Canada Diary

This past week we were in Canada on a vacation. Since we did not have time to plan ahead, we decided on a rather impromptu road trip.

Day 1: We started from Princeton well past 11 AM and after a quick stop at Durga Temple, we headed north to Quebec city. Thankfully 1-87 was quiet and we were able to make decent progress before the lunch hour stuck. We stopped at one of the rest areas to finish our lunch of home made vegetable Pulao. Once we entered the Adirondacks region, the scene was breath taking. With the pine lined mountains and azure lakes the scene out the car window looked straight out of coffee table books! Sunny boy however was loosing his patience. I forgot to pack some activity books, crayons for him. He made us listen to his favorite songs ("Yello Jogappa" from the Kannda movie Jogi and "12 3 Vishnuvardhana" from the movie Vishnuvardhana) for a few continuous hours. We reached the Canadian border at around 5.30 PM. With summer in full swing, we got to enjoy the landscapes in bright day light for a few more hours.It was at the customs post that I first heard "Kubek". That did not prepare us for the amount of French we would be encountering in Quebec. After a brief stop just outside Levis for an early dinner, we headed into Quebec city. Our accommodation was at Beauport just a few minutes from downtown Quebec. The lady at the reception greeted me with a "Bonjour" but she was courteous enough to switch to English the minute I fumbled with my Bonjour! Though I did my research before to get at least my "Bonjourn" and "Merci" right, I often did not get it right. However, a nice smile with the wrong word and the large hearted Quebecians made sure that we had a very good time at Quebec!

The first thing that stuck me when we got out of our car was how expensive Canada was. A dinner of two small sized pizzas cost us $25! Something that would cost us a little over $10 here in the states. I still gave a benefit of doubt , may be it was just this joint?

The second time I almost got a heart attack when I looked at the price of Gas in Canada. With all the shale oil, arctic reserves, I was not really ready for such a steep gas bill filling up our tiny Pruis-C. Half of a tank cost more than $30! it would never cost more than $25 for a full tank here. That was to come a little later though.

Day2: It was a beautiful day. Sunny and nice, after a quick breakfast of Ashoka ready to eat Palak paneer and  chapatis we were ready to explore the streets of Quebec. We headed out and hit the downtown before we had finished listing to a song. After the mandatory photo stop at the fountain near the National Assembley of Quebec, we proceeded to explore the grand building behind the fountain. Unfortunately most of the information was in french  and one of them said "Hotel du parlement". Now we were confused. Here we were gloriously clicking selfies thinking we were right in front of Vidhasouda, which turned out to be Le Meridian? a bunch of Chinese  tourists were not of much help and so were a bunch of other French speaking tourists. But we got lucky just as we were about the walk away to the next attraction, we spotted a blue booth handing out maps. Thinking that we would be smart with a map in our hand, we dropped into the booth with our broken "Bonjour"s and brilliant smile only to be greeted back with "Good morning,how may we help you"!! turned out that there was a free English  tour of the national Assembly in just about 10 minutes. We were ecstatic. The tour was good, that was my first time in any Parliament building. When our tour guide finished explaining and was ready for a question answer session Sunny boy had one "Why are we wearing this" pointing to the visitor passes clipped to his shirt.  Our tour guide was gracious enough to give him a one line answer even as the whole tour group broke into laughter!

It was only after we got out of the National Assembly that  we realized how hot Quebec could get by noon.  With the blazing sun to keep us company we stumbled into guess who! good old Gandhi tata..It is always lovely to bump into friends,family and familiar faces far away from home.
We decided to head to the lower town in old Quebec for our Lunch.  We stumbled into a Pizzaria right opposite to the Notra Damn Basilica. They served us some excellent food. A fan of thin crust Pizza that I am, I loved the pizza they served, with thin crispy crust, sweet fresh tomato sauce and  fresh basil with good fatty mozzarella cheese on top. Also good was their Chicken Milanese. Though the portions looked rather small having gotten used to the super-sized American entrees. Finally we got the check/bill that reinforced my suspicion of Canada or more specifically Quebec being more expensive than the States!
It was not before long that we realized that the heat and the hearty meal did not go well together and decided to head back to our hotel. Me and Honey napped while Sunny boy played by himself!!
That evening we headed to a water falls a few minutes from the hotel, Chute de Montmorency. Climbing up about 500 steps we were treated to breath taking views of Quebec and St Lawrence river. It was lovely to be by the water on a hot day as well. We decided to end our day with a meal closer to our Hotel. Bad choice. We went to a place called Thai Zone, which looked like a Thai-Canadian Panda Express. The food was bad... We were barely able to finish our order though we ended up forking $35 for a meal that would have cost about $20 at Panda Express.

Day 3: Our last day in Quebec, we woke up to an over cast sky. Typically I would crib looking at an over cast sky. Not that day. I had had enough sun the previous day and welcomed the clouds and a rain shower per chance too..That morning we witnessed the change of guard and toured the citadel of Quebec.
The fort was something like the Lal Kila meeting Srirangapatana fort. A live garrison like red fort, it was also a site of conflict between the  British and French as it played out in Deccan back then, the same style of mounting cannons over the fortified walls,  town within a town like Srirangapatana, it was only Tippu Sutan who was missing in Quebec!
After the tour of the fortification, we headed back to nap at our hotel (yes we napped a lot , it was a vacation after all ) On the way we picked these up.

