the district was full of buildings that look to needing some good cleaning and maintenance or maybe even downright dirty (like gum stains all over the concrete) compared to more modern and nicer looking Asian districts like Richmond in Vancouver or Markham in Toronto.  The vibe in the Montreal Chinatown was kind of the same, but a bit better (see Wiki photo below).

They also have a fancy entrance sign.

The nice thing about Chinatown was the food.  For the past couple days, we had been eating a lot of random fast food (McDonalds, Tim Horton’s etc.) and so eating here was a welcome treat.  The restaurant even had shark fins on display at the entrance.  Looks amazing, but I suppose people shouldn’t be eating that anymore.

Complexe Desjardins

Because Montreal is so cold in the winter, there are some underground tunnels that take people around downtown.  One of the tunnels took us to the Complexe Desjardins.  From what I could tell, this place was just a mall, except, they had a really cool sculpture in the main atrium area.

Each of the little water droplets go up and down individually and seemingly randomly (I have no idea how it works).  Here’s a video of it in action though (kind of shaky because I’m terrible at recording videos).

International Jazz Festival

I’m not exactly a Jazz person, but it was good checking out the atmosphere at the Jazz Festival.  Bands were playing on the concert stage (I didn’t know any of the songs), but the crowd seemed into it.

We probably only walked around for about an hour and a bit, and afterward, we headed home.  We would need good rest for the trip to Quebec City the next day.  I’m told it is about a three-hour drive.

Mont-Tremblant Ski Resort in Summer

For some reason, my parents and various uncles and aunts had the idea of going to a ski resort – in the middle of summer.  I guess that’s like going to Whistler Ski Resort in Vancouver during the summer.  No snow, just grass, trees and mountains.  And of course there’s the ski village – that was really nice.

The whole place is a clear tourist town, which makes sense for a ski resort.  In the summer it’s still quite busy (probably way less busy than winter) with tourists everywhere splurging on expensive meals or buying brand name clothing (there are apparently stores for that here).

Some of the summer activities around here are mini golfing and outdoor swimming.  For some it’s eating/drinking, but for us it’s sightseeing.  Sightseeing means taking the free gondola just for kicks.

The trip in general was quite pleasant and relaxing except for the weather being especially hot (but luckily cooler than the day we were in Ottawa).  Kind of a short excursion from Montreal, but I think everyone enjoyed it.

Old Montreal and Mount Royal

After a bit of rest from the travels in Ontario, our next destination was Old Montreal.  I often thought that Montreal was a microcosm of France in North America (after all Quebec was known as the “Colony of New France” a long time ago), but it seems that it’s evolved its own culture.  There are elements of Montreal that are very modern (skyscrapers and the like) and the historical part of town (there are even horse carriage rides for tourists that ride along cobblestone roads).

The outside patio seating on cobblestone roads has a nice “European feel” and the architecture of the buildings surrounding it definitely add to the atmosphere.  Store and restaurant labels being in French also makes the atmosphere feel a lot more foreign (but luckily most people in Montreal speak English).


As I have learned throughout my travels, there is always a nice church in the historical part of town, at least in this case, a basilica.  This one is called the Notre-Dame Basilica or in French, Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal.

The inside is also quite different.  I remember a lot of churches like to use ambient light to keep the interior illuminated but the main congregation hall seems to be closed to natural light except for the two windows in the ceiling.  There is a lot of “blueness” in this basilica, which I don’t think is very common.  As usual, the altar is filled with statues of religious figures.

After that, the next destination was Mount Royal, which is one of Montreal’s largest greenspaces.  There is a large artificial lake where people like to go for runs or just casual strolling.  There is also an observation area that looks down the mountain toward downtown Montreal.

A raccoon even tried to join us at the observation area.  Poor raccoon…was probably hungry too.

That night we had a nice dinner that was a partial family reunion.  I think about 15 people from my father’s side of the family came.  That was probably the first time we’ve ever all got together for a meal in a long time.  The meal was also made better by the presence of my cousin’s 15-month old daughter (first cousin once removed?).  I think the last time where everyone got together (at least partially – I wasn’t present for that one) was in the summer of 2009 when one of my cousins got married.  We all asked about one another and how everyone was doing since we hadn’t caught up in a while.  We ate for about an hour and talked probably for another 2 or 3 hours.  It was a nice get-together that doesn’t happen very often.

Gananoque Rib Fest and Boat Tour of Thousand Islands

We left for Thousand Islands in the afternoon and arrived there two hours later.  We stopped at a nearby town in the Thousand Islands area called Gananoque where Rib Fest 2012 happening.

Rib Fest 2012

I don’t really know why this exists, but I do know that the ribs here are absolutely delicious.  Since it was the last day of the rib fest, some of the vendors added more servings for each meal purchased (at least that’s what my cousin thought who said that they don’t usually give so much).

We ordered a pulled pork sandwich, a bunch of ribs, chicken wings.  Would have been nice if there was some veggies to balance it out, but it was delicious so I can’t really complain.

After the meal, we made our way to the boat tour of Thousand Islands.

Thousand Islands Boat Tour

I actually wondered whether or not this place actually had a thousand islands.  I was tempted to count, but let’s be realistic.  That wouldn’t work.  It would be easier to just check Wiki, and according to Wiki, the Thousand Islands area has 1864 islands.  Hmm, I guess it’s true.

One of the nice things about these islands is that rich people buy up the land on them and build houses on them that are only accessible by boat.  This adds to the scenery quite a lot.  It’s better than seeing just random islands with trees on them.  With houses, suddenly the view becomes a lot more interesting.

To top it off, there’s an actual castle on one of these islands.  It’s called Boldt Castle.  It is an unfinished castle that was originally meant as a private home for a really rich family – the Boldt Family.  It was never finished because of the of the George Boldt’s wife.  Tourists can still tour the inside of the completed part of the castle though.

After the tour, we drove back to Montreal, where we’d spend the next couple of days.  After a good rest, the next destination was Old Montreal.

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