A-Z Travels: Q is for Quebec City: City Guide

Like New York, New York, the capital of province Quebec is Quebec City. However, the city is very different from New York. Quebec has a charming European feel as you stroll around cobblestone streets inside the fortified city walls. It’s almost as if you’ve hopped on a plane and landed in France. The buildings, language and food all have a heavy French influence and its super fun to explore.

In a nutshell the French influence is nestled in its history. French explorers landed in the area in the 1500’s but were unable to survive the winter. (Canadian winters can be tough!) The city was later founded by another French explorer in 1608, Samuel de Champlain. Champlain set up a trading post alongside the St. Lawrence river and the city has been growing ever since.

You can explore the interesting city in many ways so here is my city guide to the beautiful Quebec City.

Fact File:

Currency: Canadian Dollar            Population: 538,200 (2014)

Language: French.

Everyone will speak to you in French first, all signs etc are in French but people are more than happy (or seemed to be!) to switch to English.

Typical weather:

Month High °C Low °C
January -7 -16
February -1 -14
March 1 -8
April 9 0
May 18 6
June 22 11
July 25 14
August 24 13
September 19 9
October 11 3
November 4 -3
December -3 -11

How to get there:

Quebec City has an international airport which makes is accessible from all over the world. The Jean Lesage International airport is about a 25-minute drive away from the city centre. A taxi is going to cost around $35 CAD from the airport to downtown. Alternatively, you can get the number 78 bus for $3.50 CAD (a day pass is $8.50)

Quebec City Map.png

How to get around:

This is not a city I would recommend driving around. Like any big city it is going to be busy on the roads. However, combine that with tiny one-way streets and it can be difficult. We had to squeeze our big Dodge van into the tiniest parking space and it was not easy… I ended up having to climb out of the opposite side of the car!

Fortunately, it’s a great walking city. The streets are so pretty that walking is one of the best ways to see the beautiful architecture, you can take in the city walls, river and much more easily by foot so pack some comfy shoes.

If you get tired of walking, you can use the local transit, Reseau de transporte la capitale (RTC). A single fare is $3.50, day pass is $8.50. If you are staying for the weekend you can get an unlimited weekend pass (starting at 5.30 on Friday) for $15.50. For a longer stay in the city you can obtain a five-day pass for $29 (all prices in CAD)

What to do:

Visit Chateau du Frontenac

Hotel Chateau du Frontenac is the ultimate example of chateau-style hotel built by the Canadian railway companies across Canada. It provides a great starting point as it is next to the river, citadel and funicular down to Petit Champlain. For most people a night in the hotel is out of budget but you can admire the architecture by walking around the perimeter.

Top tip: visit at sunset for great views

Explore Old Quebec

Old Quebec is a historic neighbourhood in the city comprised of Upper Town and Lower Town. The whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage site where you feel like you’ve been transported to Belle’s provincial life in France. You can spend hours strolling around the cobble stoned streets.

Ride the Funicular to Petit Champlain

To get to the Petit Champlain district you can either walk the steps or ride the Funicular. I would recommend walking down and riding the funicular back up, Matt and I did it the other way around and were a little out of breath by the time we made it to the top!

It’s well worth visiting as you can explore its unique boutiques and cafes. The neighbourhood is also home to the city’s first port and some of the first houses built in Quebec.

Visit the Parliament Buildings

As you know I’m a fan of visiting legislative buildings (read why you should too here.) The top tip here is to get there early as tours book up quickly and are done on a first com first served basis. Because of this we missed out on touring the building. However, the grounds themselves are nice to walk around and there are some great statues with informative boards to peruse.

Walk the city walls

The Ramparts in Quebec are the only remaining fortified walls in North America north of Mexico. Surrounding most of Old Quebec it is an integral part of the city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right. There are four remaining gates to explore and spans over 4.6 kilometres. Plus it’s a totally free activity.

Where to eat:

Le Chic Shack

A top-notch burger option here! I was amazed at the reasonable price of the meal considering the restaurants location, burgers on average were $12 CAD. Matt and I sat out on the patio with views of the Chateau Frontenac whilst eating juicy patties on a sunny afternoon.

In addition to yummy burgers the Chic Shack also has great drink options. Matt enjoyed beer from local microbrewery, Archibald, while I enjoyed their home-made sodas, made with real fruit purees.

Café Boulangerie Palliard

I cannot resist pastries… particularly French pastries.  With four locations across the city there is no excuse not to indulge in a buttery croissant. The bakery combines the talents of French artisans with the ‘American’ experience of it owner, Yves Simmard.

Restaurant Le Comptoir

This place was super sweet and informal. It reminded me of European restaurants in its layout and relaxed vibe. After a long journey we were able to enjoy a great smoked meat sandwich and local beer. The waiter was really kind and let me take a copy of the menu, so I could practice my French.

Day Trip from Quebec City:

If you have the opportunity then head out to Montmorency Falls. The falls are just outside the city and are a sight to be seen. Standing at 83m tall they are 30m higher than Niagara Falls. We visited in spring and there was a large amount of water flowing making it even more interesting to see.  However, this did mean the stairs all the way to the bottom were not open.  You still got a great view by following the steps about 3/4 of the way down. But you will get wet with spray!

You can either drive and park at the site (around$10 CAD but includes entrance fee)  or get the bus from downtown.

Have you ever been to this wonderful city? What was your favourite thing to do ?

Thanks for joining me again for A-Z Travels, if you enjoyed my guide please give it a little like or share. Next week will be R for the Rocky Mountains. Happy Travels 🙂

 

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Top Tips for Cycling as a Tourist

Many major cities now have easy access to bikes. Self-serve rental schemes such as London’s ‘Boris Bikes’ can be found in countless metropolitan areas. The idea originally began in 2003 in Vienna, Austria and has been exported around the world.  These bikes are great for locals and tourists alike as they are easily accessible and can be rented on and off throughout the day, week or longer.

