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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

 

Minneapolis and Northern Wisconsin- Day 6

Wed. Aug. 24, 2016:
Minneapolis, MN to Toronto, ON

I woke up around 8am because I was voraciously hungry. Again we had some time before we had to head out, the Mall of America did not open until 10am. Rather than settle for the horrible coffee again, I Googled some nearby places. We walked up the street and into an office building, I was in search of Caribou Coffee. The Turtles latte was way too sweet and rich, I could not finish it. The lemon poppy seed loaf was just enough to hold me over until we got to the mall. In trying to find something to watch I kept flipping channels. I eventually settled on Real Housewives of New York and 16 And Pregnant during commercials. Real Housewives was great, it was just a bunch of women yelling. 16 was just awkward and I could barely watch it.

We got to the Mall of America soon after it opened. As it turned out we had parked by the entrance that was near the Minnesota Sealife Aquarium so we started there. It was surprising how many people were already there and in line. The aquarium was awesome, even though we could not pet the stingrays because some were pregnant. Walking through the shark tunnel was mildly unnerving, you could see the rows of teeth in the shark’s mouth, but their dopey-looking faces are just so endearing and cute. As usual, with every aquarium visit, there were tortoises and they were going at it. It was awkward though because the third tortoise was getting in the way and being a nuisance. In another tank we were looking for the sea turtle and suddenly we saw the loggerhead turtle and he was just enormous, it was incredible how huge and slow he was. He looked exactly like the old one in Finding Nemo. I laughed at the seahorses as they move so inefficiently.

We walked through the Nickelodeon Experience in the middle of the mall. I had been expecting one or two crappy kiddie rides not a full-blown mini theme park. There were rides that made my stomach churn just watching them. I noticed a marshmallow Peeps store that had a Hot Tamale box in the window. We had to go investigate. They had a deal that you could get three boxes of Hot Tamales and/or Mike & Ikes for $8 therefore we had to. We had to try the new wacky flavours we don’t normally see. We also got to try a sample of chocolate covered marshmallow Peep. It was surprisingly good but I got distracted by the Mike & Ikes flavours and forgot to buy those as well.

On the way to the mirror maze we passed by Shake Shack. I had completely forgotten that it had recently opened and we had planned it for lunch. We stopped in because it was not too busy yet and we were already kind of hungry. The SmokeStack with bacon and mayonnaise was delicious and it hit the spot. The mall had Wi-Fi so while we ate I hunted Pokémon. For dessert we had candy. The 10 flavours mix of Mike & Ikes was delicious. I did not try the hot, hotter, hottest box of Hot Tamales as they are gross. We saved the sour Mike & Ikes for our flight home later that day.

The mirror maze was fun but very disorienting. We had to wear plastic gloves so as not to get smudges all over the mirrors. We went through it again, trying to beat our time and assuming we would be faster the second time. We were not, and it was just as disorienting, if not more, the second time around. I had a few near misses where I almost walked into the mirror. At one point Brent had gotten ahead of me and was waiting for me to catch up, only I didn’t know which one was him and which was his reflection, producing a split second feeling of fear. We also heard a kid walk into a mirror with a loud *thwomp*, I guess he did not have his hands out in front of him as I did. To finish off our tour of the Mall of America we went to the LEGO store. It was so satisfying to see bins of bricks all sorted by colour, as long I ignored the one miscellaneous bin that was just a mix of everything. I wish I had planned it better and designed something so I could buy bricks for a project.

After this we split off, I had three hours to myself to go shopping. At first this seemed like not enough time, the mall had so many floors! But I soon realized that the stores repeated. I stopped in at Starbucks for a green tea lemonade to start off. I found my black flower maxi skirt at H&M but it was not in my size. I ended up buying it in dark blue bandana pattern though. I had a pleasant surprise at the register, there is no sales tax on clothing! I was inspired and branched out, going into stores I had never heard of but they were so far off the mark and not my style at all. I was surprised to see so many cops and their police dogs in the mall. I searched through a bunch of stores and their duplicates for some cute patterned Keds but I came up empty handed. I was tempted by a pair of Vans shoes that had flamingos on them but it just wasn’t the same as what I was looking for. I couldn’t resist the temptation and ended up stopping for a snack at the Nestle Tollhouse café. The toffee cookie was just what I needed.

