Category Archives: Travel

East Coast Done: Day 3

Sun. May 21, 2017:
Charleston to Beaufort, SC

The warm cinnamon was just as I had dreamt and been expecting: awesome. We were in no rush to leave so I could eat my breakfast and watch TV, Say Yes To The Dress (SYTTD) just so happened to be on. We drove to Kaiwah Island resort to have lunch at the Ryder Cup Bar, overlooking the ocean and part of the PGA golf course. When we got to the resort we were given a map of the grounds. I could not for the life of me find the restaurant. We had to pull over and Brent took over looking at the map. It was not just me, the map was terrible and did not have the restaurant or the golf course it overlooked. I was vindicated. We had to use Brent’s work phone to navigate us there. It was definitely worth the hassle as the view was stunning. We sat on the terrace overlooking a practice green and behind it, the ocean. The cool ocean breeze was just a bonus.

I couldn’t resist ordering the jalapeno margarita, it was delicious and just the right amount of spicy. I ordered the crab-cake, expecting the usual. I was not expecting it to be between two buns with unnecessary lettuce and a tomato. I tossed them to the side of the plate and asked Brent if he wanted a side salad. We walked around on the veranda afterwards looking at the views. It had taken us almost 20 minutes to drive there from the gate entrance so we were going to enjoy it.

As we drove to Beaufort we saw our first armadillo- alas it was dead so it doesn’t really count. We passed a sign for the Carolina Cider Co. it got me all excited with their promise of peach cider. What they failed to mention was that it was non-alcoholic cider. Who does that?! And there was no sign of the promised pecan pie.

We checked in at the Rhett House Inn and once again, southern hospitality prevailed. Free sweet tea and cookies! And later they would be serving a cheese plate and free pecan pie in the evening! I was all for this new lifestyle. We walked to a nearby market to restock on drinks. We feared it would not be open because it was Sunday and we had been warned that on Sundays liquor stores are closed. Our hotel didn’t even serve alcohol, it was self-serve and based on honesty. For an early dinner we drove to the Gullah Grub Restaurant. It was like 4pm and we were the only people in there. The service was great, the owner’s young daughter was taking our orders and it was adorable because she was so careful in writing down exactly what we said, spelling it all out. I ordered two small dishes of their specialties: fried mac and cheese and the shrimp gumbo. I swear the mac and cheese had some egg baked into it to hold its shape. The cornbread was still warm from the oven. I had a bite of Brent’s BBQ ribs and they were amazing, they had sauce and rub and were so meaty and juicy. On the side I had “swamp water” which was a much better name for the Arnold Palmer i.e.: lemonade and iced tea.

We drove to Hunting Island with the hope of spending the rest of the day hiking and to see a lighthouse. Alas the park was closed due to damage from a hurricane last year. The only things that were open were the nature/visitor’s centre and part of the pier. We got to see some turtles and snakes in terrariums and the damaged pier overlooking the salt marsh. Brent was reading the info panel on the pier and it pointed out an osprey nest, we looked up and sure enough, there was an osprey sitting in a giant nest atop a pole. We walked over for a closer view and it started to soar. As we drove away we saw that there was another osprey still sitting on the nest. We also learned that we had not seen ibises earlier but egrets.

Back at the hotel we could see that a storm was brewing and we could hear thunder. But the second floor porch was covered and there was a nice breeze. We sat there reading, I wrote in my book while sipping sweet tea (that I had to mix with unsweetened because it is unbelievable how sweet the sweet tea down south is). We were basically counting down until it was time for pie. I could smell it baking earlier and I was super excited. We watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, I downed a terrible Angry Orchard cider, as we awaited pie o’clock.

The pecan pie was amazing!!! There was also incredible key lime pie and after one bite of Brent’s awesome chocolate cake I could not resist cutting myself a tiny slice- they were all so good!!! We went for a short walk afterwards, the rain had stopped and the air was fresh. We walked over to St. Helena’s Cemetery, we saw a woodpecker and a blue jay. There was so much Spanish moss on the trees and it was all so pretty. When we got back to the hotel almost all the baked goods were gone, it’s a good thing we had gone early. We spent the rest of the evening watching Netflix, my poor sore feet needed a rest. The blisters were driving me nuts. In the morning I had grabbed an orange from the hotel and it was the perfect evening snack.


East Coast Done: Day 2

Sat. May 20, 2017:
Charleston, SC

I woke up at 7:30am because the headache I had in the middle of the night was still going. I had been mostly asleep when it first hit and I couldn’t make myself get up and take an Advil, I had assumed I could sleep it off. We stopped in for the breakfast buffet. I did not have high hopes and was pleasantly surprised to find warm cinnamon buns. The other options left much to be desired: the choice between low-fat yogurt and a too-big container of greek yogurt? As we walked back to the town I sipped my terrible hotel coffee, made all the worse by the hot weather. Bad hot coffee is that much worse when it is 30+ outside, and it was still morning!!