Cycling can be a fantastic way of exploring a city without breaking the bank. It can save on blisters and you can cover a lot more ground than if you were walking.  In addition to self-serve bikes many places have rental stores where you may even be able to rent a tandem … if you’re feeling brave! And wherever you are you’ll be sure to have amazing views such as these:

However, there are a few problems with cycling as a tourist. For one, you’re in an unfamiliar area, making it much harder to navigate. Secondly, you want to stop and take in the view all the time and can get in the way of busy commuters. Nobody wants to end up in a heap on the floor, so I’ve compiled a list of top tips for a smooth ride on your next holiday bike ride!

  • Wear a helmet

Safety tip number one is always were your helmet. In some places it is a legal requirement to wear one. So, don’t worry about your hair, you’re on holiday, no one cares! The rental places have a special spray to keep them clean, so you don’t need to worry about that either.

Van with Emma (1).JPG

  • Use the cycle lanes… correctly

The bike lanes have been put there for a reason, for you to use. It can be tempting to ride on the pavement/sidewalk in areas with a lot of vehicle traffic but it can be just as dangerous.

Hamilton Bike Lanes

  • Be aware

I’ve seen a few accidents where people have ended in a pile on the floor simply because they weren’t paying attention.  It is easy to get distracted but being switched on could prevent a trip to the emergency room!

  • Don’t play music

If you are wearing headphones while on your bike you might not be able to hear certain things such as sirens, people shouting or car horns. Miss hearing one of these and you could end up causing an accident. Also playing music from a speaker on your bike is just annoying! Not everyone is going to like your music choice… but this one is more a bug bear of mine!

  • Obey the signs

Pure and simple they are there for a reason and they are there for your safety and the safety of others. For example, when cycling around Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada, there are certain sections which require you to stop and dismount. It is clearly sign posted but hardly anyone does it even though it goes through a kids play area. No one wants to run a kid over… so obey the signs!

  • Lock up your bike

Being able to lock up your bike gives you freedom. If you find a cute bar or café and fancy stopping for a bite to eat, just lock your bike up. Most rental places will provide a lock so make sure you ask before setting off on your adventure. Plus, having a lock saves any hassle should your bike get stolen.

  • Move to the side for photos

Don’t stop in the middle of the cycle path just to take a photo. Same as when you are driving a car, if you stop suddenly in the road you’re going to cause a pile up. So, check around and pull to the side before taking that perfect snapshot.

  • Check your bike before leaving the rental store

My friend and I rented a tandem and happily rode off.  She was convinced I wasn’t pedalling the whole time… turns out we had a flat tire! We headed back to the rental store and switched out for individual bikes which were way more comfortable and had super bouncy tires!

  • Stay hydrated

You’re going to get hot so stay hydrated whilst out and about. Pop some frozen drinks in your backpack and they will soon defrost giving you a nice cool drink just as you need it.

11017845_10155739073565716_292065408074803849_n

  • Take breaks

If you are not used to cycling on a regular basis, make sure to pace yourself. Take breaks every now and then, you are on holiday after all! Enjoy the views, spend some time people watching or grab a quick bite to eat.

Happy cycling!!!

I hope these tips will help you have a smooth journey. Other than walking, cycling is such a fun way to see a place without getting on transit. It’s a greener way to travel and you get fit at the same time… what more could you ask for? So, get out there and have fun!

Have you ever cycled while on holiday? What’s the best place you’ve cycled as a tourist?

If you’ve enjoyed my blog, then please leave me a little like or share. Happy Travels 😊

A-Z Travels: P is for Provinces: How Well Do You Know The Canadian Provinces? QUIZ!

It is a common mistake to call the provinces of Canada, states. Unlike its American neighbour which is comprised of fifty states, Canada is made up of provinces and territories. I’ve learnt so much about the geography of this massive country on my travels so thought I’d share so of it with you. I’m not going to lie I didn’t even know how many provinces there were before my plane touched down 18 months ago!

I’m won’t give too much away in terms of facts as this week I’m presenting you with my first ever quiz. I’m quite proud as its my first attempt at coding, whilst its a simple quiz for me its a huge achievement. So , test out your geography and take my Canadian Province and Territories quiz! Don’t forget to let me know your score in the comments!


How many Provinces and Territories are there in Canada?
13
Correct!! Canada has ten provinces, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador and three territories, Yukon, North West Territories and Nunavut.
50
Wrong.. but the USA does have 50 states
10
Wrong… you forgot the territories
Which three Provinces make up the Maritimes?
Nova Scotia, British Columbia and New Brunswick
Wrong.. British Columbia is on the west coast and not part of the Maritimes
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island
Correct!! These three Provinces are all on the East Coast and are affectionately known as the Maritimes
Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba
Wrong… these Provinces are known as the Prairies
Which Province has the largest population?
British Columbia
Wrong.. British Columbia has a population of 4,849,442 where as Ontario has a population of 14,318,750 (estimated populations for 2018)
Ontario
Correct!! This province has an estimated population of 14,318,750 making it the most populated
Prince Edward Island
Wrong… the smallest province has the smallest population of around 152,768
When did Newfoundland and Labrador join Canada?
1867
Wrong… this is when Canada was founded
1949
Correct!! Newfoundland became a part of Canada in 1919 although its name only became Newfoundland and Labrador in 2001
2001
Wrong… but close this is when it’s name was officially changed to Newfoundland and Labrador
What are the 3 Canadian Territories?
Yukon, Yellowknife and Nunavut
Wrong… Yellowknife is the capital of Yukon
Yukon, North West Territories and Nunavut
Correct!! These three are all territories
Alaska, Nunavut and Yukon
Wrong… Alaska is next to Yukon but it is an American state
Which province/territory is also known as ‘Wild Rose Country’?
Nova Scotia
Wrong… Nova Scotia is known as Canada’s ocean playground
Alberta
Correct!! Alberta is known for it’s wild roses
Saskatchewan
Wrong… this province is known as the land of the living skies
Which province/territory shares a border with the US state of Washington?
Yukon
Wrong… the Yukon shares a border with Alaska
British Columbia
Correct!! British Columbia shares a border with Washington State… the home of Nirvana and Starbucks
Prince Edward Island
Wrong… this province has no American neighbours

This is not Mount Logan… but it is from the same part of Canada!
In which province/territory will you find Canada’s largest peak, Mount Logan?
Alberta
Wrong… home of the Rockies but not Mount Logan
Yukon
Correct!! Mount Logan is 19,511 ft tall and is in the Yukon territory
British Columbia
Wrong… but it is home to the highest peak in Canada outside of the Yukon, Mount Fairweather

Which province/territory is home to the Winnipeg Jets hockey team?
Ontario
Wrong… this is the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs
Manitoba
Correct!! The Jets play at the Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg
Alberta
Wrong… home of the Calgary Flames not the Jets
In which province/territory is the Capital city, Ottawa?
Alberta
Wrong… home of Calgary and Edmonton
Ontario
Correct!! Ottawa is in Ontario
British Columbia
Wrong… but you will find the popoular Vancouver in B.C.