I met up with Brent and we still had some time before we had to head to the airport, which was all of 5 minutes away. We went back to the aquarium one last time. The two tortoises were going at it again, while the other one was napping. The male tortoise kept trying to bite the female’s head. It was amusing to watch people’s reactions to it. the caimans were still fidgety and restless.

We ended up circling the mall trying to find a gas station to fill up the rental before returning it. Thankfully we had Josh and Chuck talking to us about jellyfish to keep us from getting stressed. We returned the car a few minutes late but without any problems. We had literally just missed the shuttle tram by a split second even though we ran. The guy at the information desk laughed and told us there would be another one in less than 60 seconds.

There were no automated kiosks and we had to wait in line to check-in. I was antsy and the 15 minute wait seemed like it took forever. There was barely anyone in line at the security checkpoint, even the guard remarked on how few people there were. The drug sniffing dogs were so cute, I just wanted to smoosh their little faces. Once we were past we had a goal: find the McDonald’s, yet again, I was very hungry bordering on hangry. We tried to use a touch screen map, but the glass was so thick it was slightly distorting and we could not get it to search, it was infuriatingly useless. We gave up and started walking in a direction until we saw a food court with a Burgher King. We turned and went back, knowing McDonald’s would not be there. It was driving me nuts, I had seen it when we arrived, I knew it was somewhere nearby. I briefly considered trying the touch screen map again when I saw printed maps just below it. There was no line at McDonald’s and before long I was sinking my teeth into the buttermilk chicken sandwich. It was ok, I did manage to improve it by cramming some fries into it. Earlier on the kiosk map I had seen that there was a Ben & Jerry’s, so we split a large fries to save room for dessert. As we were eating Brent noticed a sign for an observation deck. We went up there and found a McDonald’s employee enjoying a quiet break. On the floor there were large cushions assembled into a pseudo-bed. Alas, we had bad timing as there were no flights taking off or landing. We were just looking at the gates and the military base across the way. From there were could see that our plane had not even arrived yet.

On the way to our gate we stopped at Ben & Jerry’s. In a small size you can have two different flavours. I had one scoop of Phish Food and one scoop of the lemon sorbet. Never in my life have I ever had something so satisfying and delicious, it hit so many cravings all at once. It was incredible and it is now my new go-to combo whenever I go to a Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop. We settled in at our gate and soon we boarded. It would be good to get back to my book, as I had abandoned it 3 days ago in favour of bad TV. I had plenty of time to catch up on my reading, as we were stuck in tarmac traffic for a good 30 minutes before we even took off.

 
 

Minneapolis and Northern Wisconsin- Day 5

Tues. Aug. 23, 2016:
Minneapolis, MN

I woke up before 9am and I was feeling great. I had slept without a bandage on my ring finger that I had cut a week ago. It was so nice to finally be free of Band-Aids, it was starting to really annoy me: a week straight of 24/7 Band-Aid was driving me nuts. I made myself a cup of in-room coffee and it was truly awful. I distracted myself from it by watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and eating smores Pop Tarts. The TV guide had lied, it said that Sabrina The Teenage Witch was on and it had gotten my hopes up. We had time to kill as the Minneapolis Art Institute was only a 5 minute drive away and did not open until 10am. We created lists of the beers and ciders we wanted to try at lunch, as there was an option to do a flight of 4 beers, 4 oz each- we had to plan ahead.

We were pleasantly surprised to find out that the Minneapolis Art Institute does not have an admission charge. They had a great collection but it was a little bit disorganized. We went to the rooms in order. At first each section was broken down geographically and was focused. Halfway through we found ourselves in a room that represented Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo and a few other African countries and it was from all different time periods. The previous section, Asia, had been broken down by country and time period. This room felt like they had just thrown a bunch of items together.

