Monday, July 23, 2007

Quebec, Canada 21 July

Rain Rain and more Rain greeted us on arrival to Quebec City.

BUT, the skies cleared the next day to give us a perfect warm summers day to wander the city. A walking tour is much recommended. 2 and a half hours later we were quite satisfied we had seen all the sights and learnt alot of the history of the place.

Quebec city is cutesy old French Canada in a walled shell. Old Quebec in all its European village glory is on show, it feels more real than Disney, but its all been rebuilt and renovated to look old yet clean and tidy. Next year sees its 400yr anniversary, so its looking its prettiest and presentable right now.

For those wishing for a taste of quaint biscuit tin cottage French Town in North America, this is definately the place to go!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Montreal, 18-20 July

Up early in a rainy, flooded NYC, off to Penn Station for the 10hr Am Trak train ride to Montreal.

The journey is slow and frequently stops, but a good chance to catch up on much needed rest and relaxation!

The border officials on the Canadian side are much more strict than I imagined. Aussies all come out of the woodwork, it turns out there are 5 of us within just 2 seat rows! haha. Kokoda Track...

Arrival in Montreal good though, it is quiet, hardly a soul around, neat and tidy. Dinner includes poutine, which is French Fries with chicken type gravy and melted cheese. You know I loved it! the strawberry cheesecake though was on the huge size.

French speaking is funny here, as everyone we have met speaks perfect English also, so it becomes a matter of me trying to say something in French, but for the receiver to reply in English...ah well, so much for getting some practise!

All signs are either bi-lingual or in French only. One interesting one is that the road sign for STOP is "ARRETE", yet in France they have "STOP"! I guess after 200 yrs they develope their own thing. "Ice Tea", which is the same in France is "The Glace" in Canada.

The TV stations tend to dub alot of English programs to French too, which is interesting for me but annoying for Keith, who prefers the English TV!

Also notice quite a difference to all the incessant NYC TV drug ads, Canada seems to have all its own advertising more for home goods.

The chain stores here are all local too, and most of the brand names I have never heard of. Fantastic!

We take a walk underground - they have a shopping city underground, linking half the city, its quite an amazing experience, using 2 maps, one for above ground and one for below. The metro is reminicent of the Paris Metro, but the ticketing is slightly more archaic, you place your ticket in a box and the station guard buzzes you through. Its clean and very quick.

Also lucky for us there is a carnival in town in the Latin Quarter. They shut off some streets and all the street theatre is out showing its wares. It reminds me somewhat of Edinburgh during the Festival, but warmer! One interesting one was two people dressed up as Indian gods doing funky hair designs to people off the street, all to Indian dance music, hilarious and enthralling to see their creations.

The rain soon came though, and we are quite drenched today on our way to Quebec. The walk from the train station to the hotel was up up up. Soaked but successful in our quest for the hotel, we rest up well. Tomorrow, the sun is supposed to shine!!

Monday, July 16, 2007

New York City, 12 July

Arrived very tired in New York after the 8hr flight from London, but I love it here.

The buzz and feel is quite different to the sleepy European destinations recently, and there is something more upbeat and positive about New York. Something Old London town does not have, and something I quite like. So surprising for me to actually like a city!

Wandering the streets is eye opening, many new things to see and hear, am really enjoying it!

Bring on the fatboy junk food!!!!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Back in Ol'Blighty. July 12

A full day of travelling sees me jet from Dubrovnik at 8am to Bonn, a day sight seeing and then out to London.

Highlight of the day was having a chat with a retired German woman. I was sitting alone at a cafe reading a book and enjoying a cool drink, when this old lady sits herself down after asking my permission in German...

She sits, has a smoke and enjoys her coffee, then strikes up a conversation in English with me; " Are you studying or working in Bonn?" So starts a lovely 30min conversation about her life and mine, swapping bits of fun! After so many years of not speaking English she is still proficient and wanted a chance to practise, amazing people!

Arrival to London is delayed by a late Easyjet flight, no wonder there. On arrival to Victoria i am overwhelmed by the pace of life in London on a thursday night. Seas of people moving at pace, a grim reality of returning to the big city. The tube was humid sweaty and over crowded as usual. Me with my 20Kg backpack and laptop bag pushing my way in and brushing all my sweat unintentionally on others as they bump into me...nice.

I am really glad I decided to leave this town, its just not me, the hustle and bustle the cool factor, so fake yet pretty universal. Get me out of here!

Saving grace is returning to the sanity and confort of Keith's place and the promise of a day off tomorrow. Highlight is Japanese dinner near Goodge Street, one of my favourite places with lots of the London crowd, AWESOME!

Thanks Jean for organising.

Tomorrow - New York via Heathrow...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dalmation Coast / Dubrovnik, Croatia. July 10.

The one day coast drive from Sibenik to Dubrovnik was billed as a special coast drive. And it was. One of the best I have driven, except for it being 2 lane all the way.

Lovely weather, spectacular scenery. The water is a vibrant blue, the sky big and lighter, the ground baking with the 35C dry heat. Every few kilometres there is a coved beach, lots of sun worshippers enjoying the sun, browning slowly in the gentle sun. The road itself is gently winding most of the way and good quality, but with few straights. The speed limit supposedly 70kph, and its a challenge keeping a 1.2L Fiat Punto up to speed!

We drive to Ston, known for its miniture Wall of China type defences. Next is a wonderful stretch of mountain and coastal road, possibly some of the best I have ever driven, to a Car Ferry from Oberbik to Korcula Town. Korcula Town is quite something, jutting out on a penisula, typically Croatian paedestrianised coast town, but special for its location. Million Dollar views.

The Next day is Dubrovnik. Its imposing walls are very impressive, even for the jaded traveller. We walk atop the high City Walls, with stunning views at each turn, the town is spread before you in all its terracotta topped glory. The main street is quite modern and central, and the Old town is all paedestrianised. But the real gems are the alleyways off this, getting lost is never so fun and enjoy some shade, something new at each turn, a photo opportunity literally every step! Ancient stone town with old world charm yet a modern touch, clean, safe and friendly. No wonder it is a tourist mecca now.

Again, I implore you to visit this place!!
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