How did you get on? Drop me a comment below to let me know how you did in my first ever quiz and attempt at coding! If you enjoyed it please share it … after all sharing is caring 🙂

5 UNIQUE Places To Eat & Drink In Ottawa

There are so many food and drink options in Canada’s capital city Ottawa. I absolutely love my food so was in my element on my recent (and first ever) trip to the big city. The weather was sunny with just a few white fluffy clouds in the sky as we pounded the pavements, walking miles each day. Given that we’d burned so many calories we felt we were entitled to a few treats.

Luckily for us Ottawa has much to offer. In addition to your usual Canadian restaurants there are many unique local eateries and watering holes that will make your trip to Ottawa a fantastic one. When it comes to food you should never settle for second best so here are my top five unique food and drink options for Ottawa.

Suzy Q Doughnuts

Where: 969 Wellington St W  (https://suzyq.ca/)
What: Doughnuts based on a traditional Finnish recipe known as ‘Sugar Munkki’
Highlight: Raspberry Cassis and Maple Bacon

You cannot miss the bright yellow store front as you approach Suzy Q’s on Wellington Street. Inside is a host of treasures which change each month. These doughnuts use a traditional Finnish recipe and you can sure tell the difference. They are super soft with toppings to die for.  It was hard to choose my highlight as they were all amazing, the filling inside the Boston Cream was real custard, the Dulce & Banana had a fantastic flavour and the carrot cake one was unreal. But the raspberry cassis was just so sweet and tasted of real fruit. The maple bacon was the first time I’d tried a bacon doughnut and I was not disappointed. A definite pitstop for any ‘nut lover.

Elgin Street Project

Where: 399 Elgin Street (http://elginbeerproject.com/)
What: locally sourced craft beers and ciders
Highlight: County Cider Waupoos Blackberry Peach Cider

After spending the day exploring Parliament Hill just a short walk away is Elgin Street Project. It has an outdoor decking area which you can sit an enjoy the local craft beers and ciders while watching the world pass by.  The highlight was easy to choose here, as I don’t like beer I opted for a nice refreshing cider. It was hands down the best cider I’ve ever had. It was perfectly sweet and not overly fizzy, so it went down a treat.

Elgin Street Diner

Where: 374 Elgin Street (http://www.elginstreetdiner.com/)
What: informal diner serving North American food from pancakes to burgers
Highlight: poutine and milkshakes

This place is opposite Elgin Beer Project and is open 24 hours, so you can go before or after your beers. It has many accolades to its name including best Ottawa diner, best poutine, best milkshake and best service.   After being open for over 22 years it has become an Ottawa Institution. But be warned you are going to want to go with an empty stomach as they serve up huge portions! The poutine had a wonderfully thick gravy which made it delicious and the milkshake was also super thick. A beautiful food coma inducing combo!

Tooth and Nail Brewing Company

Where: 3 Irving Avenue  (https://toothandnailbeer.com/)
What: beer and snacks
Highlight: Bravado (American Pale Ale)

This little brewery is just down the road from Suzy Q’s and serves craft beers. We had a quick stop here on our exploration of the Hintonburg area and were not disappointed. You can get little tasters of each beer before choosing your favourite. I once again opted for a cider but cannot for the life of me remember what it was called! It was a fruity cider but a more cloudy variety than I usually go for. Matt on the other hand could quite happily have settled in for an afternoon session as he sampled a few different tipples. His favourite was the American pale ale, Bravado.

We were also surprised to see Shropshire Blue cheese on the snack menu, which is from our home county!

ByWard Market

Where: Downtown (https://byward-market.com/en/home/)
What: a bit of everything
Highlight: Beaver Tails

ByWard Market is the place to be if you are an indecisive diner. It has a little bit of everything from all over the world in this great little neighbourhood. A few blocks wide this area is packed full of restaurants, diners, cafes and markets stalls all boasting amazing food.  It is also known for its colourful street art and unique boutiques. It was here that had my first Beaver Tail smothered in Nutella and banana’s. A wonderful fried pastry in the shape of… you guessed it, a beaver tail must be one of the most Canadian snacks I’ve ever had and is a must for any tourist.

I hope you enjoy these places as much as I did as food can be one of the most memorable things about a trip. I’ll continue to eat my way around Canada and will report back soon.

Have I missed anywhere off my list? Where is your favourite place to eat in the city? Drop me a comment. If you like this article, please give it a little like or share to show you care 😊

A-Z Travels: O is for Ottawa: Ten FREE Things To Do

Canada’s Capital city is Ottawa. Formed out of the small town of Bytown in 1855 it is now home to over 1 million Canadians in the city limits alone. Unlike Vancouver, which can be expensive to visit as a tourist, Ottawa is extremely budget friendly.  There is something for everyone, from outdoor activities to museums to great food, Ottawa has it! With the Rideau Canal at its centre surrounded by the beautiful Parliament Buildings Ottawa is most certainly worth a visit.

ottawa-13.jpg

Here are my top ten FREE things to do in the city:

  • Tour the Parliament Buildings

    Views of Parliament Hill

I was super excited to learn you can go on a free tour of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. Parliament Hill is home to the Senate, House of Commons and Library of Parliament so there is a lot going on. Depending on what parliamentary activity is being conducted for the day will determine how long your tour will be.

