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#TBT Photo – eye in the sky.snowy gta suburbia

I did a lot of flying back in 2003/04 when I lived in Toronto. Took this in February 2004 with my first digital camera, a Pentax Optio 430, that I bought off my sister. I’m glad I don’t have to fly to go home anymore and I don’t miss the winters. [It’s been as cold as -23C/wind chill -33C this week in the GTA!]

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Walking West Hong Kong Island – Sai Wan

After a quick fix of caffeine and WiFi (plus a chance to rest our feet) at my uncle’s place in Sheung Wan, we were back out on the street. It was Sunday, so my uncle took us down to a weekly market that closes some streets in the area.  There were some performances on a stage and a lot of ladies lining up for some freebies at one tent.

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Quebec City – Outside the City Walls/À Centre-Ville

There is obviously more to Quebec City than just Vieux-Quèbec, or Old Quebec.  The Old City is what draws everyone to Quebec for all it’s beauty and history.  However, one can and should venture beyond the city walls a little bit.

One evening, we left the Old City to grab some food. We had just trekked along the Governors’ Promenade and cut through the snowy Plains of Abraham.  So we found ourselves on Grande-AlléeGrande-Allée starts from the entrance of Vieux-Quebec.  It’s probably how a lot of tourist first enter Old Quebec.  Just outside the walled city and the Quebec Parliament buildings are a whole row of restaurants and night clubs.  This area is Quebec City’s entertainment district.

In addition to the night clubs, you can find a Chez Ashton and St. Hubert.  Those are more regular run-of-the-mill Quebecois eateries.  However, if you really want to dress to the nines, then the lounges and clubs are here.  I’m sure my winter boots would be a fashion faux-pas in most of these places.

A lit-up classic Fiat along Grande-Allée marks one such drinking establishment.  A steady stream of taxis were dropping off patrons in their cocktail dresses.  Yep.  I’m pretty sure my red Sears-bought winter coat will not pass the hostess.

Apart from Grande-Allée, I also ventured into another part of downtown Quebec, or Centre-Ville.  I never stopped in Carré d’Youville, but as I passed by on the bus, it looked like a shopping area with a shopping mall on one side of the square.  Just past Carré d’Youville and Avenue Honoré-Mercier, there are the roads of Rue Saint-Jean and Rue D’Aiguillon.  These two roads had a collection of shops and restaurants. I only had 20 minutes or so on my last day in Quebec City to wander these streets, but I would have liked to spend more time here.  It’s more of a place that the locals frequent.  Vieux-Quebec is more of a tourist area and these streets felt much more local and more authentic.

Quebec City – The Governors’ Promenade

The Governor’s Promenade in Quebec City was opened by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker back in 1960.  It’s basically an elevated boardwalk that’s built into the side of the citadel fortifications of Quebec City.  It offers great views of the St. Lawrence River below. It’s also one of the main connectors between the Chateau Frontenac, where all tourists seem to congregate, and the Plains of Abraham.

From the statue of Samuel De Champlain by the Chateau Frontenac, we headed up river along the Dufferin Terrace and past the Chateau itself.  At the end of the terrace, we found the Parks Canada sign marking the start of the Governors’ Promenade.

governors' promenade

My coworker had been here a few days before after a big dump of snow.  The stairs and the boardwalk were covered underneath a few inches of snow.  What a difference a few days can make.  The boardwalk was mostly bare on this day.

This evening was beautiful along the river.  The setting sun shone upon the other shore while the river lay mostly in the shadow.  The buildings across the way reflected back the golden colour onto the water.  The big freighter in the river broke up the reflected light and cast long shadows.

Below along the riverfront, there were what looked like red and green buoys.  They were items to be used in the navigation of the river, I’m sure.  The colour sure stands out in a wintery river scene.

It was a quiet evening along the boardwalk itself.  We spent some time just watching freighters go up and down the river.  The sun was setting quickly and the sky.

Closer to the end of the Governors’ Promenade, the sun was almost all gone.  The sky and the clouds were now bathed in a purple sunset.  It was pure purple serenity.