 These are called Poutins, a local specialty.  It is quite simply French fries topped with gravy and fresh cheese. I loved the cheese, tolerated the gravy but sorry I am not a  french fries person. But Honey enjoyed these a lot. He was also impressed with the average coffee served in Canada. He loved it.
That evening, it was perfect to meander along the promenade by the river, waving bikers and walkers passing us. It was a perfect way to relax. (the only way to elevate the scene would have been a big bag of Churmuri). We rode the Ferry to enjoy the views of Quebec from the St Lawrence river and by the time dusk fell, it was a lovely sight. We had the by lanes all for ourselves with the week end tourists all gone. At 8 PM we were the last patron at a Trattoria in lower town. We ordered a Veggie Pizza which was not all that great given my preference to thin crust Pizzas. But the Spaghetti with sun dried tomatoes and mushrooms was good.

We left downtown Quebec with a happy belly and a heart full of lovely sights of the city.

Day 4: We hit the road early heading into Montreal. Montreal greeted us with open arms and traffic choked roads. Sunny boy was running a temperature by then. We stopped at the China town area and walked into one of its many restaurants for a quick meal. Surprise! the food was supurb. We ordered some Chicken coriander Dumplings (Lloved them!) They were hand made right in front of us by a couple of old ladies. Unlike the regular dumplings, the skin of these dumplings were rather spongy and thick but they were out of the world.


The noodle and dumpling soup enough to bathe a baby was equally good. Just that the dumpling kept slipping down my chop sticks! we thanked heavens and Tylenol for such a great meal, a meal that made my sick picky eater Sunny boy eat his lunch with out making a big fuss. 


The next stop was Notre Damn Basilica. It was grand. Sunny boy did not like the rather dark church. He wanted to go out and play. It was Canada Day and there was a big party happening right behind the Basilica. We decided to walk to the party. What a way to celebrate the birth of a Nation. It was all about concerts, cakes, puddings and lots of fun things to do. But with Sunny boy sick, we did not enjoy it all that much and decided to head over to Ottawa, our next stop. We gave the Montreal Olympic village a miss. That will have to wait.
Ottawa reminded me of Washington DC. There is something about capital cities that makes them smell and feel similar. Is it power? is it something else I know not. But New Delhi, DC and Ottawa all feel the same to me. That night Sunny boy was better and we decided to head over to the heart of Ottawa to watch the fireworks. With major road closings and a new city, it was actually a brave decision to  go there in hindsight.  But there were good Samaritans all along who guided us to the right place and then we were at the heart of Canada day celebrations. It was Diwali, New year at Times Square and 'Marammana Jatre' all rolled into one. It was a hell of a block party, merry making in every sense. Only the red and whites of the Canadain flag could set it apart from  a grand block party. The fireworks began shortly so did a thunderstorm. I ran with Sunny boy to a shelter close by and a sweet Canadian girl offered me her umbrella. I was hesitant to accept her kindness as there was not way I could return her umbrella in that crowd. But she was sweet enough to give it me to keep. That is my souvenir from our trip, an umbrella from a kind hearted girl who could not bear to see my little Sunny boy getting drenched in rain.

Day 5: We  walked along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, got the last tickets for an emglish tour of the Canadian parliament hall and hopped into the Nature museum. Well for starters, the museums are expensive unlike DC museums which are free. But Canadian Nature museum is much beautifully laid out that the DC natural history museum. We also had a wonderful Raspberry pastry at the museum canteen, it was so delicious that it was gone before I could click a picture! It more than compensated the mediocre Pizza they served us for $20+taxes.
We rode the water taxi again to see sights of the Parliament Hall from the water. The Rideau canal was very impressive indeed. Would have love to see a boat cross the locks but that was not meant to be.
We had plans of watching the MosAika sound and light show at the Parliament hill, unfortunately we were too early for that. It will be starting next week.

Day 6: We headed out of Ottawa to Kingston to the land of thousand islands. Our trip was now in sailing rough because Sunny boy was tired and ready to go home. But decided to stop briefly at Kingston for a ferry ride and go over to Niagara falls and then home cutting short of trip by a day and a half.
The ferry ride was very good. But we realized later that a ferry ride from Gananoque would have been better.  But we got to have beaver Tails in Kingston. Well those of you wondering if we did really eat a tail of a beaver, beaver tails are something like fried dough topped with cheese, chocolate and other goodies. They are shaped like Beaver tails though. we had the ones with Cheesecake ,chocolate and caramel candies.


Our next stop was a brief stop over at Toronto and then to Niagara falls. Niagara falls from the Canadian side is awe inspiring. The gushing waters made the earth beneath my feet shake..the mist that rose as the water fell into the deep gorge below made my mind go numb for a while. My heart thumped at the might of the currents, of water. I though I saw a cormorant drown in the currents, but she popped up after a few minutes, probably happy with her catch. Never knew cormorant could dive. It was also a tribute to the diversity of life on earth. An all powerful man would not have survived the dive there but a tiny cormorant did. She is blessed with a talent we are not. No wonder people have always tried to conquer the falls in barrels, rafts and what not. That was the end of our trip and we headed back  home after a long road trip , it did feel nice to be back home. So long Canada, we will remember your Poutins, Beaver tails and the raspberry pastry for a long time to come!




4 comments:

Torviewtoronto said...

lovely pictures

Sudhir R said...

Enjoyed reading your Canada dairy! Glad you people did this and enjoyed it too. Wishing you many more trips.

Anonymous said...

hope you eat beef. the gravy in poutine is made of beef stock.

Kannada Cuisine said...

@Anonymous.... Oophs! I do not eat Beef. It did not occur to me that the gravy could have Beef stock base. Thankfully I am done trying it.