 

The website claims they are between 20- 50 mins in length. When Matt and I attended we had a shorter tour as Parliament in session so could not view the Senate or House of Commons. However, the tour was still interesting. The library gave me flash backs to Belle in Beauty and the Beast, it was such a gorgeous room.

Parliament Hill (31)

 

You have to rise early for this one as tickets are only available on the day. From 9am tickets are distributed on a first-come-first-served basis. Matt and I scooped the last two spots on an English tour for the day and we arrived at 10.30ish, so be out of bed early!

You can also get tickets to the Peace Tower (Big Ben inspired clock) and go up and have views of the city. However, the elevator was closed on the day we went so no visit for us. Within the Peace Tower however you can see the Book of Remembrance which lists the names of Canadians for have fought and died in service.

Its worth a visit if you have time after your tour.  Each day they turn the pages to show different names, I was lucky enough that on that day, it was open on my last name.

  • Tour the Supreme Court

Just down the road from Parliament Hill is the Supreme Court. Here you can learn about the Canadian judicial system from informative law students.  In addition, tours give you an insight into the beautiful art deco architecture. If you are lucky and court is in session you can sit in on a hearing.

Tours for this place are easier to come by as well. English tours start on the hour and French on the half-hour with each lasting around 30 minutes. Don’t be afraid to take photos, photography is allowed!

Both the Supreme Court and Parliament Hill require you to go through security, lockers are provided for tours of Parliament Hill at the ticket office.

  • Walk the Rideau Canal

The Canal runs through the heart of Ottawa and was built in the 1800’s in case of war with the US. Stretching 202km the canal connects rivers and lakes along its way. Operated by Parks Canada and is opened from mid May to Mid-October each year. During the winter it becomes the worlds largest and second longest skating rink where you can pick up a Beaver Tail pastry as you glide down the canal.

 

  • Chow down at ByWard Market

You can also get a Beaver Tail at Byward Market. The eclectic neighbourhood boasts quirky boutiques, bustling streets and trendy restaurants. In the centre is a beautiful outdoor market selling fresh vegetables, flower and maples syrup by local artisans.

Matt and I not only enjoyed a Beaver Tail but a great curry, rice and naan inside the colourful market.

  • Learn about the formation of Ottawa at the Bytown Museum

Inside Ottawa’s oldest stone building you can learn all about the formation of Ottawa and the building of the Rideau Canal.  The Museums collections take you from the early days of the city’s life when it was known as Bytown and residents were mostly canal construction workers.

Check out their free admission days here.

  • Window shop at the Rideau Centre

If its raining and your want to spend a bit of time inside without having to pay entrance fees, then this is your place. Browse over 180 stores including fashion, home, books, toys and much more. You just have to make sure you don’t get tempted to keep it budget friendly!Window shopping at Rideau Center

Top tip: the centre has free WIFI

  • Get views for miles at Nepean Point

Take a walk to the top of this hill to get stunning panoramic views of Parliament, the Ottawa River, downtown Ottawa and much more. At the top you’ll be greeted by the statue of Samuel de Champlain, who explored the Ottawa River in 1613.  Located just behind the National Gallery of Canada its also super accessible.

  • Take a Picture with the huge spider Maman

While you are in that area you can also grab a selfie with Maman the huge spider outside the National Gallery of Canada. The bronze sculpture was made by artist Louise Bourgeois in 1999 as is one of six in the world. Standing at 30ft tall it’s a pretty interesting sight.

Ottawa (35)

If you are there on a Thursday, you can also visit the gallery for free between 5-8pm

  • Visit the Canadian War Museum

Another museum that is free on a Thursday evening is the Canadian War Museum.  Even if you can’t make it on a free evening, its well worth paying the admission fee. We spent over three hours here exploring the collections that cover all aspects of Canadian military history.  They also have an impressive collection of military vehicles such as tanks on the lower levels.

Before you head home walk across the road and see the National Holocaust Memorial. The monument titled Landscape of Loss, Memory and Survival presents images and facts about the Holocaust inside walls of varying heights that form the points of a Star if David.

  • Hike in Gatineau Park

If you want a day outside the downtown core to stretch the legs head over to Gatineau Park just fifteen minutes away. Covering 361 km² the park has a rich ecosystem that can be explored via its well-groomed trails.  If you head to the visitor centre in Chelsea, you can also visit a wonderful ice-cream shop called La Cigale for a sweet treat after your hike.

Thanks for joining me again for A-Z Travels, if you’ve liked this weeks installment please give it a like, comment or share it! Next week will be P for Poutine. Happy Travels 🙂

10 Reasons To Go Camping This Summer

  1. You get the chance to DISCONNECT

We are all far too connected to the internet, our phones, tablets, laptops etc. camping is the perfect excuse to have an electronic detox. Instead, go for a hike, read a book, play a game or simply sit and watch the clouds go by. But do keep a mobile handy for any emergency’s … and a quick selfie!

 

  1. You can RECONNECT with friends and family

Some of my best memories as a kid were of family holidays camping. It’s where I learnt to ride my bike, where I watched my Dad slide a river bank (more than once!) and was in fact Matt and I’s first holiday together.

 

Plus, there is nothing better than sitting around a campfire with a glass of wine in your hand just chilling with friends. It’s pure relaxation!

 

  1. It is super CHEAP

Nine times out of ten camping will be much cheaper than a hotel, air BNB or even a hostel.  For example, camping in Banff National Park during peak season can range from $15 CAD (approximately £8.75) to $33 CAD (approximately £19.20) where as hostels start from around $28 CAD for a shared dorm.

 

We saved loads on accommodation in Vancouver by camping just outside the city and travelling in by bus instead of staying downtown.

  1. You can take your DOG

Whilst we can’t take our house-sitting pets camping with us here in Canada as we are here to look after homes as well, my family dog (Billy the Whippet) loves to go camping. He is a bit of a fair-weather camper as he doesn’t like the rain, but he loves sitting in the front of my parent’s caravan watching the world go by and going on trips to the pub with my Dad.