Once we made it to the European paintings we were stuck near an annoying group of middle-aged ladies who kept talking to the tour guide long after the tour was over. They were talking about selling selfies on eBay and we had to speed-walk to get away from them. They were unbearable. We finished the museum in four hours and drove over to the Walker Art Centre. In trying to figure out if I would be able to see the cherry –spoon statue or not, I found out that to compensate for the sculpture garden being closed, the centre had a wacky rooftop mini golf course. I could not resist.

In paying for the mini-golf we were given free admission to the Walker Art Centre. We had a half hour before our scheduled tee time so we wandered through the various exhibits. It did not take long to get through most of it. There were only a few artworks per room, and the video pieces each got their own room. It would appear that contemporary art takes up way more gallery space than any others. I was not expecting to see so much wacky and head-scratching art. Only a few actually made me smile and were enjoyable. Overall it only further solidified my general disdain with contemporary art.

The highlight of the Walker Art Centre was by far the artsy mini-golf course. One of the courses was called Guess What? Chicken Putt, another one required you to use your golf club as a pool cue. The best one had footprints all over it and invited your competitors to stand in the way of your shot. It was really fun to play. Afterwards we tried to look down into the sculpture garden construction to see if there was a better view of the cherry, alas there was not.  I was very hungry afterwards, alas on our way from one place to the next I had eaten the last Oreo and in the Walker Art Centre parking lot we had finished off the Tostitos. I would have to wait until our late lunch.

Having spent 4+ hours walking we needed a rest break before heading out to lunch and from there to the baseball game, and of course if you’re sitting around the hotel room watching crappy TV, one needs a cider for that. The Shacksbury Farmhouse Craft Cider from Vermont was delicious, far and away better than the Seattle one I had grown to dislike.

I was a bit worried about getting lunch at Republican Bar as we did not have reservations. I was also worried because I thought it was closer to the stadium (turns out it was a 40 minute walk away). Luckily we managed to easily get a table, and during happy hour no less. Even though we had researched what we wanted in our flights, we still debated a little bit as there were a few beers and ciders on the specials board that we had not anticipated. Eventually we were ready to order, each reading off our little piece of paper. We wanted to get food at the game so we split an order of buffalo wings. It was fun to sip the ciders and beers and rank them, eventually I settled on from best to worst: Founder’s Rubaeus Raspberry ale tied with Nektar Zombie Killer mead-cider, Uncle John’s blueberry cider and dead last was Milk & Honey Heirloom cider. At the end of our flights we looked at each other, we were both still a little bit hungry and guacamole and chips were on happy hour special. But if we were getting food, we should probably get another flight each. This time more deliberation took place as we had not anticipated a second flight. Yes we had a few back-ups listed, but very few. We spent quite a while studying the beer menu and specials board, our server had to come back twice before we were ready. Keeping in mind the first flight, we sampled the rest and then it was time to submit a final ranking. From best to worst, it was: Ommegang Cherry Sour (which was easily the best beer I have ever had), Founder’s Rubaeus Raspberry again tied with Nektar Zombie Killer, Uncle John’s, Sweet Orchard’s Cuban Garden Party, Virtue barrel-aged cask which was the cider of the day, Fair State roselle hibiscus and the heirloom cider. How did I keep track of it all? Our server brought us a print out of what was on the flight. Eight 4oz glasses of beer and cider when you have barely eaten anything all day is not the best idea in retrospect- especially if you drank a bottle of cider before leaving the hotel. Needless to say, it was a hilarious drunken walk to the baseball stadium, we were equally drunk. We stopped at a park because there were port-a-potty’s, we were heading back towards our hotel for a pit stop and this saved us some extra walking.