We started out our day at the Charleston Museum, the first and oldest American museum. We saw some Civil War stuff, giant rounds of ammunition and skeletons and taxidermied animals. At the museum we also confirmed that South Carolina water tastes swampy and smells of beets. It was not just the water in our hotel room. The museum was fairly small and we finished with enough time to go to Chick-Fil-A for lunch. Along the way we passed through the town square where they were having a farmer’s market. I got a Charleston Tea Plantation tea mixed with lemonade and some teabags as souvenirs for my family.

What we did not anticipate was that the Chick-Fil-A was in a campus dorm building in the College of South Carolina campus. And it was closed for renovations to boot. No worries, we found another one a few blocks away! We got there only to discover that it was in the College student centre- which was closed on weekends during the summer season.

We decided to just stop somewhere on the way to the ferry, we still had plenty of time (even with the sunscreen application pitstop). We had seen a Chipotle earlier but before we got to it we found a Five Guy’s because burgers > burritos. The guy at Five Guys ended up giving me a free drink- no complaints here. The jalapenos were so good but towards the end it was getting too spicy and making me cry. It was the perfect amount of food.

We got to the ferry just in time and it was a short 30 minute ride over to Fort Sumter. We had been on a previous trip to Gettysburg and now we were getting to see where it all began. We were given an hour to wander around the fort and the island, with the option of listening to the ranger talk about the fort. He was so fake and overly energetic we had to get out of earshot. Later on as we looked down, a kid shouted at him to calm down.  In the museum section (aka hiding-from-the-sun-and-basking-in-the-cool-air-building) a kid was counting the stars on the Civil War US flag and he was so concerned, he was yelling for his mom because it only had 33 stars and as soon as she started paying attention to him he lost interest and moved on.

In the walls of the forts there were birds’ nests. There were also shells still lodged in the walls. We watched pelicans swoop into the water- all the while trying to avoid really annoying know-it-alls boring their companions with all their talking. For the ferry ride back we went to the lowest deck, we had had enough of the sun and needed shelter. Sipping my white wine and eating mini Charleston Chews, Brent sipping his beer, our peace was soon ruined by annoying nerds talking about the stupidest bro-things. I was too tired to care or to move. Thankfully the ferry ride back was short.

We took a roundabout way to walk back to the hotel following the shoreline. We gawked at some more gorgeous houses. The heat and sun started getting to me. I was tired and covered in sunscreen and the air was so thick and muggy. I was drenched in sweat. Along the way we saw a lizard and a pretty song bird, they distracted me from my tired state for all but a few seconds. We stopped at a Rite Aid on the medical campus to get some beers and Gatorades for the trip. I was so dehydrated I got a pomegranate-blueberry green iced tea to tide me over for the rest of the walk and an old fashioned cream soda for once I was back in the hotel.

Once we got back I made a beeline for the shower. I was covered in a terrible mix of sunscreen and sweat. The caramel M&Ms we had gotten at Walgreens hit the spot to hold me over until dinner. We drove to Bowen’s Island Restaurant for dinner. The place did not take reservations and we had to line-up. We were there 17 minutes after open and there were a good 25-30 people in front of us. Thankfully the line moved quickly as you placed your order and then sat a table waiting and there were plenty of tables. The choice was easy and we barely had to debate: seafood platter of fried fish, fried shrimps and crab-cake that came with fries and hushpuppies. We also ordered a side of fried oysters because that was what they were known for. The crab-cake was unbelievable, easily the best one I had ever had. Second place went to the fried oysters. The shrimp and fish were tied for a close third. We had no idea what hushpuppies were, turns out it was just fried balls of cornbread and they were surprisingly good (given my dislike of cornbread). Even at the restaurant the water tasted like beets.

The restaurant did not have any specialty drinks (they did have specialty beers though, so not fair) do I opted for a whisky sour, I saw that they had Maker’s Mark. After dinner we walked down to the dock to look out onto the water, the sun was just starting to dip to the horizon. I was mad that all I had was my phone camera, it was so pretty. We also stopped to look at an enormous pile of discarded oyster shells- literally hundreds of thousands of them.

We stopped at the McDonald’s next door to our hotel for dessert. I had tried to order the Twix McFlurry but the guy said he did not have enough topping left and it was being discontinued. To make up for it he put extra Oreo bits in mine.

During the day I had noticed people riding around on the streets in golf carts and initially I had found it unsettling but then I realized is it really that much different than riding a Vespa scooter? By the time we got back I was exhausted. My feet hurt so bad, I had a blood-filled unpopped blister on each heel. We spent the rest of the evening watching TV, which was periodically interrupted by barks from the dog next door. I went to sleep dreaming of a warm cinnamon bun for breakfast.

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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel


East Coast Done: Day 1

Fri. May 19, 2017:
Toronto flight to Charleston, SC

I was thrilled that we got to the airport and through security really quickly and with no delays- I wanted to go to David’s Tea to get some tea for the week. What I did not anticipate was that David’s Tea was in a different section of the terminal and I could not get to it. As we waited for our flight to start boarding I ended up making a sizeable dent in my book, The Undoing Project, to the point that I thought I might finish it before we got to Charleston, SC.

