Monday, September 29, 2014

Cottage, 60th, Cottage Close Up

My grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this year! Most of my family gathered together for a day of food and drinks. The weather was very nice for the end of September and it was warmer than some days in August. We went up to the cottage the night before since it was closer to my grandparents' house.

 Eight of the ten grand-kids were there, including my youngest cousin who flew in from Australia. The only two missing were my second Australian cousin who stayed behind to play field hockey at state level and my brother who was waiting for his daughter to be born in Toronto. The last time all ten cousins were in the same place was back in 2004 for my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary. We had a good time going through photo albums to see how much we all had changed in the last ten years. I had a great time catching up with my family throughout the day.

Since it was a clear night, we agreed that it would be a good night to bring the telescope down to the dock to look at the stars.

My father had decided to close the cottage up during the last weekend in September. It was something that he couldn't do by himself so Cam and I helped. We really could have used my brother's help, but he was waiting for a baby that was born after that weekend. The motor had to be detached from the boat and hauled up to the garage. It took both my father and Cam to get it there. The water level had dropped significantly throughout the summer and was now ~4ft lower than it was in April. It was a lot harder to get into the boat to bring it to shore. The muskrats had been bringing mussels into the boat, eating them, and then leaving the shells behind for me to clean out. Besides all the lifting, it was a fairly easy close up. Cam and I waited around to drain the water heater completely which took about an hour. I was constantly switching out trays of water on the ground and my back wasn't too happy with me.

With the water heater finally empty, we headed home. Since we had driven up in the dark, we had missed all of the colourful foliage that marked the beginning of autumn. All of the heavy lifting in the morning had caused my father's back to seize up so we helped carry in all of the heavier stuff from our car and my father's. We still had a long subway ride back to our place. Along the way we agreed that the day was too exhausting not to just order in dinner.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Gananoque > Home

We saw more of Gananoque when we drove downtown for coffee and brunch.

The trip home was quick and easy since 99% of it was spent on the 401. We usually park the car in visitor's parking in our building before driving it back to my father's place the next day. Unfortunately the parking lot was full except for the handicap spot at the end. We parked there since we've parked there before and the guy at the front desk said it was fine.

Unfortunately they started following the parking rule and the new guy at the front desk was happy to enforce it. He did let us park there while we unloaded the car. Our building does have public parking that it shares with three other buildings so we didn't have to drive far. The downside was that we had to pay the daily max for an hour and a half until 6pm and then another $15 until 9am and another $10 until 11:30am. The machine didn't let me put all of the money in at once so I had to go back down at just past 6pm to get another slip and back down just after 9am for another. I checked to see if any parking in the visitor's lot and noticed a car had parked in the handicap spot. I let the guy at the front desk know. It was a bit petty, but I was annoyed that I was spending too much money on parking.

We crashed for a bit before heading to BarHop for our traditional post-trip beer. It was fairly busy since a baseball game had just ended, but we managed to get a table for a beer and dinner.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Stowe > Gananoque

We packed up the car and check-out before we headed to the spa for our massage. It took awhile for me to find a locker that worked. It was a bit stressful hearing my name being called while swapping my clothes from locker to locker which was a not a great start to something that was meant to be relaxing. When I finally put away my things I met up with Cam and the people who would be massaging us before heading down to the dark and quiet basement. Part of the package was soaking in a tub for half and hour, but it was hard to relax when I kept sliding into the water because of the oils in the tub. I was too aware to relax during the massage. I had mentioned my back pain before the massage so I knew see was trying to avoid that area. We did feel better after. A shower couldn't get the scent of the massage oil off so it lingered for the rest of the day.

A late lunch at the restaurant attached to the hotel before we headed north. Cam was still in search of the smart watch he wanted so we made a stop in Burlington, Vermont. As predicted, they didn't have any either. We were only in Burlington for about an hour, but we saw plenty of fighter jets flying overhead. It was certainly different than the sleepy ski town we had just been in.

A short drive to the quiet Canadian border. We declared all of the alcohol we had and the border agent seemed only interested in the amount of whiskey we were bring back (not enough!) It was very nice having phone data and road signs in proper measurements! Vermont borders Quebec so we were back near Montreal. A few back roads to avoid getting to close to Montreal's traffic and we were back on a main highway. Which ever highway we were on in Quebec turned into highway 401 when we crossed into Ontario.