When we got to the stadium we still had 20 minutes before the game but we were too full for food. Plus the food stand Brent had wanted to get dinner at was not open yet. I was surprised to see that the stadium was not even half full. Once again I had been tempted by overpriced ballpark shirts. Around the 2nd inning it started to rain, which sucked given that the stadium did not have a roof. We waited it out until the 3rd inning and went in search of food. There were no water fountains, but they had big orange Gatorade coolers and triangle cups. I stopped at each one as we circled the concourse, they were my saving grace. I was starting to crash and I was not in the mood for food. The Butcher & Boar was still not open, so we went to Kramarczuk and Brent got a Polish sausage piled high with onions and sauerkraut, making it rather unappetizing to me at the time. We also got an order of deep-fried cheese curds. I ate one and it was delicious, but I was paranoid about getting sick.

By the time we were back in our seats, the rain had finally let up. This lasted until halfway through the 6th inning. At this point we had seen a Twin steal a base and another Twin hit a home run resulting in one firework and a lit up sign that had two baseball players (St. Paul and Minneapolis) shake hands. The stadium was really starting to clear out. The rain did not let up and it rained the whole walk back to the hotel. I was so tired by the end of all this, I needed sleep and more Pepto-Bismol, luckily I found some in the bottom of my purse.

 
 

Minneapolis and Northern Wisconsin- Day 4

Mon. Aug. 22, 2016:
Bayfield, WI to Minneapolis, MN

I was awoken early by the loud construction noise outside, well the workers listening to the radio. Oh and by Brent jumping on the bed and air guitaring to the music, which at first had meshed with my dream and seemed totally normal, much to Brent’s bewilderment. I managed to catch some more Pokemon before breakfast. The breakfast was amazing. We started off with a chocolate chip muffin, resulting in me getting chocolate on my face. Brent noticed and told me, I went to wipe it off only to wipe the wrong side and instead I smeared more chocolate on my face. The standout was the warm blueberry cobbler. The pancake of the day had previously been chocolate chip and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was now caramel pecan. This time around I had bacon on the side. It was a delicious combination alas it was a little bit too much food and I wound up unable to finish it all.

We drove back to Minneapolis for the final leg of our trip. Again I was getting so sleepy in the car. I opened up a can of Sprite in the hopes of keeping myself awake. I managed to stay awake long enough to cheer Minnesota and see that the first town we entered was Duluth, which I only knew about from Fargo. I had fallen asleep twice at this point. I gave up and turned on one of Brent’s podcasts and nodded off for a short nap. Eventually I awoke because I had to pee, and so we stopped at a McDonald’s. Partly also because I figured this would be a great time to grab a coffee, as I was clearly in need of one. Or two, maybe.

I was starting to get hungry and it was well timed. We were stopping for lunch at the Surly Brewing Company just outside of Minneapolis. They did not have a bottle shop only a souvenir shop. I ordered the Pentagram beer both because it was a sour and it came in a tiny little 4oz size. It was delicious and we ended up ordering the porchetta sausage dish because it came with the option to get a 4oz Pentagram beer, it was perfect! We also split the Hog Frites. I was expecting fries piled high with pork and cheese, not a pile of veggies and something spicy. It was like someone had dumped a salad on a perfectly good plate of fries. The food was only ok, but the beer was the true winner of the meal. It was nice to see the vats of beer being brewed next door through the big glass windows in the dining hall.

We drove to Gold Medal Park and left the car. The plan was to walk through the park and find a path down to the Mississippi River to see the old stone arch bridge. I did not expect to see so many cool abandoned and repurposed old factories along the river’s edge (in retrospect it is quite obvious why). From the bridge we could see St. Anthony’s Falls and the churning water below. It was very hot outside and the sun was super bright. Not helping matters was the fact that yet again, I had to pee. We stopped in at the Visitor’s Centre at the dam by the bridge. We pretended to go looking for information and acted as if we did not have enough time for a tour. All this just so I could use their bathroom.