We had a layover in Charlotte, NC. The internet said that the Chick-Fil-A was still under construction but as we approached we saw the lit-up sign… and immediately our hopes were dashed. The sign was complete but that was about it. Why did they light it up?! So mean. We ended up eating at the Burger King next door. I went with the hotdog, because really how badly can you screw up a hotdog? It was about the same quality as an IKEA hotdog, not good but edible. The chicken fries however, those were another rubbery story with terrible dipping sauce to boot. Zesty cheese sauce does not go well with terrible chicken fingers. I had noticed on the terminal map that there was a bar called Carolina Beer Co. and it just so happened to be near Pinkberry- it was meant to be. The lemon flavour was ok, but the strawberry was far and away better. The guy even gave me a free topping (granola, if you must know). The bar was super chill, no one cared that I sat there eating my half-delicious-half-disappointing dessert. There was a diversity celebration happening nearby with the cheesiest of dance music. While they were playing the Macarena a guy was running towards them, I like to think he didn’t want to miss out on dancing. In fact he was going to find his travel partner as their gate had been switched. My reason for his panicked run was far better.

On the way to our gate we stopped to buy a Cheerwine. Apparently this is a North Carolina thing that neither of us had tried when we each separately visited North Carolina.

The flight was so short that I never even spit my gum out. I was about to but then I realized I needed it. Still?– I  thought? Oh wait, we are beginning our descent. State 33!!! We also had a new record from getting off the plane to getting into our rental car. I could not believe how hot and humid it was. The girl at the car rental place said it was only going to get hotter in the summer. But South Carolina was absolutely gorgeous. There were palm trees everywhere and everything was so lush and green. It was a short drive to our hotel alas we had to listen to the radio because our car was so new it did not have an aux input for our iPod, just a USB input. We were staying at a Holiday Inn and I did not expect to be greeted with a free glass of wine. Everyone was also super friendly. Our trip was off to a great start. The wifi passcode did not work and I immediately started fretting, I needed to sync my FitBit steps, I was trying to win a challenge! The Cheerwine tasted like cherry Dr Pepper. The water in the hotel smelled like beets and tasted funny.

We walked to dinner at Magnolia’s. At first it was a pretty crummy walk. There was construction outside our hotel and we had to walk through parking lots and construction pits. It was also a bit sketchy at first. I did get to finally see a shotgun house. It was abandoned and I was mildly tempted to peek inside to see if I could see all the way through. It got nicer once we were on the medical school campus.

We passed a fake square-shaped lake and lots of big beautiful houses. There were so many lush green trees and they were just covered in Spanish moss. The houses had wrap-around porches and fans. We passed through a small park and a saw a white-bellied squirrel, and it was not fat. A red-tailed hawk swooped into an awning. There were a lot of gorgeous churches closer to downtown. There was a firewatch tower that reminded me of a game I had recently played on the Xbox. I never did manage to get a picture of it.

Even though we had a reservation we still had to wait before we were seated. No one really seemed to care and things just went at a slower pace. As we waited we watched people without reservations get turned away because there was no availability. Dinner at Magnolia’s was delicious. We made the mistake of each getting an appetizer because Brent wanted the fried green tomatoes and I wanted the crab bisque. Despite my hatred of tomatoes, I tried a bite and it was actually really good. For the mains, Brent had the scallops, shrimps and grits. It was ok, but I think I won with the bourbon fried catfish. The flavour had sunk in past the crispy outside and it was incredible. The black-eyed beans and corn salsa were just as good. The only problem was the portion, it was enormous and I could not finish it. We were way too full for dessert. I ended up having two cocktails at dinner, both were made with local liquers. The first one had spiced rum, cranberry juice and peach schnapps. It tasted like a Bath & Body Works Christmas candle- in a good way. The second was an Arnold Palmer (which I mispronounced as Almond) made with Firefly vodka and sweet tea- the clear winner.

The walk back was annoying because the streets were poorly lit. At one point it got scary, we passed under a construction awning that was not lit and super dark. The one upside to the poor street lights was that we could see a lot of stars. It was unbelievable how hot and humid it still was outside, it was nighttime!  When we got to the hotel it was still really warm in the room. I wondered why and went to check the thermostat. Turns out I had turned up the temperature before we went out. I was thinking of the temperature outside, not the temperature I wanted the room to be.

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Posted by on June 4, 2017 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel


Carnaval 2017- Day 4

Mon. Feb. 6, 2016:
Quebec City to Toronto

I woke up at around 8am and assumed that because Brent was not in bed, he must therefore be at the gym. I rolled over and got scared when I saw him sitting at the desk. I told him to wake me up when it was time to go. I also told him that the best way to do that is to bring me a latte from the Starbucks downstairs. All my attempts (you know what would be: romantic, manly, efficient) failed.

We were going to walk to a bakery for breakfast but when Brent was looking up the walking directions he noticed that Google Maps said it was closed. Maybe it doesn’t open until 10am I thought? As it turns out the bakery is not open on Mondays. We found another bakery and lucky for us, in the -14C weather, it was twice as close! We only had to spend 15 minutes outside in the cold.

