Bwahstun, baby.

AKA ‘I hope you like red brick because it’s everywhere’.

Well, after a bit of a shaky start involving us driving way out of the city because of an accent misunderstanding, we arrived in downtown Boston. We would soon come to be charmed by this interesting, historical and cultural city.

Boston is at once young and old – founded in 1630, it is one of the oldest U.S. cities with a streetscape to match – but a university town bustling with students. The most well-known of its many colleges and universities would have to be the famous Harvard University.

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Look at what the subway ticket is called, haha! Charlie ❤

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Chapel at Harvard University
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One of the gates to enter Harvard.

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Just outside the campus, it’s like a little town in itself. Lots of students, cafes, bookstores etc.

While, to be fair, we did not venture out into the greater area, Boston certainly has an affluent feel. We stayed in the neighbourhood called Back Bay, which is home to some very beautiful architecture, high-end shops, restaurants, and is only a stroll through Boston Common away from the financial city centre.

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entering Boston Common at sunset.

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What the houses/buildings of Back Bay look like. There are also a lot of beautiful shops, restaurants, cafes, etc. along this street.

What also surprised us was how small the ‘downtown’ was! I had thought that being such an old city, and a hub of culture and education, that it would be more of a bustling metropolis than it actually was. Apart from the nights the Red Sox played (and especially when they won), the city goes to sleep pretty darn early – unlike New York, or even Toronto! Actually, stuff is open later and people are out later in Toronto than they are in SoHo, NY! That is certainly going to take some getting used to when I get back home to Melbourne… I’m used to grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants etc. being open pretty much until midnight, and kitchens never closing during the day.

ANYWAY – this is Boston’s blog, not Toronto’s.

All in all, we really liked Boston – the laid back feel, the beautiful architecture all over the place, parks, the harbourfront, the IMMENSE amount of history every corner you turn… just a cool place. It would have been great to have spent a semester on exchange at one of the universities. I get the feeling most of the fun and games happen on campus!

Here are some of the things we saw and did in Boston (click on the pictures to make them larger, I accidentally put them in too small):

1) Red Sox game at Fenway Park
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Toronto beats the NY Yankees 7-2! Woohoo!

I really liked how ‘old school’ Fenway Park was. There was literally a man whose job it was to update this score board manually.

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We were close to the action but unfortunately an annoying pole blocked part of the view.

2) Boat trip around Boston Harbour (I guess that should be ‘harbor’) – where the Boston Tea Party happened.

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3) Following the Freedom Trail – a red line on the footpath that takes you to many important historical sites of the city, including:

* Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market
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* Cemetery where a lot of sort-of important people are buried, like the relatives of the Founding Fathers
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* Old State House where the Boston Massacre took place
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4) The North End, Boston’s Italian neighbourhood.
We found a restaurant that had great reviews, but the meal was kinda shitty (excuse my French!). After having spent 6 months in North America, I can tell you that food in Melbourne is much, much better quality overall!
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* Over-the-top American patriotism…
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We also took a day trip to Cape Cod, the summer residence of the wealthy (sort of like the Hamptons in NY state). We visited the towns of Hyannis (which was… average), and Chatham (which was gorgeous!). All the houses are in the same style, and from what I heard homeowners are obligated to keep them in tip-top shape, and are not allowed to ‘modernise’ the look – any work done needs to reflect the original style. I think it’s a good idea because Cape Cod certainly has a unique style, and it would be a shame to lose that charm.

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Hyannis beach.

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Mum and the GIANT seagulls. Seriously, if you look closely you can tell that the seagull goes up to mum’s knee.

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Chatham beach.

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The pictures really don’t do it justice! It honestly is like a storybook town. Chatham is just lovely 🙂

Well – that’s all for Boston! Coming up next is Toronto/Niagara Falls with mum and dad, and an update about what I’ve been doing since they left.

Lots of love and see you guys soon!

Cross-posted from my Facebook

Today marks 5 months since I first set foot in this beautiful country. When I arrived people were anxiously anticipating the start of summer, and as I write this there is a chill in the air and the leaves have changed colour. Summer has been and gone and autumn is certainly making its presence known.