 

 

  1. Being at one with NATURE

Depending on where you are camping you can totally embrace your inner flower child whilst camping. In Canada, sites are nestled amongst the trees which feels amazing when you wake up in the morning!

 

Back in the UK I find that sites are more ‘pruned’ but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel the grass between you toes or listen to the chirping birds.

  1. Good for your HEALTH

Getting outdoors can give you some much needed vitamin D after the grey winter months. You can also get some great exercise setting up you tent, fetching water and hiking.

 

 

Another bonus is that you can reset your body clock. If you are in a tent there isn’t anything stopping the sun from seeping through in the morning. This means you can rise with the sun each day and settle at sunset!

  1. Get to see the STARS

Once you’ve watched the sunset the stars will start to appear. The more rural the location there is less chance of light pollution and more chance of seeing a sky full of stars.  I remember camping on night in California and my breath was quite literally taken away as every inch of the night sky was packed with constellations! I’d never seen anything like it!

Top tip : pack your telescope and even better, a map of the night sky.

  1. Learn new SKILLS

You don’t become a skilled camper overnight. The first time you set up your tent there will more than likely be an argument. You will always forget something, just a few years ago I sat eating my cereal out of a saucepan as I’d not packed bowls! This year I learnt how to make my own fire starters… and a fire!

 

Skills you can learn while camping:

How to build a campfire How to cook on an open fire
Map skills Animal tracking
How to pitch a tent How to choose a tent site
Different knots Navigating with a compass
  1. S’MORES

Need I say anymore… this is one piece of North American culture I am quite happy has infiltrated Britain! Perfect for all the family, its cheap, easy and fun activity.

For the perfect simple s’more:

You’ll need some biscuits (cookies), I like to use half coated chocolate digestive for an extra bit of sweetness, marshmallows and roasting sticks

Pop your marshmallow on the end of you stick and hold it over the fire. You’ll want a little bit of browning across the ‘mallow. Just don’t catch them on the flames as they won’t cook on the inside!

Have your biscuit of choice ready and waiting.

When it’s nicely toasted, pop it in between two cookies and slide your stick out.

Now enjoy, be careful it will be hot!

 

  1. You can do it ANYWHERE

You don’t need to go to the other side of the world to enjoy a great camping adventure. If you don’t have much time, head to a local campsite. One of my favourite things to do on a long weekend is head just an hour down the road from my hometown Shrewsbury to Little Hereford with the family and Billy, of course!

Alternative: set up camp in your garden. My sister and I used to love backyard camping when we were younger…usually Dad was just trying to dry the tent out though!

 

What’s your favourite thing about camping? Where is your favourite place to sleep outdoors? Drop me a comment below.

If you enjoyed reading please give it a like or share 😊

A-Z Travels: N is for Nova Scotia- A City Guide to Halifax

I mentioned last week that Halifax had been voted fourth on the list of 2018’s top places on the rise. So, I thought N for Nova Scotia would be the perfect time to give you a guide to the province capital. Having spent the past six months just half an hour outside of the city I had plenty of opportunity to explore all it has to offer. It has beautiful nautical views, a rich history and super yummy food… so why wouldn’t you want to visit?

How to get there:

Halifax has an international airport just a 30-minute drive from the city centre. However, a taxi from the airport to downtown is going set you back at least $60 and you’ll want to be saving your pennies for activities.

Halifax Airport to Downtown

So instead you can take the bus which is only $3.50 for adults and $2.75 for children. The #320 bus operates every 30 minutes during peak morning (6 am to 9 am) and afternoon (3 pm to 6 pm) times. The regular schedule departs every 60 minutes so hopefully not too much hanging around after a long flight. In addition, Halifax airport is not a massive airport, so it is less crowded and easier to navigate than others. I suggest grabbing a coffee and some Timbits from Tim Hortons while you wait.

Typical Weather:

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
High °C -1

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2 8 15 19 23 23 18 13 7 1
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Halifax does get some stormy weather during the winter months so do take time to consider when you want to visit. Skiing is available here but it’s not good as other areas in Canada. Spring is a wonderful time to visit if you don’t like the crowds but still be prepared for some cooler weather.

Click here for top tips for travelling during Spring time in Canada.

How to get around:

Halifax is best seen on foot, so pack some comfortable shoes. You can spend a day or two immersing yourself in Halifax history as you can easily walk to many of the cities museums such as the 18th Century Citadel, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic or Nova Scotia Art Gallery.

You can also catch the ferry on over to Dartmouth. The ferry service offers two routes the Alderney Ferry service crosses from Halifax to Alderney Landing in downtown Dartmouth and the Woodside Ferry service crosses from Halifax to Woodside. Another bonus is that you can transfer between bus and ferry services for even more exploring opportunities.

Halifax Ferry

If you fancy a day out of the city then guided tours are available, alternatively you can rent a car for the day.

Where to stay:

Matt and I were housesitting during our time in Halifax so didn’t need to think about accommodation. However, when Matt’s parents came to visit we stayed in a great Air BNB not too far from Halifax’s North End. This place had become one of my favourite areas in Halifax, despite it having a bit of a reputation. In fact, I struggled to see why people gave it a bad name, but maybe I had tourist goggles on! This neighbourhood is ‘up-and-coming’ for sure with a great artsy vibe, funky breweries and amazing food options.

Another time we stayed over in Dartmouth, again in an Air BNB. We had lovely accommodation here and were within walking distance to downtown Dartmouth. However, there is more to see and do in Halifax so would recommend staying there for lodging.

Top Tip: Parking is a nightmare in Halifax so make sure your accommodation comes with free parking if you need it.

Things to do:

There is so much to experience in Halifax, even though I spent most of my time there during the winter season I was never left without anything to do. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • Pier 21

The old ocean liner terminal turned into a museum offers a chance to learn all about Canadian immigration, the permanent exhibitions tell you all about the lives of those who came through the port in the hope of a better life. It is well worth a visit as it provides a unique insight into Canadian history.