Apparently we had walked right by Panetier Baluchon on Saturday on our way to Pain Gruel. The bakery had a small café area. I stole a bite of Brent’s club sandwich, it was so good! And I don’t even like club sandwiches! I had a warmed up chocolate croissant and coffee. Easily one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. Once again, I could not help myself and I also ordered a macaron, it was pink and heart-shaped. I had to. It was better than the ones at Paillard but still not as good as Nadege. There was a nice girl working at the bakery, who brought us a bonus pastry to enjoy. Alas we were too full, luckily it was already packaged to go.

We walked over to Bonhomme’s ice palace both because we had more time now that we had gone to a closer bakery and also to have one last look. Only the snow sculpture site was open, it was still a bit early in the day. It was nice to now see all the completed statues. Some of the best ones were a ship in a bottle, a bear with a fish and an axe in a city skyline.

We had one last look at the river and the town below. I had never noticed that beyond the town, on the horizon there were mountains off in the distance. I had been so distracted by the town below and the ice floes in the river.

We ate our pastry in the hotel room, migawd it was amazing. It was a slice of chocolate cake but it so light and fluffy and not overly sweet. We tried to check out of our hotel room via the TV but it wasn’t working. Brent tried to check out via email until I noticed it said Tremblant in the email address. In the end he checked out via the phone.

It was a short cab ride to the airport, but still it was enough to almost lull me to sleep. Because it was a small airport and we were flying Porter, there were no express check-in kiosks and we had to wait in line. From the security check line I was tempted by Tim Hortons but I was certain there would be another one past the checkpoint. This was a Canadian airport after all. There was not. It was a truly tiny airport but it did have nice views of mountains which I guess sort of made up for it? There was also not much Pokemon action going on either. The important thing is that we did not miss our flight home.


Carnaval 2017- Day 3

Sun. Feb. 5, 2016:
Quebec City

I woke up at 9am to the temptation of Doritos and the thought of getting a latte from the Starbucks downstairs. The smoked butterscotch latte was only ok, but definitely better than the in-room coffee. There was nothing on TV except for the newest iteration of Scooby-Doo, and Brent was still at the gym running. Meanwhile outside looked like a snow globe.

We started the day out at Paillard bakery. On the way there the church bells were ringing and echoing off the buildings, combined with the snow it was a very nice effect. Paillard was a similar chain to Panera Bread but a thousand times better. There were two separate lines for sandwiches and for pastries so we split up. Brent had wanted a chocolate croissant, but I could not see everything in the display cases so I got him the first chocolate pastry I saw, a chocolate pastry braid. I had a pastry with raspberry jam. At the last minute I could not resist ordering macarons, besides there was a maple flavoured one. I had to. The macarons were good but a little bit dense for my liking. The pastry was fresh and delicious. I couldn’t open the screw-off top on my Boylan’s soda so I put it in my purse for drinking later in the hotel when I could pry it off with a bottle opener.

We walked back to Bonhomme’s Ice Palace because the brochure said he would there for a photo op. We cut through the kiddie section of Carnaval and via the passageway through the fortification wall to get there. There were lots of people milling about, but the ice bar was surprisingly not that busy- probably because it was just before noon. We caught a glimpse of Bonhomme but it turns out you had to line up to get a photo with him and they were winding down. I had always pictured it as Bonhomme just wandering around the various Carnaval sites and waving to people, not a 30 minute appearance behind a velvet rope. It was a bit disappointing.

Our timing could not have been more perfect. The ice canoe race was at 12:30 and we had just enough time to walk over to the site. I was not enjoying going down the steep hills and stairs, they were icy and scary. I slowly inched my way down a steep curving hill, desperately holding onto the handrail. Apparently a lady with a cane and a child passed me but I paid them no mind, I was not about to wipe out on ice. On the way we noticed a small alley on the side with lots of little shops and we noted it for later on our way back. We also passed by one of the other pubs that we had found on Google and we added it to our afternoon plans.

We got to the river and it was already so crowded but we were not even near the official start site. As we got closer the crowds grew bigger. We stopped to look at the ice floes but they were moving so fast it actually made me nauseous. As got closer to the start site we could now hear the announcer. We had no idea what he was saying but the excitement was growing, the race was starting soon. I was more excited by all the dogs I was seeing, it was a great day for dog-watching. Even Bonhomme was there, albeit in the announcer’s booth, to kick off the race. We had mistakenly thought that the race was down river, making the crowds on the other side of the river look like idiots. Turns out we were wrong, the race was across the river, oops. It was ridiculous to watch as the canoes plowed into the ice and the racers had to get out and push the canoe along the ice until they got to a clear spot. All the while the current was pushing them downriver. It was crazy. In the end we had no idea who won. It was however less ridiculous than I had imagined. I linked the words ice and canoe in my head and I was picturing people racing in canoes made of ice.