I can’t believe it’s been that long since I’ve seen my family and friends – except for mum, dad and Pepe!

The trip certainly has not panned out the way I was expecting but I have still grown and learned an awful lot. I don’t feel like I have accomplished much but looking back I have visited Montreal and Quebec City, gone down to the US to visit NY, Boston and Washington DC, explored this interesting, amazing, vibrant city called TORONTO that I now call home, met some wonderful people, discovered a love for baseball (let’s go Blue Jays!), experienced living in a sharehouse with all the related ups and downs, gotten admin experience volunteering at the CBCF, had my first Thanksgiving (thank you Rose and Sergio!)… and much more. I guess it hasn’t been such a waste after all.

There are still SO many places in Canada that I want to visit (didn’t get out west at all!), but I guess that’s a goal to aim for in the future.

I know the last two months are going to fly by, and I am starting to get excited to see all my loved ones again, enjoy the sunshine and ocean down at our beach house for Christmas, and rediscover all the things I love about Melbourne.

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I have some time this week to blog, so I’m going to write up Boston (as much as I can remember – it’s been almost two months!) Once you get a bit behind on blogging, it’s hard to catch up…

Washington D.C., you are a strange strange city.

Your streets are wide, clean, and deserted… except for a few homeless people.
Somehow though, all your museums and attractions are bursting with people. Do people apparate?! Why did we not get the memo?!!
Downtown-DC
Not my picture but you get the idea from this.

I got massively bitten by mosquitoes yet my parents and other people were seemingly unaffected.

You are not even part of any state, but kind of in Maryland and Virginia.

The unofficial second language of the U.S. is undoubtedly Spanish, yet there seems to be a massive French influence. Our hotel greeted us with ‘bonjour’ (?)

Free museums/attractions usually equates to crappy, but your Smithsonians are fabulous (so that is a good kind of weird, I guess!)

Why are you so weird?! For the capital of the mighty UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, I was expecting… well, not that.

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Anyway, despite the city being a little bit Twilight Zone, we did see a lot of interesting things.

What we saw:
– The Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Magna Carta (at the National Archives): no pics allowed.

The National Archives building, check out dat empty street (told you so!). A lot of the buildings look similar to that. Very large and intimidating.
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– The actual Star Spangled banner at the American History Musem (It was HUGE!): ditto on the no photos.

– The Washington Monument covered in scaffolding
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– Abraham Lincoln Memorial
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– Vietnam War Memorial
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– Korean War Memorial (shellshocked looking soldiers… kind of refreshing to not see a sugar-coated version of things, where all the soldiers are strong and noble and stoic)
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– Capitol Building (couldn’t decide on one or two pictures!)
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– The White House
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– WWII Memorial

– Marine Corps/Iwo Jima War Memorial (it’s a roundabout :S)

– Roosevelt Memorial
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– The place where MLK stood to give his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech
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– MLK Memorial
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– Smithsonian Musems:
* National History – very very good, BIG, awesome, varied exhibits.

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Not particularly interesting but whereeeeeee is New Zealand?!
I know one of my aunties will be particularly unhappy!

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A funny little critter, hehe.

One of the exhibits was showing the top entries for a wildlife photography competition, the Windland Smith Rice International Awards. The pictures were absolutely amazing!

My award for coolest goes to this: reflections in sea foam:
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And for quirkiest, to this proboscis monkey checkin’ out her digits. What a funny little lady!
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I wish I could include pictures of all the cool stuff we saw, but I doubt it’s as interesting when you’re not seeing it with your own eyes.

* American History Musem

* Air and Space Museum (Dad and I touched a bit of the moon!)

* Botanic Gardens. Grandma and Pa, you would have really enjoyed it! They even had Wollemi Pines.
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Pineapples!