Pier 21 (2).JPG

  • Halifax Seaport Farmers Market

Right next to Pier 21 is the farmers market. Here you can grab so lunch from a number of vendors, anything from Jamaican curries to traditional pastries are waiting for you. There are also many arts and craft stalls where you can talk to locals and pick up a unique souvenir.

  • Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk

After the market you can head back along the seafront via the boardwalk. Along the way you’ll find statues and installations along the way by local artists. In addition, there are restaurants and bars open all year round offering up some great maritime lobster options. During the summer there are little huts with ice-creams, poutine and more for you to try.

  • Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

Here you can learn all about Nova Scotia’s maritime heritage. Go back in time and gaze upon treasure from great ships. They have a permanent Titanic exhibition which includes pieces from the ship itself. It’s also a great place to learn about an important part of Halifax history, the Halifax Explosion. In addition they have free admission on Tuesdays.

Check out 3 Titanic Things To Do in Halifax

  • Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

There are some great folk artists that have come out of the Maritimes and many are on display in this huge gallery. The collection extends beyond to include contemporary photography, Aboriginal art from across Canada and sacred arts from centuries past. I was lucky enough to see the Maud Lewis collection, a great insight into a true Nova Scotian artist who captured the colour of the province perfectly.

  • Halifax Central Library

Even if you don’t have time to sit down a read a book there is plenty to do here. They have events on throughout the year ranging from free films to quiz nights and music events so check the schedule before your visit. Furthermore, architecturally it’s interesting to visit, the building is quite unique. There is a viewing platform open during the summer and reading room with views for when the weather is poor. A great way to get views of the city for free!

  • Halifax Public Gardens

Right in the heart of the downtown area are the Halifax Public Gardens. This Victorian-inspired space has been open since 1875 and is one of Halifax’s most beautiful spots. Huge iron gates open out into grass plots lined with flowers, trees and water features. For the first time ever (2017/2018) it was also open during winter. In the snow it is a stunning winter wonderland making you feel like you are in Narnia.

Day Trips from Halifax:

  • Peggy’s Cove

I’ve written about this place a lot, but that’s because I love it. It is the quintessential maritime fishing village. Faded wooden huts surrounded by colourful lobster pots and buoys are perfect for the insta account. Not to mention the famous lighthouse. Get there at sunset for amazing photos. Even better see the village from a different perspective by doing the Polly’s Cove trail.

  • Wolfville

This place is super cute and perfect day trip material. Have a stroll up and down the high street stopping off at Annapolis Cider for a tasting paddle before heading to the Naked Crepe for lunch. Feeling more adventurous? Then head on out to Cape Split for a hike with amazing views.

  • Lawrencetown Beach

Even in cold weather this place is beautiful. You can stroll through the beach up to the peninsula for panoramic sea views just half an hour outside of downtown. What’s more is that this spot is also great for surfing and is in fact on of the best places in North America to ride the waves.

  • Lunenburg

This UNESCO World Heritage Site on the provinces South Shore is well worth the hours drive from downtown. Lined with colourful houses, historical churches, quirky little stores and plenty of opportunities to sample local lobster its great day trip. On the main street there is a sweet little antique store where you can pick up a unique souvenir or two.

Where to eat:

After all that adventure you’ll want to refuel with some lovely food and drink. There are plenty of options in Halifax. These are my favourite:

Hali Deli- for an amazing brunch this Jewish deli is the place to go, don’t forget to try their latke and always opt for the challah toast.

Relish- a maritime favourite, Relish offers a brilliant burger. I recommend going for the Halifax Explosion burger which is topped with pineapple and curried onions.

Vandal Doughnuts- for a quick bite or elevenses then head to Gus’s pub and grab a doughnut. Different flavours each day range from classic Homer Simpson to Earl Grey and Raspberry Crumble. They also do burgers that are apparently well worth a try.

Stillwell- Great place for drinks, you can get a tasting paddle of beers and ciders at a reasonable price for a downtown location. In addition many brews are from local craft breweries. They also serve small plates such as Korean fries in case you get peckish.

Darrell’s- a cute retro diner complete with booths. This place has something for everyone and is home to one of the best burgers in Halifax.

Johnny K’s- sample the Nova Scotia speciality of donair at this downtown location. The sauce is to die for!

Smoke’s Poutinerie- another chance to try a Canadian classic, this place has loads of options including pulled pork, perogy, jerk chicken and Philly cheese steak.

For more burgers options check out my guide here .

Thanks again for joining me on A-Z Travels, if you enjoyed this week then get it a like share or drop me a comment below. Next week will be O for Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. Happy Travels 😊

Top Tips for Spring Travel in Canada

Spring is one of my favourite seasons. The weather is getting better, fresh flowers are blooming, and everything becomes more colourful as each day passes. In Canada, the seasons are far more pronounced than in the UK, winter is much harsher, and spring therefore arrives just a little bit later than at home. As the snow melts, more trails become open and furry friends that have spent the last few months hibernating are beginning to wake and sniff around for berries.

 

 

It’s a brilliant time to explore the Great White North. The weather is still unpredictable. It’s not unknown to get snow storms in April but the temperatures are warmer so it doesn’t last too long. Another bonus is that it is a quieter time to visit. You are not scrambling to get a glimpse of the sights, you can take your time (and your photos) without a single other person nearby… its bliss.

Last spring Matt and I ventured through the Rocky Mountains stopping in Banff, Japer and Lake Louise on our way to Edmonton. This year we explored Cape Breton and the Maritimes. After travelling during two Canadian springs, here are my top tips for a great trip:

Keep an eye on the weather

This is my number one tip for spring in Canada. Like I said above it is super changeable. On our Nova Scotia road trip, we had 70mph winds, snow and 20-degree sunshine all in one week! If you are planning on hiking make sure you check in advance so you don’t get caught out. Also make sure you pack for this weather too. A waterproof coat is essential, while it won’t need to be super warm you’ll want it to stay dry!