After the second race set off we left, it was much the same as the first and again we had no idea who was winning. We walked around some of the pretty little side streets of the lower half of the city. Eventually we made our way back to the little promenade we had walked by earlier. On our way to Uncle Antoine’s pub we stopped at a mystery doors booth which was part of the Comedy Festival site. I was not amused. One door was an upside down bathroom, one was a wall and one had a funhouse mirror. I didn’t get it at all. Brent was tempted to have a fireside beer, but the thinking went that the beer selection at the bar would be better. On the way to the pub we stopped in at a cider store. It was my kind of heaven, I ended up getting a small bottle of Le Pedneault cherry flavoured cider, made in Quebec, of course.

The pub was a small former cellar, with an arched ceiling. It was very cozy and we had seats right by the fireplace. I did not know this until we had sat down, because as soon as we entered my glasses fogged up. I had wanted to order a locally brewed wheat beer with elderflower and raspberry but it was all sold out, so I settled for a mulled wine instead. The service at the pub ended up being unbelievably slow. It was a good thing we did not have anything else planned for the day. Needless to say, we only stayed for one drink. The ladies at the table next to our finished up around the same time, on the way out the door they warned the group coming in that the service was slow- it was that bad. They were nice ladies, one of them complimented Brent’s Blue Jays hat.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the beer shack and Brent had a fireside beer. We had a nice spot by the firepit- that is until the wind changed direction and blew smoke all over me. We stopped at Mary’s Popcorn, I was convinced that this was a Canadian version of Garrett’s Popcorn and there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to try it. At the last second I opted for the maple pecan popcorn over the caramel popcorn. It had maple, I had to. I kind of wish I had paid more attention to the prices. Ah well.

It was nice to chill in the hotel, drinking cider and soda and eating popcorn and Doritos. As we were watching The People Vs. OJ on a streaming site, I could not believe the commercial. It said it was 10 second long, but it went on for at least a minute of just a message on the screen.

For dinner we headed out to Bar L’Inox. The plan was to stay and watch a bit of Superbowl 51 as well. The weather was horrible, everything was slushy and melting because it was only -1C. As we walked it started to dawn on us that the bar might be full, we were cutting it close. On the way we passed through another Carnaval site but it was closing down for the day. We did get to see a kid in a giant inflated bubble roll down a hill and try to knock some pins down.

The bar was not super busy and we managed to get a table with a great view of the TV. We ended up staying until half-time. The service was great and we had great seats. The whole while I nursed a giant pint of cider, meanwhile Brent enjoyed four pints. All I could think of was taking an Advil, my knees and hips were hurting. The hotdog I ordered was far better than I had expected. It was called “European,” so I assumed it would be a higher quality meat. Instead it was baked into a French baguette. It was very convenient and not messy. My only complaint is that there was not enough whisky cheddar. I also regretted eating the chips on the side. I had forgotten my Invisalign containers and toothbrush back in the hotel and the chips were sticking in my teeth.

Across from us there was a reserved table of millennial couples and their kids. Some of them were quite drunk and one started slow-dancing with her husband, blocking our view of the game. She was more into the half-time show, singing along with Lady Gaga, than the game itself. I too was not much into the game, but I did not make a fool of myself. I was content with being entertained by the commercials and saying things like “he’s running up the pitch” from The IT Crowd. The best commercial by far was the one with Justin Timberlake and Christopher Walken. There was also a promo for the upcoming TV adaption of The Handmaids Tale. I was all excited until I realized it was on Hulu, meaning it would not be airing in Canada. The half-time show was really weird. Lady Gag was flying around, and she ended it with a mic drop. At least by then the annoyingly loud and obnoxious guys were gone.  They were ridiculous. All their team had done was walk onto the field and they started cheering like crazy.

On the walk back I had Pokemon Go open and I was narrating the walk. There was one stop that claimed to be a 400 year old cannonball that a tree had grown around. I took a picture of it and we would look it up once we were back in the hotel. We walked over to the Dufferin Terrace by the hotel for one last look at the St. Lawrence River and the lower part of the town. It looked so pretty all lit up and with snow swirling around. Even the trolley that transports people between the upper and lower halves of the town was lit up. From the other end of the terrace we had a great view of our hotel and the wall and the town below.

Back in the hotel room I snuggled up with my book and a cup of Honey Lullaby tea under the covers and some popcorn. Brent had the football on in the background but I was over it by then. Even though it had taken a dramatic turn, I had checked out. I tried to read my book but I kept getting distracted by Pokemon. An hour later, all caught up in my notebook and having run out of Pokemon to catch, I was ready to settle down with my book. The football was still going, it was now in overtime.


Carnaval 2017- Day 2

Brent woke me up as he returned from the gym, I did not care as I felt great after ten and a half hours of sleep. I took forever getting ready because I could not decide between wearing regular leggings or fleece-lined ones under my jeans because it was -12C outside. We were starting out the day near the hotel so I opted for the regular ones, with the thought that I could just go back to the hotel if need be. The in-room coffee was just awful, nothing can substitute for real milk. I chased it with a cup of Cold 911 tea, which I was actually starting to like. That and the Mrs. Fields cookie I had packed from Toronto, washed away the memory of the bad coffee. As I was slowly getting ready we watched a house-flipping show, not the usual trash reality TV because it was a Saturday morning.