– Ford’s Theatre, where Lincoln was shot, and the house across the road where he died

– a Redskins game at FedEx Field, mainly for Dad’s benefit! Football is… not for me. Very loud, stop-start, too many near-naked girls for my liking (and feminist leanings!) Baseball crowds are far classier 😉 Also, one of the concessions guys walking up and down selling beers was SO. DEAFENINGLY. LOUD. I can still hear him – “Yo, Budweiser, Bud Light! Budweiser, Bud Light!” Ow.
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Fun fact: I guess to preserve the streetscape, there is no obnoxious advertising. I think it’s a great idea! This was the sign for a McDonald’s:
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Bonus pic – having a Forrest Gump moment 😉
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So ya, that’s about it for D.C.! A lot of pictures because we did see a lot of great things, but not much to really write about because the city itself is a yawn-fest.

If you have read this and know how to comment (my grandparents are excused!), please do, even if it’s just to let me know you dropped by and read it 🙂 It’s not fun writing to a silent audience!

Eleven Madison Park

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… Not even really sure where to start with this entry!

I guess I’ll preface it simply by saying it was the most amazing meal of my life, and one of the best restaurant experiences I’ve ever had (or will probably ever have!) thanks to the lovely staff.

I wish I could write about every course, every little surprise, and every special thing that happened but as time goes on they fade from my memory… also, there were far too many.

Also numerous are the courses… far too many to remember yourself, so at the end of the night (while you sip on apple brandy – that stuff’s rocket fuel) you are given a list of all the dishes you had that evening. Mine was a little different than mum and dad’s because it was dairy free (hence the soy milk egg cream!), but here is a photo of it:Image
Total count – 15.

At Eleven, hospitality is taken to a whole new level. Once you are seated, a waiter/waitress comes to your table and chats about foods you particularly like or dislike – they will adjust the menu accordingly, but you do not get to choose (or even know in advance!) what you are going to eat. It’s all a surprise. As soon as you stand up to use the bathroom, someone appears next to you and personally escorts you there. I happened to mention in conversation to mum and dad my favourite cocktail – the Aviation – while a waiter was within earshot, and that… well, that story is for later in the blog! I also read somewhere that the waiters and waitresses only move around the room clockwise. It’s a cliche, but literally all you have to do is sit back, relax, drink, and eat – and all your needs are seamlessly catered for.

Okay! So here is a small selection of my favourite dishes:

The smoked sturgeon sabayon with bright green chive oil at the bottom (delicious!), served in an egg shell. Sabayon is basically a savoury custard. This was so moreish, I could have eaten ten of them – smoky, fishy, creamy and salty with that oniony kick from the chive oil:
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Straight afterwards, applewood smoked sturgeon served with baby gem lettuce salad, soft poached quail egg, pickled red onion, caviar and “everything” bagel crumbs. Mum got zucchini ‘caviar’:
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You then make little bagel-and-lox style toasts yourself.

By far the most fun, and my favourite course was the following.
First, somebody attaches a meat grinder to your table.
Then, the magic happens… you get presented with a wooden board, and somebody starts grinding up carrots.
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It is then up to you to add the various tasty bits and bobs to make your own ‘carrot tartare’ – like a steak tartare, but with carrots! I can’t remember what all of them were but from left-right, top-bottom there is carrot vinaigrette, mustard oil, ??, sunflower seeds, pickled quail egg yolk, dried bluefish flakes, chives, mustard seeds, fresh horseradish, pickled quince, and sea salt. You add in your condiments, mix, and eat on a crunchy slice of thinly cut and toasted bread. It was delicious!

One of the courses was a sunflower heart! It was super tasty, a lot like an artichoke heart.

Another course was a picnic basket…
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They didn’t tell us anything about it, but set it down, said “have fun!” and we unpacked it. It had some really nice breadsticks, a stinky washed rind cheese (yum yum), some charcuterie, pickled green tomatoes and a beer brewed especially for this course at this restaurant.

And for the grand finale, before dessert… we were whisked away INTO THE KITCHEN! Of the fifth best restaurant in the world. The foodie fangirl in me swooned. Oh my goodness!

Waiting for us was a specially set up table, where one of the pastry chefs proceeded to make a take on… yep, you guessed it, my favourite cocktail – an Aviation! It involved dry ice to make a gin sorbet, lavender ‘crumbs’, and a lot of alcohol. Seriously so amazing to drink it while watching these chefs work! I couldn’t stop smiling 🙂

What was surprising to me was how quiet and organised the kitchen was. There were different stations for different courses, everyone had their own jobs, and it ran so smoothly. The only noise to be heard was an occasional “oui!” Whenever a table sits down, someone comes into the kitchen to announce the arrival of x amount of people, to which the chefs respond with a resounding “oui!” to acknowledge them and get psyched up about cooking for them. Pretty cool!

