A shade of the dramatic, where different is all there is.

Travel

Quick Venice Photo BOMB

Venezia Italia

I currently still have internet access and wanted to drop a quick bomb of photos on all of you from our time in Venice.  I know this isn’t the typical definition of “photo bomb”…but I’ve always been a little weird.

***click any photo to enlarge***

The Grand Canal in Venice Italy

The Grand Canal

Gondolas of Venice

Gondolas of Venice

Venice Canals

Canals

Venice waterways

One of the most picturesque canals in Venice

Venice sidestreet

Sidestreet

San Marco Gondolas, Venice

Gondolas across from Piazza San Marco

St. Mark's Basilica

Basilica di San Marco

We are boarding our cruise ship tomorrow and will have very limited internet access until we are back in Ottawa middle of January.  So I hope you enjoy these pictures from the few days we spent in Venice, Italy!   Most of them were taken by my ever talented husband.

Hope everyone had a wonderful New Year’s Eve and I’m wishing you all an exciting and prosperous 2013!

Ciao!

Shannon

Venice Italy, canals and sidestreets

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My Must-See’s for Paris “The City of Lights”

gothic cathedrals of Europe

Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.

~Cesare Pavese

I’ve been terrible at maintaining my travel portion of this blog, so allow me to catch up!  Months ago, I posted about a journey through London, England.  Today, I pick up where that post left off.

You can take the train from London to Paris easily with 18 different departure times available throughout the day.  The trip takes between 2 and 2.5 hours and is quite affordable.  If you know what day you will want to travel, it is best to book in advance to save money.  The trip through the Channel Tunnel (aka. the Chunnel) is much like any other train you’ve been on, except perhaps darker.  You won’t even notice you are travelling under the sea!  But if you are claustrophobic, perhaps it will be best not to think too much about that!

Upon arriving in Paris, it was easy to take the metro to Hotel Clarisse, where I’d made a reservation a couple of days earlier.  It is located about equal distance between the Porte de Vanves stop (of line 13) and the Porte de Versailles stop (of line 12).  You are looking at about a 5 minute walk either way to get to the metro.  The hotel itself is quite small and quaint.  The staff are friendly and helpful with thick French accents.  But given my lack of depth when it comes to the French language, they did very well and we were able to communicate just fine.

affordable hotel in Paris

The very basic, least expensive room has a double bed, a closet, small TV and a private bath.  It is everything you need from a basic room while you are out and about seeing the city.  Note though that the elevator is very small…I mean so small that only one person can fit in there at a time with their pack.  So if you are travelling heavy, this will be a bit of a pain the butt.

affordable hotel in Paris

Once on the metro, it will only take you about 20 minutes to any sight you want to see, whether it be the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe or the Notre-Dame Cathedral.  (click the below map for a larger view)

metro map for Paris France

First stop was the Eiffel Tower…of course.  Why start anywhere else?  Built in 1889, the Eiffel Tower attracts people from all over the world.  When erected it was the tallest man-made structure in the world, but it only held that title until 1930 before it was surpassed by the Chrysler Building in NYC.  The Eiffel Tower is to this day, one of the most famous and most recognizable structures in the world.  It currently receives more paid visits than any other monument worldwide.

You will have no problem finding your way to the Eiffel Tower, simply follow the hordes of people from the metro station.  If you go in peak season (July-August), prepare for crowds as you shuffle along the crowded sidewalks alongside the small cafes.  As you get closer and closer, you will start seeing it between buildings, disappearing and reappearing as you go.  Until BAM!   There she is!

tallest structure in paris

Once you are up close, you really realize how large and impressive she is.  It is hard to believe that at time of design there was much criticism.  Some thought it to be a slight against French tastes, a useless monstrosity even.

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MIND THE GAP (a journey in London, England)

view of Tower Bridge from inside the Tower of London

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.

~Robert Louis Stevenson

The month of May is almost over and I had yet to do my monthly travel post, so I decided it was definitely time to get on it! My trip to London England feels like it was forever ago and I guess by many standards it was.  It will be four years ago this summer that I ventured through London, France, Spain and Italy (which we will get to in the coming months).  I had banked up all of my vacation time at work and decided to take it all in one big swoop and see as much as I could in 24 days. Flying into London direct from Calgary is an 8 and a half to 9 hour flight and a 7 hour time difference.  It might take you a day or two to get used to the change.  But if you are anything like me, you can usually hit the ground running out of pure excitement and anticipation.  🙂

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Ottawa – Canada’s Capital City

In front of the National Art Gallery of Canada

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.

~Lin Yutang

Last but not least, we have Ottawa, Canada’s Capital City as the final city to profile from Samira’s visit.  I have called Ottawa my home for over two years now and really do find it a beautiful and nice city to live in.  It is clean, well maintained and the people are friendly.  Less than half of Samira’s visit was spent in Ottawa, but it still topped her list as her favourite city visited.

The day her plane arrived, after we got her settled into our itty bitty apartment, she wanted to head straight to Parliament Hill.  We parked at the Rideau Centre downtown and made the 5 minute walk over to Parliament Hill.  Having not eaten yet, we stopped at a hot dog vendor across the street from Chateau Laurier.  Samira, being the sport that she is, is always up for trying anything.  So when she saw me piling on Relish and Sauerkraut she quickly followed suit even though she had never heard of either before.

Hotdog Stand

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Montreal – Life on the Island

On our way back from Quebec City, Samira and my next stop was Montreal, Canada’s second largest city (behind Toronto).  Only a 2 hour drive from Ottawa, it is always a great destination for a weekend getaway or when you are in need of a change of scenery.  The shopping in Montreal is superior to what you would find in Ottawa.  Not only are there many shopping districts in the city, but the malls also offer up different stores than what is available in the Nation’s Capital.

To me, Montreal is best visited in the summer.  With us visiting in April, unfortunately many of the attractions are still closed from the winter season such as La Ronde (the only Six Flags Park in Canada) or the African Park Safari (where you can actually feed Ostriches, Zebras and Giraffes by hand – very cool).  So, given the time of year, one of the places we opted to visit is the Biodome where the climate is moderated all year round.  Your entrance fee is $17.75/adult including taxes (this is actually less if you are a resident of Quebec).  The Biodome is made up of 5 ecosystems and is completely indoors.

Hot Tourist Spot in Montreal

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Quebec – Canada’s Magical City

Chateau Frontenac in Spring

After Toronto, next up for Samira and I was Quebec City.  Located on the northern bank of the St. Lawrence River Quebec City is about a 2.5-3 hour drive from Montreal (about 4.5-5 hours from Ottawa).  Even in the rain, Quebec city proved to be an absolutely enchanting and magical stop on our tour.  Rain or shine, prepare to be wrapped up in the atmosphere of cobblestone streets, brightly coloured buildings and the roaming horse and carriages.

Chateau Frontenac Terrace

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Toronto – Canada’s Largest City

View of CN Tower

As you all know, my childhood pen-pal from Brazil has been here since March 31st so I have been super busy travelling around and seeing the sights with her.  For the first time since her arrival, I finally have a little bit of downtime and wanted to share with you some of our adventures.  Over the next week I will do travel posts about our time together in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City.

For starters, I will begin with Toronto.  Toronto is Canada’s largest city with a population of just 2.6 million.  The Greater Toronto Area (GTA), the metropolitan area  of Toronto has a population of approximately 6 million.

Where is Toronto located?

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