We started out our day walking on the terrace by the hotel and looking down into the lower city and out across the river. We bought tickets for the ice slide and started heading up the hill. Halfway up we noticed a sign saying to bring a sled with you from the bottom. They could have made that more clear earlier on. At the bottom there was just a crowd of people and it was tough to tell what was going on until a lady told us, in French, that there was a line-up. The ice slide was not at all what I had imagined. I honestly thought we would be sliding down an ice chute to the lower part of the city. Instead it was three tracks down a small hill running parallel to the wall. I was surprised at how fast it was, the bumps along the track really hurt my butt and the wind was so cold and it whipped my hood back. No matter, we won the race.

We walked to Montmorency Park and past the seminary. There were cannons in the park and great views of the city down below. At City Hall there was an Inukshuk version of Bonhomme. The city was Carnaval crazy, with Bonhomme’s face everywhere. All around there were gorgeous old buildings. Up next on our tour was an old hotel from the 17th century which was now connected to an Augustine nunnery with a nice little old white church. From there we went over to the military park, it was not open and we could not go inside the barracks. I made jokes about the soldiers having snowball fights.

We stopped in at Place D’Youville to see what was happening there for Carnaval but it was just an outdoor skating rink and they were giving away free McDonald’s coffee (no thank you, one bad cup of coffee is more than enough for me in a day). On the way to lunch we passed by an SAQ (liquor store) and stopped in to see what they had. I found a carbonated maple wine and as was quickly becoming the theme of the trip, I had to try it. A few doors down we found a convenience store that had a better beer selection and so Brent topped off his haul. The plan was to have lunch at La Pain Gruel. Alas it was a small bakery with no seating. We got a loaf of bacon cheddar bread for snacking on later, and each got a pastry and ate it as we walked. The praline one I had was so good, much better than the chocolate croissant that Brent had. It was so cold out that I had to eat with my gloves on.

The next stop was another Carnaval site. At Le Park Amerique-Francaise there were snow sculptures. Those in the international competition were still works in progress, whereas the national wons were completed and had been judged. It was cool to see them in all different stages. They were very well designed and it made me wonder how exactly one gets into this hobby?

The Plains of Abraham was a giant expanse of a park. There was a cool-looking watch tower looking down over the hill and towards the river. As we walked through the park, looking at the cross-country skiers I noticed on my map that there was a citadel up ahead. We had to go check it out. Up on the citadel it was so windy and unbelievably cold. But the views of the river down below were amazing. Totally worth it, even if my fingertips did go numb and putting on my mittens over my leather gloves barely helped. It was so much nicer once we were back down and away from the wind.

As it turned out, our next stop, Esplanade Park, was the Carnaval site where we had gone the night before, with the ice bar and Bonhomme’s ice palace. Even still we decided to go check it out in the daytime. It was a lot busier and we were glad we had gone the night before. There was a huge line-up to get into the ice palace and there was a marching band playing outside of it. The walkway the other Carnaval site, on the other side of the wall was now open. It turns out the site we had tried to enter the night before was the children’s site at Carnaval. There was a weird and small petting zoo that had only a few animals, including a very fuzzy donkey. There was a radio station giving away marshmallows on sticks to roast in the firepits. Again, I did nto feel like taking out my Invisalign, not in the cold and when it was so crowded. Brent got one and it turns out it was strawberry flavoured, he was not pleased.

Our last stop of the walking tour had the word “ursuline” in it, that was all I could remember. I was convinced we were going to a bear museum. Turns out it was a nunnery. Not as nearly as interesting but still a nice old building to see. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at a convenience store. I found a maple Mars bar and of course, had to buy it. I also found some rather expensive maple butter and bought only one, for my mom as a souvenir.

In the hotel I discovered that we were close to a PokeStop and I didn’t even have to leave the room! The plan was to rest a bit before heading out for dinner- the perfect excuse to set a lure in the PokeStop and hunt Pokemon. And for the next half hour I found myself cursing as all I caught were Magnemites. The Mars bar was delicious, the  bread was amazing and the wine was good but a little bit weird. It was the perfect snack break. Except that the wine had a cork and now I could not reseal the bottle and I had to drink it all. Thankfully it was a small bottle. I managed to make the bottle last an hour and a half as I wrote and caught Pokemon. Somehow I was so exhausted, I ended up plotzing and watching a reality TV show about tattoo artists.

For dinner we went to Poutineville on a recommendation. We were hoping that on a Saturday night it would not be too busy. It was anice walk, we got to see City Hall all lit up in the evening. I ordered the signature which was smashed potatoes and topped with braised beef. I did not want to look like a light-weight so I ordered the regular size instead of the junior. It was just a bit too much food, but migawd, the smashed potatoes were incredible. It was easily some of the best poutine I have ever had. Nothing on the drink menu caught my eye so I stuck with just regular old Dr Pepper… until I saw that they had sparkling cider! Damnit! The bathroom door at Poutineville cracked me up, rather than the usual lady symbol, it was a lady who really had to go, there was a real sense of urgency.