Not wanting to drive too far that day, we decided to stay in Gananoque. It was too late in the day to appreciate the charm of the town so just stayed near the highway at a Holiday Inn. We had some TV trouble, but the woman at the front desk was more than happy to help us get it fixed. The original plan was to order in food, but nothing seemed appealing and we didn't have any cash. Not wanting to go far, we went to the restaurant next door for some nachos. We didn't last very long and soon crashed for the night.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Beer and Ben & Jerry's

Someone working at the hotel's front desk mentioned one of the popular beers that was available in the area.  He only told us that they put out cans of the stuff at certain places on set days and we had to be there early to get some. A quick google search informed us that they sell the beer by the case and there was a shipment to a grocery store in Montplier the next morning. Cam was very keen to get there as soon as they opened at 9am and started stressing out when we left the hotel around then. It was a half an hour back to Montplier, but we made it in time to pick up a case. They had a guy from the brewery standing beside the cases making sure that people only took one. There might not of been any left if we had gotten there an hour later.

We had an early lunch while we were in Montplier. There were plans to walk around town a bit, but we realised that we hadn't paid for parking and I didn't have any coins to feed the meter. Parking meters are a good argument against paper one dollar bills.

The original Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory was down the main road from the hotel so we made a stop on the way back. It was only $4/person to go on the factory tour and it included a generous sample of ice cream at the end. There wasn't much to see on the tour, but it was good way to spend a morning. We decided to get some ice cream while we waiting for the pouring rain to ease up, but we were still too full from lunch and ice cream from the tour that we didn't have much of it.

We crashed at the hotel for awhile before going out for a drink. There were plans to walk to the bar with a good beer selection, but it was a forty minute walk along the side of the road. Lucky for us, there was a brewery almost directly across from the hotel. It was fairly quiet when we got there since it was mid-afternoon. The bartender was happy to talk to us. The three of us were highly entertained by the guy at the end of the bar who was watching cat videos. He must have just gotten off work at the restaurant because staff would come by and join him in watching videos. At one point there were five guys crowded around the computer having a good time. We had a few drinks and some cheese before heading back to the hotel. The sun had finally appeared for the first time that day so it was nice to enjoy it during the two minute walk back to the hotel.

We had originally booked the hotel because of how highly rated their spa was and I've been trying to get Cam to get a couple's massage for awhile. He finally agreed so we booked one for the next day we before left.

Dinner was a bit late since we had afternoon snacks. Our choices for dinner were limited since Cam had been drinking earlier in the day and couldn't drive anywhere. There was a decent restaurant next door to the hotel.  Cam was very insistant that we get oysters. So many oysters in so few days!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Brunswick> Stowe

After breakfast we got back on the highway towards Salem, New Hampshire. To actually get there we had travel along a few toll roads that don't give you any warning about the tolls until you are past the last exit. Each one of them cost a few dollars and we had to stop along the way to get more cash out since we didn't want to arrive at one without any American money.

We had to go through New Hampshire and down to Massachusetts before turning back up into New Hampshire just to get to Salem. We had originally planned to spend  a few nights in Boston, but all the hotels we looked at started at $500/ night. Even the Motel 8 in a suburb started at $392/night. Not sure what was causing the spike in hotel prices, but we decided to save the money and just go shopping in New Hampshire instead. There's no sales tax in New Hampshire so we wanted to take advantage of that.

We found one of the bigger shopping malls in Salem, but we were still disappointed with the selection of stores. We did stop at one of the few sit down restaurants in the mall for pizza. Their large pizza could easily feed four people and there was no point of us taking the leftovers. Over lunch we looked up places to stay that night and booked a hotel. After walking through the mall we headed back to the car. Cam wasn't happy that he hadn't manage to find anything besides the game that we were going to buy in Toronto anyway.

There's a new smart watch on the market that Cam really wants. It is only available in the states at the moment so we went in search to find one. The Best Buy in Salem had some at one point, but they were completely out of stock. Cam was getting more and more unhappy at this point. Luckily there was a discount shoe store across from Best Buy. I didn't like anything there, but Cam managed to find two pairs of shoes that he liked. It was great to pay less than $100 for two pairs of shoes that would normally cost almost twice that much. A quick-ish stop at the liquor store to thoroughly enjoy the prices of alcohol. So cheap! We picked up a good bottle of whiskey and two bottles of wine.