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Miles Davis is sort of their muse/protege so there are photos of him all around the kitchen.

Oh oh! One last thing! For one of the desserts, a waiter comes to your table with a deck of cards. I can’t remember exactly how the card trick worked but each card corresponds with a flavour, and at the end of it (when you are sure the deck is well and truly randomised and shuffled!), the top three cards were given to us. We turned them over – I got honey, Dad got lime, and mum got espresso. Lo and behold, our plates were then lifted up to reveal a chocolate with our flavours!

All in all our meal clocked in at something like four hours, we were full to bursting, drunk on many different types of alcohol (I have been requested by dad to inform the readers that we drank some delicious French wines), and happy as clams. We got some granola to take home for the next day’s breakfast, just to extend the experience that little bit further.

Thank you Eleven for an amazing night.

To finish off, here are a few more pictures!
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The Big Apple.

Before I start I would like to plug my sister’s blog, as she is off on a 3 week campervan trip. She would like to make sure Grandma and Pa can access her blog, too. So here is the link, Grandma, http://thecampervancoast.wordpress.com/
just click on it and it will take you to Danielle’s blog.

Okay, advertisement over.

Hey all, hope you’re doing well! Also, hope you’re sitting down because this is going to be a long one… go make yourself a cup of tea and come back. I’ll wait.

Got a cuppa? Good. Okay, let’s go!

Well, my plane landed at JFK airport around the same time as mum and dad’s was meant to land, and as I looked out of the window while we taxi’d, I saw a big Qantas plane taxi-ing! I had their flight number memorised as well, so as soon as I got off my little plane I ran to their gate and met them there 🙂 It was such lucky timing and they got a nice surprise.

As many of you know, we have been to New York before. If I remember correctly it was the Christmas/New Year of ’05/’06. Last time we stayed near Times Square which is the really touristy and busy area, but this time we stayed in SoHo. We really really liked it. It is a little bit out of downtown but I guess you could describe it as the Fitzroy of New York (same as The Annex where I live in Toronto is). A young, I guess student-y crowd, lots of nice little shops, cafes and restaurants.

Even though we had been to NY before, we didn’t double up on anything we did – which just goes to show how much there is to see and do in this crazy, busy, loud, wonderful city. You really can’t imagine what it’s like until you’ve been there. Most of the cars on the road are taxis and they drive in a way that would give many non-NY’ers a heart attack! Never indicating, speeding up and braking all of a sudden, pushing in to get a few cars ahead – but that’s the nature of the game. If you drove like a Melburnian you would never get anywhere. In a strange way, I was sort of thankful for it. We got from A to B in the fastest possible time.

Anyway so yeah, SoHo was a pretty cool place. Other surrounding neighbourhoods included Greenwich Village, West Village (where Bleecker Street and the famous cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery can be found), and the Meatpacking District – a neighbourhood that is certainly still in the process of gentrifying/transformation. There is a strange juxtaposition between high-end fashion shops and expensive restaurants and run-down, industrial architecture and dirty streets there.

Another new discovery was something called the High Line. Basically, there was a disused railway line that is suspended a few metres off the ground. Some dudes decided they would make it sort of an oasis of nature and relaxation in the middle of Manhattan Island. Such a nice place to have a wander, and if I lived or worked anywhere near it I would go there every sunny day to unwind a bit. There are plenty of trees and plants, a boardwalk, nice lounge benches – super nice.

As always, click on the pictures to make them bigger.
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Mum and Dad on the High Line.

Friday night we dined at Daniel which ranked #29 on the San Pellegrino list for best restaurants of 2013. It was very nice food, outstanding service, and overall just a lovely evening.