We took a different route back to the hotel, stopping at PharmaPrix to get me some more cold medications. I had been expecting a Shoppers Drug Mart, not a tiny little mom&pop-seeming shop. Needless to say, the snack selection was subpar. However we passed a grocery store on the way. There I found some maple sugar (and cheaper maple butter, grr) for more souvenirs. We passed by a David’s Tea and I could not pass up a chance to finally get some Honey Lullaby tea.

Back in the hotel we looked up nearby bars that had good craft beer selections. We were still tired and so full, rather than head out we watched Homeland while I refueled with more tea. By the time we decided to head back out we were still very tired. Instead we went to the ice bar to see what was happening and maybe have some more Caribou. It was not very busy inside. It was nice to stand by the fire pit, it was so cozy and something I could get used to. We finally got to see some people drink Caribou from the plastic Carnaval canes. Not a good souvenir, $30 and its plastic and it would be awkward to pack. There were lots of people out and about walking the streets in their snowpants. We were too tired for the bar, we headed back to the hotel instead. It was so nice to have a hot shower, the steam did me a world of good. My cold was just awful. This had not been our original evening plan. We were supposed to go see a Carnaval parade but it aws happening at the other end of town, a 20 minute drive away. Instead we stayed in, whiel I nursed my cold with more tea and we started watching Man In The High Castle on Amazon Prime. As we walked up to the hotel a horse-drawn carriage pulled up to its parking spot to wait for passengers. In the backseat there was just a dog in a coat, it looked like he had hired the carriage and it amused me to no end.

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Posted by on February 15, 2017 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel


Carnaval 2017- Day 1

Fri. Feb. 3, 2016:
Toronto flight to Quebec City

For an early Valentine’s Day present, Brent planned out a trip for us to visit Quebec City for a long weekend and enjoy Carnaval. The morning of I had slept right through my alarm clock, Brent woke me up, informing me that I had oh, about 20 minutes to get ready and out the door? I had taken a NyQuil the night before, in the week leading up to the trip I was sick with what I thought was a mild cold. I woke up Friday morning to realize that my cold was in full-swing and was not as mild as I had thought.

Our flight was not until the early afternoon, we did not have to be at the airport until noon. We were heading out early to grab a cinnamon bun from Rosen’s Cinnamon Buns on our way to the airport. We had a nice leisurely walk from College and Ossington to the islands airport, catching Pokemon in between bites of cinnamon bun.

At the airport we tried to check-in at the kiosk but it was not working. We tried the next kiosk over, and as I looked at Brent’s phone to ensure he was entering the correct confirmation number I realized a terrible thing. We could not check-in because our flight had already left. The night before when determining what time we had to wake up and be at the airport at, Brent had been looking at our return flight! Ack! The most painful part of it was that we had missed it by barely an hour. And there were no more direct Porter flights until the following day. A mild panic washed over us. Brent was googling flights at Pearson, I was looking up train schedules. We eventually settled on a connecting Air Canada flight via Montreal, leaving from the islands airport. It was better than rushing to Pearson. I felt like we were on the Amazing Race as the agent was looking up options for us on the computer. Looking back I am surprised that in 7+ years of travel this has yet to happen, it’s a good thing it was just a short domestic flight and that we did not have a crazy amount of stuff planned for the day.

We had a two hour layover in Montreal. We went to Brent’s go-to place in the airport, the microbrewery restaurant Archibald’s. It was a longer wait for a seat at the bar than at a table, it was around lunch time so why not? We had the time. We split a pound of chicken wings. For non-sauced wings that you had to dip yourself in sauce, they were amazing. I usually like my wings super saucy but these were good because they were meaty and smoked. The sweet and sour sauce was spicy, and the beer sauce was smokey. Because it was a microbrewery the selection was limited, especially for picky people like me. I opted for coffee with maple whisky. It’s maple, you gotta. We had plenty of time still, so we stayed for another round. This time I had the iced cider that I had not noticed on my first look-through of the menu. And I couldn’t resist a slice of sugar maple pie. You gotta.

On the way to where we thought our gate was we stopped at David’s Tea. I was in desperate need of Cold 911 tea, my cold was only getting worse. As soon as we left I immediately realized I had forgotten to grab some Honey Lullaby tea which had been sold out when I checked in Toronto. Damn it! There was no time to go back, we had gone the wrong way to our gate and had to backtrack.

The two short flights were nice, I had a chance to catch up on reading Brothers Karamazov, which I had been reading since December. Alas our second flight was even shorter and this time there was no free alcohol (on the first flight I had a glass of white wine). By the time we had boarded our second flight I’d had: wine, whisky and iced cider. Top it off with a DayQuil and a worsening cold and I was doing great.

The sun was setting as we took off, it had been such a long day. I both couldn’t believe and was not at all surprised that it was already almost 5 in the afternoon. I was tempted to nap on the plane, I even started nodding off but in the end I resisted, it was only a 35 minute flight after all. By the time we landed in Quebec City it was dark out.