Back on the highway towards Vermont (the fourth State of the day) We stopped in Montpelier for dinner at a place with a good beer selection. The cheese on my burger was a bit weird, but American cheese isn't always top quality. We stayed for dessert so Cam could have another beer.

Neither of us were in a good mood after dinner so we were a bit snippy towards each other during the last half hour of the trip. We decided to spend two nights at a hotel and spa in Stowe. In the winter it is a popular ski town, but it was really quiet in early September. The bed was listed as a queen on their website, but it was more of a double and the mattress wasn't great. It was over priced for what it was. Both of us were just glad to finally be at the hotel.

St John > Brunswick

We took advantage of the free breakfast the hotel offered before heading back on to the road. Easy enough drive along the highway to Saint Stephen. One last stop for coffee and something to eat before finding a border crossing into the states. The crossing was so small that there were only two border agents and the customs office was in an old building. The border agent had to close his lane so he could direct us where to park. Since Cam is Australian and his previous visa had expired, we had to go in to get things sorted out. They grumped at Cam when we pulled his phone out, but they were nice enough after that. After paying them $6, Cam received a piece of paper in his passport and they let us go. I usually get questioned about my dual citizenship and my lack of American passport, but not this time. He did look through my passport again after asking if I was 'just Canadian'.

Maine doesn't seem that much different from New Brunswick except all of the signs are in miles. I made sure to write out the conversions before I turned off my data at the border. We saw a sign a few kilometers from the border telling us of the great deal of receiving a free lobster with the purchase of auto glass. What a deal! Sadly we were not in need of such things and kept on driving.

We stopped for gas. It was much cheaper filling it up south of the border! While I was inside pre-paying, a guy came up to Cam and asked him what it was like driving the best car on the road. Cam didn't mention just how far that car has gone and had well it has lasted. It's been driven across Canada and the US and still manages to run well.

We drove through a few small towns before finding a place for lunch. It was small restaurant and brewery by the water. Soon after sitting down we heard a high-pitched noise. Most of the people eating there couldn't hear it because they were too old. The staff finally managed to find the source of the problem. Cam had a lobster roll before deciding he is not a fan of lobster. He was in the wrong part of the country for not liking lobster! The group of old people beside us kept me entertained because they were just stereotypical old people. One of the old ladies provided the best quote of the day, "I watch Dr. Phil and I'm glad I never had girls." Because Dr Phil is good source for unbiased views, right?

After lunch we attempted to find wifi by standing next to the car and hoping we were close enough to the stores across the street. We did manage to find an okay connection to get an idea of where to stop for the night. Better wifi was found in the MacDonalds parking lot down the street. The hotel prices in Portland seemed way too high for what they should be and anything reasonable was too far out of town to even bother going.

Cam found a bar that was suppose to be the best beer bar in the world in Brunswick. So we headed to Brunswick and stayed down the road from this "best beer bar in the world". It certainly didn't live up to its hype. They were turning it into more of a brewery so they only had their stuff and a few bottles of interesting stuff. The food was good, but we wouldn't have gone to Brunswick if we had known how disappointing the bar would be.

One of the great things about the states is that they don't have the silly liquor laws that some of the provinces have. Walking into a gas station around 10pm and picking up a six pack is just so nice after having to find a LCBO and dealing with their restrictive hours.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Halifax > St John

Knowing that the drive to St John wasn't very long, we took full advantage of the late checkout. It was really hard leaving that bed since we knew no other bed on the trip would ever compare.

Our original choice for lunch was sadly closed. Their website said they were open, but I guess they changed the hours and hadn't gotten around to fixing it. We instead went to a sushi place that was close by. Decent food, but I think Cam was disappointed he didn't get a proper beer with lunch.

The drive to St John had us backtracking quite a bit since there are few roads to Halifax. We didn't take the route that included a ferry trip from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick since it would have added a few hours to the trip. It would have been interesting seeing the Bay of Fundy though. Not much to see on the way which seems about right for driving through that part of the country.

Found a decent hotel just off the highway in St John. It wasn't really close to anything else, but it was a good walk into town for dinner. Cam spotted a brewery before we got the place we had decided on for dinner so we went there instead. They had okay beer. I made the mistake of ordering their spaghetti and meatballs. Very light on the meatballs and very generic sauce. Didn't really feel like anything else on their menu, but I should really have known not to get that.