Even though the Walker Art Centre sculpture garden was closed for renovation we still drove over to see if there was anything to be seen. I had not planned this trip out very well. The main reason for choosing Minneapolis was to see the (famous to me) cherry on a spoon sculpture in the middle of a pond. Unbeknownst to me, this statue was in the aforementioned sculpture garden, not a public park as I had envisioned. The drive was tense, all the moreso because of all the construction. The GPS managed to navigate us instead to the basilica I had also wanted to see. We parked in a nearby garage and headed out on foot. Driving around the Walker Art Centre was impossible. They basilica was gorgeous from the exterior but there was no indication that you could wander in and gawk at it from inside. Plus I was so distracted, would I see the cherry or wouldn’t I???

I thought I recognized a park across the street from the art centre, it had a pond and seemed like the spot where the cherry should be. My heart sank a little, it wasn’t there. But almost immediately Brent exclaimed because he saw the stem!! It was across the street in the middle of the sculpture garden construction behind fencing!!! There was a bridge that normally allowed access to the garden and it was not closed off! Just the access to the garden was. From the bridge I was able to see the cherry on a spoon sculpture in all its tacky glory. The only thing missing was the water spraying from the stem. You see, when it was installed properly in the pond it was a fountain, making it that much cooler. I was so happy to finally see the sculpture. And now I had no reason to ever return to Minneapolis ever again. I was very glad to have seen it. As we passed the park initially I kept seeing flashes of red raising my hopes, which were then quickly dashed when I saw it was just a bench.

Our hotel was near downtown, if you can call it a downtown, which it barely was. As soon as we got to the room I filled up the ice bucket. It felt so good to down a glass of ice cold Sprite while my cider chilled in the ice bucket in the fridge. I did not want to risk a mini-nap, so rather than writing in bed, I chose to sit in the chair instead. With a foot stool and a side table it was perfect for writing and drinking ice cold cider. Once I had cooled down and rehydrated we headed back out. Brent had found a nearby liquor store and we headed out to stock up one last time. I had one and a half ciders left and ended up grabbing a Vermont farmhouse cider. This was mostly because I had grown to dislike the Seattle cider. It was better on ice, but still not that great.

We had an hour and a half before we had to leave for dinner at Smack Shack. I was all caught up in my notebook but too brain-dead to read. Instead I opted for watching Teen Mom OG on MTV, just like the old days, except with cider instead of Ben & Jerry’s. I was fully in vacation mode.

We had been told that there was a nice outdoor shopping arcade downtown so we left early to walk by and see it. We had been grossly lied to. It was just a regular street with a Macy’s, a Marshalls and a Saks Off Fifth. I was expecting something along the lines of Newbury St. in Boston or the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. It was made all the worse by all the construction. We now had extra time. We happened to walk by the Minneapolis Central Library, which I immediately recognized from a best-of-in-each-state library list. It was a very nice modern looking and inviting building. We tried to see the Audobon bird exhibit but we were way too late and the exhibit room was closed. We took the scary glass elevator back to the main floor.

Dinner at Smack Shack was way better than I had expected. I was anticipating greasy, gimmicky food. Lobster meat stuffed into a burger, named a Juicy Lucy? It sounded like a gargantuan mess of enormous size. I feared that when I would steal a bite from Brent I would not be able to even get all the components in one bite. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was just a little bit of lobster meat stuffed into a regular sized burger of great quality.  The crab cakes I ordered were amazing and it was just the right amount of food given I was not feeling too well. Even the kettle chips on the side of the burger were delicious. Brent wanted a second beer therefore it only made sense to order dessert. I had only ordered an appetizer for dinner anyways. Apparently the key lime pie went really well with Brent’s grapefruit beer.

On the way home I had wanted to stop at Walgreen’s to buy some more Pepto-Bismol but it was closed, and it was not even 9pm yet! I knew this because I had wanted to get back to the hotel around 9pm because that was when the new episodes of Teen Mom OG were airing, 2 hours of uninterrupted trashy TV. Alas, because of the time zone switch we missed the new episode and they were airing one I had watched earlier in the day during the marathon, so we watched Bob’s Burgers instead.

 

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