Something else new that we did was walk the Brooklyn Bridge which offered amazing views of Manhattan as you walked along, and which eventually leads you to Brooklyn Heights, a neighbourhood which I suppose from my observations is quite an affluent one. Some clever clog also cottoned onto the idea of attracting tourists that had just walked the (in this case, HOT, and) pretty long stretch of Brooklyn Bridge with fresh lemonade and ginger ale. Very very nice to sit near the water, looking at Manhattan, watching the boats go by, and refresh with a cool drink.
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Me at the very start of the BB.

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View of Manhattan once you get to Brooklyn, and where we had a drink.

When we were in NY last, the site of the 9/11 terrorist attack was not yet visitable. This time, we were able to walk around the memorial which consists of 2 amazing water features that mark where the two towers stood, and lots of shady trees and sitting spots. It’s a very pretty oasis of calm and nature where such tragedy happened. I think they did a really good job of it. There are thousands and thousands of names written along the edges of the water features, and when it is somebody’s birthday, the staff of the memorial place a white rose on their name. It really does personalise this huge list of names – it would have been this person’s birthday today, and I’m sure their family and friends are thinking about them.

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What the water features look like.

Okay, this is getting super long so I am going to condense as much as I can from now on…
We also visited Grand Central Station which looks just as it does in the movies, Times Square (ditto), Central Park (ditto! love that place), walked down Fifth Avenue, and did the MoMA – which we were totally underwhelmed with, the Tenement Museum which explores the stories of immigrant families on the Lower East side (mum and I really enjoyed it), took the Staten Island Ferry which afforded excellent views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan, the Empire State Building which was really cool (Jordan – I would highly suggest buying tickets online in advance and getting the ‘express pass’ – it allows you to bypass all the queues), the Food Hall at the Plaza Hotel which is kind of like the David Jones food court back home, went to a baseball (Jays vs. Yankees) game at Yankee Stadium up in the Bronx (what a trek!), explored the Frick Collection, which I particularly enjoyed and would recommend – there are some beautiful pieces (and famous/well known!) pieces of art there, and ate pastrami on rye at Katz’s Deli. This place is really famous and featured in the film Where Harry Met Sally. You can even sit in the same spot they did. The sandwiches were okay but it’s more of ‘you have to do it while you’re here’ kind of thing.

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Chrysler Building from the Empire State.

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Dad at Yankee Stadium.

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Our sandwiches at Katz’s. Pastrami, beef brisket, and corned beef. Traditional Jewish sandwiches (not pork!).

An accidental treasure we stumbled upon was Chelsea Market, which is PARADISE for a foodie like me! I could have spent hours wandering around looking at all the artisinal products and produce.

Finally… the Great Cronut Saga of 2013. Haha, how to describe it?! Umm well there is a great bakery called Dominique Ansel in SoHo. He used to be the pastry chef at Daniel. This year he invented something called a ‘cronut’, which is kind of like a cross between a donut and a croissant. The hype surrounding this invention has led to demand FAR exceeding supply, and so now you have to line up outside the bakery from about 6:30am to have a good chance of nabbing one. There are some people who come as early as 3am to camp out and be at the front of the line! Mum and I started lining up at 7:30am one Monday morning and waited for 2.5 hours as the line slowly moved forward… this story has a tragic end. The group of girls in front of us got the LAST ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was devastated. We vowed to go early on the Thursday morning (before we caught the train to D.C.) and get one, purely for revenge. As it happened, we were walking to brunch late Wednesday morning and saw that there was still a small line outside DA Bakery. We asked the people in the line whether the staff had come out and said that there were still cronuts and they said ‘yes’. Dad also made friends with this dude from Florida. We hopped in line just to try our luck, not having high hopes and to be honest just looking forward to breakfast. 10 minutes or so pass and we make it into the bakery. Last cronut gets sold. We’re not that disappointed as we had planned to go back the next day and we hadn’t been lining up for very long. As we walk out of the bakery, Dad’s new friend says ‘here! have this one!’ He had managed to talk someone who had been sitting down with their box of cronuts to give him 2. Remember, these cronuts are HIGHLY PRIZED and sought after and guarded with your life once you get one! This guy just had the massive gift of the gab. He wouldn’t accept any money or anything and quickly ran off into the sunset like some kind of cronut guardian angel. So – success! Verdict: delicious. Worth lining up from 3am? Probably not.