Average temperatures in April

Vancouver: 5 to 13 degrees Celsius                          Toronto: 1 to 11 degrees Celsius

Edmonton: -3 to 9 degrees Celsius                            Montreal: 1 to 11 degrees Celsius

Ottawa: 3 to 15 degrees Celsius                                 Halifax: 1 to 9 degrees Celsius

Check season opening times

Many attractions close for winter and won’t open until mid-May at the earliest. This can be anything from restaurants to boutiques, hotels and hiking trails. We often found it hard to find an independent coffee shop for elevenses, but Tim Hortons (Canadian Starbucks) was always open! Hiking trails will sometimes be closed too. If a trail says it is closed then obey it. It may be that it is an avalanche risk, a bear is in the area or that it is just unsafe… no one wants to test out their travel insurance that badly! Many times, spring clean-up hasn’t started and fallen trees are still around and the trail is impassable.

Signs at Peyto Lake were still buried in snow… proceed with caution!

This is the same for roads, we wanted to drive the Icefields parkway from Banff to Jasper but, when we visited it wasn’t open in that direction due to snowfall. Luckily, we still managed to drive a section of it on our journey to BC.

Take advantage of nature

As the snow starts to melt, waterfalls in particular are amazing during spring. We stopped off at Grand Rapids in New Brunswick and Montmorency Falls in Quebec and both were literally overflowing. In fact, Grand Rapids during the spring can throw down 9/10ths of the water that Niagara Falls does but it’s a fraction of the size… that’s A LOT of water!

Another example would be going to see the blossom trees in Vancouver, whilst not Japan they are still pretty cool.

Enjoy the quiet time

The main attractions will always have people there, but the lines ups will be less, the trails less trodden and restaurants less crowded. We enjoyed a beautiful brunch at the Sou’wester restaurant next to Peggy’s Cove lighthouse, without a single cruise-shipper insight. Once cruise ship season starts that place is packed.

We also got to enjoy the Skyline Trail and saw around nine other people… and a couple of moose! Enjoy these moments, breathe in the fresh air and appreciate your surroundings, you are on holiday after all!

Be animal aware

I had a fantastic time tracking animals in Nova Scotia this spring, it’s fun but its also necessary. Matt thinks I’m a little over the top but when you are in natures backyard you better know who you’re sharing it with. Not only are animals coming out of hibernation, but they are being born too. Angry Mama’s are not something to contend with so make sure you are equipped to deal with these situations.

Moose may look cute and docile, but they are huge and can kick. Check in at your local tourist office before hiking, obey trail signs, learn what to do with different animals and don’t try to take a selfie with them!

Canadian animals you don’t want to mess with include bears, moose, coyotes, wolves and cougars.

Quick tips for spring travel

  • Take bear spray
  • Waterproof everything, especially your boots
  • Regularly check the weather
  • Check seasonal closure before booking
  • Stay clear of rocks near waterfalls, they are much more powerful at this time of year
  • Be ready with your camera for nature spotting
  • Obey trail closures
  • Wear layers
  • Still pack your hat and gloves

Have you ever visited Canada during the spring time, where did you go? Drop me a comment below, if you enjoyed this post give it a little like or share and thanks for stopping by.

A-Z Travels: M is for The Maritimes: The Ultimate Canadian Destination

The Maritimes is the regional name for the provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  The islands and peninsulas of the Maritimes are beautifully rugged, and its landscape is influenced by its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.  Despite its beauty, travellers often choose to visit Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal over places such as Halifax, Charlottetown or St. John’s.

Map of the Maritimes

Even though this section of Canada is comprised of three provinces, they are the smallest ones so in total it amounts to just over 1 per cent of the country’s land surface.  But, while it may be small in size, it sure packs a punch! In fact, Nova Scotia’s capital Halifax was voted fourth on TripAdvisors list of top ten tourists destinations ‘on the rise’.

Here are my top reasons for visiting the Maritimes!

Stunning Coastal Views

No matter where you visit in the Maritimes you are never far away from the coast and what a beautiful coast it is. Small fishing towns line the coastline providing many an Instagram worthy pic of lobster pots and buoys.  Many communities are kept afloat by shellfish and lobster exports.

 

Highlights include the famous lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove (Nova Scotia) one of the most photographed landmarks in Canada which sits on the rocks of a colourful fishing village. In New Brunswick, the Bay of Fundy hosts the highest tides in the world at 16 metres high. I’ll be visiting here in September and can not wait! On PEI the red cliffs provide a beautiful sight on a peaceful coastal drive.

Great Hikes

With fantastic coastal views comes fantastic hikes, what better way to take in the beautiful vista than on your own two feet!? There is something for everyone in the Maritimes from casual boardwalks along the seafront to scrambling across the rocks. Plus, you can spot all sorts of wildlife, including bears, moose, deer and bald eagles. Local highlights include Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Fundy National Park and PEI National Park.

Tip: if visiting in winter, don’t miss out on these wonderful hikes, grab the snowshoes

Yummy Food

After all that hiking you’ll want to refuel so it’s lucky there are loads of brilliant restaurants and cafes throughout the three provinces. Maritimes boast some fantastic local eateries for any budget and appetite. In fact, I had the best pizza of my life in Charlottetown (PEI) at Piatto Pizzeria! I would thoroughly recommend the Piccante e Affumicata, a creamy garlic ‘white’ pizza base topped with mozzarella, crispy prosciutto, finished with a drizzle of honey… it’s to die for! Plus, they have locations across the Maritimes. There is no picture as we ate it too fast!!

In Nova Scotia I would suggest heading to The Back Sheep, Hali Deli, Vandal Doughnuts and The Naked Crepe.

I’ll be visiting New Brunswick more thoroughly in September so check back for more recommendations.

If it’s burgers you’re interested in, check out my guide to Halifax Burgers here.