Cam wanted another beer so we went in search of St John's best beer bar. We shared a chocolate Guinness cake with a beer while Cam expressed his great disappointment in the bar. Many of the taps just had beer that you could easily get in any bottle shop. Our favourite bar in Toronto has ruined us because we now expect good beer on tap. Neither of us wanted to stay for very long so we headed back to the hotel.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


We decided to spend two full days in Halifax since we enjoyed it so much last time. It was great having our own space to crash for afternoon naps. Sadly my friend was much busier since she is now in third year of law school. She did find the time to have lunch with us before going back to studying on Saturday. We went to her place Sunday night for a beer and cards.
Plenty of oysters were consumed in those two days. The quality and price varied greatly between restaurants and even time of day. The place at the top of the hill didn't seem to be very careful with their shucking since we were constantly pulling out pieces of shell. My biggest complaint is that the restaurant by the water served them with the same sauce you get with a cocktail shrimp ring and no hot sauce. For the price we are paying for hotsauce-less oysters, you would think they wouldn't cheap out on the basics.

Our bed at the hotel was way too good to not throughly enjoy. It was a great place to hide away when the weather wasn't great. Which we did on Sunday when it looked like it was going to rain all morning.

 When we did finally turn off the tv and start to settle down for the night on Saturday, our next door neighbours came home. There were at least two of them and the woman was not happy. She spent at least half an hour yelling about something. It was hard to ignore her since I'm sure their hotel door was open. We could even hear her mother on speaker phone. Turned the TV on to try to drown out her crying, but it says too high pitched. It was great fun trying to figure out who she was at breakfast the next morning. Our best guess is the tired looking blond whose family commented on how they heard she didn't sleep well.

One of the main attractions of Halifax is Alexander Keith's brewery tour. We were warned before how cheesy it would be. More singing than I expected, but it just added to the tour. There were three other couples on the tour, all of which were over 55. Only Cam and I got carded as we reached the tasting room. They had a few different beers for tasting, but I just stuck to the Galaxy Hops since I had already tried all of the other ones. It was over the top, but everyone had fun.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fredericton > Halifax

Cam didn't get the best night's sleep so he was eager to get out of Fredericton. I had a good night when I wasn't being kept awake by Cam's tossing and turning. We managed to grab a coffee and muffin for breakfast before heading out.
Got back on to the highway our hotel room overlooked and continued east. We stopped for lunch just after crossing the border into Nova Scotia. There are a lot of big fast food chains in Amherst, but we found a local place where the owner knew most of the people there. Something was going on in that park with a group of veterans, but we didn't stop to find out what it was.
A few more hours of driving until Halifax. We stayed at a great hotel downtown. They upgraded us to a better room with a harbour view! The bed was so big and comfortable that no other bed on this trip will ever be satisfactory.
Last time we were in Halifax we had some good oysters that weren't overly expensive. We went back to one of the places we had gone before for oysters, but they weren't as good as we remembered. Still we took advantage of happy hour and enjoyed cheap oysters with cheap beer.
Halifax has a beer bar that we wanted to go to last time, but it was closed. We arrived during the Friday after work rush and still managed to get seats. After beers we decided to head back to the hotel. Unfortunately our hotel was at the top of the hill. Naps were definitely needed after that.
We took advantage of the special offer the hotel had and booked a table for dinner through the front desk. They gave us two free drink voucher satisfactory for going that. Combined with the two we had received earlier, we now had four (because math!) Dinner was surprisingly good for a hotel restaurant. The server (whose picture was on the drink vouchers) was very friendly and let Cam use a voucher on the more expensive scotch.
Finished up the day with a bottle of wine and a marathon of Storage Wars (a road trip tradition!)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Quebec > Fredericton

Since we arrived after it had gotten dark the night before, we got up and enjoyed Quebec City in the morning. Cam found a place that looked good for brunch not too far away. Early on in the walk there we took a wrong turn and ended up walking up more hills than needed. The food wasn't really worth the effort it took to get there nor the effort it took getting back (Cam thought the walk itself was pretty great, though!).
We did stop to look out over the river along the wall. There are many very old buildings to look at. It was nice to visit in the summer without being part of a school group. The last time I was in the city was in the winter and all we did was watch TV in a very fancy hotel room. (It was worth it!)