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Nom nom.

Stay tuned folks. Next blog post will be all about Eleven Madison Park and our amazing dining experience there. This is #5 on the San Pellegrino list. It was AMAZING lsidjgoaireghaeghk and we got special surprises that you will have to wait to find out about!

This is also our last day in D.C. so there will be a blog about that too I guess.

Ciao for now. Love you guys. Hugs.

the cold hard truth…

A little birdy told me that some of my family members have expressed concern that I’m not updating this blog enough… to that I respond: that’s because I haven’t done anything interesting worth blogging about!

At the moment there is a post in the works about NYC, which will be chockablock and juicy full of pictures and my tendency to ramble on. So you all have that to look forward to 😀 But to be honest, between my trip to Quebec and heading off to New York, my life has been utterly not worth blogging about!

Check back in a couple of days and there will most likely be a post 🙂

So many photos… only because QC is so beautiful!

** N.B. Because I took a shortcut to put in a bunch of pictures, my text between the photos is red/underlined/hyperlinked. I can’t figure out how to fix it without re-writing the blog and putting in the pictures one by one. Sorry! **

This is going to be a photo heavy post with not much text, the beauty of Quebec City speaks for itself!

Had a lovely time even though the weather was very crappy, spent most of my time wandering around the Old Town, but I also went to a museum and walked on top of the old city walls. As you will see:

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Quebec City, where even the train station is beautiful!

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Rue du Tresor

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Dufferin Terrace, with Chateau Frontenac overlooking lower Quebec CityIMG_1252
A rare photo of me with some cute QC architecture and Chateau Frontenac!

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Sightseeing takes its toll…

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Chateau Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world!
However, the main reason I would want to stay there is because there is a resident ‘canine ambassador’, a Bernese Mountain Dog called Santol 🙂

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This is not Santol but an equally cute doggie I made friends with!

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The Plains of Abraham, a battle between Quebecois and British troops took place here, now it is a sports field and has its own wi-fi hotspot. How times change.

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Plains of Abraham, looking over the St. Lawrence River

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A statue of Joan of Arc and her pretty pretty garden.

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How depressing 😦 However, probably the prettiest McDonald’s ever

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Grande Allee, a street with restaurants and cafes etc.

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Entrance to the Old City through the Western Wall

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This would never happen in Australia!

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A maple sugar candy, BEST THING I HAVE EVER TASTED

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Chateau Frontenac once again!

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There was a wedding at the church in the Old Town, kind of felt sorry for the bride as you can see there were heaps of tourists that gathered around, but she seemed happy!

Musee de la Civilisation:
Really loved this musem! There were 4 main exhibits, and they were all fabulous. One was an exhibit about the history of video games, with around 90 playable demos, then there was an exhibit about Maori culture, an exhibit about Paris during ‘la belle epoque’, and lastly a permanent one about indigenous peoples of Canada.
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The Canadian First Peoples exhibit

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Some Maori decorative architecture from the 19th century

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Video games exhibit and people playing

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Me walking around on top of the Western Wall of the city

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The Western Wall, quite a sheer drop on the left side but that makes it more fun ;)!

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Still haven’t had poutine (lactose intolerance, you suck!!!) but I loved these little poutine bowls! (‘grosse’ means big, not gross, by the way, and ‘petite’ means small)

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How beautiful is this place?!

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Rue St. Jean

A rant!

So I’ve been in Canada over 2 months now and the only nights I’ve had access to an air conditioner were the 3 nights I spent in Montreal, and I think the one night at the UofT before moving to my place. Unfortunately for me, I would hazard a guess at approximately 90-95% of days being definitely hot enough to warrant the use of one. The heat here in Canada as I have mentioned is also really sticky and humid. Moral of the story – I am so over it after 2 months! Bad hair, shiny skin, clothes needing a wash after every wear from sweat = bane of my existence for the past couple of months! This hostel room is also sweltering, I couldn’t sleep last night.
 
Tl;dr – being constantly hot and sticky for literally months on end is gross and annoying. 
 