At the end the Governors’ Promenade is a gazebo and terrace, but this part was very snowy.  They hadn’t cleared this part. Plus the trail ends right at the Plains of Abraham. It’s hard to believe that the battle on this humble piece of ground decided the fate of North America many centuries ago.  So through those snowy historic fields, we trekked back to the rest of the city.

snowy plains of abraham

Quebec City – Vieux-Port/Old Port

After returning from Lévis on ferry, we were pretty hungry.  We walked the lower town towards Rue St. Paul.  Rue St. Paul is just below the ramparts of the upper town and runs alongside the Port of Quebec.  We were on our way to a recommended eatery along Rue St. Paul.

We passed some neat little store fronts. There were a few antique shops along the way.  Plus the florist with an amazing random wood chandalier above their front door. That was quite the piece of work.

Our destination for lunch was Brynd Smoked Meats.  My coworker had already been here a few days ago, but she felt was worth a return visit.  We all ordered some smoked meat sandwiches, but the pièce de resistance was the smoked meat poutine. There were extra portions of shaved smoked meat topping the poutine.  It was SO good!  You really do need all the walking in Quebec City to help you work off all the extra calories from all the poutine you’re going to try!

brynd-st-paul

I also loved the decor of the eatery.  There was a bicycle theme to parts of the restaurant.  My other coworker, an avid, avid cyclist wanted a photo of the wall where an artist’s painting hung. There was also the doodle of a dog showing the way to the washrooms.  Remember that “F” is femme for ladies and “H” is homme for the gents.

After packing lunch away, we made our way across the street to the Via Rail station.  This station is the Gare Du Palais.  It stands out as another giant example of Canadian Pacific Railway architecture that is so prevalent across Canada.  The copper roofs and the palatial look really stand out and grab your attention.

Inside, the ceiling was just as impressive as the architecture outside.  The huge ceiling vaulted high above and was complete with stained glass depiction of North America.

A little ways down from the Via Rail station was the Marché du Vieux-Port de Québec, or The Quebec Old Port Market as we would say in English.  Because it was March, the market was empty in some parts.  I can only imagine that more vendors from rural Quebec would descend upon this market during the growing and harvesting season.  We found everything from maple syrup (of course) to honey to locally made foie gras.

“Open and help yourself. Thank you.”

I personally loved a store in the back of the market called La Routes des Indes.  It was a like a mini-supermarket that specialized in all sorts of spices, teas, and exotic food stuff from around Asia and the Middle East.  There were these little drawers full of pre-packaged spices that you could pick from.  The shelves are tightly packed and the aisles are narrow.  However, it was fun to go in and peruse the selection of dry goods.

It was in La Route des Indes that I also came across a brand of tea I had never seen before.  It was Kusmi Tea from Paris.  I’m a sucker for nice, colourful packaging.  And boy, is Kusmi packaging every eye-catching.  They had a whole shelf full of the Kusmi Tea products right at the entrance to the shop.  I decided to buy a box of assorted teas to give to my wife.

So we made our way back to the Auberge-Saint-Antoine.  The walk from the Port area can offer great views of the buildings on the ramparts of Quebec City.  The different elevation off the tightly packed buildings, the city fortifications, and the steeple towers really add a unique feel that can only be described as Quebec City.

On that note, I’ll leave you with this photo from along Rue St Paul.  You never know what you may encounter on your travels.  If you didn’t have a car or bicycle and you needed to move a chair, wouldn’t you have done the same?

Quebec City – Across the River in Lévis

After an icy ferry ride across the St. Lawrence River, we ended up in the City of Lévis.  It’s a small town built upon a ridge overlooking the St. Lawrence on the southeast shore of the river. If you arriving in Lévis by ferry, as we did, then you will need to take one of two sets of stairs up to the main town above.

You will want to make your way up to Avenue Bégin (“bay-zhen”) where most of the stores are.  This must be what Main Street Quebec feels like in small towns.  We noticed that everyone was making their way into one old brown house. The house is home to Les Chocolats Favoris (Favourite Chocolates), a chocolatier in the middle of town. We were there just before Easter (known as Pâques in French).  It was busy with Quebecois families coming to and fro and buying lots of chocolate in anticipation of the Easter Weekend.

Apart from Les Chocolats Favoris, the rest of the block looked very quiet on this snowy Saturday morning.  I could see some people enjoying a little brunch inside this delicatessen called Aux P’tits Oignons. It looks like a neat little place to grab a bite.