Our hotel, the super-fancy Chateau Frontenac, was only a 20 minute taxi ride from the hotel. On the way we passed some of the Carnaval sites. We got a sneak peek of the snow sculptures. We drove by parliament, which was across the street from the ice bar. It was going to be an easy walk from the hotel to the Carnaval ice bar. At the hotel we found out that we could buy the Carnaval Bonhomme effigy at the entrance any of the sites, granting us access to all the sites.

Once I had on some layers we headed out. It was cold, but not cold enough for fleece-lined leggings, regular leggings under my jeans would suffice. It was the perfect amount and I was neither too hot nor too cold. It was a nice short walk through the upper part of the old city. Everything looked so European, I was mesmerized. We got to see part of the wall enclosing the city.

Once inside the site there was no sign of Bonhomme, just his ice castle and a statue of him. At the ice bar we ordered shots of Caribou. In my mind I had picture a warm drink, sipped slowly from a cup. Not a shot in a hollowed out cube of ice. It was a premixed drink consisting of red wine, whisky and maple syrup. I was picturing the bartender mixing the ingredients into a nice glass of warm wine. This was better. I could still feel the cold of the ice through my gloves. The girl in line in front of us dropped her change on the bar and it immediately stuck to the ice. The bartender had to grab a metal scraper and loosen the coins. There was no sign of maple taffy, another item on Brent’s Carnaval to-do list. I was tempted by the Beaver Tail truck but the idea of taking out my Invisalign in the dark and the cold dissuaded me.

We walked through Bonhomme’s ice palace which featured an art exhibition. On our way in it had been closed but now there was no line. There were paintings and sculptures throughout the maze-like structure. There was even an ice couch. The place was lit up and the colours kept changing, it was a bit disorienting. The site also had an indoor bar with a small stage. A folksy musician was just finishing up his set when we went in. It was nice to have a chance to warm up. Brent had a maple brown beer, and after sitting and reading over the menu again I spotted a maple drink. It had maple, therefore you gotta. I went up to the bar and tried ordering a “diable a l’erable” but my pronunciation was so bad that at first the girl had no idea what I was saying, I tried to say it again and she was like “oohh a maple devil?” I blushed and sheepishly said yes, apologizing for my poor attempt at pronouncing it. The drink was amazing, it hit so many spots! It had rum, reduced maple water and 7up and was garnished with a mint leaf.

There wasn’t much else going on so we headed back to our hotel. On our way we tried to enter a Carnaval site that was on the other side of the wall but it was closed. We thought maybe they would have a sugar shack. We stopped at a kiosk outside of a restaurant because they had a maple taffy set-up. Brent made some college girls laugh by getting overly excited about it. Again, I did not feel like taking out my Invisalign, so I didn’t try any. The girl running the stand asked if we had ever tried Caribou, we feigned innocence and said no. She gave me a shot of it in a plastic cup. It was warmed up. This is what I had been expecting when I first heard of the drink. It was way better.

Back in the hotel we decided to wander around a bit first before settling down for dinner. The hope was also that Bar 1608 would clear out a bit, as it seemed busy when we walked by. We went looking for the gym but it was misleading. It was down a hallway from the pool. But there were just bathrooms and then a fire exit sign pointing to a door. Turns out that door led to the gym, Brent found out when he asked at the info desk by the pool. We stopped in the room for a quick break. I downed a cup of Cold 911, it tasted so bad therefore it must be good I thought as I caught up writing in my book.

The bar was full but we managed to snag a small table at the back. No sooner had we sat down, the only other two empty tables by us filled up. It was not that surprising given it was 8:30pm on a Friday night. I ordered a cider because it was from Quebec. For some reason it was on the bubbly list, odd I thought. Until I had a sip, yup it was indeed bubbly and refreshing. I had a sip of Brent’s red wine, it was actually good for a red wine. In a wine and cheese bar it’s almost a given that you order a charcuterie board. It had 2 cheeses and 3 meats. One of the cheese was just an aged cheddar, it was ok. The real standout was the soft cheese that was like a cross between camembert and brie. I was in heaven but I cannot for the life of me remember what he called it. The three meats were ham, prosciutto and something like a proscriutto.

We had also ordered a flat bread. Soon after we started regretting not getting it with prosciutto but as luck would have it we ran out of bread from our charcuterie board and had extra prosciutto. We gamed the system! We had also ordered so much food we had to pull the table next to us over. The people sitting there were long gone. For once we were not the first people to leave, we were taking our time. Incidentally the people who had been sitting there were Americans. Brent was amused when the guy tried to order a beer calling it a “Lab-atts” (rhymes with lab rats) and the server had no idea what the guy was saying. Karma acted swiftly, and later that evening Brent ended up spilling a little bit of his martini on himself. We were at the bar for almost two hours. By the end of it all I was exhausted. I had been drinking since 2pm while popping DayQuils, run down with a cold and it took us two flights to get to Quebec City. I was in desperate need of sleep.

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Posted by on February 11, 2017 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

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