I know it’s mainly my family that read this and you all live in climate controlled comfort but spare a thought for me who has been sweating it out for 2 months! I definitely took it for granted, before here I don’t think I’ve ever lived at or stayed at a place where air conditioning is required and not present. 
 
Hrmph.
 
After that Negative Nancy rant, I would just like to add that Quebec City is BEAUTIFUL! Love it! Will blog about it maybe on the train trip back.

Can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I’ve blogged… wow!

Hey family, I hope you are all well. I haven’t forgotten about you or anything, I promise!

Nearly fell off my chair when I saw that the last time I blogged was almost a month ago, wow, how time flies! At the same time, I can’t believe it’s only been just over 2 months since I arrived in Canada. I feel like it has been way, way longer. Moral of the story is sometimes time goes fast and sometimes it goes realllly slow. Life is funny that way.

Given that it has just started storming, and I’m in my lovely air-conditioned, wifi’d hostel room, it is a great time to spend a couple of hours writing and uploading pictures.

Anyway, here’s a quick update of what I’ve been up to followed by a bit of a photo gallery – because it’s always nicer to be able to connect a story or anecdote to a picture.

Basically for the past month I have been doing normal life stuff like hanging out with friends, cooking, cleaning, movies, etc. I have also spent a bit of time with relatives of our good friends back home, who have looked after me and spoiled me by taking me out to lunch at Port Credit and also to a film at the Toronto Italian Film Festival. They are also going to take me to Niagara sometime soon which I am looking forward to!

I’m also somewhat famous… :p I’m going to be appearing on a podcast made by this group of Torontonian comedians. My friend J made buddies with one of the comedians who invited us to come sit in on the recording of the podcast which was pretty funny. Once it gets uploaded to iTunes I will have a listen and decide whether it’s too embarrassing to post or not!

So yeah, nothing too exciting happening in Toronto. Still no job which has been kind of frustrating so I am really leaning towards doing more of these short trips (at the moment I’m in Montreal and I’m off to Quebec City tomorrow for a few days!), and perhaps coming home early. There is just a lot happening back home that I don’t really want to miss out on – multiple friends getting engaged, puppies growing up, breakfast dates with my lovely girls, MY CAR, Hawthorn being awesome, etc. etc. I’m not homesick or sad or anything, but like I said, there is just so much going on back home!

Okay, here are some pictures. I really struggled to cut them down to a reasonable number as it has been so long since I’ve posted anything, so bear with me. I have an app on my phone that allows me to make collages of photos which is really useful as I can put 2 or 3 or 4 photos of the same event together – helps with brevity 🙂

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Canada day celebrations at Mel Lastman Square! I celebrated with one British girl, one Hong Kong born guy, a Chinese born guy, a Kenyan born guy, another Australian and one legitimate Canada born and bred dude haha. So international.

By the way, that Canadian flag is being flown on a hockey stick.

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My first baseball game with J 🙂 He knows heaps about it and we’ve been to a couple of games since so I’m learning about the sport and really enjoying it! GO JAYS!!!

Hanging out with the kitties…
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Here is miss Flossie hanging out on my windowsill.

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And Sebastian leading a very hard life. Spoilt boy! Hasn’t he got the cutest little face and pointy little chin?

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A rainy rainy barbecue just hours before Toronto experienced awful flooding! It was all a big debacle, people were without power, there was massive flooding – a big problem on the roads and also in peoples’ houses as many Torontonians have basements. I’m not sure how we managed to get so lucky, but our house was just fine, and I was at home while the rain was pelting down so I didn’t get stuck waiting for a cancelled subway or anything.
As you can see the boys had their priorities straight and kept up with the barbecue-ing – just with added umbrellas!

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Not my picture but this is how flooded some parts of Toronto were.

MONTREAL:
A pretty cool city given its eclectic mix of language, culture, architecture, etc. It’s also very very strange to hear French spoken in a Canadian environment. I have mainly been speaking English because every time I speak French to people they don’t really understand my accent (even though people in France told me I basically have no accent and all and sound much like I’m from France when I speak), and I have tremendous trouble with their Quebecois accent! Much easier for all parties to stick with anglais.