After stopping for coffee we picked up the car from the hotel. One of the staff was wondering what we are going to do if the car needs a spare part since Saab is no longer in business. Not sure!
More highway driving. Two tanks were being transported east and it gave Wombie bad ideas. We stopped for a Tim's and a gas break, but no other breaks until Fredericton. It was nice to be back in an English speaking province. There was a time change when we crossed into New Brunswick.
We stayed in a hotel that was near the highway, but far from anything else. Our options for dinner were very limited. Eastside Mario's was the best choice which should tell you a lot about what the area has to offer.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Montreal to Quebec City via Shawinigan

I had a grumpy Cam to deal with when I woke up for day two of our road trip. He wasn't in the best of spirits when I dragged him down to Chinatown for an early lunch. His mood was a bit better after he had a bit to eat, but it wasn't great.

We decided to walk back to the main shopping area. On the way we stopped to climb the wooden structure that was covered in plants. It does provide a good view of the area.
We went to the Apple store since I was thinking of getting a macbook pro before returning to Australia and wanted to know the prices. I did the math and it turns out the price difference between getting one in Ontario and Australia is ~$1.50. (So quit your complaining, Australia!) I would save ~$275 buying one in New Hampshire, but it doesn't have the ~2 year warranty the Australian one would have.

Back to the car after a stop at the French Canadian version of Shoppers Drugmart. There are plenty of police cars along the highway hiding behind trees and bushes. None of them decided to pull us over even though everyone was doing 10km+.
We made a bit of detour to stop at Le Trou du Diable in Shawinigan for beer and food. Some of their beers are available at bars in Toronto and even have bottles in the LCBO from time to time. They weren't serving food until later so we had some 'Fromage Alep' to snack on. It is kinda like salty string cheese. I had most of it since Cam wasn't completely sold on it. A quick early dinner and we were back on the road. We did make a stop at a grocery store to buy beer because you can do that in Quebec!

Made it to Quebec City around 8 pm and found our hotel without much trouble. Cam was once again getting grumpy so I found him some food and ice to chill his beer.The rest of the evening was spent watching one of the few English channels available. 
Wombie window shops one of the many sex stories in Montreal

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Montreal (again)

Easy drive from the cottage to Montreal. We didn't back track to the 401 and follow the most straight forward route, but instead took the back roads. It took us through Perth where we stopped for mediocre food at one of the many fast food places along the highway. Passed through Ottawa and made it to Quebec without any trouble.
Montreal can be hard to navigate with all the one way streets and no right on red rule. After being in Australia I should be use to no easy turns on red, but it is so much better when you can turn on red. We manged to make it to the hotel without too much aggravation. Stayed at the Days Inn near old Montreal and Chinatown. The hotel wasn't great, but the location made up for it.
The first thing we did in Montreal was get coffee. We found a place that did a decent flat white around the corner from the hotel. Next we went to Roots to replace my handbag that had finally given in after 7 years of almost constant use. The third thing we did was find beer, of course. Brutopia was around the corner. Had a beer and an early dinner before heading back to the hotel for naps before the rain started.
After the storm had calmed down we went to old Montreal to find wine and dessert.  We managed to find a good cheesecake and wine. A surprising amount of restaurants had closed by the time we ventured by at 8pm including ones that said they were open on their website.
The first day of the roadtrip had gone well enough and Montreal was as we remembered it being. We would have gone back to some good bars if we spent more time in the city, but we were happy enough with half a day.
Hey, good looking!

Labour Day Weekend

Our roadtrip to the east coast started the Tuesday after Labour Day weekend. We spent the long weekend at the cottage with three friends (two Australians and a Canadian) from the city. Joining the mass of people getting away for the last summer long weekend, we decided to leave Friday evening. Just after pulling onto the highway the dials on the speedometer, tachometer, and fuel gage no longer worked. We thought it was an alternator problem and decided to find a mechanic nearby. Everything seemed normal after we stopped. There was a mechanic that stayed open a bit longer just to look at it, but he couldn't find anything wrong. We decided to risk it and continue on. No further problems with the car. 

The next two days were spent relaxing by and in the lake. It is tradition to find a floatation device and a beer (or multiple beers) and spend the afternoon drinking in the lake. I didn't partake in the drinking, but I did enjoy the lake. We played a few games in the evening including 7 Wonders. Fireworks were purchased for Sunday night and the weather was nice enough for us to set them off. Of course one them was set off upside down, but Cam grabbed it before it burnt a hole in the bucket (again). One of them wasn't secured well enough and ended up firing towards us. 

The other three went back to Toronto on Monday after trying to justify staying another night. Cam and I enjoyed a quiet night to ourselves and headed out to Montreal the next morning.