We made our way down the block and went back towards the river.  We came across a large church called Notre-Dame-de-LévisThere was a funeral at the time we passed by.  Everyone was milling out of the church in black attire.

Around the corner and down the road from Notre-Dame-de-Lévis was the Collège de Lévis.  The college has a beautiful building in which it is housed.  Much of Quebec City has a similar architectural theme.  I love the little towers or steeples that seem omnipresent across the Quebec landscape.

After passing the College, we made our way back towards the ferry and descended the red set of stairs to the north of the ferry terminal. The ferry ride back across to Quebec City was nice way to end a Saturday morning of walking in Quebec.

Happy Year of the Snake! 新年快樂!

Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year. It is the Year of the Snake. I’m spending the Chinese New Year in the very non-traditional way of not meeting up with relatives 😛 I’ve already had my New Year’s Eve dinners with both sides of the family. Living in Canada, I don’t get special time off for Chinese New Year. Although this year, Chinese New Year coincides with newly created BC Family Day long weekend. So it’s more festive than usual, I guess. However, in Vancouver, it looks most of the Chinese New Year festivities are next weekend.

If I were in Hong Kong, I’d have 3 days off, or if I were in China, I’d have a whole week, to celebrate the New Year. Although, the Chinese New Year festivities can technically go on for an entire 2 weeks.

We’ll see if I end up going to any festivities. Things have been busy with school for the wifey.

Walking Boston – Harvard Square to WardMaps

After my Harvard student-led tour and a quick break at Pinocchio’s Pizza, I made my way north from Harvard Square along Massachusetts Avenue.  I passed by the Cambridge’s Old Burying Ground, Cambridge Common, and some of the other Harvard University buildings along Mass Ave.

Once I had walked north out of Harvard Square, the traffic was thinner and there were much less people walking.  Mass Ave at this point is fairly wide, but not extremely busy.  It was easy for me to jaywalk back and forth across the road to see different storefronts and take different photos.  This stretch of Mass Ave between Harvard Square and Porter Square had some four-storey and six-storey apartment buildings and short one-storey buildings with small businesses on either side.

My destination for this walk up Mass Ave is not a typical tourist destination.  I am both a map and transit geek.  So my destination was 1735 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge.  It’s a shop that helped to satisfy both of my geek interests in one stop.  WardMaps LLC offers authentic antique maps, quality reproduction maps, cartographic and transit themed gifts, and vintage transit memorabilia.

It’s a small store, but it’s filled with reproduction maps to drool over.  I must have spent somewhere between half-an-hour to an hour in the store just perusing.  The maps are filed in boxes the way back issue comics are kept in comic book stores.  My wife and I try to collect Paris themed decor, so it was only natural to buy a Paris map.  I bought an 11″ x 18″reproduction of an 1834 Paris map originally created by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, or SDUK, in London.  I just love to say the name of the Society.

And since I was in Boston, I had to get a Boston map.  There were obviously quite a few Boston maps available since I was in the Boston area.  I ended up getting an 8.5″ x 11″ reproduction of an atlas map.  It shows Boston from 1909 and orients the city with east on top and north on the left.  That’s not the usual way to display Boston on a map.  It gives a different view on how to look at the Boston peninsula.

Plus, I wanted some transit related memorabilia, but there were no train models available.  So I settled on some highly functional coasters.  One was a photo of the Red Line tracks and the other was a Green Line car.  I also ended up buying coasters with an antique Boston map and a Fenway Park photo of directions to the Green Monster Seats.

    

I was very happy with my purchases, even though the coasters were $5 each.  I thought they were pretty unique and I have been using them a lot since I’ve gotten back home.  I particularly like the Boston 1809 map coaster.  If you compare it to how Boston looks in the 1909 map above, the city has grown so much and filled in so much land to accommodate that growth.

Walking Boston – Harvard University

1:30pm on an early April afternoon in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  About 20 of us gathered at Harvard Square for the student-led Hahvahd Tour.  The tour is earmarked at $10, but that’s just the recommended price.  You don’t pay until the end of the tour.  Most, if not almost all, of the money goes to a much-deserving Harvard freshman who is trying to get some extra beer money on the side to pay for his extracurricular activities.