By the way, I will never ever laugh at any Canadian that refers to a ‘hot summer back home’ because let me tell you, it DOES GET HOT IN CANADA! It’s been sweltering the past few days, according to the weather bureau, if you take into account the humidity the felt temperature (i.e. what it feels like despite what the thermometer says) has been 40+. I certainly have been dripping with sweat sightseeing here in Montreal and I also got a pretty bad headache the first day partly from heat/sun. While Toronto’s weather has been pretty bipolar, for many of the days that I have spent there, it has also been really really warm. The problem for me is the humidity – it just doesn’t like me. Humid days always feel hotter than what the temperature actually is, I feel all sticky and shiny and gross, and my hair… let’s just not go there :p Humid is fine if you’re in a place like Thailand or Queensland or Fiji and you have beaches and pools and cocktails to cool you down, but it honestly sucks in the middle of a big city when you’re trying to do all your errands and stay looking decent.
In short – before I came here I would have laughed at what Canadians think of as hot weather, but as an Australian, it’s even hot for me.

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First stop was the Jean Talon farmer’s market. This was absolutely fabulous – local, fresh, beautiful produce. There were also samples for pretty much every fruit and vegetable at each stand, so you could try before you buy. I bought some lovely strawberries (not as good as Pa’s, but close), nectarines, peaches, cucumbers and bananas to snack on.

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See those plates kind of suspended over the fruit and veg? Those are the plates of samples.

Perhaps it wasn’t the most obvious first choice as a tourist, but for a foodie like me, a farmer’s market is a guaranteed good time.

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Second stop – Old Montreal (Vieux Montreal). It’s almost like stepping into France, the architecture and streetscape is completely different. Of course it’s a tourist trappy area so you wouldn’t eat at any of the restaurants or anything, but it was really nice to just meander around and look at the shops.

After those two places and some lunch, I headed back to the hostel and proceeded to experience an awful migraine, so the afternoon was kind of lost 😦

Tuesday, I bought a ticket to one of those hop-on, hop-off tours. I did the loop which took about 2 hours, then the second time around I stopped at a few places. I couldn’t even count using all my fingers and toes how many people stop and point and laugh at the big red tourist bus driving around Montreal, I mean get real! a) as if it’s the first time you’ve seen it if you live here, and b) it’s a good way to get your bearings, get a feel for the city, hear some information, and it’s very convenient to get around to all of the major attractions, knowing that a bus comes every 15 minutes.

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The Latin Quarter (Le Quartier Latin)

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The Village (Le Village) or The Gay Village

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l’Oratoire Saint-Joseph (St. Joseph’s Oratory)
Wowow this place was extremely impressive, it’s way more humungous than it looks in pictures! It’s on the top of a hill and it’s a bit of a hike up all the steps to get up to the church part but very impressive.
IMG_0212 “Reserved for pilgrims climbing on their knees”
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Crutches and walking sticks supposedly left by people who were miraculously healed by Brother Andre of St. Joseph’s.

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A squirrel friend.

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Basilique Notre Dame de Montreal
Very ornate inside as you can see.

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Driving down Mont Royal, a hill/mountain thing in the middle of the city that is a big park.

At night, the girls that share my hostel room and I just chat and share stories about our home countries and stuff, it’s really fun 🙂 I enjoy hostelling actually.

Today I wasn’t really in the mood for sightseeing (so over the heat) so I went and treated myself to brunch and a pedicure.

Things that I do want to see in Montreal next time I’m here:
– the Jardin Botanique (Botanic Gardens), there is an absolutely incredible exhibit of sculptures there at the moment. Click on this link to see:
http://calendrier.espacepourlavie.ca/mosaicultures-internationalesr-en
– Mile End, a hippie neighbourhood
– the islands (well, Montreal is a big island, but the smaller islands that have parks and some other cool things on them like the Biosphere)
– Schwartz’s – a Montreal institution, where they specialise in Montreal’s stereotypical dish: Montreal smoked meat. Given the hot weather, there just wasn’t a time where I was in the mood for a huge, heavy meat sandwich.

Well, that’s it for now, and I will try and edit in the pictures very soon. Tomorrow I’m off to Quebec City which should be lovely!

Missing and love everyone.

B xxxxxx