Top Notch Beer

To wash it all down sample some of the local beers. Craft breweries are booming across the whole of Canada and the Maritimes are no exception. I personally am still trying to find a beer I like so recommendations here are from Matt and his Dad.  In a host of ‘achingly trendy’ (actual quote from Matt’s Dad!) locations you can try some of Matt’s favourites:

Nova Scotia: Had good beers from Good Robot, Propeller, Unfiltered and Big Spruce Breweries but all-time favourite was Priority Pale Ale (North Brewing Company, Halifax)

PEI: Do Good-er APA (Upstreet Craft Brewing, Charlottetown)

New Brunswick: Maritime Pale Ale (Grimross, Fredericton)

If you are not a fan of beer, like me you could also try some of the local cideries or vineyards. Many open their doors for tastings, including Annapolis Cider Company in Wolfville (Nova Scotia) which was my personal favourite.

Cultural Heritage

Whilst Canada is a young country a lot of its history is in the Eastern provinces. For example, Prince Edward Island is the birthplace of Canada, you can explore the historic founding town of Charlottetown through a host of informative boards, statues and plaques dotted around. Or drop by the local legislature building, Province House.

Check out more reasons why you should visit Canadian legislative buildings here.

The cultural heritage of the area is also very varied. First Nations people such as the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet were present in the Maritimes long before any European settlers. Europeans came from France, Scotland, Ireland and Britain. Their influence can be seen throughout the provinces. For example, Nova Scotia means New Scotland. The history of the area can be complicated as many have tried to make it their home, sometimes in harmony and sometimes not. It is well worth taking the time to learn about it.

 

Fun fact: New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in Canada (English and French)

Easy to get to

As I mentioned at the start these are the three smallest provinces in Canada this makes it great for road tripping. Its super easy to hire a car and cruise around all three. Driving from Halifax to PEI is easily do-able in one day for example, although you can take more time. Driving to PEI also means you get to cross the Confederation Bridge, the longest bridge in the world over ice covered waters.

 

So, what’s stopping you visit the Maritimes now, eh?

Thanks for joining me again for A-Z Travels, if you enjoyed it please give it a like and if you loved it give it a share! Next week I will be exploring the Maritimes more with N for Nova Scotia. Happy Travels 😊

A-Z Travels: L is for Legislative Buildings- 5 Reasons You MUST Visit

Welcome back to A-Z Travels after a three-week break, during which I’ve begun my journey from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Calgary, Alberta. Last time I left you saying that the next instalment of A-Z Travels would be L for language. However, after a chat with friends over pizza we decided it just wasn’t that interesting (also hard for pictures!), so this week I’m going to write about Legislative buildings… how is that more exciting I hear you say? Well let me tell you!

Matt and I are history and politics nerds, having studied the subjects at university. This led to us finding city halls on our American road trip and legislative buildings in Canada. Legislative buildings are where elected officials meet to shape the future of their province. Inside their walls debates rage and laws are passed. It is a politics nerds dream and once you start visiting them you won’t stop!

Quebec City (55)

I loved this statue of some of the most prominent female Canadian politicians

Even if you’re not that into history there are plenty of reasons why you should visit. Here are my top five:

Free

One of the main reasons we have visited legislative buildings is that they are completely free! This makes them a great activity for anyone on a budget. You can wander around the grounds and gardens (if it has any) freely and often they have statues and informative boards dotted around. In addition, many host tours which are also completely free. In some places these are guided, others are self-guided.

In Edmonton we had a great chaperon and we were even able to sit in on a session. Whereas, in Victoria we strolled around by ourselves. However, Quebec City was a guided tour only and would need to book in advance.

Interesting buildings

As they are important buildings they are often very nice to look at. They are often some of the oldest buildings in the cities which provides a sense of history and some great architecture. Styles include neo-classical, Gothic revival, neo-baroque, Palladian and Beaux arts (quite a mix!). In comparison to the UK, Canada has very few old ‘historic’ buildings so seeing these structures make me feel a little bit more at home too.

Many also have beautiful gardens surrounding them filled with colourful flowers. That’s if you’re there in the summer! Having visited Edmonton and Halifax outside of summer we didn’t explore the gardens too much, but Victoria was refreshing with lots of fantastic colours after the brown of an Albertan winter.

Good locations

Once again, they are important buildings, so they need to be convenient and accessible to everyone. There is a Legislative building in every province and territory in Canada. They are often located in downtown areas which is great for any traveller.

Here is a list of all locations:

Province or Territory Location Name
Ontario Ottawa Parliament Building of Canada
Alberta Edmonton Legislative Building of Alberta
British Columbia Victoria Parliament Building of British Columbia
Manitoba Winnipeg Legislative Building of Manitoba
New Brunswick Fredericton Legislative Building of New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador St. John’s Confederation Building
Northwest Territories Yellowknife Legislative Building of Northwest Territories
Nova Scotia Halifax Province House
Nunavut Iqaluit Legislative Building of Nunavut
Ontario Toronto Legislative Building of Ontario
Prince Edward Island Charlottetown Province House
Quebec Quebec City Parliament Building of Quebec
Saskatchewan Regina Legislative Building of Saskatchewan
Yukon Whitehorse Legislative Building of Yukon

Educational

Sometimes we flit through places without ever learning about where we are. Legislative buildings are a treasure trove of facts that will please anyone with even a tiny amount of interest in history. They include beautiful art works and informative boards to keep you interested.

Favourite facts: Province House in Nova Scotia has sat every day since 1819, making it the longest standing legislative building in the whole of Canada.

In the top of the dome of Edmonton’s building are five palm trees grown from seeds believed to have been donated to the Legislature by the U.S. state of California in 1932.

Great in any weather

We can’t be blessed with sunshine on all our travels so sometimes indoor activities are required. Depending on the size of the location you can kill a few hours away from horrible weather inside. If its sunny take a picnic and enjoy the gardens. The perfect activity for any type of weather!

Tips for visiting

Check out the website to see if you need to book in advance

Travelling out of season: check opening times

You’ll have to go through security so try to pack as little as possible in your bag

Charge your camera, there will be lots of opportunity for photo’s

Be prepared to leave phones and cameras locked away securely if you get to sit in on a session, they can’t be taken in with you.

Thanks for joining me again on my A-Z Travels of Canada. I hope you’ll join for the next installment, in the mean time please feel free to comment, like and share this one. Happy Travels 🙂