An artist at Harvard Square showing off his skills

Our tour guide was a young freshman from San Diego, California.  I think he had already done a tour or two that day because his voice was already starting to get hoarse.  There was also this great greeter who was greeting everybody who was joining the tour.  He really knows how to talk you up. He was a Boston native and also a Harvard freshman.

With twenty strong, we walked across Massachusetts Street to the main Harvard campus and into the Harvard Yard.  The Yard is surrounded by student dorms.  Some of them are very old dorms.  A lot of them are freshman dorms.  Our tour guide would point specific rooms and windows and note who once slept there.

It’s been a couple months since the tour, so I have since forgotten a lot of the specifics, but the guide would rattle off names like Natalie Portman, Matt Damon, Samuel Adams, and Mark Zuckerberg.  No Harvard tour is complete without mention of the Facebook creator these days.

Massachusetts Hall, or Mass Hall as our tour guide referred to it, is one of the oldest student dorms in the Harvard Yard.  It’s first couple of floors are actually administrative offices.  The floors above are dormitory rooms.  There is a careful screening process for potential residents of Mass Hall to ensure they are well-behaved and not likely to disturb those working on the main floor.  Many of the founding fathers of America resided here such as John Hancock, John Adams, and Samuel Adams.

Then there is the statue of John Harvard, but it’s not really him.  All images of John Harvard were destroyed in a fire. So this statute is actually an image of some art student posing as a model.  Also, John Harvard did not truly found the university; he was simply a benefactor.  Then, the statue says 1638, when in fact the college was founded in 1636.  So there are the three lies of the John Harvard Statue.  Also, our young guide highly advised not rubbing the toe of the statue in hopes of gaining good luck for entry into Harvard.  Many a practical joke has been played on that toe, so rubber beware.

Amongst all the freshman dormitories surrounding Harvard Yard, there is also a small chapel nestled in between and behind the buildings.  This is Holden Chapel which the third oldest building in the Yard and home to the Holden Choirs.

We exited Harvard Yard on the opposite side and encountered the most modern and possibly the ugliest building on campus. It’s the Science Center.  It’s a huge departure from the Colonial brick and mortar buildings of the Harvard Yard. It was built in 1973 and looks totally out of place.

Harvard’s Memorial Hall looks like a church or some other important building; however, it is actually the freshman dining hall.  Now that’s some piece of architecture for just a dining hall.  The interior is said to be modeled after a dining hall at Oxford.  That same dining hall in Oxford was also the inspiration for the dining hall featured in Hogwarth’s in the Harry Potter movies.  I was hoping to go in and take a look, but that wasn’t a part of the tour.

The Widener Library is named after Harry Elkins Widener.  He was a 1907 graduate of Harvard who perished on the Titanic.  The guide said that he was returning from Europe where he had been collecting rare books.  The rumour is that he was almost successfully evacuated when he realized he left a rare book in his cabin.  So he went back to get it.  And that was the end of Harry.  The Library is a memorial to Harry from his mother.  She made a $3.5 million donation to build this library.  The other rumour is that Mrs. Widener stipulated that a secret room be reserved in the building with a reading desk and fresh flowers everyday for her son’s spirit.  Who knows if it’s true or not, but it makes for great story.

Our tour then left the main campus and went south across Massachusetts Street to some other Harvard buildings outside of the traditional campus area.  The most memorable of these places would be Kirkland House.  We didn’t walk right past Kirkland House, but our guide pointed out the second floor window where Mark Zuckerberg once resided and created Facebook.

At the end of the tour, we went back out to JFK Street where there are shops and restaurants.  He pointed out a famous pizza place, Pinocchio’s Pizza and Subs.  It’s a small pizza place with seating for about a dozen people on a quiet side street, but it’s famous for some of its famous patrons.  Mark Zuckerberg now figures big on celebrity lists and on the walls of Pinocchio’s.  The other big name is native Bostonian, Ben Affleck, who frequents the joint for his pizza fix when he’s in Beantown.

So when the tour ended and I paid my $10 for the tour, I went back to Pinocchio’s for some food.  After all that walking around, I worked up an appetite.  A good helping of pizza sounded like it would do the trick.  I couldn’t care less how greasy the pizza looked, it certainly hit the spot after an hour or so of walking around.  It was a bonus that the owner was more than happy for me to take a photo of him getting my slice of pizza in the kitchen.  Grazie!